Saturday, November 07, 2009

Speaking of Jay Leno... (were we?)

[reposted from ]
--- @ JTS [tm] T------ linkta an Open Salon article by Scott Christian, who wrote blah blah blah and...

"I haven’t actually watched his show and refuse to do so..."

This was buried in a parenthetical aside in the second paragraph; this should have been his lead. You have to admire a critic who comes right out and boldly states he hasn't actually seen whatever it is he's allegedly reviewing, who frankly brags that he has no idea what he's talking about. Wait, admire isn't the right word for it. What's that term I'm looking for... ostracize, condemn, vilify, mock, pity, scorn, urinate upon...

Frankly, it's enough to almost make me regret all those things I used to say about American Idol, a show I still have never seen more than a few minutes of at a time (and then only because the producers lack the intellect to actually time the 60 minute program to fit into it's own time slot.)

Speaking of lack of intelligence, the premise of Scott Christian's thesis seems to be that America's lower classes depend on free broadcast television to stay connected to the national consciousness and a great divide in quality between broadcast and cable/pay/DVD TV will "dumb down" the masses and divide the culture, thus justifying his alarmist "Jay Leno could ruin America" type headline.

Now this is an interesting point - essentially the same one I was making five and a half years ago in discussing the wave of FCC-fearing self-censorship following the 2004 Justin Timberlake Super Bowl "indecency" incident - his infamous wardrobe misgrabment and simulated sexual assault on an older, female minority pop music icon.

However, his three paragraphs in defense of the "economically depressed" poor who can't afford cable and concern over intellectual atrophication following "low grade programming" replacing such intellectual 10:00 PM NBC fare as Journeyman, Er and Law & Order: Sex Crime Patrol has to be viewed in light of his, only half a page earlier, hailing carpeted malls and Foot Locker as pinnacles of classiness and describing the economically depressed poor who shop at 99-cent stores as "dregs".

He does make an interesting observation about M*A*S*H having greater cultural impact than the Reagan presidency. Uh-yup, I remember when the Ayatollah held American's hostage in Iran and refused to release them until M*A*S*H was canceled. Oh thank God for Hawkeye Pierce for standing up to Gorbachev and telling him "Tear down that wall!"

He totally proves his point, though, about how Seinfeld's catch phrases contributed more to the American pop lexicon than anything from modern literature, when he misquotes "Master of your domain" as "king of the castle". Yeah, he sure knows his stuff: what is this guy, some kinda chowder fascist? Smiley face emoticon.

Scott Christian says "And for those who say it’s just TV, I say, look around, look at the last 50 years of our history. We are TV."

Well, to some extent, it's true, as a people we are the sum of our collective awareness of pop culture. Which lends to both the shared gene pool and to subtle differences. We are TV, yes, and film, music, literature, comic books, popular catch phrases, political and advertising slogans - a vast pool of shared ideas and concept. Some of us, I suppose, are a little more comic books or sci-fi or anime geek or pornhound than others. I suppose if someone never did anything but watch TV then, yes, I guess Scott Christian IS Tv.

For the sake of selling a few paragraphs, he pretends to be concerned that the qualitative difference between broadcast and cable TV will create a cultural rift in out society. Look around - culture is split by dozens if not hundreds of such rifts along economic, social, racial, sexual, political and ideological lines. By the time the mainstream familiarizes itself with the newest slang, the terms are two seasons out of date. By the time the latest outer coast fringe trends, fads, fashions and drugs have filtered their way into middle America, the coasts have moved on to the next big thing. By the time the fashion and advertising industries have decided which new trends can be commercially exploited and marketed to the American mainstream, which ever fads they're chosen are a year too late to be considered cutting edge. 24 hour news and the internets can speed up that process, but they can't change it.

I will not pretend to speak on behalf of Christians, but my paternal ancestors were Scots, so this is one dreg of humanity who thinks that Scott Christian brings shame to both of his names.

= Napoleon Park =
Proud spokesman of dregs everywhere.
Also droogs, druggies and the occasional drag queen.


But, But, But... What If I Don't Like The Jay Leno Show?

"The More Things Change, The More Different They Get."
"The Golden Age was whenever you were thirteen"

According to Bauhaus, Bela Legosi's Dead. According to The Moody Blues, Timothy Leary's Dead - but of course they were ahead of their time. That's not Chris Farley in that commercial, just his filmed image.

