Life's our oyster and we're gonna suck that bitch down with a champagne chaser.

  • Behavioral Therapist
  • MA Developmental Psychology, Columbia
  • BS Psychobiology/ French, UCLA

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    Mission Impossible
    A Dangerous Method

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    The Life & Times of Tim

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    Game of Thrones
    by George R.R. Martin

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    El Camino

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    Newt Gingrich

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    Fox & Friends


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Wednesday, January 28, 2009  
Marketing Department of Corrections
Since moving to Manhattan, I have worked tirelessly to perfect my stereotypical goomba New York accent. I have relied on old episodes of The Sopranos and Rosie Perez prior to making the trek across the country, therefore my accent remains dicey with flashes of genius at times. However, given the number of apocalyptic days that are typical in the Northeast of late, I have limited the number of voyages south of Harlem and thus am confined to indoor settings to avoid the arctic tundra outside my window. The TV is thus left on as background noise for hours at a time which allows me to observe the ingenuity of local New York ads. For the past 14 years, I have been releagated to the Sit n' Sleep no-balls mattress guy, the Levitz furniture guy who lives with his mother and the Carlson's creepy 80s newsanchor electronics guy, which are staples of local Los Angeles television. It's with that background in local TV that I welcomed the novelty of New York ads and opened my heart to the ingenius commercial plugging Vito's Tux Shop in Manhattan. This is where Vito, who stands next to with what appears to be either his mother or an Albanian refugee, promotes his tux shop, which I'm sure is a reputable business. I shan't feign a typed New York accent on this website, but suffice it to say that, "ya ain't gunna fin' no bettah tux shap o-wan da east side."

This charming ad from Vito's Tux Shop, along with the quirks of L.A. local ads, has made me realize that these local, low-budget people know much more about pitching a business than the big companies do. Millions of dollars for a Super Bowl beer commerical featuring a bunch of horses? A soda ad featuring battling CGI thankagiving ballons? Mind-numbing, suicide inducing jingles for and Why spend all this money for special effects, animal trainers, marketing reps, jingle writers when local folk can do the same for a fraction of the cost? Don Draper be damned, marketing and ad campaigns have gotten so diluted that we must turn to the Vito's and Carlson's of the world to set these companies straight. Take this ad I recently received via email from Fresh Direct. Granted, it's not a commercial, per se, but it is nonetheless an advertisement promoting this company.

Now I strive to be as a green as the next guy. I recycle, I turn the lights off, I don't wash my clothes on a regular basis. But when the subject line of an email reads, "New Lower Prices on Chickens Raised Without Antibiotics," I'm not buying. As healthy as that particular chicken may be in comparison to drugged up poultry, how unappealing is that presentation? And why is Tilda Swinton holding an enormous mutant chicken?

WWVD? What would Vito do? He wouldn't lead his ad for healthy (dead) chickens with such an atrocious lead-in. "Chickens Fuh Sale." Misleading? Perhaops. "Duh-lish-uss Chickens. Dey wuz offed wid-out no diseases." Too wordy? "Chickens. Drugs? Fuget abboudit." Why bog down the subject line with such big words like antibiotics? Addresses the initial selling point of no antibiotics in as few words as possible.

The point is, were this a television ad, the Fresh Direct people would get bogged down in scripts, jingles and fluff all the while turning people off of their product. Why do you think people mute the TV during commercials? Why is there a commercial skip button on the remote? I don't know about you, but when I see an ad filmed with a handheld camera, one camera angle and frumpy looking locals, I turn the TV up. In this time of economic struggle, why squander money on ads no one watches. Invest as little as possible in ads and use the rest to help the companies who produced those subpar marketing campaigns to begin with...on second thought, just distribute the money to the people, the consumers. We're the ones the ads are geared towards anyway. Think of it, a world without frivolous ads, leaving only YouTube worthy locally produced, low-production commercials. Maybe those Mad Men guys will stop smoking so much as a result.

4:03 PM


Friday, January 16, 2009  
The 5 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Comic Strips

Sometimes a form of entertainment can become so bad that it transcends badness and becomes something new and wonderful. The world of newspaper comic strips is a gold mine for this, where strips that were built on a shaky premise to begin with run for decades after the writers and artists have long gone insane.

These are the best for providing hours of unintentional enjoyment.

Mark Trail

Intended Appeal:
Learning about wildlife and following the adventures of a rugged environmentalist.

Actual Appeal:
Comically nonsensical plots, misplaced speech balloons.

Ever since 1946, Mark Trail has been on the funny pages teaching respect for nature, mostly by battling evil companies that want to bulldoze ducks. The artists (Ed Dodd and then Jack Elrod) have both been firm in their priority of nature education first, and other less important things, like making sense, are pushed out of the way as necessary to meet that goal.

