Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I-10 Tastiness

Well, I'm back in Virginia, but not without a three-day gastrointestinal journey through the South. My route, TX-71 to I-10 to I-95, was an exhausting 1600-mile ride, but it was the tasty gems along the way that made it memorable.

Sidebar: thanks to three people for their great suggestions for the route: MJ, SO, KG. Fantastic picks!

We got to see several cities I had never been to before on the route: Houston, Baton Rouge, Mobile and Jacksonville. Also went through some more familiar places, including a hilarious interlude at South of the Border, the biggest tourist trap in the world (just 'cuz), and any east coast must -- a stop for vinegar-based NC BBQ. Oh how I've missed this delicacy in my time in Texas.

I got to sample three of the suggested eateries along the way: The Chimes, an off-campus LSU haunt where I tried the crawfish etouffe, and across Baton Rouge, Coffee Call, a great 24-hour coffeeshop with stellar beignets, hidden in a strip mall. Finally, in Jacksonville, I dove into a fried chicken dinner with all-you-can-eat sides for $8.46 at Beach Road Chicken Dinners. It was quite the culinary marathon.


The Chimes was a good place to relax and enjoy some Louisiana fare in a laidback college town environment. While I slaughtered the pronunciation of etouffe and roumelade and other French words, I made up for it with my prowess in taking down Coffee Call's beignet fingers 15 minutes later. My "small" order of beignets (about $3) was a large enough serving to feed me breakfast for three days. I ate the majority in one sitting though: I'm just that gross (or awesome, depending on the judge).

Night two brought me to the granddaddy of all southern feasts: Beach Road Chicken Dinners. I chowed down on perfectly crispy fried chicken and an endless supply of buttery biscuits, hush puppies, fries, mashed potatoes, gravy, cole slaw and cream peas. All was sloshed down with an endless stream of sweet tea. All this for under $10. Unreal. The meal was quite the spectacle. We ordered drinks, my dad excused himself to wash his hands, and upon his return our entire table was filled with family style side dishes and a massive centerpiece of fried chicken. Doesn't get much better than that!

A preview of what Southern Living called the Best Fried Chicken in the South in 1997 and #1 in Jacksonville Magazine:


Here is where I found what may be the tastiest equation discovered in 2008:

French fries + mashed potatoes + gravy = Insanely awesome (translated: fries dipped in mashed potatoes with gravy could be the world's best kept food secret)

Since every great meal should end with dessert, I leave you with a taste (sorry this isn't Taste-o-vision) of Coffee Call's beignet fingers...

Beach Road Chicken Dinners pictures courtesy of the Travelin Man's Photostream on Flickr
Coffee Call picture also from Flickr

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chuck Brown goes wild

Today we wrapped up our portfolio class with the end-of-semester critique. Everyone finished in time and it was nice to see my classmates' work (and my own) come to fruition. We got some helpful feedback from industry pros which enabled us to gauge our progress on "making our books."

No matter how you slice it though, it's been an exhausting journey. As my friend Stacey put so precisely early this week, "P2 [intermediate portfolio] is full of growing pains." I agree. Unlike in P1 (beginning portfolio), we're sorta at the point now where we know when our stuff sucks, but are still grappling at making things good or great. There's a whole lot of being satisfactory or adequate, but not special. Needless to say it's frustrating, but all part of the learning experience.

Anyway, like all things in life besides the really important things like family and friends, you just have to remind yourself "it's just advertising." We all get sucked into our own little worlds and forget about the world going on outside. We don't return phone calls. We go underground for unknown periods of time, conversing only with others in the same situation. Our tempers are short and we're ready to pounce on unsuspecting copy center employees, should they mess up our order or coloration on our final ads. We worry about the most infinitesimal details... "I don't have time to get coffee, I have to redo the Gaussian blur." To quote my undergrad econ professor, Ken Elzinga, "In the long run we're all dead." How much difference will that extra 10 minutes for a snack or caffeine break make in the long run? Will it be the difference between a lower and higher score at critique? Probably not.

But who am I kidding? I got sucked into the madness just as much as everyone. As usual, seeing everyone else stressed out frazzled me as well. Call it pathetic, but I was glad for it to end because for the first time in a week I sat down and watched three TV shows in a row. I stress the word watched, because I've been listening while graphic designing/art directing or cutting my foamcore for the final mounted ads for the past week, but hadn't truly enjoyed the art of watching TV.

Going back to "it's just advertising," a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this unbelievably hilarious YouTube video parodying agency life. I laughed loudly at least six times during the video, and thought over and over again "this is what I'm going to school for." I think if you can't laugh at yourself you won't be able to survive in the working world. It was the perfect thing to watch after a day, week, month, and really, semester of portfolio obsessing.



I love that it doesn't miss a single detail. Egotistical creatives* driven by the incessant need to win awards (and toot their own horns about it). The mention that Crispin always comes up with the great ideas, looking for inspiration in the CA annual, which works perfectly, as that issue arrives in December. Guerilla marketing. KISS - Keep it simple stupid (I enjoyed the surprising substitution of "shithead" though for that final S in the acronym). "Concepting." There's a word you don't hear enough of in the advertising world.

Well enough with the overanalysis. I'm going to KISS and get ready for and go to bed -- a plan that has worked for thousands of nights of my life already, and yet never loses its freshness.


*I will post my opinions on this word in a future post. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happy December

Hi to the five people who read this! Sorry for my lack of updates lately. Things are a whirlwind with finishing up school, yadda yadda. Saturday I graduated, so now I guess I'm a Texas Ex!


OK, so maybe not quite. I still have two classes that haven't finished. Thursday @ 8 am all of our ads for the semester are due for critique. Two or so creative advertising bigwigs will come in and crush our souls and tell us we aren't good enough for the ad biz. Won't be anything I haven't heard before. I'm just looking forward to being done.

Friday I have my final sports journalism project due. We have to write three articles: a 1000 word main story, a 600 word sidebar and a 600 word column about topics related to Central Texas, Austin or UT sports. My main story will cover the history of UT athletics from 1970 to present. In my sidebar, I'll write about women's athletics director Chris Plonsky and how UT athletics are able to thrive with a two-AD system. (Piece of trivia for you: only two D1 schools do this: Texas and Tennessee). In my column I'll argue what's ethical and what's not in collegiate sports marketing. My opinion may surprise you!

Anyway, I got to interview both Plonsky and men's AD DeLoss Dodds. Both were absolute class acts and a joy to talk to. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed all that I've learned in this class, not only about sports, but about careers and writing as well.

Anyway, Dodds actually wanted to get to know me first before we even got to the interview. Asked all about where I'm from, why Texas, all that good stuff. At the end of the interview he gave me a copy of this, saying "I figure you'd appreciate this anyway, but especially as a history major and fan of 20th century history." Wow. No really, wow.