Even people who are still alive get old: Bill Shatner didn't play Captain Kirk in the last Star Trek movie and Julie Newmar is a lot less likely to play The Catwoman in the next Batman flick than what's her name, that girl the boys all like... I'll think of it, give me a minute, I'll come back to it.

You know, the Fox who played Megantron in that Transformers movie. Anyway...

It's not coming back. Whatever was better then than it is now. It's not coming back.

The Dumont Network isn't coming back. The days of black and white pictures, monophonic sound, lo-def and pre-digital analog broadcast signals: not coming back.

"Oh help me Flash Gordon, Savior of the Universe, help me Superman - the Jay Leno Show is going to cause the collapse of western civilization as we know it." The feces of a male cattle. Not global warming, not unprovoked wars, not more virulent strains of flu virus, not economic collapse or far fringe politics on both wings of the bird. Leno. F***ing Jay Leno is going to destroy the world.

Because why? He's not funny, he's not hip? Oh boo-flipping-hoo mister I'm so entitled that the whole world and all 600 TV channels have to cater to exactly my tastes and my demographic at all times. Ain't gonna happen. A fantasy world in which your mind-power evolves to the point where whatever affronts your dignity by not pleasing you can be dismissed with a thought? Not gonna happen this year. Or ever.

Okay, I get it, Leno is bad because...

He took up time on NBC's schedule. So? The only 10:00 PM NBC show I was watching was Medium and it's on CBS, Friday nights at 9:00 now - problem solved. Leno didn't get Trial By Jury canceled. Leno didn't cause Hill Street Blues to end.

Because he's old? Groovy, son. Let's all join hands in a prayer circle and invoke the gospel of St. Pete Townsend: "I hope YOU die before you get old."

Because his show is cheaper to make than a standard hour long scripted drama or multi million dollar special effects extravaganza? Screw that economic elitist nonsense, Craig Ferguson's show comes in on probably a tenth of Leno's budget and it's regularly the funniest thing on TV.

Because it's hurting NBC economically. Well, so? Unless your family's entire lfe savings are locked into long term investments with NBC, why should you care?

Oh right, Jay Leno is bad because there's five less hours of shows on the major network prime time schedules.

Let me just stop laughing. Wait, not done. Hold on, just a bit more... ha... okay, done.

There are more books in the Library of Congress than it would be possible to read in ten lifetimes. Heck, there are probably more Star Trek novels or Harlequin Romances in print than any sane person would read in one lifetime. You'd think all the good ideas for novels have been used by now, or that someone would edit all the cook books or all the self help books together, edit out the redundancies, and create a definitive text. But there's an entire industry built around cranking out and selling new books.

We've been hearing about the imminent collapse of the recording industry for the last twenty years or so... and yet, somehow, both established artists and newcomers seem to keep releasing new songs and videos and greatest hits collections and what doesn't sell gets blogged or put on My Space pages. There's way more music coming out all the time than anyone can keep up with.

No one gets to have all the toys.

But we need Leno's five hours of TV time? Really?

At what point in the past before things were changed did you think were so perfect that that's the way you want everything to stay?

Because I know you don't want to go back to the time when there were three broadcast TV networks - A, N and C - that went off the air between 1:00 and 2:00 AM and stayed dark until the morning farm report. Three hours of prime time a night, seven days a week - yes, there used to be TV on Saturdays - that's 21 hours, times three networks. Sixty-three hours of prime time TV per week. I'm sure that way way before most of your times, but think about it. You'd freak out.

Let's say you just have a TV, a junior g-man secret digital decoder box and a really nice coat hanger and you just get broadcast stations. You have NBC, CBS and ABC plus PBS and, in many areas, Fox and The CW. The latter two only provide two hours of entertainment per evening, and I don't think CW is on seven days a week any more. Let's see, 3 x 6 = 18 x 3 = 54. 2x7=14, 2x5=10. Less say that whatever PBS is doing is entertainment, that's 21. We're talking prime time period - the time between 8:00 and 11:00 PM. 54+14+10+21=99. Almost but not quite a hundred hours of prime time broadcast television per week. Oh, I forgot, let's deduct that five hours Leno is wasting: 94.

