Friday, November 30

Slash And Burn

I caught a glimpse of Slash on the Montel Williams show yesterday afternoon. Yes, that Slash -- the one from Guns 'n' Roses:

Slash on the Montel Williams show

I believe you can no longer call your self a rock and roll star if you have appeared on the Montel Williams show. It's a rule. It might even be in the Constitution, somewhere. This is why Sylvia Browne was forced to quit the Spice Girls. (She was originally the sixth Spice Girl, Psychic Spice.)

A Marketing Plan Gone Awry

Here's how I imagine the conversation went, many months ago:

Marketing Person 1: Hey, instead of a traditional Santa in the mall, which is timeless and has classic appeal, let's do a tie-in with a Hollywood movie.

Marketing Person 2: Yes, I totally concur. That would not be tacky in any way. If I were a parent, I would love to pull out pictures of my child year from now and see them surrounded with promotional items from a movie that has since lost all its relevance.

MP1: Now we should decide what film to use.

MP2: I hear there is a movie called "Fred Claus" coming out. It has Vince Vaughn in it. He's the guy from "The Wedding Crashers." Even though Vince Vaughn is associated with R-rated comedies, and this film will be geared toward family, I can see no way that people might be confused and possibly avoid the film.

MP1: Me neither, because marketing people are all geniuses. I am certain "Fred Claus" will be a huge success at the Box Office.

MP2: Yes, marketing will make "Fred Claus" a huge hit. And marketing will make our "Fred Claus" Santa area in the mall a huge success too.

MP1: I am so glad we see eye-to-eye on this. We marketing experts must continue to think outside the box, working on proactive win-win solutions that shift paradigms.

Fast forward a few months later. This the "Fred Claus"-themed Santa area that Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley and I saw at the mall last night:

"Fred Claus" area at the mall

The fact that this area is vacant is meaningless: it was 8:20 p.m., and the person they had hired to play Santa Claus had gone home.

I'm just stunned to see the Santa area at the mall linked to such a dud of a movie. (Granted, I haven't seen "Fred Claus," but I have heard it's a failure both on screen and at the box office.)

Four More Questions, Please

Four is the atomic number of beryllium!

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave's wearing a blue dress shirt, dark blue tie, and a pair of dark brown khakis. Through the magic of iSight technology (built into his MacBook), you can see what he looks like:

Photo Booth picture of Dave goofing around.jpg

These are some of the facial expressions Dave makes every morning as he writes his blog in Starbucks. Accordingly, most people believe Dave to be a crazy person and leave him alone. This, quite frankly, is probably best for everyone.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels photogenic, which should be evident by now.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave is happy it's Friday.

Q. Did Dave watch any of the exciting sports games last night?
A. Dave did not watch either the Lightning-Red Wings game, or the Cowboys-Packers game. He is glad, because in both cases the wrong team won. Boo! Hiss!

Thursday, November 29

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, Part III

The Skymall catalog is an endless font of things I do not want.

On flights, I'll often rifle through the pages, pointing out certain items to Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley.

If you ever bring this into our home, I usually say, I will divorce you.

This, of course is an idle threat. I would never, ever divorce Britt. This is because we cannot get married, so there is no way we can get divorced. I would simply leave him if he were to bring these things home.

I have just discovered that the Skymall catalog exists online, at, so I no longer need to buy a plane ticket and endure the security lines in order to discover the latest offerings at Hammacher Schlemmer.

On my last flight, I saw, of all things, a Freddie Mercury figurine. Here is the picture as it appears on the online site:

Freddy Mercury doll on Skymall Web site screengrab

Here is the description:

18" Freddie Mercury Action Figure with Sound: The legendary Queen vocalist now comes in 18" action figure form! Freddie comes with a ball jointed neck and articulated shoulders for added customization. Motion activated triggers bring forth a medley of classic Queen songs! Figure comes complete with microphone and stand.

This costs $44.95. Please add it to the lengthy list of things I do not want.

(Previous installments of I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got: Part I, Part II.)

I Wish To Own A GMC Geography

Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley agree that Buick Enclave is a silly name for a vehicle, as enclave is a term for a small geographic region and we usually see it in New York Times travel articles in the following context: "(insert name of town here), the long established gay enclave in (insert name of area here)."

I'll admit the word has some positive connotations -- mainly a sense of being protected and being set apart from the masses. It still sounds silly, though. And it's a step away from the long established trend of naming cars for actual places, such as the Chevy Tahoe and the Subaru Tribeca.

Britt and I have concocted some more ridiculous automobile names, in case the industry wants to buy them:

-- The Nissan Neighborhood
-- The Acura Area
-- The Renault Region
-- The GMC Suburb (as opposed to GMC Suburban)
-- The Toyota Territory
-- The Subaru Subdivision
-- The Ford Ficus (this has nothing to do with geography, but Britt likes the name anyway, and we have some ficus trees near our house)

An Inconvenient Four Questions

Al Gore, on the importance of sending Fry back through time, on an old episode of "Futurama": "If we don't go back there and make that event happen, the entire universe will be destroyed. And as an environmentalist, I'm against that."

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing tan chinos and a blue striped polo shirt. He looks like a million bucks, minus taxes.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave knows the weekend is imminent, and therefore feels good.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave woke up in the middle of the night and ate a leftover slice of pizza. When the alarm clock went off this morning, Dave didn't recall his midnight snack right away. He was, therefore, quite surprised that his breath smelled like tomato sauce and oregano.

Q. What are Dave's thoughts about incredibly obese people wearing Phat Farm t-shirts?
A. Dave sees one of these people now, wedged into a chair outside Starbucks. Dave wonders if the wearer appreciates the irony.

Wednesday, November 28

Telling A Book By Its Cover

I know you're not supposed to be able a tell a book by it's cover. However, I've seen this book's cover, and I can tell that the book sucks:

Warriors: Firestars Quest

Here's what I can tell from the cover:

-- The book is called "Firestar's Quest."
-- It's part of an adventure series called "Warriors"
-- The protagonist is a cat.
-- There most likely be magic journeys and quests, a la "Lord of the Rings."

Am I right? Let's go to and check out the book description. Here's what it says:

There is peace at last between the warrior Clans, and Firestar is proud of the strength and unity of the cats he leads in ThunderClan. All four forest Clans are thriving, training new warriors and keeping their boundaries without conflict.

But Firestar's dreams are haunted by wailing cats fleeing a terrible disaster. With unexpected help from an old kittypet friend, he discovers a shocking secret: StarClan, the warrior ancestors who guide his paw steps, have lied to him.

Firestar is faced with the hardest decision of his life. Can he really turn his back on the forest that has become his home and embark on a perilous quest to discover a dark truth—one that has been buried beyond the memory of living cats? Whatever he finds at the end of his journey, he knows that nothing can ever be the same again.

You see? You can tell a book by its cover. I can can tell that this book it utterly ridiculous.

