“Black Friday”

As far as I can tell, this new buzzword “Black Friday” really exploded into popular media and advertising usage in 2010. But it crept up on me without warning. Where did it come from, and what do people mean by it?

Savvy shoppers would know it refers to the day after Thanksgiving. As you might suspect, it also refers to a really, really bad day. According to Wikipedia, the phrase originated with one Fisk-Gould Scandal, a financial crisis which occurred in 1869.

Also according to Wikipedia, there are well over a dozen distinct references to “Black Friday” with their own origins and meaning.

But the most popular meaning, the one currently saturating the newspapers, emails, radio and television, originates in Philadelphia as a “bad hair day” for both shoppers and police. Wikipedia’s citation:

JANUARY 1966 — “Black Friday” is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. “Black Friday” officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.

If you have any interest in the origin of popular phrases, the article cited above is exceptionally interesting and well documented. I would recommend checking it out.

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“Now I’m in the BATHROOM”

This is the Chase radio ad that shouts at you: “NOW I’M IN THE BATHROOM”. The ad boosts Chase’s new smart-phone check bank-deposit service. Chase, a 2009 recipient of $25 billion in TARP funds, needs to peddle a LOT of checking accounts to pay for their $138 million plan to buy two new luxury jets and a new hangar.

I, for one, am not now in the Chase bathroom. Courtesy of iTunes music streaming, I’m listening to classical FM radio station KBAQ in Arizona, on my PC.

KBAQ is an NPR station affiliated with Arizona State University, Rio Salado College and Maricopa Community Colleges. As far as I know, it’s the only classical station in the Phoenix area. Advertising consists of community announcements and sponsor info for the programming segments. The classical music selection is interesting, diverse and non-repetitive. You can leave KBAQ on all day and never become bored or irritated. It’s a 24-7 delight.

Around San Francisco, we also have just one classical FM station, KDFC. It bills itself as the Bay Area’s classical “Island of Sanity”. The announcers have a friendly, generally relaxing and low-key delivery, they’ve been around for years, and they’re nice people.

Unfortunately, KDFC was bought out a couple of years ago, or otherwise suffered a radical management change. The subtext was PROFIT. Management started selling more advertising content, and that wasn’t “highbrow” any longer. It was cheap and sleazy, and “the Chase ad” is far from the only ad that shatters the relaxed listening experience.

I can just hear KDFC management telling the staff, we need to reach out to a younger, broader advertising base. You need to broaden programming to attract people who may not even care for your classical music.

For some reason, KDFC also gets a lot of bank and credit service ads that read legal “fine print” like an old 33-1/3 rpm record played at 78 speed.

Now we know why we really NEED an”island of sanity”: to recover our composure before the next round of grating, irritating, distractingly inane ads that will overload the senses again and again. KDFC ads can rattle the aggregate out of a concrete freeway overpass.

KDFC has a predictable repertoire of “standard” classical, including much Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Mendelssohn. This is “elevator music” for the classical crowd. A lot of it is still very nice, but wears thin quickly when you realize the day’s programming sounds like an endless-loop tape. If I hear another Beethoven’s 5th or Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture excerpt, I think I might just be sick.

I used to discover a lot of great new music and obscure old favorites on KDFC: Guiliani, Tallis Singers, and Schubert (to name just a few). What KDFC has done now is to substitute classical diversity with movie and television sound tracks. Harry Potter and Star Wars theme songs are insipid at best. Like the Chase ad, they have their own way of detracting from the classical listening experience.

Gotta go; another CHASE ad!

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Captain Memo

Mondegreens, Mumbling, and Mis-speech

Examples of good speakers

In the world of public speaking and narration, not everybody can be a Mike Rowe or Max Raphael.

1) Mike Rowe does the distinct and recognizable narrative for many Discovery Channel shows. His speaking style is characterized by clearly enunciated and animated dialog. Continue reading

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Castrol Ad

“Think With Your Dipstick”?

Another ad we can do without is the Castrol commercial featuring the Scotsman with the red beard, red tam, fake accent and the meanest engine oil dipstick this side of Glasgow. I think you already know the commercial. Airtime is so over-saturated it would be hard to sit through an evening of TV without watching this moron at least six times. He attacks others with this dipstick in a way that would get him arrested in real life, if not actually carted off to a looney bin.

As a fitting end to this make-believe commercial, I would like to see one of his victims take a Louisville Slugger to the backside of this  head, splattering brains and teeth all over the Castrol  display fixtures. It’s only in the spirit of fairness, y’know, since it’s all just as phoney as the commercial.

Finally, is there someone in upper Castrol management that actually believes this ad is helping sell their brand of motor oil?

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TV Ad “Golden Age?”

Every 20 years or so, there is an advertising cycle in which sponsors rebel against the insultingly mindless TV spots, offering us a few brilliantly executed ads which endure in memory for years. If you are “Baby-Boomer” or older, you probably still remember the “No matter what shape your stomach’s in” ads of the 1960’s, with clever photography and the Anita Bryant Singers — Alka Seltzer.

The television year 2007 has offered a bumper crop of fun, imaginitive ads, the kind that make you stay so you can watch the commercial, and then leave for the kitchen or whatever.

A survey of Google reveals there’s quite a cottage industry devoted to ranking and displaying videotaped TV ads. Nonetheless, Summitlake.com would like to propose our awards for the Best of 2007.

