Thursday, January 30, 2014

Double Take

For about the last year or so I've occasionally come across ads from Discover Card's "We Treat You Like You'd Treat You" campaign while watching Hulu (they were probably on regular TV too). The ads are meant to show how friendly and superior Discover's customer service is and how their customer service people will treat you like you would treat yourself. To demonstrate the point they have the same actor playing both the caller and the Discover employee explaining to the call how great all their features are. The characters are varied from sassy black women, to paranoid private investigators, to unhappy mothers, and bewildered spouses.

I never really paid much mind to these ads. These weren't exactly all that memorable but I suppose there were way worse :30 adverts out there. However I have to admit that I was legitimately surprised by the most recent one:

Every other so far has been presented as visual representations of Discover treating the customer like the customer would themselves, but here it turns out they are literally twins. I did not see that coming. Although now that I think about it, shouldn't the sister who was working for Discover have figured out that she was talking to her twin when she pulled up her customer information? 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Three Below

As I write this post it is 58 degrees and drizzling. It's nobody's ideal weather situation (I don't know maybe northern seals might like this?) but compared to the deep freeze most of the country was in earlier this week, it's a heatwave. I know most of us have terrible goldfish memories when it comes to extreme weather but I certainly couldn't remember ever feeling a pile driver cold like that waiting for the bus. I had a few random observations that were tangentially (and really these are quite tangential) related the past deep freeze, none of them had enough substance to justify an entire post but I figured if I cobbled them together into an ungainly Frankenstein (or perhaps Human Centipede) there would be just enough content for a proper entry:
  • In my recent attempts to be more competitive in my pop music fantasy league I got myself into Spotify in an effort to try and get hip to what the young people were listening to these days. So far though I've just been using it to listen to a lot of classic country music story songs (maybe I'll eventually work my way up to listening to contemporary country music story songs). Of course no discussion of classic era country storytelling would be valid without the mention of "The Storyteller" himself Tom T. Hall. The song for me that that really captured the bleak oppressive cold of the past few days and become my unofficial theme was "It Sure Can Get Cold in Des Moines". It appears to be an album cut and definitely not one of his more well known songs (that myspace link was the only place where I could find a streaming source. Youtube only had a few cover videos), but I just really enjoyed the sad, simple mood he invoked in the tune. Most of his big hits are broad, often comedic, somewhat cheesier fare (which I still enjoy thoroughly) so I enjoyed this style change. One thing it did have in common with most of his big hits was that it took place in a bar or involved drinking; I suppose it's no surprise coming from the man who wrote "I Like Beer"
  • The recent cold also seemed have proved too much for our ailing home boiler. It's in the stage of its life where it's broken but annoying not broken enough to justify getting it replaced. Like an aging ballplayer it's capable of stretches of quality work with occasional flashes of its former brilliance, but it's obviously not the player it once was and is prone to bouts of ineffectiveness. I suppose if I wanted to continue the metaphor I would be better off getting rid of it a year too early than a year too late. Anyways it's nothing serious, but sometimes it'll forget to switch on when the temperature hits a certain level and you have to physically do some light finagling to get it going again. Of course any incidence of boiler finagling will remind me of that scene from "Peep Show" where Jeremy tells Mark to "trick" their boiler into heating the apartment up faster. I know Jeremy is supposedly in the wrong here, but I can't help but follow his logic. If you set a higher goal temperature for the boiler I think it would work harder to get there than a modest goal temperature. The same goes for the heat in my car and preheating ovens.
  • My final point really doesn't have much to do with the cold weather. I was watching last Monday night's "Old School" themed episode of WWE Raw (to the unfamiliar it's basically like old timer's day where they bring back bunch of former wrestlers and celebrate the past). One of the returning old timers was the tag team faction "Too Cool" (see cool, cold, cold weather, huh, huh?). I actually don't know much about them because their entire run on WWE fell during my wrestling hiatus from the beginning of high school, 1998, to 2013 when I got back into things after going to Wrestlemania 29. Too Cool doesn't have the most compelling of gimmicks, I guess they've got a kind of clownish, fun loving, vaguely hip hop related, theme. I think they would have actually fared just as well in the modern, kid friendly PG era of WWE. One of the members "Scotty 2 Hotty"'s entire career is basically predicated on his overly theatrical finisher "The Worm". No matter what he does in the ring, the people expect him to break out the Worm. Having witnessed the Worm in action, it might well be the least efficient finisher in WWE history.  As fans there is a certain degree of suspension of disbelief (isn't it odd that no one ever ends up awkwardly hanging in the middle ropes except against Rey Mysterio?), but the amount of time the opponent just lies there while Scotty sets up his ridiculous routine all for a pathetic chop drop makes even the most dedicated mark strain. It makes the People's Elbow look unpredictable and devastating. Still, fun to cheer along with I guess.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Crunchy Numbers: Dispatches from My 2013 Journal

Over the last few years I've developed the habit to keeping a small journal around me to take notes and write down random ideas and observations. If you spent any significant amount of time around me you may have noticed that small black leather bound notebook (it's actually a Piccadilly plain small essential notebook. They look exactly like the famous Moleskine notebooks but cost about half. Unfortunately it's become a lot harder to find them since Borders shutdown) I often have on me. Content-wise I'd say it's like an extremely casual version of the sort of daily notebooks former Senator Bob Graham keeps, Most of it is really just a jotting down of the mental kipple that my life generates. I keep certain running lists like movies I've seen and books I've read but I make actual entries on average maybe every three or four days (I noticed there are a lot of Thursday entries). 