To be honest, I have nothing against fiction for fantasy lovers and cat lovers. I just never thought the two circles would overlap on a Venn diagram -- and, apparently, create a lucrative fiction franchise.

Good News, Everyone! It's The Four Questions!

Al Gore: "As I discuss in my book Earth in the Balance, and the more popular Harry Potter and the Balance of the Earth, we need to protect ourselves against the greenhouse effect and dark wizards."
Dark Wizard: "Oh sure, blame the wizards."
-- An old episode of Futurama (the one where Richard Nixon's head tries to kill all the robots)

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing a black polo shirt and a pair of dark brown khakis. The color scheme looks vaguely militaristic, actually, but it's too late for Dave to go home and change.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels blah.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave was wired last night, and had problems falling asleep. He's a little tired this morning. He hopes the caffeine he's consuming right now kicks in soon.

Q. If Dave had a Fish 'n' Flush toilet tank (see the post from earlier today), what kind of fish would he put in it?
A. Dave strokes his goatee pensively and wonders where he could get piranha.

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, Part II

Here's another potential Hanukkah gift that I do not want: the Fish 'n' Flush toilet. This is an actual product. The Web site is located here, and here's the first few paragraphs of the company's press release which, for some reason, I received yesterday, even though it's widely known that I do not cover the novelty toilet tank industry:

Fish n Flush Aquarium Toilet Tank Brings Decorative Twist To Bathrooms.

(Westminster, California) - It's a unique new product whose decorative appeal could turn the bathroom into the most talked about room in the house. The Fish n Flush is clear two-piece toilet tank that replaces a standard toilet tank and cleverly contains a fully functioning aquarium inside. The Fish-n-Flush's insert can be filled with water for fish or left dry for use as a terrarium for a pet reptile or to house colorful plants or foliage.

"We wanted to develop a product that had a dual purpose - to serve as a proper, fully functional toilet and also as a source of entertainment and conversation," says Richard Quintana, CEO of AquaOne. "Fish-n-Flush is definitely an attention-getter."

I have so many problems with the Fish 'n' Flush. For starters:

-- Is it the Fish 'n' Flush, the Fish n Flush or the Fish-n-Flush? The company can't make up its mind.
-- In the bathroom, flush is always a verb. Accordingly, if I see a product called a Fish 'n' Flush, I expect the fish part of the name to be a verb too. (Whenever you see an 'n' in the middle, it's usually linking two similar words: shake 'n' bake, rock 'n' roll, and so on.) When this press release popped up in my inbox yesterday, I immediately thought of people fishing as they flushed their toilets. Even if that weren't totally weird, it would be totally unhygienic.
-- Think of the poor fish! Don't they deserve a better view?

I can think of one advantage of a Fish 'n' Flush, though. When a fish dies, you don't have to travel far to dispose of it.

(Click here for Part I of I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.)

Tuesday, November 27

The Future Is Now (Updated)

The new Futurama DVD is here! I am so happy I nearly wet myself in Best Buy.

The Futur(ama) Is Now

I have waited for this moment since Aug. 10, 2003 (when the last episode, "Idle Hands Are the Devil's Playthings," aired on Fox).

Alas, I have to wait two more hours. Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley is teaching an evening class tonight. (How dare he work tonight! Does he not know tonight is the most important Futurama viewing event in nearly five years? Why must I continue to wait to hear Bender say the five most important words in the animated robot universe: "Bite my shiny metal ass"?)

Update at 11:03 p.m.:

Aaaah, it was bliss. Sure, after so much time, there was no way the Futurama movie could have met all my expectations, but I loved it anyway. The pacing seemed a little stilted to me, there wasn't enough Zoidberg, and the Fry-in-the-20th-century story seemed a little awkward, but I'm not too upset. The movie was hilarious and rewards fans who have been awaiting its return. I enjoyed it greatly, and I'm thrilled that three more feature-length movies are coming out on DVD in 2008.

This bit had me rolling on the floor:

Leela: "What's the secret of time travel doing on Fry's ass?"
Fry, plainly: "It was bound to be somewhere."

Al Gore plays himself in the movie. In the big climactic space battle, he attacks the enemy ships and proclaims, somewhat flatly:

"Finally, I get to save the Earth with deadly laser blasts instead of deadly slide shows."

Did I mention that the enemy ships are miniature solid gold Death Stars, covered in bling? Brilliant!

Who Needs David Beckham?

I believe the title says it all.

Elephants play soccer
Elephants play soccer

Oh When The Saints Go Marching Out

I can't abide the Visa ads that attempt to shame people who use cash. There's a whole series of them: One shows people buying lunch in a cafeteria; another is set in a mall food court; one depicts morning in Manhattan. There's a spot set in a whimsical toy store, one in a garden center, and one showing showing the entire city of New Orleans feting the city's NFL team.

I despise these ads because they don't jibe with reality. I use my Visa card frequently. I also use cash. The idea that these ads try to convey -- that Visa transactions are seamless, and that cash transactions will bring commerce to a screeching halt, is simply untrue in my experience.

Some of these ads also show people attempting to pay for things with checks. Yes, checks are slow and clunky and hold up everyone else in the store, so Visa makes a valid point. However, how many people are still using checks in public these days?

I think these ads play on people's fear of being the person that sticks out in a crow. In the ads, the people paying by cash or check are disrupt the harmonious flow of business. The music stops, the celebration stops, the dancing stops. Everyone else stares at the person who stopped the party. We, the viewers, are led to assume that the person paying by cash or check is an idiot -- someone to be mocked for his or her mistake, and to be forgiven only once he or she atones with a Visa card.

What's sad, however, is that these ads present universes of hegemony. Everyone is doing the same exact thing, dancing to the same song, cheering the same team. They march in lockstep. They're cogs in a machine. Deviance is not to be tolerated. This is the world of "1984."

(Think I'm taking this comparison too far? Listen closely to the music in the garden center ad. It's "Brazil." That's the same song Terry Gilliam used in his dystopian, Orwellian, duct-filled fantasy, also called "Brazil." This is either a bizarre coincidence, or someone in charge of picking the music for the Visa ads has a wonderfully outlandish sense of humor.)

Out of all these Visa ads, my least favorite is the one set in New Orleans. It shows people all over the city whooping it up in New Orleans Saints t-shirts and gear, and buying New Orleans Saints merchandise with their Visa cards. The unspoken message is that you need Saints stuff to party in New Orleans, and that you can't buy all this wonderful stuff without a Visa card. The music and the party stops when a preppy, effeminate guy in a pastel polo shirt tries to buy a canister of tennis balls using cash. (Once again, see, he doesn't fit in. He's someone to mock and deride. He is not buying Saints stuff!) Once his pathetic transaction is over, people can buy more Saints stuff with their Visa cards and the festivities can begin again.

I yell a lot at the teevee. It's a habit I picked up from my mother. Nowadays, when I see a Visa ad, I root for the nonconformist.

