Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bad Ad

Richard Roeper wonders what I wonder:

If you watched any football over the weekend, you probably saw a certain commercial for DirecTV once. Or twice.

Or 20 times.

For the last three years, DirecTV has been enlisting the services of actors who re-create a famous role in a familiar scene from a movie, before breaking character and telling us about the benefits of getting DirecTV.

I can't deny the effectiveness of the ads. There's something jarring and conversation-starting about seeing the still-beautiful but 50ish Christie Brinkley reprising "The Girl in the Ferrari" from "National Lampoon's Vacation," Charlie Sheen back in uniform as the Wild Thing from the "Major League" movies, or Naomi Watts (!) doing the "King Kong" thing again.

It was a little unsettling to see Craig T. Nelson as the father from "Poltergeist," interacting with his daughter Carol Anne, given that Heather O'Rourke, the actress who played the little girl, died at 13.

But the latest DirecTV ad -- the one that aired again and again over the weekend -- is even creepier.

In the spot, David Spade is playing Richard Hayden from 1995's "Tommy Boy." Thanks to seamless technology, Spade seems to be in the room with Chris Farley's Thomas Callahan III, who's doing his "Fat Guy in a Little Coat" bit.

As Farley spins around and does the routine, Spade looks at the camera and says, "Great. I'm here with tons of fun when I could be at home watching DirecTV . . . but no, I'm stuck with either cable, or that."

Farley rips the little coat, and Spade chuckles and says, "Never gets old."

It's been nearly 12 years since Chris Farley was found dead in an apartment in the John Hancock Building. Spade was Farley's close friend, but he opted not to attend the funeral. He was quoted as saying he couldn't "be in a room where Farley was in a

Now, though, Spade has put himself in a virtual room with the ghost of Farley.

Obviously, permissions had to be granted and rights obtained for a commercial like this to happen. And this certainly isn't the first time the image or video of a deceased celebrity has been incorporated into a commercial. Remember the late John Wayne for Coors? Fred Astaire dancing with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner?

I guess it gets people talking. But I'm just wondering if there's anyone who ISN'T put off by the Spade/Farley spot.
I was actually kind of shocked at the ad. It does seem tasteless for all the reasons Roeper mentions. Additionally, what was gained? While I was/am a Farley fan, particularly of his SNL work but less so of his movies, I still found the reference sort of obscure. Does even 10% of the audience get what’s going on, even a little? DirecTV and David Spade both showed really bad taste in doing this commercial.

What intrigues me about things like this is how it gets from concept, to production, to air without anyone pulling the plug. Before the 30 second spot was over, I knew it was bad. What happened during the months (or longer) of development that prevented anyone from getting how tasteless and obscure the project was? I just don’t understand how that happens.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Post-Racism Racism

This is last week’s news, but I was fascinated by the story about the justice of the peace in Louisiana, Keith Bardwell, who refused to marry an interracial couple and then declared:

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
Yikes. Short of lynching someone, I’m not sure how much more racist you can get. But this guy is convinced he’s not racist. I encounter stuff like this routinely. People with racist attitudes have convinced themselves that they can’t possibly be racist. I think it goes something like this: Racism is bad. I’m good. Therefore I can’t be a racist.

I’m glad being racist carries a social stigma, but I’m afraid that’s just leading to an absurd level of denial (see Mr. Bardwell). Many of these same people are also convinced that we live in a post-racist society where only the white man can’t get a break due to “political correctness” or “affirmative action” or Jesse Jackson or ACORN or whatever. Ironically, their own feelings of victimhood in a country where your best shot at almost anything is helped by being a white male are actually a kind of racism.

Being a racist does not require you to be a member of the KKK or advocate a return to slavery. No, it comes in many shades and some more subtle than others.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just Say Boobs

This blog is getting (relatively) heavy traffic today because if you search Google Images for “Meghan McCain boobs”, the fourth pic listed is the photo I used in this post. The post was about Meghan’s fondness for Rep. Aaron Schock (the Monkey) and had nothing to do with the current interest in McCain’s chest. As far as I know, the woman in the picture with Schock is not Meghan McCain. However, I used the word “boobs” in the post and Google made the connection. And why are people searching for Meghan's boobs? Here's why.

Anyway, just for fun, here’s the picture again!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fact Checking Parody

This may be the single best take down of cable news I’ve ever seen. And as a bonus, it’s funny!

I spend most of my workday lunches in front of the TV flipping between cable news channels. I’m just trying to get me a little information! Mostly I’m frustrated and disappointed. That’s why I wind up spending time with C-SPAN, local cable access and the channel guide.

Update: This related bit from Matthew Yglesias who just got back from Europe.