OK, but really, I have a whole lot of work I need to get back to. Legit post coming soon. And I get my life back in only a few more days! Til then, enjoy your Christmas Pandora station and watch some Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, and/or Rudolph for me!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Postcards from Mexico, part deux

Got a text from my cousin yesterday, she has now received her postcard (sent in August) as well. WTF? One to go!

Here are some ideas for future taglines for the Baja California Sur's postal system:
  • 67% chance your mail will arrive, 0% chance it'll be within 2 months (not catchy enough)
  • It's not really mail if there's no mystery to it!
  • If you forgot you sent it, then it's a surprise when it arrives!
  • Better late than never (too obvious)
  • Good things happen to those who wait (see above)
  • Every send begins with dismay
  • You probably should have sent it by media mail.
  • You've held your breath 78 trillion times, and it's finally here!
  • If you really, really want to send it, you shouldn't here
  • You'll never know where it's been before it got to you
  • You could have swum it to your destination faster
  • Expedience is not our forte
  • What's service?
  • We don't hurry (or We're in no hurry)
  • Make sure the recipient is under 50
  • Where every delivery is like unearthing a time capsule
  • Mexico to the USA, and everywhere in between, 308 times.
  • Every send is an adventure
I really should use less exclamation points.

80s Tribute to DC's 12th Man

I think it's pretty weaksauce for a blogger to post a YouTube video only to say "This is awesome" and leave it at that. I'm going to do the same thing, more or less, so sorry in advance.

I was reading Chris Cooley's blog (he's a tight end on the Redskins), and he (or one of his co-writers) had this hilariously, awesome old school video posted. Here are some 1980s Redskins singing a tribute to their fans:



Sports will continue to thrive so long as dedicated fans support their favorite athletes and teams. As a sports fan, it's nice to be reminded occasionally that my "fandom" is appreciated by these teams and athletes. Even if it's in a reprise of something created before I could do long division.

For the record, I am more of a Steelers fan. Though if this were a Cowboys or Patriots video, I almost certainly would have neglected to post. Enjoy.

Addendum -- After further Cooley blog/YouTube research, here are some more 1980s/90s NFL treasures:

L.A. Rams (remember when they were there?) The Rammers -- "Ram It"
  • "If you ram it just right, you can ram it all night"
Miami Dolphins rap Cory and the Fins -- "Can't Touch Us"
  • "Makin' 'em sweat, that's why they're sore"
  • Zubaz pants sightings throughout!
1986 L.A. (not Oakland) Raiders and the "Silver and Black Attack"
  • Howie Long (Hall of Famer-turned-FOX NFL Sunday broadcaster) raps at 0:46
  • "I love to sit on those running backs"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Uggh, Bobby Flay

I've seen The Food Network show Throwdown with Bobby Flay a pretty embarrassing number of times. And I swear, the skeezeball wins just about every time I watch. Grrrrr.

I just wanna smack that smug look right off his face when critics sample his food, and most especially, when he wins.

Bleh.

Portrait of a smug jerk.
Credits: The Ghetto Gourmet Chronicles

By the way, I gotta say, I'm not that impressed with his throwdown skills since he always has a training staff dispensing ingredient secrets before he makes his concoction. How talented are you if you have a team helping you make your recipes? And know your challenge beforehand?

I'd love to see ol' Bobby compete without his entourage preparing him. Granted he'd probably still win all the time, meh, but at least it would be more fair. It's not like the competing chefs know in advance what's coming.

Don't worry Bobby, I'll still watch your show. I'll just never root for you.

(Does anyone ever root for the guy by the way? Just curious.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Postal hilarity

So I got a phone call from my Mom tonight, apparently she just got my postcard from when I went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico... which I sent in mid-AUGUST!

We stayed in a hotel in Los Cabos, which was about halfway between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, where the airport was. All three are in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, so basically the southern tip of Baja California, on the Pacific Ocean.

Mom said the postmark was from San Jose del Cabo and was dated in October. I don't know what to be more distraught by, the incompetence of the hotel's mailing "system" which resulted in a postcard sent in August not to get postmarked for two months, or the Mexican/U.S. postal services which took another month to get the card to my mother.

Nice hotel. Sweet deal on Priceline. Incompetent mailing system.

I sent two other postcards from the area (San Jose del Cabo) as well, but those I sent from the airport, which I assumed would have been the more competent of the two mailing locations. As of today, neither of the other two would-be recipients had received their postcards. Shocking.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lazy Wednesday

So instead of doing the piles of work I have to do today, I've decided it's time to map my route back to the V-A for my December move.

I know "Google maps is the best" but I prefer MapQuest, and from what I hear, it's a good one too.

Did you know MapQuest had a new feature, the draggable route? I sure didn't. So if you don't like the route it selected, now you can grab and drag the recommended route on the map to incorporate cities, towns, or other sites without having to re-enter all your data. Don't want to drive the interstate and prefer to drive along the coast? Now you can change your route in seconds. Awesome! I've wanted this feature for so long and now it's finally here.


Anyway, I'm probably asking the wrong audience, but does anyone have any routes to the East Coast that are tried, true, and loved? All the routes will end up in the 1400-1700 miles range it seems like, and I'm planning to take 3 days for the drive.

Last time, from Richmond to Austin, we took I-95 South from Richmond to I-85 around Petersburg, cut down to Atlanta, where we saw a Braves game and spent the night. Day 2 we took I-20 west to Vicksburg, Mississippi and looked around at Civil War stuff, put my feet in the Mississippi River (nerdy right?), and we spent the night somewhere in Louisiana. Day 3 we continued westward to Austin via I-20 for a bit and then took mostly back roads through east Texas until we got to I-35.

Anyway, the stops were decent on I-85 (plenty of good BBQ haunts in NC to choose from), but I-20 seemed like the dullest, most uneventful stretch of highway I've ever driven. Alabama's section of the interstate was laden with construction zones and speed limits in the 30s and 40s. So frustrating.

So for the ride back I'm loosely debating one of two routes (though I'm open to other suggestions and variations of those below):
  • Texas - Arkansas - Tennessee - Virginia. This route is the fastest, but how much does that matter to save two hours on a three-day trip? I'm unsure. This route takes I-35 to Dallas, then winds through a long stretches of Arkansas and Tennessee before reaching the Old Dominion. It's a 23 hour, 15 minute ride covering 1500 miles. (Compared to my Richmond to Austin trip in 2007, which was 23 1/2 hours, but about 15 miles shorter -- wowww.)

  • Texas - Louisiana - Mississippi - Alabama - Florida - Georgia - South Carolina - North Carolina - Virginia. This 25-hour route crosses through nine states and would essentially use I-10 East from Houston to Jacksonville and then 95 North, back to Virginia. It would cover 1640 miles.
Any thoughts? Are Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville better for stops or Baton Rouge, Biloxi, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, (and a bunch of NC/SC/GA places I've been to before)? Anyone?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The future of Pam Beesley?

You may have already heard this proposal if I've talked to you in the past two days, but I think I have a great idea on a new job for ol' Pammy (and don't call me Pammy) on The Office:

ART DIRECTOR
IN-HOUSE (ADVERTISING)
at VANCE REFRIGERATION

Why?

