Archive for August, 2011

Here’s the deal.  It’s time for a change of pace, so I’ve decided to feature my first guest blogger.  I had planned to write all of the entries myself, but my friend’s daughter asked if she could write one and I couldn’t say no.  Her name is Isabella (she’s trying to pull off one of these one name deals, like Cher or Dolph…okay, I’m the only one who calls Dolph Lundgren by his first name only but, come on people, who else would I be referring to?  It works).  And she’s eleven months old.  I know what you’re thinking…actually, I just announced that a baby was going to be guest blogging for me – I have no idea what you’re thinking.  But I’m pleased to have her and I think we’re probably setting some sort of record for the world’s youngest blogger, so that’s something.  (Below is a picture of Isabella, on a conference call, hammering out the details for baby’s first blog).  But I’ve already taken up too much real estate, I’m handing over the reins…

 

Hi.  I’m Isabella.  And what is the deal [is that how I’m supposed to start?  Daddy, what was I supposed to say at the beginning?  The deal?  What about the deal?  Dad?  Never mind, I’ll do it] with putting me in my playpen all by myself?  [Oh, sorry about the brackets, I haven’t learned to use parenthesis yet].  I don’t want to be in my playpen by myself.  I don’t want to be anywhere by myself.  But I really don’t want to be some place I can’t get out of.

And, parents, who do you think you’re fooling by calling a crib a playpen?  You think you can put the word play in it and we’ll suddenly think it’s fun?  Guess what, Daddy, you don’t have to complain about the bills anymore because they’re not bills, they’re playpapers.  See?  It doesn’t make them more fun.

We should just call them what they are – solitary confinement.  Would you be happy in a cage?  And it doesn’t matter how many toys we have if we can’t crawl more than four feet in any direction without hitting a wall.  A box is not conducive to play time.  [Conducive was my second word, after momma…not too shabby, eh?]  [Interesting baby fact – all babies around the world are born with a Canadian accent, but it fades by the time they can talk…unless they live in Canada…I don’t really understand the specifics…I’m just a baby over here].      

I think I can speak for most babies when I say that we understand your intentions – you want to teach us independence.  You want to teach us to learn how to be on our own.  Well, maybe you should take a look in the mirror.  Business over at match.com is booming for a reason – nobody likes to be alone, no matter how old you are.  This isn’t a lesson you can teach us by cordoning off our entertainment area.  You can’t fight human nature with a pink, paisley plastic enclosure from Wal-Mart. 

So, how will I do it?  [Dad!  Daddy!  What did Uncle Makya say I should write at the end?  This is the deal and how I’m going to do it or something…never mind, could you bring me a bottle?]  Unfortunately, as a baby, I don’t have a lot of resources at my disposal.  Mostly if something bothers me I just cry.  Who am I kidding?  That’s the only thing I do when I’m upset.  I haven’t had any better ideas yet.  What am I gonna do?  Hire a mediator?  Do you have any idea how hard it is to hire anyone when you’re a baby?  It’s not easy.  But, now that I have access to Makya’s blog perhaps I can get more people to listen.  Maybe this medium is perfect to help babies around the world unite and find better solutions to our problems.  Sure, crying gets your attention, but it rarely enacts real change.  So, I won’t cry next time you leave me alone in my playpen if you agree to no longer leave me alone in my playpen.  Deal?  Great.  And…daddy…what does a girl have to do to get a bottle around here?

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Here’s the deal.  Men’s clothing uses a highly advanced algorithm…the size of an article of clothing = the number of inches the clothing measures.  Women’s clothing uses an even trickier concept…the size of an article of clothing = some random number pulled out of a hat (and don’t get me started on the size of the hat). 

And women’s clothing sizes don’t even match from store to store.  Sally could be a size 6 at Nordstrom and a size 10 at Banana Republic.  Could be quite a Gap.  When it comes to sizing, she might have to Guess.  And I’m open to suggestions for a third women’s clothing related pun here, please write your entry on a 3” by 5” postcard and mail to: Women’s Clothing Related Pun Contest, P.O. Box 843, New York, NY 10012 – no purchase necessary. 

So, what’s up with size zero?  (And don’t get me started on size double zero…or hat sizes).  It’s called vanity sizing, the designers keep lowering the sizes so that shoppers will feel better about their number – but where is it heading?  At what point does it get absurd?  Size absolute zero?  Size negative seven?  Size who must not be named?

