Monday, December 31, 2007

A pretty pass: Fred Astaire and the sarsaparilla soda

If guests didn't feel like getting liquored up at this year's NotBillable Christmas party, they had their choice of Coke, Diet Coke, cranberry juice or sarsaparilla soda, and even though ages ranged from 26 to 70, the reaction to the sarsaparilla was uniform: "I thought they only drank that in old movies." Fred Astaire was mentioned repeatedly. Several people grabbed a bottle for that very reason.

After a while, I thought to myself that it had to be because of the tomato-tomahto song. Right? Specifically the lyric, "you like vanilla, I like vanella. You sarsaparilla, I sarsaparella." But look: Astaire never sings that line. It's the later versions—probably Ella Fitzgerald's—that made that particular verse famous. It's somehow become associated with Astaire after all these years. And God bless him, it's still selling the sarsaparilla.

Oh. And if you watch the video, double check something for me. It looks like Fred and Ginger skate for almost a minute and half before there's an edit. From 3:12 to 4:54. That's just—I don't know what that is. Stunning?

Latest obsession

Car auctions.

Seriously. They're on at any given hour of the day and while I'm probably not up for a subscription to Dub magazine just yet, I'm intrigued. Car collectors seem to be a lot like Barbie collectors, only with a little more money and lot more storage space.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Six Flags is going to sell alcohol whether you like it or not

In just two weeks, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has received over 500 phone calls opposing Six Flags' liquor application. It's mostly irrelevant, though, since any complaints have to be submitted in written form and based on legal grounds.

What really offends me, I think, is the park's insistence that this is something its visitors want: "'We've had far more guests, including moms and dads, that have requested this as an option while they were dining than those who have responded negatively to this decision now.'" Again with the dining angle. Such horseshit. Surprisingly, it's a politician who gets to the truth here: "Councilman Mel LeBlanc, who represents Arlington's entertainment district, said he is neutral on the issue. He added that Six Flags' business nationwide has been hurting and that alcohol sales could help the local parks make more money. 'If they can't turn a profit, there won't be any more Six Flags in Arlington.'" That's neutral?

"The Most Controversial Ads in Fashion History"

Oh, please.

"Do your part for humanity"

For the first few seconds I saw them, I liked the Battlestar Galactica propaganda posters. Then: not at all really. They remind me that I've sorta fallen out of love with the series. (March 2008? Seriously?) Also, they exhibit a determined, we're-in-this-together optimism that's nowhere to be found in the show's lead characters, the very people whose job would be to commission posters.

But the How To Spot A Cylon poster? That's hilarious.

[via Murketing]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas, the Katharine Hepburn way

If office parties were ever remotely similar to this, I'd go. As it is, I'm just glad family gatherings aren't like this.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Q: Will the real Jamie Lynn pregnancy effect the fake Juno pregnancy?

A: No idea. Because before Spears made her big announcement, all the press about Juno and its star was so glowy. A teenage pregnancy to warm the hearts of an entire nation!

Now here's the situation in real, actual life and the NYPost calls it the "Family Shame" and even Bonnie Fuller—editor of Star—feels free to condemn.

So. Who knows?

ADDED: I asked that question exactly backwards, didn't I? Given that Juno's author is The Voice of A Generation—until we find a new one later this afternoon—you'd think the movie would influence the conversation about Spears. Doesn't look like that's happening. Maybe Jamie Lynn just needs to fire off a few quirky jokes or clever bon mots and we'll all rally to her side. And nominate her for something.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Q: What's worse than being at Six Flags?

A: Being drunk at Six Flags: "The two Arlington parks [Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor] have applied for state liquor licenses that will allow them to sell beer, wine and liquor, although the park plans to offer only beer at this time. 'For some time now, many of our guests have requested beer as an option while enjoying a meal at the park,' said John Bement, senior vice president of in-park services." I think it's clever of him to position it merely as a dinner option. It almost makes you think everyone goes to water parks for the fine dining experience.

But remember last year? Remember all those shiny, wholesome objectives? "1) to make the parks more like those operated by...Disney; and 2) to change the customer base from teenagers, who buy low-margin season passes and then loiter around the parks without spending much cash, to free-spending upscale families."

At a Disney park, everything is spotless and everyone is maniacally helpful. Disney World's Magic Kingdom doesn't even serve alcohol. It's been 18 months and Six Flags can't even give their roller coasters a fresh coat of paint. They are the Bizarro Disney. They have discovered that being family-friendly is hard work. Much easier: get a liquor license and gear up for overflow crowds from events at the new Cowboys stadium.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Q: What is Jakup Jacobsen's kid getting for Christmas?

A: 1213 shares in Cost Plus World Market, that's what. Which is really sweet, because the father already owns 3.3 million shares—in addition to a stake in Pier 1 so hefty he was rumored to be taking over just last year.

Is there a plan here? A—gasp—merger? Or does the Jacobsen family just have a thing for wicker settees? Well, it is a timeless look!

Most important: how will all this affect Roy Spence's walk?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Q: Do you ever fear that you're watching too much TV?

A: Huh?

Q: Are you sorry you once broke Blogging Project Runway's niceness rules by calling Daniel Vosovic a tool?

A: No.

Q: Do you love or hate chef Mario Batali?

A: Let's see. On the one hand, he tends to say provocative and possibly untrue things—"Mr. Batali said '[the Food Network doesn't] need me. They have decided they are mass market and they are going after the Wal-Mart crowd,' which he said was 'a smart business decision. So they don’t need someone who uses polysyllabic words from other languages.'"—without explaining exactly how that's worse than going after the NASCAR crowd.

Yet. There's this: "I’m not so much about these blogs by anonymous people saying nasty things about you." Me too! "I think it’s getting pretty stupid. If there’s something interesting, and there’s somebody editing it and taking care of it, I’m down with it. But some of those people are just bit with vituperative anger and just want to rail on you." Yes! Vituperative anger—who needs it?

Verdict: Love him.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"'What's going to happen is lower quality programming'"

Is this really the future of primetime network entertainment? "The decades-long three-hour primetime window could shrink by one-third to just two hours a night. [And the] growth of less-expensive reality shows over the past several years will continue to accelerate." Good news if you like Howie Mandel.

Then there's this: "In a presentation to investors, [GE CEO] Immelt said he would look to trim costs at NBC, including lowering its investment in primetime programming....Such moves have convinced many in media and ad circles that the business has moved into a new era driven by profits and cost-cutting rather than the hits that were once its hallmark."

First, doesn't that sentence make media and ad circles look a little slow on the uptake? Second, since the networks evidently don't want to invest in their news divisions either, what is it they do offer? Sports programming? If so, it suddenly makes sense that everyone was so quick to brush aside the Mitchell Report. Move along!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"As for more exclusives, if I can find more ideas like Martha Stewart and Tommy Hilfiger, I'd sign them in a minute"

Is it just me or does the Macy's CEO seem especially terse in this interview? Maybe he's still pissed that "customers had become accustomed to shopping with coupons." Maybe he's fearful because a "'calendar shift will result in our December sales being lower than last year.'" Or maybe his store's own celebrity-packed commercials are getting on his nerves too. Hard to say. But between the sale mailers that arrive at my house weekly and the new round-the-clock hours, things do seem manic.

(Let's pause here to remember your favorite recently departed regional department store. Was it Foley's? Marshall Field's? Mine was Foley's. Partly because they knew you could only sell so many wool sweaters and heavy robes to Texas residents.)

I do love Martha Stewart—she knows her subjective and objective pronouns and she hates texting because she can't bring herself to purposely misspell words and that's sweet—but she's turned Macy's housewares into one big overly organized blob of robin egg's blue. And faux bois. And it all makes me want to throw up or buy one of everything. I can't decide! If only they'd have a sale!

Friday, December 14, 2007

10,000 cups of cocoa?

From today's Rush & Molloy: "They'll give away 10,000 cups of cocoa and doughnuts as well as Santa hats and snow globes at Bryant Park Tuesday as part of the festivities marking the DVD release of 'The Simpsons Movie' — and the Empire State Building will glow yellow." Well, that's just fine and good for New York City but what about the Wal-Mart out on Central? That's where the true movie aficionado goes every Tuesday morning.