SPOILER ALERT: Pam's back in Scranton. Ostensibly, for good. She has Pratt graphic design experience behind her, whether or not she likes it. So maybe she's not the master of Flash, and doesn't like making logos. Doesn't mean she doesn't have a future ahead of her utilizing those (other) art skills in another context like advertising.

And Vance Refrigeration doesn't seem like a big enough company to do their advertising off-site or at an agency. Read into the show much? In-house advertising is a very feasible option for Pam's character.

If ol' Pam works at VR, she could talk all day on the phone to Jim. (Vance Refrigeration is Dunder Mifflin's neighborhood business in the Scranton Business Park.) And she could attend lots of Dunder Mifflin gatherings. Not to mention be there for lunches mid-day.

Just saying.

This set-up would still give her interactions with other Office characters. And according to this week's preview, Toby will be back this week. Interesting...

By the way, to echo a friend's very astute observation... has Pam ever looked more radiant than she did sitting on the hood of Jim's car, waiting for him to get out of work during last week's episode? I think not.



Oh Dwight -- your eternal creepiness -- you never disappoint.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lil J's hair is stupid

I don't know what's the dumbest though: the fact that I watch Gossip Girl, the fact that I'm blogging about it, or that I'm deluding myself into thinking I have any fashion sense, especially regarding hairstyles.

Here's Lil J's old look (as in up until a few weeks ago on the show):


Cute, wholesome, girl-next-door. If only she had a non-bratty, friendly personality to match.

Her new look:


"OMG, I'm like 15 and totally angry," her hair practically screams at me.

While this can be a cute look, and very edgy designer-esque, it seems to just follow what the show does wrong -- overemphasize stereotypes. When Jenny dropped out of high school in order to jumpstart her fashion design career, of course she started looking artsy and acting the part. OMG trendy haircut, and a new BFF that's a model. And the photogs, booze, parties, sudden popularity! A whole new lifestyle and scene within a matter of moments of dropping out of her glamorous, uppity Upper East Side prep school. Because that's how life works.

Just like Vanessa (worst character on the show by the way), Jenny now has so many "of course she would" moments. Vanessa couldn't be any more stereotypically Brooklyn. She's in the know about hipster everything -- she works at a coffeeshop, is an aficionado of the arts, and always has a political agenda to stomp out whatever corporate mogul sets sight on her neighborhood. If that wasn't enough, she delivers all of her lines with a permanent pout and holier-than-thou attitude. And wouldn't you know it, everything she wears is over-the-top vintage. And she's apparently a dazzling standardized test taker but is too cool for traditional education. Undercover book smarts. Of course. I wish I was making this all up. Gag.

Anyway, what do you think about Jenny's new frock? I think the crazy eye makeup makes it less severe, but I still prefer the old look. In tonight's episode she had her hair pulled back and it looked atrocious. Very much like my elementary school classmates in the 80s who had bangs starting past the midpoint of their heads. A real golden age in hairstyles if you ask me. Nothing like bangs harkening comparisons to ye olde mullet.

Well if you aren't sold on how she looked before, here's how she looks in real life with the new 'do and without the help of the Gossip Girl makeup staff:


Yikes.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Magic Eye Syndrome

So I was reading a friend's blog yesterday, and she had a nice, funny post about Photoshop Disasters, a pretty self-explanatory blog on -- you guessed it -- Photoshop disasters. Art directors, graphic designers, and Photoshop enthusiasts alike swear by this site. I'll be the first to admit it though, sometimes I see the errors, and other times, I can stare at an image for ten minutes and not be able to identify what's wrong with it.

All this time I've chalked up my visual ineptitude to being unobservant, blind, or some other unquantifiable variety of incompetent. But I've finally realized my dilemma. It's because I have Magic Eye Syndrome.

Magic Eye Syndrome of course, is no real ailment. And if it is, I feel like it only affects me.

Ever since 3rd grade or whenever those Magic Eye books hit bookstores, I've always felt like a loser. Everyone raved about those optical illusions, and how when they stared at them they could always see the unmistakable shape of ______ just leaping out of the page.


I never could see these things! Every time I've started to see one, I got so excited that I lost it somewhere on the way. Why must this always happen to me?!! (See the answer to the one above at the end of the post.)

I can't tell you how many times over the years that I've faked that I've solved a Magic Eye. No one wants to admit to being the only person in an elementary school class that they can't see it! I'm still a little embarrassed about it. I was just like Rachel on Friends when she had an ultrasound and pretended she could see her baby on the screen. Ross pointed it out to her and she said she saw it, cried, and then admitted to not seeing it. He re-pointed it out, and the process repeated over and over. Wow, that hit too close to home. Oh my God, I'm going to be that same awful mother someday!

Anyway, to this day I'll never understand why so many people raved about Magic Eye over the years. Do that many people really see the "subliminal" images? Or is the world full of fakers like me afraid to own up to their inability to solve them? And why on earth did these things cause such a fuss in the 90s?

I will now return back to looking at Photoshop Disasters, where I'll likely not see what everyone is laughing at. But hey, then again maybe it'll be in the 30% of the time I get it and laugh with everyone else -- not lying! I much prefer my odds in Photoshop Disasters (a 30% chance is way much more encouraging than 0% after all).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Graduation! Inauguration! The East Coast of this great nation!

So, you may have heard that this Illinois senator guy is like, going to be like, W's successor, or something.

And that he totally took this giant paintbrush and painted a whole lot of red parts of the US map blue.


Yes, Barack Obama is going to be our nation's 44th President. I couldn't be more excited about giving the ol' Dems a shot at changing things and hopefully turning back the demolition the Bush administration has wreaked on our country. Yes the man may have preached Hope and Change ad nauseum, but is there a better solution to our status quo? Doubtful. I'm just relieved not to have to go through another four more years of the Dub (or someone whose vote aligns with him 90% of the time). Hey, and listening to a phenomenal orator never hurt anyone.

And I'm so proud of traditionally red Virginia for going blue. You'd never guess from the map below, but I'm OK with that! So maybe my hometown still went McCain (64% to 35%, no surprise there), but I'm so happy for my state on the whole. And it looks like they finally counted all the ballots in North Carolina, which was split 50% to 50%... but Obama took the state by a slim margin of 14,000 votes.

from msnbc.com

Anyway, this is all besides the point. I graduate in December! Yeyyyy. I'm moving back to the East Coast (back to ACC Country, thank God!). I'll be able to watch teams I care about to my heart's content. I'll be driving distance (err, less than a day) from Boston, New York, Philly, Baltimore, DC, Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta, wherever. I miss that. Immensely. And the beaches, oh the beaches.

I mean no disrespect Texas or Austin; I've enjoyed my stay. And I'm reaaally going to miss this place. There's just really no place like home.

