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Category: Culture

No Sale
When Matthew McConaughey makes himself comfortable behind the wheel of his big new Lincoln MKZ, we see an odd expression come over his face. It’s a smile, but a smile that speaks volumes (we are expected to believe) about what this car makes him feel. It’s a knowing smile, with a hint of superiority, as if he has something on all the other poor chumps out there on the road. It seems that we drive cars incapable of inspiring such emotions.

Lincolns are not alone in this respect. Other cars (judging from their advertising) seem to grant their drivers the same feelings of superiority. In the Cadillac XT4 commercial, we see an attractive young woman with the same sly, sardonic smirk on her face as she drives through a series of fantastical maneuvers on city streets somehow devoid of traffic. We find out later that she’s a wholesome mother of three who’s out picking up her kids.

What is going on here? I have never had any car that evoked anything like these feelings. I’ll cop to feelings of superiority over other drivers, but that’d more about their driving, not my car. The niftiest car I’ve ever owned was a freshly-minted ’69 (that’s 1969) Triumph Spitfire. It made me feel kind of cool, but not because it was better than other cars. In fact, I am proud to report that none of the cars and trucks I’ve owned has ever asked to be compared to other rides as a test of its own worthiness. They all stood (or rolled) on their own, cool or not.

Perhaps I am misjudging the expressions on these actors’ faces, including Mr. McConaughey’s. It could be that their dark smiles denote a pleasure so delicious that it sets their entire persona ablaze. But how? And why? It’s just a car, after all, and nothing that fancy, really. No De Tomaso Mangustas here, no Rolls Royce Phantoms — just big, overbuilt American boats. And even in the case of the Lexus UX (a “luxury crossover”) or the BMW X7 (a “sport activity vehicle”), the snazziness of the vehicle still doesn’t warrant that self-satisfied expression on the drivers’ faces.

I certainly don’t want to cast aspersions on the abilities of these commercial actors, especially Mr. McConaughey. As we have seen in such productions as True Detective and The Dallas Buyer’s Club, Matthew knows how to play crazy…so much so that you might think he’s a little crazy himself. That would explain his weird relationship with that high-end tank he drives. But these other actors…why do they look like they know something that we don’t? What is their dirty little secret?

These commercially-generated characters are young, affluent, and nice (with the possible exception of Mr. McConaughey). They love kids. They obey the law, even traffic laws. So what is their trip? What’s with the dark, mocking expression? I can’t help feeling that it is directed at me in particular, but if it is meant for all of humanity, that is even more alarming. Behind their pleasant, normal appearances, are these drivers cold-blooded sociopaths?

I suppose it’s possible that I might be taking all this too personally. In any case, it is not the actors I have a quarrel with here. It is the automobile manufacturers themselves. They seem to think that this brand of psychopathy is a selling point. My experience, however, tells me the opposite. People don’t like it when you act superior. I know I do. And I don’t think that people long to be that kind of jerk themselves. At least I hope not.

Let me say to those manufacturers, right here and right now, that I am not interested in buying their products. Furthermore, to illustrate my conviction in this matter, I am establishing a one-man boycott against all of these vehicles.

I know this is a hollow threat (and just another entry on the long list of hollow threats I have made against products I would never buy anyway), but I want my voice to be heard on this important matter. I am foursquare against highways full of sociopaths driving at top speed in giant hunks of metal. Apologies to Matthew, but foregoing ownership of that Lincoln MKZ is a small price to pay for such a world.
Fear of Flying
I’ve never been much of a fast food aficionado. There is something about the unrelentlng sameness of each food unit that troubles me. That, and those tales about the uncertain origins of the “meat.”

And there is something else, too. I understand that the uniformity is a natural by-product of the food-factory process employed to make the food fast. While I have no problem with the speed of the food, however, I have become alarmed that most of it appears to be airborne. To my mind, fast food that is flying represents a significant health risk.

Allow me to explain. As I say, I don’t spend much time in these establishments, but my addiction to television confronts me with their advertising on a regular basis. Those commercials (which were no doubt edited for maximum dramatic effect) are filled — filled! — with images of flying food.

The Applebee’s ads, for instance, feature flying fried shrimp, fried chicken “tenders,” and swirling clouds of French fries. It’s the same with the “spicey tenders” at McDonald’s, the “nuggets” at Burger King, and those KFC chicken things, whatever they’re called. In each case the food comes at you, filling my full flat screen with comestibles that rotate and tumble and pirouette in floating slow motion like escapees from the Oort Cloud. I don’t know if these celestial bodies are headed for Earth, but they are certainly taking aim at my head.

