Thursday, July 13, 2006

Life Goes On

For those of you that have been keeping up-to-date on this site, you know about the man pictured here. Well, things have gone from bad to worse, and last night his wife called and informed me that he had run off in the middle of the night and didn't even pack a suitcase. The only items missing in the house were a toothbrush, a pack of gum, and some Preparation H. My first thought was that he was going to go MacGyver and whip up some sort of nasty explosive device using everyday household items. When dealing with the criminally insane, I've learned nothing is off-limits.

I was quickly on Tim's trail and eventually tracked him down at a shelter for battered spouses. What I next discovered was far more tragic than even I had imagined, and I can imagine a lot, as you can … you know … imagine.

To say that Tim’s condition had worsened would be a monumental understatement. He had developed several rapid tics (see above photo) as well the inability to control sudden outbursts of speech. He told me that in the past month he had contracted full-blown Tourette’s Syndrome as well as a mild case of the syphilis from using a public restroom in Barstow. He went on to clarify that it wasn't Barstow-proper per se, rather the outlying Barstow area. Come to think of it, he said, it wasn't in Barstow at all, but at a Denny's in Porterville.

I said it wasn't important, and that’s not how you get Tourette's anyway. He became visibly agitated, so much so that I feared for my safety. I explained that I advocated a non-violent approach to life and outlined my philosophy of "Neither Drugs nor Hugs, but rather Mugs". That's right, I now sell coffee mugs, and each mug comes with a grammatically correct statement of affirmation such as, "You are the Man", "It is all good", and "If you come one step closer I'll cut you". The latter being, obviously, cutting of a figurative nature - the way one cuts to the heart of a problem such as racism, ageism or dwarfism. Each mug comes directly from Kinko's for only $14.95 plus Shipping & Handling while supplies last.

Something I said must have upset him because he then launched into a series of violent tics and hand gestures that reminded me of gang signs circa 1984. After he calmed down I asked him how he ended up here and he related to me the following tale: He said it all started yesterday around two o' clock...

It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street. How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle? Maybe you would have known, Keyes, the minute she mentioned accident insurance, but I didn't. I felt like a million.

I told him that didn't really explain anything and furthermore, that was a piece of narrative from the 1944 film Double Indemnity starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. It was at that point he began weeping like a baby. I was getting a little choked up myself, but that was the result of my acid reflux and a lunchtime tuna salad sandwich that would've made lesser men run for cover.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

Today the Close-Minded Movie Reviewer takes a break from movies to review a television commercial. Have you seen those American Legacy Foundation “Truth” commercials? The ones that ‘expose’ the truth about smoking. So, it turns out that, get this, smoking is bad for you. Who knew? Oh wait, every freakin’ person in the known universe.

Seriously, who doesn’t know smoking is bad for you? Wouldn’t the money spent on these commercials be better suited to exposing other “truths”? If you’re going to call your project Truth, shouldn’t you tackle other areas as well as smoking? Is this the only lie ever conceived? What about alcohol and alcohol related deaths? I’d wager that more young people are unaware of the dangers of alcohol abuse than smoking.

What a pretentious title for your program, “truth”. These are the most obnoxious commercials ever and although I’ve never smoked, I’m seriously considering taking up the habit. That’s how much I hate those commercials, they are literally driving me to smoke.

The idiots in the commercials are always claiming to be attempting to track down some tobacco exec and trying to confront him about cigarettes and ask why the tobacco companies have attempted to mislead the public about the inherent dangers. So the lesson of the commercial is twofold: a) smoking is bad for your health, and b) tobacco companies downplay the negative effects of smoking because they are trying to get you to buy their product. This is helpful information for absolutely no one, because it is something that everyone already knows.

Guinness has an advertising slogan that reads “Guinness is good for you”. After years of exhaustive study, researchers have determined that Guinness is, in fact, not good for you (yes, I know alcohol in small amounts has been said to be good for your heart, but in large quantities it can also damage your liver, and I hear that’s a bad thing). Guinness isn’t allowed to use their slogan in the U.S. because of strict truth in advertising regulations. The statement that Guinness is good for you is obviously a joke to everyone but the target audience of commercials. These are the same people that don’t know coffee is hot, and are blissfully unaware that companies that sell a product might not be in a hurry to point out the reasons you shouldn’t buy it. That doesn’t make dishonesty ok but if Hostess came out with a commercial telling you Twinkies were good for you and you switched over to an all-Twinkie diet, then you are, in all likelihood, a moron. We don’t need huge ad campaigns to save people from their own stupidity. At some point you have to let natural selection do its thing.

The worst commercial is the one with the dork who goes to the mattress store and asks if they put warning labels on mattresses, because a memo from a tobacco executive suggested people be warned against sleeping because so many people die in their sleep. The interviewer apparently is not against smoking of every kind because he’s got dope-smoker written all over him. It’s immediately obvious to every sane viewer that the exec’s memo was a tongue-in-cheek note essentially saying “if you’re going to put warning labels on cigarettes because they can kill you, why not put labels on everything that could kill you?” Since they don’t tell you when the memo was written, one assumes it was 10 or 15 years ago, before they actually did put warning labels on everything including hot coffee. The memo was using an absurd statement to illustrate an absurd circumstance. The commercial, on the other hand, presumes the memo is meant literally, that those wacky tobacco executives actually think sleep is bad for you. As if anyone, besides the maker of this commercial, is that dumb.

I’m reminded of the closing scene of The Misfits, starring Clark Gable. Gable’s character is reconsidering selling the horses he’s just round up to a dog food company. He’s decided it’s not something he wants to do after all, but before he can take action, Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe, in a fit of self-righteous indignation, ‘save’ the horses by cutting their ropes and releasing them. It’s immediately clear to the viewer that this is a largely symbolic gesture because unless they plan to spirit the horses away somewhere, he could simply come back the next day and round them up again. In fact, his sidekick, played by Eli Wallach, says as much. Nevertheless, Gable grabs a rope and single-handedly catches and reigns in the powerful stallion that had just been released. Then with Clift and Monroe looking on, he cuts the horse loose, saying, “Don't want nobody makin' up my mind for me, that’s all”.

Your intrepid reviewer wonders, who does want their mind made up for them? On the other hand, I suppose if thinking for yourself wasn’t such a rare quality, they wouldn’t have to make movies about the few who possess the ability.