Monday, January 29, 2007

Movin' on up

I am moving out of my apartment, my studio in the TenderNob. This is more than just an apartment; it is also the premise for half of my act. Am I going to change my act? Heyyeelll no. Just because I'm moving out doesn't mean I have to leave the comedy gold behind. That was not in the lease. No, I'm taking that with me.

I'm only moving three blocks, but it's a definite upgrade for me. The new place is bigger, brighter. And it's across the street from both a liquor store and a hospital. (I wish I had a $10 co-pay set up with the liquor store.)

I'm hiring movers to move my stuff. I don't have much, so I could probably have done it on my own with some help. But: 1) moving a small apartment 3 blocks isn't that expensive; and 2) I'm a grown-ass man now. I just can't do the whole "rent a truck and a dolly and co-opt your friends and make them hate you for it" thing.

I just don't want to do it anymore. Asking friends to help you move is big. It's a big boundary to cross. It's a big, awkward imposition. It's better than giving them herpes, but not by a lot.

You might think I'm exagerrating. But if you've ever had the pleasure of trying to get a sofabed down three flights of winding stairs into a truck parked on a hill, and then back out of a truck and back up three flights of winding stairs, you're probably thinking, "how bad could herpes be?"


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

There are two car ad campaigns running right now that I hate, and it's hard for me to say which I hate more. The first is the Chevy Truck ad campaign. They feature John Mellencamp singing his patriotic, rugged manly song, "This Is Our Country."

(Actually, is even a song, or is it just a jingle? An ad jingle for a jingo ad? Anyway.)

The song runs over a montage of men doing manly things, along with little tag lines meant to show in stark relief how pointedly NOT wimpy they are. (And by not wimpy I mean not like you or me.)

Sample: showing a fork lift lifting a huge stack of lumber, the tag line reads: this is our breakfast. Or: a couple of good ole' boys at a coffee shop, with the tag line: this is our chat room.

Oh, snap! All you people who work at desks, and use computers and whatnot? You got served!

The whole commercial has an overt political tone, too, which I don't want to over-emphasize. But the clear subtext of the commercials is: people who chat at coffee shops, do hard physical labor, and drive trucks that get 10 MPG? They’re patriots. People who do not...are not.

The message comes through loud and clear: “This is our country... (not yours).” (And Woody Guthrie does flips in his grave.)

The whole commercial is a procession of shameful pandering to base instincts. Right, and that’s so different form other commercials I know, but it seems even more crass to me. Drive a low mileage truck? Don’t use a computer? Don’t read newspapers? It's okay, buddy! You're a patriot!

And then there are the Volkswagen “Safe Happens” ads. I can summarize these fairly succinctly:
Some people – people just like you and your friends, in fact – are driving along, having a conversation - the kind of conversation you might have with your friends, in fact. And then BLAM! Out of nowhere, some a**hole runs into them.

It’s sudden and jarring. It gets your attention. It makes you never want to ride in a VW again.

That’s a great idea for an ad campaign! “Let’s show our car getting wrecked over and over and over....”

“Let’s connect our brand, in consumers’ minds, with traumatic accidents.”

In one of the VW ads, 2 guys are riding along chatting, when BLAM! Just like that, out of nowhere, they get hit by a car. Well, actually a truck. A pickup truck.

I think I heard music coming from the truck: “This is our country…”

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An Appreciation

I was watching the crawl on the TV news this morning, when I saw a familiar name, but I couldn't place it: Iwao Takamoto had died at the age of 81.

Then the story came on and it became clear. Growing up I'd seen his name every Saturday morning. Iwao Takamoto was one of the great animators of his time. Working with Hanna-Barbera and Disney, he created a huge chunk of the cartoons that feel like the backdrop for my childhood. He was instrumental in creating "Cinderella," "Lady and the Tramp," "The Jetsons," and "The Flintstones."

And of course he created a gangly, clumsy Great Dane, and named him Scooby-Doo.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I just ate a frozen entree for lunch - Green Curry from Trader Joe's, so pretty good stuff as far as it goes. But still, frozen entree. A genetic descendent from the TV dinner. (Salisbury steak, potatoes, and apple pie. That is *the* Swanson's Hungry Man TV dinner.)

The box had a picture of a beautiful plate of green curry, with garnish and everything. In small print, it said, "Serving Suggestion."

So I'm guessing that their serving suggestion is, "if you want to eat something that looks like this picture, throw this frozen stuff away and go to a decent Thai Restaurant."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Great holiday, but Dad can't choose the movies anymore

So, new year. I promise I will post twice a day everyday all the live-long year.

Hm, no, not really.

So, what's what?