So I just realized that since I'll be back in the Commonwealth (Virginia for those not quite as obsessed with the state as me) starting in mid-December, that means I'll be back in time for the Presidential Inauguration in January! Sweet. No idea if I'll actually go or be able to, but the possibility is making me excitedly squirm in my seat.

Also, I can't wait to put my advertising education into practice. Art direction? Copywriting? Account planning? Other advertising? Sports marketing? Journalism? PR? Graphic design? I may not know 100% what I want to do, or where I'll end up, but I'm ready to be put to work, get paid to do what I love, and not have homework. Oh yeah, and being able to afford rent would be a welcome change.

Fun times await and I'm anxious to get started. Err, well after a nice relaxing Christmas that is. Ol' Barack and I have big goals for 2009, and I think we're ready to take 'em on!

*Apologies for my inclusion of more percentages here than on any post to this point.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Virginia is for free speech haters

Why are we having issues with free speech again? And in Charlottesville again no less!

A friend of mine sent me this. Basically, the Daily Progress, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., reported that "Voters at polling places who refuse to remove buttons, T-shirts or other apparel with political messages will face possible misdemeanor charges," per the Virginia Code.

What sort of charges? Try up to a year in prison or a $2,500 fine! But hey, that's OK, because at least you still get to vote before they haul you away!

Virginia § 24.2-604 states:

A. During the times the polls are open and ballots are being counted, it shall be unlawful for any person (i) to loiter or congregate within 40 feet of any entrance of any polling place; (ii) within such distance to give, tender, or exhibit any ballot, ticket, or other campaign material to any person or to solicit or in any manner attempt to influence any person in casting his vote; or (iii) to hinder or delay a qualified voter in entering or leaving a polling place.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

D. It shall be unlawful for any authorized representative, voter, or any other person in the room to (i) hinder or delay a qualified voter; (ii) give, tender, or exhibit any ballot, ticket, or other campaign material to any person; (iii) solicit or in any manner attempt to influence any person in casting his vote; (iv) hinder or delay any officer of election; or (v) otherwise impede the orderly conduct of the election.

E. The officers of election may require any person who is found by a majority of the officers present to be in violation of this section to remain outside of the prohibited area. Any person violating subsection A or D of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

from http://cvillain.com/2008/10/30/if-you-wear-political-paraphernalia-to-election-day-in-virginia-you-face-misdemeanor-charges/


Needless to say (and rightfully so), the Virginia ACLU and a couple of Charlottesville-area groups are stepping in and voicing their disgust for this blatant infringement of free speech.

Didn't we just (finally) turn over the sign ban at UVA sporting events? Why is this issue resurfacing again?

And aren't those eligible to vote (18+) mature enough to not be swayed by someone else's innocuous campaign button or t-shirt while in line? C'mon now, we aren't that stupid, are we?

I'm curious to see how many people press the issue at the polls this Tuesday...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

News flash: MPhelps alleged diet is hogwash?

Today my sports journalism class got to interview Olympic swimming gold medalist Garrett Weber-Gale. Here is his most famous moment, after the USA's upset win over the French in the 4 x 100 free relay, a celebration he doesn't really have recollection of:



He said he remembered checking the scoreboard and seeing a 1 next to the USA names, and wanting to check again to make sure. After that, he doesn't really remember the yelling or hugging euphoria.

He also recalled the Olympics as being "magical" on more than one occasion.

Weber-Gale is a former Longhorn swimmer who still trains in Austin with the likes of Brendan Hansen and Aaron Peirsol, both Texas Exes and Olympians in their own right.

Despite his success in the pool, GWG's looking to make waves in other parts of his life. He has dreams of starting a specialty food business and is contact with a New York literary agent about the possibility of making a cookbook.

For more info on GWG and his love for food, see his website.

But speaking of food, the big news was that GWG dispelled the Michael Phelps 12,000-calories-a-day myth.

"That's so embellished it's absurd," he said.

He's eaten enough meals with him to know it's untrue, he pointed out.

Too bad. Guess that means I'm going to have to cut out my 18-pancake and 12-omelet breakfasts if I have any hope of competing in the 2012 London Olympics. Crickey mate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't pass gas.

Close your eyes and listen to this YouTube video. Seriously.



I was listening to the radio when this commercial came on. I'm pretty sure it was exactly the same script, but it was even more hilarious and effective when I only heard the audio.

Pretty cool ad, eh?

I love the surprise at the end when you find out that "passing gas" is smoking.

Plus I have a 6th-grader's sense of humor, so you know I howled the first time I heard it.

We now return to your regularly scheduled maturity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

7-Election

Yesterday I walked into class with a cup of hot tea from 7-11 where my friend Tiffany greeted me, "You didn't vote!"

Bewildered, and confused, I had no idea what she was talking about. It was true, my Virginia absentee ballot was in fact sitting on my nightstand, but how did she know?

She sensed my follow-up question. "The cup. You didn't vote in the 7-11 election."

What is she talking about?, I thought.

She quickly explained the election, but to be completely honest with you I didn't get it. All I knew was there was some sort of voting action having to do with the cups.

Well, to the luck of my local 7-11, I awoke with a nagging sore throat for the third day in a row, which meant I sipped hot tea all day long. And since it's slightly lame and strange to carry around a Thermos around campus all day (not that I have one) and 7-11 is one block from the building housing all my classes, I made visit number two to the store in as many days.

Walking in the store I knew I had to do two things: secure a voting cup and make it back to class with I Love Lemon tea in hand in six minutes.

Thankfully I was a little less oblivious this time and was able to complete both tasks without a hitch.

At the "hot beverage bar" there's a seemingly endless parade of coffees (who knew? And Tiffany swears by the pumpkin spice flavor, by the way), but greeting the section is a bright red and blue promotional sign explaining how it works. Pretty simple if you aren't as spacey as me.

Pick red cup that says "McCain" on it to vote McCain. Pick blue cup that says "Obama" on it to vote Obama. Fill with hot beverage of your choice. Bring to counter. Purchase beverage. When beverage's bar code is scanned it adds your McCain or Obama vote to the tally, which can be followed at 7-election.com.


If you were wondering which color I picked, I'll give you two hints: it's my favorite color and is opposite of orange on the color wheel.

I commend your ability to solve that enigmatic riddle.

Not only are 7-11 hot beverages way cheaper than their Starbucks counterparts, but for the time being they are also infinitely more exciting. Not to mention, the packaging is really eye-catching and fun.

So get out there, save $2 on your next cup of coffee and get excited about the election!

Also, if you think the promotion is stupid, maybe you should read this info, which I found on the 7-11 site's "Fun Facts" section:
  • In the 2000 7-Election, [the] George W. Bush cup outsold Al Gore's cup by just 1 percentage point.

  • The 2004 7-Election results tracked exactly with published national election results: 51% for George W. Bush and 49% for John Kerry (within a few percentage points of actual poll results in many states!).
While I can't with certainty say that there is any truth to these facts (if a fact is "fun," must it also be fabricated?) it is at least interesting. With all the negative political ads going back and forth, I find the informal red vs. blue competition to be a lot more light-hearted.

