Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Whatever happened to jingles?

One of the funniest moments of this year's Academy Awards ceremony (at least to me) was when Neil Patrick Harris sang "He won an Oscar, bum ba-dum bum bum bum bum," to the tune of the Farmers Insurance jingle, after J.K. Simmons, Farmers pitchman, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Proof that jingles work, or at least are memorable -- or more memorable than commercials without jingles.

And yet despite research showing the effectiveness, or memorability, of jingles, few brands today employ them.

Indeed, try to think of a commercial you've seen in the last year that featured a jingle. [I'll give you a minute.]


The only brand the spouse and I could think of, in addition to Farmers, was Nationwide, yet another insurance company, which not only uses a jingle but quarterback and funnyman Peyton Manning to sing it. [Chicken parm you taste so good...]

Actually, while Googling "famous jingles" I came across State Farm's "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." Yet another insurance company!

But is anyone, other than insurance companies, using jingles*?

Back when the spouse and I were kids, and then teenagers, it seems every big brand had a memorable jingle. And everyone knew and sang them.

Fun jingle fact: Did you know that Randy Newman co-wrote, with Barry Manilow, those catchy Dr. Pepper jingles from the 1970s, "The Most Original Soft Drink Ever" and "Be a Pepper"? 

Commercials also had much more memorable spoken hooks. "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature"; "Calgon, take me away!"; and "Ancient Chinese secret" (also Calgon) are three that immediately spring to mind. And apparently they spring to a lot of other people's minds as well, as when you type "ancient" into Google the first suggestion that immediately pops up is "ancient Chinese secret." And when you type in "Calgon," "Calgon take me away" immediately pops up as the first suggestion.

*If you think of something, let me know via a Comment.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And now for some more '80s dance music

Sometimes I miss the 1980s, or at least the dance music.

Remember WLIR? Remember all the great alternative music they played, all the New Wave and Techno stuff coming out of the UK (and the US)?

Remember "Lawn Chairs" from Our Daughters Wedding?

Lawn chairs are everywhere
They're everywhere
My mind describes them to me
Only to me-ee

And Lene Lovich singing "New Toy"?

I want a new toy (oh-ee-oh)
To keep my head expanding.
I want a new toy (oh-ee-oh)
Nothing too demanding.

And I just loved "Soft Core" from Maurice and the Cliches.

She's got a birthmark that looks just like a staple.
She's from New Jersey.
She wants to be an actress.

And does anyone else remember the Hilary song "Drop Your Pants"?

Don't leave me for another.
You've got no plan to live with mother.
Don't take your feet from my basket.
My peaches are pleasing and always in season.

Now it's your turn. What somewhat obscure 1980s Techno or New Wave song do you fondly remember?

P.S. Click on the "1980s" label (below) to hear more great '80s songs.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Got Peeps?

I guess it was only a matter of time before someone came out with marshmallow-flavored milk. After all, we Americans have been enjoying marshmallows with milk in our cereal -- from Kaboom to Lucky Charms to Franken Berry and Boo Berry, to name just a few -- for decades.

But this is not just any marshmallow-flavored milk, people. This is Peeps-flavored marshmallow milk. And it's only available for Easter.*

[Click on the photo to enlarge it.]

What I find particularly amusing about Prairie Farms Peeps-flavored milk is that it is marketed as Reduced Fat -- and nutritious!

Indeed, just check out the sidebar on the right of the Prairie Farms' Peeps milk landing page (above), which proudly states:
Our Farm families work hard every day caring for their animals and the land so that we can bring you fresh, great-tasting, wholesome and nutritious dairy products. Produced with no artificial growth hormones, you can take comfort in knowing the milk that comes from our farms is produced with integrity and care.
I'm not a scientist, but I do know a thing or two about nutrition and healthy eating. And I'm pretty sure no one would associate the words wholesome and nutritious with Peeps or marshmallow- or egg nog-flavored milk. Not with 37 grams of sugar and 320 mg of sodium, and artificial colors and flavors. And that's just the Peeps Marshmallow Milk. (The Peeps Easter Egg Nog has 40 grams of sugar in a cup.)

Also, when I last checked (about 10 seconds ago), eggnog was a Christmas beverage, typically made with brandy, rum, or bourbon. Is that really want you want to be giving your kid for breakfast, parents?

Maybe they have a different definition of wholesome and nutritious in the Midwest.

Anyway, what do you all think of Peeps Marshmallow Milk? Let me know via a Comment.

*And only in the Midwest... for now.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

There are two kinds of cats...

