Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Loot for laughs.

I hate to direct your attention away from myself, but y'all should head over to one of my favorite blogs, The Pioneer Woman, and add your entry to her photo naming contest. The prize is a $400 gift certificate to Home Depot. Think of all the spackle you could buy!

The contest ends tonight at 7:00 pm PST, so think quick...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandma.

Friday would have been my grandma's 85th birthday. She was a sweet little lady, always ready to laugh at your jokes, always ready to sing you an oldtimey song ("mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy -- a kid'll eat ivy, too -- wouldn't you?"), and always ready to slap a flaming hot cloth diaper on your congested throat. Oh, and the killer merthiolate on your cuts, too. But it was all in the name of grandmotherly care.

She had soft, soft skin that just got softer as the wrinkles multiplied. When she laughed her whole face smiled. She made delicious clam chowder to warm cold kiddies on rainy days in the Oregon beach house. She loved purple and pink in shades that should be illegal, raided bargain bins wherever she found them and then tried to unload her ill-advised purchases on anyone she could. She collected music boxes and bells and loved to sing in the ward choir. And she put random words in quotation marks...I dunno...just to make 'em look alive?

She was loved by most everyone who knew her, even by her children-in-law, parents-in-law, and siblings-in-law. When her rebellious black sheep son was interviewed as an adult by a local paper, he said that his mother was his best friend. She loved gardening and taught me how to not kill African violets and hydrangeas. She loved a round of Mad Libs with the grandkids, and told us we were clever even when we chose words like "pus" and "phlegm."

And while she was a church-going, mission-serving, and devout Mormon lady, she enjoyed a naughty joke now and then. One day I played my cousins a song I'd heard on Dr. Demento, and was a bit embarrassed when Grandma walked in mid-song. To our surprise she laughed and laughed and made me play it for her several more times so she could laugh some more.

Grandma, in honor of your birthday, here is "The Scotsman," one more time. (Listen really closely -- you can hear her laughing!)

Well, a Scotsman clad in kilt left a bar one evening fair
And one could tell by how he walked that he'd drunk more than his share
He fumbled round until he could no longer keep his feet
Then he stumbled off into the grass to sleep beside the street
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh, ring di diddly I oh
He stumbled off into the grass to sleep beside the street

About that time two young and lovely girls just happened by
And one says to the other, with a twinkle in her eye
"See yon sleeping Scotsman so strong and handsome built?
I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt?"
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh, ring di diddly I oh
"I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt?"

They crept up on that sleeping Scotsman quiet as could be
Lifted up his kilt about an inch so they could see
And there, behold, for them to see, beneath his Scottish skirt
Was nothing more than God had graced him with upon his birth
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh, ring di diddly I oh
Was nothing more than God had graced him with upon his birth

They marveled for a moment, then one said, "We must be gone --
Let's leave a present for our friend, before we move along."
As a gift they left a blue silk ribbon, tied into a bow
Around the bonnie star the Scot's kilt did lift and show
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh, ring di diddly I oh
Around the bonnie star the Scot's kilt did lift and show

Now the Scotsman woke to nature's call and stumbled toward a tree
Behind a bush, he lifts his kilt and gawks at what he sees
And in a startled voice he says to what's before his eyes.
"Lad, I don't know where you've been, but I see you won first prize!"
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh, ring di diddly I oh
"O lad, I don't know where you been, but I see you won first prize!"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Young girl -- they call it the diamond blog.*

This posting is in honor of my new sister-in-law, who opted out of the engagement ring thing.

Now, I'm not opposed to engagement rings if they represent pure devotion and true regard and are not just a sparkly cattle brand (for the boy) or an eight-cow* certification (for the girl). I am opposed to the ridiculous insanity and obsession associated with the whole institution, and no place is there more engagement ring insanity than my beloved alma mater, BYU. My feelings on the topic are well summed up by the following, which is the snarkiest college paper I ever wrote -- a textual analysis of a local engagement ring ad that ran in the student paper. If you click on the above image you'll be able to read the text of the advertisement I was dissecting. It's a real stinker.

My professor's final note on the paper was, "Really funny, Marie! Are you truly so cynical?"

When it comes to engagement ring frenzy, yes. Yes, I am.

However, to show that I'm really a romantic under it all, I've added engagement pictures of my adorable friends and family, looking blissful in spite of the diamond vampires. Proof that it's possible. The second-to-last photo is my brother and cousin doing a fake engagement photo shoot to freak out the grandparents. And if you endure to the very end of this long post, you'll see a picture of the guy I was trying to impress when I wrote this paper. He laughed when he read it, just as I'd hoped, but as you can see, he ended up in the arms of another woman.** I'm sure he loves her for her snark-free soul.

Oh well.