First prize goes to General Electric for its wind energy commercial “Catch The Wind”:

Catch The Wind TV ad for wind energy, by General Electric

To the familiar sound of the Donovan song “Catch The Wind”, a little boy goes to the seashore and captures the ocean breeze in a glass jar. Racing back home by a number of conveyances, he makes it to his Grandpa’s birthday celebration in time for the old man to open the magic jar – SWOOSH! You only need to see it once to remember its magic forever, but I watch it every time I can.

YouTube has proven to be a safe, reliable source of video images, and you can watch the commercial at their posting “GE General Electric commercial – Wind Energy”.

Honorable Mention

  • Geico Gecko – I did an informal dinnertable survey on this imaginitive advertiser. Everyone loves each one of the gecko commercials – the cute little green lizard with the Aussie accent.
  • Geico Caveman – Not everyone liked this one, many sensing that the usage of the Caveman theme was somewhat exploitative. But others find it delightful, and it became somewhat of a cult thing. I enjoyed the theme song “Remind Me“, from Royksopp, and ordered the CD from Amazon.
  • Comcast Turtles – “You push it real good!” – Bill Slowsky the turtle has a little spat with his wife, right in front of millions of viewers. But hey, when you’re a turtle, who’s in a hurry to switch from DSL to cable?

Dishonorable Mention – All The Rest

When 1960’s FCC Chairman Newton Minow complained about TV as “the vast wasteland“, everybody remembered, but everybody still watches. My current irritations:

  • Car salesmen doing their own ads
  • Cialis and Viagra ads
  • Pharmaceutical ads that describe a horror show list of possible side effects in graphic and very mortal detail. Diarrhea followed by heart failure and general shutdown? Hey, who wouldn’t jump at the chance?
  • Credit card ads (just about all of them) promoting irresponsible credit use or abuse in order to gain credit card points, peer approval or social equilibrium: would you swipe your credit card into a card reader just to pay for a 99 cent burger and fries?

In the vast wasteland, the occasional oases of cool entertainment and bona fide information are a welcome relief from the fetid winds that blow off the swamps and alkali flats of American television.

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Cash Cab Mondegreens

Ben Bailey of Cash CabI like Discovery Channel’s Cash Cab show, and I like host Ben Bailey, who drives a cab all over New York City while he asks brain-teaser trivia questions – for cash.

Ben always begins the game by explaining that the first questions are worth $25, then $50, and finally $100 each if you survive the “three strikes” rule that long. Once, I heard Ben say, “as the stinks get higher …“.

I’m sure Ben said, “as the stakes get higher …”. Unfortunately, Ben tends to mumble at critical moments in question delivery. I heard “stinks“!

A mondegreen is a mishearing of a statement, poem or song lyric such that the listener hears something other than what was said, usually humorous. Kids are great for coming up with mondegreens, because they can’t parse what they hear with the benefit of adult education and experience. Adults in quizzes might well behave the same way, because by definition both question and answer might be totally new to them. A famous mondegreen revolves around God’s first name, “Andy”, from the verse “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own …”

Some of Ben Bailey’s other mondegreens (as heard by yours truly):

  • George W. Bush has 15 cabinet physicians. Washington had only four. What were they? [Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of War, Secretary of the Treasury]. Gee, I bet Ben meant Cabinet positions.
  • In Greek mythology, what was the name of the fabulous wooden horse? [Pegasus – that would be winged horse].
  • What sport uses the term “ombalay“? [Rock climbing – the term is on belay.]
  • and my favorite:

  • What tree was signed in 1919 that ended World War I? [The Versailles Treaty]
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    Discovery Does Cash Cab

    By now, you should have figured out that I watch way more Discovery Channel than can really be well-balanced TV viewing. During one of the many and frequent ad breaks, I got to musing: what if various Discovery characters suddenly found themselves all inside the TV quiz show “Cash Cab”?

    Ben Bailey: Hey, you guys are on Cash Cab. It’s a TV game show that takes place right here in my taxi. You guys wanna play?

    Captain Phil (skipper, Cornelia Marie, Deadliest Catch): You don’t TALK – don’t EVEN !#@$&&*! start on me!

    Jamie Hyneman (Mythbusters): It’s almost like we were going to know the answer to the question.

    Adam Savage (Mythbusters): That’s what I’m talking about!

    Bear Grylls (Man vs. Wild): You’ve got to be SO careful. Just last year a couple and their small child were trapped without food and water for three days, on Cash Cab …

    Ben: Oh, NO! Strike Threeee!

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    (reprinted from The New Yorker):

    From the San Francisco Chronicle: With California Invasive Weeds Awareness Week just around the corner (July 17-23), there are two words every Californian should know: yellow star thistle.

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    Woodward Shares War Secrets

    Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal in August 1972. Ultimately, President Richard M. Nixon resigned in 1974. Will Woodward’s new book “Plan of Attack”, about George W. Bush and his administration’s agenda for the war in Iraq, launch an equally hot scandal?

    I caught parts of the Woodward interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. I must say I was not surprised.

    Being against Saddam does not necessarily mean being for the war or against the United Nations and most of our allies.

    Whether you view yourself as generally “for” or “against” this war, it is useful to have the text of the 60 Minutes interview. Trouthunter sent the text to me, and I located the text on “60 Minutes” at CBSNEWS.com.

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