Because the temporary Kwik-E-Marts seem so far in the past now, I had to go back and look up how the movie did in theaters. Looks like: pretty good. "[O]perating income...rose 23 percent, to $1.05 billion. The News Corporation credited the gains to strong box-office results from 'The Simpsons Movie' and 'Live Free or Die Hard.'" And pretty good for their promotional partners: "Burger King said comparable sales in the United States and Canada were driven by its tie-in with 'The Simpsons Movie,' which promoted the Ultimate Double Whopper sandwich and higher sales of 'indulgent products,' such as the BBQ Bacon Tendercrisp chicken sandwich."

But will free doughnuts help sell the DVD? Reviews are so-so. And DVD sales are so-so too.

"It doesn't need a big intellectual justification"

You know what I really hate? I really hate the word "tastemaker." More than that, I really hate people who would ever refer to themselves as "tastemakers." It's even more loathsome than calling yourself "a rock star," which as you know is saying something.

So I think this quote from House Beautiful's Stephen Drucker is kinda amazing: "What really has happened is: everybody is involved in every decision. Nobody says, 'I want that decorator's look, give it to me.' Everybody is involved, and you never know who's going to do what. A person with all the money in the world can get their kicks from painting a room themselves. A person who has more modest means can go out now and buy a $5,000 or $10,000 bathtub because that's what their dream is. It's the high/low thing that happened in fashion -- there really are no rules anymore. The only rule is that people do it their way, and you have to give people a lot of choice. You used to be able to tell people what that was, and now people really want to choose."

Is that the anti-tastemaker manifesto? Instead of being a tastemaker, is it better to be a choice-giver? A choice-editor? It has parallels for brands, right? Maybe even for news organizations and I dunno what else.

Then there's this, Drucker's approach to copy: "Look at our magazine; it is a Q&A magazine. It's very deliberately not about formal writing and word-smithing. It's about good ideas and straight talk, and the way people say it is the way we print it."

Good tidings

Is it wrong to describe a Nativity scene as being the cutest little thing in the world? Because that's what this Alessi set is. Most Nativities go for solemnity—appropriate—or simple, traditional beauty—understandable—but I've never seen one that so instantly conveys joy. And with small touches like Mary's heart, it seems surprisingly reverential.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Delicious

Reason Magazine's Greg Beato: "the Food Channel’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and the Travel Channel’s World’s Best Places to Pig Out. Watch these shows often enough, and your Trinitron may develop Type 2 diabetes....Yet unlike fast food chains, which are generally characterized as sterile hegemons that force-feed us like foie gras geese, these independently owned and operated greasy spoons are touted as the very (sclerosed) heart of whatever town they’re situated in, the key to the region’s unique flavor, and, ultimately, the essence of that great, multicultural melting pot."

He's attacking Mom & Pop! Quick! Somebody stop him before he says something really inflammatory! "Shouldn’t we thank our fast food chains for driving so many of these places out of business and thus limiting our exposure to chili burgers buried beneath landfills of onion rings?" Oh no.

There. Did that make up for the time when Jeffrey Sebelia was mean to Angela's mom?

That was the point—wasn't it?—of last night's Project Runway challenge to "re-style the outfits of 12 women, all of whom have lost a significant amount of weight." Victorya called the women "normal." Ricky cried and, this time, it was for the redemptive, body-image-affirming qualities of fashion. Kevin was sweet. I now love him.

I can't help thinking that this was Bravo's feel-good attempt to make up for last year's "Everyday Woman" episode—when Jeffrey padded his dressmaker figure with towels and thought it was brilliant comedy—and for the recycling challenge when Tim Gunn referred to a size-6 model as "zaftig." See? This year, it's a more tolerant runway! Just never mind that the judges still awarded the win to the skinniest model of the group.

ADDED: Are you noticing how many times the camera captures Sweet Pea's reactions? Is this foreshadowing? Or is it simply that she's so expressive? Either way, it could inspire a new twist for your Project Runway drinking game!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's the week for questions

It's a tough decision: do you go ahead with a Christmas party while your company is facing layoffs? Probably not, which must be bad news for party rooms all over Dallas and Fort Worth.

On a possibly related note, what's going on at Belo? Anything?

"'Martha Stewart, three friends, a bottle of wine, and a burning issue: sex after 50'"

After shutting down the youngish, funnish Blueprint, is Martha Stewart really planning a new magazine for older women? Does a publication stand a better chance when the audience is already pre-disposed to reading stuff on paper? And if Martha Stewart is intent on addressing sex—and I kinda hope she isn't—is there any hope at all for those angry and offended Reader's Digest subscribers?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Look! Aerin Lauder's here to help with your Christmas shopping!

Is there no end to this woman's genius? No! She really does have the best ideas for gift-giving. Like the $1000 paperweight she's giving her best friend. She designed it herself! It's part of her Bergdorf Goodman line! And! Aerin's giving Gwyneth Paltrow an $800 Gingerbread House but don't tell. So thoughtful. So generous.

Still, if you're one of Aerin Lauder's friends and she gives you the chocolates—$22—I think you have every right to be pissed.

Something that's been bothering me

I've been so busy passing the cheer, I haven't had a chance to check: anyone else watch that Starbucks spot and think: Timothy Treadwell? Are we meant to think about Treadwell? If so, are we still supposed to hug the bear? Is this some sort of a cheer challenge— a "love thy enemy" lesson? Or should we just be distracted by the bunny and not think about all that? Confusing!

Manolo's survey

It's fun to see which women prefer—that guy or the diamonds. But the commercial is aimed at men and the implication is that toenail-painting somehow is worthy of derision.

Hmmm.

Does no one remember Crash Davis?

Less scooters to dodge in the hallway

Unfair Park readers don't much care for the official imc2 statement about those layoffs, do they? But since their comments reveal a pro-Bill Hicks, anti-advertising sentiment—which Denis Leary finds interesting and has made a mental note of—maybe Samantha Keyes never had a chance.

If that's really her and really her statement, it only adds to the mystery of imc2. How can an interactive agency employee comment on a local blog using language that's so tone-deaf and trite? How can imc2 maintain high-profile clients like Coca-Cola yet never seem part of that brand's most forward-thinking work? And why does imc2 hire so many ex-Omnicom staffers only to spit them out months later?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Funny. I never ran into Elisa down at Quackenbush's. Or did I?

I too was upset about this week's Project Runway result. All I can say is that the complete on-camera nervous collapse Ricky seems so destined to suffer better be profoundly spectacular—a true TV moment to unite an entire generation. Otherwise, I'm bored already.

Although: I now love Elisa. Yay UT Fine Arts grads!

It's like the fine arts community is ignoring this or something

I've searched the usual sites and calendars and can find no mention of Barbie at the Symphony. I only learned of it from that billboard out on Forest Park. You too? Then I guess I'll see ya at Bass Hall! I'll be the one in pink.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"So far, for all of Sears, including Kmart, the strategy has failed miserably."

I've spoken so many times of my love for the NYPost Business Page but now, the thrill may be gone. Doesn't it seem a lot less sassy these days? Is it because Suzanne Kapner left? At least I think this is her, now writing for Fortune and delightfully calling bullshit on Eddie Lampert and Sears: "Take the $1 billion in capital investment that Lampert refers to....Sure, this sounds like a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to what other retailers spend on store upkeep and expansion. Over the past 12 months, Sears spent 1.2 percent of its overall sales on capital expenditures. That compares with 7.1 percent for Target." So that's why Sears and Kmarts are so crappy. Also: "Analysts and frustrated consumers alike talk about how stores are frequently bare of essentials, but laden with out-of-season goods."

Maybe it's unkind, though, to delight in Lampert's troubles. There must be some positive news about the guy. Oh.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

One more "ambiguous genitalia" story and it'll officially be a trend!

We have this and now this. Who's next?

