Wednesday, March 19

I See London, I See France ...

Photos from our trip to Branson, Mo. Paris and London are now online.

Paris at night
The Arc de Triomphe at night, as seen from the Eiffel Tower


Because Nothing Is More Alluring Than The Stench Of The Customs Hall At Miami International Airport

I associate jet lag with gritty skin, low-grade headaches, and that grimy feeling that comes from wearing the same set of clothes from way too long.

The worst thing about jet lag, though, is that you can't experience it unless you've flown partway around the world — until now! Thanks to the duty-free shop at Miami International Airport, people don't have to leave their time zone to sample jet lag. They don't have to even leave their area code. They just need to buy some overpriced, poorly named cologne.

Jet Lag perfume poster

Jet Lag perfume

The company that makes Jet Lag cologne is called Azzaro. I can't help but speculate that this is some flowery foreign word that means ass.

Monday, March 17

Be All That You Can Be Unless You're Gay

If the military had a policy that let it discriminate against blacks or women or Asians, would it be welcome to host a massive recruiting drive here at the University of Tampa, complete with a live band, emcee, free food and free drinks?

Of course not.

And yet, Don't Ask Don't Tell is still on the record books and I am experiencing such an event (the U.S. Navy College Tour) as I wait to meet the Complementary Spouse for lunch.

No one asked me what I thought. I told anyway. That's my policy.

U.S. Navy College Tour

Sunday, March 16

Back From Branson

Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley and I have just finished up our weeklong trip to Branson, Mo. It was absolutely fabulous — it looks very much like Paris and London. I will post photos online soon.

Saturday, March 8

Today's Memo: Starbucks

Your new honey latte is deceptively named. It should be called the moldy-graham-cracker-and-dirt latte. I did not taste any honey.

Sent from my iPhone

A Programming Note

Today Dave and Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley head out for their long awaited cultural highlights tour of Branson, Mo. The RV is fueled up ready to go. Nothing can hold us back!

Expect infrequent posts for the next week or so.

Friday, March 7

The Four Questions On My Mind

Q. What is Dave wearing today?
A. Dave is wearing an old black polo shirt and a pair of shorts.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave is looking forward to a very exciting day.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave is getting a haircut and having Shabbat dinner with friends today. These things are scheduled for different times, of course.

Q. Will today be the day that Dave finally asks his barber for the Mr. Clean look?
A. Dave says "hell no." However, Dave may consider the Mr. T look.

State Of The Indignation

Billions of years ago, before the earth cooled, my college roommate told me that he loved to watch me deal with stupid people.

I had no idea what he meant, so I asked him to explain.

He said that when I got irritated, I didn't raise my voice or grow frustrated. Instead, he said, I talked normally and explained the situation clearly to the other person. However, I made it very clear to everyone else around me that the other person was, in fact, a complete dumbkopf and wasting my time.

My roommate said he was impressed by my ability to be simultaneously polite and exasperated. I said I didn't realized I was doing anything like this. I asked him what I did to give him this impression. He said he wasn't quite sure, but it was mainly the way I rolled my eyes.

Fast forward to the present. I'm starting to accept the fact that I'm very good at expressing indignation.

A few months ago, I wrote a lengthy e-mail to a source whom I consider an expert on the slings and arrows that Generation X'ers suffer in the work place. I had written several other e-mails on the same topic. She wrote back:

hey, dave. these are fun. thanks for sending them. i love reading your
emails of indignation. you write indignation so well!

I have received few compliments that made me smile more.

A few days ago, my pal Sue wrote:
I looked up irascible in the dictionary and found your picture. I think you may be working your way up to curmudgeon.

I have always wanted to be a curmudgeon. I think it would look good on a business card. I'm still not sure which dictionary carries my picture, though. I hope it's the Oxford English Dictionary — that's the really prestigious one!

Badvertising Stands Alone

I am an amateur (some may say amateurish) critic of advertising and marketing. You may have noticed that I weigh in from time to time on teevee ads or campaigns or signage that drives me nuts. I also write about ads that I enjoy -- although I do this less frequently, because there is way more crap out there than good stuff.

