Monday, January 31, 2011

It's that time of year again- hold on to your wallets, taxpayers!

Here are two H&R Block Ads which are conveniently run together to show us the two faces of tax preparation "services:" The Dishonest, and the Just Plain Stupid and Insulting.

First, the Dishonest: "How fast can we get you your refund? In about twenty-four hours." And in the blink of an eye, we get the minor detail that the customer is not actually getting their refund, but a Refund Loan. What's a "Refund Loan?" Why, it's an amount H&R Block is willing to hand you in exchange for taking full possession of your refund once it arrives. H&R Block is perfectly willing to float you this "loan" as soon as the State and Federal Governments have confirmed that your returns have been accepted. You just pay the fees and interest up front, you see. Great deal- for the desperate suckers who NEED THEIR MONEY RIGHT NOW.

Now, before you say "hey John, stay with the times- H&R Block doesn't OFFER Rapid Refunds anymore!" I'll stop you by pointing out that they do offer something called a "Refund Anticipation Loan." And if you can find any difference between the two, I'll concede the point.

Second, the Just Plain Stupid and Insulting: Book-ending some future tax cheat who is actually going to claim a deductible for a shirt and tie stained by coffee (are you kidding, H&R Block?) we get spat on TWICE by the same spokesman for this awful company. "And I almost went into medicine (snort)"-- what does this even mean? You have more opportunities to separate hard-working but ignorant people from their money doing tax prep than if you had gone into medicine? I've been behind the scenes in medical buildings- I really must beg to differ.

There are a few pieces of good news, at least: First of all, these ads, like the ones for Lexus's "December to Remember," have a built-in expiration date. Come April, they'll be off our televisions for another eight months or so. Second, at least H&R Block doesn't hire people to dress up like the Statue of Liberty and wave signs on the highway like Liberty Tax does (you've got to be REALLY desperate, disconnected, and stupid to be drawn in by THAT level of banal crap.)

Still, it's sad to think that there are people out there who live so close to the margins that they would be willing to part with a big chunk of their tax refunds in order to walk away with some money in their pockets a few weeks earlier than if they just waited for the direct deposit to land in their bank accounts. And worse that there are companies like H&R Block perched like vultures waiting to take advantage of these people, every single year.

And call it a "service."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Been Paranoid?

Check out these frightened losers. Somewhere down the road, something truly horrible happened to each one of them, and now they are so freaking damaged that they are willing to endorse a product which allows you to check out the background of anyone you might come into contact with- your postman, your next-door neighbor, that guy who seemed to look at you funny on the bus the other day, the waiter at your favorite local hangout, your Father in Law...

"This guy I met online could be ANYONE..." yes indeed, he could. And if he's a methodical, stalking nutcase, he's not going to be frightened away by your request for his name. He'll give you the name of an acquaintance, neighbor, whoever, and you'll think you're safe to meet him at the corner of Doom and God Knows Where at 2 AM because hey, after all, BeenVerified said he was Ok.

"Online Dating can be scary"- and stupid, and sad. Seriously, if you've been driven to Online Dating, you're probably just one disappointing date away from writing to guys on death row anyway. Hey, their background checks are easy to do, at least!

Basically, this looks like a product which could have been created by the same people who brought us Brinks Security and the hilarious "home invasion" ads. The world is a big, scary place filled with scumbags who want to rape you and kill you, not necessarily in that order. So you'd better arm yourself. And don't think that purchasing an electronic fence for your house is going to cut it. You still go outside sometimes, you know. And that's where the predators are waiting for you.

I especially like the Terrified but Otherwise Thrilled to be Fertile woman in this commercial, who simply cannot stop letting us know that she's pregnant. "You don't know who to trust" with her hand gently resting on her stomach. "My growing family" accompanied by a gentle tummy rub. "Mother's intuition" dished out to us a few moments later. Jesus Christ, we GET IT, lady. You're pregnant. Mazel tov! And double congratulations to you, kid; you're going to be raised by a freakishly paranoid helicopter mom who insists on doing background checks on all your friends, their parents, their parents' friends, etc. etc. ETC.

Because it's a scary world out there. Especially these people, who need serious psychological help. No further verification required.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Just for Fun, Because I couldn't resist

I caught this vintage ad while watching an old VHS recording of Mystery Science Theatre, and I couldn't believe my luck in finding it available for embedding on YouTube. Every time I see this ad, two thoughts run simultaneously through my head:

1) Why would anyone want to listen to this music? I mean, it's not terrible in small doses- I'm a big Cars fan- but I simply can't imagine listening to this for more than two or three songs at a time. Unless I wanted to induce a comatose state, perhaps.

(I'm pretty sure that the combination of grapes, wine and Spandau Ballet is an approved form of euthanasia in Oregon.)

2) There is simply no way that these two people are having sex. Or ever thinking about sex. Or have any idea what sex is. And I mean NO. WAY. Which means that the only reason this couple would own these tapes (or Cassettes!) would be to wind down after a particularly rigorous hour of Bible Study.

I mean, just check out that mustache. And that sweater. And the girl's truly freaky I Love Jesus eyes. Yikes!

Hey Applebees, the Olive Garden called. They want their schtick back!

Ugh, the stupid, it just BURNS!!

Why is it that all these commercials feature completely generic, grinning jackasses who act like dinner at Applebees is the most gosh-darned awesome thing any of them could ever hope to experience?

And while we're at it, what is it about dinner at Applebees (or Olive Garden- really, what's the difference?) that makes these people act like empty-headed, clueless, classless shmucks?

Here we have a group of Real Men eager to outdo each other in the "I'm gonna eat the kind of meal that just screams I'M A GUY AND EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE NO GIRLS HERE I HAVE TO KEEP UP APPEARANCES SORRY HEART" department, ordering burgers, ribs- you know, the usual suspects.