I read FrontBurner comments because it makes me look like I'm working when I'm not

Whenever there's the smallest opportunity to sandbag Marty Cortland, Dave Little seizes it. He remains, however, strangely silent about Alibaster K Abthernabther. I don't know who Abthernabther really is and I may not want to know. I only mention it because—obviously—I abhor people who use fake names.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

This is just the excuse I was looking for

Here! A photo of Johnny Depp! And if you bother to read the review, watch for this funny sentence: "Everything about it is just perfect, and all this was confirmed when I got to see this extraordinary movie musical."

Feel free to make a joke about nuts. Or male dancers. Or both.

Since PBS has evidently switched to an all doo wop format, I've gotten hooked on Ovation TV's Battle of the Nutcrackers. Have you voted? Did you choose modern and funny or classic and Russian? I don't want to influence you but yes, that IS a "Bolshoi 07" bumper sticker on my car.

And while it pains me that the Baryshnikov-Kirkland performance isn't included while the Macaulay Culkin movie is, this is still a fun programming idea right? "'It will be better than the Yule log,' Kris Slava, senior vice president for programming and production at Ovation." Well I wouldn't go that far. Or maybe I would. "If the Battle of the Nutcrackers goes as planned, Mr. Slava said, he hopes to pit this year’s winner against some other famous performances, perhaps including those by Baryshnikov and Nureyev. He would not promise to include Barbie’s 2001 animated version."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ty Pennington can only do so much

Because I find their Christmas advertising so loathsome—"don't just give a gift, grant a wish" is meant to make you ashamed of anything short of extravagance—I was sorta glad to read that Sears earnings are in the toilet. Store traffic is dismal: "'comparable-store' sales -- sales at outlets open at least one year -- tumbled 4.2 percent. At the company's lower-end Kmart chain, those comparable-store sales dropped by an even more deeper 5 percent." And the online business evidently has problems.

Honestly, I really, really just want Sears to be a better store. As fun as schadenfreude always is, I don't want Eddie "Anyone Can Do Retail" Lampert to fail. I don't want to see Craftsman Tools being sold off the back of mall kiosks. I don't want to see Extreme Home Makeover taken off the air. Oh wait. Yes, I do want that. But I don't want Restoration Hardware to be the new Land's End. Wait. I don't care about them either.

I guess I just want Sears around so that there's still some choice for their shoppers. There's not a lot of options when you live in a small town. Where else are all those people going to go to be ritualistically ignored or mistreated?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reading page 2 of the Mike Rawlings resume

The Dallas Morning News refers to him as "former president of Pizza Hut" but isn't the city's homeless czar an ex-ad guy? Why yes he is! And his 18 years at Tracy-Locke can probably best be summed up this way: he fired David Fowler. But that was forever ago. The DMN seems to love Mr Rawlings and, even though these sorts of business-leader-in-political-position stories never seem to work in Dallas, I hope this latest endeavor is successful.

The drama-free, lift-happy finale of Dancing With The Stars

It's the show everyone loves to hate but I think David Hinckley gets it right: "in contrast to prime-time dramas...'Dancing With the Stars' remains a show parents can watch with the kids in the room." This probably also explains the popularity of American Idol and prime-time game shows. And this: "There's sex appeal, sure, but it's the old-fashioned kind, an implicit aura that can mean something different to every viewer - or nothing at all to those who simply enjoy graceful movement." Yes, a format that can make Floyd Mayweather Jr or Tatum O'Neal seem somewhat normal is a miracle of family-friendly programming, a throwback to old-Hollywood, big-studio days when we didn't know how screwed up big stars really are.

Finally, after last night, I realized the show has benefitted all this time from a few brilliant female choreographers. I mean, that was the problem last night—boring dances staged by the male professional dancers. How smart does Cheryl Burke look now?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Will anyone look bad because of this?

From No Mas: Ricky Williams "was paid for his appearance on Oprah by Glaxo-SmithKline, makers of the anti-depressant Paxil. He was not paid to shill for Paxil on the program, however, and he never once mentioned the drug. No, at the time he was only paid to go on the show and tell his story as a sufferer of chronic shyness. Only later did he appear in a Paxil press release, with a caption beneath his photograph reading, 'As someone who has suffered from social anxiety disorder, I am so happy that new treatment options, like Paxil CR, are available today.'"

Williams' image really can't get worse, can it? Oprah, whose show is already a fabulous showcase for any product, is immune. And everyone hates big pharma anyway. They'll all be fine, right?

ADDED: Yeah, what was my point here? Oh yeah, just to remind myself that as irritating as pharma's direct-to-consumer advertising can be—thank you Viva Viagra!—things could be worse. Banning pharma from TV or print advertising wouldn't prevent celebrity endorsers from appearing on Oprah and in fact would only encourage more instances like it.

2007 Holiday Barbie: the most festive girl in the whorehouse

Take a look. Familiar? Kinda. But in a cheap, odd way that can hardly be considered a tribute to Edith Head. Sometimes there's just no understanding Mattel.

Out ahead of the parade

I haven't run into him yet down at the Piggly Wiggly but Comerica CEO Ralph Babb sounds nice enough. And he has two important observations about moving to Dallas: "'If you look at the Census Bureau projections for what's going to happen with population growth, Texas is going to be one of three states where 30 percent of the population will be by 2030,' he says. 'And two-thirds of the population is going to be in the South.'"

Also: "What you have to watch is you don't have a basement," he says. "But we have a great attic." Yeah. Hence the term "Texas basement."

Mostly dead

Could Page Six be right? Could "middle-aged....white and pasty" really describe my Wesley? Hmm.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The fellas at the retirement center think my pop culture references are hilarious and on point

I didn't even understand the instructions for the Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme. I had to look up several of the words. And, as always, I resist any situation that forces me to confront the unpleasant fact that I have the same tastes in entertainment as a 1950s Borscht Belt vacationer. Still, Mr Middlebrow has included me in this little parlor game and I feel honored. Let's begin.

First, those instructions:

The questions below are all in the form of "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…". Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

— You can leave them exactly as is.

— You can delete any one question.

— You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change "The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is…" to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is…", or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is…", or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is…".

— You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…".

You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable. Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.


See what I mean? I can't make heads or tails of that. Let's pretend it's crystal clear and move on to the questions:

1. The best drama in scientific dystopias is: Reefer Madness.

2. The best sexy song in country music is: For the Good Times recorded by Ray Price.

3. The best dead comedian in American comedy is: Groucho Marx.

4. The best moment in live television was: the Martin-Lewis reunion. (The second best—obviously—is the time Ruth Lyons ripped her own sales guy a new one over that Serta ad (at 1:18). "The agency men!" Honestly, don't you miss her?)

5. The most erotic of all the salt-cured meats is: a line inspired by a Seinfeld episode.

6. The best hair style in professional bowlers tour history is: Earl Anthony's flat-top.

My honorable and noteworthy ancestry:

My great-great-great-great-grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock.
My great-great-great-grandparent is Shakespeare's Sister.
My great-great-grandparent is Excuse This Mess...
My great-grandparent is Saying Yes.
My grandparent is Really Small Fish.
My parent is Mr Middlebrow of A Drinking Song.

My dear, dear siblings are Stennie, Tammara, Goldie, Shamus and Ed.


And now, I name James and Suniverse as my heirs. I'm so proud of you two already.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"People all want a place to go that’s not work and not home"

The never-aired second verse to the Cheers theme song? Or a quote from the world's smartest librarian? Yes! It's the librarian! And why wouldn't Frank Collerius be so smart? His Jefferson Market Library is trying to attract the same people we all are—the elusive 18-54 year old—but you'd think he'd have an advantage. A library's product is free. And still it's a challenge. I think there may be a message in there somewhere about price and perceived value but I can't quite make it out.

What I really can't decide is whether this makes the Jefferson Market Library a late arrival to the Comfy Chair Revolution—"providing inexpensive hangouts may draw business"—or a purer form of it. After all, bookstores are moving the chairs out and bringing in TVs with advertising, somewhat spoiling those quiet utopian dreams of "from each according to his free wifi capability, to each according to his free wifi needs." And if all that hangout space could be more cost-effective as a Rachael Ray book display, maybe the library is a comfy chair's last, best hope.