Red Snappers Snappin', Clam Shells Clappin', Muscles Flexin', Flippers Flippin', Four Questions Questionin'

We were at the beach.
Everybody had matching towels.
Somebody went under a dock.
And there they saw a rock.
It wasn't a rock --
It was the Four Questions!

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing a red (actually Merlot- or Burgundy-colored, for all you oenophiles out there) button down shirt, and a pair of olive drab khakis.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave is a little tired, as he had to wake up early to bring in his car for service.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave can't get "Rock Lobster" by the B-52's out of his head. He also is a little tired, because he fell asleep late and woke up early.

Q. How does Dave like waiting in the Kuhn Honda-Volkswagen service area?
A. Dave says the waiting area is very pleasant. There are six people here. Three people are absorbed in their newspapers; one is reading a book; one appears to be a college student, reviewing his notes and working on his notebook computer. And then there's Dave. The television, refreshingly, is turned off.

Update: Dave spoke too soon. The teevee has been turned on, and now everyone is gawking at it.

Greetings From Kuhn Honda-Volkswagen On Kennedy Boulevard

I'm here at the repair shop at 7 a.m., waiting for my the engine guard (the plastic shield that prevents all of the stuff on the road from getting into my car's delicate innards) to be repaired or, more likely, replaced. I don't know exactly what it's going to cost, but I have a theory that any visit to the car repair shop will cost either $30, $300 or $3,000.

Check your receipts. There's something to my theory, isn't there?

I ripped my engine guard Sunday night in a restaurant parking lot. Apparently, I pulled up too far in a parking spot, and when I pulled out, the engine guard was stuck on the concrete bumper that is, ironically, supposed to prevent you from pulling your car too far forward and damaging it.

Monday, November 26

Photos From Thanksgiving And The Weekend

On Thanksgiving, we drove to Jacksonville for Thanksgiving with Lee, Michon, Mom, Dad, Ryland, Uncle Larry, Aunt Sandy -- and Ryland, the world's cutest baby.

We came back Thursday night because I had to work Friday.

On Saturday, we went to the zoo.

Here are some photos.

Ryland and the grandparents

Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley does his tiger impression (see the claws?), and Ryland loves it!

Lee does unspeakable things to the Thanksgiving bird.

Awwwww, it's Uncle Britt and Ryland.

We brave the crowds at Ears to buy our new ashing achine and ryer. Remember their old advertising slogan: Come see the ofter side of Ears?

African penguins frolicking. I bet they taste like turkey.

It's the amazing legless giraffe. Not so amazing, come to think of it.

Little Tamani and his mother, Ellie.

Britt And I Are Good Stewards Of The Environment

Some time today, a truck from Sears will pull up in front of the Simanoff-Shirley estate and deliver a brand new washing machine and clothes dryer.

I'm pretty excited, even though I know that expressing excitement over a new washer and dryer makes me something of a loser.

Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley does most of the laundry duty in our household. It's not that I don't mind doing it. It's just that I don't get a chance. I'm a once-a-week laundry guy. Britt will do it twice a day. I'll drop a t-shirt on the floor and 20 seconds later it will be in the washing machine. I had no idea that two grown men could produce so much dirty laundry.

When Britt's at a conference or on one of his extended mileage runs, I'll let two or three loads of laundry accumulate, and then do it all at once.

There are a handful of reasons I'm excited about this new washer and dryer.

For one thing, the washer is a front-loading machine. This is what washing machines looked like when I was growing up in Europe, so it just looks proper to me. It also means we'll have the option of stacking the washer and dryer in the future if we reconfigure our laundry nook, which we'd like to do.

Also, both the washer and dryer are high-efficiency machines, which is important to both both Britt and me -- especially considering how much laundry we seem to do. We want to conserve resources and help the environment, and these machines will help us. The new washing machine uses much less electricity and water than our current machine. The drum inside our new dryer is insulated with baby seal fur, which cuts drying time by 50 percent and reduces electricity usage.

These are truly the Toyota Priuses of household appliances.

You're So Vain You Probably Think These Four Questions Are About You

Your hat: strategically dipped below one eye.
Your scarf: it was apricot.
Your questions: there were four.

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing a blue dress shirt, blue pants, and a red tie. It's a rather simplistic outfit, now that Dave thinks about it.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave is worried about money issues.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave and Britt purchased a new washing machine and dryer over the weekend. They will be delivered sometime this morning; Britt will be home. Last night, Dave damaged his car -- he pulled forward too far in a parking space, and the plastic protector on the bottom of the car got entangled on the concrete barrier that is, ironically, designed to keep you from damaging your car by pulling too far forward in the parking space.

Q. Can't Dave just fix the bottom of the car with duct tape?
A. Dave laughs at the idea of just fixing anything automotive. He knows how to fill the gas tank, replace the wiper blades, and fill the windshield wiper fluid tank -- and that's about it.

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Sorry for the unexpected weekend hiatus. The past few days didn't afford me much blogging time.

Thursday, November 22

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone

Regular posting will resume tomorrow, after I've had a chance to digest all this turkey.

Wednesday, November 21

Meeting You With A View To A Kill, And The Four Questions

Face to face,
In secret places,
Feel the chill -- and The Four Questions

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is not wearing a neon-colored patchwork shirt and waaaaaay too much cologne. He wishes to point this out, because this is exactly what the guy next to him at Starbucks is wearing. Complimentary Spouse Britt Shirley would identify this particular brand of cologne as Calvin Klein's Asphyxia.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels he is about to pass out from the overpowering stench of cologne.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave is wondering why this guy is wearing so much cologne. Is he covering up some sort of horrible body odor problem?

Q. Why doesn't Dave just move?
A. Dave likes the comfy chair.

Borders Pushes Me To The Edge

Ordinarily, I don't like giving people gift cards as presents, because I think they're a little bit impersonal -- and because I don't think it shows that I've put that much thought into a gift.

This year, however, I'm hopelessly devoid of ideas for Hanukkah presents, so it's beginning to look like everyone in my family is going to receive a gift card.

I was thrilled to discover that Borders now lets people create customized gift cards online. According to the Borders Web site, you can add your own photos and text and have the cards mailed to anyone you want.

I thought these customized Borders gift cards would be a good compromise. Yes, I'd still be sending people gift cards -- but they would be gift cards that reflected some thought and creativity on my part.

I went to the Borders Web site and clicked on the "Design Your Own" link.

Borders: Create your own gift card screengrab

Nothing happened. I clicked it again. And again. I turned off the pop-up blocker on my browser. I reloaded the page. I tried again in Firefox, the other browser on my computer.

What the hell?

There wasn't even an error message. The link didn't work. I felt like I was pressing an elevator button during a blackout: no matter how many times I tried, nothing happened.

Frustrated, I clicked Borders' "Contact Us" link and filled out the online customer service form. I explained what I was trying to do, what had happened, what computer hardware and software I was using.