Then we've got the lone wolf- or maybe the Beta Male of the herd, who actually finds the guts to pipe up "I'm going to try one of these 550 calorie or less meals." His reward is an all-too predictable dismissive, disbelieving chortle from one of his "friends." I don't know exactly what that snigger is really supposed to mean- my guess is that the ad men who put this mess together don't know either- it's just kind of a throwaway gesture which projects to the audience "draw your own conclusions. We couldn't come up with actual dialogue. Hey, this ain't Shakespeare, people. It's just a crappy ad for a crappy restaurant."

When Our Hero gets this plate of Something Under 500 Calories, one of his friends does something which convinces me that the person who wrote this ad really doesn't give a damn about staying within the realm of the believable. Just before the cutaway, this guy reaches across the table with his fork to cop a taste!

Ok, Applebees, listen very carefully. Nobody takes your commercials seriously. Nobody thinks they are an example of art imitating life, even if we could convince ourselves that this is some kind of "art." We understand that when we watch television, we should expect to suspend disbelief from time to time. But you take the concept too far here. Because never, ever, EVER in the history of this great nation has a man reached across a table to steal a forkful of another man's dinner at a restaurant. I mean, it just DOESN'T HAPPEN.

And if you are going to include such a preposterous scene in an ad like this, at least end it with the victim stabbing his idiot friend's hand with his fork, then taking him down with a left hook. Amidst thunderous applause. These are GUYS, after all.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Define "Deeper"

Here's another episode featuring the heartwarming story of Privileged Kids and their extremely expensive Cisco Technology. This one is a bit different, in that for the first time, we actually see kids using the technology to do something at least SOMEWHAT Educational.

But focusing on the educational aspects of Cisco technology- instead of just alluding to it- would be boring, so instead we have the a kid using a joystick to maneuver a camera around at 14,000 feet below sea level while his classmates bleat "go right! Right! Now down! Go Right!" even though it's painfully clear that there's nothing on the screen they are gazing at except blackness.

Fortunately for their teacher, who at this point must be at least a little concerned that her Take the Day off and Let her Kids goof off with the Pricey Piece of Equipment in My Classroom lesson plan might be sinking faster than the camera, is bailed out by the sudden appearance of a glowing example of deep-ocean life. This creature is conveniently luminous and has kid-attracting eyes. Now the teacher has to be thinking "oh god please stay on the screen a long time, we've got 20 minutes left in this class and another long period of Nothing To See will not be tolerated by these kids!"

"What is it?" one kids asks. The marine biologist who I guess is guiding this "lesson" replies "that's, I don't know."

Reality Check time. Cisco is actually trying to sell us on the idea that if you purchase it's glamorized video conferencing equipment you will not only be able to go on "field trips to China" and engage in staring contests with people on the other side of the planet, but you may just discover new life forms? That's almost as unrealistic as a marine biologist admitting that he doesn't know what a new life form is- the correct, realistic response is "That's a Graffer Fish."

Kid: "Wow, that's cool- didn't you say your name was Mr Graffer?"

Marine Biologist: "Yes. I discovered this fish. Just now. Gotta go put it in the books, kids."

The glowing octopus thing then spins away, causing the kids to give an collective "wooooahhh," the teacher to give an appreciative smile, and for the entire class to go back to the Ever So Educational task of maneuvering the camera through the dark.

I can only figure that Cisco was getting bored with the "use our incredibly expensive technology to do really stupid things" ad campaign and decided to throw a bone to those of us who wanted to see what actual EDUCATIONAL value that technology might provide. I'm not sure that kids seeing a glowing octopus for five seconds, being told that the expert they are hooked up with doesn't know what it is, and deciding to call it "Blinky" really cuts it. I can tell you that I'm not comfortable about showing this commercial to the school board in the future and following the presentation with "so you can see why we need this in OUR science lab!"

I CAN tell you that I've had more than enough of the narrator's voice- god it drives me nuts.

Oh, and "Blinky?" That's the best you can do, kid? BLINKY?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Does Anybody Actually Work Anymore?

It must be so great for our huge population of unemployed and underemployed citizens to watch one commercial after another featuring people sitting in big offices searching for new ways to avoid doing anything to actually earn their paychecks.

This time, we've got a pretty decent crowd of slackers who have decided that lunch break didn't quite cut it, and it's time for an impromptu taco party- because while Americans are the World's Most Productive, Most Innovative Workers (I heard this on Fox and in the State of the Union Address, so you know it's true,) hey, tacos are tacos. Naturally, everybody learned about the taco party through an email sent to their cell phones (I'm not sure why this is morally superior to using interoffice memos- ok, so you aren't stealing company material, just company time?)

One ugly dick who for some reason strikes me as their boss (I don't know why) gets his panties in a wad because he thinks his employees are snubbing him. You see, he's got some lame-ass phone, which was probably state of the art way back in November but is now So Very Yesterday that it took him an extra two and a half minutes to get the Taco Party memo (and get this: it's not just that the employees are told of a taco party. The announcement has to include cute graphics. Is there an App for that? Or is this still MORE time stolen from the company?)

Suddenly exposed as technologically backwards rather than merely unpopular, Presumed Boss Guy- who just committed what used to be a horrible faux pas but nowadays is probably just par for the course in the age of Tweet Every Non-Thought that Pops into your Witless Skull- is reduced to an embarressed giggle and half-audible "yeah...." Too much to ask that he just APOLOGIZE for jumping to conclusions and- more grievously- upsetting workplace cohesion by creating a wall of tension between two employees. I mean, that just wouldn't be as "funny," would it?

