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Think You’ve Seen It All? Well, You Haven’t.

19 Jan

by Roger White

 

Boy, it happens every time. Without fail, every time I throw my arms up in disgust and utter an exasperated “I’ve seen it all now,” something worse comes along to heave a brick upside the noggin of my jaded sensibilities and inform me that, no, I have not seen it all. Not. Even. Close.

 

Despite how ridiculously vile and frighteningly xenophobic as the foul-smelling arena of politics has become, no, I’m not talking about that. Politics parodies its own self so well these days that no comment is required. Except God help us all. No, what sparked yet another ISIAN (I’ve Seen It All Now) self-rebuke of late came from the one field of human endeavor that manages to run a close second to politics in its ability to horrify and nauseate: advertising.

 

Let me take you back. It wasn’t long ago, a matter of weeks perhaps, and the weather was rotten. So was my health. I had a stubborn chest cold. I’d settled myself down in front of the TV with a meal of my favorite comfort food: a hot bowl of split-pea soup, saltines, and iced tea. With a side of crispy baby gherkins. Awaiting me was an afternoon of recuperation with nourishing reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Twilight Zone.” It was just the therapeutic Mukyprescription I needed. Suddenly, there on the screen, rudely interrupting my sick-day fare of Opie, Aunt Bee, Thelma Lou and Rod Serling, was a commercial for some cough medicine featuring an anthropomorphic glob of mucus. That’s right. A walking, talking sickly-green lump of phlegm with stumpy, phlegmy arms and legs.

 

I don’t have to tell you that half of my bowl of hot split-pea soup with saltines went cold and uneaten. The gherkins didn’t go down so well, either.

 

If you watch any television, you, too, have probably seen this chubby little humanoid snotball (no, not Trump—this is about advertising, remember?). Are they serious? These cough medicine moguls are hawking their health-restoring elixir with a revolting ball of human effluence, presumably nicknamed Muky the Mucus Man?

 

Can you just picture these marketing geniuses at deadline time?

“Joe, you got anything?”

“No. I’m empty.”

“Bob? Anything?”

“I dunno. How ’bout a talking loogie?”

“Okay, that’s good. We’re just about out of time. Let’s go with it.”

 

And yeah, when I saw this slimy, gloppy bit of Madison Avenue creativity, my arms reached skyward, and I uttered forth: “I’ve seen it all now.”

 

And yet again, it wasn’t long after that that my latest ISIAN declaration was roundly rejected. Just when I thought that advertising types could sink no lower, the next week I was introduced to a pink little anthropomorphic bladder. It was gotta peean ad for bladder control medicine, and in it this adorable roundish little bladder walks along holding hands with its owner, constantly reminding her that she has to pee. Wait, there’s more. On the same day, on the same channel, came an ad featuring an adorable pink little walking knot of intestines. Really. This creepy duodenum dude, who I can only guess is called Barry Bowels or something, is the mascot for an Irritable Bowel Syndrome medication. Yes, Intestine Man is the best they could conjure.

 

Never in my most delirious fever dreams have I ever envisioned my bowels as a funny-faced little pink dude—and in all candor, I shudder to imagine what my lower innards would look like with a face and limbs. Especially my innards.

Inty

Gak. What’s next? A cutesy brown cartoon poop named Danny Doody concocted as a stool softener mascot? A cuddly little mouth ulcer called Herpey Harry designed to sell cold sore cream? An anthropomorphic little mascot called Limpy the Member used to sell erectile dysfunction pills?

 

Boy, I’ve seen it all. No, wait. I’m quite certain that I haven’t.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely spouse, two precocious offspring units, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

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Sorry, Kids: There Ain’t No Betty Crocker

2 Dec

by Roger White

So I was watching “Seinfeld” for the eleventy-millionth time the other night, mainly because there is absolutely nothing on TV worth watching these days other than reruns of “Seinfeld,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Twilight Zone.” I know, I know, you young whippersnappers will hold forth that there are some great new shows today, like “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Big Band Theorem” or whatever. I’ll stick with the classics, thank you very much. Don’t you love the word eleventy-million?

