Madison Avenue – You Done Me Wrong

I bought a new car not too long ago.  Don’t get the wrong impression; I’m not the kind of high-rolling blog writer who can afford to go out and buy a new car whenever I’m not playing squash or taking European vacations.  In fact, this was the first new car I’ve bought in about 20 years.

I took the time to shop around for a while to find the car which best suited me.  I did lean toward the more luxurious side of the middle of the road, largely because by the time another 20 years ticks by, my main mode of transportation will likely be a Hoveround scooter or a hearse.

During the shopping process,  Madison Avenue got in my head and played with my brain.

I looked at the Acura TL.  At the time, their ad campaign featured famous athletes like Calvin “Megatron” Johnson of the Detroit Lions and Olympic free-style skier Ashleigh McIvor being transformed from raw, powerful physical specimens into elegant, refined versions of themselves.  The message is simple; beneath the sophisticated exterior of this car, beats the heart of an elite performer.

This is a still shot from Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor’s Acura spot. I could have used one from Calvin Johnson’s ad, but I liked this one a little more..OK..a lot more. (Image from adland.tv)

Besides the simplicity of the message, the ad agency had the good sense to use the athletes for their bodies and personae only, leaving the spoken words for voice-over professionals.

Lincoln ads had an appeal as well.  They featured actor John Slattery, who plays the silver-haired Roger Sterling on AMC’s show about 1950’s/60’s Madison Avenue, “Mad Men“.  As a fan of the show, it’s fun for me to see “Roger” – especially in a commercial.  From a casting standpoint, he’s a clever choice.  Even people who’ve never seen Mad Men will perceive Roger, as I prefer to call him, as a man who’s arrived.  A guy who knows what he wants.  Fans of Mad Men will also see a successful man, albeit the vodka-before-lunch, womanizing, advertising mogul sort.

Sorry Roger, though the Lincolns all come with lots of cup holders, I’m afraid that ashtrays are an upgrade. (Image from theatlantic.com)

One look at Roger Sterling behind the wheel of that Lincoln and you just know that there are ample cup holders and reclining seats.  I have to admit, on some level I pictured myself driving home from The 21 Club with Mad Men sexpot Christina Hendricks draped across the passenger seat beside me.

Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks sitting right next to me in my Lincoln! Did I mention that all Lincolns come standard with dual airbags? Dunno why that suddenly popped into my head. (Image from askmen.com)

Perhaps it was my fear of having explain the busty, redheaded passenger to my wife, or maybe it was the test drives, but I went with the Acura TL.

I’ve been very happy with the car so far.  There is only one qualm really.

Recently, Acura has begun showing a new series of commercials, wherein unsuspecting characters are taken for thrilling rides in Acura vehicles, driven by the likes of loudmouth Dr. Phil and financial guru Suze Orman.  While I’m sure Acura’s ad agency has a good rationale for this new direction, it sticks in my craw to be driving a brand which has aligned itself with these two.  My gut reaction when seeing Dr. Phil and Suze is one of revulsion.  I’m not really a fan of either one of them, and on top of that, they each have “the connection” – whether it’s deserved or not, I perceive them both as darlings of one of my least favorite people, one Oprah Winfrey.

I’m praying that there’s no truth to the rumor that Acura will be replacing the voice in its navigation system with that of Dr. Phil. “You got to make up your mine an turn right onto Willuh Court! It’s time to stann-up fer yerself an do what’s right fer you!” (Image from dr-phil-blog.newsok.com)

I realize that many of my blog readers, particularly females, may take exception to my dislike of Oprah.  Sorry ladies, I just do.  I don’t dislike her because she’s a woman or because she’s black.  Nor do I dislike her because she loses more money in the cushions of the sofa at her beach house than I make in a year.  I just dislike her because I do.  I can’t explain it.  I imagine that it’s akin to the dislike a dog may have for a strange houseguest.  No matter how much affection the host shows the guest or how nice the guest may try to be, the dog just knows, on some visceral level, that the person is not to be trusted.  Given half a chance, the pooch will nip at them, or if possible, take a dump in one of their shoes.  If Oprah ever comes to my house, she damn-well better leave those stinky Jimmy Choo’s on her feet.

Ironically, it’s thanks to the brainstorming of some modern day Roger Sterlings that my beautiful, newish car has been disassociated from Megatron and tied instead to two of Oprah’s lackeys!  I’d be less upset if the Acura TL was named the official car of the Free Jerry Sanduskie movement.

I’m wondering if the trade-in value is high enough to allow me to put myself in the seat of a new Lincoln.

Bully For You!

There’s a movement afoot.  The government is trying to outlaw bullying.

There are cynics among us could argue that the United States government knows an awful lot about bullying, having perfected it as an art form over the past couple of centuries.  For the record, I’m not one of those government bashers.  Unlike scores of celebrities and pro athletes, I pay my taxes and drive within 10 mph of the speed limit.  Seriously, I’m a good citizen, there’s no reason to audit me, none…whatsoever.

As long as I’m making disclaimers, let me get this one out of the way.  There have been tragedies, recently and over the course of modern civilization, due to bullying.  Lives have been lost, and lives have been ruined.  The following bit of writing is not making a mockery of those people who have been impacted horribly by bullying.  If you’re concerned about being offended, please stop reading now, you don’t even have to click the “Like” box.