Meanwhile, if television is being honest with me, there seems to be two very distinct groups of Americans. There's the group that is unemployed or underemployed- frustrated, angry, desperate. Then there's the group that collects a paycheck by sitting around offices watching, talking about vacations they are about to save big money on thanks to Priceline, setting up screens so they can watch The Big Game and drink beer, and eating tacos. When the second group gets bored, they head off to coffee shops and restaurants to talk about insurance and rag on fellow "employees" who are trying to save money by brown-bagging it. The two groups have one thing in common: Neither is doing any actual work.

I'd love to see a parody of these ads, in which the great mass of people sitting around offices dicking around gets thrown out on their collective butts, and their jobs are handed to the currently unemployed. Hey guys, the next Taco Party is scheduled for 1 PM. The location? The dumpster behind the local KFC/Taco Bell franchise.

Don't forget to invite that guy you called a creep.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thanks for Asking, Taco Bell!

What next? I'm just chock-full of suggestions for you, young man!

1) Complain loudly to the restaurant management that someone has slipped you the food equivalent of a whoopie cushion- perhaps made by the same company that produces those ridiculously noisy Kit Kat Bars which also exist only on television.

2) Ask those pretty girls if they MIND if you continue to eat your dinner without having to feel awkward by their turning around every time you take a freaking bite. Given the ages of these customers, my guess is that this guy could blather away at high volume on his cell phone and get less reaction. I mean, this IS a fast-food joint, not a library, right?

3) Realize that those pretty girls can't hear your thought bubbles (we viewers should be so lucky.) They can't tell how cool and suave you are with the ladies, because while you are thinking these witty (in your mind) thoughts, they just see a dumbstruck doofus holding a pile of poison wrapped in empty carbs.

4) Along the same lines- stop looking at the girls you Know You'll Never Talk To, You Loser and start planning on how you are going to work off the fatty, salty, greasy crap you are shoveling into your body. I suggest a nice jog to the moon.

Or, just keep doing what you planned- sit there quietly, waiting for the pretty girls to leave, so they won't notice that you wet your pants when they actually acknowledged your existence for a moment. When you go home, change your pants, go online, and tell all your Facebook Friends about how you hit it off with these two awesome chicks you met at Taco Bell.

Then never go to that Taco Bell again, because you've been banned for the mess you left on the floor. Your arteries will thank you.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you- this pointless pile of crap was sitting on my head

Um, what?

Seriously- what the hell IS this? An unsupervised little brat (know what would really help here? PARENTS! What a concept!) trashes his toys right and left, but the toy car which is a perfect copy of the automobile being advertised stays scratch free- HUH? SO WHAT? What does this prove?

Not to mention, several things that his monster does with the car are completely harmless- pouring shampoo all over it? Letting slugs crawl on it? What toy would be damaged by these "punishing" acts? I mean, if the toy car was made in China, those slugs might be in danger of lead poisoning- but what could they do to the car?

"We put it through more than five thousand quality tests..." do these include having a giant kid step on it repeatedly, or throwing it into the jaws of a sixty-foot dog? No? THEN THIS IS A REALLY STUPID COMMERCIAL AND WHY DID YOU EVEN BOTHER, NISSAN?

Now, if I completely misread this ad, and it turns out that it's for Matchbox, I take back everything I just said and I must congratulate the company for continuing to make fine, rugged toys capable of handling anything a little kid who is obviously raising himself can throw at them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Here's an idea- give your pie hole a rest, especially while driving. That will save money, too.

Here's a nice collection of clueless jackasses who spent years getting screwed by their phone companies but now think that they are qualified to tell me what service I should be using.

Wait- let me rephrase that. Here's a nice collection of clueless jackasses with very, very limited vocabularies trying to sell me that message. Because seriously- you are going to have to do a lot better than "HUGE, ENORMOUS BILL" bleated in a Middle Eastern accent to get me to switch-- how about telling me what those words mean? What's a "HUGE, ENORMOUS bill," anyway? $100? $200? It seems likely that the bill was considerably more than usual- or these people just woke up one day and decided "gee, maybe I shouldn't be handing my retirement account to my phone company." Either way, why should I pay attention?

And you are also going to have to a lot better than posing people in front of mountains of crumbled up paper. I mean, good for you if you are saving money now- but again, what took you so long?

Oh, and having one of these people hand me a grunt/snarl when she recollects how incredibly long it took for her to put two and two together and realize that she was paying too much- that doesn't work, either.

Because the only message I really get out of this ad is that there are a lot of really, really stupid people out there who had no problem overpaying for phone service but now, like druggies who have Discovered Jesus, feel empowered to preach to the rest of us about saving money. These guys aren't quite as obnoxious as the people who mug us with "Have You Looked At YOUR Bill yet?" in other ads, but pretty damned close.

Hey, Vonage losers- just because you overpaid, doesn't mean the rest of us aren't a LITTLE BIT smarter with OUR money. So take your sad little stories of personal awakening, cram them, and throw them into that pile behind you, ok?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Remember this when your request for a new stapler is denied

The copying machine- the only one your school owns- is on the fritz, again. The service guy is on his way, but it may be a while. And the repair job will only keep the copier functioning for a few weeks, tops, before it breaks down again.

Sorry, we're out of transparency paper. You know how much that stuff costs? Just pass the photo or graphic around the room.

At the beginning of the school year, each teacher will receive a set of whiteboard markers. DO NOT LEAVE THESE MARKERS IN THE CLASSROOM. DO NOT LET THE STUDENTS USE THESE MARKERS. If you need replacement markers, please let (----) know. If teachers request too many replacement markers, we must assume that these instructions are not being followed, and teachers will be required to supply their own.

Sent home to parents: a list of items each student should bring to school on the first day, including two boxes of facial tissues for the classroom.

"The Advanced Placement History books currently used by your class include a concluding paragraph covering the 9/11 terrorist attacks- therefore, they are sufficiently up to date. We can't afford new textbooks this year."

"We agree that a trip to Harper's Ferry would be the perfect way to conclude the year for the United States History I class; however, the bus fee is not within our field trip budget constraints."