not that theresAnyway, I realized that the shtick Seinfeld was doing was aimed right at me. He was talking about pretentious, faux-authentic-sounding brand names, particularly cars. Names like the Integra or the Impreza. They’re made-up names that are meant to sound like other meaningful words, like integrity and impressive. The punch line: Seinfeld simply hoped he hadn’t bought a Lemona. It hit me that the last three cars I owned before my current little Korean vehicle were just that: an Integra, an Impreza, and a Lemona. All true, I previously owned a 1986 Acura Integra (a great car), a 2003 Subaru Impreza (a fast but frustrating car), and a 1979 Lemona (a VW bug—a true bomb I never should have purchased).  Don’t ask me what I was thinking, buying a 35-year-old POS as my daily commute. Besides, that’s another story. A very sad, long story.

Again, anyway. Things then got cosmic as I sat pondering Jerry’s sage words. It struck me as I lifted a spoonful of my Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter flavored ice cream to my mouth. My ice cream brand, too, was a made-up name meant to sound exotic and luxurious. Remember when Häagen-Dazs first hit the haagen whatmarket? Ooh, we thought, super rich frozen goodness from some strange Nordic country where they surely make ice cream from virgin glacial streams, from milk of cows that graze only on Alpine truffles, and from melted gold flakes from Icelandic lava flows. Or something. Turns out, Häagen-Dazs is a nonsense word concocted by one Reuben Mattus from the Bronx. The name, which is not Danish or Swedish or anything slightly lederhosen-ish, doesn’t really mean a thing—except that ol’ Reuben was a marketing genius.

Same with Löwenbräu beer. Back in 1975, just about the time I started my prolific and illustrious drinking career, Miller Brewing of the US of A acquired the North American rights to Löwenbräu, which was originally brewed in Munich. Ya know, the real Germany. Well, when Miller got hold of it, they “Americanized” the recipe, and the original German version of Löwenbräu was no longer imported to our fair shores. Basically, the Löwenbräu we got was Miller swill in an umlaut-sprinkled wrapper. Of course, we young and impressionable drinking types had Millerbrauabsolutely no knowledge of this. We just saw a new, mysterious foreign beer on the market—in a green bottle, even! The name was obviously German, and if anybody knew their brew, it was the Germans. We was hoodwinked.

Same holds true with so many other brands, like bottled water types. I really never understood the billion-dollar explosion of the bottled water industry. It’s water. In a plastic bottle. Water! H2O. This is where brand-name marketing gurus have a field day. There’s one out there called, get this, Glaceau Smartwater. I kid you not. And I not you kid. Both parts of that faux moniker evoke good feelings, don’t they? Aah, a pristine glacier. And intelligent liquid. What could be better? An intellectual body of glacial ice—you can’t get more new-age trendy than that. You know who produces Glaceau Smartwater? Coca-Cola. I picture guys in the back of these massive Coke plants running tap water into these oh-so-fashionable containers of Water de Glaceau. And they’re probably smoking, too. Unfiltered Camels. And laughing.

And don’t get me started on Evian. Look at your Evian bottle in a mirror. Yeah.

uh huh

So. Cogitating on this unsettling realization that so many of the products we consume are purchased under false pretenses, I jogged in a mild panic from the den to the kitchen, where my lovely esposa was making a batch of Betty Crocker pancakes. Paranoia was setting in, so I had to check it out. I ran to the computer and googled “Betty Crocker.” Gads, sure enough. There was no such lady!! Say it ain’t so! I quote from Wiki-whatsis: “The name Betty Crocker was created for the Washburn Crosby Company, later to merge with General Mills, as a way to personalize the company’s products and customer relations. The company picked the name because it sounded warm and friendly.”

I was aghast. Agog. I needed comfort food. “Ah, pancakes. Thanks, dear. Pass the Aunt Jemima.”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

…Only to Find Gideons’ Flatscreen

23 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

Well, I’m back, my fellow existential exam-takers. Just flew in from the far reaches of my psyche, and, boy, are my neural dendrites tired. Actually, I’ve been in Baltimore, but it’s about the same.

