April 22, 2009

A Woman’s Holy Grail

Posted in Just Darn Clever tagged , , at 10:09 am by Andrew

I’d like to channel my inner conservative-talk-radio-host and call your attention to the biggest story no one’s covering. As Rush Limbaugh would say, the drive-by media refuse to address this shocking, escalating schism among our women…

…The Yogurt Wars.

As you know, yogurt is of critical importance to women — a staple not only of their diet but their emotional well-being. In fact, it’s common for women to view yogurt as an extension of themselves…a symbol of their power, their strength, their creaminess, if you will.

This odd relationship between woman and yogurt has been explored in two recent documentaries, and you can see fascinating 30-second summaries of them here and here.

You may be asking yourself, “where does the war come in?” EXACTLY!  Given the enormous importance of yogurt to women…and the critical importance of women to society…the stakes could not be higherer.

O M G !

So, in the majestic tradition of conservative talk-show hosts bellowing about issues the public cares little about, I submit to you the Yogurt Wars. This crisis will stain our societal fabric and tear asunder our femaleness. Consider yourself warned!

(Or I could be over-reacting, but that never hurt Limbaugh, so this rant may land me a syndication gig. Wish me luck!)

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April 16, 2009

Coor’s Radio Ad…Worst in History

Posted in Just Darn Clever tagged , , at 8:13 am by Andrew

“Let’s vent!”

Perhaps the only negative side effect of the return of baseball season is the return of the Coor’s beer radio ads. If you haven’t heard them, I apologize in advance for shattering your innocence: A bunch of guys find stupefying humor by endlessly riffing on a bad pun. These lummoxes trip over themselves offering to “open up” and “vent.” The high comedy, of course, is that they’re not indulging their emotions, but simply drinking beer (from a Coors can that apparently has a larger opening). Love It!

The pun is about as subtle as foam-finger guy eating cheese nachos, though maybe that’s the demographic Coors is seeking. But honestly, could even the most boorish beer guzzler find these ads clever?

You could argue the ads are intentionally over the top…but dumb is dumb, people. We’re farming a parking lot on this one — there’s no humor growing here.

We listen to a lot of baseball in our house, and I certainly didn’t want these ads poisoning my kids’ sense of humor. So I deployed early defense last season, and I’m pleased to report that “let’s vent” is now code for “I’m a yahoo” with my sons.

And not to play favorites (as an old St. Louis guy), but maybe it’s time Anheuser Busch includes the  let’s-vent boys in its Real Men of Genius campaign. I think they’d fit right in with “Way Too Proud of Texas” guy and “Cell Phone Holster Wearer” guy.

April 3, 2009

Don’t Drink the Kool Aid

Posted in Just Darn Clever tagged , , at 7:58 am by Andrew

I watched the American Experience documentary on the Jonestown massacre this week and I have to say…that has to be one of the most fascinating, terrifying events in our history. And the documentary is mesmerizing, from footage of Jim Jones and interviews with survivors, to the death of Congressman Ryan and audio of Jones ordering followers to drink the poison…it’s all extraordinary.

I was eight years old when the Jonestown Massacre happened in 1978, and I vaguely remember news reports and photos of the people lying face down, hundreds of them, in the grass. There was nothing particularly grizzly about the photos — no blood, no blank dead stares — which is why news organizations showed them. But as an eight-year-old, and now a 39-year-old, it’s astonishing…nearly incomprehensible…to think of 909 people voluntarily committing an ugly suicide by poison.

I think for people of my generation, with no memory of the 60s, it is difficult yet alluring to imagine that period of free love, hippies, peace movements, communes, and Woodstock. And then there’s the violence — assassinations of the Kennedy’s, King Jr. and Malcolm X, the Manson killings, racist violence in the south, Watts riots, and Vietnam. It’s easy to think the entire decade swung madly and continuously from group love to mass bedlam.

Then came Jonestown in 1978. Eight years removed, yet with roots firmly in the previous decade, this unimaginable horror was a throwback to the 60s.

Jim Jones was a cult leader, yet he and his “church” were treated with great respect by local and even national politicians. It illustrates the point dramatically that the late 60s/early 70s were a far different time than today. Views that we would discard as…well, cultish today were tolerated by most and embraced by many 30 years ago.