Meanwhile, the incredibly irritating narrator with the grating sing-song voice is celebrating the fact that in a school somewhere across town some kid is using CISCO's SmartBoard technology to engage in a staring contest with a kid on the other side of the fucking planet. Probably because the Field Trip to China has been delayed until Ellen Page shows up.

Warms the heart, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Because Reading just cuts way too much into my surfing time

The YouTube description of this ad reads "a modern retelling (of the Herman Melville Classic "Moby Dick....")

You know, it's bad enough that cellphones are turning us into a nation of drooling illiterates. If you don't want to read, fine. If you want to burn your eyes out of your head staring at a screen, that's fine too. And if you want to spend every free moment of your day fiddling around pointlessly searching for images, videos, etc and sharing them with your equally stupid friends, go for it.

But don't do all that and pretend that you are are engaged in a "retelling" of an American Classic, ok? Unless you think that "Moby Dick" is a story about a ship that travels to the other side of the planet to kill a whale (to the accompaniment of Moby- yes, I get it- not especially clever- and insightful comments like "Ahoy there!" and "Take a picture!") and not about obsession and man's innate need to connect with and understand the universe he finds himself in, this is NOT a retelling of Moby Dick, any more than Disney's Pocahantas was a retelling of the story of Jamestown.

You can make yourself literate by putting in the time required to consume the classics. I'm not a Melville fan- I thought Billy Budd was torture- but I'm not going to stick a DVD of Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck into the player and a few hours later tell myself that I've experienced his signature work. And fucking around with your phone for a few minutes isn't going to make up for that AP Lit class you didn't take in High School, ok?

So make a decision. Be a clueless dumbass who can't walk and chew gum at the same time, but knows how to surf the web on his phone like nobody's business, or put the Short Cut to the Cartoon Version of Life away and pick up a book. See if those synapses are still firing, or have become atrophied with disuse. And don't worry- if it turns out that your brain can no longer absorb complex literary concepts, you can always just say "fuck it" and go back to playing Angry Birds.

Monday, January 17, 2011

eTrade's latest gift to the glue-sniffers who have no idea what stocks are

Let me see if I get this straight: The eTrade babies:

1. Take the Red Eye to and from Bachelor Parties

2. Own Laptops and I Phones with E-trade Apps.

3. Are interested in watching animals have sex (this one REALLY confuses me- so they are infants with the financial sense of adults, and the sexual curiosity of preteens?)

4. Have baby girlfriends ("milkaholics?" Seriously, eTrade? And you want me to trust you with my money?)

Actually, of course, there's only one thing to get straight here: The only thing eTrade is interested in is appealing to the crude lowest common denominator. I simply do not believe that the people who are actual potential customers for this "service" are the SAME people who find these ads even remotely amusing.

So what is happening here? My guess- the population of people out there who use "services" like eTrade smirk and nod at these incredibly stupid, insulting piles of steaming dreck, taking no message from the commercials other than "well, this is what you have to do these days to remind people that you're out there. Whatever."

Meanwhile, a larger population of people who don't have the slightest idea what these babies are talking about (when they are talking about trades) enjoy yukking it up over the OMIGOD SO FUNNY babies and the OMIGOD SO CLEVER things they are saying. That larger population is made up of exceptionally stupid people who really need to grow the hell up. Need to, but won't- because drifting in the warm Sea of Arrested Development is so much more pleasant, not to mention LOL CHECK OUT THAT NEW SHINY THING ROTFLMAO!!

I'll give eTrade this much: It's not often that a company is willing to spend money creating ads targeted at people who will never, ever seek out the service being advertised. But I still have to ask- why babies? Why not monkeys? They can be made to say HILARIOUS things, too. Why not penguins- they are really hot right now. Or geckos- oh wait, I forgot. They are already taken.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

But I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now

Boy, was I stupid when I was a kid. I used to jump off of bridges into unfamiliar rivers, just because I saw some local kids doing it. I used to ride my bike down dirt roads and attempt jumps, and never ever wore a helmet. I used to ride my Honda 70 in circles through high fields of grass without a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, etc.

Sometimes me and my friends would sneak into the Drive-In during a movie and scrounge for soda and beer cans for the five cent deposit. When we went to the theater, we'd always smuggle candy in. When I was sixteen I rolled my grandfather's Volkswagen because I was driving too fast.

I'm so glad those days are over, and now I'm a boring, old, gone-to-seed, obsessed-with-my-heart-health adult who gets his thrills staring at sunsets and riding my bike 2.5 MPH (while equipped with a helmet and knee and ankle pads, of course.) Nowadays I let my students take the risks- like the time I talked that girl into climbing on Jefferson's Rock at Harper's Ferry, strictly against park rules but the only way to get a really good view. I'm sure she deeply regrets taking that risk- or will later, when she's a boring old adult like me.

Yep, thank G-d that those days of taking stupid risks are over. Nothing but skinless chicken, fat-free yogurt, and driving 40 MPH in the center lane for me, from now on. And since life without risks is So Worth Living, I'm going to trust my heart to Lipitor.

Because when every day is risk-free and predictable, you want the days to keep coming. Right?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It's the end of the world as we know it

I was on the Red Line yesterday, finishing up a very nice day spent walking into Washington DC from the Maryland suburbs and then visiting the museum of American Art and the American History Museum. Because it was a day ending in the letter "y," the trains were running painfully slowly, sharing tracks, etc. etc. ETC.

So after almost 15 minutes of waiting on a cold platform, the train shows up. It's crowded, but I've seen worse. I get aboard and I find a place to stand (I never sit on the train, ever. Maybe it's a phobia. Maybe it's because I think I'll fall asleep and miss my stop. Maybe I just like to burn calories when I can.)

