Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thank God every day you aren't one of this woman's Contacts

A woman we hear but never see is telling us all about her I Phone, and how it's allowed her to do amazing things and share amazing moments with her amazing friends and her amazing family. For this commercial, the amazing thing involves her baby boy, but it doesn't take much reaching to imagine that this woman lives for excuses to run her finger around her stupid, expensive little toy.

"The other day, my son took his first step, which was pretty amazing (really?) So, I recorded it" (we see her finger slide along the screen of the I Phone, clicking "camera" and capturing the First Step moment.) "Then, I shared it with everyone on my contact list." (Seriously. She selects Everybody and then 'send.' So everyone this woman has ever conned into giving her their cell phone number has just received a video of a baby falling on it's butt.)

"Then, I got everyone on the phone to chat about it.. Which was pretty amazing too!" (Christ, what ISN'T amazing to this idiot?) " I'm not kidding. Now it's time for a conference call, in which we all share our thoughts about the video we were sent. We hear grandma (?) exclaim "hey, that's great!" Someone else is clever enough to volunteer "Oops!" At least we know this woman didn't interrupt a Mensa meeting to discuss her kid's amazing ability to fall on his ass. We don't hear anyone else's reaction- probably because, well, really, what else is there to say? "Um...nice?" "Congrats?" "Ok....kind of busy now?"

"I would never have done this without my I Phone!" wraps up the commercial. Yeah, ok- you would never have done this without your I Phone. Maybe you would have just taken a snapshot and put it into a scrapbook, to show relatives later. Maybe you would have had a very personal, exciting moment with your son, and just told people about it (you know, I'm pretty sure that they would have believed you when you told them your son had taken his first step, even without visual evidence.) Without your I Phone, the world would have missed your kid taking his first step- but would have continued spinning anyway.

Can you imagine the nightmare of knowing this woman? Picture your phone beeping every few hours-- "check out this video of my son burping up!" "Look, baby's first time on the potty!" By the time you get a video download entitled "His First Cheerio!" you've probably become very good at hitting the Delete button without cursing under your breath. But what do you do when she wants you to engage in a Conference Call every time Baby learns a new word or gets a new sailor outfit? After all, thanks to the "convenience" of cell phones, you are never legitimately out of touch, right?

But if you ARE on this woman's contact list, you still have something to be thankful for: at least you aren't the offspring of the I'd Never Go Anywhere Without My I Phone woman. At least you won't spend the first few years of your life wondering what that weird growth on mommy's hand is, or why she's constantly turning away from you to talk to the weird growth as she holds it against her ear.

Hey Lady, here's a clue: The daily progress of your Little Miracle is not something that thirty people you happen to have an acquaintance with really need to be kept appraised of. Sure, take videos to share with Dad, Grandma, and Grampa. Your coworkers don't need to see your baby's first step, and they are too nice to say so, but they don't want to. And they don't want to be interrupted to engage in a mass discussion concerning it, as if your kid's first step is some earth-shaking event. It's not. Get Over Yourself.

And here's another one, no extra charge: Once you've made your little video, put your fucking phone down and spend some time with your baby. Your I Phone isn't the family member that needs quality time, you idiot.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Something's Missing, all right

It took me a while to figure out just the right angle to approach this profoundly stupid commercial for Hour Eyes Some ads are like that- just too dumb to wade into with any real enthusiasm. I'll give it a shot anyway-

We see a pleasant-looking thirtysomething woman standing in the middle of her reasonably well-lit suburban back yard wearing a bathrobe and slippers and calling for her cat.

And here comes her cat, strolling right toward her- except it's not a cat, it's a raccoon.

"Oh!" pleasant-looking woman responds. "Let's go snuggle with Mama!" Raccoon enters the house, as if it's lived there all it's life. Maybe this is not a new thing for this woman. Maybe she doesn't even HAVE a cat- maybe she's been spending the last several years snuggling with a disgusting, garbage-eating, sharp-clawed, wild animal? Maybe the raccoon HAS lived there all it's life?

"Something missing?" asks the narrator. Uh huh. Of course, the message is "get your eyes checked." But I have a few other observations, and since this is my blog....