 

Although I was encamped in the city’s trendy Inner Harbor for bidness purposes, I did partake of some of the local tourist fare, which involved, in various proportions, many images of Fort Wipken WayMcHenry, the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, mounds of Maryland blue crabs (and all the accompanying crab hammers and pliers and crab-innard removers and bibs and things), and thousands upon thousands of orange-clad Orioles fans. Note: Every third street, boulevard, and/or quasi-large building in Baltimore proper is named for Cal Ripken, Jr. There’s Cal Ripken Road, Cal Ripken Way, Cal Ripken Hair Restoration Clinic, you name it.

 

For those of you non-baseballites, Ripken, nicknamed the “Iron Man,” played for the O’s for something like 173 years, and he holds the major league record for consecutive games played. He Call Calsuited up and took the field for—seriously, now—2,632 games without so much as a potty break, or something like that. Anyway, the folks of Baltimore worship the guy. There’s even an Our Lady of the Shortstop Catholic Church near Camden Yard, where parishioners bless themselves with the sign of the 8 and refer to themselves as Cal-tholics. OK, not really. I kid.

 

Anyhow, the city its own self wasn’t nearly as crime-infested as I had pictured it. For many years, Baltimore carried a not-so-savory reputation with regard to one’s personal safety. The pro basketball team wasn’t called the Baltimore Bullets for nothing. They were going to be called the Baltimore Brick Upside the Heads, but they couldn’t fit it all on the team jerseys. However, I must say that during my brief stay near the Chesapeake, I was accosted not once—unless you count the very large, very moist man with the Phil Spector hair and leopard-print thong singing Paul Anka’s “Having My Baby” at the top of his lungs. I wasn’t sure if he was panhandling, making some sort of pro-life statement, or on the run from the Cal Ripken Clinic for Mood Disorders, but I ponied up a fast fiver and got the hell out of there.

 

A bit off topic from Baltimore per se, but I have to report—the Spouseman not having lodged at the finer inns on my own dime for a good while—that I was thoroughly gobsmacked with regard to one particular aspect of my accommodations. Hotels, I have come to conclude, are absolutely convinced that their guests cannot go one fraction of a second without access to a television. Gads, man. There was a TV in the bathroom—built into the mirror, mind you—a TV in the elevator, a tiny telly on each treadmill in the fitness room, a TV on every wall of the lobby, several in the bar, TVs in the restaurant, etc., etc., etc. CNN, Fox News, and General Hospital were everywhere. Live with Kelly and Michael was practically ubiquitous. I didn’t really need that last sentence to make my point, but I enjoy using the word “ubiquitous” whenever possible. I can be obsequious, dare I say insouciant, like that sometimes.

gotta have

With the preponderance of boob tubes, I found it a tad ironic when I read the little sign in the john that instructed me to please reuse my towels. The hotel explained on its quaint recycled-paper missive that it was trying to help the planet and save money—which would, of course, keep their rates lower—by asking that visitors gently reuse their towels during their stay. I kinda figured they could save a bit more if they gently stopped cramming high-dollar television sets into every conceivable space they could find. I, for one, do not require a flatscreen, high-definition TV built into my toilet paper dispenser.

 

On the plane ride home, I actually considered writing to the hotel manager about my concerns, but the tiny little TV in the seatback in front of me was gently playing an Andy Griffith Show rerun. So I got sidetracked. It was a really good one, though. The one where Aunt Bee enters her kerosene-flavored pickles in the county fair…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Sours for Albert’s Mom

16 Apr

by Roger White

Day 1

Dr. Keys says I should keep a log about how I feel and react to the medications for the next fortnight, so here goes. You see, my gentle flock, living in Austin, as festive and cool and hipster casual as it may appear, comes with a price. I’m not referring specifically to the Venusian triple-digit summers or the wanna-be Stevie Rays hanging out smelly and rudely insistent on every corner—although that does get tiresome. All of south downtown carries a constant aroma of stale beer and lax hygiene these days.

