Monday, January 30, 2012


This is an extremely belated addendum, but I figured it was better late than never (also I can't really pass up an opportunity to pad my overall numbers with a quick and easy blog post; I have a quota to to maintain, you know). Back in late August of last year I posted my harrowing tale of surviving my first earthquake experience and the eerie coincidence that at the time of the quake I had the lost 80's New Wave gem "The Earthquake Song" by the Little Girls utterly trapped in my head since hearing it for the first time the previous week. Of all the silly, at times weirdly morbid, lyrics cheerily belted out by the Little Girls my favorite line is when they state that (in reference to the earthquake): "It's gonna kill my mom and dad/They were the only folks I've had/But they better not blame me/'Cause it's not my fault".

It's a wonderfully ridiculous line that sets the tone of the entire song; a devastating disaster seen through the surreal perspective of a carefree Southern California teen with wildly divergent priorities. Now, maybe I'm just thick and this is totally obvious to everyone else but I just realized today that the "it's not my fault" verse is a subtle play on the earthquake theme of the song (you know, like fault lines?). I can't tell if it's intentional or not but if it is I have to say it's an exceedingly clever line (and if it's not, it's a happy accident). Either way it makes me like the song all that much more.

P.S.: I also sincerely apologize for getting "The Earthquake Song" in your head (or back in your head again for previous readers). If you're anything like me, this insidiously fun tune will be firmly entrenched in your consciousness for at least the next few days.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Judging from your song, you're infatuated with a woman named Mindy...or a man named Andy

Before I begin any mention of the song "I Kissed A Girl" by Jill Sobule, I want to go on record as stating that, in case there was ever even a moment of doubt among anyone out there, I vastly prefer this "I Kissed A Girl" over the other "I Kissed A Girl". I'm not going to go as far as to say that one song is objectively "better" than another. Aside from both being pop songs with a shared title and broad story of a straight girl reflecting on kissing another girl, they are two very different songs from completely different genres and eras with divergent themes. Sobule's song is an understated, sort of folk rock story of a woman's complicated feelings for her female friend that despite the quirkiness comes off with a surprising amount of honesty. Perry's song is a slick, Dr. Luke produced, electropop monster of a track, that's built around the titillating shock value of the female protagonist kissing another girl. Sobule's protagonist was motivated to kiss her friend out of emotion and felt some guilt about her actions which she eventually plays off and accepts a non-judgmental attitude about; Perry's is motivated to kiss a random female for the attention and is really torn by the guilt over her enjoyment of it. For a song about same sex kissing, it is aggressively heterosexual. While, often times I'll go for lust, flash, and trash over the subtle and honest, I just find myself just plain liking Sobule's protagonist a lot more than Perry's (also I've always been down with alternative rock chicks with guitars).

With that being said (I think that extended preface will be almost be as long as my actual main post, which is fairly simple) I just wanted to mention two random thoughts I had about Jill Sobule's "I Kissed A Girl".

First, after watching the video again, it's amazing how little Fabio has changed in over 15 years.

Secondly, as one of those gender specific songs that really requires the singer to be a certain gender (or to utilize the use of lame lyrical gender reassignment) to maintain the original theme, I always thought that if a man was singing "I Kissed A Girl", the song would then be about this guy seriously overreacting about kissing a girl for the first time and having conflicting feelings about it. Additionally some of those feelings of guilt might have been related to the fact that the girl he kissed ("Jenny") is his close friend and is with somebody else ("Brad"); understandably a bizarre source for getting your first kiss.

I never really considered until now that the switched male singer could have been gay, which would have made his conflicted feelings far more rational. Perhaps I'm just not that progressive minded but I always imagined the male singer to be straight, cripplingly love-shy weirdo. With a gay male protagonist the general theme of the song is preserved but instead it's a gay individual questioning their homosexuality and realizing it's okay to be a little straight sometimes; a theme that you really won't find all that often in pop songs (or any songs for that matter). This also would make a lot more sense of the fact that protagonist of the song reveals to the other girl that he/she is in a relationship as well with a guy ("Larry") whose recent marriage proposal he/she is considering.