1. This woman needs a date. Badly. I mean, come on- she's pretty cute, she's obviously successful enough to own a substantial home-- and her idea of the perfect bedtime is a lovely snuggle with her raccoon? Even if she thinks it's her cat, that's pretty sad.

2. This woman hasn't seen any Broadview Security commercials. And the stalkers in the Broadview Security commercials haven't seen her. I mean, can you imagine? All those beefy creeps hanging out in the bushes waiting patiently for their victims to go inside and set the alarms, ultimately foiling their plans for Who Knows What, and here's this half-blind woman standing in the middle of her yard in a bathrobe, completely defenseless- and NO STALKERS??

Heck, with her eyes, she'd probably mistake them for the cable guys and let them right in.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Having said all this, I really do enjoy using my "grill"

Former Heavyweight Champion of the World/Ex-sitcom star/grill peddler George Foreman has joined the Debt Relief Racket in a big way, with commercials he narrates himself.

First, he uses basically the same script as all the other "debt relief" scam artists do- "you're a good person. You want to pay your bills. Stop the harassing phone calls. Settle your debt for pennies on the dollar. Blah blah blah."

But then he gives us his "own story:" "Twenty years ago, I was heavily in debt. I found a system which permitted me to pull myself back up and get my financial house in order, and I can show you how to do it, too. With the George Foreman Debt Fighter Program."

I'm not going to call the 800 number, but I wonder if George Foreman's "Anyone can do it" Debt Fighter program includes:

1. Putting on a pair of boxing trunks and getting $50,000 for your first fight in 12 years against a guy who has been knocked out a dozen times previously.

2. Getting into the ring every few weeks against Ken Lakusta, Charlie Hostettler, Steve Zouski, Guido Trane and a whole crowd of other bums who you outweigh by roughly 100 lbs and are absolutely terrified of you long before they enter the ring- and get between $50,000 and $100,000 for each outing.

3. Getting a multimillion-dollar fight with Gerry Cooney, who hadn't fought for two years previous and could always be counted on to fold like a lawn chair the first time he hit someone who could actually hit back.

4. Get multiple title shots with base salaries of $5 mil- $10 mil each.

5. Become the pitchman for a double-sided electric frying pan (sorry, "grill") which is slanted to allow grease to roll off it during the cooking process (brilliant.)

6. Sell interest in said "grill" for $137 million a few years later.

I actually think it would be really funny if customers invested $29.95 for Foreman's "Debt Fighter Secrets" and were sent the list I just compiled for free. I wonder why Foreman doesn't call this his "Knock Out the Debt" program- maybe Salton Industries owns the "Knock Out The--" trademark?

Did Foreman lose all the money he made during his comeback in the 1990s? Or is he just another Magic Johnson for Rent A Center, who believes that there's simply no such thing as too much dough? Either way- come on, George, there's a more honest way to make a buck than this. I think we are long overdue for another Cooney comeback.

Monday, March 22, 2010

With Passion this Powerful, Why do these people need drugs?

In their new commercials, the marketers of Cialis go beyond the usual "when the moment is right wink wink nod nod" stomach-churning bilge and enter the world of the downright bizarre. Now, we see that incidental human contact is often enough to trigger irresistible sexual urges in middle-aged, decidedly unattractive couples so powerful that it can cause furniture to dissolve, walls to fold away, and laundry baskets to magically transform into wine-and-cheese-laden tables.

Let's just look at one of these weird trips into the bizzaro world- a very prosperous looking man and woman are spending the day painting their palatial estate when their hands happen to touch during an exchange of brushes. Their eyes meet- and as they stare at each other thinking I Don't Want to Know What, the house they've been busy redecorating literally collapses around them. The half-painted walls become trees. The carpet becomes grass. Chairs slide away as if pushed aside by the hand of the Allmighty, who is clearly so anxious that these two No Longer Fertile But Lets Assume Married people have sex ASAP that He sees the need for personal intervention. The couple is by no means horrified at the sight of their living space disappearing around them in response to their sudden sexual re-awakening. I guess I should be grateful that there were no kids in the house to be transformed into lawn gnomes or some other inanimate objects.