Or maybe interiors don't matter as much as shared activities and a sense of specialness. Especially if the 18-54 year olds are niche-y. You know, like comic book readers: "any time a comic-inspired movie hits theaters, Keith Colvin buys out one screening so his customers can see it together. Mr. Colvin, who's been in the business since 1989, owns Keith's Comics near Mockingbird Station, plus three suburban stores. Surprisingly, Mr. Colvin said movies starring iconic superheroes don't help his bottom line as much as movies based on lesser-known comic book characters. 'A movie like Spider-Man or Hulk doesn't really move the needle on sales....But something like Sin City or Hellboy does astronomical sales.'" That right there? That makes me wanna hang out with Keith's customers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Last night's Project Runway: give thanks for mediocre design skills

O how I wept for Dallas' own Marion Lee! His sketch was strong enough to be chosen by "actress and fashion icon" Sarah Jessica Parker but the execution sucked. (See how hard here, far right.)

And therein lies the weakness of these team challenges. Except for Season 1's Vanessa, it's always the designers with interesting concepts who are at risk. Those whose concepts are initially rejected—and who become "teammates" merely sewing someone's else vision—they're safe.

Another truism of the runway: you'll always be safe so long as you're outrageous. Bitchiness, art gallery patois or, in a pinch, a Flock of Seagulls haircut will make up for anything. Lee—so quiet and likable—never had a chance.

ADDED: In that ew.com interview, Lee says, "I don't want to design a cheap, mainstream, budget-store outfit....I kind of got screwed by the challenge." This is wrong, of course. He got screwed by his own inflexibility and now I'm a little less sad. Still, you would think the judges could change things up just a bit, just for once, by keeping the thoughtful, low-key guy, mercifully sparing us all weeks and weeks of predictable attitude, platitudes and Vivienne Westwood imitations.

AND ANOTHER THING: I've now decided the best outcome of all would have been for both Christian and his partner Carmen to be kicked off. Christian for that Flashdance dress and Carmen who, through big crocodile designer tears, said she shouldn't be kicked off because the dress wasn't her concept. How I would have loved to hear a judge point out that as hideous as Christian's design might have been, Carmen's was apparently worse.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's time once again to feel ineffectual and inadequate

Fortune names the 50 Most Powerful Women of 2007. For me, though, the list lost all credibility when I saw that Oprah is ranked at only #8. Please! She's Oprah. She has Favorite Things. And now a Fortune subscription may never be one of them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You're already tired of "Give a give a give a Garmin" aren't you?

Not even Thanksgiving and some Christmas spots are already wearing so very thin. Not all but a lot. And what's becoming increasingly clear is that parents of society's most idiotic kids all shop at BestBuy.

So just for today, just because I can, I'd like to remember my two all-time favorite Christmas spots. They're straightforward efforts, not different or smart but merely pleasant to view again and again and again. Sometimes, that's enough. They are the Budweiser Christmas clydesdales and of course the Norelco Santa. "Say Merry Christmas to the ladies," indeed.

What happened to Blogger over the weekend?

It's different and, at first glance, more Mac-friendly. I'm scared.

UPDATE: Evidently it wasn't Blogger. It was me, Safari-user and late upgrader that I am. What can I say? A world without anti-aliasing capability and opacity rendering is a world I just don't want to live in.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The spirit of Woody Hayes is present and active in my life

Be still. And resist the urge to take a swing at arrogant young punks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Starbucks is going to advertise? You mean, like on TV?

The NYPost seems to have missed the importance of it all, hiding the news in the last lines of the story: "The stock has dropped more than 30 percent this year, hit by worries about store saturation, increased competition from once unlikely specialty coffee rivals such as McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts, the weaker economy and soaring dairy prices. In a first for the company, Starbucks plans to begin a national TV ad campaign starting Friday to try to boost traffic over the holidays."

Of course AdAge has the details -- blah blah animation blah blah Wieden & Kennedy blah blah blah -- but, really, for the best, most giggle-inducing quotes, you have to go to Seattle's Post-Intelligencer: "a defiant Chairman Howard Schultz said the world's largest coffee chain would fight off competitors and bring customers back. 'As a national leader, we have an opportunity to make sure our voice is heard in the all-important media of TV. This is the beginning of a new opportunity for us,' Schultz said during a conference call."

And the kicker: "The TV campaign begins Friday, and it will be energizing and 'so holiday that it will blow you away,' Chief Executive Jim Donald said in an interview."

So holiday? Or so Raven? Y'all! I can't wait.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dallas residents on Project Runway: uh, yeah

After just one episode, "it looked like she was pooing fabric" is the early favorite for the season's best comment. But you knew UT grad Elisa Jimenez wasn't going to be eliminated. She's beautiful and batshit. And her dress -- from the front -- was gorgeous in a 30's screen-goddessy way. Marion Lee? Well, it might be telling that his model (middle row, second from the right) looks like the saddest little walker on God's green earth.

ADDED: From over a year ago, Cool Hunting -- whose writer is on a first-name basis with Jimenez -- calls her designs "innovative" and "one-of-a-kind." Well, sure!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The news chopper guy fails to consider that tall buildings are filled with people who welcome distractions

Helicopters, loud as they are, tend to draw attention. So when the news helicopter landed at the edge of downtown yesterday at 3:30, we all looked out the window to see what was going on. Turned out: not much. With the propellors still going, a passenger got out, walked a short distance to the old Tandy sign where everything must have seemed brushy and shielded -- except for the 20-story glass building across the street -- and relieved himself. Business done, back to the bird, up and away.

So. Yeah. If you work in an office or even at home, be thankful for private, convenient bathroom breaks.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Catch"

Because I now limit my TV viewing to only TMZ and Dancing With The Stars -- the only two shows that matter -- I had missed this Discount Tire spot. Even if you don't get the 18-year-old callback, it's still pretty charming, isn't it? Of course, nothing can equal that first effort.

In other news: I'm now officially bored by Carrie Ann Inaba.

My dinner plans for tonight

And, possibly, for every night from now on.

Is it "really outrageous" because Yoko did it?

Roger Friedman: "It seems like Yoko Ono has licensed a rare John Lennon track for a JC Penney commercial.... The Beatles as a rule do not license master recordings. For Ono to license a Lennon recording, and such an extraordinary one, is really outrageous." I've read this four times now and I still don't follow. Is it "outrageous" because Lennon is the sensitive Beatle, brainier than Paul and also dead? "Outrageous" because a widow makes money from it? Or because it's JC Penney, a place where people out there shop?

Oh! If only it had been used for a classy place. You know, like H&M!

ADDED: The spot is here. Friedman's outrage continues here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Blockbuster's new strategy for success

Does this inspire confidence? "Keyes, though, offered little in the way of specifics as far as what the new Blockbuster.com would look like and how the digital films would be available." He'll get back to you on that, OK?

For now, let's just concentrate on that whole kiosk thing -- "Again, without getting specific, the CEO talked of kiosks in Blockbuster stores and ATM-like installations in airports, train stations and supermarkets where customers could download movies to a disc or flash drive." Interesting. Although, it's an idea that seemed fresh when I read this 18 months ago on Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection: "The only way that I can see Blockbuster expand revenue, but increase store closings would be for them to negotiate the rights to do burn on demand DVDs at kiosk locations nationwide." Well, maybe genius cannot be rushed.

But what could be most alarming is this: "Keyes yesterday laid out a strategic vision that aims to transition the company from a rental service to a retail one by stocking its stores with devices like mobile phones and video game consoles." In other words, a RadioShack? Oh shit.

Thanks for playing

Troy Aikman's Ford dealership is closing and this interests me for two reasons. First, that's where I bought my truck. (Yeah, I have a truck but I only use it to transport stray puppies, ponies and unicorns to manure-powered, no-kill shelters in the country. Rainbows follow me wherever I drive. I think it's OK.) Second, lot configuration is crucial if you're selling cars. I never thought about it but people really do need to see those pickups from the highway.

And oh yeah -- there's a third thing: Ford and your competitors will actually pay you to shut down your failing dealership. Good work.