Butch from The Little Rascals. Was he a bully, or just misunderstood?
(Image from thorninpaw.com)

A quick show of hands; has anyone here been bullied?  OK, let me say this;  either quite a few of you are amputees, or you have repressed memories.  Let me help you remember;

If you have or had an older sibling, you’ve very likely been bullied.

If you have more than one older sibling, you’ll almost certainly need counseling for the bullying you suffered – please sign up on one of the clipboards in the back of the auditorium when we break for lunch and someone will get back to you.

If you played organized sports and weren’t the star of the team, you were probably bullied.

If you didn’t play organized sports, you may have been bullied by someone who did.

If you wore glasses as a child and you weren’t a bad ass, please don’t forget the clipboards in the back.

If at any point, you had bad skin, you were likely bullied.  If you never had bad skin, you’re a damn liar, and you should be in the damn liars group, they’re down the hall in 3-A.

If you spoke with a lisp, a funny accent or had braces, you were likely bullied.

If you had a pulse, grew up in America and actually had social interactions of some sort, you were likely bullied.

Obviously, we’re going to need a bigger auditorium, and more clipboards.

Scott Farkus! He was a bully AND he's a ginger with braces. Surely he's been on both sides of the bully dilemma. (Image from Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" - MGM)

Let’s have a little experiment.  Open the newspaper, or for you tech savvy types, your browser, and take a look at the movers and shakers.

Oh! Here’s one!  He’s one of the most powerful, rich and influential men of our time, Mr. Bill Gates.  Let’s take a look at Mr. Gates for a moment and envision him as he may have appeared as a child.  Now, let’s ask ourselves a hypothetical question: Was he the victim of bullying at some point in his childhood?  I’m going to go ahead and speculate that perhaps he suffered a wedgie or three in his early years.  Some of the more cynical among us might even speculate that it’s possible that Windows Vista is not so much an operating system as it is a gigantic F-U to the bullies of his childhood, who had to learn how to find their email all over again.

Here’s another guy, Mr. Steven Spielberg.  He’s got Academy Awards and the adoration of all of Hollywood.  He picks up his satellite phone and even creatures from other galaxies snap to attention.  Take a good long look.  Consider his career, he’s made movies like “Jaws” and “E.T.- The Extra-Terrestrial”.  Do we think perhaps Mr. Spielberg may have been bullied just a little, many years ago?  I’ll take the lead and guess that the answer is yes as well.

How about mega-best selling author, Mr. Steven King, or Oprah Winfrey?  What about Donald Trump?  For the record, I don’t necessarily think that Mr. Trump was ever a victim of bullying, but there are quite a few readers who would enjoy the thought of him getting a “swirly” with that hair of his.

So what if many of these people were actually bullied as children?  Even if we assume they were, what if they weren’t?  Would Bill Gates have been driven to do the things he did later in life?  If he had NOT been bullied, I’d likely be writing this blog on a stone tablet with a chisel and posting it in my front yard.  Would “E.T.” have touched our hearts so deeply if Spielberg had sailed through his early years without a single titty-twister?  Would Jonas Salk have invented the polio vaccine or written Braodway musicals if he had never gotten that wet-willy in 3rd grade?

You can see where I’m going with this.  Before you nay sayers, start saying “Nay” (so obvious, why not say something else – change it up a little?), let me finish.  I realize that Adolph Hitler was probably bullied as a child, I mean, look at that hair and his choice of mustaches.  I’m sure Charles Manson and Rick Santorum were bullied as well.  I accept that maybe bullying played a part in the creation of those people too.  Maybe it didn’t.  Maybe the evil of the world and the goodness of the world is there and it’s going to come out regardless.  For the record, I’m not condoning bullying – you leave your little brother alone mister, or you can forget about any dessert or parole!

So the government is going to outlaw bullying entirely.  They’ll effectively rid our culture of potential monsters and the youth of America will be able to grow up in an environment free of the unpleasantness of bullying.  Perhaps they can do something about skinned knees and splinters too.  Also, I never scored the winning run, goal or basket during my entire tenure in youth sports – can somebody legislate the pain away for me, please?

Right off the top of my shiny, hairless head, I can think of  a couple of major flaws with the premise of the government’s anti-bullying movement.

For one thing, government leaders don’t actually give a rat’s rear end about bullying.  The entire issue of bullying was just their “hot topic” of things to pretend to care about between elections.  Odds are they’ve already moved onto the next “big issue” threatening the American dream.  My guess is that the issue will be the increased use of pesticides in hair-care products currently being manufactured in 3rd world countries by out-sourcing American corporations.  Outraged bald Senators will clamor to appear to be spear-heading the issue.  The media will find some unfortunate souls with scarred but insect-free scalps to profile in hard-hitting news stories.  The whole thing will quickly fade, shortly after haircare and pesticide lobbyists descend upon the halls of power, not unlike rich, generous locusts with great hair.

Another flawed aspect of the anti-bullying legislation which no one seems to see as a problem, is that kids are pretty much immune to grown-up law.  There’s a story in the news every week about some 7 year old killing his babysitter, or a 9 year old pimping out his 6 1/2 year old sister.  Nothing ever happens to these kids.  The courts, which admittedly can’t even consistently convict guilty adults, are powerless at dealing with kids.  So the powers that be have put the onus of stopping bullying on school administrators, coaches and parents.  These people are trying to run schools, win games and keep up with mortgage payments – and that’s just the school administrators.

Mark my words America, by this time next year, we’ll all be too busy scanning the tiny print on our styling gel ingredients looking for roach poison to notice that little Jimmy is getting a purple nurple from that Thompson kid from up the street.