Sunday, September 30, 2007

Skeezy Politicians Pulling on Tween Heartstrings

Has anyone else noticed political advertisers' bizarre obsession with filtering their messages through the unassailably smug guise of well-spoken children? These kids, all of whom are so preternaturally cognizant of the issues of the world at large that they might as well be ripped from the pages of a Don DeLillo novel, are popping up everywhere, and it's high time we put them on "time out."

Okay, I can concede the effectiveness of some of these commercials, such as the "Parents talk to your kids about [choose one: safe sex/drugs/the military]." Not only do those speak to the value of making informed decisions in life, but they also bear an important civic message regarding involved parenting. However, the motivation behind the following "Divided We Fail" commercial seems a little more suspect:

Sure, it's a simple enough premise. Politicians should live up to their promises. Politicians should put the interests of The People first. The People, in turn, will vote for the most principled public officials. Sounds great, doesn't it? But who's naive enough to think that such a rosy, do-gooder paradigm is somehow analagous to our American politcal realities? That's right: children. Dirty, mischevious, pimple-pocked children. The biggest punchline of the whole commercial is the idea that there might someday be a "youth vote" that could influence elections. Come on! We've been fed that line since Humphrey ran for office, and it didn't make a difference then and it ain't gonna make a difference now. Leave it to a group of bored and malicious retired people to attack our facilities of reason by taunting us with children.

Worse yet, the cowardly Democratic majority in Congress decided to bait a 12-year-old innocent from Maryland to publicize their latest health care proposal while simultaneously taking swipes at the already feebled president. Please, Speaker Pelosi, I'm generally in favor of what your party stands for, but must you make me cringe so?

While the above examples have all been matters of poor taste, the CDC's latest bird flu commercial borders on the absurd. "Hey, Dad?" a curious chap asks his actor-father. "I know bird flu is quite rare in humans, but could that change if the virus changes? I guess it would be prudent to be prepared." This has to be a joke. Right? Wrong. Sadly, it appears that the U.S. Government's Center for Disease Control is either:

[a] so out of touch with reality as to assume that there is a growing concern among America's youth regarding a potentially deadly interspecies infection, and that these morbid children are both relentlessly pestering their uninformed parents regarding the possible doomsday scenarios while using words like "prudent" in their everyday conversations; or

[b] they're fucking with us.

I think we both know what the real answer is.

The moral of this blog entry: never trust children or the liver-spotted fiends who set them up. Since when has sex and advertising ever failed me?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blog pays homage to Simpsons' homage to popular culture

There's no question that The Simpsons is the absolute greatest thing to emerge from American popular culture in the last two decades, at least. As such, any pop culture junkie should get a huge kick out of (or at least some temporary satisfaction) this lengthy blog post that details scene-by-scene comparisons of parodies played out in the animated sitcom and the movies they're sending up. I'm surprised at how many Hitchcock nods there are, although Kubrick, Coppola, and De Mille all have their moments. The Raiders of the Lost Ark clip is quite nice, too.

While there have been innumerable spoofs and parodies in the Simpsons over the years (as this OCD index makes clear), one of my favorites that always comes to mind is the episode that spoofs Glengarry, Glenn Ross where Marge gets into real estate and Lionel Hutz tells ol' Gil (a recurring Jack Lemmon parody) that "cubicles are for closers." Later on in the same episode, Marge discovers the Flanders all lying motionless in what appears to be pools of blood in the "haunted" house she sold them. Rod comes out muttering "red room," which, if I have to point you in the direction of that reference, then you're just not as pathetic of a pop culture obsessive as I am.

By the way, did anyone catch the 19th season premiere last night? Lionel Richie surprisingly cracked me up.

Emergency helicopter rescue worker to Lionel: There's too much weight. You'll have to let go of your People's Choice Awards!
Lionel Richie (half in the ocean): You let go of yours first!
EHRW: I don't have any!

Well, I can't remember exactly what Lionel Richie said in response, but believe me, it got a good chuckle out of me.

I should never start jokes if I can't remember the punchline...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fast Food Geography

With all the talk about mass consumer globalization occurring in the world these days, you would think that at the very least one would expect to find a predictably regular assortment of fast food chains in whichever principality or township you may reside. Alas, such is not the case.

Take, for instance, the case of Wendy's:

For much of the past four years, Wendy's restaurants have been a staple in my white collar working-man's lunch half-hour. Not because it's the best alternative, by any means, but because it's always been right around the corner from wherever I was working. In East Lansing? Just head to Trowbridge. In Mason? Just a short jaunt down Mason-Montgomery, my good man, you can't miss it. Almost invariably, the Wendy's restaurant will be located across the street from a BP so you can fuel up on your way to lunch. You know what we call that in the biz? Convenience. Would I waste my time sitting through another red light just to head to a McDonald's and get a superior-tasting, properly-shaped burger? Not on your life, bub. I'm a busy man. Got things to do. I don't have all day to spend my time dawdling over one mystery beef patty versus another.

But as luck would have it, I move to St. Louis only to find that Wendy's, the internationally renowned fast-food restuarant, does not exist in this fair Missouri city. It's official. It's dead. Deceased. Gone. Vamonos, muchacos. Packed up it's wagon and headed back east. So what's a boy to do get his pre-processed burger fix? McDonald's and Burger Kings are also suspiciously absent from the little part of the city I've explored so far, as they were in Cincinnati, and I'm not about to go headed off into the hellish backwoods of southern Illinois just to get some highway beef.

Therefore, I present to you some advertised alternatives that have largely been off the radar in some of the other towns I've lived in:

1. Rally's. Have you ever eaten at a Rally's? Neither have I, and I'm not about to get started. Their advertising slogan, which is just about the most god-awful marketing campaign I've ever been exposed to, boils down to this: "Rally's - You Gotta Eat!" Yes, that's true, Rally's, I do "got" to eat, but do I hafta eat Rally's? It's like they might as well be saying, "Rally's - Better Than Starving!" And quite frankly, that's a claim I'm not ready to test. Their commercials are equally confusing - showcasing something about skateboarders, BMX bikers, and shit burgers - followed by the ignominious catchphrase, "You Gotta Eat!" I suppose if you are still living in some '90s fantasy about becoming a pro on the Xtreme sports circuit, Rally's fast-food is about all you can afford on your pithy stoner income, and after all, you gotta eat something to maintain that active lifestyle. Pass.

2. Sonic's. Now here's a slogan I can work with: "Sonic's got 'em, other's don't." Aside from the deliberately poor grammar, which I suppose is an attempt to reach out and identify with their apparently illiterate consumer base, this slogan speaks to a unique advantage at dining at a Sonic's over competing fast-food joints. Sure, their fries are junk, but who needs fries when you can order a side of tator tots to go with your remarkably hearty and delicious bacon cheeseburger? You heard me right: tots. And you can forget about ordering a plain Coke when you have 11 different syrup flavors that you can have mixed in. Don't feel like a Coke? Try a cherry-flavored limeade, or a peach smoothie - allegedly made with real fruit! Sonic's, you're moving up in my good book. The whole eating-in-your-car schtick is a little outdated, and probably bad for the environment, but it'll have to do in a city without other big contenders.

3. Jack in a Box. I can't even wrap my head around how many Jack in the Boxes there are in this town. Everywhere you turn: Jack in the Box. Sorry, Jack, but you're still associated with E. Coli in my mind. I'm working up the courage to try you. Slowly.