But no, the harshest penalty for residing deep in the pancreas of Texas, for us of the hypeallergiesrvigilant immune system ilk, is allergies. Cedar fever, hay fever, molds, oak, elm, ash—you name it, we have it in spades. My suffering of late has grown beyond the reach of OTC meds and even my allergist’s happy hypodermic, so with doc’s cautious approval, I signed up for a 10-day medical trial of Lerjistan. Sounds like an outlaw country in the Caucasus region, I know, but it’s apparently the latest wave in histamine blockers and vascular inversion and other medico-technical jargon that I don’t even begin to understand except for the fact that Dr. Keys believes it may ease my slobbering, sneezing symptoms.

Day 3

Scary thing is that this trial involves sequestering myself away in this sanitarium-like dorm for the entire 10 days, while men and women in white antiseptic attire, under the watchful eye of the gangly and bookish Dr. Daniels, take my blood pressure and my blood and walk around smiling a little too sincerely. But heck, I actually get paid for my guinea pig services, so I figure I should relax, take the oblong red pills with my meals and catch up on my Andy Griffith shows.

There are five other men in the facility with me, five others desperate for relief or rent money. Regardless of the motive, we all receive the same regimen, and we’ve all been given the same caveat: though the expected efficacy of Lerjistan is high, initial side effects noted in earlier trials may necessitate tweaking of its chemical recipe. Mental side effects, The Friendly StaffDr. Daniels said. Hence the signing of copious waivers, generous compensation, and the carefully monitored quarantine. Everyone’s friendly and professional, but I keep expecting Nurse Ratched to come around any corner. Symptoms have already begun to ease, but I do feel oddly stimulated. Almost giddy at times.

Day 7

Albert, the guy rooming with me, is an odd duck. Heavy and covered with a permanent sheen of forehead perspiration, he hoards just about everything he gets his hands on: ketchup packets, creamer, sugar, napkins. They’re stashed in his bedside drawer like treasure. He buys packages of cherry sours from the vending machines in the cafeteria and stuffs them in his drawer. He never eats them. He has at least thirty packages of Sourscherry sours. They’re for his mom, he says. She loves them and can’t find them anywhere in town anymore. “Truth is,” Albert said today, “I don’t even have allergies. Lied about it. I need the dough, man. My mom’s kicking me out of the house if I don’t get a job soon.” I asked Albert if he feels strange at all when he takes his pills. “Yeah, a little,” he said. “Like I’m speeding my ass off.”

I have discovered, from information gleaned from four outstanding medical and pharmaceutical web sites, that Lerjistan contains a ketamine alkaloid derivative. Ketamine, in its pure form, produces an out-of-body-like experience and heightened brain wave patterns. Interesting. Allergy symptoms have all but disappeared, and I feel strangely powerful. Alive.

Day 9

Time has ceased, but what is time but a manmade construct? I can explain only by degrees, for only by the most minuscule of degrees is the veil lifted for me. I have immersed myself in the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, and I now know that the astronomers and scientists are mistaken. It is not by winds aloft that this magnificent vortex operates. This awesome spiral, as large as the Earth itself, manifests from below, spawned from a tumultuous whirlpool of the nitrogen-methane sludge that comprises the ocean-like surface of this titan planet. I’ve inspected the moons of Saturn, upon two of which Life thrives, unlike Life at all that meets our egotistical definition. Baby steps only, my friends. But I must start somewhere. The galaxy is rife with puzzle pieces that, in full context, fit in the answersuch spectacular perfection. Then, of course, the Universe itself. Pointless to explore, for it is one of a billion billion such constructs, all connected in a grand Mobius strip of creation that simply leads back to point of origin. To be correct, there is no point of origin – like holding a rubber ball and attempting to divine the beginning. There is no Universe; there are no sprawling oaks outside my window; there is no window. Albert has no cherry sours. Everything and everyone are but specters – thoughts in the great mind of That Which Is All. I don’t use God; it is inadequate. And the word conjures religion, and religion is useless. Crowd control only, means for power, gain, self-serving rationalization. Similarly, there is no death. Death of the human form, absolutely the same as a green leaf plucked from its living branch, merely moves the inhabitant life force on to that Mobius strip, where further experience, greater knowledge, takes us closer to That Which Is All. This that has been revealed to me is preface only. There is a vast store of which I’ve yet to comprehend. The great Truth I glimpse now I can scarcely recount, the enormous majority of which I know I lose when I return to my dormitory room. Unfathomable revelations are brought forth with every journey, yet for reasons beyond my grasp they are veiled from my consciousness. They are placed deep in my soul, as they surely are in everyone and everything, but they are curtained for this time.