I click the "Submit" button, and see the following page:

Borders: Feature unavailable screengrab
We're sorry. This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Customer service is now a feature at Borders?

Now, I know I'm just the victim of two unfortunate technical glitches at the same Web site. And I know these things happen online. I certainly don't take it personally.

However, it certainly seems like Borders doesn't want my money. And even when Borders irons out its Internet issues, I'm not sure I'll feel confident forking over my credit card number on a Web site that seems to have had so many problems.

Damn. I guess it's back to the drawing board for Hanukkah gifts for me. Thanks for overpromising and underdelivering, Borders.

And What Happened On The Titanic Was Just An Inconvenience, I Guess

I came across this animated banner ad on yesterday. It's for travel insurance:

AIG travel insurance screengrab 1
Your cruise can take a year to save for ...

AIG travel insurance screengrab 2
... and only a second to ruin.

I love the suggestion that a shipwreck would simply ruin the cruise experience -- as if it were just a big inconvenience, no worse than bad weather, or an outbreak of a shipwide illness, or the lido deck being closed for the entire voyage.

Don't you think that if you were on a cruise, and the entire ship sank to the bottom of the ocean, you'd have bigger issues to deal with than trying to get some kind of refund for your tickets?

Personally, I'd be more concerned with surviving -- and avoiding the sharks.

Tuesday, November 20

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer -- Check Out The Photos From Alabammer

Photos from our recent trip to Tuscaloosa and Birmingham are now online. Check them out here.

Also, one more thought about the Saturday Alabama-ULM game (following up on my previous post): Does there actually need to be an official mayonnaise of the University of Alabama athletics program? (It is Bama Mayo, in case you are wondering.)

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

As Hanukkah approaches, many of you might be thinking about gifts you'd like to buy me. I'd like to help you narrow your list. Here's a car that I don't want at all:

A car I don't want

Complimentary Spouse Britt Shirley and I saw this motorized monstrosity in Birmingham on Sunday. I can't tell if it's the putty-colored paint job or the oversized wheels that makes the thing look like a Matchbox toy.

The Four Questions Are Gonna Get You

Well we all shine on,
Like the moon and the stars and the sun.
Well we all shine on,
Everyone come on and ask Four Questions.

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing a polo shirt that seemed to be black when he put it on, but now appears to be a very dark shade of green. Perhaps Dave's eyesight is failing in his old age. Dave is also wearing a pair of beige khaki pants because, apparently, you're not supposed to leave the house without pants on. At least that's what the police told him.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave is a little groggy.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave was aghast this morning when Matt Lauer told him that the average Thankgiving meal contains 5,000 calories.

Q. What is the title of the book that the guy next to Dave at Starbucks right now is reading?
A. Dave says the book is called "The Millionaire from Nazareth." Dave will have to ask about it, as he doesn't recall learning anything about Jesus' financial prowess in his comparative religion classes. Dave wonders if the first chapter is titled: "Give a Man a Fish and He'll Eat for a Day, but Teach a Man to Fish and You Can Charge Him for Lessons"?

Sunday, November 18

The Problem With Houndstooth Caps

As a Floridian, I really thought my houndstooth cap would set me apart from the crowd in Tuscaloosa.

I was utterly mistaken:

Yes, yes, yes -- I know "You Can Leave Your Hat On" isn't an entirely appropriate piece of music. However, it's the only item in my entire, vast iTunes library that's related to the subject of headgear.

Also, Britt knew I was taking pictures surreptitiously of other people and their houndstooth caps yesterday at Bryant-Denny stadium. However, I didn't know that Britt secretly was taking pictures of me. He showed me this photo this morning:

Dave at Bryant-Denny stadium

Roll Tide Time

Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley and I are in Alabama this weekend. We came here to see yesterday's University of Alabama football game, which should have been an easy rout over the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Instead, the Crimson Tide struggled and lost.

How sad.

Yesterday marked my first trip to Tuscaloosa, and my first University of Alabama football game. Britt and I had been talking about seeing a Crimson Tide game for several years -- wanted to go because Tuscaloosa and Alabama home games were such a big part of Britt's life before he met me, and so I wanted us to experience these things together.

Also, I wanted to see where they make the Flavor Aid that Britt has been drinking all his life.

(Yes, it was Flavor Aid they drunk at Jonestown. Not Kool-Aid. You can look it up.)

Here are some observations:

-- Tuscaloosa is a charming college town, albeit a much smaller one that Gainesville
-- The University of Alabama band played "Sweet Home Alabama" three times. That seemed appropriate. It also played the Jean Valjean theme from "Les Misérables," which strikes me as just about the gayest thing you can play on a football field in the Deep South.
-- The people sitting around Britt and me at the Alabama game were a lot more civil that than the people who usually sit around us at Buccaneers games.
-- No beer at a football game? That's just un-American!
-- In the fourth quarter, the Alabama players were headed toward a touchdown that would have tied the score -- and bungled it.
-- Britt's old apartment building has been turned into a retail center with a Quizno's and an Asian restaurant.
-- Tailgaters are everywhere.
-- The University of Alabama's Women's Studies program is located in Manly Hall.

Friday, November 16

What Exactly Are You Saying, Viagra Advertising People?

The latest "Viva Viagra" ad features a bunch of guys, hanging out in someone's living room (or perhaps an inn lobby or a clubhouse), engaged in a fun jam session and singing the praises of Viagra.

Women aren't featured in the ad. Women aren't even hinted at in this ad.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, it's refreshing to see an ad that appears to show gay people without resorting to mincing stereotypes. It's also good to see that Madison Avenue and Corporate America acknowledge their LGBT consumers in a national ad campaign.

On the other hand: It's a group of men in a friggin' Viagra ad! What's the implication of that? The Viagra ads that feature heterosexual couples don't show large groups of heterosexual couples hanging out, do they? No, they seem to go to great pains to imply that Viagra is used by monogamous married couples in long term relationships.

Also, what's up with the "Viva Viagra" song? Oh, that's like a cheese grater applied directly to the ears.

One last thing: I know some people will read this and point out that the ad suggests that the men are indeed heterosexual because, after singing about how wonderful Viagra is, they're seen driving off, presumably to fuck have heterosexual intercourse with their opposite-sex partners.

If you want to believe that, go right ahead. But remember that your assumption is mine. And if the people who made this ad didn't want viewers to reach the conclusion I did, then they did a really bad job.

Don't Believe The Tripe

Fellow Tribunaut Rich Mullins, a true Renaissance man who makes his own furniture and once raised sheep in Australia, snapped this photo on his way into work this morning:

KFC Tripe Dip Strips

Either KFC has concocted the worst fast food monstrosity of all time, or this sign is missing a letter.

I've never tasted tripe. Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley, my American Community School pal Craig Souza and I once ordered it accidentally at a dim sum lunch in San Francisco. We thought the waiter was offering us something called "beef Thai," not "beef tripe." Britt recognized the noodles weren't actually noodles as soon as the dish hit the table, and deduced what the waiter meant. He tried the tripe anyway. Craig and I could see the look of disgust immediately on Britt's face. We didn't touch the stuff.

