Friday, September 29, 2006

Well, at least you won’t have to put it up on blocks when you work on the brakes.

Here’s a rare example of honesty in autobile advertising from the Sept. 28 issue of the Yellow Springs (Ohio) News [ ]:

"1985 VOLVO 240 WAGON. Body worn and rusty. Brakes need work. A/C doesn’t work. But otherwise in rather good condition! Great tires and engine. $500 or best offer. 767-1778."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sloppy urinal thinking: How the world is getting destroyed by clever idiots

I am grateful to for having posted this photograph of a urinal in a Burger King restaurant somewhere in Asia.

Look closely and you’ll discover a tiny TV screen atop the urinal. According to The Reynolds Rant, “It's ... advertising Burger King's flame-broiled Whoppers. And I'm still impressed with automatic paper-towel dispensers!”

Yes, the technology is weirdly impressive. However, the choice of what to advertise is stupidly suicidal.

But let’s take a step back from the urinal, so to speak, and look at the big picture.


Advertisers are in deep – dare I say doo-doo in the context of this story? Their problem is people like you. Yes, you!

Instead of sitting like a good little couch potato in front of a TV screen, the way most of the western world did for about 50 years, you’re sitting like a bad little couch potato in front of a computer screen, right now, not watching commercials.

You are just like millions of people who are forsaking their TVs for their computers, or watching TV but employing one technology or another to zap and zip right past the advertising. While advertising costs go up, the audiences that marketers can reach by traditional means are going down. This is leading to – believe me, I know some of these folks – wild panic on Madison Avenue.

Frantic advertising agencies and their clients are hunting desperately for places to put selling messages that you will see and pay attention.

They spend small fortunes to have a shot of this actor or that actor sipping a particular brand of soft drink – or driving a particular automobile – in a feature film. It’s called “product placement.” As if that will get you to levitate out of your movie theater chair and run to your car dealer.

But as TV advertising used to say back when anybody was watching, “Wait! There’s more!”


In the name of “viral advertising,” marketers now pay good-looking people (or is it hookers?) to go into bars and loudly order a drink made with the vodka or other booze of the moment. What kind of virus will potential customers catch from this “noisy hooker” effort?

Instead of making advertising that informs and delights you, agencies tell their clients to open stores that helps to “brand” the parent company. Walk around New York and you’ll find a Hershey’s store, a Disney store and an NBC store, among others. There’s even an NBA store.

Is Hershey really going to sell significantly more Hershey bars around the nation because they have one store in Times Square? Are you going to watch more NBC programming because you have a coffee mug that says “NBC” on it? Will they sell more basketballs in Zanesville, Ohio, because there’s an NBA store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan? Gimme a break!


Despite the minimal mass impact of some of these “viral” ploys, ad people regularly congratulate themselves in front of their clients for being so clever.

I guess, the ultimate in this cleverness is putting a TV screen running a looped commercial for Burger King on top of urinals in Burger King restaurants.

Except for one small problem:


I wish I knew who said, “Nothing is idiot proof. The idiots are all too clever.”

While urinal tops might be a great place to advertise medicines like Avodart (“Having trouble going right now? Ask your doctor…”) you have to be a total idiot to get your customers thinking “urine” every time they think about your hamburgers.

But advertising isn’t the only field infested with clever idiots. Consider Washington.


The Pentagon invaded Iraq with about a tenth as many troops as they needed to hold the country, maintain the peace, protect property from looters, and keep insurgents from infiltrating from abroad. See, by invading on the cheap we could save a lot of money.

That clever Don Rumsfeld figured out that we’d only need a tiny number of troops and a bunch of bombs to blow Saddam Hussein out of power. So that’s what the Pentagon did, failing to think two minutes ahead.

The result is a war that has lasted longer than WWII and cost American taxpayers in excess of $371 billion as of this writing. []

It has also resulted in a body count of needlessly wasted American soldiers that is rapidly approaching the number of lives lost on 9/11, [] and perhaps 40,000 or more Iraqis killed. [] No wonder so many of them are beginning to hate us.