A guy standing five feet from me is listening to an I-Pod, using those stupid earbuds which I think were created to make it easier for the people around you to detect your taste in music, and to enjoy it (or not) along with you. He might as well have been using no headphones at all. I walked to the other end of the car to get away from the "music," and instead spent the rest of the 12-minute ride listening to a 13-year old kid carry on a conversation with someone on his cell phone and trying to stuff the term "motherfucker" into each sentence as many times as possible. (Children are our future, but there are some glaringly obvious exceptions to the rule.)

Where am I going with all this? Oh yeah- this commercial. Please tell me what kind of OBNOXIOUS, SELFISH ASSHAT needs a phone with SURROUND SOUND?? Hey AT&T- despite your best efforts, some of us are STILL TRYING TO LIVE IN A SOCIETY HERE!!! I know that in all these "connectivity" commercials, headphones are a no-no, as you and your ilk attempt to create a world in which wall-to-wall noise is the norm (along with the complete banishing of the concept of privacy and personal space) but a CELL PHONE WITH SURROUND SOUND??

Why do you hate us so much, AT&T? Is this about that government-ordered breakup forty years ago? Because believe me, if it were possible, there are some of us who would gladly go back in time and warn the government to keep it's hands off of Ma Bell. After all, back in the evil days of the Phone Monopoly, all we had to deal with was huge, heavy, clunky, ugly phones and overpriced, poor service. These pale in comparison to the evils inflicted upon us by the Pandora's Box of Competition- video cameras, internet connectivity, and the creation of a generation of brain-dead half-wits who simply cannot function without their electronic best friends. But at least until now, the dwindling number of us people who are Just Trying To Have a Society Here could just shake our heads and ignore these dim bulbs (at least, when they weren't cutting us off in traffic or carrying on conversations everywhere and anywhere, "Ruling the Air," as it were.)

It's only a matter of time now before we have people and their competing Personal Stereo Systems blasting us out of trains, libraries, bookstores, parks, theaters, etc thanks to this amazing new breakthrough in Surround Sound Technology. Thanks a lot, AT&T, for making me nostalgic for the days of Annoying Ring Tones.

PS- you're going to burn in hell for this, you know. Hope the memory of having lots of money during that eyeblink you were on Earth makes the eternity of pain and suffering worth it.

An Open Letter to the Miller Brewing Company

I know you want to sell beer. I know that you beer companies ran out of fresh ideas on HOW to sell bear roughly thirty years ago. And I know that times are tough, and no doubt your CEOs have passed down the word that actual "writers" are not to be hired when creating scripts for your ads.

And yes, I realize that these ads don't include beer-crazed lunatics who live in houses made entirely of full cans. I realize that they don't involve guys bungee-jumping to steal beer, assholes asking questions of long-retired NFL coaches, or guys disdaining sex in favor of appreciating beer cases with "windows" and color-changing cans.

But still- the Hot Bartender with Zero Social Skills bit has gotten really, really old. First, bartenders simply don't ask questions like "do you want a beer that tastes great or like shit?" Second, last time I checked, bartenders didn't pimp one brand exclusively while angrily dismissing all others. Third, I don't care HOW hot the bartender is- these people work almost exclusively on tips, and it's kind of hard to get tips from people you've openly mocked for the hideous crime of not knowing what brand of light beer they want.

I mean, come on. It's one thing for the bartender to helpfully suggest a Miller Lite when the customer doesn't have a clue. It's another thing ENTIRELY for the bartender to openly question the customer's manhood, style of dress, or relationship with his mother. Yes, I am sure that there are a lot of people out there who think these bartenders are being funny. Those people are called morons, and they have my contempt, and they richly deserve it. (And if they think this situation would be funny in real life, they are used to being the object of contempt.)

So please, enough. What these bartenders are doing to their customers is stupid, and demeaning, and insulting to my intelligence (not insulting to the intelligence of YouTube bottom-feeders, because it's hard to insult what simply isn't there.) I want to see more Bartender Makes Customer Look Stupid Because He Answered Question Incorrectly ads about as much as I want to see a return of Punch Dub Days.

But all is forgiven if this horrid ad campaign raps up with a Superbowl Commercial featuring an insulted customer who snaps and torches the bar, leaving the offending bartender to go back to her old job pole-dancing. That might even be worth an LOL on YouTube's comment thread.

Come on, Miller. I dare you. Man Up!!

(BTW, please note that for the hil-ARIOUS punchline to be set up, the guy in the "skinny jeans" has to ask "is the score still 30-32?" Nobody talks like that- unless, of course, he's required to to set up a stupid closing "joke." Another fail, Miller Lite.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's a long fall from electing Presidents to chastizing annonymous viewers, isn't it?

Full disclosure: I am not a Mason. Technically, as a baptized Roman Catholic, I'm not supposed to join a lodge or participate in any of its functions. In fact, I have friends who are Masons, my ex-brother in law is a Mason, and I attended a "get to know us" dinner at the local lodge last year. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Freemasons; every single one I've met has impressed me as being a fine, upstanding human being.

Full disclosure, part II: I've always been kind of interested in the political arm of Freemasonry. My Master's Thesis, which sucked two years away from my life some twenty years ago (it was researched without the help of the as-yet-uninvented internet, and typed on a computer with a very limited word processing program) was entitled The Anti-Masonic Party in Massachusetts, 1826-1835. Yes, it was a real page-turner, thanks for asking.

All this being said, this commercial inspires in me more sadness than anything else. I mean, isn't this the organization which once elected Presidents, appointed judges, manipulated the world currencies and carried out the occasional assassination? How do you go from giving Queen Elizabeth, Czar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm their marching orders to hiring a bad Ben Franklin impersonator to beg for recruits? Come on- aren't these the same guys who embedded the Secrets of the Universe in Benjamin Bannaker's blueprint for Washington, DC (you don't think that the Washington Monument is 555 ft high by ACCIDENT, do you?) So what the heck?