Day 10

Whew. Strange dreams I’ve been having. They took us off the pills yesterday, and I feel shaky but back to normal. Dr. Daniels said they’ll likely play around with Lerjistan a bit more before deciding on its general release. Probably wise. Damn, my allergies are coming back. I bought a pack of sours for Albert’s mom, but doc told me he was gone.

“Gone? You don’t mean…”

“Yes. Gone. He checked out early. And swiped our coffee pot, the bastard.”

“Oh.”

So I ate the candy. My head hurts.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Have You Suffered Dizziness, Coughing, or Death Recently? If So…

20 Feb

by Roger White

So I’m curled up in bed on a drizzly, dreary Wednesday, nursing a bit of a cold (and when I say nursing, I mean I’m milking the most out of this sniffle so I can stay home—don’t try to deny that you know what I mean). I’m all set. Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, The Big Ma BarkleyValley—the whole lineup waits for me. I’ve got my rainbow-colored goldfish crackers, ice-cold Dr. Pepper in a glass with the bendy straw so I can drink it in bed, and—my favorite—Girl Scout lemonade cookies. Man, I got it made.

But about midway through the second or third TV show, I start feeling bad—not sick bad, like I’m pretending to be. No, I start feeling like some sort of no-account loser. A vague and nebulous guilt nags at me, as if I should be creating something or fixing something or learning to sell real estate or toning my abs. And I realize the culprit is my very own pal—the television. No!

Unfortunately, yes. TV advertisers assume, and maybe rightfully so, that the vast majority of folks who stay home during the daytime are unemployed, uninspired, unhappy underachievers. Have you watched the ads on daytime television lately? Talk about a real buzzkill. Shee.

From the time I watched Barney Fife try to arrest the governor of North Carolina for parking next to a fire hydrant to the time Lee sacre bleuMajors rescued his ma Barbara Stanwyck from evil rustlers, I’ll bet you I saw 37 commercials, all of them for one of the following:

  • How to be a culinary arts professional by attending Chicken Cordon Bleu Academy
  • How to be a medical assistant professional in just six weeks by taking online classes from OuibedoxUniversity
  • How to sue your employer for asbestos exposure if you suffer from: a. difficulty breathing; b. dizziness; c. chronic coughing; or d. death
  • How to make $100,000 in six months by convincing people who stay home during the daytime to send you $39.99 for your program—a program that basically says to tell people they can make $100,000 in six months by sending you $39.99 for your program—are you following this?
  • How to lift your butt as only the Brazilians can
  • How to: lose your muffin top, achieve six-pack abs, boost your testosterone, add inches to your man parts, add inches to your woman parts, take inches off your woman parts, buy the correct bra, perform better in the bedroom (what, standup comedy?), or remove unsightly skin tags (ew)
  • How to remain in your home, travel the world, have money in the bank, finance your kids’ college, and retire in splendor—all with a reverse mortgage

I still don’t quite get the whole reverse mortgage thing. There must be something to it because they have former congressmen—heck, even Henry Winkler—hawking them. I reckon if a reverse mortgage is good enough for the Fonz, then maybe I should look into it. If it’s what it sounds like, I presume that in a reverse mortgage, the bank pays me a monthly mortgage payment, and then all the upper management peoplThe Fonze at Citibank Mortgage come and live in my house. Does this mean we have to move out, or can we just let all these guys sleep on the sofa bed until they get tired of the whole reverse mortgage deal?

And why a Brazilian butt lift? I’d like to see a good Norwegian butt lift now and then.

Man. I was going to stay home again on Thursday, but this is all too depressing. But ya know, I have been coughing and suffering some dizziness today. I might just call that law firm. I thought I caught a whiff of asbestos in the old cubie lately. Worth a shot, no?

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.