As the commercial continues, the house vanishes altogether, and now the couple is in a sylvan glen. Now they are walking along the banks of a quiet stream. And now I'm really confused and wondering if I missed the whole point of the commercial- my dirty mind interpreted "when the moment is right" to mean that these people wanted to have sexual relations, when in fact it just meant that they wanted to take a walk?

Of course, the ad ends with our couple sitting in separate bathtubs, outside. This makes perfect sense. I know that when I feel "in the mood," what I really want is to get outside as quickly as possible, walk through the woods, and sit in a bathtub by myself.

While I'm sitting in that bathtub, maybe I'll take a moment to reflect on what the hell just happened to my house. And what I'm going to do when it's time to get out of that tub.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stay away from my kid, you creep

Mom, Dad and a kid who looks a bit too big to be sitting in a high chair are sitting at a table at what looks to be a moderately-priced restaurant when mom has to leave for a moment- no doubt to "powder her nose," as it were.

Owen Wilson's brother informs us that "an innocent evening out is about to go very wrong."

Well, of course. How on EARTH is daddy going to be able to take care of his kid for five minutes? I mean, who does he think he is, MOM?

As too-big-to-be-in-that-chair brat starts screeching, letting the entire restaurant know that, once again, two selfish pricks decided that instead of springing for a fricking baby sitter, they would treat the world to an evening with their obnoxious bundle of Oops, Owen Wilson's brother whips out his AT&T phone and quickly downloads a cartoon. Wilson's brother hands the phone to clueless, desperate dad, whose efforts to calm his insufferable little brat's attention by making funny faces and jiggling his keys have of course fallen flat.

Naturally, the sight of the cartoon on the nifty AT&T phone sends the little monster into a zombie-like state. Dad has learned a valuable lesson which he will no doubt carry into his kid's formative years- - if you want your offspring to stay out of your hair, give them a cellphone with cool Apps. If you want them to be seen but not heard, give them Unlimited Talk and Text. If you want them to occupy absolutely none of your time, keep them hypnotized by glowing little gadgets.

In the Bad Old Days, Daddy might have had to develop some kind of relationship with this kid. Maybe he would have been forced to learn his son's favorite Dr Seuss or Richard Scarry books. Maybe he would have begun the process of teaching his son how to act in public in a way that does not cause discomfort for others. Thank God, those days are over! Now when you put the kid in the family SUV, you can pop in the copy of "Finding Nemo" right after you buckle him in. When you get to the restaurant, you can download cartoons to keep him transfixed while you do your adult stuff. Heck, when he gets just a little older, you can give him "personal time" with his own hand-held TV. Until he hits eight or nine, of course, which is around the time you'll be wanting to encourage his lifelong obsession with his phone.

And it all starts with Owen Wilson's brother handing over cellphones like a fucking drug dealer offering a free fix. I want to see a parody of this commercial where the dad informs Wilson that he doesn't really believe in responding to bratty behavior with instant gratification, and that he can shove his "helpful" suggestion up his ass. Because, oddly enough, this Daddy would like to model decent behavior to his son- and contrary to AT&T's opinion, cell phones really aren't adequate substitutes for human interaction.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This should just be illegal

Is the economy REALLY so bad that air time should be sold to the LIARS at Credit Card Answers?

"President Obama has signed the Credit Card Reform Act." Well yes, this is true. And it's pretty much the last piece of accurate information we are going to hear from the good people at Credit Card Answers.

"You now have the right to settle your debt for a fraction of what you owe."

Um, no. You don't. You have the right to negotiate with your creditors. Just like you did before the legislation. You don't have the "right" to settle your debt for less than you owe. That's just plain dishonest.

"The Credit Card industry has been handed billions, and need to clear their books once and for all."

Yes, they've been handed billions. No, they aren't having a fire sale. They don't need to "clear their books." They aren't going out of business, and they aren't "eager to settle with you." Again- just plain dishonest.

"We'll tell you your rights in a Government Bailout Era." First, "Government Bailout Era" already seems dated, doesn't it? Second, why trust a company that has spent the last thirty seconds lying it's ass off to you to tell you what your "rights" are? My guess is that the principal "right" that you have, according to these guys, is your right to pay a big upfront handling fee to hire Credit Card Answers to do what you are perfectly capable of doing yourself- calling your creditors and asking for help in creating a payment plan.