So get off your lazy butts and drink and vote!

Monday, October 20, 2008

What a Ray-lief

I'm soooooo excited to see the BoSox packin' and forced to watch the World Series from the comfort of their own homes. But I'm even more ecstatic about the prospect of their fans being shut up until spring training. Success!

In case you missed it, the Tampa Bay Rays won 3-1 in the clinching game 7 in a nail-biting marathon of an ALCS against the Red Sox.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/20/sports/baseball/20alcs.html?_r=1&ref=sports&oref=slogin

No more "Red Sox Nation" this, "Red Sox Nation" that. Heavenly.

Like all teams in recent memory that won similar games of this caliber, the Rays doused each other in victory champagne. Players donned goggles and ALCS Champions regalia.

I wonder, where do they end up housing the already embroidered and imprinted incorrect "champions" memorabilia for the losing team? Alas, this is a mystery to be solved in a future post... hopefully.

The best quote from TBS's broadcast of the game tonight was a Yogi Berra-esque gem about the Tampa Bay Rays, "I knew they'd be celebrating like that if they won!"

I'll be rooting for the Rays in the WS, but as a non-Yankees non-Red Sox fan I feel like I've already won. I'll take my vicarious victories in life however I can get them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Already got into college? Wanna retake the SAT?

That's right. Believe it or not, this policy is encouraged 100 miles north of UT at Waco's Baylor University.

In an attempt to make Baylor more competitive in college rankings in US News & World Report, the university offered already admitted and enrolled students $300 in bookstore credit for re-taking the exam. This applied to the class of 2012 only.

Students who improved their scores by 50 points or more were given $1,000 in merit scholarships. Of the 861 who retook the exam, 150 were able to secure the $1,000 in financial aid.

SAT scores are just one of the many criteria that US News uses to rank colleges.

Baylor's average incoming freshman SAT score also raised from 1200 to 1210. A staggering 10 points. Isn't that what each question is worth?

Or perhaps more importantly, how much will this take-the-SAT-after-I've-been-admitted plan really change Baylor's rankings? US News ranks them at #76 currently.

According to the US News website, "student selectivity" of an institution accounts for only 15% of its ranking. And of this selectivity score, SAT scores account for 50% of the 15%... so 7.5% overall. I can only venture to guess what a whopping impact those 10 points will make in the grand scheme of things.

By my calculations Baylor gave up at least $408,300 in scholarships and bookstore credit (assuming the bookstore is affiliated with the school) with its new policy. All for 10 points higher on the average SAT score? Was it worth it? Only time will tell.

And also, do other universities view Baylor's decision? That Baylor is rankings obsessed? Pathetic? Honorable? Charitable?

And who is to say that all students nationwide wouldn't be able to improve their SAT scores an average of 10 points when given that extra post-applications time?

Just some thoughts...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beauty, art, and... politics?

Politics can be a beautiful thing.

Though much of the time it is anything but beautiful. Politics often showcases frustrating partisan debate, rampant blame thrust on opposing candidates, and everyone's favorite, accusatory TV commercials.

But this year it is different.

Yes, John McCain has vigorously critiqued Barack Obama and has said that his opponent would do little other than raise taxes if he were President. And Obama has made McCain's 90% voting with W during the latter's presidency no secret. So what's different about this time?

The art.

Artists from all over the country recognize the importance of this election and have used Obama's candidacy as a springboard for their artistic expression. Their work has induced what could possibly be the most artistic election ever.

Here are just a few of the many Obama-inspired works:




This leads me to wonder, why can't more candidates find a way to speak to such gifted artists? The world could be so much more picturesque.

More information and examples, especially on the color palettes and design, can be found here.

All artwork is from COLOURlovers, the "Color + Design Community for Creative Inspiration" at http://www.colourlovers.com/.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I saw the sign

I gotta admit, Austin has among the coolest signs and logos for its shops, eateries, and events. It's amazing how powerful something as simple as a sign or logo can communicate about an entity. Everywhere I go interesting fonts, color combinations, and other unique design choices tantalize my eyes. Here are a few of my Austin favorites...

Signs:

P. Terry's. This is my favorite sign in Austin. The red and white on robin's egg blue (green) are a memorable color combination. I love the space age-y feel to it also.


EZ's. The glitz and faux glamour of this diner's sign introduces me to a place that knows better than to take itself too seriously.


Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. An Austin favorite, with a classic, vintage cinema sign.


Spider House. This place never misses an opportunity to showcase its lovely quirkiness. This sign is no different. It's even laden with Christmas lights, just like the coffee shop's patio.


Sandy's. This sign choice communicates good old fashioned burger joint to me, which is exactly what the place is.


Allen's Boots. I don't care how corny people think it is, I like when people make letters into artwork, or other art into letters (as long as it works). The boot L's work here.


Austin Java. Clearly these guys take their coffee seriously. But otherwise the sign communicates a fun, earthy, laid-back vibe.


Shady Grove. I just love the use of rope to spell "Shady" here. Always have (since the first time I saw this place).

(Did you also notice I'm a fan of neon lights? Especially ones that are also aesthetically pleasing by day.)

UT street sign. I love when colleges make everyday things their own, like this University of Texas street sign. Not only does the burnt orange hue greet the eye, but uses a starkly different font than all other street signs in the city.


Asti. This Italian dinner destination brings modernity to the forefront. Literally.


El Chilito. Just because the fare is overrated doesn't mean you won't be duped by the bright colors and intriguing packaging.


Vivo. I've never eaten here, but the sign hypnotizes me every time I drive by it.


Third Rail Creative. This downtown ad agency makes you forget for a few seconds that you're not only not in New York, but worlds away.


Tesoros. Not sure if I like the font for "Tesoros" or the heart in the logo better. I definitely recognize the Lithos Black in "Trading Company" though!

Logos:

Whataburger. When I read the word, I hear the voice of the commercials in my head, "Whatta-BURger." The logo has a stark resemblance to the Weezer logo of old, but I really like the repetition of the W's in the logo. It makes it memorable. As does the bright orange coloring and "packaging" of its franchises, with their white-and-orange striped roofs.


Torchy's Tacos. Did you really think I'd complete this post without a Torchy's reference? This logo insinuates that Torchy's is both completely badass and has a little bit of a playful side to it. Bingo.


Austin City Limits logo. The font calls to an earlier disco era. I really like the double outlines and smooth curves of the letters.


Taco Shack. Every location of this taco chain has this wooden plank lettering. It's unlike anything I've seen and really emphasizes the "shack" part of its name.


SXSW 2007 logo. Not sure what font SXSW is on this, but I sure do love it. I really like the simplicity of using thin lines to define what are otherwise bulky and lifeless letters.

Note: 90% of these graphics were found on Flickr (www.flickr.com).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lights out on NBC in Austin

So at midnight last night (this morning?) KXAN, Austin's NBC affiliate turned off its airwaves to Time Warner cable subscribers. KXAN and Time Warner are in an apparent disagreement about subscribers fees, and were unable to reach an agreement before KXAN pulled the plug.

