Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Facebook, germs and "the other woman"

- See--I told you that you shouldn't invest in Facebook!

- Olivia Hamilton is a three-year old who lives in Gloucester, England.  And, she has a new best friend who may save her life.  Hamilton needs to be constantly monitored in case her blood sugar levels fall too low so her parents enterprisingly decided to train their new puppy to help with the job.  The cocker spaniel, Bonnie, went through intensive scent training so that it learned to tell when Olivia's blood sugar is low by smelling changes in the girl's body odor.  The pup already has detected low blood sugar eight times and alerts Olivia's parents by barking and running around.  Man's--and little girl's--best friend, indeed...

- Well, so much for acting all busy and eating at your desk!  A new study found that the most germ-filled office surfaces are one's desktop and the table in the break room.  A microbiologist involved in the study said, "There's 400 times more bacteria on an office desktop than the toilet seat."

- Back on Facebook--a British legal firm found that over a third of the divorce filings in 2011 contained the word "Facebook."  So much for "friending" your spouse, huh?

- Sign of the apocalypse:  A parking space in New York City is on sale for--are you ready--one million dollars!  The space is in a condo building and has its own real estate broker.  Yikes...

- And, once more on Facebook--an Indian woman filed for divorce because her husband took too long to change his status to "married."  The couple had been only married for two months but the wife felt her husband's tardiness in changing his status meant he was probably cheating on her.  The judge denied her request for a divorce and the couple is now in six months of counseling.

- For those of you in job seeking mode, watch out--8% of Americans say they've embellished or, ahem, exaggerated information on their resume.  And, of that 8%, 27% say they lost their job when the false information was discovered.

- There's good buzz building about Men In Black 3.

- There are only two episodes left of this season of Mad Men but it'll be hard for the show to replicate the drama, pacing and acting of the May 27 "The Other Woman" episode.

- And, on the topic of finales of great shows, Season Two of Game of Thrones (HBO) wraps up this Sunday evening.  Viewers have needed a game-day program to keep track of the no less than eight story lines actively playing out in the land of Westeros and beyond.  Can the show have eight cliffhangers?  It's doubtful but there surely will be plenty for water cooler/coffeemaker discussion next Monday.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day musings

- If you missed last night's Mad Men, I won't spoil the surprise but, simply put, it's the most eventful episode of this season.  It's also one more intriguing look at Don Draper's relationship with the three most important adult women in his life--his wife, Megan; and business colleagues Peggy and Joan.

- Happy Memorial Day to Best Buy:  Wal Mart is now running full page print advertising suggesting that "if your local Best Buy closed," then come to Wal Mart for the best in TVs and electronics.  Ouch!

- Rocker John Fogerty turns 67 today.

- I blogged a couple of weeks ago about Apple's interesting move towards celebrity pitch-people.  That move became even weirder now that spots featuring John Malkovich have aired.  "Interesting" doesn't even begin to describe that choice of actors.

- The Avengers is kicking box office booty and a key reason is that the film appeals across gender and age groupings.  The audience breakdown thus far is 50% over 25, 40% female, 55% couples and 24% families.

- I don't know about you but I'm breathing a sigh of relief.  Archaeologists found ancient Mayan calculations that indicate that the world will be around for at least another 7,000 years.  So, this whole business of accomplishing everything on your bucket list by 12-12-12 means we have now more time, right?

- And finally, a sad note--Meow, the 39 pound cat, has died.  The feline became a global celebrity when his owner, in New Mexico, left him at a local animal shelter.  The kitty was put on a diet but it was too late--he died of pulmonary failure.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A story of Memorial Day

Every day the Obituary section in the Kansas City Star seems to include yet another "Greatest Generation" member who has left us.  Today was no exception.

Salvatore G. Ottaviano was born in Kansas City, MO to parents who migrated to America.  He graduated from Cearns High School, a school in the north end of Kansas City in the area inhabited by Italian immigrants.  His parents owned the Bellini Theater close by, at 5th and Troost.

Upon graduation, Salvatore became a Marine and was sent overseas.  As with many servicemen of the day, he met his future bride, Ruby Jean, before he departed.

Salvatore survived his stint in the Marines and returned home to marry Ruby.  The couple lived life to the fullest--traveling often and exercising their love of gambling, making Las Vegas a frequent stop on their journeys.  Salvatore and Ruby spent 62 years together before her death earlier this month.

Salvatore soon followed his wife in death as, according to his obit, "he could not live another day without her."

Members of the "Greatest Generation," like Salvatore, are dying at a rapid pace.  Obits like this could be found, I'm sure, in every major American newspaper this weekend.  Let's be sure and give thanks, on this special holiday weekend devoted to those who have passed, to members of the "Greatest Generation" who served their country so nobly.  R.I.P. Salvatore.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

It's war movie time!

