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


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.


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."