Are women so concerned about their number that they want to be a size nothing?  “Yes, I’m a size zilch.  I wear a nil.  My measurements do not exist.”  We need to put an end to this women’s clothing downsizing brouhaha (speaking of which, my brother-in-law and I are considering opening a tavern that features homemade ale and nightly stand-up comedy…we’ll call it the Brew Ha Ha).

Of course, the bigger problem with wanting to be smaller – these women do not look good.  I’m attracted to women who look healthy – not overweight, not underweight.  I, for one, would not want to date someone who could hide behind a single bamboo stalk.  I don’t want to be able to count your ribs from across the room.  I want a gal who eats three square meals a day (don’t get me started on triangular meals….or size double zero…or hat sizes). 

Here’s the skinny on the skinny – viewing the emaciated as attractive is a relatively new trend.  How did this happen to us?  Remember when they airbrushed Kate Winslet against her will?  She didn’t need to be airbrushed.  If the Titanic version of Kate is what we’re going to refer to as “full figured” – then sign me up.  She can join me for a sketch session on an ill-fated cruise any day of the week. 

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I put an end to size zero?  I’m doing what I can – I carry a few extra pounds as a role model to the ladies.  And Victoria Beckham is doing her part – banning size zero models from her runway shows as they are too thin.  (From the first time I heard the Spice Girls singing about what they want, what they really, really want…I knew these chicks were alright).  And the third key to solving this problem…will be drawn randomly from all entries in the Choose the Third Key to Eradicating Size Zero Contest.  One entry per household.  Employees of Makya McBee Vs. and their immediate family members are not eligible.  All participants must be at least 18 years of age and at least a size 4.

Here’s the deal.  I have a hobby called writing screenplays that no one will ever produce.  I sit in front of a computer screen and type out fascinating plots, layered characters, amusing dialogue, and edge of your seat finales.  Then I print out this labor of love.  This stack of paper just waiting to become a realized film.  And then I set in on a pile with the others and start the process again.  It’s a lot of fun.  I recommend it to no one.

So when I do see a screenplay that has navigated the stupendous maze of the studios and is available for public consumption on the screen, I am slightly irked when I see clichéd dialogue.  Granted, some clichés are hard to avoid.  I’ve read that, “Let’s get out of here,” is the most common line in films.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but it’s not such a bad line.  I’m sure everyone reading this has said, “Let’s get out of here,” at some point in their lives. 

QWERTY keyboard, on 2007 Sony Vaio laptop comp...

A sample of some of the letters I use when I write.

I’m not talking about characters saying, “I love you,” or “How you doing?”  – if you try to make everyday conversation sound too unique it becomes ridiculous and you’re trying too hard.  I’m talking about the lines that you only hear in movies…and way too many movies.  Here are five of them.  Listed in convenient numerical order.

1: “You messed with the wrong guy.”  If I hear this again in a movie it better be followed by additional information.  “You messed with the wrong guy…you should have messed with Stan, third door on the left.”

2: “I was born ready.”  This seems pretty unlikely.  The whole reason that babies are so dependent upon their parents is that they are not born ready.  They pretty much need help with everything.  So the only way this line of dialogue could ring true would be like this – “The time has come.  Are you ready to bawl, drink from a bottle and fill this diaper like a champion?”  “I was born ready.”

3. “Don’t you die on me!”  (“Die on him…or her…anywhere but on me.”)

4: “Breathe, damnit!”  Along with #3, this is the general response to impending death in movies – to shout commands at the person who is dying.  If this worked, you’d think doctors would employ this strategy more often, “Stop dying.  I said stop it.  You, there, do not die.  And don’t get sick.  Stop coughing.  Are you listening to me?  Get better.  Fight that virus…fight it, or else.”

5. “It’s a little too quiet.”  This might be my favorite, because I can’t imagine anyone has ever said this in real life.  Because, honestly, what the hell does it mean?  In the real world, lack of noise is not an ominous sign.  I don’t have pets and I live alone, so every time I walk into my apartment I encounter silence – it’s not scary.  What would be scary is if there was noise coming from the back.  Then I’d say, “It’s a little too loud,” and I would be running away to find a place that was more quiet.   

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I rid the silver screen of these overused lines?  What can I do?  I will continue to write screenplays where characters say things that haven’t been said before.  All I need now is for you to think back on every person you’ve ever met.  Do you know someone whose cousin works at Paramount?  Did your first college roommate become an agent?  Is your manicurist’s last name Spielberg?  Let’s get on this people.  Contact your contacts and let them know that I’ve got original screenplays for sale.  Make some noise if you’re with me…hmmmm…it’s a little too quiet.