"Seeing KC doesn't require you to sit there and listen to the words"

I love you Harry Casey -- you and your whole crazy, cuckoo Sunshine Band. Let's get down tonight.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A steel and concrete soul

Dallas is a jewel but its residents don't care much for old homes. Here's a beautiful one that's about to be bulldozed. Probably, there's no way to fit a proper media room into the existing floorplan -- and in that case, I mean really, what choice is there?

But why didn't a preservation-minded individual step forward to buy the property? If it's so architecturally significant, wouldn't that have been a selling point? If you had $4 million to spend on a home, would you tolerate people telling you what you could or could not do to it?

Dear Diary: I'm having to train my client's new hire. Awkward!

It's not Czech-whorehouse awkward but still.

Antonio Banderas in a tuxedo

Isn't he cute? Doesn't Marks & Spencer always do something interesting? Isn't it a relief to see holiday advertising that doesn't belittle Santa, relatives or non-car-gifting lovers?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

"Beer and guns is a little different"

Is this comment right -- will the Busch Beer hunting pack spell trouble for "some marketing guy"? Hope not. That's authentic camo.

It's also perfectly timed as we're coming up on the first weekend of deer and Rio Grande turkey season. If that's not a good reason to drink up, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mark Cuban's finest moment?

When -- dressed as the ultimate nerd, complete with taped-up glasses -- he complained that the judges' score wasn't even a prime number. I found that so endearing I was honestly sorry he got voted off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My new, least favorite phrase: "certain to become a holiday must-have"

From Fashion Week Daily: "Aerin Lauder helped build a billion-dollar beauty empire on the notion that every woman wants something beautiful and special, and now she's....launching her Private Collection Boutique on Bergdorf Goodman's beauty level in November. But there won't be any lipsticks or eyeliners at this cozy counter; rather, the shop will offer a variety of hostess gifts, culled from Lauder's own time-tested roles as wife, mother, and daughter." I for one am so grateful. God knows, you can't find scented candles just anywhere.

And yes, I've changed my mind about Aerin Lauder. I've stopped hating! Sure, I could point out that -- in the same way that it's easy to post a news item by cutting and pasting from a press release -- it's probably simple to build an empire when your grandmother has done all the work. No. Surely Aerin Lauder commands this kind of attention and creates these kinds of opportunities because of her brains, charm and talent. It has nothing at all to do with advertising revenue! Or strong-arm retailing tactics! Or last names! Or publicists! Stop hating!

It's perfectly OK to grind on each other but if you start praying aloud, we're going to have problems

Go ahead and make all the Footloose-related jokes you want but the Argyle school district has seen enough suggestive dancing.

Or as they put it: "'we're actually having body parts that are touching each other inappropriately.'"

Frankly I'm bewildered that schools still host dances. I mean it's 2007. You can't play tag or bring candy canes to class so why are schools still in the dance club business? Turn it over to the kids and the parents to organize it all -- via off-campus meetings and their own funds. They can make the rules and set the dress codes. The district's relieved of all responsibility, liability and blame. Everybody's happy!

Or maybe everyone actually enjoys the Springeresque freakshow that is the townhall meeting.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sell! Sell! Sell, you nouveau riche piece of crap!

Is it time to flip your Rothko: "Billionaire contemporary art collector Eli Broad, who has amassed an 1,800-piece collection and will have a wing of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) named after him in February, thinks art prices are heading for a fall." That's the second dire prediction in recent months and I'm beginning to think it's a conspiracy. A way for the precious souls of the art world to scare off all those new people who are "clueless about light and color and fine lines." Pushy hedge fund pricks! Don't they know the last thing in the world an artist wants is to help someone else make a profit!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"We're being nice to the crying lesbian."

The most interesting opinion yet on Iggygate: "Every anchor on Fox News is talking about it, how sad it is and poor Ellen, she's so upset. Bill O'Reilly devoted an entire segment to letting American know he did, in fact, think Ellen was genuine with her emotions....It's as if all these people are using the situation to show See, we like gay people."

Now, having read that, I think Fox's intention is slightly different and much more cynical.

Even if you're a girl who likes dogs or a girl who likes girls, you really can't watch that video without thinking Ellen looks slightly ridiculous. By showing it over and over, Fox is making fun of celebrities in general. It is, after all, one of their constant themes -- the self-obsessed, overly emotional, liberal-leaning airhead celebrity. (Only Mel Gibson, Ted Nugent and Dennis Miller get a pass.) Fox is showing the video to reinforce that image but by accompanying it with approving commentary, they're simply giving themselves cover so no one can accuse them of celebrity-bashing. It lets them lampoon a gay celebrity while being able to claim they're defending her. It's the TV news equivalent of "your lips say no but your eyes say yes." Isn't it?

By the way, instead of taking a long weekend break, Ellen should have donned a Chris Cocker wig and created her own "Leave Ellen alone!" youtube video. Might have been funny.

Will the Dog Walk of Fame have fire hydrants?

Honoring famous movie dogs is a genius idea. Even overdue. But I guess it would have brought the festivities down a bit to include Old Yeller.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I tried to monetize my content once

Couldn't walk for a week. Perhaps I digress though, because what I really mean to talk about is this: the "devil theory depends on the likely mistaken idea that collecting and storing information on Web users has increasing, rather than diminishing, returns." Does that sound right? I know this does: "Early man invented the wheel but only later did his life become colorful and interesting with the invention of advertising-supported media."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Are you going to a Halloween party or a harvest festival?

Maybe for reasons of faith, maybe because "spooky" is fast becoming "bloody," doesn't it seem like a lot more families are veering toward the generic harvest celebration? Even this month's Martha Stewart Living seems to minimize the Halloween theme -- saving brilliant ideas like the eyeball highball for a separate special issue -- in favor of bobbing for apples and squash bowling. Positively Rockwellian.

However you celebrate, Seth Godin calls this a sort of "secular Christmas" -- "the only holiday (perhaps in the world) where there is an arms race of creativity. Every year there's new stuff, new ideas, new ways for yuppies and boomers and everyone else to spend time and money." But I think this is instead part of the Christmasization of all holidays. (Do you have an Easter egg tree? Thanks for proving my point!) We want to decorate and celebrate year-round because it can be more fun and less manic than Christmas decorating and celebrating.

Also, unlike Christmas, we can wear other seasonal sweaters without fear of ridicule. Can't we?

Re-visiting my dancing prediction

Although he was up on all the judges' cards, Floyd Mayweather Jr is now out.

Yes, I thought he'd win but that was before I saw him dance. Now I feel so stupid. I should have known that Floyd would never take direction from a woman, never willingly share a stage. He was doomed from the beginning.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Uh. Not when we're talking re-sell.

According to Virginia Postrel, "Dallas housing stock is generally both boring and ugly (but cheap!). A few brightly painted houses can only improve the place."

"Except for socially, you're my role model"

In all seriousness, Vanessa Grigoriadis is right. Most of us are just running routes out of the Elizabeth Spiers playbook: "Gawker made its debut under the leadership of Nick Denton, the complicated owner of the blog network Gawker Media, and Elizabeth Spiers, a 25-year-old banker turned blogger who...displayed a streak of dark cunning on the page. They didn’t exactly invent the blog, but the tone they used for Gawker became the most important stylistic influence on the emerging field of blogging and has turned into the de facto voice of blogs today."

But Spiers is brainy and funny instead of simply cruel. In honor of Leopard's impending release, let's look at her latest Fast Company column: "And yet I keep buying Apple products....But I don't blame myself, because that would be unpleasant. So I blame Steve Jobs, who has seduced me into buying his sleek machines, even if their delicate organs seem to fail with alarming regularity, like the beautiful consumptive heroines in Victorian novels. Steve--we'll call him Steve because he seems like a first-name-basis kind of guy--is the human incarnation of the average Apple product: He's good-looking, he overpromises, and he's notoriously temperamental. He evokes the feel-good indie populism synonymous with the company's brand and manages to retain a solid reputation as a creative person while managing a $118 billion business."

Then it gets better.