Who wins when this happens? Definitely not Time Warner cable subscribers. DirecTV certainly benefits from the situation. It's been putting out ads trying to get NBC fans of Heroes, The Office, and 30 Rock to switch to their service, which still carries the network.

If I weren't leaving Austin in three months I'd certainly consider the switch. As mentioned earlier, new Friday Night Lights episodes will only be available to DirecTV subscribers until February 2009.

If that weren't bad enough, the rumor has it that the CW Austin has been threatening to drop from Time Warner cable as well. Which would mean no Gossip Girl. What does that actually leave me with? Mad Men (AMC), no My Boys (TBS) since it's only a summer show, and ESPN and Food Network. Yeah, so basically my only show I'd have left is Mad Men. And How I Met Your Mother, which I keep stupidly forgetting to DVR.

I passionately hope that the CW split is just a rumor, though I'm 90% sure I saw a commercial the other day warning viewers that cable may longer carry the CW later in October. I'm not completely certain on that though. Let's hope I heard and remember wrong!

Fear not though about all the NBC shows besides Friday Night Lights... they're all available for free on Hulu. The newest Office episode's up already if you missed it last week. So glad it's back!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I got the beat!

This week in my sports journalism class we got to pick our "beats" for the semester. Basically a beat is the sport or team you're assigned to cover, where it is your responsibility to hunt down and report the stories going on within that sport or team. We had four options for this semester (which was largely dependent on what UT sports were in season and the professor's desire for us to cover lower-profile sports): soccer, golf, women's volleyball, and swimming and diving.

I faced a mild conundrum because I'm very interested in both volleyball and swimming. I played varsity volleyball for four years in high school. I loved the sport and my senior year we even won the state title!

But I also love swimming. I grew up with the sport and swam summer league for 11 years. I would have swum for my high school, but they didn't get the sport until a year or two after I graduated (figures).

Anyway, in a few minute span I had to decide which sport I wanted to cover. The question "what is a libero?" put the final nail in the me-covering-volleyball coffin. The sport has changed drastically since I played, and I thought my having played earlier in life would put me at a great advantage for covering the sport. That probably is the case, but there are so many ways the game has changed, and it'd probably take me quite a bit of research to comfortably catch up.

When I played volleyball in high school (which is approaching a decade ago, yikes!) there was no libero position. To this day I still don't wholly grasp the concept of this position in volleyball, but I do know that they wear a different color jersey than everyone else on the court and they are utilized in some sort of defensive capacity (think digs, or "bumping" in your high school gym class). I guess I should do more studying up here.

The sport has changed in other ways too, and it was starting to change towards the end of my "career" (a laughable concept). I played some J.O. (Junior Olympics, a division under the USA Volleyball umbrella) volleyball simultaneously, and it was a lot more up-to-date in rules and allowances than high school play was. Rules trickled down to high school play years after they had been enacted in USA Volleyball and J.O. play. Whenever you'd suit up to play in either realm, you always had to be cognizant of the rules in your league. I can't tell you how many points have been screwed up in either division as a result of the varying rules.

Anyway, among other renovations to volleyball since my play (late '90s and yes, some 2000s) included the adopting of rally score, where every point played resulted in a point for a team. In high school, you could only score if your team served. We once got in a feisty game against a rival from across the state where both teams went about 10 or 15 minutes without scoring because we just kept getting sideouts on every point. Very dramatic, and probably one of the most exhilarating games I've ever played in.

You're also now allowed to hit the net when you serve. In J.O.'s we were allowed to too (it had to be like a let in tennis in order to be considered in play), but in high school, it counted as an automatic sideout, even if it landed in-bounds. In high school we weren't allowed to set (overhand pass) on the first hit for your side either, though we were allowed to at J.O.'s. As you can see it's getting pretty confusing, and I probably skipped a bunch more disparities between the two.

Now that it's been so long, VHSL (Virginia High School League, where I played), has adopted most of the USA Volleyball rules I mentioned. They also no longer play first to 15, win by two. It's still win by two, but now they use rally scoring, but it's first to 25, win by two for each game. This is how NCAA plays too.

Anyway, you can probably follow that there's been a lot of confusion in the sport over the years.

Keeping this in mind, and that my volleyball knowledge needs a serious dusting before use again, I thought swimming would be a wiser choice for my sports beat. I'm pretty sure it hasn't changed much. Butterfly is still the most exhausting stroke for your upper body, 50 free is still the fastest and most exciting events, and the strokes of the IM and medley relays are still in the same order. Winners are still determined by fastest times. Maybe the swimsuit technology has changed, but the sport is still the same. There's some major relief in that.

Oh yeah, I also don't mind that I'll get to be interviewing Olympic swimmers and coaches on a regular basis. Did I mention that eight (8!) current and former Longhorns made the US team that competed in Beijing? Oh yeah, and apparently we get to chat with former UT swimmers who train with Longhorn Aquatics as well. Should make for exciting material to report!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

FNL 101

So earlier in the week I heard the most crushing news I've heard in quite some time...


Noooooooooooo!

That's right, Friday Night Lights, fondly/annoyingly known by me as FNL, will be unveiled on DirecTV a full four months before (finally) airing on NBC. Season 3 premieres on DirecTV on Oct. 1 and won't be available to the rest of us until February!

Talk about disappointing.

FNL is one of the most underappreciated shows I've ever seen. (It's awesome. Even Peyton Manning thinks so!) I've loved it from the beginning, but NBC has threatened to pull the plug on the show every year since its inception. The show has shuffled around from timeslot to timeslot, night to night, and eventually last year landed in a pretty self-explanatory timeslot... Friday night.

What does this mean for avid FNL fans like myself? I'll suffer through a disheartening one-third of a year or I'll somehow cave and buy DirecTV. Personally, I'm hoping for the episodes finding their way to Hulu.

Anyway, as a big fan of the entire FNL franchise (yes, there is a franchise in that there's more than one), I'm frequently asked what the differences are between Friday Night Lights the book, the movie, and the TV show. Here is today's lesson:

The whole thing started with H.G. Bissinger's book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream, a non-fiction book about the 1988 Permian football team in the west Texas oil town of Odessa. Bissinger followed the Permian Panthers around for a year, went to the annual watermelon feed, attended practices and games, and even sat in on halftime and pre-game pep talks on the team's quest for the Texas State Championship. The dark and beautifully written book was published in 1990 and exposed the unglamorous underbelly of racism, economic despair, and a community too focused on sports and not enough on education. Unsurprisingly my sentiments on the quality of Bissinger's work is not shared by many Odessa residents.

Then in 2004, the book was made into a movie called -- you guessed it -- Friday Night Lights. For the most part the movie followed the book, obviously many details were left out for the sake of time. The characters were the same, had similar dilemmas and personalities, and again was set in Odessa. Billy Bob Thornton played the part of Coach Gary Gaines. Oddly enough, Connie Britton played his wife, Sharon Gaines. Britton plays "the coach's wife" in the TV series as well.