I had a really lovely Christmas and New Year holiday. (Thanks for asking.)

Oh - k. got me only the awesomest Christmas present ever - a turntable! Not just that, but it has a USB port, if I want to digitize.

"But Ish," you say. "You don't even own any records."

Not true, bitches! I now own "The Beatles" and "Abbey Road," again courtesy of k.*

Back story: we were hanging out with friends a month or so ago, and they have a turntable and records, and I just played with them for about 3 hours straight, and it was an absolute blast.

For instance: playing the entire album "Abbey Road" on CD? That's a 8 out of 10. (It's awesome, but you have to have somewhere to go. I'm tough but fair.) Now then: listening to Abbey Road on a turntable, with the scratch and hiss after you drop the needle and before "Come Together" starts, and again before "Here Comes the Sun"? That's about a twelve.

I went back east and spent time with k's family on Nantucket, which was a lot of fun. We ate, drank, played games, read and occasionally slept. There was a lot of laughter. What more could you ask for?

I grew up in a resort town, so I have noticed that resort towns tend to have a number of things in common:

1. T-shirt shops
2. Candy shops.

Okay, so maybe not a large number. (Sorry, I thought there would be more.)

No town is really a resort town if you can walk around the town center without having an opportunity to buy a sweatshirt or fudge every fifty feet.

And I guess when you go on vacation, you tend to buy souvenirs like t-shirts and hats. But what's with all the candy? Who's going on vacation saying, "man, I sure hope [Park City/Martha's Vineyard/Hilton Head] has saltwater taffy!"

I also went to visit my family over the holidays, which meant more airports and more opportunity for disaster, but I came through unscathed.

On one flight I was in an exit row, so the flight attendent had to come and give everyone a speech.

"You are sitting in an exit row. In the unlikely event of an emergency, it may be necessary for you to assist the crew in an evacuation by opening the emergency doors. Are you willing and able to perform this task? I need you to respond in the affirmative, or I will arrange for you to be seated elsewhere."

So the flight attendent asks everyone, and they say "yes," or yeah."

I really wanted to give a Dwight Shrute-like reply: "oh my God, are you kidding me? That would be AWESOME! Seriously, how cool would that be? Totally, I'd be pumped to do it. How's it go again? Pull, and then lefty-loosie, right?"

(By the way, "unlikely?" Really? That's a bit subjective. Unless you mean that it's unlikely that we'll have an accident that's so minor that we can actually get up and do all that stuff. In that case, yeah, I guess so. But a lot of the time, the whole "who was sitting in the exit row?" question is pretty academic.)

I sat next to one woman on the plane who wore her down jacket the whole flight, and never got up in four and a half hours. During take-off and landings, she clutched in her hands what appeared to be a smoke hood. Relax, ma'am. If that door needs to open, I am ALL OVER IT.

Time with the family was good - food, sleep, a little exercise, and time to catch up with people. The only drawback was seeing "The Good Shepherd," a Robert DeNiro movie starring Matt Damon. Skip it, for the love of all that is holy, skip it. My dad chose it. I should have known better. I have revoked his movie-choosing privileges.

The movie is about the founding of the CIA by a whole bunch of Yale grads, Skull & Bones, old money-types, spanning the time period 1939 to 1961. From 1939 to 1961, a period of 22 years, Matt Damon appears to go from looking like a young man of about 24 to a man of about... 24 and ten minutes. Seriously, just absurd.

Not so his wife, played by Angelina Jolie. They manage to age (and hag-ify) her plenty with makeup. (Good makeup, then no/bad makeup.) The only thing they changed on Matt Damon was his glasses.

(Everyone wears these British Socialist medicine glasses. Everyone. They must have been on sale. I guess the theory was that they'd make everyone look crafty and serious, but in fact, the opposite was true. I was waiting for someone's nose to come off with their glasses. Ridiculous.)

By 1961, Matt has a son who's graduated from college and also joined the CIA. I don't know how they were able to find someone young enough to play Matt Damon's son who wasn't already committed to the final Harry Potter movie. You could tell he was young - he didn't even get to wear glasses.

Oh, and? It was THREE HOURS LONG. Also, it had only the suggestion of a place where a plot ought to go. 3 hours of cloak and dagger suspense that goes nowhere.

If this had been directed by a newcomer, someone from the studio would have come in and said, "yeah, justa couple notes. One, you need to trim it to an hour and 40 minutes. Two, it has to make sense." But it's DeNiro, so who's gonna tell him his movie is a steaming pile?

I bet Dwight Shrute would love to do it.

*And the Sgt Pepper's Movie Soundtrack courtesy of Sam and Mike. Thanks!