Back to the ad- I wish this guy had just been out front with what is obviously the subliminal message- "are you man enough to help us regain control of the planet, manipulating everything from the price of gas to the winner of the next American Idol competition along the way?" Because if he had-- Catholic Church or no Catholic Church, sign me up!!

On second thought, don't sign me up- based on that episode of The Simpsons back in the 90s, I think I'd rather join the Stonecutters. Maybe they don't control the UN or the Federal Reserve, but they've done a great job keeping the Metric System down and the martians under wraps.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The sound of empty calories (except, not really)

1. From a distance of 100 yards, you know what is being sold out of this vending machine. What an eyesore. At least when you are surrounded by Kit Kats while on the Chocolate Ride at Hersheypark, you are distracted by the singing cows.

2. Are Kit Kats popular, or are they just the only thing the employees of this company can buy without going off-site? I mean, there are no other candies in the whole freaking machine. I guess if you need a quick empty calorie sugar fix, Kit Kats are ok. And I guess that in this building, they are going to have to be.

3. Kit Kats don't make this much noise. In fact, when you break them or bite into them, they make almost no noise at all. Eating popcorn is louder. Kit Kats are slightly noisier than Snickers bars. Why would being noisy be a selling point anyway? This reminds me of the old Pringles commercials, where we saw people jugging the empty cans- what does this have to do with the quality of the chocolate, people??

4. If Kit Kats WERE this noisy, they'd probably be banned in the workplace. After all, how can I listen to fantasy football updates on my cell phone over this kind of racket?

5. Kit Kats don't taste all that good. Like most mass-manufactured chocolates, the texture is chalky, and the wafers are bland and rather flavorless. Which might explain why one guy seems intent on jamming the stuff down his pie hole as quickly as possible.

5. Has anyone over the age of six ever made the choice of a candy bar based on a commercial?

What is it about this commercial that would encourage anyone to buy a Kit Kat Bar? There are no boxes of Kit Kats on moving belts, no chocolate-churning machines, no narration concerning the Amazing Cocoa Bean. Not even a singing cow.

Not even ONE.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Commercial which has almost everything

Let's see-

Women presented as exclusively sexual objects- check. The "aliens" who declare their intention to "treplicate" (really?) with "the males of your species" are of course stunningly gorgeous young actresses who I hope are at least mildly ashamed at their willingness to take this gig (hey, you got to eat, and rent's got to be paid. I really do understand.)

Men presented as slack-jawed, unshaven slobs who are so beer-obsessed that they aren't sold on the whole "treplicating" idea until Bud Lite is added to the offer- check. Let me make an additional point here- why isn't the offer of "treplicating" enough? I mean, I would have been on the ship before any mention of alcohol is made. Has sex fallen so far down on the priorities scale- way below playing with a cool cell phone, for example- that the bribe of LIGHT BEER was needed to seal the deal?

Cliche'd catchphrase that Budweiser dearly hopes goes viral and is permanently engraved in the American Consciousness as being connected to Bud Lite ("Here We Go!)- Check.

Confused punchline which steps all over the storyline- CHECK. After the guys are whisked away for an eternal orgy of sex and beer (not in that order, apparently) the women cheer "the guys are gone!" and start their own party- with their own beer, which I guess was hidden away for fear that the Scruffy Males would guzzle it down without their help. But hold on- is the message here that the women can't have fun with beer if men are around? That they are incapable of drinking all the beer they want unless the Males are not aware or in a position to stop them? I mean, what the hell? Last time I checked, adult women in the United States could drink whatever they want, whenever they want to drink it. Are there really men out there actively trying to prevent women from having a good time?

Isn't there something missing here? The men are off with sexy female aliens, the women are left with- each other. And beer. Why not sexy male aliens? Would their presence strip the women of their moral high ground, or what? Seriously, help me out here.

So what IS missing from this ad? It's so obvious, I don't blame you if you missed it. This commercial is missing a product worth purchasing. I mean, come on- Lite Beer? Who gets this excited over LITE BEER?

Then again, these are guys who are not all that interested in treplicating, and women who aren't all that concerned that their boyfriends/husbands/fathers of their children have been whisked off in a space ship to have alien sex and drink bad beer. So maybe it's just me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It seems to me that this guy's life is permanently on Pause.

I'd like to point out that as this idiot's attempts at watching "Iron Man 2" are constantly being interrupted by travel demands, he never ONCE is shown using a headset. Which means he's just like every other self-absorbed dickwad appearing in Fios commercials- he's watching a movie, and he doesn't care if anyone around him is trying to read a book, or sleep, or (God forbid) just think about something without being harassed by his electronic addiction..

I'd also like to point out that I've SEEN Iron Man 2 (coincidentally enough, I watched it on Amtrak a few weeks ago, on my laptop. I used a headset. Because I'm not an inconsiderate jackass. In fact, I'm so NOT an inconsiderate jackass that when I wanted to make a phone call to let my family know how my painfully slow trip was progressing, I waited until I could step out on to the platform, where I could speak without bothering anyone except the crowd of smokers standing out there with me- and who gives a shit about them?)

Where was I? Oh yes, I've SEEN Iron Man 2, and while inferior in pretty much every way to the original, I must defend it here by saying that IT ISN'T EIGHT HOURS LONG!! Seriously, what is WITH this guy- he's watching it at home, then he's watching it in the terminal, then he's watching it on the plane- either he has severe ADD and can only watch for a few minutes at a time without nervously moving on to the next non-activity, or he's watching it again and again during his journey. Either way, this guy has issues. As I said, it's simply not a very good movie. Certainly not one that demonstrates how ESSENTIAL it is to purchase a service which allows you to carry it around with you.