What really irritates me about commercials like this is that the information SOLD by Credit Card Answers is available for FREE from the federal government. The Feds are also interested in helping people drowning in debt with tax problems, too. In short, nobody NEEDS Credit Card Answers, Credit Debt Solutions, Credit Card Relief, or any of the other "counselors" who draw desperate people into their net by claiming that they have some imaginary "right" to duck out of their debts.

If he economy was humming along, I'd still find these commercials offensive. With unemployment hovering just under 10% and personal debt reaching historical levels, I find them especially sleazy. I especially wish that XM/Sirius would stop going for the fast buck and selling ad space to these crooks. But I guess Satellite Radio has books to clear, once and for all, too.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Don't talk to me"

Scruffy asshole steps into the living room fully clothed, but with a just-woke-up look on his face which he manages to maintain for pretty much the entire commercial.

Guy sitting on the sofa of what I guess I'm expected to take as a group house tries to be polite, lifting his eyes from the inevitable laptop (I guess I should be thankful it's not a Blackberry) to give some form of social greeting to the scruffy asshole, only to be dismissed with a wave of the hand and a "not until I've had my coffee."

Scruffy, sleepy idiot-apparently unaware that there are these really cool, inexpensive gadgets which allow you to make COFFEE IN YOUR OWN HOME- hits the streets to Spread the Rude. Just outside his door, a neighbor tries to greet him, only to get another dismissive "don't talk to me until I've had my coffee."

Sleepy moron ramps it up a bit by responding to a cute girl on the bus (at least he's not trying to operate heavy machinery) who chirps "good morning" with a nasty little sneer. I don't care how badly I need coffee- I'm not brushing off cute girls who say "good morning" on the bus.

Finally this antisocial jackass walks into McDonalds, and actually interrupts the way-too-thrilled-with-her-minimum-wage-job cashier's attempt to "interest him" in a "premium roast coffee for just a dollar." Catching the word "coffee," Worthless Sleepy Prick responds "talk to me!" Haha, nothing but geniuses working in the advertising department at McDonalds.

The conclusion of this ad shows Now Ready to be Part of Society But Still Scruffy and Repulsive Dickwad walking down the street, desperately attempting to repair the damage he's done by bleating inane compliments about the weather, this woman's scarf, etc. etc. as it is now THEIR turn to brush him off. So it's a happy ending.

"Don't talk to me until I've had my coffee." Hey, no problem there, buddy. I imagine that most of us will be perfectly happy to avoid talking to you after you've had your daily caffeine fix, too. I can't imagine that being spared a conversation with you constitutes much of a loss.

I wouldn't mind starting my day by chatting with the cute girl on the bus, though.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

An Expensive Prescription and some Quality time with your Doctor

A woman complains to her female doctor that she's experiencing dryness in her eyes. It seems that this complaint comes at the end of the examination, and was not the purpose of the visit. It also seems that the patient's examination took place in a massive office building that bears no resemblance to any hospital or medical building I've ever seen.

Female doctor looks deeply concerned. "How often do you take eye drops?"

"Several times a day."

Female doctor: "I'm writing you a prescription for Restasis."

Well, that was certainly a thorough examination, wasn't it? "Doctor, my eyes dry out during the day, and I use eye drops." Doctor: "here's a prescription drug." Score one for realism, at least.

The fun doesn't end there, though. The patient and doctor now walk out of the "office," and down a long hallway, casually chatting about- well, dry eyes, I guess. The doctor assures the patient that "I take Restasis myself."

Patient: "You take Restasis?"

Doctor: "Twice a day."

Patient gives a reassured, "I guess it isn't poisonous then" nod to herself, and the long journey of these two women to the exit continues. Clearly, the doctor has no patients waiting to see her today, because it looks as though she's going to spend twenty minutes escorting this woman out of the building.

