Archive for September, 2008

 

You're in for a verrrry long night!

BIG mistake–– you're in for a verrry long night, people!

1.  Monkeys smell like monkeys.

2   Monkeys rarely put napkins in their laps and never know the proper fork to use.

3.  Monkeys are picky eaters (especially when it comes to noodle casseroles).

4.  Ask a monkey to pass you something, nine times out of ten he’ll fling it at your head.

5.  Monkeys usually leave “markings” on the tablecloth, and you can’t ‘Shout’ them out.

6.  Monkey see, monkey do. C’mon monkeys, how about a little originality?!!!

7.  They’re poor conversationalists. If you mention evolution, monkeys shut down quickly.

8.  Monkeys are dessert hogs. Never try to get a bite of their banana cream pie.

9.  Monkeys won’t excuse themselves to go to the bathroom. They just go, go, go. Disgusting.

 

Now that we own it, let's milk the sucker!

Now that we own it, let's milk the sucker!

     Last week, we American taxpayers bought ourselves AIG. I’ve never owned an insurance company, but I do have a few proposals about running our new enterprise:

  1. Let’s outsource for cheap labor in China and India.
  2. Let’s not insure any high risk people.
  3. Let’s continually raise premiums.
  4. If there are claims, let’s dispute them.
  5. Let’s hire an army of lobbyists to get politicians passing laws that favor us.
  6. Let’s pay ourselves great big paychecks with huge stock options and bonuses.
  7. If we do happen to get into financial trouble, let’s have some government bail us out.

 

 

Behold the glory of what was...

Behold the glory of what once was.

   As roadside attractions go, it’s hard to top the Gaffney Peach, conveniently located by Interstate-85 in Gaffney, South Carolina. Constructed in 1981, it’s a million dollar water storage tank that’s shaped like… get this… a PEACH!

   It’s a wondrous sight when one is zipping along trying to avoid the long radar arm of Johnnie Law. This large peach on the horizon is the sort of thing that brings angels to tears and makes puppy fur feel softer. It’s a middle finger thrown to the traveling residents of Georgia, the alleged “peach state”, claiming the crown for South Carolina.

    But tragically, last year this glorious monument was sullied, spoiled and shat upon by a Fatz Cafe erected in its shadow with a hideous neon sign obstructing the magnificent view of peachy water tankery. Makes me want to puke my spleen.

The peach of my eye is poked.

The peach of my eye is poked.

The sin, the shame, the injustice of it all!

The sin, the shame, the injustice of it all!

   Now I’ve never eaten at a Fatz Cafe and I assure you that I never will after what they’ve done. They have soiled a monument, a national treasure. It’s like drawing a black marker mustache on the Mona Lisa or putting Popeye arms on Venus de Milo. Fatz has ruined a work of art.

   I hope you’re happy, Fatz Cafe, you Fatz Catz, for marring the jewel of I-85. My heart goes out to all Gaffney’s children (all motorists are Gaffney’s children). Boo hoo hoo hoo, woe be we.

 

Careful Analysis Pays Dividends For You

My Careful Analysis Pays Dividends For You

Four movies for your two eyes, two ears.

“Burn After Reading”– You need to manage your expectations on this one, people. It’s being marketed as a comedy. If you walk in, sit down, fold your arms and say “O.K., clown-boys, make me laugh!” you won’t enjoy this movie as much as you should. Yes, there are some laughs in “Burn”.  Some laughs. But mostly it’s a quirky character-driven intricately plotted web of intrigue, vanity and stupidity. 

This is the latest offering from Joel & Ethan Coen (who some call “The Coen Brothers”, I call them “Those Kooky Coen Kids”). They’re hot off the Oscar-heavy success of “No Country For Old Men” and here they definitely toss a change up from the heavy drama of that jewel.

I’ll eagerly to see anything the Coens make, after all they’ve made some of the most interesting and enjoyable films of recent times:  “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, “Miller’s Crossing”, “The Big Leboski”, “Fargo”, “Raising Arizona”, “Blood Simple”, “Barton Fink” and more).

In “Burn After Reading”, you’ve got star power galore with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich. You’ve got nepotism with Frances McDormand playing a lead (she’s the wife of Joel Coen, but she’s always terrific and probably doesn’t need the inside connection). You’ve got great character actors in Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins and J.K. Simmons. You’ve got a free-wheeling story that just keeps spinning inter-connected plot lines and catapults the story along to a conclusion that is fulfilling, believable and as arbitrary as life itself.

I did miss Roger Deakins, who has been the director of photography for just about all the later Coen films. “Burn” does not have the cinematic grandeur and camera movement as previous Coen flicks, but it does keep you moving and guessing and enjoying the ride, so what the hell, enjoy your time off Mr. Deakins… but please come back soon. I miss you.