Jones’ Peoples Temple had a huge following – so many, in fact, that when Jones became completely paranoid and demanded they all move to Guyana…nearly a 1,000 people went with him! Astounding.

When enough family members in the states complained of relatives being held against their will, Congressman Ryan travelled to Africa to investigate. You should know the story from here — a church member tried to stab Ryan; he and his delegation, along with about 20 defectors, tried to board a plane to leave; Jones’ cronies opened fire on them, killing Ryan and 4 others. Same day, Jones convinced his followers to drink the poisoned flavor-aid, and minutes later 909 people were dead, including nearly 300 children.

Could such a thing happen again? How could it happen then? How could an individual be normal enough to be praised by politicians yet crazy enough to order mass suicide? And was it his normal or his crazy that convinced people to kill themselves?

Like I said, the documentary is endlessly fascinating. So before you say “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” again…be sure you know what you’re talking about.

April 1, 2009

Wall Street – The Vegas Hotel

Posted in Just Darn Clever tagged , , , at 10:15 am by Andrew

Word is the Vegas Strip will soon have a new hotel…called Wall Street. And get this…the owners include a milieu of disgraced AIG executives and Wall Street brokers who pioneered the derivatives and credit default swaps – the financial products that crashed the market and led our country into recession.

Here’s what gamblers will find in way of games and accommodations when they check into the Wall Street Hotel:

— CDS Tables…that is, credit default swap tables. Rather than betting against your own hand of cards, gamblers bet against everyone else’s hands. Of course, this is intended to replicate the credit default swaps that wreaked havoc on the financial market. I’m not a gambler, so I don’t understand the details, but CDS is a complex game whereby gamblers build-up stakes as fellow gamblers lose, and the trick is to cash out before the player across the table hits a win streak…similar to short-selling stocks, I guess.

Ponzi Games. (They can’t call it “Madoff Easy” for legal reasons.) This game has an electronic dealer, because gamblers wouldn’t trust a human anymore. Here’s how it works: players buy into the game, and players who cash-out are paid with a portion of other players’ buy-in. So the later you cash-out, the bigger your take…but it you wait too long, you cash-out with nothing. It’s like a game of financial chicken. Cash-out early to break even; cash-out late for a high-risk, high-reward shot.

Retention Bonuses. All hotels shower premiums on their big spenders, and Wall Street Hotel will be no different. Gamblers who stay the longest, both in hotel nights and hours at the tables, receive…”retention bonuses.”

AIG Suite. Oddly, all gamblers help pay for one big fish to stay in this penthouse suite. In fact, it’s appointed based on how the house is faring. For example, on a day when big payouts are few (gamblers are losing), the suite comes with a chef, butler, and is stocked with fine food. But if gamblers are racking up the wins, then the hotel strips the suite of amenities. In short, the little people on the casino floor pay for the AIG Suite.

— Sports Book. Yes, even the staple of Vegas gambling is turned on its head at the Wall Street Hotel. Rather than betting on the NBA, choosing the over/under on football, or guessing Albert Pujols’ RBI in a given game, gamblers turn their attention to financial games. You can guess which CEOs will turn down their bonuses or take $1 salaries. You can bet on banks failing, companies enduring hostile takeovers, and newspapers going out of business.

Fantasy Teams. Rather than wasting your time drafting baseball and football players for your fantasy teams, gamblers here can draft financial hot shots, like Madoff, Wagoner, Murdoch and Paulson, for their Financial Fantasy Team. And rather than picking winners…you’re picking losers. The goal is to put together a team that will fail the most. Stock price declines, cancelled dividends, market cap evaporation…these are the stats that drive your Wall Street Fantasy Team.

Detroit’s Bad Three. An entire section of the Sports Book is dedicated to Detroit’s car makers. Gamblers bet on which car brands will disappear and which of the big three will fold first. There’s also action on the price of gas and the growth of hybrid car sales.

Call it April Fool’s, but there’s actually no plan to build a Wall Street Hotel…at least as far as I know. But there should be. And if it were constructed, I’m sure it would be a hit. I’d stay there. Maybe it’s gallows humor, but I think we could all use a little levity right now. I’d like to take my chances in the AIG Suite.