Then, flash forward to 2006. Friday Night Lights, the TV series, hit the airwaves. However, unlike the movie, this one was not based on the book, but inspired by it. Oddly enough, the show's executive producer is Peter Berg, first cousin of the book's writer.

The TV show is a pretty sizeable departure from the book and movie. There are a few similarities, like the tragedy, immense sadness, and tough lives of the characters, the town's obsession with high school football, the team's mascot (the Panthers), and the small town Texas setting. The TV show is filmed in Austin and nearby suburb Pflugerville (note what real Pflugerville's football jerseys look like, pretty much the same look as those on the show) but takes place in fictional Dillon, Texas. The Dillon Panthers have blue and yellow jerseys, unlike Permian's trademark black jerseys (see below). Apologies for waxing Uni Watch again.


The TV show never really says where in Texas Dillon is. Sometimes you'll hear that it is a few hours from Austin, or a few from Dallas, but it never gives any real indication where in the state they're located. There are frequent references to Mack Brown and/or the Texas Longhorns. Honestly my analysis of the show could last for hours, but I'll curtail the details here. But like the book, the sadness and rawness of the emotions is what makes the TV show so beautiful.

If pressed for an opinion, I would say the book is the best, but it wins in a squeaker (over the TV show... the movie didn't bring much new to the table). Great writing (Bissinger formerly wrote for Sports Illustrated by the way) wins every time, but you have to keep in mind that the hugely successful movie and great TV show (bad ratings, but critically acclaimed) wouldn't exist without the book.

PS, one day I hope to attend a high school football game at Permian. I realize that likelihood hovers around nill, as it is a 6 hour drive, and um, 370 miles away. Couple that with gas for $3.70 a gallon, and yeah...

The end. Finally.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tasty Trailer Treats

So one of my favorite things about Austin is the numerous delicious food-supplying trailers and carts.

This week I finally tried Flip Happy Crepes and Hey Cupcake!

Picture from http://stevieandkate.blogspot.com/2007/11/blog-post.html

While I enjoyed both of them, my favorite trailer foods still remain Torchy's (though I usually cheat and go to the Guadalupe location in the strip mall) and the snowcone stands Sno Beach and Molly's Sno Cups.

I enjoyed Flip Happy despite not being a bona fide "crepe fan." The lines are long, and I will definitely keep in mind to arrive there no later than 11 a.m. in the future. I tried an entree crepe filled with roasted chicken and goat cheese, and it was fabulous. I tried a dessert one draped with berry dressing as well, but I found the entree one to be the star of the show.

I thought Hey Cupcake! was a really cute place, but based on my limited sampling (Red Velvet and "The Standard," a vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing), I'd have to say it was a bit overrated. Plus $2.50 and $2 for cupcakes (respectively) was a bit much. But having had a rough week, I decided to treat myself. This will probably the most asinine food observation of all time, but I don't think I've ever had a cake (or cupcake) I've enjoyed more than one made from a Duncan Hines cake mix. I'm really not kidding. I'm all for making icings from scratch to add to these cakes, but the cakes themselves are so perfectly moist and tasty. This is probably why I have no future as a food critic.

Going back to Hey Cupcake!, what I found most disappointing about the cupcake was that the tops were especially hard and a little overcooked. Maybe I'm a picky cupcake-eater, but I like the cake portion to be reasonably consistent throughout, as in soft, but not falling apart.

I love all types of cupcakes... red velvet, chocolate, yellow, carrot cake, Funfetti, you name it. (By the way, I lump Pillsbury's Funfetti in that category of Duncan Hines-caliber amazing boxed cake mixes.) I have tried many far and wide, but I have yet to find one I thought tasted better than my Mom's Duncan Hines yellow cake with her own fudge icing. It's truly dynamite. If I'm feeling more charitable, I'll share the recipe at some point. Though I think she originally got the recipe from the cooking bible.

I'm looking to try some more tasty trailer and cart treats in the coming weeks as well. Right now I have my eye on Kebabalicious, Best Wurst (we'll save that one for a drunken night out though), and Rosita's al Pastor, should you feel compelled to join for sampling.

PS Thanks to my awesome friends. You've been fantastic, this week especially, but always!

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Microsoft WTF?

Here's the second installment of WTF? Microsoft. This time the ad is far too long, and instead of a lousy minute and a half, it reaches four full minutes and some change. Unbelievable. It's funnier, but still irksomely long and nonsensical. There are however, fleeting moments where I thought I was seeing a brand message or learning about Microsoft products, which is an improvement over the previous ad.



I did enjoy the double reference of Cabo San Lucas. Done so in a mocking manner of course, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

Jeers for ending the commercial in the lame, annoying way as last time. Seinfeld asks about the future of Microsoft to its founder, will there be a "Frog with an e-mail? Goldfish with a website? Amoeba with a blog?" Once again he begs Gates to "Give me a sign," this time with the billionaire performing the robot.

Oh, the commercial, it's something. But nothing I care for. It probably hits its campaign goals if Microsoft aims to succeed virally and by word-of-mouth in an effort to drum up brand awareness. If it's to take back some of Apple's market share though, I'd venture to guess it isn't going to be overly successful.

Here is AdAge's discussion, which found a lot more glimpses of excitement in the commercial than me.

Classroom chat with SVP

So in sports (journalism) class this week we had an hour-long conference call with Scott Van Pelt. As noted earlier, the key to discussion, as stated by the professor, was to treat celebrities like normal people and normal people like celebrities. We were prepared.

Scott, known as SVP in our class, is a very cool, laid-back, self-deprecating, funny, and articulate guy, just like the one he is on TV (and presumably the radio). He was so happy to answer the questions of a room full of aspiring sports writers, announcers, and marketers. He answered a wide variety of questions: really specific ones addressing past radio segments, hoping to get tips on getting the big break in the industry, how he enjoys acting in the ESPN commercials, how long his days are, and even "What did you think of all ESPN coverage of Brett Favre this summer?"

SVP was very honest in all of his responses. When asked about landing his ESPN job (he got it after 5 or 6 years at The Golf Channel and because of his ability to chase down Tiger Woods interviews when most journalists were unable) he even said, "you have to treat celebrities like they are normal people." Unseen to him, eyes darted around the room at each other, and of course, the professor. She prepared us well.

Well, I was watching SportsCenter last night and it was cool to hear the same relaxed voice anchoring the program a few days after the call. In watching highlights, I can't help but notice SVP's gift for saying my exact thoughts, but in a much more succinct and snazzier way. In reference to a UNC blowout of Rutgers last night, he said, "I've never seen Carolina with that shade of blue trouser. Whatever it is, it works, they win." Prior to the segment, I was aware that Carolina wasn't great at football and was surprised by their performance against a I-A football squad of any caliber not named Duke. When watching the highlight, the whole time I kept thinking "I don't think I've ever seen Carolina wear navy blue pants before. Not a good uniform choice. I miss the Carolina blue." Next thing I know SVP is commenting on the shade of trouser. I would have never put it so eloquently.