“Tropic Thunder”– There’s a reason this film is doing some serious box office business: it does what a comedy is supposed to do, give your lungs a healthy workout. This is one seriously funny movie.

But even if it wasn’t funny, it’s a pretty good action-adventure film thanks to some beautiful cinematography by two time Oscar winner John Toll and excellent directing by Ben Stiller.

Stiller co-wrote this yukfest with actor Justin Theroux and the incomparable Ethan Coen (moonlighting while Joel slept with wife Frances).

The premise of the movie is the making of a big budget movie based on a  best selling book about the Vietnam War called “Tropic Thunder”.  

The main attraction is Robert Downey, Jr., playing 5-time Oscar-winning Australian actor Kirk Lazarus. Kirk is the ultimate method actor so for the role of an African-American sergeant, he has a controversial skin- tinting procedure. Downey plays it to the hilt as brother fighting for The Man. But a white dude playing black does not play well with fellow actor Alpa Chino, who really is black, played superbly by Brandon T. Jackson. 

This is the year of Robert Downey, Jr. With this role and playing the lead in “Iron Man”, he stars in two of the best movies of the year, with another promising one (“The Soloist”) on the horizon.

Ben Stiller gobbles his scenes as the Sly Stallone-like mega-action-fading-star Tugg Speedman. His obsequious agent is ably played by Matthew McConaughey (who amazingly plays the entire role shirted).

Jack Black plays a drug addicted co-star who’s made his fame in a series of successful ‘fart films’ (can you say “Eddie Murphy”?) and now wants to be taken seriously as an ACTOR

And the big buzz of the film is Tom Cruise playing an obnoxiously overbearing ball-busting studio head. Cruise has great make-up, rage and screen presence, and you can tell he loved every minute of playing this outrageous jerk.

This movie is decidedly politically incorrect, raunchy, sophomoric and foul– so if you’re easily offended rent “The Sound of Music”, eat taffy and pray for a gentler world. But if you’re up for some good laughs and fun pyrotechnics, grab a chair and kiss a couple hours goodbye. It’s well worth the trip.

“Vicky Christina Barcelona” — Woody Allen is a machine who’s been churning out movies for 42 years. He earned his chops as a master of comedies, defiantly made a series of soberingly depressing dramas and has bobbed about with light dramas, comic capers and interesting character studies. This movie is one of his human stories.

Vicky is played by the beautiful Rebecca Hall. She’s a confident woman engaged to a Mr. Conformity in NYC. She is more pragmatist than poet. She believes she knows herself and her destiny.  She marches through life with firm footed certainty.

Christina is played by the luminous Scarlett Johansson. She’s a flighty insecure woman who is looking for love in all the wrong places but remains a hopeless romantic. She is open to possibilities and growth, unsure of every step she takes but knowing it will lead to something that could be better. She is an artist on her journey of discovery.

Vicky and Christina are enjoying a summer holiday in guess where– Barcelona (boy, the movie’s title gives away the entire story). They encounter an egocentric artist named Juan Antonio, wonderfully played by Javier Bardem (it’s hard to believe this is the same dude who lugged around the bovine-skull-crushing air gun in “No Country For Old Men”). He is on a hedonistic bender, on the rebound from a toxic relationship with his ex-wife, Maria Elena (played by Penelope Cruz).

Juan Anotonio proposes a threesome to Vicky and Christina. He loses that proposal, but gets involved with each beauty individually. He and Christina become an item, his unstable ex enters the scene, more things happen and then some other things happen, too.

I’ll say no more except this movie is a must-see for anyone who ponders the human condition and enjoys adult stories that make your brain contemplate life. Good on you, Woody.

“In Bruges”– You’ll have to rent this puppy, but go ahead and get it in your queue today. This tale of two hired killers in the Belgium resort Bruges is a fun romp well acted by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell (his performance here is almost good enough to wipe away the stench and sin of starring in “Alexander”). Ralph Fiennes is their irate boss back in the U.K., and as you probably guessed, there is a racist dwarf (sorry, little person). 

It was written and directed by celebrated Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. This is an impressive debut for an incredible talent. It’s beautifully shot with a hauntingly beautiful musical score. Don’t even get me started on the impressive work of the Best Boy.

Give it a go. You’ll love being In Bruges, and won’t soon forget the trip.

Don't get headaches, learn the secrets from a pro!

Don't get headaches, learn the secrets from a pro!