Have you had your share of war movies yet?  As is the custom, we are once again being subjected to the war movie genre, this time on AMC, as we move through the Memorial Day weekend.  And, while I love the genre and the tradition of this TV viewing weekend, can we please mix it up a bit?  I mean, repeated showings of The Green Berets, one of the worst movies ever, means that many other very deserving war flicks aren't getting air time.

Here's one film website's list of the best post-1900 war movies:

1. Apocalypse Now (1979)
2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
4. Schindler's List (1993)
5. Platoon (1986)
6. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
7. Patton (1970)
8. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
9. The Longest Day (1962)
10. From Here to Eternity (1953)
11. Sergeant York (1941)
12. The Great Escape (1963)
13. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
14. Das Boot (1981)
15. The Deer Hunter (1978)
16. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
17. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
18. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
19. The Guns of Navarone (1961)
20. Open City (1945)

I think that this is a pretty accurate portrayal of the best in this genre and note it here given the author's listing of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War movie as number one--a movie which had many dramatic twists and turns before even making it to the big screen.

Martin Sheen played Apocalypse Now's central character, Captain Benjamin Willard, who as a US Army special ops officer was sent into the jungle to kill the presumed insane Special Forces Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando.)  Sheen wasn't Coppola's first pick and actually was quite down the list of potential actors who were approached about this role.  Steve McQueen was the director's first choice but declined given the amount of time out of the U.S. for filming.  Al Pacino was also offered the role but he too did not accept for the same reason.  Others approached included Jack Nicholson, James Caan and Robert Redford.

Sheen suffered a heart attack during film production and was rumored to have dealt with psychological issues as well during the making of the film.  So, perhaps ironically, it was Sheen's acting sidekick, Robert Duvall, playing the part of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, who won a Golden Globe for his wacked-out portrayal of the surfing, war-crazed chopper squadron leader.  Sheen was nominated for an American Movie Award for Best Actor but lost out to Alan Alda (The Seduction of Joe Tynan.)

Overall, Apocalypse Now was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but only won for Cinematography and Sound.  It is one of those films which now is considered a classic and whose impact seems to increase with age.  As one writer opined, "it is a masterpiece of the New Hollywood age."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The death of Super Bowl advertising?

Yesterday, GM announced that it was going to stop participation in the Super Bowl advertising circus and immediately came rumblings that this might be the first move in an advertiser insurrection against pricey commercials in this most highly viewed of television events.

Relax--it's not going to happen.  While GM's move is radical, given the automaker's heavy use of Super Bowl media over the past two years, it is not a death knell for Super Bowl advertising.  The investments by Super Bowl advertisers makes more sense now than in years past given the rapid growth in social media and the ability for these TV spots to be seen across various platforms.

GM's move is CMO Joel Ewanick's way of continuing to drive cost savings and implementing a reality check on the company's media and advertising production spending.  As for the Super Bowl and its advertising inventory, the broadcast will do just fine--look for GM's ad time to be snapped up by some opportunistic brand hoping to use this venue to reach the largest TV audience of the year while complementing that viewership with creative seen on YouTube, Facebook and all things social media.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The slide show of your life

This past weekend, my wife and I attended the funeral of a friend.  And, as is today's custom, the funeral ended with a slide show replete with photos from the deceased's life--from infant years up through college and on to marriage, fatherhood and grandfatherhood.

The visual images included, as you would guess, the now embarrassing moments that come with hair woefully out of today's style and/or the way-too-loud sweater that, at one time, was considered fashionable.

Those in attendance grinned at the memories, and sometimes chuckled, as the life of a friend was chronicled with a handful of visual images.  Only a soundtrack played--no audio of our friend or video clips were included.

The moment made me think--what would be the slide show of my life?  What pictures would I want shown to my family, friends and colleagues when that time comes?

It's interesting to me that we rely upon an old technology for this special, poignant moment.  Photographs still allow for time to be taken to survey the image, to see the expression(s), and to get transported into that moment, whether we were there or not.  We all chuckled at the photo with the gaudy sweater, knowingly thinking "yep...I owned one of those."  We giggled at the big hair and shook our head at the glass frames which were big enough to overwhelm a face.

What's in the slide show of your life?  The question isn't asked in order to offer a depressing realization of our own mortality.  Rather, the question is posed simply as a way to emphasize the opportunity that exists--there are plenty of good photos left to be taken for all of us.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Television, permanent erections and boob jobs

The spring television season is drawing to a close and already withdrawals are setting in given the absence of shows like The Good Wife (CBS) and Justified (FX.)  In the reality show category, The Voice concluded another successful season this week, crowning the ultra-talented Jermaine Paul as the latest winner.  American Idol will soon draw to a close with only two weeks remaining and another contestant booted off during tonight's telecast.  The finale will reportedly feature Aerosmith in a live performance.

