Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My Speech to the United Nations, By Georgie Bush.

Is Bushie-Bush writing his own material these days? His speeches increasingly sound like fourth-grade book reports, and his address before the U.N. was downright embarrassing. Hearing his hesitant delivery of primer-simple sentences sent a chill down my spine, knowing that all those global representatives are most likely quietly sneering at him with bemused disdain.

He begins his condescending statements about the Middle East (I think he was specifically talking about Iran) by saying that the area has a "rich history." Yeah, fuckhead, that's kinda why they call it the cradle of civilization. In response to those who say that the U.S. brought instability to that region, he says that this argument is based on the false belief that the region was stable to begin with. What fucking ignoramus would argue that? It's just another straw supposition for him to knock down in idiotic victory with his patented self-satisfied smirk on his mug.

I don't even want to get too deeply into the whole mess, but of course there was at least one muffed line, when he referred to Iraqis raising their "ink-stanked fingers." At the very least, this dolt's tongue should be impeached. It occurred to me the other day that he's sounding more and more like the retarded character Rob Lowe played in Squaredance. If he ever testifies to his undying love of tuna casserole, the transition from privileged dunce to full-on mental deficient will be complete. (I searched Google News for audio of the speech, but damn if I could find any.)

I really hope that he debates Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As the "Young Turks" on Air America pointed out, you usually think of a debate as being a meeting of agile minds, but in this case, the debate would be between a guy who doesn't believe in the Holocaust and a guy who doesn't believe in evolution. And is it just me, or does Ahmadinejad look disconcertingly like a swarthy George Bush? Their dopey grins, their pointed, appropriately hawk-like noses, their empty, slightly-crossed, too-close-together eyes... I mostly want them to debate so I can see them in the same room for myself.

Incidentally, I'm still trying to store the leader of Iran's name. If I ever have to mention him, I tend to just call him Mahmoud, as if he's a pal. In fact, I fear I'm simply reaching that age where new names are often tough to keep in the old mental register, especially foreign ones. Whenever I read an article about him, I say his name to myself three or four times, but later when I try to call it up, there's nothing there. I want to yell at my brain, "Retain, dammit, retain!" To which it might reply, "Tell you what--I'll see what I can do about getting rid of some of the older stuff cluttering up the place. I'll try to delete Bebe Rebozo, and do my best to add Mahmoud Abba-jibby-job." (I suspect it's hopeless--who could ever forget the name Bebe Rebozo? How odd that his parents looked at their newborn babe and said, "Hey, instead of a name, let's give him a punchline!")

All in all, maybe I should cut Bushie-Bush some slack in the verbal fumbling department. I'm sure his booze-and-coke-addled brain isn't what it used to be either, and it was never much more than ballast anyway. I just wonder who got the job of whispering the names of world figures into his ear while he sleeps. (Surely they don't trust Karl "Porky" Rove in the Presidential bedroom...)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Got it, Got it, Need it, Got it...

I collect commercials from the 70's and 80's. I mostly find them on eBay, either in commercials-only collections or as part of programs taped as originally broadcast. Old homemade tapes with commercials intact sometimes turn up at garage sales and thrift shops, too. Friends tend to think this hobby is a bit nutty, and they're right, because I wish I had every friggin' commercial aired between 1975 and 1983 and it makes me coo-coo that I don't. Having grown up on Long Island, I would especially like to have ones from local New York City stations.

So, why this particular fixation? I watched a lot of TV as a kid (as you may have surmised while browsing through this blog) and I think that commercials are often so evocative of their era that they become more memorable than the programs they interrupted. They are meant to be persuasive, and so they abound with stimuli intended to attract and arouse, usually in a style reflecting current trends. Of course, because of their succinct format, the opposite can also be true, with annoying or poorly-made ads sticking to the roof of your brain just as easily.

I own a number of the commercials I recall so fondly, with my favorite arguably being the public service announcement about prejudice from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, featuring a boy and his grandfather in a rowboat out on a lake.

The boy asks what prejudice is, saying that his "Jewish friend" Jimmy accused him of it.

The grandfather gently admonishes the child, telling him he is indeed prejudiced if he calls Jimmy his Jewish friend and not just his friend.

The PSA ends there, but I imagine the boy is so shamed by the quiet disappointment of Pop-pop's reproach that he becomes resentful of Jimmy and Jews in general, thus growing into a virulent anti-Semite. Or maybe he pulls a Fredo on the old man right there. Or maybe they just go for clown cones at Baskin-Robbins.

I also love the animated Great Bear muffler shop ad, with its insanely catchy, jazzy, brushes-on-snare-drum jingle.
Hear it by clicking here! (Posted over the phone from my stereo speaker--talk about muffled...)
this is an audio post - click to play

So many others I was glad to find again...
-Phil Esposito and some other NY Rangers ice-dancing fruitily in Sasson jeans...

-The ghastly ghouls of the Haunted Mansion at Long Branch...

(For the record, this terrified me most.)

-Here's the hapless jaywalking bozo from the "cross at the green, not in-between" PSA...

-The befurred honey who doesn't need a million to look like a million at the Ritz Thrift Shop...

-The stiff-as-old-cheese Coronet brothers with their running "joke" about a talking orangutan...