Having lived with cats most of my life, and having encountered or taken care of dozens of other cats, I have come to the conclusion that there are basically two types of cats.

There are those cats who at the sound of a vacuum freak out and run away as fast of they can. (This would be the majority of cats.)

And there are those cats who at the sound of a vacuum do not run away but rather begin to purr or nuzzle the vacuum cleaner -- and allow (even eagerly await) their human to vacuum them.

Harry, a feline member of our friend Renee's household, belongs to the latter camp, as you can see from this video titled (most appropriately) "Vacuuming Harry the cat."

I'm just wild about Harry -- and Renee, who is one of the few humans our vacuum-hating torbi cat, Flora, will allow to pet her.

So which camp does your cat fall into?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Condiment Conundrum

Are condiments clogging your refrigerator (and/or cabinets and/or pantry), taking up valuable shelf space?

Do you have three different kinds of mustard, all of them at various levels of fullness (or emptiness), which you can't remember when you bought, taking up space on the shelves in your refrigerator door?

How about half-empty containers of ketchup? And salsa? And hot sauce? Perhaps some mayonnaise? Or maple syrup? Maybe a half-empty jar of olives (which is technically not a condiment, but work with me) or some soy sauce?

(I'll wait here while you go check your fridge. Though let's get real. You don't really need to check your fridge, cause you know you do.)

Do you remember when you bought all of these condiments? Any of them? Yet when is the last time you threw away a half-empty jar of mustard... or ketchup... or hot sauce, or checked to see if it was past the expiration date?

You can't remember, can you? Why? Probably because a) "I can't be bothered. I have enough sh*t to worry about"; b) "I hate to waste food, even condiments. And those things are supposed to last forever, right?" or c) "Yeah, and you know what will happen the second I throw that stuff out? Somebody's going to want it, and I'm going to have to run out to the supermarket."

And don't get me started about spices.

(I spent hours the other day actually sorting through our spice cabinet, or at least two shelves of it, tossing age-old spices and organizing the remaining jars, many of which we had two, or more, of, alphabetically. Only to have the teenager muck it all up days later. Sigh.)

Welcome to... The Condiment Conundrum, where we allow condiments to take over our lives, or our refrigerators (and cabinets or pantries). Yet for some reason, we are unable to throw out any of them (even when we move... or die*).

Why is this, fellow Americans? I would really like to know. And do Europeans and Asians suffer from the same condiment issues? 

Please let me know your thoughts via the Comments.

*True story: My father, a bachelor for over 30 years, was famous, or infamous, for the contents of fridge, which consisted of several bottles of Champagne, a bag (or two) of Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, cantaloupe and grapefruit halves, and jar upon jar of condiments. When he died suddenly, and I had to clean out his apartment, even though he was dead, I found it difficult to throw out all the condiments.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

They don't make movies (or stars) like they used to

Watching, or listening to, all of the hoopla surrounding tonight's 87th Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, I have to stifle a yawn. I just can't get excited about a bunch of movies, or performances, that in 10 years (probably much less) few will remember or care about (and most people don't even care about now).

Would Boyhood and Patricia Arquette have been up for Academy Awards if the movie had been shot in 12 weeks instead of over 12 years?

And speaking of Patricia Arquette, it almost seems as though the category, or Oscar, should be called the Award for a Supporting Actress Who Didn't Succumb to Cosmetic Surgery, as seemingly all every Hollywood reporter (and many actors) seems to talk about is how marvelous it is that Arquette hasn't gone under the knife, or gotten Botox or fillers, even though she is only 46, which is like 112 in Hollywood Years -- and was in her early 30s when Boyhood started shooting.

Indeed, these days it often seems that the Best Acting categories have as much to do with makeup (or lack thereof) or physical appearance (ability to gain 20 pounds or adopt certain mannerisms) and/or costumes (or lack thereof) than with actual acting. Though yes, I know, it takes acting ability to successfully pull off an accent (Meryl Streep) and convince people you have a physical impairment (loved Colin Firth in The King's Speech and I hear Eddie Redmayne is great in The Theory of Everything).

And while there have been some good movies over the last 20 years, part of me, a rather big part, longs for the days when movies entertained or moved us not because they had loads of cool (usually gratuitous) special effects, or car chases, or whips and chains (Raiders of the Lost Ark, good; Fifty Shades of Grey, bad) -- but because they had good, or great, actors/acting, and directors and scripts.

