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.