Nuclear issues? “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” say the clever idiots. So instead of finding a way to defuse Iran, Clever Condi is helping to drive them into a nuclear frenzy. Ditto Korea. Ditto God-only-knows-where-next.

The clever idiocy marches on, whether you’re discussing the Bush administration’s fiscal policy, social policies, or immigration policy.

They’ve been clever, all right. Clever enough to be driving American lives and American jobs and the American standard of living right into the toilet.

Somebody ought to take out an ad on a urinal.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Revealed! The Crank's secret plan to end the American automobile industry crisis – with an assist from the CIA

Look at the headlines, man. It’s disgusting.

At the height of the spring selling season, GM sales declined sharply.

Not to mention Ford. When Ford effectively fires a member of the Ford family from the CEO spot, as they recently did to Bill Ford, (He said he resigned, but hey, do you really suppose he did it voluntarily?) you gotta know the outhouse is overflowing.

Chrysler’s sales are also in horrid shape and its use of its Chairman, Dr. Dieter Zetsche (“Dr. Z” to you) are an advertising industry joke.

Meanwhile, Toyota, Honda and other Asian and European competitors in the automobile market are eating the America's lunch – such as there is of lunch these days.

So what’s a poor American automaker to do? I’m so glad you asked.


I’ve discovered a huge, hungry market for American automobiles. It’s a market where former buyers of American cars have purchased nearly no automobiles at all for the past 47 or so years. That’s what I said. No automobiles. None, nada, zero. You guessed it.

I’m talking about Cuba.

Car ownership there is frozen at its 1958 level. Well, not exactly frozen. It has actually gone down a tiny bit over the past 48 years or so, from 24 to 23 automobiles per 1,000 inhabitants. That’s right. Twenty-three humans per car.

Meanwhile, the existing automotive rolling stock in Cuba looks like a cross between an antique car rally and the junkyard behind Rent-A-Wreck. If you don’t believe me, check this out:

It’s not that the Cubans aren’t trying. They’ve restored, and re-restored, and re-re-re-re-restored every American car on the Island. As one Cuban down there said recently, “It’s like living in a museum.”

So what’s with this ridiculous embargo on sending automobiles to Cuba – an embargo that we’ve had in force for nearly half a century? It hasn’t unseated Castro. It hasn’t made Cuba any more, or less Democratic. It hasn't done squat. Except for one thing.

The embargo’s only achievement will be to make 23 out of every 1,000 Cubans pretty well off if they ever get to sell their antique clunkers on the U.S. classic car market.


According to the CIA Factbook, -- Listen, I know the CIA is a bunch of dunderheads when it comes to intelligence on terrorists, but presumably they know how to crib census figures from the Cuban government – there are 11,346,670 Cubans living in Cuba.

If we simply sold a replacement Ford, Chevy or Dodge to every car-owning Cuban, and if my arithmetic is correct, America’s automakers could sell 206,973 cars – close to a quarter of a million of them! – to the Cubans next year.


And if we shut down the embargo completely, allowing Cubans to make as much money as, say, the Argentinians who own 129 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, US automakers could sell over 1, 463,720 cars to Cuba next year.

That would save thousands of Detroit jobs, provide a huge shot in the arm for automobile company stockholders, and rescue the sorry butts of future Bill Fords and wannabe actors like “Dr. Z” at Chrysler-Daimler.


How will Cubans be able to afford American cars with sticker prices of, say, $20,000 and up? Simply by trading in their old wrecks, which may fetch $100,000 or more each on the classic car market in the USA.

It’ll be a bonanza for the folks who restore cars. And for classic car dealers. And for American automobile workers. And for stockholders in Ford, GM and Daimler-Chrystler. And for the whole stock market.

So write to your Congressman. Tell that lazy hack that you want to lift the embargo against Cuba. If you're the cautious type, go halfway. Tell your Congressperson you don't want to lift the whole embargo. Just the embargo on automobile trade. If you don't want to explain the whole thing, just copy and paste this article into an e-mail to your Congressional representative and Senators.

Remember, there are strong odds that your free trade-boosting Congresssloth is only in favor of free trade when it’s free trade he happens to like. Make him put his vote where his big slobbering mouth is.