A couple of observations:

1. Does Restasis actually cure anything? If not, what makes it superior to over-the-counter eye drops? The patient here seems to be very satisfied with the prospect of giving up her $5 bottle of Visine for a $50 bottle of Restasis- why? Is Restasis superior because it's a prescription drug? Because it's more expensive? Because the doctor prescribed it after a six-second "examination" that involved nothing more than the patient announcing her symptoms and the doctor responding by whipping out her prescription pad?

2. I feel really slighted right now. My doctor has NEVER walked me out of his office, down the hall, and out the door. For some reason, he's always felt as if his business with me was complete the moment he handed me my prescription or gave me instructions on how to adjust my diet. I've never had a long, involved conversation with him which included a casual stroll around his building. What's wrong with me?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Commercials: they aren't just for radio, tv and the internet anymore!

I got my new VISA card in the mail the other day, and called the 800 number to activate it. In years past, this process has taken approximately 20 seconds- I call, punch in the number of the card, and get a recorded voice announcing that my card is now activated and ready to use. Peel off the sticker, put it in the wallet, good to go.

Those days are gone. Because the lovely people at VISA have now realized that as long as you HAVE to call them to activate your card, they have this great opportunity to give you a sales pitch while holding you hostage on the phone. You will not hang up, because after all, you want that card activated ( I only have one credit card, which I use only for big-ticket items like travel and hotels, but I do need it.)

I know I'm in a bit of trouble when, instead of being told that my card is now activated, I'm informed instead that "this call may be recorded for training and security purposes." Uh oh...

And now here's a chirpy operator on the line to check my name and address. Ok, that's good- just being careful.

But what comes next just gets me angry- an avalanche of verbiage, poured over me at a very rapid pace, from which I'm able to pick out the words "30-day free trial," "credit score monitoring," and "$12.99 per month." The missive ends with the chirpy woman declaring "so, let's get you signed up for that..."

"No thank you" I reply, feeling that I ought to play at least a small role in this "conversation."

Pause. "Well, sir, the service is free for thirty days, and if you don't like it you can cancel within that time for no charge..."

"Don't send me anything" I interrupt.

"That's fine, sir. Now because you are a valued customer, we are also offering...." and here comes another avalanche, this time including the words "credit card security" and "instant notification fraud alerts.." and "limited liability..." This gets me even angrier, since I know that, by federal law, my liability in the event of fraud is already limited. Chirpy phone lady finally gets to the words "$3.99 per month" and gives me my cue- "So let's get you signed up for that..."

"No thank you" I reply. "I don't want any special services, thanks very much anyway."

And now, it finally is over. Chirpy lady thanks me for my time, reminds me that I can sign up for the services she promoted any time, and informs me that my card is now activated and ready to use. And it only took six minutes- just about the average commercial break on AMC.

I didn't have to see or hear an ad for Enzyte, so maybe I should be grateful. But I can't help wonder how many elderly, hard-of-hearing or just plain dumbfounded people who innocently called to get their cards activated find themselves signed up for "services" they don't need and can't afford. I wonder how many people let the thirty-day free trial period slip by because they simply don't read the impossibly small print in that innocent-looking notice from VISA (because after all, 99 percent of the mail anyone gets from credit card companies is pure junk) or don't even read their bill because they haven't used their cards and assume they have no balance to pay (leading to crushing late fees on top of everything) and suddenly find themselves locked into paying a monthly charge until they can convince VISA to let them out of the "contract."

In my opinion, this kind of "lets get you started" sales pitch ought to be illegal. A signature should be required before any monthly fees are added to anyone's credit card bill. No store could get away with sticking something in my pocket while I'm not looking and then charging me for it when I walk out the door. What VISA is doing here is essentially the same thing- customers should simply NOT be required to say "No Thank You" to sales pitches in order to avoid being charged. I know the economy is bad, VISA, but that doesn't give you the green light to pick my pocket, or anyone else's.

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Great Parenting Skills in Evidence

A mom and dad who look like they could be cast in any typical sitcom are staring out the bay window drinking steaming cups of coffee, watching their teen-aged son and daughter shovel the walk.

"How did you get them to do that?" Mom asks dad.

Ok, hold it right there while I enjoy a laugh at the image of my mom asking my dad "how did you get him to do that?" when she noticed me shoveling the driveway, mowing the lawns, taking out the trash, feeding the dog, or doing all of the other things I did as a child. That scene never took place, because when I was a kid, I did chores because I was told to.

