Thursday, April 30, 2009

#999 Double-Edged Axe

One of the coolest things about getting older is watching things that try to appeal to the young. Young people are great. Full of Hormones and enthusiasm. They take life in big gulps, burn the candle at both ends and swing their double-edged axes of personality without a care for collateral damage.
The band U-2, now older and wiser, continues to produce good music. But you got to wonder if the decisions they made when they were young haunt them.
Like their names. Specifically The Edge. At what time in your life do you say I’m tired of being called The Edge. At a fancy restaurant? “Table for two—Mister and Missus The Edge.”
At the rental car pick-up counter? I’m sorry Mr. The Edge, it’s company policy to automatically add the insurance to cars rented to people with names that suggest sharp instruments.”
At your Zen class? “I know you are The Edge sir, but we are still here to find our center.”
And young peoples products.... One of the newest in a line of powerfully fragrant products is Axe. The big problem is, young men are never very subtle. And the ad campaigns are encouraging them to spray and slather on Axe products like stage blood in a slasher flick.
They have this one commercial out now that shows a guy doing a motorcycle backflip from a distance. Then it does a replay slomo close-up and the guy is shown to be also ripping off his shirt and spraying Axe on both his armpits and his chest.
They call the move a “double pits to chesty,” as if it’s a real acrobatic move, like a triple salchow or a double axel. But of course this isn’t a refined sport like ice skating. This is a balls out, no holds barred, ultimate smackdown, double axe swinging motocross thing.
They then direct the young viewer to a website called double pits to chesty dot com. I must admit Axe ads are clever—and edgy.
I have only one suggestion. Please tell the young men not to spray it on like a dog marking a tree.
Too much Axe reeks. And they’ll lose their edge with the gals.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

#998 OMG PWD

The Obama’s have recently finally selected the first dog. First dog for the family and First Dog of the nation. And I have no doubt the more rabid of the right wing attack dogs will be bemoaning the fact that it’s a foreigner. A Portuguese breed to be exact.
The Portuguese Water Dog.
Portugal was the country from which came that first euro-discoverer of America. From Native Americans’ point of view, our very first illegal immigrant, Columbus.
As the phrase Portuguese Water Dog is long and the word Portuguese hard to spell, we can expect the media to rapidly decide on the designation PWD. And how tailor-made for the tweeting constituency that put Obama into the presidency.
PWD is a text abbreviation waiting to happen. “OMG did u c the P’s PWD? He was so cute I had to LOL!” And then they’ll end with the secret code initials they use that mean We’re Totally French.
The plot continues to thicken for us conspiracy theorists. First the Prez lowered taxes for 95% of Americans and triggered a teabagging tax revolt. Now he’s got a foreign dog.
With a rainbow lei around his neck no less. And we all know what rainbows stand for. Another secret code. Soon he’ll be arranging a white house marriage with another PWD and they’ll be playing AC/DC at the wedding, if you know what I mean.
From water-boarding to water dogs, how the administrations have changed. Still, it is cool to have a new text designation to add to the text lexicon. Or should I say text-icon?
And the fact that the dog is both sweet and tweetable will endear him to the hearts of millions. All in all, a clever public relations gambit from the best public relations president in a long time.
But he did seem to take a long time to pick the dog. Another example of the careful deliberative decision making that infuriates his critics. Although I read somewhere that they picked it a while back and it was being trained for a while before the Obama’s actually got it.
Being groomed for office, as it were...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

#997 Fresh Baptism

The other day I heard a story on 94.5 Roxy and didn’t get all the details. So later that same day I went to my computer, clicked on my favorites link to 945roxy.com, and checked Bobby’s Blog to get the full skinny. I love technology.
Here’s what it said. “A Norwegian church was left no choice but to use lemon soda during a baptism. Reuters reports that because of freezing waters, taps were temporarily turned off this week in the region. So, during a baptism, priest Paal Dale improvised by dabbing lemon fizzing water on the baby. He told reporters the drink had gone flat so the only thing that made the liquid unusual for a baptism was its lemon scent.”
You want to wish everyone were as calm and adaptable as this preacher. Running out of holy water right before a scheduled baptism. Using lemon flavored sparkling water instead. But I really like that one part. It had gone flat, he said, and it was just water except for the slight lemon scent. Wait a minute, would it have been wrong if had still been carbonated? I don’t remember any biblical injunctions against carbonation.
What if John the Baptist had worked in the Perrier section of France? Mineral water should be okay, carbonation and all, especially if you allow lemon scent as an alternative.
And what a great idea. They say when you are baptized you are reborn. So you not only get a brand new soul, it’s lemony fresh too.
And think of the possibilities for commerce. Everybody likes to pamper themselves and feel nice. The bath, balm and scent industry is booming.
Baptism is basically just sanctified bathing.
And this was one of those sprinkling baptisms so they didn’t even involve the possibilities of full immersion. How about being soaked in a sacred cistern of soothing emollients? With herbal and citrus aromas wafting through the air like delicate doves. Nothing makes sense like scents for the spirit.
This could be the start of a whole new line of holy bath, baptism and body products.
Soothe your soul into the hereafter with Bed, Bath and Really Beyond...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