Elrod enjoys drawing animals so much that he never really learned to draw human beings, which is somewhat of a problem, since the comic stars several of them (although this illustration of what one assumes to be a hyperencephalic child with a tiny malformed hand seems to be OK).

He cleverly tackles the problem by shifting perspective to large foreground animals at every opportunity. Unfortunately, he either has serious problems with speech balloon placement, or the transmutation of souls is a commonplace occurrence in the Mark Trail universe. We have these conspiring moose:

This reluctant farewell from a squirrel:

This uninvited exposition from a duck:

And, this fish's inexplicable anger toward financial transactions:

Gil Thorp

Intended Appeal:
A hip take on high school sports.

Actual Appeal:
Terrible art, theorizing about the nature of the time warp the writer lives in.

Gil Thorp has its finger on the pulse of modern teenage life, bringing us the latest slang from today's youth.

It's the mentions of "IM" and "hip-hop" that shake you out of the casual acceptance until now that this strip is set in the '50s. A better theory for the background of this strip is that a cataclysmic event, such as a secret H-bomb test during the '50s, somehow split the universe into two divergent timelines, with our universe continuing on to the way it is today. Meanwhile, another parallel universe developed into the Gil Thorp world, where irony and postmodernism as we know it never happened, and "That ain't just a bun. It's the whole pan!" is still considered pretty slick and happening.

This theory of an unstable universe built on a space-time anomaly gains credence with the occasional appearance of a wormhole, such as the one in this fellow's face, sucking his unfortunate assailant's fist into another dimension.

Also puzzling is the fact that Gil Thorp appears to be fairly conservative and family-friendly, yet many of the characters appear to be drag queens.

However, this is all made up for by this strip's finest feature, gratuitous crotch shots.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

Intended Appeal:
No one has figured this one out.

Actual Appeal:
Homosexual innuendo.

Rex Morgan is one of the "soaps," a strip with a continuing storyline that isn't necessarily supposed to be funny. Why it would be exciting to follow the adventures of a somewhat lethargic doctor who doesn't want to do anything exciting and usually gets his wish, no one is quite clear on.

However, what it lacks in cliffhangers and plot twists, it makes up for in nonstop hints about Rex's sexual orientation. Sure, everyone knows that if you're immature enough, you can read gay innuendos into just about anything. No effort is needed, here, in this storyline with a "Dr. Troy."

More disturbingly, Rex has recently moved on to younger prey, with a boy named Niki. Niki is a poverty-stricken youth who came to the Morgans' attention after stealing Mrs. Morgan's purse, after which they naturally adopted him as a little brother.

You might wonder why we're so sure about Rex's homosexuality. Why couldn't he be bisexual? Well, that would mean he would have to be attracted to women, too.

The evidence just doesn't bear that out.

Mary Worth

Intended Appeal:
Soap-opera style drama and gossip.

Actual Appeal:
Hilariously callous approach to ruining other people's lives. Mary Worth sounds in theory like the most boring comic strip possible. It's about an old lady and her role in the gossip and relationships of her apartment complex neighbors. True enough, the dramatic developments are so uninteresting in themselves that they have to be emphasized with inappropriately large-scale hand motions.

However, once you begin to follow the storylines, you find Mary Worth and friends wreaking a quiet trail of destruction over other people's lives with poorly thought-out actions and advice, and then casually moving on to the next storyline. Among other things, Worth advised one woman to pursue a relationship with a married man, but the best highlight has to be the Aldo Kelrast storyline, in which a Capt. Kangaroo look-alike begins stalking Mary Worth.

The idea that anyone would fall madly in love with Mary Worth is already fairly funny, but the best part is when Mary and friends go on to stage an intervention.

The perfectly synchronized chorus of "YOU'D BETTER NOT!" must have been terrifying for Aldo. The result?

The next day, Mary Worth moves cheerfully along in one smooth segue of a strip:

Mary's thoughts have clearly moved on to her next victim, Dr. Jeff Cory. Will Mary Worth and Co. doom him to actual death as with Aldo, or just a sort of tortured living death, as is usual with their victims? We'll let you find out by reading the strip.

Dick Tracy

Intended Appeal:
Exciting action-packed adventures of a tough, square-jawed detective.

Actual Appeal:
Outstandingly sub-par artwork and hilariously gruesome deaths.

When we bring up the venerable Dick Tracy strip, your first thought is probably, "They're still printing that? Like new ones?"

But, if you were to actually read the strip day to day, your thoughts would probably shift to wondering if maybe our American ideal of encouraging people to do whatever they love, and refrain from criticizing those who follow an impossible dream, has gone a bit too far. Maybe mentally handicapped people shouldn't be airline pilots. Maybe fat people shouldn't be supermodels. Maybe it's about time for the artist who draws Dick Tracy to try and find something else he likes.

Take a minute and try to get your lip to bend that way.