Cuba libre? Maybe not yet. But let’s at least save American auto makers and liberate the trade in automobiles.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The man who came to dinner – screwing up traffic, causing infuriating delays, and further metastasizing the unconscionable mess he’s making everywhere

So I was on the Madison Avenue bus on my way home last night and nothing, nothing, nothing whatsoever was moving faster than two miles an hour. Despite noise ordinances, it was Honk-Yer - #@!!**! - Horn-City. There was a traffic jam ahead as far as the eye could see.

After a while I looked out of the window. Ah hah!

There were vastly too many brand new, black SUV’s parked in no-parking zones. And lots of big guys, in dark suits, with identical funny lapel pins, were standing around, shifting from foot to foot, trying to look inconspicuous. If they were carrying huge Dayglo signs saying “Cop” it couldn’t have been more obvious.

George Bush was in town.

Part of the reason for the President coming to New York was to visit the UN, a legitimate Presidential function. Another part was to lay a wreath on the 9/11 site, which was either a legitimate show of concern, or a crass political act by a politician in deep political doo-doo, depending on your degree of cynicism.

But streets were blocked off into the low East 70’s, while the UN is in the East 40s and Ground Zero is so far downtown that the streets there aren’t even numbered. So what was going on?

Turns out, some rich contributor had invited George to dinner on the Upper East Side. When a rich contributor not only forks over bundles of cash but also feeds the president, you can bet he wants some special dispensation that you and I couldn’t even afford to think about.

But why should the people of New York, who were stiffed after 9/11 and continue to get stiffed by George Bush, have to pay for his security when he visits New York to raise money for himself and his political cronies? Why don't we tell him to provide his own security at his own expense, and not to block traffic or we'll ticket every Secret Service vehicle in town?

I’ve already had a few things to say about this. See "Security detail? We don't got no stinking security detail" at

I wonder if Michael Bloomberg, who’s reportedly is toying with the idea of a Presidential run on the Republican ticket, enjoys shafting the citizens who voted for him by delaying us from getting home so Bush can raise money to use against our interests?

Is this Bloomberg’s way of sucking up to George? Was Bloomberg perhaps a co-host of this toadying dinner? I have no idea. Full and frank disclosure is not part of the MO of either of these politicians, so your guess is as good as mine. But I welcome your guess anyway, if it's printable.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What did the 14 year old boy say after he was “abused” by Debra LaFave? “Thank you, God!”

Somebody, PLEASE explain how the kid was abused by enjoying his teacher's sexual favors. This wasn’t abuse. This was every 14 year-old-boy’s dream.

Little wonder there’s a “Free Debra” website at

Or take a hike with your browser over to and take a look at all the other blonde-haired, mostly hot-looking, boy-abusing women. Where the hell were they all when I was a 14 year old boy?


There’s a big difference between an adult male seducing or raping a 14 year old girl, and an adult woman with a boy.

Boys like having sex with gorgeous women. Boys dream about having sex with gorgeous women. Boys talk constantly about having sex with gorgeous women. Sometimes they lie and say they did just to win the admiration of their peers.

For sure, any 14 year old boy who actually manages to sleep with a hot-looking teacher like LaFave will win the undying envy of all his friends.

Maybe some politically correct fools don’t get it. Too bad. Nobody’s demanding that adult women sleep with 14 year old boys. Thanks to physiology, It’s a matter of choice -- especially for the boys.


Prosecutors seem to love exploiting cases like this. Why not? The good looking babe is a guarantee of hordes of press photographers and TV cameras and tons of the publicity that prosecutors seem to crave.

Okay, okay, so let’s be fair and try to find an opposing point of view. Here’s one:


A psychiatrist I know quite well insists – if I understand her drift ¬¬– that because a teacher is an authority figure, the teacher is also a parent figure, and that therefore an adult woman having sex with a 14 year old boy is psychologically tantamount to incest.