#996 Fried PETA

Sometimes you want to say, can’t we all just get along? No matter what the issue there seems to be one side and another each passionately defending their point of view. Lately it’s the Colonel and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. The PETA people and the Kentucky Fried Colonel are having trouble finding some common ground.
As always, the street of political realities is strewn with potholes. But in this case it really is about actual potholes. In a bizarre battle of public relations, the folks from KFC offered Cleveland, Ohio, some free roadwork. In exchange for spending thousands of dollars to repair potholes, KFC asked to label each repaired pothole with a temporary masking that said “Re-Freshed by KFC.”
And that’s what got PETA fried. They say KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Cruelty, and accused them of a mile-long record of animal abuse. They counter-offered Cleveland to fill their potholes and spray signs on that said, “KFC Tortures Animals.”
Catchy.
Cleveland turned down both offers. It’s too bad residents have to bust their suspensions because politics and potholes bumped into each other.
But, as my friend Andy said, “It does pave the way for some fowl humor.”
Personally, I suspect free offers. KFC must have needed some way to dispose of all their excess fry grease. Why not mix it with tar and gravel and fill potholes?
Yeah, I’d like my pothole filling extra crispy.
The workers don’t even need to be abreast of current training, according to KFC, they’re encouraging them to wing it. At least four other cities have jumped in and said yes, so KFC seems to have a leg up on PETA.
I guess chicken grease potholes sound better than potholes filled with what PETA must have been offering—their famous bread.
But somehow I think there’s a possibility everyone may have been overlooking. The whole “Refresh KFC” idea could mean an opportunity to promote a new salad menu.
And the more fast-food salad people eat, the less factory chickens rendered to stick in PETA’s gizzard.
But it does answer one question: Why did the Kentucky Fried Chicken cross the road? To fill a pothole.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

#995 Tea Totaled

Not long ago I was at a coffee shop having a tea. It’s part of my “get hot liquids as healthy as possible” campaign. I’m cold a lot as I head to the far side of middle age, and warm beverages seem to stave of the shivers. I figure if I’m going to drink hot liquids to get warmer, I at least need to avoid too much caffeine at the same time, as caffeine constricts one’s blood vessels and makes one even colder.
Then again, maybe it increases metabolic rate, and makes you warmer. In any event, tea is usually cheaper than fancy coffee and saving money at least makes me feel better.
I ordered a tea in a larger than normal cup for even more hot fluid. They charged me for a large tea. As I usually get two squeezings of tea and two vessels of hot water out of a small tea, I wondered why anyone would charge for a large tea.
Because, it turns out, they stuffed more in the hand-loaded tea bag. It’s funny, I read somewhere recently that tea can actually be rebrewed numerous times and should, in fact, be done so. Dry it out and do it again. It actually increases the potency of the benefits of tea.
But then, I also read you should not take tea totally steaming. It will cause esophageal cancer. That’s right, cancer of your food pipe. Your gruel gullet...chugalugger...cookie chucker.
A scientist noticed that occupants of a province in Iran had the highest rates of esophageal cancers in the world. Lots of guys with damaged esophagi. And the weird thing was they didn’t smoke or drink alcohol.
The only thing they did different was drink tea at higher than normal temperatures. Steaming hot, at over 158 degrees. Very hot tea leads to a 8-fold increase in the risk of esophageal cancer.
You can steep it hot, but wait at least 4 minutes to drink it. Large or small.
As I have a long list of other western carcinogens to worry about, I’m guessing I can take more than tepid tea.
But hey, I loved having this opportunity to repeatedly say esophageal.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