English 425
November 3, 1997

Selling Beyond the Mark

It's enough to turn the stomach of even the sturdiest R.M.*: a quarter carat diamond blown up to roughly 20 carats, sparkling like the evil eye of a lovesick coed, stares back at him from the Daily Universe*. And that's just the graphics. In the text of this shameless Wilson Diamonds ad, a chatty, empathetic voice establishes a you-and-me-buddy relationship between the author and the reader, while an array of rhetorical devices are pulling the poor bachelor's every string. And all this man-to-man confidence is a facade -- even while the ad is reasoning calmly with the poor bloke, it screams right past him to his fiancée who stands behind him, entranced and drooling. The ad hollers to her in a frequency imperceptible to the male ear, "Hey, sister! Tell him if he loves you, he'll take you ring shopping at Wilson's!" To accomplish this amazing feat in two different keys simultaneously, the ad employs ethos and a mother dose of pathos, woven into an intricate unisex code.

Firstly, this "ideal" business feeds the unhappy Boy an unhealthy dose of ethos at a time when he is largely incapable of defending himself. Why is he so helpless? Well, for this particular decision there are few people he can truly trust. His starry-eyed fiancée does not have his best interests at heart, and whether or not she sympathizes with the ring's drain on her Beloved's finances, he knows she longs for a sparkly to put that wench in her Y Group* to shame. His parents are likely hovering between the Hope Diamond (which will reflect well on their boy and, by extension, them) and a Cracker Jacks ring (which will mean one less interest-free loan to the happy couple in the lean years ahead). And his buddy's telling him, in all sincerity, to get her the best cubic zirconia that money can buy and live with the guilt. Wilson's descends upon this scene with the voice of the Love Veteran (as well as a couple of strategically placed capital letters) to calm the tempest in the young man's heart, head, and pocketbook. "Relax," the ad croons in its best Condescending Psychiatrist tone, and gently settles the feverish fiancé onto the leather couch for a masterful healing-and-dealing session. This single word sentence, "Relax," solidifies the inherently manic nature of the ring-buying venture and the young man's inability to cope with the pressure alone. And while other ring dealers are shamelessly hounding him and "are busy showing cheaper and cheapest," Wilson's simultaneously slaps the Band-aid of Reason on his angst and establishes itself as the Diamond Mecca with the introduction, in the ad's fifth sentence, of the "Ideal Cut" diamond. No explanation is ever given of what exactly the "Ideal Cut" is, or if it is a respected standard in Diamond-dom. And yet the capitalization of those first letters lends the whole ad a definite air of authority. The prestige of carrying the aforementioned "Ideal Cut" diamonds is reinforced by an official-looking logo in the lefthand corner of the ad, which proclaims Wilson's to be "Utah Valley's Ideal Cut Diamond Jeweler." The ad has first established that Wilson's merchandise meets an absurdly high standard with the use of capitalization, and now assures us that no other jeweler in Happy Valley* meets that same standard.

Ethos is at work on Ms. Right, as well. Her faith in Wilson's good sense is cemented in the ad's heading which proclaims, "Buy Your Ideal An Ideal." Right from the beginning, her merits as a prospective wife are compared with the best diamonds in existence, giving the folks at Wilson's instant credibility in her mind. And again the capitalization of the word "Ideal" gives the ad a sort of divine, scriptural aura, as if they were talking about Truth or The Word or some other spiritual absolute. The little slogan right above the Wilson Diamonds logo boasts an especially clever breed of ethos -- a sort of Emperor's New Clothes tactic. It says, "The More You Know About Diamonds The Better We Look." In other words, the ad is saying to the discriminating bride-to-be, "If you are wise and have any taste whatsoever, it will be obvious to you that Wilson's is the ultimate diamond authority." (And of course the implied, "If you're skeptical about our claims to superiority, then you're so thick he could give you glass and you'd never know the difference.") The slogan makes her knowledge about diamonds, which is probably limited, the key to deciding whether or not the ad's assertions are sound -- and no girl wants to holler "Wilson's claims are as naked as jaybirds!" and be branded as stupid and low-class by every "discriminating" female in the suckered crowd.

And we mustn't forget that the ethos of this masterpiece feeds directly off the pathos of the whole prenuptial situation; first, pathos as it afflicts said Boy. The voice is first one of empathy, citing how "hard," nay, "impossible" it is to track, capture, and tag the perfect girl while staying sane and financially stable. A voice of camaraderie, a voice of commiseration. "I've been there, man," the Wilson's salesman seems to say with a half smile and a knowing chuckle in the first two sentences. There is also an appeal to the guy's feelings of pride in both his fiancée and his own ability to choose diamonds and women. The ad is quick to agree wholeheartedly with Boy's glowing opinion of Girl by referring to her as "the ideal mate" -- no skeptical comments like those he gets from his roommate, who has actually met her. The ad also suggests with the reference to "finding a diamond worthy of her," that she is worth a whole lot, but that that worth is easily converted into diamonds and/or Deutschmarks. (Note that "priceless" isn't an adjective that comes up a whole lot in jewelry ads, to describe either women or the diamonds they supposedly deserve...)