Seeing Rich's photo reminded me of Britt's offal culinary adventure in San Francisco. (Get it? Offal? Oh man, why do you people put up with my lousy puns?)

Tripe Dip isn't the worst thing I've seen advertised on a fast food sign. About two years ago, Britt and I were in Jacksonville and we passed by a Burger King offering a very special sandwich:

Burger King Anus Shroom and Swiss Burger

At least tripe, while disgusting, is at least classified as food. An anus burger just isn't sanitary.

Today's Memo: Bluetoothtard

To: The idiot at Chili's in Airside C at Tampa International Airport
From: Dave
Date: Nov. 16, 2007
Subject: Bluetooth

Why the hell do you think it's necessary to continue wearing your Bluetooth headset while you're eating dinner with your family? It's obvious you're not talking on the phone.

Have you worn that headset, with the little blue light that keeps flashing out of your range of vision but is a distraction to everyone else on this side of your damn face, for so long it has become permanently fused to your ear?

Or -- this is my theory -- do you actually believe that you look so cool wearing your Bluetooth headset that you refuse to take it off, even when you're eating, and even when you're conversing with your wife and son?

You are a horrible, horrible person and I detest you.

Happy Birthday, Britt

Today is Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley's birthday. He's a couple of years older than me -- but not so many that he's expecting a telegram from the Queen or a mention from Willard Scott.

I've made a short video in Britt's honor. It's posted here on my .Mac gallery.

I have also posted a copy on my YouTube account. The video and sound quality isn't nearly as good on YouTube as it is on .Mac, as you'll notice below, but YouTube lets me stick the movie right into my blog, like this:

Britt and I are heading to Tuscaloosa this weekend to celebrate his birthday. Roll Tide!

Thursday, November 15

Bionic Imponderables

Some questions that came to mind as I watched "Bionic Woman" last night:

-- Wouldn't the bionic implants in Jamie Sommers' body require power? Where's that power coming from? I have to plug my iPod into my computer every once in a while to charge it up. If she can convert food into electrical energy for her bionic implants, wouldn't we need to see her shoveling a lot of food into her mouth?

-- I see Jamie running at super speeds, but where's the friction and chafing?

-- Are we really to believe that her fashionable high heels are going to hold up as she sprints around town?

-- How can her bionic ear work like a directional microphone if she doesn't turn her head?

-- If this super-secret agency has enough money to fund the world's most advanced bionic research and worldwide covert operations, why doesn't it have a few dollars left over to pay for a damn window in its office?

-- Why isn't the first bionic woman, the evil one, in every episode? She's way cooler than Jamie Sommers!

All The World's A Stage, And All The Men And Women Merely Ask Four Questions

If prick us, do we not bleed? If you ask Four Questions, do we not answer?

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing brown khaki pants and a black-and-white striped rugby shirt. Dave usually feels entitled to dress somewhat more casual on Thursday than other people do, as he has to wear a jacket and tie on Friday to tape his Business Report segment for WFLA, while his coworkers wear Z. Cavaricci pants and Hypercolor T-shirts.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels completely rewarded and fulfilled at work. He is not in any way bitter that a story Dave had written Monday was held for two days, and subsequently the competing newspaper in town was able to publish its story on the same topic first. He is not at all embarrassed or let down. Anyone who reads this paragraph and thinks Dave is being sarcastic is wrong. Dave is never sarcastic.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Sunshine and cool weather make Dave happy.

Q. Did Dave own a pair of Z. Cavaricci pants?
A. No, but America's Favorite Little Brother Lee Simanoff did, and wore them to his own Bar Mitzvah reception. This is why photographs from the reception have been burned, and the ashes have been buried at an undisclosed location somewhere in Nevada. Reformed Sourpuss Doug Stanley doesn't know what Z. Cavaricci pants are, so Dave explained that they were very popular in South Florida and looked exactly like the pants that M.C. Hammer wore in his "Can't Touch This" video. As he explained this, Dave realized that he could do the M.C. Hammer "Too Legit To Quit" hand gesture from memory. Doug's response: "You're scaring me."

Wednesday, November 14

Shiny Happy Four Questions

Meet me in the crowd, people, people. Throw your love around, Four Questions, Four Questions.

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing a red plaid button-down shirt and a pair of jeans. It's somewhat casual Wednesday!

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave's a little unsure about today. He thinks he knows what he needs to do at work, but he's worried that the agenda will be changed as soon as the meeting begins, if you get his drift.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave is enjoying the pleasant Florida November weather:

Wednesday weather screen grab

Q. Does Dave have anyone special in his thoughts today?
A. Dave, Britt and the entire Simanoff clan will be thinking of Melinda Harrington, who is undergoing surgery this afternoon. Dave says Melinda and her partner Ryan Dawson are wonderful people, and he offers his best wishes for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery.

All Snack Cakes Are Equal, But Some Snack Cakes Are More Equal Than Others

Speaking of "Animal Farm" ...

The villain of "Animal Farm" is a pig named Snowball. There is also a Hostess snack cake called a Sno-Ball.

I don't particularly like Sno-Balls. They are chocolate cakes with a gelatinous texture (weird), covered with a thin marshmallow-like substance (good), rolled in pink coconut flakes (meh). However, for some inexplicable reason, I developed a sudden craving for a Sno-Ball about three weeks ago, and I couldn't find one anywhere in Tampa. I searched convenience stores, gas stations and groceries.

The craving has long passed, but the hunt is still on. I am determined to prove that I haven't somehow fallen into an alternate Sno-Ball free universe.

The lack of success is starting to frustrate me. A few days ago, I marched up to Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley and snapped: "Who do you have to fuck in this town to get a Sno-Ball?"

Perhaps I should have explained what a Sno-Ball is before I said that.

A Moo To A Kill

I recently bought a glue stick so that I can paste items into my Moleskine notebook.

I had been using ordinary sellotape, but fellow Tribunaut David Williams showed me the Moleskine notebook he prepared for his trip to Japan. He used spray adhesive to insert maps, timetables and other documents. I was wowed by the results; it looked very professional. I told David I wasn't willing to carry around a can of spray adhesive, and he said a glue stick would probably work just as well.

This is how I ended up shopping for glue for the first time since I was in elementary school. And it's why I was recently reminded that the logo for Elmer's Glue is a smiling cow.

Does anyone else think this is an inappropriate symbol for a glue company?

Unless I have been wildly misinformed, glue is made by boiling down the bones and skin of animals like like horses -- and cows.

If I were a cow, and I were on a glue bottle, I wouldn't be smiling. I'd be freaking out.

Standing there in the shop, I couldn't help but think of dear Boxer being sent to the glue factory in "Animal Farm." Did the Elmer's Glue cow suffer the same fate, always pledging to work harder, getting weaker and weaker while the stupid pigs -- especially that vile Snowball profited and got fatter?