#994 Just People

You often hear one side of the aisle or another complaining. The right rails about the excesses of government and how many mistakes they make. The left whines about the crimes of big business, and how they screw up Main Street by sliming up Wall Street.
The truth is it’s the people in those organizations that screw up. Little people like you and me, but without either common sense or a moral compass. A government worker is as likely as a robber baron to mess something up.
In the final analysis, we’re all just people and our actions are not always just…or just right.
Take the big ballyhoo recently about the VA hospitals that were reusing un-sterilized colonoscopy scopes. Didn’t disinfect the cameras.
Oops.
It’s bad enough picking stuff up off toilet seats. But to have a crack team of highly trained personnel actually medically introducing bacteria deep into your colon…
On the list of HMO approved procedures, that’s at the bottom.
But what a creative cost-cutting measure. Why spend all that money sterilizing something you’re just going to put in what is essentially a biological sewer pipe? I’ve heard of anal-retentive behavior, this is the first example I’ve seen of anal inventive behavior.
Speaking of anal retentive, annual exams, and examining annuals. It’s interesting to note how people’s personalities are reflected by their choice of landscaping plants: Fragile exotic tufts of grass or hardy native groundcover. Reliable evergreens or changing deciduous. Last minute annuals or highly planned long-term perennials. Anal-retentive perfectly edged lawns or laidback scattered beauty bark. Just people expressing themselves.
Landscaping is pretty inclusive of folk’s foibles. When I see a yard in the Pacific Northwest with a pink flamingo, it teaches me a little lesson about acceptance.
Still, you can accept too much. The Postal Service recently issued a new stamp series. It’s of the Simpson’s, America’s iconic cartoon family—the perfect example of “just people.” But...
A word of caution when you send your next sympathy card to someone who’s had a relative that’s passed—do not put on a Homer stamp.
Homer is known for a different kind of passing.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

#993 Superbad Investments

I wonder about investing in today’s economy. I’ve never been a real savvy investor. At one time I was told the best way to invest was to have a portfolio that was diversified. So I invested in stocks and real estate.
Who’d have thought they’d both tank at the same time.
Just my luck. Another super bad investment strategy from the guy who lost a lot of money investing in the Superbad franchise. Not the one with Seth Rogen. The one from the seventies with big glasses and large masses of curly hair.
It was a direct marketing derivative of the Superfly movement. They had hair products that were supposed to make you superbad. They had one that made your big bubble of kinky permed hair “look sexier.” It was a mousse called afro-disiac.
Sales were surprisingly flat.
I also invested a lot of money in a technology I was sure would stick around because they were so simple and wearable—beepers.
I’m not sure if cellphones killed beepers or fashion killed beepers. I remember when kids first started wearing super baggy pants they had involuntary exposure problems when they added the weight of a beeper. Too bad, beepers are ideal platforms for the philosophy behind twittering.
They’ve gone the way of typewriters I guess. Once the leading edge of cool technology, now supplemented by multi-purpose phone devices. There’s probably a beeper “app” you can get.
Some supposedly bright investors are talking now about getting the FCC to lift regulations on newspaper and radio cross-ownership. I don’t know. Do we want newspapers to own radio? Have they done a very good job keeping newspapers up with the times and technology? HD Radio I get. HD Newspaper?
More importantly, do we want Rupert Murdoch to control every media outlet in the world?
Finally, is now a good time to invest in nail shops? There are getting to be more nail spas than Starbucks. And amazingly, even with these tough economic times, they’re still full to the rafters with fumes and recumbent women.
I guess if you want to cling desperately to that one last luxury, there’s nothing like investing in strong nails...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

#992 Alternatively Energized

On Saturday May 2, the City of Lacey is staging their annual Alternative Energy Fair. It’s a fun deal. In addition to various displays from alternatively energized vendors, they have the Lacey Grand Prix, which is an electric car race.
The electric cars have to meet certain parameters and for the most part the participants are dedicated high school students.
Another event they’ll have this year is the MPG race. MPG refers to Miles per Gallon, so you can guess it’s about fuel efficiency. But it’s a little different. The goal is to do a hundred mile course and improve the mileage of your particular car. The official window sticker EPA expected mileage that is.
If you have a new Honda Insight that’s rated at 44 miles per gallon, in order to win you’d have to use certain driving techniques to exceed that by a high percentage.
So I’m glad cities in the area have installed countdown clocks at so many pedestrian intersections. Because one of the biggest mileage-saving techniques is timing intersections. If you don’t have to come to a complete stop and start again you get lots better mileage.
Having a countdown clock helps time that process better. If I know it’s 9 seconds until the light turns yellow, I’ll drive differently than if I just see the yellow. Less jerkiness means less drastic variations in fuel flow and therefore better mileage.
Some people are still having problems getting used to the new countdown clocks, but I like them. The slow learners are stomping on the brakes when the digits hit “1”, not realizing they have a whole yellow light ahead of them. The urban racers see a counted down “2” as a challenge and speed up a block away.
I predict New Technology and Darwin will meet again and the body shops will get an energetic stimulus.
I’m looking forward to the Lacey Alternative Energy Fair on May 2. I hope someone brings a windmill. They’re the answer to our energy crises and global warming. I want them put everywhere.
They’ll make more energy spinning around and they’ll cool the planet too.
Next hot day, dream along with me---
Giant fans everywhere...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