I've started tagging these rambling thoughts about advertising and marketing, so that they're easy to separate out from the rambling thoughts about Peeps and my nephew and the other minutia that I type about.

If you want to see all the advertising and marketing posts collected in one place, just select the "Ads and Marketing" tag from the menu on the right side of the page.

I Hear The NHL Video Game People Are Planning A Sudden-Death-Mobile For This Fall

What's wrong with this picture?

Hit & Run?

Visiting college campuses around the country to promote your company's new baseball video game? Good idea.

Outfitting vans — such as the two vehicles parked between the Vaughn Center and Sykes Hall at the University of Tampa yesterday — with the latest video game systems and four large video monitors, so that college kids can walk up and try your company's new game? Good idea.

Wrapping the vans in distinctive colors and large logos? Good idea.

Calling the whole thing the "Hit and Run Tour?" Bad idea.

The universe thrives on irony. Driving around the country in a big blue van labeled "Hit and Run" is an invitation for disaster.

Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder

When you see an entire shelving display at Target filled with Peeps, and immediately take a picture with your phone and forward it to your parents who (a) are overseas and (b) love Peeps, it proves that you have a loving, close, spontaneous, friendly relationship with your mom and dad.

Eat me

If, however, you make the subject line of that message to your parents "Eat Me!" there may, in fact, be something very wrong with you.

Thursday, March 6

Get The Door. It's A Pizza Company That Thinks You're An Imbecile.

I don't think it's a good idea for a company to abase its customers in its advertisements.

Apparently, the people at Domino's Pizza disagree.

In two new television ads, Domino's implies that its customers are idiots.

The goal of the ads, I suspect, was to inform TV viewers that Domino's deliveries take 30 minutes (although the fine print at the bottom of the screen spells out that this is an estimate, not a guarantee). This message is supplanted entirely by a different one: people who order Domino's pizza use those 30 minutes to do stupid, useless things.

For example, in one of the TV spots, the Domino's deliveryman arrives to discover that the customers have picked up a pathetic Brooklyn accent in anticipation of their Brooklyn-style pizza. In the other TV spot, the deliverywoman is greeted by a customer who has burned off his eyebrows and drawn in new ones with a Magic Marker.

The tone of these ads is snarky: the customers are all bumbling and childish, while the delivery staff is patronizing and snobbish.

Nothing about these ads makes me want to be a Domino's customer, nor does it want to greet a Domino's delivery person on my doorstep. I'd rather wait a little longer for a pizza from a company that doesn't think I'm a moron, thank you very much.

A Very Special Four Questions With Our Guest Answerer Stacey Shick

Today's four questions are being answered by Stacey Shick, Dave's pal from the Tampa Tribune who is also enjoying a delicious caffeinated beverage this morning in Starbucks. Stacey is an editor extraordinaire here in Tampa. She is moving soon to New York.

David and Stacey

Q. What is Stacey wearing today?
A. Stacey is wearing gray pants and a wine-colored trenchcoat-type shirt with a bow in the back. Dave finds it to be quite fashionable. He is happy he decided not to wear the same thing today, as that would be a fashion faux pas here in Starbucks.

Q. How does Stacey feel today?
A. Stacey is cheerful.

Q. What are the factors affecting Stacey's mood today?
A. She is happy she ran into Dave and had a nice conversation.

Q. What are Stacey's thoughts about her upcoming job move to a certain major metropolitan daily newspaper that shall not be named but is based in New York?
A. Stacey says the best thing "will be a tie between actually getting to edit stories again and having clerks to place calls for me."

The Greeting Card Companies Are Trying To Make Some Extra Bread

Are Passover cards a new phenomenon, or have these always existed and I'm only now noticing them?

Passover cards?

Either way, I'm not sure I approve.