But c'mon! Does LaFave look like your mom? All I can say in response is that my psychiatrist friend – herself a spectacular beauty – was never a 14 year old boy, thank goodeness. Neither, in my opinion, was Freud. He simply morphed, fully-bearded, out of a chaise lounge in Vienna one morning.

I gotta tell you, if a gorgeous blonde seduced me when I was 14, I might have a lot fewer problems with authority than I have today.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Why is it so infuriatingly hard these days to have an original idea that knocks this guy?

I woke up at three in the morning with what I thought was a new idea.

“I’m a genius!” I congratulated myself. “I’m brilliant! Why didn’t I think of this before?”

“This” was the notion of comparing George Bush to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” You know – the Aesop‘s fable about a lying shepherd boy who keeps announcing that a wolf is attacking his flock so often that when a real wolf finally comes, nobody will help the little snot and the wolf eats up his flock.

Perfect metaphor for the worst American president in history and his “war against WMD” in Iraq, right? Especially now that we have some wolves developing nukes in North Korea and Iran.

Right. In fact, I was so right that it turns out the same thought also occurred to, oh, maybe twenty billion or so other bloggers. For example, here:

And here:

And here: 2005/07/the_boy_who_cri.asp - 18k –

And…oh, enough already. The only thing I want to know is when George's nose will start growing. But I suppose that's another story.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Leggo (not leg) of Lamb? Foam THIS in your bouche and amuse it!

The upmarket chefs of this planet are getting out of hand. It’s time to round all of them up and take them away for the good of culinary civilization. Lock them up in a re-education camp where they can learn that beyond basic nutrition, the primary reason people like to eat is because food is supposed to taste good.

But perhaps I ought to go way back to the very beginning: 1959. I was then a 19 year old kid set loose in Europe for a year, and when I got to Paris for the first time, I discovered that food actually could be delicious.


I grew up in a household where my mother broiled the life out of flounder and served it to us, dry and brittle and fishy-smelling. So I grew up thinking, “Fish – ugh!”

She did the same cruel thing to calves’ liver. Yecch! She could burn a steak beyond recognition. Phtooey! Her knowledge of salad began and ended with Iceberg lettuce, served without salad dressing. Blagh!

Then suddenly I found myself in Paris on $5 a day, way back when when French food was really food, a buck was a buck, and five bucks a day could still get you not only a clean-ish room but also a meal that featured a pate de fois gras, canard a l’orange, pommes en huile, bread unlike any other bread in the world, and Camembert cheese for dessert. Heaven, I was in heaven!


Chefs have gone from being craftsmen of flavor to pretentious wannabe visual artists and architects. They don't cook food, they construct it. Unfortunately, most of these constructions have nothing to do with tasting delicious.

It started in the 1970s, with something called “nouvelle cuisine,” meant to replace all the heavy, buttery, sauce-y, beautiful-tasting stuff I loved so much in 1959. Nouvelle was described, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, as “four Q-tips artfully placed around a lettuce leaf, accompanied by a drop of cranberry juice.”

It’s only gotten worse since then. Now the objective seems to be creating something you can hang on the wall and visit in a museum.


In August, I ate at Nougatine, New York celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s "informal" appendage to his flagship Restaurant Jean-Georges at Columbus Circle.

Early on, something arrived at the table. Nature’s kindness protects me from recalling the full details with total nauseating accuracy, for the same reason that people who’ve been gutted by a bayonet are sometimes protected from their pain by an endorphin rush. All I can tell you is that it was – foamed.


I think it was the dressing on the salad. Or maybe not. Doesn’t matter. The point us, unless it’s either beer, or whipped cream, or steamed milk on top of cappuccino, foam is not fun to eat. It is not delicious. It doesn’t belong on a plate, most especially not in a high priced restaurant.

Did whatever it was at least have a taste? None that I can recall with any pleasure. There was also an “amuse bouche” served in what my memory tells me was either a shot glass or an espresso cup. I wish I could remember this better (Could it have been “Pea Soup Jean-Georges?”) but I was focused on getting to the airport. I was heading for France.

The next day I was in the homeland of great cuisine. Alas, the homeland has turned into Foamland. I found myself drowning in a sea of unordered foamed soups and sauces, served compliments of the chef in teensy-weensy glasses or microscopic eye cups to amuse my bouche.