#991 Federated Union

I guess I just have a well-tuned nose for the ironic. It may be dangerous. With my golden voice, my silver tongue and my fine sense of irony, I’m surprised I don’t die of heavy metal poisoning.
Take the whole union thing. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the industrial age was really kicking in, there were no unions. So you had fathers, mothers, and children working 100-hour weeks and being paid barely enough money to afford beetles for their soup.
Slowly, the formation of unions gave the ordinary worker the magic of a little idea called collective bargaining. Collective bargaining employed the power of numbers. People working together for a common aim often achieved that aim.
Later, a lot of that power was co-opted by some corrupt leaders, but that didn’t mean unions weren’t a good thing.
But it did mean companies now had to negotiate with labor from a more equal standpoint. Something some companies still don’t like.
It’s the big dilemma of business—is labor a cost or an investment? According to Wall Street, it depends on how big your million-dollar bonus is. They say they have to pay their executives obscene bonuses because you need good pay to attract good people. So they appear to be saying labor is an investment.
But then they hate it when unions negotiate a 25-cent raise for their long time line workers, so they appear to be saying labor is a cost.
Wall Street cheers when Obama forces concessions from the unions in the auto industry. But they boo when Obama forces executives to step down. The irony is, either way he’s interfering in the free market. A true free marketer should be equally disappointed if the prez interfered in labor or management.
I saw a speaker recently from the National Federation of Independent Business. He seemed to think all unions are bad. How ironic. Because if you get right down to it, his “Federation” is a group of people banding together to advance their interests.
Using, um, the power of collective bargaining.
Sounds like a union to me...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

#990 Abused Authenticity

I received a circular in the mail. It’s for a product by the name of the Fender Road Worn Guitar.
I think it’s more of an advertisement for our culture than an advertisement for the guitar.
Let me share the ad copy: “There’s something special about a beautifully bruised guitar. The scars give it character and the worn neck feels so perfect. Like a pair of jeans that fit just right. Introducing the new Fender Road Worn series. Guitars that look like vintage classics, and feel like old friends.”
Where do I start?
Is our culture so vapid and lazy that we need someone to wear something out for us? I mean really. Acid washed jeans were pretty bad. Distressed leather coats were at least justifiable because new leather can be so stiff. But to buy a guitar that someone has worn out for you?
And this makes you a more legitimate musician?
Pretending to be from Aberdeen does not make you Kurt Cobain. Look, I have a coffee token from Duffy’s, and it smells just like teen spirit.
Where is the authenticity?
And really, do you remember the first ding you got in your first expensive electric guitar? It had nothing to do with being beautifully bruised. You were upset.
It’s like your first scratch in your first car. And your first car wasn’t “road worn,” it was used. And were you happy that someone else had spilled nameless glops of stain-making fluids on what was now your upholstery? No way. The sprung and beat-up seats in that old beater sucked.
The reason you like your old jeans is because you broke ‘em in yourself. You wore them the long miles. And your favorite busted down boots took you over many a trail, and on that trail, you made many a memory. Your only fond recollection wasn’t buying them at the Busted Down Boot store in the mall.
One line in the ad copy is so ironic. “The scars give it character.”
Sorry. Character can’t be bought. Character has to be lived.
Another line in the circular is even more poignant. It says, “Special Financing Available.”
Wow. I guess now we can borrow character too...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