Now, here's Dick Tracy going toe-to-toe with what is supposed to be a woman dressed up as a queen from a playing card. Leaving aside the impossibilities of the hair and whether it's supposed to be a two-dimensional prop or not, what we have is a man-faced creature with prominent breasts, which, unless we've completely misunderstood the premise of Dick Tracy, cannot possibly be the character the writer envisioned.

And sometimes, in between panels, the artist seems to forget what style he's drawing in. Here, he begins in his normally consistent, if badly-drawn, square-jawed, angular, noir-like style, and suddenly shifts to what appears to be the Garfield universe.

Meanwhile, Dick Tracy does indeed provide the action it promises, often in the form of hilariously creative deaths and/or comeuppances for villains, whether it be falling into a smokestack ...

... having their brains fried by their own mind-control machines (which Dick Tracy and friend deliberately hooked this fellow up to) ...

... plummeting from the Capitol Dome and then teleporting through an American flag milliseconds before hitting the ground ...

... or snapping in half from their injuries over the back of an exasperated-looking horse.

Dick Tracy also contributes to expanding the English language by introducing what are most likely computer-generated, sound-effect words that no reasonable person could possibly have invented.

As to why Dick Tracy is being hit over the head by 5 million dollars in the second panel, you will just have to read the strip and let this delightful adventure unfold for you in its own time.

12:49 AM


Thursday, January 08, 2009  
Coupon d'Etat
Growing up as a spoiled brat, I seldom had to think of keeping a budget for myself, that is until I moved to New York City. Not only is it necessary to maintain a personal student budget, but the city itself is one of the most expensive to live in. Even the coupons, which I now clip on a fairly regular basis, restrict the amount you can save within Manhattan. For example, a $1 off coupon for Dunkin Donuts has a fine print of "$0.50 off in Manhattan." Regardless, the frugal gourmet inside of me persists on seeking the most meager of deals, moreso to make me feel less guilty when I spend a couple Grants at happy hour.

One medium for which to practice being a cheap bastard is the realm of the online coupon. Last summer I became a Slurpee aficionado, thanks in part to the Iron Man inspired Amp energy flavor, presumably because Guarana extract will give you jet boots. As a result of the coupling of my Slurpee obsession and my newfound unemployment, I went to also known as the Slurpee Nation. There I found a printable coupon entitling me to the privilege of buying one slurpee and getting another free, thus aiding my path towards type 2 diabetes.

When I presented my freshly printed coupon to the young clerk at the Westwood 7-11, he looked at it confused. He then called the manager, who appeared to be his grandfather.

"What is this?"
"It's a coupon. I got it from the Slurpee website."
"From where?"
"The Slurpee website. I printed it."
"You cannot print coupons. Then everyone can have them."
"I know. That's the purpose of coupons. So people can use them."
"No no. You cannot."
"Yes you can, I promise. You see the barcode? Just scan it."
"Just try please. If it doesn't work I'll pay for both of them."

As luck would have it, the coupon scanned properly and deducted the amount of the second Slurpee. Steam visibly emanated from the manager's ears.

I then decided to push my luck the following week at another 7-11 on Venice Blvd. The exact same conversation as before proceeded, except the manager this time refused to even attempt to scan the coupon.The affable manager then mumbled something in Bengali to his subordinate and walked away in a huff. The clerk apologized and charged me for both Slurpees, handing me back the coupon. As if that wasn't insult enough, the lid to one of the Slurpees popped off and the green solution spilled outside of my car.

Upon returning home, I did what any self-respecting coupon-printer would do: I called 7-11 customer support. After an uncomfortably long conversation regarding our favorite Slurpee flavors, Todd informed me that it was at the discretion of each 7-11 manager to accept coupons. "Poppycock," I replied. However, he said he would send me coupons for free Slurpees that were more official than my printed alternatives. In addition, I filed a complaint against that 7-11. No doubt that action was swiftly taken by 7-11 goons.

The coupon embargo continued in New York when I printed a coupon from the Target website for another one of my snack obsessions, Cheez-Its. The coupon was for $2.00 off any box of Cheez-Its. As with my past experience with printed coupons, which I was convinced was a 7-11 exclusive conspiracy, my coupon was again rejected by Target. I can't say that I journeyed to the Target located in the luxurious neighborhood of the Bronx exclusively for Cheez-Its, but regardless, it's the principle of the thing. I would of course pay any price for Cheez-Its, coupon or not, but is printing pieces of paper something new to the people at these institutions? Have they been wronged in some way by printed coupons? It's not like they work for commission based on the amount of revenue as a result of Slurpee sales.

One thing is for certain, this battle is not over. I will continue the fight on the frontlines, printing coupons where they may be found and lobbying for my discounts. Because if nothing else, I am a student on a budget and in these tough economic times, we can only hold onto hope for better times, and to quote Nelson Mandela, "There will be a time when online coupons are accepted without oppression, for the benefit of all mankind."

2:58 PM


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