Either love-shy straight or gay male scenario would explain Brad's relief and lack of concern that Jenny is staying over late at their house, but he still comes off as a massive homophobe when he states that "I'm glad your with your girlfriend, tell her hi for me". I suppose his attitude is consistent with Jenny's assessment of him as a "hairy behemoth" that was as "dumb as a box of hammers".

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It Oh, my...

To paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur: "Old advertising mascots never die; they just fade away". The life of an advertising icon is an unpredictable one; some continue to live on as the indelible (somewhat racist) face of a national brand for well over a century, others are over used and worn out into total irreverence, while others flop right out of the gate into obscurity. Occasionally a mascot may get discontinued, only to find unexpected new life decades later. One thing mascots hardly ever do, however, is actually get killed.

It is an exceedingly rare and bold move on the part of a brand when they decide to go for the nuclear option of putting in the effort to deliberately and publicly eliminate their mascot in an advertisement. The only other example I can think of is the heroic death of Segata Sanshiro, the star of a series of brilliantly insane Sega Saturn ads in Japan from the late 90s that I would need to devote an entire entry to properly cover; he had by far the most epic death for an advertising mascot. I do recall the Budweiser frogs were the victims of an assassination attempt in 1997 by some vindictive Italian-American lizards and their hired ferret associate, which did leave one of them traumatized.

The public executing of a mascot is the ultimate expression on the company's part that they are going in a totally new direction and leaving the past completely behind. If a company takes the time and spends the money on a proper end for their character, I suppose it either means that they: (a) have grown to absolutely despise the character and want to be as public with their disapproval as possible or (b) have so much respect for the character that they want to give them the dignity of a big finale rather than just quietly phasing them out.

In the case of's decision this week to kill their longtime spokesman, the legendary William "The Negotiator" Shatner, it is definitely more the latter reason. Priceline, which somehow managed to survive the bubble and (to my continuing surprise) manages to thrive today as a travel website, has finally decided to drop its silly "name your price" feature, which never really worked that well, and has finally become a straight travel discount site like all the others. This end of the need for price negotiation obviously means the end of the "The Negotiator". It appears that the war had ended and apparently fixed prices have won.

So after 14 years of loyal, price slashing service from the quirky concert sets of the late 90s, to his epic showdown with Leonard Nemoy, to his latter day role as "The Negotiator " (with occasional help from the Big Deal), the people at Priceline decided give Shatner a final act on par with the passing of his other famous character. Looking at the two deaths there is an odd similarity between them. Both instances involved a large explosion on a vast cliff, a fearless act of heroism that saved many lives (and in the case of the commercial, also money), and a sort of symbolic passing of the torch to a new generation. As commercial mascot deaths go, I think it was a fine way to close the chapter and turn the page.

Farewell Negotiator, I hope you're in a better, more affordably priced place.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


As you may have noticed from your friends facebook statuses and from visiting many of your favorite websites, yesterday was official SOPA/PIPA protest day on the Internet or, as I will remember it as, the day Wikipedia didn't work. Now I'm all for an unfettered, free Internet (you may have noticed my blog has been preemptively protesting SOPA/PIPA by not contributing an entry since last Wednesday). From what information I've skimmed both proposed pieces of legislation appear unduly restrictive and would cause more harm than the proposed good (although I do feel all I've been getting is the anti-legislation viewpoint; where can I get some pro-SOPA information? The RIAA website? A brief chat with Chris Dodd?). I for one though am not too worried that these laws might pass, there appears to be such a negative majority reaction to it and (although no one is really publicly stating it) there is no way modern American society will allow anything that would hinder or burden the free flow of easy access, streaming, pornography. With that said, the real lesson I learned on Jan. 18th was how important wikipedia was to my everyday life.

Not to get all former communications major on everyone but Wikipedia has to be one of the few completely beneficial things to have come out of the Internet. It's one of those innovations that the Internet was created for (along with of course the free flow of easy access, streaming, pornography): a constantly updating collaborative compendium of human knowledge that's standardized and summarized and freely available for the masses; an amazing achievement that could not be done in any other medium. Aside from the participation and scale of the project, the really great thing about wikipedia has been its democratization of information. Without the burdens of physical media along with the accessibility for anyone to contribute an entry, all information, regardless of importance or cultural significance is included and treated the same way. An article detailing the WWE/WCW Monday Night Wars is covered and treated with the same standards as World War II; you won't get that from Encarta 98.

Being suddenly denied daily access to this diverse, dynamic source of information made me realize how much it had become my daily fact checker and reference guide for the mindless minutiae in my life from petty disputes in conversations, random connections, forgotten facts, to fleeting obsessions. It was downright frustrating how I found myself being denied quick and easy facts about all the random topics that flew into the scattered brain. Ten things off the top of my head I couldn't look up or had to consult inferior sources yesterday:
I think I'll go click on one of those ubiquitous banners and donate a fiver.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Inanimated Or: Why I Am Crazy

We had to throw out our old home toaster recently. Something went wrong with the internal coils and it just started burning one side of the bread to a crisp while leaving the other side untouched. Looking back over its life, I would conclude it had a pretty impressive run. Seven plus years of flawless service is quite an achievement for a low end, no frills, white plastic outer shell, Hamilton Beech toaster. Had it held out for a little while longer it might have even outlasted the Kmart where I think it was originally bought. I'm sure whatever toaster we get to replace it will be just as unremarkably reliable at it's singular, specialized task of warming up slices of bread, with the occasional bagel thrown in. I really shouldn't pay this mundane domestic non-story any mind and give it about as much remembrance as a replaced light bulb or a tossed dull shaving razor. Unfortunately, as you can see I cannot, since I am part of the generation cursed to have grown up with "The Brave Little Toaster"

For myself (and I suspect more than a few other of my peers), that exciting animated adventure tale featuring a plucky little toaster and his misfit cadre of animate home appliances (Radio, Lampy, Blanky, and Kirby the vacuum) faithfully seeking to reunite with their beloved owner who was forced to abandon them years ago has instilled a sort of irrational attachment and nostalgia for the inanimate objects, particularly of my childhood. The film and its sequels (including one where they somehow end up on Mars!) combined with the movie's obvious progeny, the even more sentimental, emotionally loaded, "Toy Story" films (interestingly enough many original Pixar members worked on "Toaster") is likely responsible for cultivating more than a fair share of hoarders within my generation.

Of course we all have our mementos, heirlooms, and souvenirs that we all hang onto and which keep us connected to the past and fond memories; and there are times when a vintage item is actually better than a modern day version, but there are clearly limits. If an object has outlived its usefulness and a replacement is available, you should replace it without affording it the empathy reserved for a human being. I shouldn't feel a twinge of sadness as I see my broken toaster looking solitary and out of place in the outside trash bin. I shouldn't think it lies awake at night, shivering in the cold, staring at the empty sky, grimly pondering why it has been suddenly abandoned. I shouldn't imagine all the other kitchen appliances having melancholy conversations about their lost comrade and morbidly considering their own mortality. The new replacement toaster should not be characterized as an arrogant villain just because it happens to be newer and more advanced than the old toaster.

Whenever I start to get irrationally sentimental like this, I think back to one of my all time favorite TV adverts: the series of Ikea commercials from the 90s where the viewer is manipulated into feeling bad about the unfortunate fate of a household object and it then abruptly told by stern looking Swede that we are crazy for thinking that and you are better off replacing old, tacky items with new ones. It is true, I am crazy and Disney and Pixar are highly irresponsible for peddling such entertaining and memorable messages of consumer goods animism to kids at such impressionable ages. I should enjoy my new toaster, guilt free and perhaps buy a new floor lamp from Ikea.

For next week, in my continuing series examining the influence of animated films of my childhood in my adult life, I'll tackle the deep theological issues of mortality, the afterlife, and the existence of the soul raised by "All Dogs Go To Heaven".