So I figured with 2013 firmly in the rear view mirror I'd share with everyone to a quick look back at some of the stats and entries:

Overall I've completed 37 books in 2013. This might be a personal record of mine as an adult. I probably read more as a kid but it's hard to compare; you can go through like four Choose Your Own Adventure Books a day. This number would have been impossible without the aid of audio books which where a mainstay of my commutes (and sometimes slow days at the office). Of the 37 books I've read 23 of them were audio books (I know some purists would say I didn't technically "read" them, but whatever). 10 of the books I read where physical books while I polished off 4 e-books or whatever the kids are calling them these days on my Nexus 10. The first book I completed this year was an audio reading of Paper Towns by John Green (1/9) and the last book was David Mitchell's autobiography Back Story (12/31) read by Mitchell himself, which I think makes for a superior experience over reading print.

Counting movies I saw in their entirety; I'm talking sit down, watching at least 95% of the thing, not just catching the last half of "Anchorman" on Cinemax, I saw 53 films in 2013. Of that number I only saw 9 of them in theaters (and really like half of those were Rifftrax Live events). In terms of physical media I saw 4 movies on DVD and 1 movie on VHS (1931's "Private Lives" for esoteric rom com research). The other 39 films were streamed online (Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc.), the future is now. First movie I saw "Ruby Sparks" (1/2) which I got from a Redbox machine (one of the 4 DVDs I saw that year) and the last film was "Delirious" (12/21) which I streamed online. I also want to note that I finished my years long goal of seeing all 100 movies listed in Billy Mernit's "Writing the Romantic Comedy" (also I finished my first draft of my own rom com) the personal rankings of which I may eventually publish on this blog.

I didn't keep some kind of thorough list of everything I ate or places I ate but I have verified that I ate at least 12 times at a New Jersey dinner (though it certainly felt like more). Also, I don't know how to explain it but somehow I ate at California Pizza Kitchen at least 5 times, all outside of California. I also made 3 confirmed trips to Fuddruckers which is not nearly enough in my opinion.

Haircuts and Grades
  • 3/24 - B+ "Decent, short, really took care of the sideburns"
  • 6/8 - B- "Slightly longer on top, sideburns undercut"
  • 8/25 - A- "Even cut, I liked it, best I can probably hope for"
  • 11/16 - B "OK cut, slightly longer, mostly focused on side and back"
I should probably find a place that doesn't average a B but they're close, friendly, cheap, and we've come to the point where I don't have to really explain to them how I want my haircut.

Karaoke Songs
With the friends I run with, it's always important to have a steady list of songs you want to sing mapped out so you don't waste valuable time at the karaoke place pouring over sticky songbooks looking for something to pick.  3 songs I got around to doing for the first time this year were:
  • George Jones - "White Lightning" (RIP George Jones. Super fun song to sing. Though it's a 50s country song about brewing moonshine, the lyrics could easily be about cooking meth)
  • Robert Palmer - "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" (The sexiest song about telling someone you don't want to sleep with them.)
  • Dinah Shore - "Buttons and Bows" (I had recently seen that classic "Frazier" episode where he does an embarrassingly inept rendition of the song on TV and I just had to get it out of my head) 
Five Random Excerpts
  • 1/31 - Thurs. - "Last episode of '30 Rock' aired tonight; I didn't know that it was airing until this morning. Fantastic final season. I'm really going to miss that crazy show. My Thursday night line up is crumbling."
  • 4/4 - Thurs. "It would appear that my Casio watch died after midnight around 12:03. Sad. It might be too cheap to replace the battery."
  • 6/14 - Fri. "Technically it's past midnight so it's the 15th but who's counting?"
  • 9/7 - Sat. "Now: The house is currently out of seltzer. I must take my leave to the Shoprite."
  • 12/9 - Mon. "Icy mess this morning, fell on my ass twice while heading to the bus. Surprisingly not as much damage as I expected. It's one way to get the morning started."
I never said I was Anne Frank.

Five Really Random Things I Just Jotted Down And Now I'm Not Entirely Sure What They're In Reference To
  • "Distaff = Female"
  • "Men's Werehouse, for fashionable Werewolves"
  • "William Melater aka Bill"
  • "One hit wonder or magnum opus?"
  • "Dialog: Remember the time we met Willy Wonka but it turned out to be a bum in a factory?"

2013 in a nutshell everyone!