Monday, December 7, 2009

"I crafted it entirely by hand!"

The image descriptions on people's Wikipedia photographs always crack me up. Take this gem, for example:

"I (AdamFirst) created this work entirely by myself."

...Right. Lo, I, Adam, had no help at all. Nobody helped me point the camera. Nobody carried me to Broad Street; I walked there all on my own. I supplied all the energy to the finger that pushed the shutter button; no one helped me. Heck, I even placed that van there, right in the middle of the photograph, all by myself.

Good work, guy.

Another common howler is the "self-made image" (I warn you, do NOT Google "'self made image' wikipedia". You will regret it.) "Self made image" conjures up the notion of some lonely artiste, slaving away into the wee hours of the night, painfully chiseling away at some hyper-detailed wood cutting, and finally lifting aloft his self-made image for all the world to see.

Instead, it's usually some point and shoot crap.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Carnegie pronunciation

Really, NPR? Andrew "Car-NAY-gee"? So everyone who calls the place in New York "CARN-uh-gee" Hall is wrong, or what?

Combined with the nasally voiced guy who does the NPR sponsorship announcements, it's enough to drive a man to drink. (To drink Bud Light, of course.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's the difference between Bud Light and raw sewage?

Radio and print ads play second fiddle to television, which means if you're not a frequent television viewer, the often incomplete radio and print components of an ad campaign can sound bizarre. It took me months to discover what the "They Miss You" sleep ad campaigns were about.

Case in point: Bud Light's "The Difference is Drinkability" slogan. Apparently, nobody at Anheuser-Busch thought this one through. "The difference is drinkability! That other stuff is undrinkable swill, but ours is drinkable! Just barely." Thanks, guys, but I tend to set the bar for my beverages a little higher than that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"If you see them, give us a call."

I sometimes question the effectiveness of NPR corporate sponsorship. For example, a company called Seaman's has been running a spot for at least two weeks, but I can't even find them on the web. They make... uh... light rail? And some other technology-sounding stuff, but a search for like five different selling variants of "Seamons", with and without "light rail" and "green energy" turns up nothing.

Like many NPR spots, the message is a little wonky, too. It ends with:

"...Somewhere in America, you'll find Seamans' 69,000 employees at work."

Somewhere? What, did they lose them?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Enough for your meal"

Man, if Coke wants me to stare at their ads, they need to bring back the "Let's drink two" girl. She was a lot more appealing than this latest billboard/poster ad with the Coke 2-pack that's "enough for your meal", which makes it sound about as appealing as... I dunno... gruel.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sounds like it would flay off all my e-skin

I dunno what "e-blasting" is, but I'm pretty sure it's not something I want to happen to me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Accept our sacrifice, oh mighty NPR

I love how "offering" has replaced "for sale" in NPR publicity spots:
  • "Hewlett-Packard, now offering HP multipacks." 'Offering'? What, are they putting them on an altar?
  • "Such-and-such, now offering a Such-and-Such engine filter." What, only one?
  • "Home Depot, offering sanders and jigsaws at the Home Depot." Where else are they gonna offer them? At Lowe's?
  • "McDonald's, offering breakfast items at McDonald's." This one's my absolute favorite. Breakfast items! "Yes, I'd like two Breakfast Items and a Coke, please." I'd really love to do this at an airport McDonald's. "Yes, I'll have three Breakfast Items for here, and by the way, is there somewhere I could place my Foreign Object?"
  • Monday, July 13, 2009

    Songs that are REALLY about cities

    For years, I have tried to compile a list of songs about places and cities.

    About. ABOUT places. That's the key operative word. There are countless songs that mention places, or even have them in the title, but that's not the same thing as truly being about a place in a meaningful fashion -- not even remotely. If you're going by that lame that standard, Huey Lewis's "Heart of Rock and Roll" is "about" New York, LA, DC, San Antonio, and a half dozen other places. If you wanted to portray the essence of Washington, DC to someone via music, would you play "Heart of Rock and Roll"?

    You would? Oh dear, how dreadful. We need to get you out more.

    Finding a song that is really about a place is not easy. A song that actually conveys the emotional experience of a city in music, that delves deep into a portion of its physical landscape, that captures what it's like to really be there, is truly a rare thing. Such songs rarely identify their subject in the title. I've been paying attention over the years, and do have my own little list. Some are more justifiable than others, but all have, at one point or another, carried me back to a place that I've known.

    Before I go through this list, I would like to point out that Elton John's revolting "Philadelphia Freedom" IS NOT ABOUT THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA. It's about a freaking tennis team. If Philadelphia sounds like anything, it definitely is not those annoying, tweeting, high-pitched strings and corny horns.