My first night in France, staying in an ancient chateau in Normandy, I had hoped for simple local Norman peasant food -- fresh shell fish from the nearby sea, the local apple and pear crops of Calvados country and the great local cheeses like Pont l’Eveque.

Fat chance!

Instead, the chateau was serving something that looked as if it had been created in the studio of Piet Mondrian out of acrylic paint.

What I thought I had ordered translated as “lamb cooked for a long time.” What I actually got was stewed-to-shreds lamb molded into something that looked like a giant Leggo, accompanied by a shot glass containing several tiny balls of roasted potato. Both were counterbalanced, like a Frank Lloyd Wright residential building, on something that resembled a long glass ashtray. It was roughly three inches wide by twelve inches long.

Of course they also served a foamed something-or-other. Plus another amuse bouche – this one might even have been enjoyable if it were served in something bigger than a sawed-off shot glass – featured as a cold soup. It seemed to be a mixture of tomato juice and liquefied basil.

More meals, more amuse bouches, more foaming nightmares. By my fifth meal (by this time I was at a different Norman chateau) I made it known very explicitly that if I found so much as a fleck of foam on my plate, I might go postal.

The concerned waitstaff tried to calm me down with another complimentary amuse bouche made out of tomato and -- I dunno, maybe it was foamed frog.


The New York Crank’s rule of haute cuisine now states that the more foam you see, the more dinner costs. Ditto architectural constructions pretending to be food that are perched on ashtrays or oddly-shaped plates. Most of these meals in Norman chateau country set me back 35 to 60 Euros per person, not necessarily including a glass of wine and a bottle of mineral water.

I won’t even discuss the foamed presentation chez Vongerichten in New York, except to point out that his website boasts of wines with a top price of – hold your breath -- $12,500. You read that right. Twelve thousand, five hundred dollars, which ought to be enough to help you forget you’re also paying outrageous prices to swallow foam. Somehow all this brings to mind the mid-Eighteenth Century French nobility, vying to strut around in the highest heels, the most elaborately brocaded jackets, the silliest powdered wigs. Chefs (and their supporters) take warning: Before the end of that century the nobility had shed not only their heels, brocaded jackets and high heels but also their heads.

At any rate, by the time I got to Paris, I was foam-o-phobic. I avoided the haute cuisine restaurants and started hitting the little neighborhood bistros and brasseries where they still serve food. I stayed as far as I could from any restaurant that looked as if it might try to amuse my bouche or dare to foam something.

The steak in Paris is still wonderful in a way that’s different from American steak, thanks to the sauces. The pate is still wonderful. The duck is still wonderful. The salad, in a simple vinaigrette dressing, is still a delight. The bread is still wonderful. The cheese is heavenly. I began making up for the meals of foam by eating truly delicious food. I ate, and ate, and ate, and ate.

In five days I gained five pounds.

I plan to will those pounds to a celebrity chef. When I die, he can have a butcher liposuction them from my body and foam them.

Bon apetit!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why hasn’t Ohio Gubernatorial candidate Blackwell been arrested for election fraud, along with the CEO of Diebold?

Trust local people to stay on top of local stories that are also of national interest –– stories that the “big” news organizations pretty much forget about, gloss over or bury after a while.

One such local person is Lieb Lurie, a resident of Troy, Ohio, a blogger, and columnist for the Troy Daily News. He posts this commentary. It ought to curl your hair:

Nevermind the bugs. It happens to GUYS all the time.

Sometimes all you have to do is grab too much of the blanket in your sleep. So why is the New York Times science section making such a big deal of it? I'm talking about this choice piece of news:

"Across the eastern United States, a gruesome ritual is in full swing. The praying mantis and its relative, the Chinese mantis, are in their courtship season. A male mantis approaches a female, flapping his wings and swaying his abdomen. Leaping on her back, he begins to mate. And quite often, she tears off his head."

C'mon! Hasn't something pretty darn close to this happened to you, guys?

Full details (about the bugs, not the guys) here: