Archive for July, 2011

Here’s the deal.  I haven’t addressed a reader’s suggestion in some time, so I wanted to take a moment to apologize for not having versused all of your ideas.  There are a couple of reasons I won’t be able to get to all of them.  Firstly, I only take on small issues.  There are plenty of big, scary problems in the world.  And there are plenty of people writing about them.  That’s not my bag.  Rather, I take on the seemingly inconsequential and blow it all out of proportion so we have even more to worry about.  But at least, with my topics, we have the illusion of some control.  There’s not much any of us can do about the big issues, but it’s pretty easy to stop buying candy corn.

Secondly, I’m not always bothered by the things my readers suggest.  I know what you’re thinking…is it, “What, you have readers?”  Well, that’s a silly thing to think.  You’re reading this right now – do you doubt your own existence?  Wait, I know what you were actually thinking – “Why don’t you just pretend to be bothered my all of the reader’s suggestions?”  Well, that would go against my blogger’s oath.  I can’t just feign ire.  Come on.  I’m a journalist.  Kind of.

In some instances I don’t even know what it is that’s been suggested.  David suggested burpless cucumbers.  I didn’t know such a thing existed.  I didn’t even know that regular cucumbers made people burp.  This type of subject is way out of my league.  R. Washington wanted me to take on McDonald’s oatmeal.  I didn’t know McDonalds sold oatmeal.  And while I do enjoy my research, I was not willing to eat at McDonalds – even in the name of kind of journalism.  Heather suggested movie ghosts that move too fast.  I have to be honest, I just don’t know how fast ghosts are supposed to move.  Should ghosts move slowly?  What if it’s the ghost of an Olympic sprinter?  The topic just raised too many questions that I couldn’t answer.

So, I hope the fact that I don’t get to all of them, won’t stop you from sending them in.  Any time something bugs you and you think I might be able to tackle it, just let me know.  This week’s suggestion, by the way, comes from Wes and I think we all know what he’s talking about.  Reality television is notorious for drawn out, over-dramatic reveals.

Host of American Idol, and numerous other radi...

Image via Wikipedia

If you want to find out which top model is toppest, who will get the last rose, how much weight was lost, who’s being voted off the island, what the extreme makeover will look like, who’s being evicted from the house, which one is the mole, who thinks they can dance, what the next stage of the race will be, who will be fired, which comic will be left standing, who got the least votes, which housewife will win the hair-pulling battle, or which part of America has talent…you’re going to have to wait until after the commercials.

What bothers me most about these slow reveals is that the reality show “stars” and the audience still fall for it.  When Ryan Seacrest says, “And the person going home is…to be revealed, right after these messages,” the audience moans as if they somehow thought he was going to announce it right away.  For some inexplicable reason, they’ve all forgotten that he’s done this 3,489 times in a row – there’s a pretty strong precedent here.  If I were one of the idols, I’d just head back to my seat as soon as he started talking…seriously, we all know he’s not going to announce it before we squeeze in one more spot with someone using AT&T service as they sip a Coke from the back seat of their new Ford.

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I stop them from teasing us with, “the most dramatic rose ceremony ever,” and drawing out every little, five second decision for forty minutes?  I’m not going to stop them.  I love this stuff.  You see, I just remembered that I live in Los Angeles and am trying to break into this business.  Seacrest is a gatekeeper, friends.  And if it works for Seacrest, if works for me.  Sorry, but I’ve gotta let this one slide.  You don’t go against the idol maker.  Come on, you saw what happened to Dunkleman.

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Here’s the deal.  The bargain section at Barnes and Noble is a literary graveyard.  It’s where poorly selling Iranian cookbooks, how to guides to the things no one on Earth needs to know how to do, and autobiographies from twenty something, fifteen minutes of fame reality stars go to die.  It’s a sad, lonely aisle.  But, then again, you can’t beat a bargain.

I stopped by earlier today and arranged a few of my favorites on a shelf –

I know the titles are a little hard to make out, so let’s review.

Firstly, we have Uses for Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil, written by John Grisham.  Just kidding.  This was actually written by Random Person Paid Handsomely By Reynolds Wrap.  It’s published by a sweet little company called Publications International (their parent company, I assume, is Generic Industries Incorporated).  They have a whole series of these product placement gone crazy books.  I opened this one up and read one use for Reynolds Wrap – after swimming, wrap your wet clothes in aluminum foil to keep other items from getting wet.  And then I closed the book.  And put it down.  There was really no need to read anymore.

Next on the bargain shelf is King Size Towel Origami: 50 Fantastic Folding Projects for Your Bath Towels, Bathrobes, and Beach Towels.  The author is Alison Jenkins who, I kid you not, has also written: The Lost Art of Towel Origami, Towel Origami Pack, The Little Book of Towel Origami and Jurassic Towel Origami.  Not only is this woman making a living out of personifying absorbency, but she’s written an entire book about making your towels look like dinosaurs.  And that’s what makes America great.   

Towel Origami No. 2 - Dog

Image by Kevin H. via Flickr

So, if you have a drawer full of googly eyes and no other conceivable way to occupy your time, you can purchase this book and roll up your towels into animal shapes.  Look, it’s been a slow summer.  I haven’t had a copywriting job since May.  I don’t do anything.  I sit on the couch.  I watch TV.  I write a blog and try to complete two screenplays.  I stare at the wall.  My life is nothing but free time.  And I still don’t have enough free time to consider creating a panda out of my bath towels.  I think, by definition, there is always something better to do than towel origami.

Lastly, there’s How To Silhouette Your Pet.   I think a better title would have been Why To Silhouette Your Pet, because I, for one, can’t think of a single reason.  Only after I finish folding all of my beach towels into a grazing family of Triceratops, will I even begin to consider a schnauzer silhouette.

So, why should these books bother me?  Simple.  It’s the fact that this kind of crap is flooding the marketplace that makes it so much more difficult for me to ever publish my kind of crap.  I’m not saying I’m Faulkner over here, but I’ve got to be more entertaining than a book about how to wrap your bathing suit in aluminum foil.  Come on.  

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I clear out the bargain section and replace it with volumes authored by yours truly?  I guess I’ll just give them what they want.  Starting tomorrow, I’m putting my screenplay on the backburner and I’m writing Makya McBee Presents 1,000 Non-Kitchen Uses for the Spatula, Makya’s Guide to Even Bigger Origami: Folding Your Sheets, Quilts and Comforters Into Fabulous Landmarks for No Particular Reason, and Pet Collage!  The McBee Plan for Turning Household Pets Into Priceless Art With Only a Spatula.

Make some room in the bargain section Mr. Barnes, I’m on my way.

Here’s the deal.  ED commercials are ridiculous.  And I’m not talking about advertisements for Mr. Ed.  Speaking of which, did anyone else see Hot to Trot?  It was one of the first movies I went to see without my parents…it looked so cool, Bobcat Goldthwait and a talking horse – how could they go wrong?  You know what the tagline for that movie was?  “The funniest talking horse movie ever!”  And, with the exception of Babe, Animal Farm, Barnyard, Charlotte’s Web, Dr. Dolittle, 101 Dalmatians, Racing Stripes, Home on the Range and all of the other talking horse movies I can’t think of right now, they were right.  But, like I said, I’m not talking about talking horses.  I’m talking about erectile dysfunction.

Hot to Trot

Image via Wikipedia

I’m talking about Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.  Have you seen their commercials?  There are a lot of them and they tend to feature forty and fifty something couples dancing and graying men riding motorcycles as very thinly veiled metaphors.  The commercials tend to be ridiculous.  And this is an impotent important issue.

One of these commercials features a man trying to throw a football through the center of a tire swing.  And failing repeatedly.  He tries the magic pill and – BINGO – he tosses the ball through the hole with perfect accuracy again and again.  I guess subtlety isn’t one of their strengths.  I mean, it must be a metaphor, because no one is as happy as this guy looks throwing a football through a hole.  But, you know what they say, men think about throwing balls through tire swings once every seven seconds.

Then there’s the one with the guy whose car overheats.  He pulls up at a gas station, walks right past the mechanic and purchases a bottled water.  He takes a swig, struts past the mechanic again, pops the hood and pours in the remaining liquid.  This is accompanied by some copy about knowing how to get things done and taking action.  So…they’re using a guy who independently gets things done and doesn’t need any help…to sell a pill that helps men “get things done” when they definitely need some help. 

One of these companies features a pair of bathtubs in their ads.  These bathtubs are always in random places – a field, a hilltop, a beach…never in a bathtub’s natural environment.  I don’t know how these bathtubs got out there.  I don’t know how these bathtubs got filled with water.  I don’t know where the man and woman in these bathtubs put their clothes.  I don’t know what two bathtubs have to do with erectile dysfunction.  But I do know that if I went on a hike and found a bathtub sitting in a meadow, I would not get in it.

The worst commercial, however, is “Viva Viagra.”  This is the one where they rewrote the lyrics to “Viva Las Vegas,” to praise their pharmaceutical.  It features a group of middle-aged men in a garage laughing and singing about their failing bodies.  And this one is clearly the most authentic.  Because when a man is no longer able to perform his husbandly duties…you just can’t stop him from singing about it.

“Hey, guys, I can no longer be intimate with my wife – wanna meet in my garage and express our feelings via the power of music?” 

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I help these drugs make better commercials?  I know it’s not going to be easy.  Making an effective ED ad is hard – they’ve got some stiff competition – it’s straight up difficult – we’ve got to be firm in our efforts – okay, I’ll stop now.

Having some experience with copywriting, I thought I could write some new taglines for these products.  Then I realized, there are plenty of good taglines out there already – we can just use one of them.

How about we borrow the line from Avis – “We try harder.”

We could remake the old LifeCall ads, with a whole new meaning, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Or, my ultimate solution, we bring back the Energizer Bunny to sell these pills…with just a minor adjustment to their tagline – “It keeps growing, and growing, and growing…”

Here’s the deal.  I still remember when I started this blog…March of 2011.  It was a simpler time.  I was living in Los Angeles, working as a freelance copywriter and I decided to supplement my failed screenwriting career with big blog money.  (I still have yet to receive my first check from the internet).  I was just a kid with a dream.  What did I know? 

When I created my first blog entry, I started it with the words, “Here’s the deal.”  After finishing, I looked down again at these three simple words…glimmering with promise.  Hey, I thought to myself, maybe I’ll start each entry with these words.  It’ll be my catchphrase.  A way for my readers to gently lower their aching bodies into the warm waters of my prose.  Plus, I thought it flowed nicely.  And when it comes to nicely flowing sentences and the writing of them with intros that are flowing as nicely or nicelier, I’m the guy good at that…writing… of them. 

You know what I mean.  (By the way, since there’s no good image to represent this post, here’s a picture of Bert and Ernie that I drew).

And “Here’s the deal,” isn’t a bad way to start.  You can stick it on the front of anything and it sounds pretty good. 

Here’s the deal.  It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Here’s the deal.  Call me Ishmael.

Here’s the deal.  Fish don’t fry in the kitchen.  Beans don’t burn on the grill.  Took a whole lotta tryin’, just to get up that hill.  Now we’re up in the big leagues, gettin’ our turn at bat.  As long as we live, it’s you and me baby, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.     

But, as catchy as it is, it’s starting to feel limiting.  Every time I sit down to create a new entry, I start with the words, “Here’s the deal,” and I lead up to the words, “So, how am I going to do it?  How will I _____?”  I’ve painted myself into a corner with my own pithy phraseology.  Damn my conversational tone.

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I stop starting with “Here’s the deal”?  I’ll just stop starting with “Here’s the deal.”  It’s really quite easy.  I’ll simply type alternate words.  But should I?

What do you think?  Have you even noticed that every post starts with the same words?  Would you miss them? 

In recent days, my blog has catapulted into third place in the best humor blog voting – and I couldn’t have done it without all of you who read, comment and share my posts.  So, in a way, this blog is as much yours as it is mine…no, I take that back…it’s still mostly mine.  But, if the readers like, “Here’s the deal,” I’ll keep it.  I’ll embrace it like a person embracing something.  And if you’re ready for something new, I’m with you.  It’s your call – please leave any and all thoughts on the matter in the comments section.

I, for one, am ready for a little change.  People say that variety is the spice of life.  But people also say stuff like, “He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed,” so who knows.  Bottom line – majority rules, so cast your vote.  I’ll abide, at least temporarily, by your decision.  And that’s the deal.

Here’s the deal.  Tennis scoring is a mess.  For anyone who doesn’t already know, you start the game at “love” – your first point puts you at 15, which is followed by 30, 40, and one more point wins it for you (unless your tied, we’ll go into that in a moment). 

The first problem is referring to a score of zero as love.  No one wants to have zero points.  It’s a bad thing.  But love is a good thing.  That’s like saying, the Angels routed the Marlins by a score of 7 to ice cream.  If you’re going to refer to zero with a noun, it should be something undesirable, like “graffiti,” “mildew,” or “bad hair day.”  Not love.  I suppose, still, for losing tennis players it’s better to have loved and lost…

Then, of course, there are the seemingly randomly assigned point increments.  Cecil Adams (who finds the answers to just this type of quandary for a living) explains it thusly, “Tennis scoring has its origin in medieval numerology. The number 60 was considered to be a ‘good’ or ‘complete’ number back then, in about the same way you’d consider 100 to be a nice round figure today. The medieval version of tennis, therefore, was based on 60–the four points were 15, 30, 45 (which we abbreviate to 40) and 60, or game.”

Tennis Balls and Hopper

Image by JCtennis.com via Flickr

This raises more questions than it answers.  Sixty was a good number?  What is it now?  Why has sixty been so devalued over the centuries?  I’ve got nothing against sixty.  And how do we “abbreviate” 45 as 40?  What does that mean?  Excepting desperate housewives, no one abbreviates 45 as 40.  Furthermore, players will often “abbreviate” 15 as 5 when they call out the score.  I pity the child of tennis playing parents who is trying to learn math.

“Okay, Tommy, what’s 45 plus 15?”

“Well, 45 equals 40 and 15 equals 5, so 45 plus 15 equals 45, right?”

Poor kid.

And, on top of all this, when players are tied at 40 or above, it’s called “deuce.”  So, they got fifteen points, an additional fifteen points, ten more points and now they have a total of….two?  From this point on, numbers are tossed out entirely (I suppose because the pattern would just be too complex to keep track of…15, 30, 40, 2 would be followed by 55, 70, 80, 4?) and replaced with “advantage in” or “advantage out.”  I’ll tell you who’s at a disadvantage, the sports fan who is attending their first tennis match.

What’s wrong with the simplicity of, say, baseball?  Where a team’s first point is referred to as “1” followed by “2” and, you’re probably picking up on the pattern, “3.”  Or, if you’re going to assign random numbers to your scoring, at least keep them consistent.  If your kid grows up watching football, they’ll learn how to count by sevens way before multiplication tables are taught at school.  And if there are varying numbers, it should relate to degree of difficulty.  In basketball you get one point for shooting in your own sweet time, undefended, a normal shot’s worth two and a shot from 23 feet, 9 inches or farther is worth three points.  In tennis, it would seem that a player’s third point has less value than either of their first two.  It simply doesn’t make sense. 

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I simplify this tennis numbers racket?  I could start attending all of the Opens and, before the announcer calls out, say, “40-15,” I could yell, “It’s three to one!”  But that seems like a lot of work.  Maybe if I start saying 15, 30, 40, 60 every time I mean 1, 2, 3, 4 they’ll start to understand how strange it really is. 

“Have you seen the new 40D movie?”

“We celebrate our nation’s independence on July 60th.”

“You know what they say, it takes thirty to tango.”

Yep, if we all start talking like this, I don’t expect it’ll take too long for tennis players to come to their senses and adopt a more user-friendly scoring system.  Join me, won’t you?  It’s as easy as fifteen, thirty, forty.

Here’s the deal.  In 1998, the first blog was created by Jebediah Blogersven (sample quote from the world’s first blog entry – “Has anybody seen this new show, Dawson’s Creek?  OMG it’s awweessoomme”).  He went on to create the ten commandments of blogging (“Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s modem”) and write the blogger’s etiquette guide, in which he suggested that each blogger provide their readers with a progress update every 39 days.  After writing my 39 and 78 day updates, I was faced with the task of composing my 117 day update.  But I was torn.  It was my duty as a blogger.  But, in my native Scotland, 117 is considered an extremely unlucky number, because the very first kilt took 117 hours to sew and contained 117 stitches.  We’ve been wearing kilts ever since but, come on, we know they look ridiculous.  So, instead, I offer you my 126 day update…yeah…it’s for all those factual, completely not made up reasons…not because I just forgot that another 39 days had passed…

Image via Wikipedia

Remember when I took on glass ketchup bottles?  Well, I just learned that Collinsville, Illinios is home to the world’s largest ketchup bottle.  And, last week, they had the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle Festival.  If you would like to see perhaps the least riveting news story ever, check out the local station’s hype for this festival here.  I say Collinsville must be stopped.  They are celebrating ketchup bottles in a huge, grotesque manner.  Have they no shame?  While the rest of us are tormented by these condiment containers, Collinsville celebrates their Pagan rituals in the shadow of their ketchup bottle god.  We must bring the fight to them…or, at the very least, not ride the merry go round at their festival.

And our valiant work against flip flops is also not complete.  Per this story, Snooki has just launched her own line of flip flops.  That’s right, Snooki – whose only claim to fame is…actually, she doesn’t have a claim to fame, fame just sort of fell in her lap (or got stuck in her hair).  This pocket-sized reality star is trying to make flip flops cool again.  Well I say, no, Snooki.  No to your flip flops.  No to your brand.  No to your shrill pitch.  Those shoes are as flimsy as your celebrity and I’m not buying either.