I hate being an English major. I can't even buy a glue stick without turning the experience into a dissertation.

Tuesday, November 13

There's More Than One Answer To These Four Questions

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains. I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains. There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line. And the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine -- and the Four Questions.

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing a pair of dark brown pants and a black polo shirt.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave's a little tired. Thank you for asking.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave is stumped. He's trying to figure out what to get the different members of his family for Hanukkah, and can't think of anything. He always tries to think of useful, meaningful gifts -- but usually ends up frustrated, and running out to Target, Best Buy or Borders for impersonal gift cards.

Q. What song does Dave reference in today's Four Questions title and introduction?
A. Dave is referencing the Indigo Girls' "Closer to Fine," one of the greatest songs of all time. The lyrics are brilliant: it's "You Can't Always Get What You Want" for philosophy majors. An excerpt:

And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free.

Pulling A Fast One

I'm not sure this is the most appropriate license plate to stick on the back of a Corvette:

LUV2 SPD Corvette
Corvette with LUV2SPD license tag

It might be truthful, but I'm sure it would completely undermine all your efforts to weasel out of getting a speeding ticket if you're pulled over by the police.

In fact, if I were a police officer, I'd be more inclined to pull over the Corvette with the LUV2SPD license tag than, say, a Honda Civic with a generic Florida tag.

There's something to be said for modesty on the highway.

Stray Days Are These

The stray cat returned to our house several times last week. I fed him once or twice, feeling guilty as I did it, but knowing I'd feel more guilty if I ignored him.

He is quite handsome. He looks like an Orangesicle.




I really wish I knew what to do with the little fella. I know it's not a good idea to feed strays. I'm not going to adopt him, as he's a feral cat. He's too small to turn into a rug, á là a bear or a tiger. I've made up my mind not to give him any more food, but I'll probably reconsider my position if it's cold, and he's hungry, and he meows for food like Watson used to.

We'll Also Be Registered At Chevron

On Sunday, I noticed CVS has started selling dinnerware. This is an exciting development. I hope that one day Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley and I will be allowed to get married, because I want to tell people that our china pattern is registered at the drug store.

China at CVS

Wishful Thinking

If I win the lottery tomorrow, Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley are dropping everything and heading immediately to this weekend's Surin Annual Elephant Round-Up and Elephant Show.

I figure it will cost at least $3,000 for two round-trip tickets from Tampa to Bangkok. I have no idea how to get from Bangkok to Surin, but that's why I keep Britt around -- he's quite good at making travel arrangements. We should be back in time to see my family in Jacksonville for Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12

I Sold The Renior And The TV Set, And I Don't Want To Be Around When The Four Questions Get Out

The Reflex is an only child; he's waiting in the park. The Four Questions are in charge of finding treasure in the dark.

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing a blue long-sleeve dress shirt and a pair of brown dress pants. He has a blue sports jacket, which is in his car.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels swell. He feels great. He's going to have the whole world on a plate. Starting here, starting now, honey, Dave says everything is coming up roses.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave appears to be suffering from Ethelmermanitis. He hopes a cure is discovered soon.

Q. Has Dave recently seen any signs that were supposed to suggest holiday festivities but, in reality, made him think of indigestion?
A. Yes. Dave recently saw the following sign at Champps cq, the ritzy sports bar at International Plaza:

Olive and peppermint? Blecch.

Dave doesn't think the traditional martini, garnished with two olives, would mix well with a peppermint candy cane.

Men And Women

I've been using a program called Reunion 9 to build and maintain a Simanoff-Shirley family tree. It's a fairly powerful program, but it's essentially a big database. You plug in names and dates and, when you've got enough information, it will generate humdrum charts and trees.

Reunion does what it's supposed to do, but I wish it did two things differently. First, I wish there were some kind of graphical interface -- that is, instead of entering information on forms and tables, you could add data and move things around directly on the family trees themselves. Second, I wish the family trees didn't look so ordinary.

Over the weekend, I learned about a new genealogy program for the Mac called, surprise surprise, MacFamilyTree. It does exactly what I want Reunion to do. Families are represented directly on the screen, and you can click on a person to add a spouse, children or parents. To me, this is much more intuitive than entering all of this information on a table and then generating a family tree to ensure that in fact all of the family relationships are correct.

Here's a look at my parents and siblings:

MacFamilyTree (resized)

And here's a look at my parents, Lee and Michon, and Ryland:

MacFamilyTree screen grab 2

I was pretty happy toying around with the demo version of MacFamilyTree. In fact, I was considering migrating from Reunion, until I saw how MacFamilyTree classified Britt and me:

MacFamilyTree (resized)

That's right. MacFamilyTree won't actually recognize same-sex couples. It dresses up the female member of the couple as a man when it displays the pair on screen. (What a drag!) I contacted someone at the company that makes MacFamilyTree, and he said that right now there's no way around this.

Reunion doesn't list Britt or me as a woman. It might not be the splashier program, but I think I'll stick with it. It's the program that recognizes that we're both men and we're a couple.

Today's Memo: Tailgater

To: The idiot tailgater in the Saturn SUV, following me in Manatee County Saturday afternoon
From: Dave
Date: Monday, Nov. 12
Subject: Basic driving skills

You fucking moron! If I can't see your front wheels in my rear view mirror, you are driving waaaaaay too close to my vehicle.

You leadfooted asshole! You're in such a hurry to get somewhere that you're risking your safety and mine. If we get into an accident, you're going to be very late, aren't you?

You don't have superhuman reflexes. Even if you did, your vehicle can't stop on a dime. You should leave more than a few molecules of space between our cars.

If I were a callous man -- and if I didn't have to worry about hurting anyone, or dealing with insurance companies, or the costs involved in repairing my car or replacing it -- I would have slammed on my brakes, just to teach you a lesson.

Saturday, November 10

I Missed Friday

I apologise for the lack of posts yesterday. I couldn't write anything in the morning, as I had to schlep to Palm Harbor to interview Sheila C. Johnson (who is absolutely fascinating). And I couldn't write anything in the evening, as there was some late-breaking news, and then I sent to synagogue, and then Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley and I went to a party in honor of Vicki Lim, who's leaving WFLA.

Thursday, November 8

Follow Me. Don't Follow Me. I've Got My Spine. I've Got My Four Questions And My Orange Crush.

We are agents of the free. I've had my fun, and now it's time to serve your conscience overseas (over me, not over me). It's coming in fast, over me -- and my Four Questions!

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is a blue long-sleeve button-down shirt and a pair of jeans. It's an appropriate outfit, considering the temperature has dropped here in the Tampa Bay area and it's approximately zero degrees outside. Actually, it's probably in the 50s right now, but for a Floridian, anything below 75 degrees is considered Arctic weather.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels somewhat confident and optimistic.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave credits caffeine for his peppy, spunky attitude this morning.