-Here's a still from the bumper for the WABC 4:30 movie...

(and you can see the dramatic opening courtesy Mr. Lantern Fishworks, right here)...
-The Circle Line and Hudson Dayliner ads that ran for decades, showing the smog-smudged coastline of Manhattan...
-Tom Carvel grunting enthusiastically about Fudgie the Whale and Cupie the Chocolate Nut...

-Giorgio Chinaglia of the New York Cosmos soccer team appearing in a car dealership spot...

-Lots of Christmas ads that set my little heart aflutter...

(I always liked this ridiculously sparse TSS ad: presents arranged in a darkened room with one dim light shining on them. What can I say, I was always something of a melancholy kid. Look for lots more local Christmas commercial scenes as the season approaches...)
-And tons of Crazy Eddie, Korvette's, Two Guys and May's commercials showing whatever sales they were presently going into the red with... (If you're interested in seeing these again, go check out the seller Simio--that's Esperanto for "monkey"--on eBay.)

As for my wish list, well, as I've said, everything. But especially these...

-JGE, a long-gone appliance warehouse, had regular guy co-owner Jerry Rosenberg in a hard-hat telling you about the deals union members could get there. A voice would ask, "Is that the story, Jerry?" Jerry would throw his arms up, shirt lifting to reveal his big belly, and bellow, "Dat's the STAW-ree!"

-There was a summer day-camp program in the NYC area that had a long-running, badly-animated ad featuring a talking yellow balloon (not to be confused with the Lolliwinks' song "Yellow Balloon") and a bouncy ditty that haunts me still. Their website has pics of kids wearing t-shirts with that balloon on them...

-An ice cream ad about which I recall very little except that it had two goofs, one dressed as some variety of fruit and the other as a nut. They did a little Vaudeville-esque routine, singing "He's fruit, I'm nut!" My brother Dave and I would imitate it precisely, as kids are strangely wont to do.

-Not a commercial, but the grim opening to Chiller Theater on WPIX, with the six-fingered claymation hand reaching from the ground. That alone was guaranteed nightmare fuel for a week or so, never mind the horror movie it preceded (usually something like Black Sabbath or Mr. Sardonicus). You can see it in QuickTime on this great page devoted to Chiller Theatre. I swear, every time I played it, that hand reaching up sent an ice cube down my spine!

-Another open I liked, though it's much less interesting, was the cheap chyron intro to WPIX Saturday afternoon sci-fi flicks with Hot Butter's percolating "Popcorn" playing over it.

-Just off the top of my head: Charleston Chews' annoying all-pre-teen ragtime band; Wild West City with Uncle Floyd Vivino, seen here (with Oogie, natch) in an ad for his show...

(go to the WWC site to hear him sing the jingle!); the tolerance PSA with the little American girl lost in an airport where no one speaks English; Hairy, the spider hand puppet ("I'm just wild about Hairy..."); the Mickey Mouse talking phone (where the kid mutters "Mickey come ovah ferra potty"); and the movie ad for, I think, Suspiria. I don't think it's an actual scene from the movie--a woman with her back to the camera sings a creepy song and then turns to reveal a skull face. It scared the hot lemonade out of me so badly--I was about seven at the time--that I was reluctant to change channels for weeks, fearing I'd come face-to-face with her again (this of course was back when you had to actually turn the dial by hand so you were inches from the screen while doing it). The two-DVD set of the movie has the TV ads on it, but when I ordered it from Netflix they sent me the wrong disc. (Of course, I just now spent ten seconds searching for it and found the trailer here. It's certainly not as scary as I remembered, but I think it was the voice that got to me as much as the skullface. This is the full trailer, but I recall it just being that pre-title bit and then the announcer came on to tell you where it was playing. And I would have sworn the camera zoomed in on her bony visage, but I guess that's just how my terror-overloaded brain interpreted it.)

If you have anything I might be interested in (besides intensive therapy), let me know, I have tons of commercials and other weird stuff for trade...

Keywords (in hopes of other similarly troubled videophiles finding this): WCBS WNBC WNEW WABC WOR WNET WLIW

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Song for the First Day of September, and the Last Days of Summer.

Deserves a quiet night
The photograph on the dashboard
Taken years ago
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows
Every streetlight
Reveals the picture in reverse
Still, it's so much clearer
I forgot my shirt at
The water's edge
The moon is low tonight

Deserves a quiet night
I'm not sure all these people understand
It's not like years ago
The fear of getting caught
Of recklessness and water
They cannot see me naked
These things, they go away
Replaced by everyday

Remembering that night
September's coming soon
I'm pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
could not describe

You, I thought I knew you
You I cannot judge
You, I thought you knew me
This one laughing quietly
Underneath my breath

The photograph reflects
Every streetlight a reminder
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

With lyrics by Michael Stipe and music by Mike Mills, the elegiac "Nightswimming" is the song I think of as I notice the signs of summer's waning. If you're one of the four or five people who did not own Automatic for the People, I suggest you download it now, or go to a used CD shop and ask where their Automatic for the People room is (as they will undoubtedly have several thousand copies). Don't let its second-hand store and garage sale ubiquity deter you--it's worth a couple of bucks if you have somehow managed to miss it. Enjoy your September.