Wednesday, March 5

The Four Questions Smell Like Teen Spirit

Q. What is Dave wearing today?
A. Dave is wearing a pair of shorts and a light blue polo shirt.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels as healthy as an ox.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave wonders why oxen have a reputation for being healthy. Surely oxen must get sick sometimes, he says. Come to think of it, Dave is not sure he has ever seen a single ox in his lifetime. He has eaten oxtail soup on several occasions, however.

Q. How was the soup?
A. Dave says it was quite delicious and very salty. It also tasted quite healthy.

A Boston Massacre Haiku

O Crispus Attucks!
Dead, but school kids everywhere
Have to learn your name.

The Boston Massacre happened 238 years ago today.

When my family moved back to the United States, I was thrown into a history class with a dotty teacher who said we should remember Crispus Attucks' name by recalling that the snow was crisp and that the colonists were attacked by the British.

At my previous schools in Madrid and London, we were simply taught these things. The teachers didn't give us harebrained mnemonic devices so that we could recall names on standardized multiple-choice tests a few days later.

Fortunately, I was reassigned quickly to advanced placement classes. I didn't have to deal with the Hooked on Phonics syllabus for American history for too long.

It's A Good Time For The Great Taste Of Bad Advertising

There's a new McDonald's advertisement on teevee that's really pissing me off.

Here's the synopsis:

(I'm recalling this all from memory, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't have the quotes exactly right, or if the events not presented in order.)

First, we viewers see a woman contorting herself to squeeze into her car. She can barely open her door because there's another car parked about three microns away from hers. She looks at the camera and says "Here's to close parkers."

Next, we're at the bus stop, where an earnest looking fellow says plaintively "Here's to waking up on Thursday and thinking it's Friday." The fellow next to him on the bench adds, "It's Wednesday."

Then we go inside an average-looking office -- gray cubicles and all -- where a nondescript guy in a white shirt and tie says "Here's to the accidental reply all." A coworker pops her head over the cubicle wall and scowls, "Nice, Jerry."

At last, we're treated to the glamor shot of some fattening albeit delicious McDonald's breakfast sandwich. The narrator says "Here's to the ..." whatever kind of sandwich it is. I can't remember.

Now, the analysis:

I don't know whether to laugh or cringe at this ad, because it's an abject failure. It's poorly conceived, written and structured.

McDonald's gives us three examples of modern annoyances: the close-parker, the e-mail snafu, that moment of realization that you had miscalculated the amount of time you'll have to spend in the office before the weekend begins.

Every single one of these irritations is introduced by someone saying "Here's to.

So how does McDonald's introduce its breakfast sandwich in the ad?

It has the narrator say "Here's to." The implication is that the McDonald's breakfast sandwich is the fourth item on this litany of aggravation -- not, as the advertising agency probably intended, the little treat that makes one's morning a little less stressful.

Here's to a job well done, McDonald's.

Tuesday, March 4

Come See The Stupider Side Of Sears

Is Sears suggesting we start shopping for Christmas and Hanukkah in March, or is it proposing that St. Patrick's Day is now a gift-giving occasion?

What holiday exactly does Sears suggest we purchase these gifts for?

I spotted this sign last night at the Sears Automotive Center at WestShore Plaza. According to the dates printed in little letters on the bottom, this isn't a sign that was accidentally left up from the last holiday shopping season. It's a new sign that went up some time in February.

Did someone think that "Automotive Gifts" wouldn't sell enough merchandise? Is that why the word "Holiday" was added?

In case Sears needs some help proposing a specific holiday, here are some of the special events that come up in March. I am nothing if not helpful.
  • American Red Cross Month
  • Women's History Month
  • Irish-American Heritage Month
  • Music in our Schools Month
  • National Craft Month
  • National Frozen Food Month
  • National Noodle Month
  • March 4: National Poundcake Day
  • March 14: Pi Day
  • March 17: St. Patrick's Day
  • March 20: Purim
  • March 23: Easter
  • March 24: National Chocolate-Covered Raisin Day

Four Questions For The History Books

Q. What is Dave wearing today?
A. Dave is wearing a pair of brown shorts and a blue striped shirt.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels a lot healthier than he did yesterday. He crosses his fingers and says he hopes he's through the worst of the cold.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. Dave is ecstatic because he'll soon go on vacation with Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley, and after that he starts his new career with PricewaterhouseCooopers. It would take rhino tranquilizers to wipe the smile off Dave's face right now.