But back to our commercial-

Dad responds "I told them that I'd let them talk and text their friends all they want."

Mom replies with one of the most unintentionally depressing lines I've ever heard in an advertisement- "but they can do that already, we have Unlimited Talk and Text." Groan.

"They don't know that" dad deadpans. Mom and Dad enjoy a silent victory over their kids, and resume watching their back-breaking labor from the comfort of the family living room, drinking coffee which is mysteriously still very hot, as we get a "burned myself" throwaway line from Dad.

So, which is the saddest aspect of this commercial- that Mom and Dad feel they have to bribe their kids to do chores they ought be to doing anyway? That Mom and Dad think it's a good idea to let their kids use their phones nonstop? That the kids are so desperate to have zero restrictions on their phone usage that they are willing to risk frostbite to earn it? That Dad is so anxious for a "victory"- ANY "victory"- over his kids that he's willing to use their cell phone addiction against them? You make the call.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I guess I'm just evil

Three skiers are trapped on a lift, waiting for help. How do they pass their time?

By talking to each other? Don't be stupid. Haven't you been paying attention at all?

Each one of them uses their cell phones (which all have cool/overbearingly cutesy names, like "Curve" and "Hero" and "Pixie") to listen to music, download Apps, check on business, etc. etc. Heck, each one is probably delighted to be stuck on that Lift, because they haven't figured out how to text and actually ski at the same time anyway.

This is a mildly obnoxious commercial, as far as Sprint's Assault on Humanity campaign goes. I actually find some enjoyment in it, because I always find myself imagining a perfect ending -- three self-absorbed morons who are now frozen corpses sharing a ski lift, phones still held firmly in their mittens, lifeless eyes staring at non-functioning screens-- because none of these people thought to actually call for help. Ah, it makes me all warm inside. Thanks, Sprint!

Monday, March 1, 2010

That's an awesome kid you're raising there, "dad"

I'm pretty sure this is another commercial for Sprint, which is currently leading the "don't ever do anything that doesn't involve using your phones" charge among cell service providers. But really, does it matter?

A bemused (or deflated, defeated, and probably never made much effort at imposing simple, necessary discipline and self-restraint) dad is asking the disembodied voice of the commercial's narrator for "help" in handling the family's cell phone bill. "What if you have a daughter who sent 35,000 texts last month?"

Zombie Daughter, staring at the screen of her phone with an intently focused, "why won't the non-cell phone world just go away" look on her face-- "that's an exaggeration."

Deflated Dad: "No it isn't."

Of course, the commercial doesn't address the real problem- that this daughter has a serious addiction to her phone, which has taken over her life in an alarmingly unhealthy way. According to Sprint, it's not even worth noting that 35,000 text messages in a month means 1166 messages per day. Assuming sixteen hours of wakefulness per day (considering how many of my students fall asleep first period because they've been online or on their phones until 2 AM, maybe this is a misguided assumption,) that's seventy-three texts per hour-- just over one per minute. No, the "problem" is the cost of all these messages, which is "solved" by getting Unlimited Texting from Sprint.

I wish a parent would explain to me why this commercial is amusing and helpful, rather than sad. I wish a parent would shoot me an email telling me that they couldn't care less if their children are basically doing nothing BUT texting people- and that the only problem they associate with this "activity" is the cost involved.

I wish kids who do a lot of texting would explain to me how and if they manage to carry out actual conversations with human beings in the vicinity while they are texting others. I wish they would explain to me why texting is preferable to talking, not to mention preferable to engaging in sports, reading, or any of the wide range of activities you simply cannot participate in fully with a cell phone attached to your hand.

Most of all, I wish Sprint and all the other cell phone companies would explain to me why they think that the pursuit of the Allmighty Dollar is worth crippling an entire generation of young people, who will one day look up from their screens to notice that something called Real Life has been going on around them, and all they have to show for their youth is an overloaded In Box and callouses. Oh, and bad grades- at least four of my students will be taking history again next year, because they spent the 2009-10 term in the bathrooms tapping away at their beeping little toys.