#989 Butts and Bums

Two cultural forces have recently combined to create a new type of person. Evolution often drives the development of a certain species to occupy a niche, and also scavengers to exploit the trash and excrement of that niche occupier.
Mites live off skin flakes of indoor humans. Flies feast on flesh and feces of feral felines and kitties in cities. For the top of every food chain, there’s a bottom. It’s no coincidence human scavengers are often referred to by the name that also means bottom—Bum.
The two cultural forces that have created a new type of bum are forcing smokers outdoors—which has resulted in numerous overflowing outdoor ashtrays—and the price of cigarettes.
It is nearly impossible in these tight economic times to bum a whole cigarette. Cigarette taxes being used to pay for a host of social programs in need of tax revenue, any individual cigarette is way too expensive to give up.
So the cigarette scavengers prowl through outdoor ashtrays to find their carcinogenic carrion. Finding half and three-quarter smoked cigarettes and then smoking them all the way down, not giving up until the last puff captures the acrid taste of melting fiberglass from the filter.
This is the hacker hobo. Or perhaps a better word is butt bum. He has no concern for whatever disease the original smoker may have imparted to the cigarette leftovers in question. He is intent on the necessity of nicotine-ing his addiction.
And guess what? He’s pretty careless about it. Many is the morning when I have approached the outdoor smoking area of our building and seen it littered with cigarette butts smoked down to the nub. Not only do they root through the ashtray and pluck out butts, they then fail to return the butts to the ashtray.
How irresponsible.
What am I thinking? Of course! Responsibility is really not in the standard skill set of a hobo. Opportunism yes. Cleverness. An amazing ability to abide adversity and a formidable facility for ferreting out free stuff.
Responsibility, not so much.
But in our castaway culture, he’s found a niche.
And he’s scratching it.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

#988 Ads on a Shoestring

The world of advertising is currently on a twofold craze. Branding branding and more branding, and guerilla marketing on a shoestring budget.
Guerilla marketing is the advice—or the vice of ads as the case may be—to do things wrong to make them right. Shun the tried and true conventions of advertising and think out of the box. Hopefully cheaply. The people purveying this idea most are people who are trying to sell something out of the box.
Now ask yourself. When was the last time you bought something as a result of seeing it on the backside of a grocery store receipt?
Grocery store receipts emerged as a result of the “there’s a blank spot let’s put an ad on it” philosophy. Unfortunately, the human brain is amazingly good at filtering out what it doesn’t want to see. So after a while grocery receipt ads disappeared—from our minds.
Then there’s this thing I saw the other day. A local business had bought these little strips of plastic with its name on it. In addition to the company’s name the strip said to bring it in to another company for 10% off on a coffee drink. I hope he got some money from them.
So when was the last time 10% off seemed like a good deal? Would you buy more coffee if the price went down from 3 bucks to 2.70? Worse, the little plastic strip wasn’t entirely clear whether I get 10% off each time I go or if I have to surrender the strip the first time.
And if I do, there goes the advertising for the first company’s name. I was going to check the details but the thing was so small I lost it somewhere. So much for branding.
Not as small as this other weird branding thing I saw though. My shoelaces on my new racquetball shoes have those hard plastic tips. So on each of those there’s a teeny-tiny bit of printing. It says Wilson. Crazy? Shoelace tips? A branding opportunity?
Say what you will, it gives advertising on a shoestring a whole new meaning.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

#987 SEC’s Little 2

I did my most recent commentary about what I thought was an odd thing. Something else that came in the envelope with my tax refund check. It was an advertising circular from the SEC. They sent me some investment tips and suggested I visit Investor.Gov.
As near as I can tell, the advertising card wasn’t heavy enough to trigger additional postage, so in one way it was an economical way to send out the information. Of course, printing and stuffing the circular did add some cost.
But still, there was something a little odd about the Treasury Department, who sent me the check, colluding with the SEC, an entirely separate independent quasi-judicial government agency, who sent me the circular.
The envelope’s return address said Department of Treasury Financial Management Service. The First Class presort Postage Permit stamp said Department of Treasury. But the fine print on the circular from the SEC said, “If you have questions, Do Not contact the Treasury Department, Financial Management Service.”
So what gives? Did the SEC come wandering up to the Treasury Department and say, “Heh heh, could you help us out here? We’re all out of money and we need these ads mailed to people getting a chunk. Target marketing, you know. They don’t really like us anymore and we want to catch them in a good mood...”
“Okay,” says the Treas, “but considering they’re only getting a tiny check, that’s a smidgen of their lost 401-Ks, you’re probably wrong again, so you need to print a disclaimer on your flyer so people won’t call us about your lame advice.”
Speaking of lame, the envelope my tax refund came in is one of those security envelopes where you can’t see through it. But who needs to, because the address window’s so wide you can see what’s obviously a multi-colored government check. That and the return address of the Treasury Department kind of ask it to be stolen from my mailbox.
If I were the SEC, I would put as one of my financial advice suggestions, “Don’t send checks that are obviously checks through the mail.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