So there used to be 63 hours of TV (in the early '60s, when everyone knows everything was better), now there's 94. How is that less?

24x7=168. There are 168 hours in a week. If you made watching TV your full time avocation and watched the 94 hours of prime time entertainment the networks offer - which does not include whatever crap they slap on on Saturdays, and does not include the fact that these days several or the major networks are actually broadcasting 24 hours a day - That would leave you 74 hours a week to eat, sleep and clean yourself. Including cooking and travel time.

Ah, but I hear you cry, you don't want to Dance With Top Idols, you don't want to watch Forensic Law: New Jersey or 20 different shows about New York cops, you don't want inane sit-coms to tell you when a jokes is meant to be funny by cranking up a laugh track. You want choice.

Oh man, come on out of the cave, Binky, have I got good news for you.

There's this thing called cable TV. Don't take my word for it, trust Bruce Springsteen; he wrote a song about it. "57 Channels and There's Nothing On" Except that since he wrote that song... well let's say its a lot closer to several hundred channels. Heading towards a thousand.

Oh, and have you heard? Thanx to this thing called DVD you can buy complete sets of entire runs of old TV shows - somewhere between 10% and half of all TV shows ever made. Really. You can buy them, own them, put them on a shelf, play them any time you want to.

Remember that "pay TV" thing they used to talk about in the '50s? They worked out the details; you don't have to pump quarters into your TV like a vending machine after all. You can get HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, Encore, Spice - full length theatrical films with no commercial interruptions (except for an annoying voice-over during the closing credits) and original programming. Uncensored.

Psst - they have the internets now. Digital streaming radio and video content - original material, old TV shows, music videos. Hulu, Fancast, Funny Or Die, TV network web sites, YouTube, several dozen pornography sites that also have the word Tube in the name. Ultimate Surrender nude lesbian wrestling.

And did you know that they still publish comic books, graphic novels and magazines?

The exact volume of entertainment options someone with a middle class income has available to them is incalculable. Trying to absorb it all would make your head explode. There is no scientific basis for that last statement.

With all that out there, there are still dozens of TV critics wringing their hands over the fact that five hours a week of Jay Leno is going to change everything and bring progress to a standstill and lead to the collapse of the entertainment industry. That's it? Wash off the mime makeup, sell the unicycle, give up juggling and shoot the donkey because Leno sucks? Seriously?

Impending Bill Murray "Meatballs" quote warning.

There is no reason that the fact that NBC has chosen to dedicate five hours of their prime time schedule to a program that does not suit everyone's taste should be worth all this uproar and furor. Hey Seuss Marimba, there really might be something else on, or something else you could be doing worth your hour.

Unless you are locked in an isolated cabin with no books or computer and a television with no off switch that only gets one network, there is no reason to be so freaking upset over the Jay freaking Leno show.



One more time. NBC did not give Leno five hours of network time because they thought he'd revolutionize or revive the prime time comedy-variety show. They did it because they were locked into a contract that promised Conan the Tonight show. If they reneged Conan could have gone to ABC or Fox and started a new 11:35 talk show the way Letterman did with CBS. And if they dropped Leno he could have done the same. They didn't want that to happen, so they prevented it. The Jay Leno show is a lot cheaper to make than five hours of scripted drama, especially in a time slot that hadn't produced any major hits for the network since the early years of the very long running ER. And it is assumed that Leno may attract more viewers during the months when the other major networks 10:00 PM prime time shows are into reruns - though that's probably an overly optimistic assumption.
NBC is not on the verge of bankruptcy. And no matter how many TV critics cry and hold their breath until they turn blue, NBC is not going to cancel Leno unless virtually all of their affiliate stations drop the show and air syndicated content or local news at 10:00.

But the important thing to remember is, if you really can't stand the Jay Leno how. it just doesn't matter. You have to watch it anyway, it's the law. The Making Crybaby Assholes Watch Shows They Hate Act of 2009. You Have To watch Leno - if you don't, they'll come to your house and mess you up bad. Real bad.
So watch it. Punk.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Gonna send you back to Texas, make you work on your ranch"

"Country held hostage for four more years"...
is says on the front page of the Absolute Outrage Yahoo! group.

Well, we gazed wistfully at the countdown clocks for lo these many
years. Funny how time slows to a crawl while the nation goes to Hell
in a hand basket both in the eyes of the world and to our own citizenry.