   David Ogilvy (a Brit who did some ‘adverts’) once said, “If you can’t say it, sing it, dude. Sing it loud, sing it proud.” I believe he said this nugget at Woodstock when he sat in with Canned Heat for a set, then wailed like a banshee on fire as Hendrix burned his guitar. David wasn’t just an ad guru, he was also a monster singer and cowbell player. And a hell of a strip backgammon player.

   The point is, if you don’t have much to write about, write lyrics because when you marry them with music they tend to eat up a lot of time–– which means you write less but make the same amount of money so you make more per word. In the future, this will be how writers are paid. Art directors will be paid by the tonnage of foamcore they generate for client meetings (yes, there will be more incidents of bleeding hearts hugging foamcore trees in the future). Anyway, the fact is most copywriters are afraid to write jingles because they are ignorant swine who have rhyming problems. Not to worry, inksters, here’s all you need to know.

   First, write something directed at the listener. A grabber that reaches out, yanks the listener by his or her ear, and burrows into their brains like a tranquilizer dart into Wayne Newton’s fleshy haunch. Your opening line should be empathetic to the listener. Here are some excellent examples of opening lines: You’re working harder than ever, umm, yes you are… You don’t like headaches and nausea, you’re not too keen on diarrhea and vomiting either… You expect precision engineering these days from auto manufacturers in a large Michigan city we’ve come to call ‘Detroit’… You’re about the best human being ever… You won’t fall for just anything because you’re savvy as all get out… you love a candy bar with chewy nougat and nuts galore drenched in creamy milk chocolate and relatively no asbestos fibers or rat feces…

    You get the drift.

   Now you have listeners hooked. Now that people know you understand them, they are ripe to be slipped a sales message. So, give it to them. How? In rhymes, of course. Watch: You’re working harder than ever/ you’re never ever gonna stop/ you know whatever the endeavor (PRODUCT NAME) will help you reach the top!!! (NOTE: three exclamation points mean you really, really, really mean it– and people love that kind of sincerity thing).

    There you go. Now, find a singer who sounds like Bob Seger after guzzling four pints of bourbon, smoking three packs of Luckies, and clearing his throat with steel wool. Marry these insightful lyrics with some scorching guitar licks, booming drumbeats, pounding bass, maybe a bit of the ol’ David Ogilvy cowbell, and you’ve got a hit that’s sure to get the client’s toes a-tapping (“Hey, I dig the beat! Do you think we can do a version about value–no, wait, I got it— the value of our product reflects genuine American values! Hey–I really like that! See if you can jimmy that message in there!”)

   Of course, if you don’t want to go to all the bother of writing your own lyrics, you can always just take a rock classic and rewrite its lyrics. Like so: (To the tune of the Rolling Stones classic “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”):

   SING:  I can’t get no good traction/ I can’t get no gripping action/ ’til I tried smoother ride/ I tried Goodyear pride/ now I get some/ Goodyear sticky traction/ said I get me some/ Goodyear gripping action… ANNOUNCER VOICEOVER: When the rubber hits the road, nothing beats Goodyear tires. Goodyear, the tires that are round so they roll better most all the time… SING: Now I get more smooth riding traction/ said I get more/ sweet driving satisfaction/ cause I tried/ Goodyear pride/ have a Goodyear ride on my side… oh I can get more/ Goodyear sweet driving satisfaction/ said I get me more/ Goodyear smooth handling all weather gripping the road traction… (FADE OUT)

    You dig, right? I’m currently working on a version of Iron Butterfly’s “Inagada Davida” for Contadina sauces. “Ina Contadina sauces are big mushrooms/ Ina Contadina sauces are spices that go boom…”

   The only problem I’m having is that, apparently it’s almost impossible to buy 18 solid minutes of commercial time, and I’d hate to ruin the integrity of the original song.

   Here’s hoping this has been helpful. Next time, we’ll look at “Bite & Smile: The Importance of Putting Some Teeth Into Your Commercials.”

 

Now let nature take its course...

Now let nature take its course...

   I was ecstatic to see this picture from a zoo in Thailand, which is just  east of Delaware, west of Iceland, this side of paradise.

   It has bothered me for a long time that so many monkeys are living  together in sin. While zookeepers may look the other way and  ignore their morals with a blind eye, I have never been able to.

   Sin is sin is sin,  and monkey flesh is weak.  Maybe I’m a prude, but I  think if you’re  going to share a cage you should  have a legally binding  document that  says you’re a couple and entitled to engage in  shenanigans (if both parties agree).

    Marriage is an institution all creatures should abide by, cherish  and  engage in to enjoy gifts of small appliances for going through  the act.

    Bully to these monkeys for doing the right thing! We all salute ye of high moral fiber and primate formal wear.