Do this year's Best Picture nominees even hold a candle to those from 1939, when Dark Victory, Gone with the Wind, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, The Wizard of Oz, and Wuthering Heights were just some of the nominees? (Granted, that was an incredible year, movie-wise, and Hollywood has had several not-so-great years between then and now.)

[For a complete list of films nominated for Best Picture, along with the winners, click here.]

And what about those great actors and actresses from the 1930s and '40s and '50s? Yes, yes, there are many good, even very good, actors around right now -- Dustin Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Colin Firth immediately spring to mind -- and actresses, such as Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, and Julianne Moore.

But how many of today's "stars," or their performances, will we remember 50 or 80 years from now? How many can truly compare to the likes of actors Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, and Humphrey Bogart -- and actresses like Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Judy Holliday, and Audrey Hepburn?

Granted back then, under the studio system, it was easier to create (and manage) stars. But how is it I can easily recall, and still watch, and enjoy, movies from that Golden Era and can rarely find anything of more recent vintage to watch on On Demand today, when there are hundreds of movies available for streaming?

And speaking of the number of bad movies out there.... What happened to screenwriting -- and originality?

Granted, I am probably pickier than most when it comes to choosing, or viewing, movies. (Okay, a lot pickier, according to the spouse.) But when is the last time you were excited to go see a movie -- actually went to see it in a movie theater -- and came away saying "Wow! That was an amazing movie!" or "Wow. What a great movie!" or "What an incredible well-written, well-acted movie that was. It should get an Academy Award"?

I'm not talking about movies that entertained you for a couple of hours. Movies that dazzled you with their special effects, or violence, or nudity -- or let you tune out for a couple of hours.

I'm asking, how many movies have you seen in the last five or 10, or 20 years, do you think that if you saw them again in five, or 10, or 20 years you would still think "Wow, that was a great movie"?

Anybody remember Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite or rushing to rent Gladiator or The Artist?  

I rest my case.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The 7 dog groups revised to accurately reflect dog characteristics

As many dog show afficionados and watchers know, "each of the more than 150 AKC registered breeds and varieties are assigned to one of seven groups representing characteristics and functions the breeds were originally bred for."

Those seven groupings consist of:  the Herding Group, the Working Group, the Non-Working Group, the Sporting Group, the Terrier Group, the Hound Group, and the Toy Group.

Some of these groups are obvious to even us non-dog people. But many of these categories, or placements, are confusing. For example, there are terriers who are in the Terrier group and then terriers who fall under the Working and Toy groups. And weren't all hounds designed to be sporting?

So to more accurately represent dogs in a way that both dog lovers and laymen will understand, and appreciate (especially prospective dog owners), I propose the following helpful group names or designations:

The Drooling Group. Pretty self explanatory. Dogs in this group would include Boxers; Bulldogs; Newfoundlands; the Bullmastiff, Mastiff, and Neapolitan Mastiff; the Dogue de Bourdeaux; and the Saint Bernard.

The Hypoallergenic Group. For people who want to own a dog even though they or a loved one are allergic to them. Dogs in this group would include Poodles, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, the Xoloitzcuintle, the Portuguese Water Dog, Schnauzers, the Bedlington Terrier, and the Chinese Crested, the Peruvian Inca Orchid, and other hairless breeds.

The High Maintenance Group. These are dogs that require a lot of grooming. Dogs in this group would include Afghans, Poodles, the Komondor, the Puli, Old English Sheep Dogs, Bichon Frises, Maleteses and Shih Tzus (and many others).

The Noisy Group. Again, pretty self explanatory. Dogs in this group include Beagles, Chihuahuas, Dashsunds, Jack Russell Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Lhasa Apsos, Miniature Schnauzers, Pomeranians, and Beagles (among others).

The Hyperactive Group. Not recommended for couch potatoes. Good for herding sheep and children and chasing things, like squirrels, ducks, and postal carriers. Dogs in this group would include Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Border Collies, Boston Terriers, Dalmatians, Irish Setters, Retrievers, Schipperkes, Weimaraners, and Whippets.

The 'Will Fit Under an Airplane Seat or in This Cute Handbag' Group. The ultimate lap accessory. Dogs in this group would include Chihuahuas, Pugs, Papillons, Yorkshire Terriers, and most "miniature" varieties.

The Fetch Me a Beer (Most Trainable) Group. Smarter than the average bear... or dog. Or at least more trainable. Dogs in this group would include Australian Cattle Dogs and Shepherds, Retrievers, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Shiba Inus, Airedale Terriers, and Corgis.

I know I'm leaving out a bunch of dogs, so feel free to suggest additional groups via the Comments section.