#986 SEC’s Very Little

Recently I got my tax return. But the check didn’t come alone. I took the other thick paper card out of the envelope, wondering idly what was so important that the government had wasted all that money printing and stuffing it during these tough economic budget-strapped times.
Lo and behold, it was a nice little circular from the SEC—the SEC Office of Investor Education and Advocacy to be exact. The heading told me to “Check Out These Saving and Investment Tips.”
Well how nice, I said to myself, just when I have a wad of cash all in one lump sum, the great Securities and Exchange Commission is giving some suggestions on what to do with it.
The same SEC who was blindsided by the current economic apocalypse. The same SEC who failed to enforce regulations that may have helped a little. The same SEC who ignored the mushrooming Credit Default Swap explosion. The same SEC once advised by Ponzi Master Bernie Madoff. And the same SEC who totally disregarded countless warnings by other experts about that same Bernie Madoff.
Gee, I wonder what advice they’re giving me that I should follow? Oh yeah. Don’t Trust the SEC.
All right. I’ve vented. On one side of the card, they listed a menu of extensions you can call for advice on stuff. On the other side, they had four quick tips.
The third tip, “Beware of promises of guaranteed returns,” and the fourth, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” are simple enough. Still, if you had picked two baskets like, say, stocks and real estate, you’d be twice as screwed right now.
But the first and second tips show how really out of touch they are. The first: “Pay off credit card and high interest debt.” The second: “Boost your emergency fund.”
Well let’s see, I’ve lost my job after the real estate bubble collapsed. But our company had us on “slow down” and “on call” for six months before that, which depleted our savings, so we ran up a huge credit card bill just to survive.
Once again SEC, thank you for your consistent insight.
Is it just me or does it seem like you don’t SEC much?
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

#985 Wine Not

So I was at this local food and wine festival not long ago. I must say. Very well done. Good bands playing, all kinds of local wineries, some fantastic restaurants, and upstairs an area where there were lots of microbrews.
And surprisingly, very few fights. You’d think with all the alcohol flowing there would be issues. Especially since the place is so crowded, it’s almost impossible not to spill something on someone. A drink perhaps, or a smear of barbecue sandwich.
But no, such minor accidents were taken in stride and never seemed to develop into a major altercation. But there was that edge. Especially between wine and beer drinkers.
Beer has the unfortunate tendency of invoking high school type behaviors, when testosterone-drenched boys vied for chugalugging supremacy and then physically fought to blow off all the steam.
Rowdiness, vandalism and fights were all wrapped up in the smell of hops and malt. And smell invokes the strongest memories.
Wine, except the fortified variety, was never a popular favorite amongst the fighters. Too high-priced or sophisticated perhaps, the stemware too fragile for mug-toting mesomorphs.
The other fight-preventing thing about the festival was it didn’t include a lot of youngsters. Older men tend to be less inclined to prove their virility. The kids back home evidence enough that their gene factory is in order.
But there were a few such on the prowl. And coupled with the single or recently divorced women there were bound to be a few violent near misses. I myself nearly encountered one.
An obviously inebriated lady spent far too much time touching me when we were introduced. A youngish man, by my terms at least, who appeared to be ready to attempt to harvest her inebriatory offerings, gave me the evil eye.
Very territorial.
Uh oh, I thought, he’s looking for either a fight with me or a f- f- fun time with this lady. I left them to their drunken devices. He clutched a beer glass, his hopes, and his fading youth.
I savored my wine.
I’ve reached the age of wisdom.
Where you see it before you step in it.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

#984 Fashion Applications

The wheel of fashion slowly turns. I noticed something the other day. All the younger lads are now wearing tight pants. That’s right, the baggy saggy look is finally gone. The oversize, voluminous, fall-down-around-your-knees look proved amazingly persistent but it’s on its way out.
Maybe it’s the economy. All that extra fabric costs lots of money.
I just know I’m gonna a be a lot more comfortable. Now that loose is out of style I can wear it.
One reason baggy pants may have fallen off in sales is that things were always falling out of their pockets. Really expensive things, like iPhones. Tight jeans hold stuff in.
I recently watched a couple of young folks comparing their iPhone apps and it was truly amazing. I mentioned to them that I’d heard of an app that’s just for filtering apps. It tells you when an app goes on sale or becomes free or even if there is a free version of an app you’re currently using.
One of the guys had found himself trying to make a connection in our transit system and thought it would be great to have an app for retrieving local transit info online. I told him if it was a good idea, someone had already thought of it.
Yep. He searched the app store and found ones for Seattle and New York and Portland. “But it costs so much,” he said. And then a split second later “but here’s a free version!”
“See,” I said, “if you had the app-filtering app you would have save all those microseconds.”
“By the way,” I continued, “It’s kind of dark in here.”
“There’s an app for that” the other guy said, “The flashlight app makes your touchscreen into a bright white light.”
“They should have an app that makes a picture of a lit lighter you could hold up at concerts,” I joked.
“There’s an app for that!” the other exclaimed, “I got it.”
I must have look bleary-eyed. One of the young guys asked, “Is all this app talk wearing you down? You look tired.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “If I get too tired, there’s a nap for that.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

