Pixar is promoting its next release, Wall-E (in theaters June 2008), with a faux website that's a poker-faced parody of every corporate site you've ever seen. It's called Buy n Large, and the mission statement is priceless:
At Buy n Large we are committed to absolute excellence, utilizing standards that raise the bar for customer satisfaction to the highest levels. We aim to bring you, our valued customer, an unprecedented level of convenience across the whole spectrum of your life. Our promise to fulfill your continuous needs while maximizing your satisfaction and comforts is one of our prime mandates. Here at Buy n Large, we always strive to positively impact your life and to give it more of that supreme effortlessness you love. Because at Buy n Large, we want you to leave your life to us.
But the best stuff is revealed when you click the "New Robots!" icon in the navigation bar. Naturally, I was charmed by the Nanc-E Nannybot, whose "revolutionary SingMode ... will gently rock and sing your child to sleep while it continuously monitors your child's health and happiness monitors."
Elsewhere at Buy n Large, there's the covetable Xanadou Shopping Pill (from BnL Pharmaceutical), which "simulates the euphoric shopping experience."
There's a Buy n Large store over at Zazzle, but it doesn't sell the Nanc-E or fill scrips for Xanadou. Damn.
Bill Hyphen Walsh must be aghast at this travesty, right? Well, no. Bill Hyphen Walsh issues blustery pronouncements about American English. These are British hyphens, hyphens as unnecessary and uninteresting as they are un-American, hyphens that link adjectives to the nouns they modify. The Brits get all worried that you might think a dressing gown is a gown that is dressing, and so they write dressing-gown to make it clear that it's a gown of the dressing variety. We'd never write dressing-gown, and not only because we have the superior term bathrobe.
Americans do use such hyphens, but only as a last resort, and often in terms most unsavory. There are giant-killers who are killers of giants as opposed to killers who are giants, and there are child-rapists who are rapists of children as opposed to rapists who are children. But we're sensible enough to know without the aid of a hyphen that a mountain climber isn't a climber that's a mountain.
Read the whole post, which features one of my all-time-favorite (yes! hyphenated in the all-American way!) headlines from The Onion.
Whose wonderfully wicked idea was to to unleash Cintra Wilson on "The Critical Shopper" in today's Styles section of the New York Times? Did the Gray Lady's editors think we wouldn't recognize a pink-haired saboteuse when we saw her byline--associated not (as you'd expect) with a story about fetish temple Kiki de Montparnasse or some other SoHo boho bazaar, but above a review of a the haute-haute-haute Valentino boutique on Madison Avenue?
As Lisa Schmeiser observes over at The Rage Diaries (a very fine blog I recommend wholeheartedly), "The Critical Shopper"--a mainstay of what many of us devotees call "the sports section for girls"-- hasn't been notable for its boat-rocking. Today's column, in a word, rocks. Not only that, but, as Lisa points out, "Someone also actually edited Wilson, a process I imagine might require actual use of a whip and a chair, and the results are delightful."
See for yourself:
Valentino appears to see the ideal Society Wife today as a streamlined luxury toddler. Current pieces evoke the Pampered-with-a-capital-P innocence of the nursery, yet defy the vigor of either youth or sex. In the baby-doll dresses, there is no ironic infantilism (that flirty “kinderwhore” cuteness that winks at pedophilia) but a kind of learned helplessness that waves a limp hand at actual infirmity.
I was curious about a beige lace minidress with a jeweled strap over one shoulder ($4,490). Something I might wear to an inaugural toga party? It was spayed yet subversive. In it, I resembled a French Quarter beignet forced to resort to prostitution to support my powdered-sugar habit.
"Passion." What an unsavory word! A perfectly nice word, really, that's been poisoned by the people who overuse it, people who run around announcing to anyone who'll listen, "I'm a very passionate person!"
Unless that statement is uttered by a preteen drama student or a Brazilian or an abstract painter three glasses into a bottle of red wine, it's tantamount to saying, "My head is so full of thoughts!" or "I just love puppies!" or declaring Wallace Stegner a great writer, as if to suggest he was just an unfocused drunk scribbling away in his journal until you came along. It's like saying, in a conspiratorial tone, "I'm such a sexual person" or "Music affects me at such a deep level" or "I breathe oxygen" or "I walk on two feet and eat food and sleep in a bed at night."
Read the rest of the story, about the genuine passion of the contestants on "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Top Chef." Just one more snippet, because it's so good I can't help myself:
Despite the bad outfits, despite the screaming preteens in the audience, despite the "Vote for me!" hamming of the contestants, despite the alienating "Meet your dancers!" routines, with their excess of cheesy, exaggerated grooving, this is a competition that hinges on passion. Each performance, whether it's a contemporary extravaganza of tangled limbs and faux-passionate emoting or a faux-passionate Argentine tango or a romantic, graceful faux-passionate waltz, depends on the real passion of the dancers involved.
From the 399th episode, which aired last Sunday, further evidence of why The Simpsons is the darling of linguists everywhere. "24 Minutes" was a parody of 24, broadcast on The Simpsons' own Fox Network.
Principal Skinner: Just how wide is the Web?
* * *
Marge Simpson, preparing for the Springfield bake sale as the digital clock ticks down: The pre-heat is on!
* * *
Principal Skinner, hovering over Lisa's shoulder as she brings up a schematic of Springfield Elementary School on her computer: Enhance! Enhance!