Well, today is January 20th, 2009.
The day we've all been waiting for.

If you've listened to NPR or watched C-Span or, well, you know, seen a
magazine, turned on the TV or a radio or logged into the internet
during the last week, you know about the waves of hope and optimism
clutching the nation in the face of unprecedented challenges. You know
the joy and elation many people are feeling over the incoming President.

Whether he can restore the nation to Clinton levels of economic
recovery in four years or end a war - or two - in eight, whether he can
shut down Guantanamo Bay and convince the world that the torture of
interrogation suspects is now off the table as official US policy,
well, whether he succeeds in half the things we imagine he might be
able to do or whether he stumbles and fails, right now we face a new
future with hope for change and belief in a chance to set things right.

The eye of the media has been on Washington DC and the activities of
the incoming regime.

But here at Absolute Outrage we have impatiently watched the days,
weeks, months and years tick slowly by. Our departing Resident, Shrub
Dubya Junior, is slipping out under the radar with even his multiple
network Farewell Address getting barely a ripple of attention, minimal
talk show monologue mentions and little notice beyond the occasional
single finger salute.

America is so proud to have a new president riding in with a
remarkable approval rating that has been reported by various sources
to range from 60 to 80% - meaning that he has won over supporters from
the camp that voted against him - that we cannot wait to forget the
man whose approval rating hovered for much of the final quarter of his
administration near 25%.

There are those of us among the Baby Boomer generation who place an
almost magical amount of attention on the popular music of our youth,
so much of which, from the Summer of Love in 1967 to the release of
the Beatles White album in 1968 we have been commemorating with 40th
anniversary observations.

We believe in the profundity of rock lyrics and the efficacy of a good
Beatles or Dylan quote.

Certainly many in the media noted and obsessed over the proximity of
President Barack Obama's inauguration with the Martin Luther Kind Day
holiday and drew comparisons to speeches made now and 40 and 45 years

Well, 40 years ago, as Richard Milhous Nixon was sworn in, President
Lyndon Baines Johnson left office and returned to his home in Texas,
just as the Shrub will now be doing.

I would like to dedicate the following song to Dubya - something for
him to listen to on his flight back to Crawford County.
by Country Joe and the Fish

Look, up yonder in the sky, now, what is that I pray ?
It's a bird it's a plane, it's a man insane, it's my President LBJ
He's flying high way up in the sky just like Superman,
But I have got a little piece of kryptonite,
Yes, I'll bring him back to land.
Said come out Lyndon with your hands held high,
Drop your guns, baby, and reach for the sky.
I've got you surrounded and you ain't got a chance,
Gonna send you back to Texas, make you work on your ranch,
Yeah, yeah, oh yeah.

He can call Super Woman and his Super Dogs,
But it sure won't do him no good,
Yeah, I found out why from a Russian spy
That he ain't nothing but a comic book.

We'll pull him off the stands and clean up the land,
Yes, we'll have us a brand new day.
What is more I got the Fantastic Four
And Doctor Strange to help him on his way.

Said come out Lyndon with your hands held high,
Drop your guns, baby, and reach for the sky.
We got you surrounded and you ain't got a chance,
Gonna send you back to Texas make you work on your ranch,
Yeah yeah, oh yeah.


Farewell, W.
You leave office with a bloody smoldering legacy.
With America's prestige tarnished in the eyes of the world.
With several thousand flag draped coffins standing in the places where
some of America's best and bravest once stood.
With a national debt now counted in the trillions.

Far from the worst of your offenses, but for a long time now we will
continue to wince and cringe whenever we hear a radio or television
stations call letters, be it WYCE-FM or WOOD- TV. We will have a
Pavlovian response, as fearful as a beaten dog at the sound of your
initial letter, W.

That is your legacy, W.; you have ruined a Goddamned letter of the


Is it time to move on, forget, look forward?
Maybe, in a few hours, after America's bright new hope is sworn into
But in these late hours, while Shrub sleeps or, perhaps, sits in the
Oval Office and gazes out at what he has wrought one last time, it is
hard to resist one last chance to get the boot in, as they say in England.

I have read that Prince George has told reporters that his biggest
regret is the way so many of his citizens seem to have turned against
him so brutally. The public, the polls, the pundits, the media have
treated him so harshly and with such anger and fury that it has broken
through his shields and hurt his feelings.