Q. Exactly how much caffeine has Dave drunk this morning?
A. Dave stopped counting after the sixth iced cafe con leche. He thinks he needs just two more espressos before he can hover in the air like a hummingbird. Hummmmmm.

"I Write And Joke About It, But When You See People Sitting In Their Own Urine At A Slot Machine ..."

America's Favorite Freshman Roommate Pauly McGuire, better known to everyone besides me as America's Favorite Poker Blogger, is making headlines again.

He's been interviewed by Michele Lewis, a fellow poker blogger. Actually, this is the second time Michele has interviewed Pauly. In the introduction, she explains that Pauly's first "Studs of Poker" interview just couldn't satisfy her.

Here's one of Pauly's excerpts:

When money and fame are involved it intensifies people’s personalities. You get to see people at their worst and their best. But I guess that’s the bad part because you see the worst part of people and the worst part of big business. You see serious addictions everyday. I write and joke about it but when you walk by people sitting in their own urine at a slot machine, that’s behavior because of gambling and their inability to handle their addictions. It’s as much of society as anything else but living in Las Vegas and being on the poker circuit the past three years, you get to see a dark side of humanity.

Then there are people winning lots of money and just blowing it. Some players do good things with their money, Phil Gordon raises money for cancer, Annie Duke did a lot for Darfur, all the Vietnamese players give money to family back home like John Phan, Kenny Tran and Liz Lieu and Barry Greenstein gives away his winnings.

You'll find the whole interview here. As always, Pauly is insightful. I don't know much about poker, but Pauly does a good job describing the people, passions and personalities involved.

Facing My Travel History On

I joined Facebook a few weeks ago mainly because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I have found it to be a very interesting social networking site -- it's certainly much better designed and easy to navigate than MySpace -- but I haven't really discovered anything on Facebook that really held my interest.

Until last night.

I had to sign into Facebook because a coworker, Mike Wells, had requested that I add him as a friend. After I had approved Mike's request, I looked at my short list of Facebook contacts and saw Vickie Chachere's name. Vickie is a Facebook fan. Her other claims to fame: She also works for the Tribune, she's married to reformed sourpuss Doug Stanley, and she's the mom of America's Smilingest Child Nick Stanley.

I was perusing Vickie's Facebook profile to see all the different things she does on the site: the photos, the blog, the interactive instant messages (called pokes) to other Facebook users.

Everything seemed designed to promote interaction between Vickie and her network of friends and colleagues (which includes me) on Facebook. For example, there's an area which shows the books that Vickie has recently read, and those she's planning to read soon. This section also shows which books her friends are reading.

The thing that really caught my eye was a section called "Cities I've Visited." It's a world map with tiny pushpins showing 231 cities in 9 countries. I clicked on it and got a bigger map.

Now when I see Vickie at work, I can ask her when she was in Spain or Switzerland or Germany. Or I can tell her about my own experiences in Europe.

Of course, I had to create my own "Cities I've Visited" map. If you're a Facebook user, look me up. If you're one of my Facebook friends, you can see the map on my profile page. If you're on Facebook, click here to visit me.

If you aren't on Facebook, here's a screen grab:

"Cities I've Visited" on Facebook (properly sized)

Wednesday, November 7

Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery; None But Ourselves Can Free Our Four Questions

Today's very special Four Questions are answered by America's Favorite Little Brother Lee Simanoff.

Q. What is Lee wearing?
A. Lee is wearing dress pants and a green polo shirt embroidered with the Florida Health Insurance Corporation logo. He says he'd be very grateful if you'd remember him the next time you need health care for yourself, your family or your business.

Q. How does Lee feel today?
A. Lee says he's happy because today will be a good day. He gets to pick up Ryland (the World's Cutest Baby), so he'll have some extra daddy-son play time later today.

Q. What are the factors affecting Lee's mood today?
A. Lee says the cold weather, busy schedule and new clients are affecting his mood.

Q. What is Lee planning to make for dessert for this year's Thanksgiving meal?
A. Lee says he's planning to make bread pudding out of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Dave has gained about 15 pounds just imagining what this dessert would taste like.

Walking To Lunch On Tuesday

I snapped some pictures on my way to lunch yesterday. It was very pleasant walk, regrettably ending with my arrival at the completely wrong place.

Yes, I am a total idiot.

Bank of America Plaza
Let it never be said I lack perspective.

Dave in the elevator at Bank of America Plaza
Going up!

Of Bikes And Banks

Here in the Southeast, Regions Bank is touting its acquisition of AmSouth Bank with new signage, new logos, and an extensive advertising campaign to promote its new image.

(As you may recall, I wrote about the new logo a few weeks ago in a blog post that asked why bank logos, in general, were so uninspiring. The new Regions logo looks looks like a fan or a fern.)

The Regions advertising campaign, which I've seen for a few months now, still leaves me puzzled. The TV and print ads all feature the same icon: a single-speed bicycle -- the kind a child might ride, although it's clearly large enough for adults in some of the ads -- painted the same shade of of lime green as the Regions logo.

The first TV ads, designed to introduce customers to the bank's new image, showed customers happily pedaling their way to the bank. Newer ads mention show the bicycles while mentioning the bank's products and services -- e.g., one bank about retirement services shows two bikes sitting in the foreground on a dock, and a symbol of a carefree retirement rests in the distance. (Sitting here in Starbucks, I believe it's a boat at the end of the dock, but now that I'm trying to remember the particular spot, it could just be a couple sitting out there.)

I don't begrudge Regions' advertising team for trying to be different, and a lime green bicycle certainly stands out from the other banks. However, I don't know if a children's bike is the most appropriate symbol to associate with a major financial institution.

I think you can look at bikes in two ways:

First, bikes are fun. They're what you ride when you're a kid. They invite us to put baseball cards in the spokes and bells on the handles. They're brightly colored and evoke memories of childhood. This is what the Regions bike does. But, as a banking customer, I'm not sure I'd want my bank to be fun. I want them to be responsible, and follow the rules, and take diligent care of my money. I want them to open at 9 a.m., not to be out playing in the back yard with action figures and dolls.

Here's the other view of bikes: They're what you ride when you're an adult. They're complex. They're sophisticated. They're competitive. If you put more work into them, they give you a greater reward. They provide you a means to see the world at your own pace. In a world in which everyone else is driving cars, they allow you to be nimble and stay lean.

I'm perplexed by the Regions ads because I don't understand why a bank would such a childlike symbol. It doesn't make any sense to me. It's very memorable, but you'd have a hard time convincing me that it helps win new customers.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Perhaps I'm making too much of a fuss over banks and bikes. I will ask my friend Alan Snel, the world's greatest bike enthusiast, what he thinks of the Regions Bank bike campaign. (If you haven't checked out Alan Snel's Bike Stories blog yet, head over and check it out. Wonderful stuff.)

Now, once again, let's go through my standard disclaimer: I am a business reporter, but the banking industry is not my beat. Also, blog post should not be construed as my opinions about any bank, the banking industry, ad firm, or the advertising industry. It is merely my opinion about some advertisements. Also, if you dislike anything I've said, I am completely wrong. And this entire post is a typo.