I wasn’t unplugged by any means over the past three weeks. I kept blogging and kept reading blogs. I read the newspapers and I even watched the news on television. But what I watched was CNN International and BBC World News. There’s a world of difference between those networks and even the relatively staid domestic version of CNN. And at the office they had the sound on for Fox News. Bill Hemmer & co. were spinning half-truths, deceptions, and outright falsehoods at a staggering rate. Meanwhile you could see frenetic action on MSNBC and CNN and if I felt like really making myself dizzy could even follow the action on closed caption.

It makes you think about the strange influence that daytime cable news has on American politics. The three networks combined have an aggregate daytime audience of roughly zero. But even though the audience, looked at nationally, amounts to rounding error the networks are hugely popular among the tiny number of people who work in professional politics. Just like traders have CNBC and Bloomberg on in their offices, political operatives are constantly tuned in to what’s happening on cable news. The result is a really bizarre hothouse scenario in which people are basically watching . . . well . . . nothing, but they’re riveted to it. How things “play” on cable news is considered fairly important even though no persuadable voters are watching it. And cable news’ hyper-agitated style starts to infect everyone’s frame of mind, making it extremely difficult for everyone to forget that the networks have huge incentives to massively and systematically overstate the significance of everything that happens.

At any rate, it’s good to be back home but the slower pace and more relaxed and substantive style of BBC and CNN International is something I’ll miss.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No Phone Zone

While I’m happy for the residents getting better cell phone service, I always thought it strange that there was this substantial dead zone along I-55 in that same area. Given the traffic on the interstate, I never could understand this. Hopefully, those days are now gone.

Chicago Ugly

Really? Number 4 on a list of The World’s Ugliest Buildings is the Harold Washington Library in Chicago? Really?

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I love it when the media discovers the world. The childlike awe and amazement is cute:

(CNN) -- Nearly one in four people worldwide is Muslim -- and they are not necessarily where you might think, according to an extensive new study that aims to map the global Muslim population.

India, a majority-Hindu country, has more Muslims than any country except for Indonesia and Pakistan, and more than twice as many as Egypt.

China has more Muslims than Syria.

Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon.

And Russia has more Muslims than Jordan and Libya put together.

Nearly two out of three of the world's Muslims are in Asia, stretching from
Turkey to Indonesia.

The Middle East and north Africa, which together are home to about one in five of the world's Muslims, trail a very distant second.

There are about 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, according to the report, "Mapping the Global Muslim Population," by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. That represents about 23 percent of the total global population of 6.8 billion.
This story treats this information like a new ring has been discovered around Saturn. Who knew! What other secrets does our planet hold beyond our shores?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And Where Was Oprah?

Just to add a late bit to my snarky post from yesterday:

I was watching MSNBC at lunch today and they were broadcasting the news conference from Chicago on new efforts to combat teen violence. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, Chicago mayor Richard Daley and others were all there. This was all prompted by the senseless beating death of that honor student on the city’s (largely black) south side.

After they broke away from the live coverage, MSNBC had some woman commenter on (even though I’ve seen her before, I don’t know her name, only that she looks like she has the mumps) and her first observation was that Oprah Winfrey wasn’t at the news conference. The very first thing she wanted to know why was Oprah wasn’t there! She’s black and she’s from Chicago, so of course she should be there, I guess was here thinking. Which is the same stupid thinking I was referring to yesterday.

Related: More rural white on white crime in the news here in Illinois and elsewhere. Why aren’t white celebrities speaking out about this???

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Rural White on White Crime Now Rampant

With white residents of small towns in Central Illinois shooting and beating each other to death (Ashland, Beason) I think it’s time to hold white community leaders accountable. I expect our media to ask all white people they come in contact with, no matter how unrelated to the incidents, what they think of the recent violence and what should be done about it.

Healthcare is Hard Pt. 4

Opponents of any single-payer health system here in the U.S. often point to the “well-known fact” that Canadians, faced with a medical dystopia in their own country, flock across the border to the US to get the healthcare of which they are deprived at home. I’ve even been told in person that I’m stupid for not believing this to be the case.

Well, just for the record, I post this study that “depicts this popular perception as more myth than reality, as the number of Canadians routinely coming across the border seeking health care appears to be relatively small, indeed infinitesimal when compared with the amount of care provided by their own system.”
And here’s a survey that indicates Canadians are very happy with their healthcare. Another poll shows Canadians overwhelmingly prefer their system to ours.

Now having said all that, it should be noted that as far as single-payer systems go, Canada’s seems to be among the worst. Many of what problems it does have come from being underfunded. Any move to a single-payer system here should probably not look to Canada as its primary model. Fortunately there are plenty of other national systems to look to, and when that day comes, and it eventually will someday, we have lots of tried and true options to choose from.