#983 Name Drain

Is our culture so worn out that we may actually be running out of names? Let’s face it, lately we don’t seem to be deep on creativity. And it may be because our culture has become so shallow.
So shallow that many people think “opera” is a misspelling of a famous midday talk show host.
Really, it’s like it’s easier to almost copy something than think up something new. Two brand new cars on the market. The Toyota Venza and the Nissan Versa. Since they both look sort of crossover-y it’s hard to tell what the name says at a distance. Is that a Versa or a Venza?
The Versa has one innovation though. The word they use to label reverse on the gearshift is “Vice.” They figured that was more clever the “Reversa.”
Or take the word “apps.” Many people use it as a short term for applications.
I guess. Everyone with an iPhone or iClone is all a twitter about shopping at the Apple App store. So is app short for Apple or application?
I saw two guys the other day comparing their iPhones and showing off their various apps. It was like the technological equivalent of a territory-marking incident between dogs. I see why they used to call this type of wired individual a whiz kid. Seriously, it was the geek version of jacked-up pickup trucks.
I’ve got more apps than you do. And they’re cooler too. What’s the one stroke text emoticon for neener-neener? I got an app for that.
It was a regular Freudian app-off. Except you can’t have a bigger phone. You got to have one that does more.
It’s not the size of the phone, it’s the variations of the application.
Then you have the other Apple—Applebee’s. They’re currently offering 2 entrees and an appetizer for a special price. But they call their appetizer an app. So an Apple app is an application and an Applebee’s app is an appetizer.
I’m gonna stop by Starbucks and get a latte vente then drive my Venza or Versa over to Applebee’s for some apps while I’m using my Apple app to automatically download Oprah.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, April 06, 2009

#982 Ad Enjoyment

I read an article that may explain the cosmic coincidence of the first letters of the acronyms for Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—ADD and ADHD—both starting with AD. Sometimes pronounced ad.
As in advertisement. Turns out, we need advertisements to enjoy life. It’s all because of our brain habituating to things that are pleasurable. We need to be more like ADD people, constantly shifting focus.
You know how that first bite of cheesecake is so delicious, but by the time you get to the last bite of the whole pie it just doesn’t seem so lip-smacking good anymore? That’s a form of habituation.
You get used to something, and no matter how good it is, you start to see it as more boring and unsatisfying. As a great thinker once said: There is a fine line between contentment and boredom.
Researchers recently conducted two separate studies and found something interesting; advertisements help us enjoy things more. When forced to sit through annoying advertisements to watch a given show, people enjoyed the show more than when they were able to watch it straight through. Dr Leif Nelson says irritating interruptions and chores help us appreciate enjoyable experiences because our senses become habituated to even the most pleasurable input over time. Listening to a song, watching a TV program, having a massage. They all start out enjoyable but within a few minutes, you get used to them. Interruptions break that up.
I like his idea. I don’t know how many massages I’ve had where I thought, “Gee whiz, I appear to be becoming habituated to this pleasure. If I only could watch an advertisement briefly to interrupt.” So take note massage parlors, have your masseuses and masseurs stop everything occasionally and slip in a commercial.
And what a great new marriage counseling tool. Our old marriage is so much happier since we started inserting commercials.
All I know is, what I do for a living just got more vindicated. We in the advertising business make pleasure possible. I knew we were a force for good.
And I’ll tell you more shortly, after this brief word from our wonderful sponsors...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 03, 2009