I'll cut this guy two breaks. At least he isn't the "Take the NFL with you" choad, who apparently can't function if he isn't staring at a screen on which someone is bleating something about fantasy teams (I'll risk being flamed right here- people who are into Fantasy Football to the extent that this guy is are just one step up the food chain from basement-dwelling "gamers." Seriously, grow up, losers.) That dangerously detached moron seems perfectly happy strolling through life gazing witlessly at monitors of varying sizes while insisting that everyone in his immediate vicinity listen in on his stupid obsession.

And at least he isn't the "yay Cloud" woman in the airport who convinces her husband to play "Celebrity Probation" on his laptop. Iron Man 2 isn't that good, but "Celebrity Probation?"

All breaks are revoked if it turns out that the reason why it's taking this guy eight hours and three time zones to watch a 90-minute film is because he keeps pausing to check on the status of his Fantasy Football Team, or is just dividing his time between Iron Man 2 and Celebrity Probation.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

AAMCO's got nothing but respect for its customers

I know this is saying a lot, but this may well be the most annoying commercial I've ever seen.

I thought "Five Dollar Foot Longs" was bad. I cringed at the Smirnoff's "I Can't Believe I was there" campaign. And those hideous brats with the clueless, poison-hogging parents in the Kraft Mac' n "Cheese" commercials? Ugh.

But yes- I'm convinced- these are even worse. The "customers" in this ad do what nobody with any self-respect (or brain cells) would ever do in public- they act like absolutely clueless morons in their attempts to explain the noises their cars are making, and they do it for apparently no other reason but to amuse the clean-cut, condescending AAMCO mechanic who looks like he just loves these little sessions with the lesser Not-Mechanics who are necessary evils in his life.

So AAMCO mechanics patiently wait for us not-AAMCO mechanics to stop making total asses of ourselves so that they can give us the answer they were going to give us even if we didn't spend the previous three minutes screeching like sick monkeys- "we'll check it." (Because here's a quick tip- if the mechanic tells you he knows what the problem is based on your sound effects, he's trying to sell you a very expensive service. The only HONEST answer from a mechanic is "I won't know what the problem is until I've checked it out.")

My favorite moment in this ad is the part where the Adorable Harebrained Woman With Dog points to the "check" light (conveniently shaped like an ENGINE) and asks "I don't know what this light means.) AAMCO Genius- "That's the Check Engine Light. We'll Check That."

Are we kidding, AAMCO? Do you really have that little regard for your customers? Or is it just women? You think there's anyone out there who doesn't already know that the "Check Engine" light means "it's been 3000 miles since your last oil change, and you don't know how to turn this light off, so if you don't want to keep looking at it- wondering if it means your engine is about to fall out- you'd better bring it in to Jiffy Lube?"

Actually, I can't believe I asked that last question. It's pretty clear from this ridiculously long, thoroughly obnoxious ad how much regard AAMCO has for the non-AAMCO mechanic population out there. Not much.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sprint is at war with society, and society is losing

Here's another nasty little dollup of ugliness from our friends at Sprint, who seem determined to sell us on the idea that the whole point of owning a cellphone with unlimited video streaming and text is to be the most self-absorbed choad imaginable for a reasonable monthly fee.

The football player in this ad- knee shattered, probably pumped full of pain-killers, nevertheless still holding on to his cell phone- receives an email from his "caregiver" (I use that term VERY loosely) letting him know that he's out for the season. That's right- the doctor is RIGHT THERE, but has adopted to modern technology so well that he finds it more convenient to send a text than to simply tell the patient with that hole located between the nose and chin.

"What does that mean?" the deeply concerned football player asks (give the guy props for asking the question orally rather than sending a reply email- though responding electronically might return a greater level of humanity than he gets from the Never Look Up bag of toxic waste sitting at his side.) "It means I'm dumping you from my fantasy team, that's for sure" the "doctor" replies (I cringe whenever I hear this, because I can imagine the thousands of mentally and emotionally retarded Barely Erect YouTubers LOLing and high-fiving each other at the awesome wittiness on display.)

As with all these commercials, the "funny" part comes from the fact that the Asshole With A Phone simply doesn't get that he's being an Asshole, and all he cares about is the fact that he's saving money. More- he assumes that the victim of his asshattery is actually concerned about his phone bill. So, you see, Sprint customers have brains stuffed with animal feces and the social consciences of rabid wolves. Bottom Line: You need to switch to Sprint.

At least, I'm pretty sure that's the message we are supposed to draw from these ads. Because I don't quite fit in, I'm certain that my reaction- that this football player should reach out, seize his "doctor's" phone, and apply it to his lungs via the rectum, is not a common one. This suspicion is confirmed over at YouTube, where I'm told that anyone who doesn't think these commercials are funny has no sense of humor. If I were willing to join YouTube, I'd reply that anyone who thinks that these commercials are funny has no sense of humor- or humanity, or basic decency. And probably should not be allowed objects as sharp as keyboards. But again- that's just me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Have you heard about Larry the Lonesome Loser?

First, can this guy be a sadder, more delusional waste of space? "I don't talk to people at the game" (gee, big loss, I'm sure.) So you're so "focused on the game" that you don't want to be distracted by the other 70,000 people in attendance- why not just watch it on your flipping couch then, stupid?

Second- "the people I'm with call me Mr Excitement.." that would be the people you don't talk to, right? Makes a lot of sense, Larry. I'm guessing that those people don't notice you as much as you think they do.

Third- "Sixty thousand people want that ball to go through the goal posts..." (what happened to the other ten thousand?) Larry, please, think about this for a moment. There are two teams in competition on the field. If that ball goes through the goalposts, it benefits ONE team. It hurts the OTHER team. Following me so far, Larry? Are you saying that six out of seven people in the stands are rooting for whatever team happens to be making the field goal attempt? Or are you saying what I think you're saying- you don't give a flying crap about either team? You just like to see scoring? Find yourself distracted often by shiny things? You are quite the piece of work, Larry.