Anyway, all in all it's always encouraging to hear of likeable people finding so much success in their lives. Other celebrities (though SVP doesn't seem to think of himself as one) certainly could stand to learn a thing or two.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Reilly on Free Speech and Sports

When I was younger (10 or so, let's say), I remember helping my brothers make cardboard signs for them to take to a Steelers game. I remember vividly the Prang marker set we used and how clever my brothers and I thought we were when we made a sign that said

No
Body likes
Cleveland

when the game was televised on NBC. Oh, we were smart ones all right.

I think I speak for most when I say that signs are a fun and jovial part of the atmosphere at sporting events. Most support their team, sometimes they make small jabs at the opponent, and yet other occasions they call attention to completely different phenomena (for example "Hi Mom, please send $!" pleas). Whatever the inspiration, signs are overwhelmingly a tradition that many sports fans have come to embrace.

Not so at the University of Virginia, according to Rick Reilly's latest story. According to some sort of rule there, no signs of any size are allowed at sporting events anymore. Not even "Go UVA!," not even a message on a sheet of notebook paper. The only exception, unsurprisingly, are advertisements.

As a former UVA student myself, I'm pretty appalled by the school's stance against free speech. Apparently it is some sort of new athletic department policy. Reilly interviewed former UVA football standout Ronde Barber about the situation and Barber said, "Seems odd. You'd think if there was one university that would stand up for free speech, it'd be Virginia. When I was there, the signs were really clever."

I graduated after Ronde Barber, and thankfully, sometime before the new communist revolution. And I'd have to say, my experience was pretty much the same as Barber's. UVA may not have had national championships in football or basketball, but we had clever fans dammit!

Of all of the amusing signs people brought to games, my favorite was one that someone had a picture of Dick Vitale's head Photoshopped into a Duke cheerleader's uniform. Some friends and I had camped out 17 days -- yes 17 days! -- for the big UVA-Duke basketball showdown at UVA's University Hall (U-Hall, because we love to abbreviate everything at UVA). Anyway, my friends and I got front row seats to the contest, and a group with that poster was right behind us. To no one's surprise, Dick Vitale was there to broadcast the game.

I'm not sure this is the exact picture, but it looks exactly how I remembered it in my head. Source: http://www.truthaboutduke.com/news_month.php?m=November&y=2005

And how do you think he responded? He laughed and even autographed the sign for the students! Unbelievable. I think this says in a nutshell why people should be able to make signs; they make for a good laugh, add to the enthusiasm and atmosphere of the game, and hey, the best can take whatever heat is dealt. Like Reilly said about coach-slamming signs, "Who, exactly, is Virginia protecting here? Groh? The man can handle himself. After all, he was once the head coach of the New York Jets." Right on, Mr. Reilly.

The whole controversy is downright disturbing. UVA was founded by Thomas Jefferson. That's right, the very man who penned the Declaration of Independence, our nation's third president, and so fervently stood for rights like free speech. Good ol' TJ (or Teej as I liked to refer to him back in the day) would roll over in his grave if he knew what was going down at The University these days. As Reilly said, it's un-American, and where is the line drawn? Does this mean that in the coming years the Lawn won't have free speech either? No organizations intercepting unsuspecting students in an effort to get them to join their organization/show up to their meetings/donate money/buy their baked goods/rally behind their cause? As annoying as I found those soliciting tables (I'd walk the 2 or 3 minutes out of the way to avoid them), I 100% support their right to be there. Maybe it's time the UVA athletics department took the same stand.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dr J, Dr P

Y'all catch the Dr. J Dr Pepper commercial yet? I get the vibe it's been around for a little while, but I've been seeing it a lot lately.

Well I must say I'm a fan. Why exactly? Because it is so perfectly corny in every way. Check it out:



It has all the "nos" of creative advertising wrapped into one beautiful, hilarious, so-bad-it's-good package.

How, you ask?

Does it have a ridiculous celebrity spokesman for the product?
Check, Dr. J, obviously a candidate who'd know lots about... soda. And Dr. J, Dr Pepper, very funny, we get it easily.

Oh, so an athlete is the spokesperson. Is there a cheesy slo-mo sports play in the commercial?
Check, oh you know it.

Ah yes, and for Dr. Pepper. Clever. How many times is that pun approached?
At least 3 times (Dr. J name is a pun in every mention, so there's at least a pun in introduction, when he mentions being a doctor, and tagline at end).

Is a cheesy over-the-top sports feat accomplished (an impossible goal or shot, slam dunking on the moon, etc.) to a play-by-play soundtrack or equally silly song?
Oh yeah, Dr. J hits the glass with his ice cube from 10 feet away. In slow motion. Gotta love the music during the shot though. It was my favorite part of the commercial.

How about a cringe-when-you-hear it line from the script?
"Trust me. I'm a doctor."

And a pun-tastic tagline to seal the commercial?
Check. Dr's orders. Doesn't get any better than that!

Apparently we can expect more where that came from from Deutsch/LA, where similar ads will feature another doctor with expertise, Dr. Frasier Crane. The boundless corniness of this installation will certainly be tough to top.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What's up in Mad Men, by Gossip Girl


What's King D hiding?



Spotted. King D snuggling up to a mystery femme. Uh-oh. Looks like D is getting sloppy this season. He might be polished in the conference room, but how much longer will his extracurricular exploits remain hidden from view? Will his canoodling with all the ladies of Manhattan finally catch up with him?

Looks like Queen B's talking to a shrink and may be on to D's games. But has B taken a liking to the engaged man at the equestrian center? Or is it the other way around for Ms. Profoundly Sad? What does D think? Careful D, the perfect pitch might not get you out of this one.

Caught. P nuzzling with an unnamed model from a SC casting call. P might not be able to have children with T, but how many will he father outside his marriage before getting busted? Poor, sweet T. Little do you know you married a conniving, selfish slimeball.

Speaking of extramarital activities, how is our favorite mother, Lil P? With child and a shiny new copywriting job, but without allies, it appears Lil P might have gotten the big break, but has won no sympathies. Just because your motherhood is under wraps doesn't mean you aren't still a little girl in a man's world.

And what's that sparkle around the SC office? Why that's the shiny Harry Winston on J's hand; she and the doctor are finally engaged. What does R have to say about that? Guess everything isn't sterling in the office after all.

XOXO,
Gossip Girl

-----------------------------------------------------
Key:

(King) D = Don Draper, SC creative director
(Queen) B = Betty/Bets Draper, housewife, married to D
P = Pete Campbell, SC junior account executive
T = Trudy Campbell, housewife, married to P
Lil P = Peggy Olsen, SC secretary turned junior copywriter
J = Joan Holloway, SC office manager and queen of the secretarial staff
R = Roger Sterling, SC partner
SC = Sterling Cooper, ad agency