[And then, when the zoom image reveals "Skinner Stinks" carved into a desk:]
Having recently endured four rounds of hectic proposal writing, followed by--surprise!--no response whatsoever from the proposal-requesters, I laughed through my tears at Peter Madden's anti-RFP* manifesto in Advertising Age. He counter-proposes a form letter that begins:
Dear COMPANY NAME:
Thank you for inviting AGENCY NAME to participate in your company's review of proposals to handle your business.
But we'll have to give you a big, fat NO FREAKING THANKS. Below are six reasons. I'd give an even 10 but I have to get back to productive work.
We're not fans of giving away our creative concepts and strategies for free. Our clients (none of whom we landed through an RFP process) pay us well to do things like that.
The first "get together" with COMPANY NAME will most likely be like an awkward first date -- except without the wine and potential hook up. Just tired of the thousand-yard gaze while we're trying to get you excited about what we could do for your company. Well, maybe we will elect to participate if we can bring a nice Chilean red and you bring a sense of humor, or at least some emotion. ...
Oh yeah, that thousand-yard gaze. Or worse: during one of our virtual agency's recent "get-togethers" with an executive team, the CEO actually nodded off. I kid you not.
Read the rest. And be sure to check out the comments at the bottom, including one from my old pal Rick Binger at Binger Catalog Marketing (hi, Rick!). Rick writes: "I totally agree. If you needed surgery, would you ask your surgeon to do a small surgery on some other part of your body first, before you decide whether to go with him/her for the 'real' surgery? Would you ask your car mechanic to fix a problem on your car for free before deciding whether to use him/her for the 'real' repair?"
My first thought, when the Don Imus scandal broke, was: What gives a guy with a full-frontal comb-over the right to criticize anyone’s hair? Don, Don, don’t you remember I am rubber, you are glue…? I had no idea what he looked like until he insulted the Rutgers women’s basketball team and got all over TV, but now that I know, and now that the discourse has descended to comments about people’s appearance, I see why he’s been confined to radio all these years.
Of course it’s the ho, not the hair, part of Imus’s comment that hurts, with its suggestion of unlimited sexual availability. Dream on, dirty old man, but there’s no amount of money that would win you the favors of these strong, smart, athletic young women. It was the senile lechery of his “nappy-headed ho” remark that creeped me right out. What did he think-- that it was Bring Your Dotage to Work day?
Ehrenreich goes on to analyze the argot of hip-hop and the way in which an insult, "used often enough, becomes the exclusive property of the insulted." Read the rest of the post.
Because naming things and writing for a living aren't quite punishing enough, I also swim in San Francisco Bay, where the average water temperature year round is 54°F (12°C). My base of operations is the Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club, which celebrates its 130th anniversary this year and where, aside from the advent of electricity about a century ago (and--hallelujah--saunas some time after that) and the admission of women in 1977, little has changed since the days of celluloid collars and handlebar mustaches.
Between December 21 and March 21 every year, the club sponsors a friendly Polar Bear competition. The objective is to swim at least 40 miles in the bay; the prize (in addition to bragging rights) is a little white marble block. I've earned a stack of six of those blocks; my personal Polar Bear record was 52 miles, which I found supremely challenging. A few years ago, though, a gentleman named George Kebbe shattered the record by swimming 356 miles during Polar Bear season. That's about four miles a day, on days when the water was as cold as 48 degrees and the air about ten degrees colder. (Okay, it's not Coney Island, but it's cold.)
This year George's record was tied, which is news in itself. But the way in which it was tied was even more remarkable. Read Carl Nolte's article in the San Francisco Chronicle about 47-year-old Ralph Wenzel, who swam four hours every day to match the 356-mile mark, and who could have surpassed it but chose not to. Nolte writes:
With a chance to break the record and set a new mark, he stood up and walked out of the water. It was clear he could have gone back in the bay, taken another lap around the Aquatic Park lagoon and torn up the record book.
"I don't feel like going back in again,'' he said. Asked why he didn't break the record, he shrugged and walked away to take a sauna. "If you don't mind,'' he said, "I'm a bit cold.''
In times when records are made to be broken and winners are hailed as superheroes, Wenzel seems to be a throwback to some other age.
He did not explain what he did, but others were willing to speak for him. "It took class and he has class,'' said Noelle Maylander, who was one of his swimming partners.
"He is a very modest man,'' said Rick David, who also swam with him. "He does not like to draw attention.''
Kudos to the Chronicle for choosing veteran reporter Nolte, a very classy writer, to write this account of a very classy athlete.
By the way, Ralph Wenzel scheduled his swimming regime around his day job. A native of Dresden, Germany--he immigrated to the U.S. in 1990--he co-owns Schubert's Bakery in San Francisco, which is almost as old as the Dolphin Club and which turns out some of the most gorgeous and delicious cakes and pastries I've ever eaten. Stop by when you're in the neighborhood.
I first heard about Second Life a couple of years ago, from an early adopter so starry-eyed over the whole imaginary online alternate reality thing that I thought she'd joined a cult. When--without asking permission--she began sending me multiple emails with gargantuan attachments ("Here's my avatar!"), I worried for her sanity (and my server). Since then, Second Life has become a bizarre mega-phenomenon attracting more than three million players--whoops, they don't think it's a game!--and corporate sponsors who "set up shop" and charge real money for fictional products and services. And Avatar Gal has folded her consulting tent and gone to work full time for Linden Lab, creator of Second Life. May she second-live long and prosper.
You can see where I come down on all this. One life is more than enough for me, thanks very much. And also for Darren Barefoot, the Vancouver, BC, technologist and writer behind Get a First Life, "a one-page satire of Second Life." Get a First Life is "a 3D analog world where server lag does not exist" and where you're invited to "fornicate using your actual genitals."