Tuesday, November 6

Chicken Soup For The Blogger's Soul

There are officially too many "Chicken Soup" books.

"Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul"

You know what book I'd like to see now? “Chicken Soup for the Chicken’s Soul”

Because, you know, you need to kill chickens to make chicken soup. The message of the book would basically be this: Now that we've killed you, and you're broth, here are some wonderfully touching stories for you to enjoy.

Hey Andy, Did You Hear About The Four Questions?

Hey Andy, are you goofing on Elvis? Hey baby, are you having fun? If you believed they put a man on the moon -- if you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then the Four Questions are cool.

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing olive drab pants, a burgundy dress shirt and a blue sports jacket. He is pretty sure that everything matches, although he's fairly certain that no one will extend him an invitation to be on the cover of GQ.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels fairly self-assured.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave believes he has a fairly good grasp on what he needs to accomplish at work today. That's a very good feeling to have in the morning. Of course, as Dave works in a newsroom, this confidence can (and most likely will) evaporate as quickly as a water drop in a frying pan.

Q. What's the scariest thing Dave has seen recently?
A. Dave's blog pal Mary Toothman recently discovered a trove of JC Penney catalog photos from 1977. Dave was horrified to see that many of the JC Penney shirts looked like the one he wore in this elementary school photo:

Dave in elementary school

Dave takes no responsibility for picking out or purchasing this shirt. Furthermore, he plans to contact a lawyer to see if it's possible to sue his parents for forcing him to wear this particular item of clothing.

More Adventures In Badvertising

I am starting to wonder if it's no longer necessary to use common sense when choosing a soundtrack for an advertising campaign.

Several years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines started running spots featuring Iggy Pop's paean to drugs and hedonism, "Lust for Life." Last month, I questioned the wisdom of using Don McLean's "American Pie" to sell Chevrolet cars: even if Chevy shortens the lyrics, the song is so well known and its chorus is a reminder of our mortality: "... singing this will be the day that I die / this will be the day that I die."

I saw another blatant example of poor judgment in advertising soundtracks last night on teevee. Two new spots for Gordon's Jewelers feature a peppy, chime-heavy wordless version of the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony."

Complimentary Spouse Britt Shirley and I caught the first ad last night, wedged between the a bunch of other ads. We were incredulous. We looked at each other, and looked back at the screen, certain that we had heard some sort of jingle that sounded sort of like "Bittersweet Symphony."

A few minutes later, another Gordon's Jewelers ad ran. The background music was clearly "Bittersweet Symphony," minus the words.

Why is "Bittersweet Symphony" so inappropriate for an advertisement? Here's a look at the opening lyrics:

'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life.
Try to make ends meet.
You're a slave to money then you die.

Nihilism is hardly the way to sell more earrings and tennis bracelets, is it?

I suppose what bothers me most that "Bittersweet Symphony" -- like "Lust for Life," in the case of Royal Caribbean" -- was chosen for how it sounds, and not for what it says.

I can't imagine how much money the Verve received for licensing their song to a jewelry store. They may think they're slaves to money, but they're laughing all the way to the bank.

Monday, November 5

Happy Holiday!

Here's wishing you a happy Guy Fawkes Day!

I wish I remembered the date earlier. It's much too late to build a bonfire. It's certainly too late to burn anyone in effigy.

It's The Four Questions As We Know It, And I Feel Fine

That’s great: it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane. The Four Questions are not afraid.

Q. What is Dave wearing?
A. Dave is wearing tan pants, a blue dress shirt, and black tie with a white-and-gray pattern. His gray sports jacket is in the car.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave's stomach is still a little queasy, but it's much better than it has been over the past three or four days.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave believes he's dealing with a stomach bug, but he's through the worst of it. As he mentioned in an earlier post, he's not going to write about the symptoms here. That's better for everyone.

Q. What did Dave think of last night's Treehouse of Horror episode of "The Simpsons"?
A. Dave enjoyed the opening sequence and the "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" spoof, but he thought the third segment, starring Ned Flanders, was particularly lame. He thought nothing measured up to the brilliance of last year's "War of the Worlds" segment. There's no question that the early Treehouse episodes were better than the newer ones.

What Little Girl Wants To Smell Like Spider-Man? (Running Errands At The Mall Makes Me Sad)

I believe P.T. Barnum said "A fool and his money are easily parted," but I could be wrong. Perhaps it was William Shakespeare, or Oscar Wilde, or Sir Mix-a-Lot. I'm pretty sure that the the other quote that's always attributed to Barnum, the one about a sucker being born every minute, was actually said by someone else.

No matter.

Yesterday, at WestShore Plaza, I found plenty of items that were, in my expert opinion, clearly being marketed to fools with too much money and too little taste.

Let's take a look:

Mixed messages for the Christmas tree
There's nothing more appropriate for a Christmas tree than an ornament that incorporates two symbols of Judaism, don't you think? Clearly, we're looking at a Star of David and a Hanukkah menorah here.

Spider-Man eau de toilette
This is Spider-Man eau de toilette. Just who, exactly, is the target market for this item? What little girl wants to smell like Spider-Man? What little boy wants perfume?

ESPN, BASS and game controller ornaments
More Christmas ornaments. The ESPN ornament looks like a flat-screen TV, and it lights up and plays the SportsCenter theme when you press a button.

"Star Wars" and "Star Trek" ornaments
The ESPN ornament wouldn't look quite so out of place next to "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" ornaments, I guess. Admittedly, I'm not an expert on Christmas trees and how to decorate them. These plastic tchotchkes, honoring sports highlight shows and science fiction films, just don't seem to reflect the spirit of the holiday as I understand it.

Brave New Store at WestShore Plaza
English majors will remember soma as the hallucinogenic drug that the government dispenses -- and encourages people to use often -- in "Brave New World" to keep the populace happy and sedated. It's used to quash bad memories. It is also, apparently, lingerie.

My Mac Is Showing The Blue Screen Of Death

Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley and I have both upgraded our MacBooks to Leopard, the spiffy new Apple operating system.

I was delighted (and a little smug) to discover that computers running Windows are represented in Leopard with this icon:

OS X 10.5 Windows icon

Here's a close-up:

OS X 10.5 Windows icon close-up

I wonder if my good pal, the Mac Poseur (cf. here and here) has been informed.

Sunday, November 4

Now (Er, Soon) Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

I expect to be returning to my regular posting schedule tomorrow morning.

As I wrote a few days ago, I was not in a very bloggy mood early last week. On late Thursday, I was sidetracked by a stomach bug that took me out of commission Friday and most of the weekend. Be grateful that I'm not describing the symptoms.

I'd post some information tonight, but there's a Patriots-Colts game to watch, followed by three back-to-back episodes of "The Simpsons" on Fox. I have priorities, people!