Let's look at what else is going on in the world of pop culture and local news, shall we?

- The Oklahoma Joe's outpost at 119th and Roe, Leawood, KS, is closer to becoming a reality--the restaurant's sign is up on the former TGIFriday's building.  The latest report is that Okie Joe's will open in June.

- A Norwegian couple recently became the first people to get married at the North Pole.  A small number of guests were ferried by helicopter to the northernmost point of the world to watch the bride, in thick white jacket over a traditional wedding dress, say "I do" to her groom.  The minister braved the cold by blessing the marriage union with his bare hands.  Where did the couple honeymoon, you ask?  They left the North Pole to hit the warmer climate of Italy for their post-wedding time together.

- In the "you can't make this 'stuff" up" category, a motorcyclist in California has sued BMW, claiming that riding his motorcycle has given him a permanent erection.  The suit claims that the 20 months of his erection has "caused him substantial emotional and mental anguish."  There was no word as to why it took 20 months of an erection before the cyclist finally decided to, ahem, take action.

- The latest Esquire features an in-depth interview with Eddie Van Halen where he reveals that he's always been terrified of performing.  And, it was Van Halen's father who, when his son was age 12, handed him a shot of vodka and a cigarette to help him mellow out before going on stage.

- A new Gallup poll reports that the majority of Americans believe that gold is the best long-term investment.  After gold, the next mentioned investments were real estate, stocks/mutual funds, savings accounts and bonds.

- The Avengers is a fun, action-packed popcorn movie with terrific performances by the entire superhero cast.

- I really like what Clorox is doing with their latest advertising campaign.  The work positions this cleaning brand, which seems to have been around forever, as still the best solution for any household stain challenge.

- What's on my "to read" list?  In first place is John Irving's latest, In One Person.

- After a slow start to this season, Mad Men has picked up the pace over the past three episodes.  However, it's still disconcerting to watch the "new" Don Draper--every week I think he will revert back to his womanizing, advertising savant ways versus his portrayal of a domesticated, sensitive husband with a short work attention span at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

- Happy Birthday to our current favorite rock front man, Bono.  The U2 band mate and worldwide activist turns 52 today.

- It dumbs down the advertising agency pitch process but there is something very compelling about The Pitch (AMC on Mondays at 8 p.m. CT.)

- Speaking of a TV reality show, why don't network execs look inwardly and consider making the media upfronts the basis for a new series in this genre?  The upfronts, which take place this month, are the meetings where the major networks present the fall and winter television lineups to advertisers and their agencies.  The week then commences the buying process where these same advertisers and media buyers negotiate with the networks for advertising time.  It's an intense process where literally billions of media dollars are in play over a limited set of time.

- And, finally, our quote of the week goes to the gorgeous Charlize Theron, who said, "If I had known 3D was going to be such a big deal, I'd have gotten that boob job ten years ago."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tree houses, divorce rings and "double bypass" burgers

- There is a penniless carpenter in British Columbia who secretly built himself a tree house, in a publicly owned forest, with materials obtained free on Craigslist.  Joel Allen salvaged over $10,000 worth of hardwood, glass and lumber online to complete his new abode.  He now faces one challenge--how does he buy the land beneath his tree house?  "It took a lot of work to build it," he said, "and I'd rather not take it down just yet."

- As I tweeted yesterday, what is up with JC Penney's lauded new ad campaign?  The retailer famously enlisted the help of Ellen DeGeneres but quickly abandoned that work, and the "no coupon" theme, for current advertising which looks like a poor man's Target.  It's unclear what "JCP" stands for in today's competitive retail environment.

- It was good to see Glee tackle the topic of domestic violence in the show's episode this week.  Given Rihanna's reconciliation with Chris Brown, here's hoping that young women take counsel from Glee's message.

- Are you in line yet for Avengers tickets?

- Only 3% of Americans have a favorable view of Sen. John Edwards, based on a New York Times/CBS News poll.  Just who ARE these people, anyway!?

- The largest porn site on the Web gets triple the page views of CNN or ESPN, in a given month.  And, the average time spent on the site, according to Google's DoubleClick, is 15-20 minutes compared to three-six for a non-porn site.  (Source:

- For jilted wives out there comes this--a French designer has created divorce rings to "convey to the world a defiant 'I don't!'"  Gisele Ganne's design combines a bird skull with a bride's bouquet and a single gem, and retails for about $1,350.

- And, finally, you'd think that patrons would get the hint at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas.  Recently, a woman ate a massive "Double Bypass" burger there and then suffered an apparent heart attack and was rushed to the hospital.  Just three months earlier, a man dining there suffered a nonfatal coronary.