Because no one else will or can

I'll go ahead and say it: Dwayne Johnson would now like George Clooney to know his role and shut his mouth. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Red Bull sorta gave him wings

When Travis Pastrana jumped out of the plane without a parachute, he was holding a can of Red Bull. Maybe it was idiotic, maybe it was a marketing bit, but in some weird way I love it. While Red Bull art is OK -- I guess -- I've always thought the Red Bull Air Race World Series was brilliant because it's just so damn macho. Chuteless skydiving though? Even better.

Bad news, good news for Ms Meyer

Maybe not everyone is impressed with Chrysler's new marketing chief. But! Jalopnik readers just named Mercury as the car brand that "needs to die." So things could be worse. Especially since Chrysler seems to be a close second in the voting.

Also: who knew Buicks are big in China?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Is Watermill Express really meant to be an eco-friendly service?

Everything I read about the Watermill Express describes them as convenient, clean, affordable and eco-friendly -- such a faithful echoing of the company's own site! -- but here's the thing: the only two kiosks I've seen are in areas characterized by dollar stores, pedestrian traffic and assisted housing. I'm not the only one who's noticed! Are franchisees simply seeking out Dallas' cheapest real estate? Or is Watermill Express serving some other need than a wholesome desire for healthy water? I can't figure it out.

Weeping fuschia-hued tears

Obviously, I'm devastated that Jesper Parnevik lost the Texas Open yesterday. Looking on the bright side, though, there's always the fashion to ponder. This weekend it was: the porkpie hat. I love this man!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

How Michelle Ryan approaches her craft

About 20 minutes into last night's Bionic Woman, it became obvious. Everyone in this show has an intriguing back story except the title character. Jaime's life is unusual but not unpredictable -- part My Sister Sam, part Cosmo magazine article -- and even though she seems OK with drug use by minors on school premises, she's presented as the moral compass of the show. Did that bother you? I had to chart it all out using Grant McCracken's TV Table. The results were mixed.

One more observation: Michelle Ryan has evidently decided that any dialogue-heavy walking scene can be punched up with jiggling. I'm not saying that doesn't make her a genius.

ADDED: According to TVWeek, this latest episode was "a creative disaster—cliché-packed dialogue, a nonsensical villain, one-note characters" and the show lost 30% of its first-week audience. Bright side? Zap2it wants to like it. But their Ryan McGee is wrong; "a feminist tract" is exactly what the show should avoid.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I ate the Fried Cookie Dough

It's not bad.

Other State Fair highlights: Texas wineries have wisely moved their tasting booth from the butterfly gardens to the Food & Fiber Building courtyard. This means you can go from a 2-coupon sip of wine to Elsie & Beauregard in about a minute. Petting Elsie is one of my favorite fair activities. I also love the product demos in the Embarcadero. Sure, it's always miracle mops, vegetable choppers and glass cleaners but aren't those, after all, the necessities of life?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Can Bionic Woman fill the Battlestar Galactica-shaped void in my heart?

Main takeaway: Katee Sackhoff is now the go-to actress for all physically strong-emotionally victimized female roles. EW is right: "The problem is, if you're a fan of Sackhoff's throaty, chin-jutty delivery, she absolutely overpowers the callow Ryan, and if you're not a fan of Sackhoff...she still overpowers Ryan."

Best line: "Ta-da."

Worst line: "I just thought it was cool a girl could do that."

Also, not enough Aaron Douglas.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dove: the brand "for people who are giving up"

Did you read to the very end of the Ad Age article? Because the feel-good praise for the Campaign for Real Beauty eventually fades and you learn this: "Dove's success all along was probably more about product news than newsworthy advertising, said Ralph Blessing, a former Unilever marketer and now a consultant with Arbor Strategy Group, Chicago. And the product innovation may have faltered with Pro-Age....'Dove Pro-Age is a wonderful concept, a high concept. But people don't buy concepts. They buy products,' said Suzanne Grayson, a longtime beauty-industry consultant. She said the concept does appeal to many women, but embracing unvarnished aging when anti-aging products dominate skin care is risky. 'What they're saying is that [the brand] is for people who are giving up,' Ms. Grayson said."

Wow, Ms. Grayson. Way to harsh everyone's self-image mellow with the truth. Quick! Someone mention Cannes again!

Is Charmin really using Messiah's Hallelujah chorus?

Yes. Maybe Procter & Gamble is run by satanists.

Or idiots.

And no, I don't know what offends me more -- the appropriation of a solemn composition to sell toilet paper or the choice to go with music that's already been overused for a good 30 years.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Big Tex is here!

Yay! It's the final phase!

And I love the movie version, although it distressingly ends before boots are donned.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Maybe the problem is that the name "Bratz" is inherently a negative word. Probably shoulda thought about that.

I've tried to make my peace with Bratz dolls -- honest: this world seems big enough for Bratz, Barbie and Barbie's breasts -- but Tuesday's post brought it all up again. And it reminded me: what happened to the Bratz movie? Oh.

Barbie and Skipper send their condolences. Midge With Teeth could not be reached for comment.

But here's an interesting pre-release bit I missed: "negative public perception has prevented the Bratz from blossoming into a full-scale entertainment phenomenon. Parents and child advocacy groups have long argued that the dolls, with their fishnet stockings, pouty lips and micro-mini skirts, encourage pre-adolescent sexuality. With 'Bratz: The Movie,' MGA and Lionsgate want to change that image." The movie versions are evidently infused with a "newfound purity" and "Bratz might bare their midriffs, cake their faces in makeup and worship stiletto boots, but they know wrong from right: they decide to teach the school a lesson in diversity." Since I didn't see the movie, I have to ask: diversity of what?

I'm fully aware, though, that Barbie has had her share of problems. Mattel at first rejected a doll with, you know, a chest and feminists very nearly turned "Barbie doll" into a slur. But Barbie has always had an admirable narrative. Even those early outfits -- with names like "Commuter Set" and "Theater Date" -- suggested an intelligent, active woman. A Busy Gal! Although the doll's changed and is now meant for a much younger child, Barbie still reflects, I think, that original spirit. Maybe I don't know enough about Bratz to know if they have a story. I guess diversity is a start.

ADDED: Maybe it's the Bratz image that pushes some parents into the loving, educational arms of American Girl dolls and their newest movie -- which just from first looks alone, seems to be the anti-Paper Moon. And if you saw Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front, how old did it make you feel that they cast Molly Ringwald as the mother? God, that devastated me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dancing With The Stars: how excited are you?

Everything Mark Cuban does is a little cringe-inducing, isn't it? (Answer: until the Mavericks are actual NBA champs, yes oh hell yes.) My money's on Floyd Mayweather Jr. He's talented enough to get the steps, psychotic enough to charm the judges. He'll win that disco ball trophy and he'll beat Hatton too. And then we'll be sorry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thank Heaven for overly protective mothers of little girls

Sadly, this reaction to new Nair Pretty will be very much in the minority. "Today’s society is more obsessed than ever with looking perfect. Pre-teen girls are especially susceptible to this kind of marketing ploy because it plays upon their insecurities. It makes them look at their legs, probably covered with peach fuzz and think, 'Yuck, that needs to go.'" And I'll bet it does all that in a faux empowering "girls rule" sort of way. It's worse! "Chill. You're growing up... it's all good." See? Girls are even expected to talk like grownups.

We just don't let girls be girls for very long, do we? I mean, look at the clothes: "I don't understand what mother wants to advertise her child's sexuality by letting her proclaim she's juicy. If I have to choose between Baby Phat and Juicy Couture, I choose mandatory school uniforms."

This must be why things like American Girl, VeggieTales and -- until Vanessa ruined everything -- High School Musical films are so very huge. Even the popularity of The Dangerous Book For Boys seems to spring, in part, from a desire to preserve the fun and innocence of pre-teen years.

Is it a backlash?

I especially like it when grown men call him JuneBug

Why is Dale Earnhardt Jr announcing his new number and sponsor tomorrow at the Dallas Convention Center? Doesn't that seem weird? Is it because of the AMP-TracyLocke relationship? Can we assume that the featured AMP drink will be the icky cherry Overdrive? It's red! Which would mean my "I love Junior" RV wouldn't have to be totally repainted! Fingers crossed!