The ad's author knows how tidal Girl's emotions are on the subject of her upcoming marriage, yet he/she is not above exploiting them. Girl believes that a good marriage must be built on a rock, but she's not sure if that's figurative or not. Even if she knows that her man would go to the end of the earth for her, she secretly wouldn't mind having hard evidence of that devotion to flash at girlfriends, archenemies, and innocent passersby. The ad tells her that if she can convince her beloved that Wilson's is the diamond dealer of choice, she will be doing him a favor because they carry "Ideal diamonds [he'd] be proud to give," and she of course wants him to be proud of the Ring which symolizes their Love. Also, she likely has a genuine concern for her fiancé's fianancial situation (which will soon be her financial situation, too). So the ad emphasizes that her honey can get her an extraordinary Ideal Cut diamond for "less at Wilson's than an ordinary diamond...elsewhere." Apparently, she can have his cake and eat it, too. By handing her true love this Wilson Diamonds ad, she can practice being the supportive and frugal wife she so longs to be, while simultaneously securing her very own Ideal Cut Diamond which will ward off potential competitors for time and all eternity*.

Writing an advertisement as brilliant as this one is no small achievement. The author realizes that the guy is paying and is therefore ultimately the one who has to be convinced of the product. And yet with something like an engagement ring, it's hard to tell which half of the happy couple is the ventriloquist and which is the dummy. In fact, (to strain this metaphor even further) the two are so hopelessly tangled in the marionette strings that a wise advertiser must make sure that every word speaks to both halves. The Wilson's ad seems spontaneous and conversational, but it is as perfectly crafted as (and more convincing than) most campaign speeches, using a complex combination of ethos and pathos to steer the star-crossed lovers into the welcoming arms of the Wilson's family. In fact, The More You Know About Rhetorical Devices, The Slimier This Ad Looks.

* = Mormon/Utah/David Bowie references. If you're a no-Mo or no-Bo, Google 'em or ignore 'em.

** = Lest you wonder, I have no ongoing obsession with this fellow nor with the woman who won him -- I started saving engagement photos in high school for all my friends and family and so they're just part of that larger collection. The collection itself might indicate mental illness, however. I won't deny it's a bit odd.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mmmmm.....identity crisis.

This is my Simpsons self-portrait. Perhaps I flatter myself. I certainly don't have that waist-to-hip ratio. But I do think I'd look smashing in a Blinky t-shirt.

And here's what the computers at think I look like, based on an uploaded picture. I resent that they gave me too-short pants based on just a headshot.

Here's what the Simpsonizeme computer made of my niece's photo. My niece has almost no hair, and what she does have is very light brown. She was not standing in the photo. She never wears black.

And here's what the Simpsonizeme computer did with my beloved Daniel Day-Lewis: turned him into Dennis Miller. Oh Danny -- I'm sorry I fed you to the swine!

Say you forgive me!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Take back the rainbow. And the phone book.

Did you get a copy of the Salt Lake City Gay Pages on your doorstep last week? Well, I did.

Maybe someone thinks I have a little secret? I swore I'd never make another lesbian joke upon walking into a work party with a female friend, but maybe one time is twelve too many?

Just in case the Gay Pages Fairy didn't choose to bless you with a copy, I'll share some highlights. I don't know how much the Gay Pages says about the actual Salt Lake gay community, but it says some interesting things about how business owners perceive them.

This would be the first gay-targeted engagement ring pun I have ever encountered. Eww. Tacky. Someone needs to shut down all DeBeers spawn. Ring pops for everyone! Eighty carats for $1.00. And tasty, too!

"Abs sculpting" is nowhere on the female-focused list of procedures, in spite of that background picture. Maybe the owner of that washboard had his man-breasts reduced by the good doctor? Don't women suffer enough of this nonsense for the entire human race? Run away, boys! It's a trap!

When the advertising competition is thin, scary dudes can afford multiple full-page ads. I particularly like Orson Welles lawyer dude doing his bulldog P.I. stare in black and white in an otherwise full-color ad. Film noir aspirations?

"Enhance" just doesn't seem like an innocent verb choice in this context.

If I were gay I'd find this offensive, but they've got two full-page color ads, so they must have a lot of confidence in their marketing strategy. And even if you get over the choice of language, how do you get over the "no pineapple" thing? If there's anything I hate more than bigots, it's pizza snobs.

Harem dentist isn't very clever. Yes, sex sells. But you must know your audience, fella.

Hijacking "pride" and the rainbow to sell real estate. And is that dude supposed to look like a Village People guy? (A Village Person?) It might be offensive if it weren't so dopey.

There should be an asterisk on this one.

