28 June 2009
Friday/July/03 2009 Filed in: Philosophy / World View
Ploughshares into Swords
During World War II, there really was no such thing as a defense industry in this country. The soldiers and sailors who fought the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan were American boys who left their jobs at auto repair shops, dime stores, office buildings and farms to do their patriotic duty.
Wives, fathers, sisters and cousins did without meat, rubber and nylon to support their fighting boys overseas. Armaments, tanks and aircraft were built by GM and Ford.
Being in the military wasn't a career then. It was something you did until the job was done and it was time to come home again.
After the Fall of Saigon.
The military draft was something that the boys of the 1940's had proudly embraced and the boys of the 1960's had proudly protested. But the post-Viet Nam volunteer army tilted things in the new direction of a professional soldier.
Being in the military emerged as a decent job and, for many, a respectable career. But in the shadows, much of the manufacture of the hardware of war, once pieced together on Detroit assembly lines, was being handed over to corporations for whom bullets meant business.
Old Blackwater, Keep on Rollin.'
And when the nation was distracted during the bloodlusty wake of 9/11, the nature of the military shifted again. Now its ranks were increasingly infiltrated by professional mercenaries -- hired hit men accountable not to the Generals and the Admirals but to corporate executives in air-conditioned offices in North Carolina.
Slowly, inexorably, the hardware and software of war converged.
It's not as if we weren't given warning.
On the eve of the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy, President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the rising and devastating danger of something he called the military-industrial complex. In retrospect, his sober words are eerily prescient and sadly accurate.
President Eisenhower, himself a military man who had served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, spoke with unassailable authority about what he saw as the greatest national threat at the mid-point of the 20th century.
The ugly revelations of recent wars give bitter testimony to President Eisenhower's plea.
At the nexus of a military without moral leadership and industry that profits from death and destruction lurks the true axis of evil.
Behold a Pale Horse...
Thursday/July/02 2009 Filed in: Entertainment / Media
Yes Minister / Yes Prime Minister
If the Bard of Avon had written a half-hour comedy show about the true nature of modern government, he couldn't have done a better job than the 1980's BBC series Yes Minister or it's sequel, Yes Prime Minister.
Yes Minister (1980 through 1984) and Yes Prime Minister (1986 through 1988) address the topics of bank bailouts, government leaks and political scandals, making these series as relevant and topical today as they were 30 years ago.
There were a total of 38 episodes, penned by Sir Anthony Jay and Jonathon Lynn in this award winning series.
As for the main characters, Jim Hacker is in Parliament (and later is elected Prime Minister), setting policy with the short-term goal of being re-elected.
Sir Humphrey Appleby, assigned as Hacker's Permanent Secretary, is a bureaucrat -- civil servant in British-speak -- executing Hacker's policies with the long-term goal of adding to staff and budget.
Both want the best for Queen and Country, but, as they grapple, they expose the extent to which government is the difficult output of the clashing needs of short-term politics and long-term bureaucracy.
Bernerd Woolsey, Hacker's chief of staff, is an everyman character, who is inspired by Hacker's compassion but, as a civil servant himself, is constantly reminded by Sir Humphrey of bureaucratic reality.
Politics: Universal and Timeless
Yes Minster / Yes Prime Minister goes beyond the arcane and curious inner workings of British government and lays bare the genuine nature of Politics Apocalypzia, whether in London, Washington DC or your local Town Council.
The late Paul Eddington played Jim Hacker and the late Nigel Hawthorne - brilliant in The Madness of King George - played Sir Humphrey Appleby. Derek Fowlds, not in the clip below, played Private Secretary, Woolsey.
Is President Obama a fan of Yes Minister? You decide...
Wednesday/July/01 2009 Filed in: Entertainment / Media
The dead, in droves, come back to quasi-life, to roam the earth in stumbling slow motion, ravenous for human flesh and threatening the living with a fate worse than death. Each attack swells the zombie ranks until only a small renegade band of healthy living humans remains. Against overwhelming odds, the apocalyptic battle for humanity is on.
The Film That Started it All
The 1968 black and white cult film, Night of the Living Dead, directed by George Romero, wasn't the first zombie movie. White Zombie, released in 1932, holds that honor, followed by Zombies on Broadway. But Romero's NOTLD was the first film of a sub-genre now known as Zombie Apocalypse. We're not just talking zombies, we're talking zombies on a mission of world domination.
(Don't have time to watch Romero's original classic? Check out Jennifer Shiman's amazingly accurate 30-second cartoon version in Bun-o-Vision. You have to see it to believe it!)