#981 Oops Factor

The fun part of doing these commentaries is ferreting out the paradoxes and contradictions in this world. I’m always amazed and curious about the consistent inconsistency of human nature. What I call the “oops” factor.
Take porn for instance. A recent study concluded more people use porn in red states. That is, the more conservative the state, the more likely people in it are using online pornography.
Most interestingly, this was not a big headline. No big expose on Fox News or MSNBC. No one was surprised. I guess we more or less expect a certain amount of Freudian repression reactive behavior.
In Utah, most people agreed with the survey statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage.” Utah also has the highest porn-buying rate in the entire nation.
Oops.
There could be an innocent explanation. BYU is a big college with lots of branches. Maybe they’re conducting research into the lives of other Americans. Genealogy? I thought you said genitalogy...
Another paradox. I looked at the giant filtered water bottle in the water cooler the other day. It’s made of plastic so I was curious. Guess what? It has the number 7 on the bottom. 7 is the plastic that has BPA, the additive they suspect causes reproductive and other disorders by leaching out into the liquids it contains. This from a mountain fresh supposedly pure bottle of water with no chemical additives.
Well, one.
Oops.
Lastly, I’ve been looking into being a vegan. I’m no expert. It always seemed to me that vegans were vegetarians that didn’t like the taste of cheese. Either that or some race from Star Trek.
So it turns out they don’t eat any animals or animal products. Fair enough. Then I heard about this soymilk yogurt they can eat. I researched it and found a soymilk yogurt culture with which they make it. The culture contains Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, and Streptococcus Thermophilus. They are bacteria.
Also know as one-celled animals.
Oops.
So I’m curious about the vegan thing. Is it the size of the animals that’s bad, or just that you’re eating animals?
If I had a tiny burger from a really really small cow...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

#980 Bonus Ponzi

Not too long ago, when everyone was all in a dither about the AIG bonuses that were given to executives with bailout money, a thought occurred to me about the suitability of certain words.
As you are no doubt tired of hearing by now, since it still rankles, AIG rewarded the executives that precipitated that largest economic meltdown in history with bonuses. Not just any bonuses; bonuses using money they got from taxpayers who were ravaged by the meltdown. Trickle up economics.
In any event, when I heard about it I thought bonus was the perfect homonym for what AIG did.
But hey, there’s some good news on the economic horizon. I’m not sure how it will eventually all play out. The IRS, acting under pressure from recent sufferers, has instituted a new rule. Victims of Ponzi schemes can deduct up to 95 percent of their losses. This is far more generous to victims of fraud than earlier rules, which placed much lower limits on such deductions.
It’s still going to be messy, I’m guessing. What if your life savings was in a tax-free retirement fund managed under a tax-benefited foundation that lost only some of its billions to Bernie Madoff? Was the mutual fund in my 401-K that had a chunk of Stanford Company’s hedge fund fully exposed? And can I only count the loss if I sell the fund first and thereby have to leave the bottom of the market just as I’m about to take advantage of sharp upward trading in the other companies represented in rest of the fund?
I foresee only one huge beneficiary of this scheme—Accountants.
So further down the road, what happens when Social Security fails? Many predict that Social Security will have nothing left by the time us late baby boomers hit retirement. Since current beneficiaries are living on money we current workers are “investing” isn’t Social Security technically a Ponzi scheme? When do we get to deduct 95% of our losses in it?
Probably won’t happen.
I’m guessing it will be end up being another bonus situation.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

#979 Exterior Personality

When I walk around my neighborhood, I’m amazed by the variety of personalities expressed by the resident’s exterior displays.
Take flags for instance. Not the American flag, although there are plenty of those expressing the feeling of patriotism, I’m talking the feel-good flags flying above the doors and sticking from the front of the porches.
Flags with seasonal designs on them, happy snowmen or perky spring butterflies, and of course the flags emblazoned with the name and logo of the Fighting Somethings. Like a permanent pep rally. Huskies, Cougars, Beavers, and Trojans! Team spirit and rah rah rah!
Go Mariners! On Seahawks! Fight with all your might to get out of the basement.
I’d say “Go Sonics” too but it looks like they finally went.
The Flags are nice. You can often find out what college your neighbor went to without ever meeting them. And before they get ratty and faded they often perk up a place.
Lately there’s been another exterior design personality expresser. The mailbox. Mine is boring old-fashioned ordinary post office black. It would have been the even cheaper plain gray unpainted metal but they were out that day.
Some of my neighbors have the elaborately painted mailboxes. Their name ornately rendered in script, like those squiggly word identification tests on secure websites. And then there’s a background painting telling us a little about the owner.
One guy has a bunch of golf balls painted on his. One resident has a picture of a whale. Or it must have been the previous one. The new residents repainted the house rust, brown, and ocher. It doesn’t go with the ocean blue and grey whale painted mailbox at all.
My favorite mailboxes are the big plastic ones that have a rear door as well as a front one. This so the owner of the mailbox can reach into the back of it to extract his or her mail. Mailboxes being all of 22 inches long or so, it’s so much trouble going all the way around to the front.
I’m not sure what this tells me about the owner.
But I’m betting their interior d├ęcor has more than one Barcolounger.
America, ya gotta love it.