Awww... (tiny violin gesture).

It has happened time and again. The nation turned on Johnson in times
of war but sympathized with his regrets and forgave him once he let
his hair grow out a few inches in the back.

Nixon was perhaps the most hated and vilified leader out country has
ever had, and yet at his funeral the list of his accomplishments
seemed both sincere and impressive.

To some of us in his home town Jerry Ford's had a long legacy but the
centerpiece of it had to be "the man who pardoned that son-of-a-b*tch
Nixon," and yet at his funeral we were reminded of how he reunited a
nation torn asunder internally by strife and protest and cultural

Jimmy Carter entered office with a wave of post-Nixon/Ford era
optimism and hope and left those who thought he'd accomplish more or
be stronger in the face of foreign bullies disappointed. He's still
with us, but no doubt many have forgiven him for his shortcomigs and
many more will when he is gone.

And it is possible to think that someday the orators and commentators
and revisionist historians speaking over Dubya's grave will paint a
glowing portrait of his accomplishments and place a positive spin on
his legacy.

It is possible, but I don't see it.
Future generations may look back and find out what went right in these
last eight years. Re-examine, reinterpret, and forgive.
But not those of us who had to live though it.

It is human nature to be touched by the image of the crying clown - to
feel the heartbreak of the well intentioned bumbler whose best laid
plans went awry.

But hurt feelings are nothing compared to what he has done to us.

It is human nature to forgive.

But not for W.
Not today.
I can't speak for forever,
but not for a very long time.
Not for W.

= Napoleon Park =


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

C*ke Shrugs off FDA Warning Over Nutritional Claims.

The Food And Drug Administration, an agency of the United States government, has issued a warning letter chiding the C*ca C*la B*ttling C*mpany for violating their guidelines for marketing food products with nutrient claims.

In May of 2007 the C*ca C*la company introduced a product called Diet C*ke Plus. Promotional material for the product states it contains vitamins and minerals. Specifically, Vitamin B, zinc and magnesium.

The FDA has very clear guidelines covering certain terminologies. Terms such as bigger or top grade or best have specific definitions which must be met in order for the terms to be used. "Plus," when used in reference to nutritional content, means that the product contains 10% more of a specific ingredient than similar products in the same category.
Since diet cola beverages traditionally do not contain nutrients, it would be hard to define what would constitute "10% more".

In fact, the FDA's position is that it is inappropriate to add or advertise the nutritional content of "snack food" products which traditionally do not have any nutritional value.

The FDA warning letter dated December 10th asks C*ca C*la to revise the products labeling within 15 days.

A spokesman for the C*ca C*la company stated that they believe the current labeling complies with FDA policies and regulations and that the matter does not involve health of safety issues.

FDA warning letters are not legally binding but if ignored can lead to the violating company being taken to court.

The warning letter was posted online on Tuesday and C*ke stock dropped 69 cents.


To editorialize a bit in a way I hope will be informative...

Unlike the spokesman for the beverage company, I would consider the topic of nutrition to be a health issue.

Recent articles about nutrition, diet and diabetes have stated that recent research suggests that low calorie or zero calorie artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain by actually stimulating the body's cravings for sweet foods and drinks.

I do not know what constitutes 10% more than nothing or how that would be defined or determined.

I do think it's interesting that Vitamin B-12 and zinc are allegedly effective as minor sexual stimulants and are ingredients often found in commercially available "aphrodisiac placebo" products. Or as I like to call them, "boner pills".

Is this a product you want your children drinking? Or your teenagers? Even the decaffeinated version?


Thursday, November 06, 2008

For the Record II

For the Record II

A number of online articles have appeared with headlines stating
"McCain takes responsibility for losing"
or asking "Did Palin lose?"

And I was very tempted to just post a pithy quip:

"McCain didn't lose, Obama won."

Truthfully, though, that would be disingenious.
In any competition between two competitors, there is a winner and a loser.
So really, Obama won and McCain lost.
Facts is facts.

Really, in any Presidential election, there are two possible candidates that have any chance of winning, which is why America is referred to as having a two-party system. And since "none of the above" is not on the ballot, often there is a third party candidate - an Anderson, Perot or Nader - to offer an option or protest vote for voters who want it known that they don't like either viable candidate.

