And Dedicate Them All To Me

Re: Your Terrible Commercials

To Whom It Concerns:

We’ve had a long relationship, what with it being impossible anymore to watch TV via a signal that travels though the air. In that time, you’ve promised me the NASA Channel and BBC America, both of which you failed to deliver. Remember that? Ah, good times! Lately, every few minutes my picture goes all pixilated, which is mildly annoying, and every time I try to get the channel guide the screen goes to the iO logo because somehow the signal gets cut off for at least a few minutes every day, which is also annoying. But that’s not why I’m writing. Nope: about half your commercials sound like they were written by drunken, 22-year-old county college communications majors, and not the smart ones.

See, the thing is these commercials were written by people who don’t understand the phrases they’re using. I know, I know. People misuse English all the time, but it takes special talent to get that blatant, craptastic phrasing through a room full of proofreaders and – curiously – grownups. This talent is usually reserved for really cute girls or that frat boy who by virtue of his size intimidates anyone who’s ever cracked a dictionary. Fortunately for you, I don’t scare easy.

Example Number 1: Last year’s jarring mistake was the tagline “Who says the world isn’t flat?” That one’s easy. Sailors, pilots, astronauts, astronomers, meteorologists, geologists, and every mapmaker in the world know the world isn’t flat. Little children know the world is not flat. It is an obloid spheroid. Your copywriter was making ham-fisted reference to Thomas L. Friedman’s recent book, which in itself was a ham-fisted attempt to be clever.

When your narrator intones “Who says the world isn’t flat?” smart people say, “Huh, maybe I’ll go read Profiles In Courage.”

Example Number 2: More recently, two commercials use the words “Here’s something else too good to be true,” and recommend your service. The problem is these words mean the exact opposite of what your commercial suggests. Here’s the breakdown.

If something is too good to be true, that means it’s a lie, it’s a falsehood, it’s a swindle.
If something is almost too good to be true, it’s a dream, it’s Heavenly, it’s a great offer.

In other words, your commercial, as it’s written, suggests your service is worthless.

Let’s not even discuss the iO international commercial set on a beach with a throbbing beat and amateurish choreography. In its way, that ad must be effective because I recite the phone number in my sleep, but it is grating beyond endurance. I keep hoping that guy in the lobster suit goes all full-metal Godzilla on the beachgoers, but the commercial ends the same way every time. Alas!

There’s no need for iO to transgress against the English language. Any experienced copyrighter should be able to untie the half-assed linguistic rigging, provided you let him or her push overboard the person or committee who committed these word crimes. If all this was the work of your brother-in-law, I’m sorry. It’s time for him to pursue other career opportunities.


Peter Pan, Frankenstein Or Superman

Pete’s a cyclist. He’s sitting on the living room floor now, greasing a chain, and I’m not even talking dirty. Months ago, he tried out a friend’s folding bike and for me it was like watching a fish get back into water. With the end of winter, he feels confined indoors, as do I. Some time ago, he decided that for my birthday we’d pick out a bicycle for me. We studied catalogs and the net. Today, we drove all over Central New Jersey, looked at a handful of bicycles and rode a few, too. I’d ride a bike, then he’d ride it. If it was comfortable for me it looked like a circus tricycle under him. Finally, we found one in Princeton for a price we liked and the bike lacked a mysteriously femmy paint job found on most of the women’s trail bikes. The bike guy at the bike shop liked Pete’s talk about cycling across Utah and when it turned out they’d had the same bikes growing up I declared them separated at birth.

The bike guy will build my bike and it’ll be ready tomorrow. I’m so thrilled to pieces with the promise of getting outdoors I let them talk me into a helmet.

Pete: Go pick out a helmet.
Tata: I cannot deny my high-hair heritage. I can’t wear a helmet!
Bike Guy: This one is less than $100 and won’t obscure the hair.
Tata: I feel glamorous. Note my extreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeme beauty!
Bike Guy: It looks great.
Tata: I can’t wear that. It clashes with my maroon bike. Got anything in silver?
Bike Guy: Here you go!
Tata: Dude, that was eight feet off the ground. You should audition for Cirque du Soleil.
Bike Guy: That one’s got a visor. It comes off!
Tata: Pete, the silver helmet looks like it’s going FAST!
Pete: It’s going, all right.
Tata: See the thing that’s keeping brains inside my head?
Pete: Ah, yep.
Tata: It’s flattening my hair!
Pete: My dear, that’ll never happen.

The kickstand comes separately.