Here’s the deal.  It seems like just yesterday this blog was 164 days old…and here we are, one day later, celebrating our 165th day.  That’s right boys and girls, it’s update time again.  (For those of you who joined after I was Freshly Pressed, I do 39 Day Updates every 39 to 44 days to keep track of everything that’s been versused and how we’re changing the world…you know what, I was tempted to do a versus being freshly pressed.  That really spoils you.  For that one day, thousands of people from all over the world were checking in – it’s the Oprah Book Club Selection of the blogging world.  And, as intoxicating as that exposure is, the drastic return to reality the following day is jolting.  WordPress should offer some sort of detox and rehab program…having that many readers is addictive and, as it is, you have to go cold turkey.)

Sorry, sometimes my parentheticals take on a life of their own.

Detail of Chinese Lion Dance Costume. Photo ta...

Funky Lion Dance

Speaking of pressing of the fresh variety, I recently addressed the discouraging lack of holidays in August.  Of course, this merely served to highlight my jingoistic tendencies.  It seems there are plenty of Augustian holidays – in countries that don’t rhyme with moonited plates of abearica.  This article, for example, describes the August Moon Festival – which draws huge crowds in Boston.  But I can’t be driving to Boston every time they celebrate the end of the harvest season with Chinese dragon and lion dances, food, activities, and storytellers…it’s just not practical.  We still need our own national holiday in August.  

We are, however, successful on some fronts.  Regarding cutting in line, our cause has found a celebrity advocate.  You can read here how Sarah Jessica Parker recently proclaimed that despite the opportunities her fame affords, she will not cut in line.  I think that almost makes up for Sex and the City 2.

As this is, essentially, my six month update, I’ve decided to go to the Wayback Machine…one of my earliest posts was versus the phrase, “It is what it is.”  But this week, an athletic athlete took it to a whole new level when he said, “I think it’s just one of those things and it is what it is.”  Wow.  Two great ways of saying nothing.  It’s difficult to be repetitive and still make no point, but he pulled it off.  (Full story here).

Many months ago I also took on the alarming number of flavors that Mountain Dew keeps producing.  I imagine their R&D department, up all night drinking their own heavily-caffeinated product and shouting out possible new flavors, “Strawberry Smash!” “Teenage Eruption!” “Overtly Orange Outbreak!”  Well, this article shows that a Michigan family has done them one better.  They make Mountain Dew jelly.  Fantastic.  The Dew didn’t have enough liquid flavors, so it’s going solid.  What’s next?  Mountain Dew fried chicken?  Mountain Dew pickles?  Mountain Dew Jerky?  Will they make a gaseous form of Mountain Dew so we can just inhale it directly?  This flavor juggernaut must be stopped.

And who can forget my classic rant against flip flops?  (That is, by the way, a rhetorical question…I don’t really want to hear back from everyone who did, in fact, forget it).  Well, here’s an article about a new pair of flip flops that will set you back $18,000.  That’s nine thousand dollars for the flip and another nine thousand dollars for the flop.  Hey, I’m all for empathy.  And I will walk a mile in another man’s shoes…unless they’re eighteen thousand dollar flip flops.

I do have some more good news.  We took on CAPTCHA and the world is listening.  A new company called AYAH (Are You a Human?) is raising money and trying to replace the often illegible CAPTCHA images with “extremely simple but dynamic puzzle games that any human could solve in a matter of seconds.”  I like this.  I’ve often been described as “simple but dynamic” myself, and I like the idea of solving a fun little puzzle to prove that I’m human as opposed to trying to read scrawled gibberish.  I, for one, am pro-AYAH (and not only because it appears to sort of rhyme with my first name).

For those of you who recall my troubles building a website…let me just say that the process was about four hundred and thirty-two times more difficult than I would have imagined, but I finally finished.  I’ve added a new page at the top of this blog with a link to the website just in case you’ve always been curious about what exactly a freelance trailer copywriter does.  And, honestly, who hasn’t wondered about that?

My thanks once again to everyone who reads, comments and shares this blog.  I’m pleased as punch (assuming, of course, a particularly jovial punch) to have you.  Onward and upward.  (And, occasionally, just a little bit sideways).