Beyond that, there is the "lesser of two evils" strategy. Decide on which candidate you like least and vote against him by selecting the only viable candidate with a chance of beating him. In this case Obama was the anti-McCain.

Saturday Night Live resurged to remarkable relevance this election. and in one memorable sketch Will Ferrell returned to reprise his portrayal of G. W. Bush Jr. and endorsed his parties candidate by saying "[pointing to self] Remember this face when you enter that voting booth. Right here. A vote for John McCain is a vote for George W. Bush."

Even a branch of the Democratic party distributed bumper stickers reading "no third term".

McCain himself acknowledged this perception in one of the debates when he said "I'm not George W. Bush, Senator. If you wanted to run against him you should have done so in 2000 or 2004."

And yet, no doubt a lot of people who voted for Obama were voting against the last eight years of unjustified warfare and economic crisis and mounting national debt and misguided policies.

And I suspect more than a few Obama voters were disappointed Clinton supporters who threw in their support half-heartedly in order to vote against "four more years" of same old same old.

Although I am not a huge fan of politics I did feel obligated to watch the debates and compare the candidates.

What I saw was two candidates reciting their campaign platforms and talking points. but one candidate's talking points sounded like catch phrases, the others like well reasoned and eloquent expressions of well thought out plans and intentions.

And when C-Span showed a split screen so you could watch one candidate while the other spoke, well...

I saw Obama shake his head in disbelief at McCain's misinformation and half-truths and untruths - the same lies that seemed to make up the majority of his campaign ads - and then utter a curt "That's not true."

But when Obama spoke I saw McCain smirk and smugly grin with an undisguised and unsupported overconfidence that suggest he believed what some Americans believed and, I'll admit it, others feared: That he couldn't lose.

Say "African-American". Say Black. And no doubt in your sub-conscious you are aware of a variety of other nicknames, slang terms, epithets, guarded hand signals and outright offensive racial slurs that you might never speak in polite company. But deep down many of us feared that America was still rooted in the Montgomery, Alabama of George Wallace in the early '60s, the racist Amerikka that would never elect a Black President.

The thought that the common voter might believe or fear that is one thing - the thought that a candidate and possible President might believe that was simply unacceptable.

I, like many Americans, am very proud that we have shown the world that this is no longer so.
All over the world there are people who are happy and proud that this is no longer so. Apparently Obama's election day has been declared a national holiday in Kenya.

I turned 18 the year American lowered the voting age to 18. Lucky me. Although America provides the assurance of a private ballot, I am not afraid to go public with my voting record.

In 1972 I voted against re-electing Nixon. America voted for him, but see where that got you?

I very much voter for Carter. Both times, though he only won once.

Yes, I voted against Reagan's Contra-gate tinged reelection. And I voted against the real Bush both times.

With Clinton under siege, I wanted to vote for his reelection. But there was a larger issue: The remote but very possible issue that a deeply religious President might actually believe that the year 2000 or the start of the new millennium in 2001 would actually be the start of the End Times and trigger the Apocalypse on Earth. So I entered the 1996 race on a "Just Say No to Armageddon" platform and ran against Bob Dole. I withdrew from the race in the final weeks before the election and threw my endorsement and vote to the non-Dole candidate - though as criticism of Clinton continued I did reserve the right to claim "Don't blame me, I ran against him".

During the 2000 election a Democratic fund raising mailing sent me a very nice 8X10 portrait of Al Gore. After the narrow-squeak election in which the Supreme Court improperly assumed the right to appoint the man with fewer popular votes the winner I framed and hung up my picture of my President Gore in the stairway gallery where it remains and will remain until the end of the W. era.

With Kerry, I must admit, my vote was cast against Bush.

But as I said, I watch the debates and observed both candidates. What I saw supported my choice of candidate.

As many people pointed out, with either candidate, the Bush era was at an end. As McCain himself said, it was too late to again vote against W.

And as I have written, I did not vote against the white guy or against the female VP candidate or against the old guy. I voted for the smart guy.

And more to the point, I did not vote against John McCain.

I voted FOR President Barack Obama.

= Randall Hugh Crawford =

So much for a private ballot...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For the Record

We didn't elect the black guy to annoy the white racist redneck guys.

We didn't pick the Guy guy to piss off the gals.