The Newsman Sang His Same Song

As I left the family store tonight, I stood on the sidewalk talking with Anya about a disk full of images for the website. I work on the store’s website. The toughest art is getting good images of merchandise from manufacturers because artists and artisans are suspicious, for which we can’t really blame them. This disk, then, would be a boon to me. It was in a bag in Corinne’s car at Anya’s house. I said I’d stop by and pick it up. Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting in my living room wearing pajamas when I remembered. Corinne is so used to this she wasn’t even surprised when I called and said I’d forgotten before I even crossed the street.

You Better Shop Around

The Grand Am to which I will one day glue gold-painted macaroni.

A conversation.

Tata: You’re good with babies. I believe in delegating. Wouldn’t you like to go meet my grandson for me? He’s still got that ‘new person’ smell.
minstrel: i loves me some babies. especially when i can spoil the living shit out of them and hand them over to their parents to calm down and do all the scut work.
Tata: I told Miss Sasha I’d take a special interest in the boy when he was old enough to drive his Grandma to the liquor store. My son-in-law is transferring to North Dakota by the second week of April, so I thought I’d visit during that week that is summer. Nobody listens anyhow. If you wave a cigarette around in the air, put on red lipstick and say “fuck” a lot, they’ll think you’re me. Wear a hat. It’ll be hilarious! I quit smoking years ago and no one believes it for a minute!

Another conversation.

Tata: I’m thinking about sending every person I know in California over to my daughter’s house one at a time to do a stirring impersonation of me evincing maternal interest. I’m not very motherly. I’m more the Let’s Take the Kids For Tattoos type. The other day, I explained to my eight-year-old nephew how to cause volcanic reactions with common ingredients and my sister told him to NEVER LISTEN TO ME AGAIN. I said, “Sweetheart, I’ll always have bail money.” Filming these visits might finally get us our own HBO special.
minstrel: i could wear bright red lipstick and certainly say fuck enough to fool anybody.
Tata: Awesome. Road-test dialog like, “Sweetheart, I hope you kicked that greengrocer’s bony ass,” “I love you to pieces. Now, get the hell off me and do your own damn laundry,” and “Mommy’s had enough bullshit. Who’s got the remote?” How do you feel about a red sequined dress with spaghetti straps before tea time? You could carry it off. I once arrived in the Milwaukee airport wearing it, fishnets and jump boots. They closed the schools.
minstrel: one notorious halloween party in vegas i had sadjian (a top drawer heterosexual female impersonator, dude was so good he held a female lead spot at the MGM’s “Hello Hollywood, Hello) fix me up with a black and scarlett tina turner minidress, wig, springaltor spikes. i shaved the chest, the legs, everything, and went out. our doo-wop line was black boys in drag from the show, all i had to do to bring the house to its knees was look to my right, and growl into the mic “sing it girls”. i can do red, in any shade.
Tata: Rock on, sister!

Paired socks stolen by the cats, found on the living room rug.

A third conversation.

Tata: I picture a parade of my friends arriving at Miss Sasha’s house, impersonating me. And the subsequent phone calls…
Sharkey: Count me in. I won’t even have to shave!
Tata: You’d look divine in red sequins.
Sharkey: I always have…
Tata: Sure, princess. And since Miss Sasha knows you, it won’t at all surprise her when you show up in my clothes, put your feet up and say, “Darling, bring Mommy the scotch.”

Drusy and Topaz chase a pen on a glass table.

Wanted: Pretend Me Nos. 3, 4, and 5. Applicants must be acquainted with my body of work, able to sit or stand for 30 minutes and smell suspiciously like fresh fruit. No experience being Me necessary. Strong English vocabulary a plus but fluency in any language is a bonus. Must live in California and have own transportation. Must wear red with aplomb and lack constricting personal dignity. Contact the management before happy hour to participate in this exciting project. And if you see Miss Sasha, zip it!

You Should’ve Left the Light On

Jeaneane Brennan
Clear Channel Communications

Dear Ms. Brennan,

Greetings to you from the glorious present day, where the sun always shines, people treat each other fairly and even goth kids are happy. It’s 2008! Hooray!

So why, in 2008, can I turn on Q104.3 and still hear crap like Under My Thumb? Why does Q104.3’s website, which is a shrine to testosterone-soaked hatred of women, have a whole section called Babes? I realize scores of young models make a living pretending to be simultaneously anorexic, well-endowed and thrilled about both, but here in the world where we live and work with men, this is a really stupid display of soft-core porn.