*Unless you're in a bar full of burly homophobes drunk on Bud Light.

In case you're wondering, the biggest sections in the Gay Pages are defense attorneys, jewelers, chiropractors, doggy daycare, and pet grooming (curiously, all pet groomers are listed twice: once under G for "Grooming" and once under P for "Pets, grooming"). I have no comment on this. Just thought you might find it interesting.

Unfortunately the Gay Pages is missing a product that would be a really hot seller: the solar-powered Rainbow Spinner. It is made by Kikkerland, a German company that designs the most delightful little gadgets. I'd been lusting after it online for years, so when I came across it in the MoMA giftshop a couple years ago I knew it was a sign that I needed to finally purchase it. It hangs on my front room window and creates this fabulous disco swirl of rainbows every morning when the sun hits it. Kitty runs around, rainbow-blissed, and I'm transported back to my childhood for a few minutes each day.

My sister, who has been a rainbow nut ever since our Pollyanna days, told one of her gay friends that she was miffed at his people for hijacking the rainbow. He said, "You take back the rainbow, Liz! Take it back!"

I'm not sure I need to take it back -- I think we can share it. But if it turns out I'm getting the Gay Pages because the neighbors see rainbows glinting out of my living room window every morning and think it's some kind of Gay Bat-signal ("I'm in the closet, and I can't get out!"), then this is all getting very silly.

Does anybody want this phone book? If my mother sees it lying around my apartment she'll have a heart attack.

Musical meiosis.

Emily says she sounds like the lovechild of Leslie Feist and Jeff Buckley. I think she sounds like a female clone of Jeff Buckley. Whether you prefer your musicians sexually or asexually produced, and whether or not you're a Jeff Buckley fan, I think you'll like her.

She's Leah Siegel. Checker out. And here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It's not that easy, bein' frugal.

Sniffle, sob.

I just put one of my all-time favorite CDs up for sale on eBay: "Sing: The Songs of Joe Raposo." If you are a big Sesame Street fan or know someone who is, please go check it out. Here's a review from the AllMusic Guide. And here's one from Entertainment Weekly.

I would not part with it, but I'm trying a new system to keep my media greed from eating me alive -- it's called, "Yes, you can buy that, but only if you sell something else first." So in order to fund my latest lust (the entire Muppet Show Season Two on DVD! Madeline Kahn! John Cleese! Steve Martin! Peter Sellers! Cloris Leachman! Woo hoo!), I must auction off one of my pricier preciouses.

The CD contains songs written for Sesame Street by Joe Raposo, who was the show's composer from its beginning in the 1960s until his death in 1989. Other than one track (an unfortunate Elmo cover of a Raposo song), the collection is delightful, and according to the AllMusic Guide, nine of the twenty tracks are not available on any other CD (including out-of-print CDs). Guest performers are Ray Charles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Patti LaBelle, and the Carpenters. My favorite tracks are "Would You Like to Buy an O?," "A Little Bit at the Beginning," "I'm an Aardvark," and "Bein' Green" sung by Ray Charles, but how can I leave out "Peanut Butter" and "C is for Cookie" and.....! Ten years ago I bought the CD for $7 but now it's been out of print for years and usually sells for $50-$75.

Okay, yeah, that's a lot of money. But if I can get it to sell for more than $30 (the cost of the Muppet Show DVD that I want to buy), I'll donate the rest to the charity of your choice or to a perpetual microloan on

So if you love your old school Sesame Street, check it out.

If you don't check it out, I'll still love you, but Mr. Snuffleupagus may not. He doesn't cope well with rejection.

Gorilla in the room.

Okay, I just have to register this comment. If you were watching, last week Ryan Hamilton got eliminated from the running on Last Comic Standing.

I know judging humor's a very subjective thing, but I'm really sick of comedians whose whole schtick depends on their appearance, and a lot of those who did make it to the next round were that kind of comedian. Large guy who does nothing but fat jokes. Unattractive female who does nothing but spinster-with-cat jokes. Attractive female who does nothing but I'm-so-hot jokes. Guy with southern accent who does nothing but hick jokes. And of course the gorilla mask guy doing gorilla jokes (though he was eliminated awhile back).

First of all, it's lazy. Second of all, it gets old really fast -- you wonder how you'd endure a 15-minute set in a comedy club with one of these people. And third of all, it's more depressing than funny in a lot of cases. That's why I loathed Chris Farley's humor. It was ALL centered around his fatness and stupidness and crippling insecurity and I felt that laughing at such stuff was just a hair's breadth away from your basic cruel-mob-mocking-the-village-dimwit-in-the-town-square. And then of course his sad demise just cemented this for me.

So anyway, I'd like to propose that in future seasons of that show, they award extra points for comedians who don't rely on a single obvious theme for all their laughs. And gorilla masks -- ban 'em.