    * Marah has a huge catalog of Philly-related songs. Their entire Kids in Philly album is a love note to the city, capturing its sprawling streets in all their raw grittiness. Echoes of the city's famous Mummer bands can be heard in the layered banjos on many of the songs. "Christian Street" captures the street life of a major south side artery. "It's Only Money Tyrone" makes the lower Schuylkill River sound even more filthy and debris-laden than it actually is. A few years later, the band revisted their hometown with the wistful song "East", set at the end of Philadelphia's eclectic South Street.

    * G Love & Special Sauce do some deep name-checking on "I-76" while reminiscing about growing up in the city and idolizing the Philly 76ers.

    * Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia" might seem like an empty name-checker, but it's such a sobering and somber tune that, for me, it captures the feeling of some of the city's desolate north side streets. Tellingly, Marah did a raved-up cover of it a few years ago.

    New Jersey
    * Bruce Springsteen is the muse here. His first 2-3 albums are largely centered on his youth growing up along the state's Shore, and songs like "Sandy (4th of July, Asbury Park)" and "Born to Run" convey a longing to escape the rough streets of the shore towns. Other songs from the period range across various abstract settings that could be New York, Philadelphia, the Shore, or all three ("Jungleland", for one.)

    The Boss still revisits his roots on occasion. "Atlantic City" delves into the darker side of that city's rising gambling industry at the end of the 1970s, while "My City of Ruins" mourns the collapse of Asbury Park (it was written well before 9/11, incidentally.)

    The Rust Belt
    * Billy Joel, "Allentown". Don't discount Billy Joel's working man cred! I once walked into a sandwich shop at midday to find "Movin' Out" blasting on the stereo as the staff worked hard behind the counter, and it struck me, wow, this is the sound of working your day away. "Allentown" stares frankly into the collapse of the steel industry in the early 80s, a bit of a feat for a major Top 40 hit.

    * John Hiatt, "Memphis in the Meantime" - title aside, this song is about a longing to escape from Nashville and its omnipresent country/western scene.

    * Joni Mitchell, "Furry Sings the Blues" - a lament for the passing of Memphis's original blues scene and the last of its great practitioners, it also mourns the collapse of Beale Street, which was the center of a thriving neighborhood in the decades before it was resurrected as an entertainment district/tourist trap.

    * The Pretenders, "My City Was Gone" - palpable cold fury at what's become of Akron, Ohio.

    * Del McCoury, "Mill Towns" - a cockeyed account of what's become of the narrator's unnamed industrial hometown - "There's parking lots where the buildings used to be".

    St. Louis
    As Bruce is to Jersey, so is Jay Farrar (of Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt fame) to St. Louis, writing with flare and beauty of his adopted home town. His melancholy solo tune "Outside the Door" is a catalog of places, scenes, venues, neighborhoods and famed locals long past. Uncle Tupeo's "Sauget Wind" describes a life in the toxic industrial havens of a small Illinois town across the river from St. Louis. "Way Down Watson" mourns the passing of St. Louis's Coral Court Motel, a Route 66 landmark demolished in the early 1990s. "The Cahokians" compares the lost Indian mounds that once stood in and around St. Louis to the titanic heaps of a landfill that now looms over I-55 as one approaches St. Louis from the east.

    * Calling "St. Louis Blues" a song that's about St. Louis is, at best, a stretch. The song doesn't talk about the city at all; its title comes from a sophisticated woman who's from St. Louis. In that, at least, it does convey a sense of how, in the 1920s, St. Louis was quite the roaring town.

    New York City
    Ah, New York! Title of a thousand songs, subject of none. A song that really digs into America's greatest city probably won't mention it in the title. There are plenty of songs that are valid love notes to the city - "New York, New York" by Ryan Adams, "A Heart in New York" by Simon & Garfunkel, and that Frank Sinatra song, just to name a few - but not many really cut into the feeling of the city's depths.

    * Olu Dara, "Neighborhoods" - a long-time resident looks back at his various homes across the city, in Harlem, Brooklyn, and elsewhere.

    * Bruce Springsteen, "New York City Serenade", "Jungleland" - two songs that portray a rough life in the poorer quarters of town

    New Orleans
    The Crescent City is the subject of countless songs, and I can't claim to have done more than scratch the surface. Of the ones I've noted, the old standard "Basin Street Blues" probably does the best job of portraying a real place (namely, the Streeterville red light district, long since demolished.)

    * The Band's "Rags and Bones" shows the street life of an unnamed city some time in the early 20th Century. Writer Robbie Robertson is old enough to possibly remember the days when men pushed streetcarts through streets and alleys of the cities, collecting scraps and hawking wares.

    * Ellis Paul's "Paris in a Day" is a sweet reminisce about two flighty tourists storming through Paris in stereotypical American fashion, hitting all the highlights across town.

    * Steve Earle, "Telephone Road" - Steve Earle's vision of Houston is one of an endless string of side-road honkey tonks and hard-working roustabouts blowing their money and vacation on beer, juke boxes and women. It's a far cry from the enormous highways and polished skyscrapers that form the city's more common image!