Here’s the deal.  I don’t understand it when people complain about the consistent increases in stamp prices over the past decade.

If I asked you to come to my house and pick up a letter I had written…and fly that letter across the country…and hand deliver that letter to my friend…how much would you charge me?  I’m guessing it would be more than forty four cents.  And I’m also guessing you wouldn’t do it.

Replica of the Pony Express Messenger's badge

In 1860, this badge meant business...until 1861, when they went out of business.

And, contrary to popular belief, stamp prices are not increasing at a greater rate than other products.  Fifty years ago, a stamp would cost you a nickel (today, they are 8.8 times more expensive), a candy bar would also cost you a nickel (now 13 times pricier), a gallon of gas was thirty cents (nearly 12 times more expensive today), and the average movie price was eighty five cents (they’re now over 9 times as expensive).  And, were this the type of blog that actually tried to make a serious point from time to time and give you something legitimate to complain about, I’d bring up the fact that, in the early 1960’s, the minimum wage was $1.25 and today it is $7.25 – an increase (5.8 times more) sure to widen the gap between the people with all the money and the people who can’t afford to buy a stamp (but I’m not that kind of blog, I’m more about jokes.  So…why did the chicken cross the playground?  To get to the other slide.)

If you want to complain about stamp prices, you should build a time machine (admittedly, perhaps not the best justification for building a time machine).  In 1963, a stamp cost five cents.  Over a hundred years earlier, in 1847, when the first national postage stamp was introduced, it cost…five cents.  Do you know how much five cents was worth in 1847?  With a nickel you could purchase a canister of the finest mustache wax, a whale-bone corset, three slightly used skillets, a first-class ticket on the steam locomotive from Kansas City to Deadwood, and a bag of Uncle Jeremiah’s multi-purpose barley flour…and still get four cents change.

Or, if you really want to complain about postage prices, you should have tried the short-lived Pony Express.  When established, in 1860, it cost five dollars to send one letter.  That’s the equivalent of about one hundred and twenty dollars today.  A hundred and twenty bucks to update Aunt Millicent on how you lost two Holsteins in the drought and little Johnny took second place in the hoop rolling tournament?  Now that was a price worth complaining about.  And, on top of that, you had to trust a pony to deliver your mail.  Ponies are cute, but notoriously bad with addresses.

Of course, I’m communicating this message about how we shouldn’t complain about biennial two-cent increases in the price of delivering our words to others via a blog…in which I merely have to push a button and my words are delivered to others for free.  All the more reason we shouldn’t complain.  Most of our mail is now delivered electronically (by, I believe, electric ponies), so stamp prices are even less of a burden.  Personally, if it means more of my letter carrying brothers and sisters can keep their jobs, I’m willing to go up to an even fifty cents.  Heck, it’s still cheaper than a bag of Uncle Jeremiah’s multi-purpose barley flour.   

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I convince people that forty four cents is a very reasonable price to pay to have your letters hand delivered all around this country?  What do you mean?  I just did.

Here’s the deal.

Remember when the Millennium Falcon is trying to escape from Imperial forces and Han Solo recklessly heads into the asteroid field?  And then he navigates his ship into that giant cavern on one of the larger asteroids?  And then they all get out and walk around and shoot at some flying thing and, when they shoot, the whole cave shakes?  And then they shoot again and the cave shakes again and Han tells everyone to get back into the ship?  And then they fly out and someone says that the opening to the cave is collapsing?  And Han says that it’s no cave and he flies out just in time?  And we see that the cave was actually this gigantic worm-like creature?  And the wormy thing tries to bite the Millennium Falcon as they fly away?

Remember that?

Well, have you ever looked at a map of Michigan by itself (removed from the other states)?  Here it is –

          

It looks just like that scene from the movie.  And that makes it an awesomely shaped state.

We have a lot of states with cool shapes.  There’s Oklahoma, the “We’re #1” foam finger of territories.  There’s Alaska, which is just one giant, frozen Rorschach Test.  There’s California, which looks like an alligator’s mouth as it opens extra wide in an ill-advised attempt to consume Nevada.  And there’s the state of Washington – which would have a boring shape were in not for the fact that, apparently, its northwest corner is being invaded by Dig Dug.

                               

And then there’s the state with the best shape.  When you were a kid, did you have that wooden puzzle of the Unites States, where each of the fifty puzzle pieces was a state?  Remember how much fun it was putting Texas in?  Admit it, you always put in Texas first.  It was easiest because it has the most unique shape of all.