We didn't vote for the young guy to bug the old guy or his old supporters.

We voted for the SMART guy because of what the dumb guy's been doing for the last eight years.

Just wanted to make that clear.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Is There A Line?


Us old folks remember that macho icon the Marlboro Man and his majestic theme music. Or, funnier, those sexist Silva Thins ads. and conversely the women's lib inspired "You've come a long way, baby" campaign for Virginia slims.

But cancer ate half of my family. And I've always loved Mad magazine's anti-smoking ads. Even that disgusting comparison of a healthy pink lung and a charred black smokers lung that ran on the back of Hustler, a magazine I never cared mush for, got my approval.

So I certainly approved when the AMA and the FCC and whoever else contributed to outlaw cigarette commercials on television.

To be honest, I've had enough alcoholism in my family that if's they'd gone ahead and done away with those beer commercials, I would have applauded.

You all know I oppose 'censorship' but selling things that are bad for people seems like a reasonable place to draw a line. And yes, beer and red wine have specific health benefits, let's not get into that argument. Some people unwind with a couple beers and are fine with it, some people get plowed on a 12 pack and turn ugly and abusive. Love ya, dad.

And on the subject of "bad for ya", how about ads for Lottery tickets, gambling casinos and trips to Vegas? Isn't gambling a deadly life destroying addiction? Does adding a "wager sensibly" tag line make it all right?

During the first years of the Aids epidemic it seemed like a positive thing to sell condoms with commercials. Some parents who didn't want to explain those funny balloons to their children probably objected, but I was pro to their con.

But the cigaret ads of the early '60s and the period in the '80s when prophylactic ads were still a surprising novelty are history now.

There was never one specific point where tasteless TV ads got out of control.
Well, maybe the early '70s when the deodorant companies tried to launch lines of "feminine hygiene deodorants". How do I put this... I have never in my entire life met a woman, sniffed and thought "Wow, she smells like c*nt". Of course in those days I was more concerned with the flavor than the odor.

Then there's the old "a woman walking on the beach with her mom talking about not feeling fresh" jokes. Okay, its a common product category that half the population needs to buy and use every month. I still felt sorry for Brenda Vacarro and the ads she did as a product spokemodel. "Hi, I'm an Oscar winning actress and I'd like to tell you about these cotton plugs I shove up my coochie." Those ads made Jane Russell discussing her support bra seem like a real class act.

Let's change the subject.
Well, we all love Pepto Bismol's cute jingle. We all love songs with the word diarrhea in them, don't we?
Or those charming cartoon bears selling toilet paper, because we all know what bears do in the woods, right?

The other day I read something - I forget what - that said that 1992 was the year they began advertising prescription drugs on television. We all love that great disclaimer moment that SNL loves to parody where some speed-talker rattles off the information that this medication can cause itching, bendy knees and your head exploding. My old pal The Pro From Dover had the best line about this. He mentioned an add for an anti-depressant with side effects that included erectile dysfunction. "What do you think I'm depressed about?" he asked.
(Don't worry about him, one much needed divorce and a teenage girlfriend later and he's all right in that regard.)

At some point it was decided that cable TV can advertise liquor and not just beer and wine. A few of those ads have even been funny, but personally I would have gone the other way and banned the beer and wine ads. Especially the ones that imply a couple beers will turn your backyard barbeque into a neighborhood bikini party.

Speaking of ED, how about those ads for Viagra and Cialis? Remember the SNL line "If you experience an erection lasting over four hours, call your friends and brag".
Some political pundits may not respect all politicians equally, but did we really want to see Bob Dole go from a presidential candidate to a spokes-model for little blue willy pills? Where's our national dignity?

Say, did you ever see Evangeline Lilly's commercial for a telephone chat line service? I'm not familiar with either product category based on personal experience, so could someone explain the difference between those chat lines advertised on late night TV and phone sex?

What, you might ask, set off this rant? Well, last night I was watching "Guadalcanal Diary" on AMC at about five in the morning and in rapid succession say commercials for a "discrete fingertip vibrator" for women, a vacuum pump solution for erectile dysfunction and, you know, that pill that supposedly makes men bigger.

As stated, I oppose censorship and restraint of trade and all that and I wouldn't say this is the place to draw the line.