To quote George Carlin, “There are two knobs on the radio and television: one turns it off, the other changes the station.” Ordinarily, I’d chalk this crap up to the normal, day-in and day-out, anti-woman malarkey and dismiss it, but when I heard the intro to Under My Thumb I happened to be on my way to the drug store to buy a bottle of wine for Valentine’s Day and the backseat of my car was piled high with clothing for a women’s shelter that’s rebuilding after an arson fire. My patience with misogynist crap may be a little thin. So I shut off the radio and today I’m writing to you, because the program manager’s name isn’t on the contact page and because your email address is above the words –

It is the policy of Clear Channel Radio to provide equal employment opportunity to all qualified individuals without regard to their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation or any other characteristic protected by law, in all personnel actions.

What an enlightened place to work Q104.3 must be. The faces on your gallery page are all white and mostly male, with the notable exception of a few women in some state of undress. There’s some mention of oysters. Way to be equal! Way to pander to that crucial blockhead demographic! And you helped.

Frankly, I’m surprised this shining tower – woohoo! – of dudely privilege hasn’t been sued into the ground in some hugely public and embarrassing employee action. Judging by the evidence at hand, I have little doubt at least karmic justice is on its way.


Yes, that is me, upper right. Did you think I was just stuffy?

This Tightrope’s Gotta Learn How To Bend

Pete drove me to work this morning so I could walk home in the snow storm we could feel coming. He has known me a little, he has known me all my life, so he expected a call and a change of heart that did not come. I walked home into strong flurries while cars churned in paralyzed traffic, my face wet and my mind free. I have been very concerned with conversations. What is said. What goes unspoken. What we leave hanging in the air. This one between Sadly, No! correspondent Mister Leonard Pierce and a stranger plays on my mind.

He’s sitting next to me in the lobby of the Omni Shoreham, typing furiously into a Sony laptop. He has a striped shirt with a popped collar and an ‘80s haircut he cribbed from Shadoe Stevens. For a long time, he says nothing; even when some steak-and-brandy fatass rumbles through the joint and disconnects the cable to his computer, he just eyefucks him and mutters to himself. But after a while, we strike up a conversation, borne of the boredom of waiting. His name is Tony, and he’s a stockbroker.

Why is Tony so mad?

“That fuck-stick Romney dropped out. That just leaves us with McCain.”

You don’t have any affinity for the Senator, then?

“He’s a weak sister. He won’t have the guts to invade Iran.”

Iran must be ripe for invasion. It seems like we’ve been waiting forever. But what of Iraq?

“Iraq is over. Iraq is somebody else’s problem now.”

The problem of the Iraqis, I would guess.

“Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Iran is the issue. Iran has the Islamic bomb.”

A bomb that follows a religious ideology is a terrifying concept indeed; but what about Pakistan?

“Pakistan is our ally. But even if they weren’t, Iran is the destination.”

Not according to my travel agent. But what makes you say that?

“Iran is where the money is.”

What money?

“Look, Iraq has been good to us. Everybody knows that. Construction, defense, telecoms, it’s a whole new market.”

It’s a real success story.

“You’re telling me. But compared to Iran, it’s nothing.”

A trying five years for nothing. But what do you mean?

“It’s a bigger country. It’s a richer country. It’s a country with a market class and a rich and developed economy. It wasn’t living under Stalinism like Iraq. Once we get our hands on those markets, we’re finally going to see a payoff for all the effort we’ve put into the wars.”


“Well, America.”

America put in the effort, but you’ll get the payoff.

“Not if that fucking McCain gets in.”

Well, we can only hope.

“That’s the problem with the conservative movement these days. Too much hope.”

I could not excerpt because every line offers me a new reason to wonder what the fuck is wrong with Tony that the words sovereign nation ring hollow, that people’s lives are utterly meaningless, that he stupidly believes he’ll always find himself on the sunny side of oppression. He won’t, and he won’t understand what he is and what he’s done until he’s forced to choose which of his children goes to the crematorium.

No one does.

The other day, I stood in the family store as a man with a heavy accent walked around in circles. He wanted a particular Buddha head statue, and when one of my sisters bargained him to a standstill, he spoke to me again about the town. He said, “It has such potential.” I froze.

“NO,” I said. “It’s a small town, and it’s going to stay that way. Some our families have been here for more than 100 years, there’s no more land, and we have no stupid ideas about expansion.”

“I just got here,” he apologized, confused by my refusal to consider soulless prefab sameness. Some people will always fold and leave, but most people here like the small town feel, and temptation isn’t tempting. If you want that crap, go where they already have that.

“My great-grandfather bought one of the first houses on South Fourth. I will never buy coffee from Starbucks or eat at Papa John’s. Quiznos just went bust on the Main Street. Why should anyone eat that crap when Mom and Pop restaurants serve real food and support real families?”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t think.”

“Thank you,” I said, “for supporting a local business.”

Tonight, I listen for the gentle whisper of snowflakes striking the ground.

It can feel like distant thunder.