How about my most recent entry, where I competently versused ineffective alarms.  Well, the world has listened.  Check out this story about the new smoke detector that holds up to four phone numbers and sends out personalized text messages when smoke is detected.  Perhaps it speaks poorly of our society that we respond better to a text message than a beeping alarm, but whatever works.  (“OMG, there’s smoke in the pantry…and the newest episode of Dawson’s Creek was awweessoomme.”)

And who can forget my classic take on Kool-Aid (other than, obviously, the majority of humanity, who has yet to read it)?  Well, you can see here that my warnings have gone unheeded.  The newest delicacy?  Fried Kool-Aid.  What else can I say?  Fried Kool-Aid.  I’m pretty sure that’s the second sign of the Apocalypse.   

Herman Cain

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Of course, the blogosphere is still all atwitter (and Twitter, coincidentally, is all ablog) about my exposé on state symbols.  But the states aren’t slowing down any.  Just last week, North Carolina declared stock car racing their state sport (full story here).  And, this is unverified, I’m pretty sure that Illinois has elected a new State Oversized Novelty Festival – the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle Festival.

You think I was making up the fact that politicians refer to themselves in the third person?  Check out this recent interview with Herman Cain, where he is actually asked when he started referring to himself in the third person.

Lastly, let’s check in on the kangaroos.  You can read here about how the Eastern Grey kangaroo population in Australia is out of control.  That’s right, these marsupials are bent on world domination!  Or, at the very least…Australian domination!  As a solution, they’re introducing kangaroo birth control.  I didn’t read the whole story, but I sure hope it’s called the diaphragm-aroo.

As always, my many thanks to those of you who read, comment and recommend this blog to others.  Together we are taking on the mild annoyances of the day and victory is within reach.  So ask your friends to take a chance on this blog and help us change the world one word at a time.  Because, remember, you can’t spell “world” without “word.”  There’s only one letter difference between “chance” and “change.”  And you only need one “m” to turn “Dawson’s Creek” into “awesome.”

A Wheelock MT-24-LSM electronic fire alarm hor...

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s the deal.  Last night, when I arrived at my gym, the fire alarm was going off.  A flashing light and a high-pierced shriek and when I looked inside…people were just plodding along on their treadmills  – business as usual.  As I stood outside, wondering what to do, a guy walked past me and into the building from whence said fire alarm was blaring and proceeded to start his workout.  I understand.  It certainly didn’t look like the building was on fire.  But I just couldn’t stand the thought of my obituary reading, “Died when he ignored a fire alarm and voluntarily entered the building…”

It’s as if everyone in the gym were hitting a giant snooze button on this fire alarm and rolling over for a few more reps.  And it’s even worse with car alarms.  Whenever I hear a car alarm going off, I spring into action and do absolutely nothing.  My only response to a car alarm is to think to myself, “When is that person going to turn their car alarm off?”  Of course, the alarm is designed to alert us of a problem – but they simply don’t work.

As a society, we’ve become jaded to alarms.  And I do think the alarm clock is partially to blame.  If we can roll over and switch off the alarm that blasts us awake every morning, why should we take particular notice of the other alarms that bother us throughout the day?  Alarms are simply no longer alarming.

The other problem is that humans pretty much expect things to go as they’ve gone in the past.  In the past, when I go to the gym, it is not on fire.  Therefore, the gym is probably not on fire this time.  And it wasn’t.  The culprit was an over-cooked bag of microwave popcorn (I warned them, here).  But alarms serve a purpose – we need them for exactly those times when things do not go as they have in the past.  So, technically, this should be called not “Makya McBee Vs. Alarms,” but “Makya McBee Vs. Our Obliviousness to Alarms.”  (I suppose it would be easier to just go back and switch the title than to explain that here.  But my motto is, once it’s typed…it’s good enough).   

Scary clown graffiti

Image by duncan via Flickr

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I make alarms work again?  I think the key issue here is the delivery system.  The variety of annoying sounds that different alarms make…we’ve heard them all.  We’re used to them.  We need something new.  Something that will really get our attention.  Something that will make us listen.  I think we should replace the loud beeping with a ferocious growl and replace the strobe light with the holographic image of a rabid grizzly bear – now that’s a good alarm.  A giant, diseased, roaring grizzly would get people off their treadmills.  And while noises and lights aren’t particularly alarming, there are plenty of things that scare us.  A giant banner of a homicidal clown.  A pit of snakes.  Dental equipment.   You get the idea.  Or we could have our own personal alarms, an electronic signal would trigger the alarm which would show us the image of something terrifying (for me, sharks) and we would run in fear. 

Yes.  I’m going to implement this plan.  I’m going to make alarms functional once again.  I’m going to make the world a better place.  Besides, I don’t want to stand outside the gym all by myself anymore.