But seriously, when did TV ads turn into the back pages of sleazy porno mags?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Truth In Advertising

A chunk about Truth In Advertising

In the Addams Family movie series, one of Christina Ricci's most memorable lines as Wednesday Addams was when she inquired if Girl Scout cookies contained real girl scouts. They don't, of course; in western cultures cannibalism is a major taboo.

In America the German sausage known as Bratwurst is often shorthanded as "brats". Possibly because we're taught not to want things that are the "worst" unless they're incredibly bad movies. Wednesday Addams would no doubt be disappointed to know that Brats are not actually made from disobedient children.
on the other hand, squeamish men who are aware of what the name Johnson refers to as a slang term for a male bodily appendage are relieved to know that the entire line of Johnsonville sausage products, including their famously advertised Brats, contain not one speck of johnson. One hopes.

Along the same lines, the specialty dessert cake known as Lady Fingers are not made from fingers of either gender.
And the famous Twilight Zone "How to serve man - it's a cookbook" episode notwithstanding, the well known ground meat sandwich/sloppy joe sauce Manwich is not made from, or intended for use with, man. Though one does worry about how the Sloppy Joe sandwich originally got it's name...

Not all mislabeled products are cannibalism related. All mammals and many fish have teeth, and yet Tooth Powder is not made from powdered teeth. It is a dentifrice used for the cleaning of teeth. Likewise, a home handy-person attempting simple household repairs should be aware that toothpaste not only contains no tooth, but it is not actually a glue type paste, simply a dentifrice with a pasty consistency.

The reason this seems odd is that similarly named products are honestly labeled: corn starch is starch from corn, corn meal is also from corn, bone meal is made from ground bones. Garlis Powder and Onion powder and chili powder all deliver on their promises (yes, chili powder is made from chilies, not just an ingredient to use in making chili.) And really, is you buy a product called shark cartilage, what else would you expect?

The most egregious form of false advertising is mislabeling - claiming a product is something which it is not. If you order the Prairie Oysters you really should be aware that you will be given bull testicles. These are in no way related to the oyster. However,
a plate of oyster testicles would probably not be very filling.

That's not to say that someone somewhere won't try to sell you some.
We grow up being told that the very wealthy are gourmets and epicureans and have cultivated tastes for exquisite culinary specialties and "fancy foods".
This reputation is largely based on their having fancy names for the crap they eat.
James Bond likes to travel with a few tins of fine Beluga Caviar. It's Sturgeon eggs. Black fish eggs.
In "The Jerk" Steve Martin complains that Bernadette Peters has ordered a serving of Escargot and received a "plate with snails on it."
And animal rights groups have actively tried to ban or at least discourage the consumption of Pate Fois Gras, the mashed liver of a goose that has been fattened to the point of torture.
Of course the animal lover groups have also tried to guilt people about eating Veal, which is another code word, this time for Calf.
I don't get it. Lamb, baby sheep, we call lamb but we codify adult sheep meat as Mutton. but we eat Beef but need a secret password for baby beef? It just seems inconsistent.

It's not just the very rich that uses code words and foreign phrases to disguise their gastronomic outrages. Traditionally it is the very lower economic classes who developed ways to cook and serve Chitterlings or "Chitlin's". They rarely come out and say "fry me up a batch of pig intestines," but there you go.

Intestines are sometimes also alluded to as "natural sausage casings" because presumably describing sausages as "ground meet stuffed into guts" would be a hard sell. Just ask the Scottish, who have never achieved any degree of market penetration with Haggis since everyone knows it's mutton and oatmeal stuffed in a stomach and boiled.

At least with Haggis most people know what they're getting. American's have a habit of adopting foreign words and then misusing them. And the lexicon is flexible and words are, eventually, defined by usage.
Anyone familiar with authentic Japanese cuisine can tell you that not all Sushi is made with fish, and not all fish Sushi is made from raw fish. And yet over the years the word Sushi has begun to drift into being the American term for "raw fish".

Raw fish is also known as Chum, the chopped fish used as bait to attract sharks. Chum, however, is not made from buddies or pals. Wednesday Addams would no doubt be disappointed.

False or deceptive advertising is a very troublesome business practice, and yet sometimes perhaps we should be grateful that not all foodstuffs are accurately labeled.

Thing about that the next time you rustle up some Grub.

= Napoleon Park =