NEXT DAY UPDATE: No red! And the announcement was made in Dallas to tie in with a Pepsi bottlers convention. Gosh. All of a sudden, Junior seems so grown up, doesn't he? Well, doesn't he?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Seems fast. But in some ways, not fast enough.

Call me a brand racist if you must but I cheer this news: "it seems like the market for designer collaborations with cheap chic stores is on the wane. Simply Vera is already 30% off on the Kohls website, and it hasn't even been out for ten days."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Magazines I actually read

Jeff Bercovici: "the recent reinvigoration of Elle...is seen by many as sheer luck, a result of the brand's fortuitous partnership with Project Runway (which, as I've noted, only came about because Vogue passed on the show)." Excellent point.

But you know what would really get me to buy a women's magazine -- any women's magazine? Better cover blurbs. Sure "Update Your Hair" and "Clear Skin Forever" are aspirational. I guess. But one look at the latest cover of Modern Drunkard Magazine -- "Kill That Heartache with Hooch" and "12 Most Important Drinks of the Day" -- and I was sold. That's the kind of useful, actionable advice that makes my life better. That I can engage with. I'm filling out the subscription card right this minute!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Moisturizers moisturize, fresheners freshen and cleansers cleanse. End of story."

Body Shop founder Anita Roddick is dead at 64. That's pretty shockingly young, isn't it? Other obits concentrate on her eco-friendliness, which is now seen as pioneering. But I like the NYTimes piece because it's filled with fun personal details ("When her husband later announced that he wanted to fulfill his dream of traveling on horseback from Buenos Aires to New York...Ms. Roddick took out a modest loan and in 1976 opened the Body Shop, her first, in Brighton"), apt observations ("Ms. Roddick, who rejected conventional marketing, was so recognizable with her wild hair, wild public pronouncements and unbusinesslike demeanor that she was probably her own best advertisement") and this marvelous quote: "'I have never felt that beauty products are the body and blood of Jesus Christ.'"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Help fight the seven signs of commodity categories

Does the mere mention of Procter & Gamble zap your will to live? I understand. I do. But I also think that's a sorta outdated mindset. I mean, look at this interview with global marketing officer Jim Stengel. Here's what struck me:

"I hate it when someone says they're in a commodity category. We don't accept that there are any commodity categories. We are growing Charmin and Bounty very well, and if there is any category that people could say is a commodity, it's paper towels and tissues. We have developed tremendous equities, tremendous loyalties from our consumers. So, no, I think that is a cop-out. That is bad marketing and an excuse. We are not in any commodity categories[....] If you go back at Procter & Gamble, and in a lot of the industry, we often thought of our brands in terms of functional benefits. But the equity of great brands has to be something that a consumer finds inspirational and an organization finds inspirational. You know, our baby-care business didn't start growing aggressively...until we changed Pampers from being about dryness to being about helping Mom with her baby's development. That was a sea change. Or look at all the different areas we are in at Olay. That's because Olay is not just about being a pink fluid that moisturizes. It is about helping women look better and feel better as they age."

Yes, "sea change" is a poor choice of words when discussing the diaper business but I take his point. All this reminded me of a Seth Godin post which I have taken to heart every single day since I read it. Really. Except for weekends.

And by the way, search Godin's blog for "how you make people feel" and, well, gosh. Seems to be important to the guy.

Vocabulary lessons

I need to start reading invitations more closely because, apparently, there are many important new terms to learn:

"ultra urban posh party"

"global inspired hors d' ouevres" [sic -- really!]

and

"California black tie"

Descriptive yet confusing. Evocative yet unfathomable. Why, it's literary genius!

Long holiday weekends always take a toll

The first day back after International Corinthian Leather Day can be so difficult.

Davy Crockett, king of the aspiring copywriters

Highlights from his final letter: "he praised Texas as 'the garden spot of the world' and said it was 'the best land and the best prospect for health' that he had seen."

Monday, September 03, 2007

"I have a friend who loves what you do every year"

LAGuy remembers the true meaning of Labor Day.

Why can't we admit it? The Jerry Lewis Telethon is our national tradition. Isn't it the annual event that started all live charity events? Didn't it give us the single most awesome moment in television? It even has its own traditional song. Although "You'll Never Walk Alone" can be re-done by everyone from soccer fans to Jordin Sparks -- a version I loved although others did not -- this song, for me, belongs to Lewis. What Bing Crosby's White Christmas is to December, that's what Lewis' MDA work is to Labor Day.

Friday, August 31, 2007

A gossip item so boring 5 of the 7 bold-face names weren't even involved

Every time Page Six mentions The Women re-make -- even if it's merely in passing -- I die a little inside.

Peggy: "Oh I wish I could make a little money writing the way you do!"
Nancy: "If you wrote the way I do that's just what you'd make."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is beautiful

But maybe not as practical as first appears.

Saluting an underappreciated advertising genre

The Fall network promo: is it truly "the most gloriously cheesy form of advertising known to man?"

Well, quite possibly yes, although earlier versions can seem straightforward and almost elegant. Just remember: one day, we'll think all the talk of broadcasting in HD is this quaint.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I tried, Sunsilk, I really tried

Don't you get the feeling that David Gianatasio wanted to like the new Sunsilk spot but couldn't? It's easy to see why -- it's not funny. What happened? It seems only days ago that Sunsilk charmed me into an actual purchase but this new spot isn't on that level. It's saved only by the recurring role of the Sex and The City-inspired hair therapist. Alarming! Sunsilk spots are usually more fun. And now, having tried the product -- did not like! got frizzies! -- I am very nearly demoralized. C'mon Sunsilk! Maintain a level of quality in something.

If only they had listened to that guy from Dayton

Near the end of this AdAge piece about Procter & Gamble's Iams -- damn competitors, always refuting your best claims! -- there's this:

"About five manufacturers that process more than 50 brands and retail private labels were affected by the pet-food recall, but P&G had more products recalled and has suffered a larger drop in market share than any other marketer....The recall began when Menu Foods, a contract manufacturer of wet and semi-moist pet food, said 16 pets that had been fed its food had died. P&G was the biggest among dozens of Menu Foods customers, having sold its only wet-pet-food plant to the company in 2004. P&G has stopped buying products on the recall list from Menu Foods, and Menu Foods announced earlier this month that P&G would no longer buy any of its wet-pet-food products as of Oct. 1."

The culprit of course was wheat gluten, a substance that's added only for visual appeal. It has no nutritional value for dogs and cats. And honestly, all this might have been avoided if P&G had simply remained true to the Paul Iams ethos -- "a key difference in Iams products was a heavy reliance on animal protein, instead of the grain proteins found in many pet foods." Something about being carnivores, I think.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Whatcha watchin'?

I'm watching an honest-to-God demolition derby on Speed. And I'm highly entertained.

State Fair food news!

Here it is! Phase Two! It seems Deep Fried Latte is the early star but watch out for Fried Cookie Dough: "It's chilled cookie dough that's battered and fried. He's going to make an 'everything' cookie dough with chocolate chips, coconut and pecans, but he might also offer oatmeal raisin and plain chocolate chip versions." Weeee!

And when the Fair opens, I can only hope Channel 11 once again sends out Tiani Jones to cover the midway. Last year, her report on concessions concluded with the advice that "after taking in all of this, you're going to need some Pepto-Bizmo." Seriously. That's how she said it. Just like that. Right here in the nation's fifth largest TV market.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Has quirk peaked?

Michael Hirschorn: "As an aesthetic principle, quirk is an embrace of the odd against the blandly mainstream. It features mannered ingenuousness, an embrace of small moments, narrative randomness, situationally amusing but not hilarious character juxtapositions...and unexplainable but nonetheless charming character traits. Quirk takes not mattering very seriously."

I'm not sure but if a writer for the Atlantic can so concisely describe the formula behind every commercial aimed at young men -- for fast food, deodorant, Skittles -- that formula should probably be re-assessed. Shouldn't it? This is an article that doesn't even address advertising but there it is: a compelling argument against putting a man in a Pippi Longstocking wig. "Correctly deployed, quirk yields unexpected treasures....[but] the problem with contemporary quirk: It can quickly go from an effective narrative tool to an end in itself."