Interesting fact – it is impossible to draw the outline of the state of Texas. 

Go ahead try. 

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Seriously, get out a piece of paper and a pen and try to draw Texas…it looks terrible, right? 

Even if you are looking at a map of Texas as you’re drawing it – you’re hand drawn version will always look like a sub-par kindergarten art project. 

But this isn’t about the states with great shapes.  This is about the states with boring shapes.  Our nation is overrun with rectangular blobs with no personality.  Can anyone really tell North and South Dakota apart?  I don’t want to sound statist, but all Dakotas look alike to me.

Which state, for example, do you think this is?

   

If you guessed Georgia, you’re right.  If you guessed Alabama, you’re also right.  If you guessed Missouri, then you’re actually right…but come on, this could be any number of states that essentially all look the same.  Who knows?  And who cares?  If you can’t be bothered to make you’re state aesthetically pleasing, then why should we be bothered to remember what it looks like? 

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I convince these dull clumps of geography to alter their borders?  Simple.  It’s time for the states that look boring to shape up or ship out.  Forget gerrymandering, I think we should redraw the US map to make it more attractive.  In a time when Americans need something positive to unite us, this national mural project could be just the thing.  Let the artist within you out and submit your unique shape suggestions for your state to your local representative.  A continental collage is just what we need to get back on track.  America may no longer be the smartest country.  We may no longer be the richest country.  But, gosh darned it, we can still be the prettiest.

Here’s the deal.  It has recently come to my attention that there is a new Brawny man.  Apparently, Georgia-Pacific made this change back in 2003.  I don’t know if the fact that it’s taken eight years for me to notice speaks more to my observational skills or the frequency of my paper towel purchases…either way, I’m not happy with the new guy.

Here’s the Brawny man I grew up with (and I don’t know what I mean when I say that I “grew up” with him, as best as I can recall there was never a roll of these paper towels in my house…that’s the power of advertising, never once bought it, but still feel like I know this man). 

The hair that magically transports you back to the seventies.  The blue, denim jacket that screams tough, yet comfortable.  The mustache that would make Tom Selleck jealous. 

Assuming there’s going to be a headshot of a random stud on my paper towels – he’s the one I want.

And here’s the new guy. 

The disappointing lack of facial hair.  The unnaturally wide jaw.  The red flannel with overly-conservative white undershirt.  The hands fixed, bizarrely, on hips.  The uncanny resemblance to Lou Ferrigno’s younger brother. 

And, worst of all, he now sings.  Old Brawny man didn’t sing.  He was too busy smiling comfortably at the camera and chopping down trees.  New Brawny man is a joke, check out his commercial –

I don’t know what the goal of this ad is, but a whole row of animated, singing Brawny men is creepy.  If I were in that grocery store, I’d run in terror, expecting those tiny Brawny men to leap from their packaging and attack me with a thousand little Brawny bites.  (Plus, there’s nothing like a song about the importance of having someone to help you carry on in times of pain and sorrow to overestimate the importance of your choice when it comes to wiping up minor kitchen spills).

So why did they mess with success?  When your product is fortunate enough to have a recognizable mascot, why would you change it?  Mr. Peanut has been around since 1916 and he still looks the same (granted, his monocle did switch sides…they must have done some research that indicates that the only thing that sells nuts better than a personified legume gentleman with top hat, cane and monocle over its left eye is a personified legume gentleman with top hat, cane and monocle over its right eye).  

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I get 70’s (who was also 80’s, 90’s and even early 2000’s) Brawny man back?  Drastic times call for drastic measures (I bet drastic measures are disappointed they never just get called over in good times, you know, for lemonade or something).  It’s time to call the meeting.  Just as the mafia have their five families, so too do the advertising mascots.  The Genovese Family, led by Mr. Peanut.  The Gambino Family, run by Mr. Clean.  The Lucchese Family, under the direction of the Michelin Man.  The Colombo Family headed by the Quaker Oats Man.  And the Bonanno Family, controlled by Mrs. Butterworth.  Under the protection of the Jolly Green Giant, we’ll have Chef Boyardee cook up a traditional Italian meal and hammer out an agreement. 

And if the new bare-upper-lipped Brawny Man doesn’t head back to that tree line in the distance and make way for the original to take his rightful place as the brawniest logo ever…we’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse…and things could get messy…so we’ll bring some paper towels….I hear Bounty makes a good product…