Q. What sports landmark did Dave see yesterday?
A. Dave walked past the spot where, nearly 90 years ago, Babe Ruth hit his longest home run:

Babe Ruth plaque

This is one of Dave's favorite historical markers in Tampa because (a) it's a great reminder of this area's rich spring training legacy; and, (b) it means I'm about to visit Britt, as the marker is right in front of his office.

I Think I'm Going To Like The Society Of Journalism Refugees

When you join the Society of Journalism Refugees, the University of Tampa confirms the existence of a secret ritzy upscale super-delicious gourmet cafeteria on its campus.

Usually, Tampa Tribune reporters in search of a decent lunch make the trek across Kennedy Boulevard head toward the large UT cafeteria in the Vaughn Center, a cacophonous, cavernous hall where the food is plentiful, but it's noisy, the lines can be long, noise is an issue, and — what was that? I'm sorry. I can't hear you. Can you repeat that? You'll have to speak up. Oh, did I mention the noise problem?

No one ever tells the journalists that they're just a few steps away from a second cafeteria with better food, no lines, no noise — and a host of friendly employees tending to your table and clearing your plates.

Here are a few pictures I took:

The upscale cafeteria at the University of Tampa
No journalists here!

Scenes from the ritzy UT cafeteria
Freshly made pastries.

I think I'm going to enjoy being a member of the Society of Journalism Refugees. The perks are delicious.

Monday, March 3

There Will Be Elephants

By now, you probably know that the gripping, remarkable film "There Will Be Blood" is based on "Oil!," Upton Sinclair's novel about the nascent oil industry in California.

What you probably don't know is that the movie's most famous line was inspired by Daal the elephant in a visit to Cheeburger Cheeburger in Fort Lauderdale on July 24, 2004:

Daal Drinks Your Milkshake
"I drink your milkshake. I drink it up."

Starbucks Dog

Here's one of the characters I see every morning at Starbucks:

Starbucks Dog

The Society Of Newsroom Refugees Presents The Four Questions

Q. What is Dave wearing today?
A. Dave is wearing a pair of jeans and a black polo shirt.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave still feels a little congested.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. This is the first Monday morning in more than eight years in which Dave hasn't been expected at the Tampa Tribune — except, of course, sick days and vacations.

Q. What does Dave think of the musical selections at Starbucks this morning?
A. Starbucks is now playing "We Are Family," which is a jarring departure from the usual Adult Contemporary fare and Baby Boomer pablum that's usually piped over the loudspeakers. Dave is worried that he has been somehow transported to the early 1980s, and that people are doing drugs and having sex behind the counter. He prays no one is abusing the espresso machine. Those things looks like they're a bitch to clean.

I Do Love A Man In Uniform

Don't ask, don't tell, do eat
Don't ask, don't tell, do eat

Saturday, March 1

The Four Questions Are Like Rain On Your Wedding Day, Or A Black Fly In Your Chardonnay

Q. What is Dave wearing today?
A. Right now Dave is wearing an old t-shirt and a pair of ratty shorts. These clothes are his pajamas. He is still in bed.

Q. How does Dave feel today?
A. Dave feels sick. His throat is itchy and his head feels like it is packed with phlegm.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood today?
A. In addition to handshakes, hugs and hearty good wishes, it seems that some of Dave's former coworkers at the Tampa Tribune also gave him flu or cold germs yesterday. Dave began feeling ill late yesterday afternoon, about an hour after he got home.

Q. Does Dave see the irony of catching the flu or cold from his coworkers in the office on his last day at work?
A. Dave says it is a remarkable coincidence. He doesn't recognize it as irony because he is a graduate of Emory University, and not the Alanis Morissette Literary Device Correspondence School.