[via KyleSmithOnline]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I think Vogue's Thomas Florio just called Elle's Nina Garcia "B-level"

Fashionista likes Shop Vogue -- they really, really like it! "The video clips in particular will distract for hours, beautifully shot and almost more exclusive than stories in the magazine."

I admit it. Their recommendation finally got me curious enough to visit. Lord knows it was not Thomas Florio's comments in the NYTimes: "'America seems to be very interested in entertainment about fashion,' said Thomas A. Florio, publishing director of Vogue." Say, he's a sharp one! So gracious too: "And while Bravo’s popular 'Project Runway' may seem like the champion of the behind-the-scenes fashion genre, Vogue is hoping that its high-definition Internet videos will offer some competition. Episodes of 'Behind the Lens,' for example, will document recent fashion shoots for advertising campaigns....These episodes try to convey an insider feel 'without any of the negativity of the reality shows, and the B-level people in the industry,' Mr. Florio said. 'The real world is the glamour, the product. It’s not forced, it’s not a Kmart sticker over the runway.'"

Remember: if there's going to be any "negativity" around here, it'll be supplied by Vogue executives!

But I don't get the comparison. Does Vogue feel that, lo these three seasons later, they still have to defend their decision not to collaborate with Project Runway? Do they fear losing advertisers to Bravo? And does this mean that Kmart can't ever, as WalMart once did, buy a spread in Vogue?

[thanks to Make the Logo Bigger for the NYTimes link -- and for the fabulous vocabulary lesson]

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oh, so that's what makes boys and girls different

Just like Superbad, Kyle Smith's review of Superbad ends really sweetly and wistfully and with this remarkable insight: "There are only so many ways young guys can communicate: Comedy. Sport. Interpretive dance. Everyone I hung out with in my runty years chose the first one, and bitter, bitter were the regrets when each pair or group split, when we said goodbye to our comedy bloodbrothers....Once women became a constant presence, though, things could never be the same: there are large areas of the comedy map–Eurasias of humor–that you can never visit with females, because they can never receive a comic insult without feeling insulted. The iron rule of guy comedy is: no one can ever take offense."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Roles that have become formulaic and therefore valueless

They're like stock characters only they're all too real:

- the female sideline reporter whose only way to cover a sporting event is to ask about feelings

- the gay male stylist who's brought into freshen up E!'s post-red carpet show

- the ex-lawyer talk show host who's tough on crime

- the outrageously self-assured reality show contestant who'll say anything!

- the outrageously self-assured ex-political operative/Sunday talk show guest who'll say anything!

Can't we try harder?

And another thing

I have other struggles. In fact, I've long thought about putting all my cards on the library table and telling you the truth:

I don't read books.

Or as I like to say at parties: I don't "read," you know, "books." Buy them, start them and almost never get to the end. But look, I'm not alone: "the crazy thing is that I maintain the belief that I'm still reading a book for many years as the pile of books I believe I'm reading piles up. One thing about reading on line -- especially reading to blog -- is that what you don't finish evanesces. Once the day has passed, you feel utterly absolved of any obligation to go back to anything."

This is like a weight lifted from my shoulders. And it has me wondering why, if reading habits are changing, do we have to make a value judgment about it? Maybe it's OK. Maybe books are to reading what opera is to music-listening. Maybe there's plenty of other rich reading experiences to go around.

Speaking of rich -- the September Vogue is here and I believe it now outweighs Anna Wintour herself. No one's finishing this thing.

"Why are so few of us left active, healthy and without personality disorders?"

It's always been difficult for me to read graphic novels and you, my NotBillable friend, can easily guess why. Yes! It's all those damn visuals -- pages and pages of them. They keep getting in the way of the text. I don't get it.

I kid of course.

Or do I? I think I do because like everyone else, I love Watchmen. And like everyone else, I squeal at the very thought of a movie adaptation directed by Zack Snyder. I know what you're thinking: Zack "abs happy" Snyder? Precisely. Here's a man who knows his audience: "This is not an exercise in marketing" -- dammit! no coins!-- "I’m interested in making a movie that’s not bullshit, that has balls."

Also Kelly Leak as Rorschach! Y'all!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Yes, it's enough to make me want to buy the magazine

Glamour hires an Ugly Betty star to guest edit for a day. But what makes this brilliant is they bypassed the gorgeous actresses and chose Eric Mabius who plays the inept editor for Mode. I think that's kinda charming!

And speaking of Ugly Betty -- and because everyone's excited about the new fall season, right? -- I hope the reports are true. I hope Santos is back because Kevin Alejandro is after all a proud and talented Texas ex. And a hot.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Which is funnier?

The idea for Tony Stewart pit patches? Or casting Carl Weathers as the president of Old Spice Marketing?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Vera Wang seems like such a nice woman

But her new line is scaring all hell out of Kohl's employees -- who apparently worry that the incessant steaming might cut into the time they've scheduled for dialectical exchanges with Paul McEnany. Priorities!

Even Kohl's seems skittish: "With the massive launch of the Vera Wang designed 'Simply Vera' collection, you would expect that Kohl's would be backing up their bet on Vera with a media onslaught. But that's not the case....When Target...or H&M launches a new guest designer line, they court press attention. Here is a department store shunning coverage of the clothing AND refusing to talk about the financials."

So is Kohl's afraid of alienating budget shoppers? Or could it be part of the deal with the designer -- who, after all, still has a high-end line to sell?

[via Racked]

NEXT DAY UPDATE: Or maybe it's because the label's parent company is being acquired.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pretty hot out there huh?

I gotta go lie down for a minute.

What's happening back home?

Not much. Just the same old car crashes and nuclear fallout. But look! Ron's Pizza has a web site. Doesn't the new place look nice?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Diet Coke wishes and nicotine dreams

John Daly tees off in about 30 minutes and, to get in the proper mood to watch, I've been drinking Crown and Cokes since 7am. I am seriously rooting for this guy. Sure, Dallas' own Scott Verplank is a nice story but -- honestly? -- no one cares. Tiger and Daly are the only people who make pro golf worth talking about.

And have I ever explained my theory that golf's major tournaments are to middle-aged white guys what award shows are to women and gay men? That's not a criticism; just an observation -- as I said, a theory. One I'm still working on.

The dangerous movie adaptation for books

Movie rights for The Dangerous Book for Boys -- my most awkward bookstore purchase in recent memory -- have been sold.

How's that gonna work? Even though Glenn Reynolds has called the book a "cultural moment," it is a manual. Can a narrative be grafted onto it? Has that ever been done? Oh yeah! I think it has. Let me go back and dust off my copy of Helen Gurley Brown's Sex And The Single Girl. That was absolutely a cultural moment and a sort of manual -- albeit one filled with the worst possible advice you could give to women. Remember the movie version? No? Here, I'll do a quick re-cap:

Natalie Wood.

That's about all it had to offer. I hope things go better for The Dangerous Book for Boys. It's really a sweet book, very charming, and I hope at least those qualities get translated to the screen.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Take a moment to consider the plight of Russian billionaires

They may be overpaying for their art! "Dealer Daniella Luxembourg...said collectors should beware of the 'hype and marketing' that inflates contemporary artists' prices to levels that might not be sustainable." Hype and marketing -- she says that like it's a bad thing.

And who exactly is overrated? "Luxembourg wouldn't name 'overhyped' artists. Marketing -- by auction houses, museums, art fairs -- spreads knowledge as well as carries risks, she said. Richard Prince, Peter Doig, Cecily Brown, Julie Mehretu and Marlene Dumas have had rapid price spikes that may make them vulnerable if the market turns down, auctioneers and collectors said." Here's Mehretu. Hmm. If I had hedge fund money, I might be interested. But I had to look up Richard Prince and, although I can't really form any opinion about his work, I'll say this: when your Wikipedia bio urges readers to see also "Lesbian pulp fiction" and "Nurse stereotypes," I think you may have genuine staying power. Those Prince works are gonna be fine.

They were, in fact, supportive

Isn't Apple Tech Support the nicest bunch of people in the world? I may love them.