Fourth- "there are millions of people who WANT to be there." You really think so? Seriously? I bet a lot more people are perfectly happy at restaurants, taverns, and living rooms surrounded by friends and much better food than you are going to get at the sterile neutral site you are watching "the Big Game" at, dumbass. And when the game is over, they get to go home to their own beds. You get to hit the hotel and think about the trip to the airport. And how nobody is going to be there to meet you at the gate when you exit the plane, because....

Fifth- "I've missed weddings, I've missed babies being born, but I have never missed a Super Bowl." If that's not the definition of misplaced priorities, I don't know what is. Are you for real, Larry? You've skipped out on weddings and the BIRTH of FAMILY MEMBERS to go to a FUCKING FOOTBALL GAME which almost exclusively featured two teams you were NOT a fan of during the regular season? Well, gee- that certainly explains the divorce. And the lack of phone calls. And why you spend your holidays alone. But hey, you've got that one weekend a year where you get to play Supergeek with 70,000 strangers.

This isn't pleasant for me, Larry, because you are apparently a real person and not an invention of the NFL. That you exist is almost heartbreaking; that you are proud of your obsession with the Most Overrated Sporting Event That Is Not Scheduled For Qatar is way beyond pathetic.

That you are willing to share your "story" with the world? Well, I don't think they've invented a word that fits that level of obliviousness.

So I'll just come out and say it- Larry, I would not trade places with you for box seats at the 2011 Red Sox-Phillies World Series. That's baseball, Larry. A sport WORTH traveling great distances to watch. You can keep your Super Bowl tickets. I'm too polite to tell you WHERE you can keep them.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

When "cute" runs headlong into "stupid"

Simply put: Would you buy a new car from this guy?

The car salesman spends every moment with the customer- the intro, the test drive, the (unseen) negotiations, the sign-on-the-dotted-line- doing some juvenile, obsessive pen twirl with his right hand. Apparently it's just part of the job, because his co-worker is doing the same thing.

This kind of shit would bother the hell out of me- if this guy is so good at twirling pens, he's got way too much down time at the dealership. I'd think he was trying to distract me from paying attention to the quality of the car's handling and the other features. Or I'd think he didn't give a damn about making the sale and would rather practice his idiot hobby. At any rate, three minutes with this guy would have me walking out the door in disgust, or at least asking if any grown-ups were on duty that I could talk to.

Oh, and if I actually hung around for the test drive and negotiations, and was on the verge of signing the contract- "where's my pen? Who would take my pen?" would be my final, Should-Not-Be-Required cue to get up and walk out.

I'm convinced that the people who make Volkswagen ads have never been in a showroom and have no real idea of what goes into selling a car. After all, over the past year their sales pitches have involved a talking VW Bug, people slamming their fists into each other and barking "black one!", and now salesmen doing annoying tricks with pens. Seriously- who the hell approves this crap? Can you imagine what they REJECTED?

No, I would not buy a car from a salesman who treated me with the dismissive contempt that this clown shows to his customer. Another fail added to a long and growing list of poor ad campaign choices, Volkswagen. I will say this- you do keep me on my toes. I'm always curious to see what pathetically stupid angle you'll try next.

Why don't you just kill him instead of talking him to death?

A long time ago, cell phone companies decided that it just wasn't worth it to fight the "our product turns people into insensitive, clueless assholes" criticism, and instead use that charge as the basis of their advertising campaigns. That's why pretty much every commercial for cell phones features their users acting like total dicks who are just begging to have their teeth jammed down their throat, ASAP.

In this charming, Holiday-themed installment, our mandatory drooling cell phone addict has decided to interrupt his neighbor's decorating by sending a mass text message to everyone he knows snarking on what an eyesore the neighbor's light display is. That he does this while standing directly in front of the offending display suggests that cell phones do, in fact, burn out brain cells, and owners don't just ACT as if they have suffered severe head injuries. That he sent this message to the target of his hateful little note demonstrates a significant level of poor judgment (or perhaps he's just too damned lazy to exclude him from the mailing.) That he sends this text instead of finding a tactful way of suggesting to the neighbor that he might want to tone it down a bit is just another example of how cell phones are contributing to society's decay- "Hey, I didn't care for something that you did, but instead of simply talking to you about it, I criticized you via text message to everyone I know."

Confronted with his stunning lack of sense, the cell phone wanker responds only with an empty grin (tell me you don't want to treat his head like a Gallagher prop by now) and an assurance that Don't Worry, treating you like a non-person with no rights or feelings isn't costing me a dime extra. I take it that this is supposed to be funny, because it's a punchline repeated in other ads by the same company.

And maybe it WOULD be funny, if it didn't look so damned familiar. The fact is, cell phones DO encourage assholes to share whatever witless, hateful thought that pops into their sawdust-stuffed heads without considering the consequences. The fact is, the companies that make these phones WANT you to use them constantly, without thinking, because their goal is to create a world in which you never, ever, EVER put that god damned thing down and reflect on what you might be pondering or wanting to say before letting anyone- let alone EVERYONE- know about it.

By the way, anyone want to explain to me why what happens in this commercial isn't cyber-bullying? Anyone want to explain to me why I would want to buy a product from a company that thinks trashing people electronically is not only funny, but a good marketing pitch?

Meanwhile, to the victim of this jerk's wireless missive: There's snow on the ground. That means you probably have a shovel nearby. I suggest you apply it to this guy's face. Repeatedly. Get your kid to record the incident on his phone, and YouTube it. "Hey, check out this guy's crushed skull- it's Ho Ho rendus!" Believe me, you'll get plenty of LOLs and Thumbs-Up by the juvenile knuckle-draggers who haunt that site.