Romero cranked out five films in the NOTLD series. But as his film franchise and the zombie apocalypse genre grew, the zombies got faster, smarter and meaner.
The Resident Evil film series, adapted from the popular video game, is a prime example of the current generation of zombie apocalypse. In the previous millennium, zombies threatened to take over the world. Post-2000, zombies have seized control and we humans are trying to wrest it back.
The Lighter Side of Zombie Apocalypse
But a movie that successfully meshes the apocalypzia mindset with the apocalyptic zombie film is the brilliant Shaun of the Dead, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Its special genius is that it's more of a romantic-comedy with megalomaniacal zombies in it than it is traditional zombie apocalypse.
And, after all, if we can laugh and love our way through the apocalypse, how bad can it possibly be?
Tuesday/June/30 2009 Filed in: TV Commercials
The Nameless Faces of Madison Avenue
If you live in or near Chicago and we mention The Empire Carpet Guy, you'll know exactly who we mean. In fact, you're probably humming the 588-Two-Three-Hundred phone number jingle in your head right now.
The Empire Carpet Guy dressed in his coveralls and horn-rimmed glasses is described by the Empire Carpet Company as "part blue collar superhero and part pure entertainment."
In real life, he's Lynn Hauldren, the ad agency copywriter who created the Empire Carpet Guy character and stepped in to play the role when auditions didn't turn up a better alternative. That was 32 years ago and he's still cranking them out.
By the way, Lynn also wrote and recorded the now famous jingle and before that was a World War II hero on the Indo-China Burma Road.
Guys, like the Empire Carpet Guy, are an important part of the marketing mix these days. We don't know their names but they are instantly recognizable as The (Fill-in-the-Blank) Guy.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Like some Mad Men progeny of The Empire Carpet Guy, the bespeckled Verizon Guy, dutifully dressed with coveralls, is large on the national stage these days. After humble beginnings, he now commands an army of Verizon technicians as they storm dead zones on the remote cellular frontiers.
The Verizon Guy is Paul Marcarelli, of North Haven, CT. He's an actor, a director, a screenwriter and, according to Xcpus.com, a T-Mobile user because of Verizon coverage issues.
Seeing as he's been doing Verizon commercials since at least 2002, he might be more appropriately called The Rich-from-Residuals Guy. And he apparently has been a big hit for Verizon. During the first two years of the campaign, the company reported a gain in market share and a reduction in customer turnover.
But competition is tough in the TV Commercial Guy racket.
LiveCrunch.com: Dress Like a Mac Guy
When it comes to tech-ad spokespersons, GeekSugar.com is ga-ga over the Mac Guy. In a Spring 2009 poll, almost half of the participants named him as their fave. The PC Guy was a distant second, followed by Verizon's Paul.
Bringing up the rear was The AlTel Wireless Guy and -- a blast from the past -- The Dell Dude!
But Apocalypzia gives Paul Marcarelli special credit. He created The Verizon Guy persona with precious little dialogue. In fact, after starting out with "Can you hear me now?" his lines are now often cut to "You're good!"
Still, he's been able to evolve the character from tech-geek to geek-chic.
Yes, Paul. We hear you now.
Monday/June/29 2009 Filed in: TV Commercials
Does this Apple iPhone commercial work for you?
Let's face it, Apple is the High Priest of High-Tech commercials. From the groundbreaking 1984 classic that launched the Macintosh right through to the ingenious Mac vs PC campaign, Apple rules.
Through commercials like those developed for the iPod and the Mac Air, they've created their own special Ad-Vibe. Initial commercials for the iPhone were an excellent fit.
So what's up with the ad for the new iPhone 3GS?!
While this commercial -- titled Break In -- is not bad on its own merits, its seems decidedly ... well ... like any other TV commercial. Bland, derivative and stuffed with obligatory puffery.
Where's that Apple wit, humor and personality?
There seems to be some kind of vague Daniel-Craigy James Bond thing going on here. And are we to assume that those are Microsoft guys spying from the floor above?
Maybe they're President Obama's Secret Service agents dispatched to see if the new iPhone is better than the boss's state-of-the-art Blackberry.
Some believe that this ad will introduce a series of commercials with a related theme. If that's Apple's intention, this seems like a pretty weak start.
This commercial has a very impressive pedigree. It was directed by David Fincher, a self-proclaimed Mac Guy and the Academy Award nominated director of 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Curiously, despite these credentials, this ad seems rather ordinary.
Is Apple the victim of the high expectations it sets for itself with clever edgy ads?
Is Apocalypzia alone in this assessment of the new iPhone ad?
Let us know...