Am I the only one who is bothered by this food assault? Sometimes there are even midair impacts with the sailing salad ingredients or gouts of sauce that also seem inhabit the airspace inside these “restaurants.”

To be clear, I concede that the actual interiors of fast food eateries may not be like this. You’d think that, by this time, we would have heard any stories of customers being killed by tiny, chicken-bit asteroids. It’s possible, then, that such events are only imagined by ad departments as appetite enhancers. If that is so, I can testify that none of this excites hunger in me. Instead, it causes me to fear for my own safety, both from internal and external malefactors.

Again, I am only reporting what I see on TV, the most reliable source of information in my life. But pictures do not lie. And while I have never been struck by any of these menu items, much less eaten them, I intend to keep it that way.
A Real Pain
Used to be, the only drugs you saw advertised on TV were headache remedies. If I had a favorite among those ads, I guess it would be the old one for Anacin. It featured the silhouette of a human head with three windows inside it. Anacin’s claim to superiority was that it addressed three different kinds of pain, and each window represented one of the three.

The only one people really cared about, of course, was the middle window. It featured a steel hammer relentlessly pounding, pounding. A regular headache, in other words. The other two, as far as I could ever tell, were depictions of neuritis and neuralgia. Since we don't hear much about those afflictions anymore, I assume that it was Anacin that cured them once and for all.

I can’t say that I really liked those old commercials. They were about pain, after all, which is kind of a downer. But they were bearable, and the hokey imagery provided some amusement, at least for the first hundred or so repetitions. This is not the case here in the new age of drug advertising.

First of all, we’re way beyond mere headaches these days. The airwaves are now flooded with commercials for drugs that treat arthritis, depression, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, intransigent bladders, and a lot of other hellish ailments that people used to have the good grace to keep to themselves.

It is not the airing of private matters that I object to, though, or even to the non-stop hawking of prescription drugs. It is the flavor of the ads themselves that puts me off. The characters in them are excruciatingly bland and pleasant. They laugh at things that are not funny. They are irrepressibly active. They broadcast adorability every minute of their perfect days. I mean, these people are supposed to be sick, right? Why, then, are these geezers are out there playing music, hiking, sailing, bicycling, swimming, and boogying like there’s no tomorrow? And aren’t they just a little bit worried about that list of horrible side effects they are risking? Including death?

No, they are not. They may have life-threatening diseases, but these druggies remain deliriously happy. They are surrounded by other people who are the same way, and I don’t like them, either. They do not suffer, they do not inspire sympathy, they do not deserve the happiness they are faking. They are Stepford sickees.

I find the aging illness actor in the Eliquis ads to be particularly irksome. On top of his infuriating good nature, he is somehow able to draw things with his finger on the TV screen that are miraculously transformed into real objects. Each time he does this, he steps back from his work and beams with a knowing twinkle at what he has done. I’m not exactly sure why that gets to me, but it does. Meanwhile, he’s got blood clots and atrial fibrillation to worry about. And if he’s got any sense, he ought to be on guard for such side effects as excessive bleeding, inability to breathe, and vomit that looks like coffee grounds. But does he care? Of course not. Instead, he runs this carefree attitude that must be an insult to anyone who actually has blood clots.

At least the sick person in those old Anacin ads appeared to be suffering…even though she was a painting of a statue and not a real person at all. I could feel her pain because I could see and hear that pounding hammer inside her head. I would be more accepting of that guy in the Eliquis ad if he fell over clutching his chest once in a while or recoiled in horror at the sight of his blue urine. That might be a disturbing scene to witness, but I’m pretty sure I could handle it.

All I am saying is, if we are going to have prescription drug ads at all, they should be honest. I am not an advocate of human suffering, but I do believe in truth in advertising. Sick people should not be living lives that are more fulfilled and joyful than healthy peoples’. It’s just not fair. If the Anacin lady has to lead a life curtailed by a simple headache, then it is only fair that those with life-threatening diseases should be honestly depicted. Again, I don’t like agony, but I am willing to witness it in the interests of honesty and fair play.
6
There are many fine numbers, of course. 1 is at the top of many lists. Good things come in 3s, they say (though they say that about bad things, too). 21 will win at blackjack and permit you to belly up to the bar. 42 is a nice one, combining as it does two of the luckier numbers while featuring the Jackie Robinson connection. 10, 100, 1000, and 1,000,000 are members of an elite group that all hold the very first position in their categories. Their admirable simplicity, however, is thought by some to be strictly boresville.

I could go on, and even approach infinity. But why bother? Most people agree, I think, that the best number out there is 6. Duh, right? Just in case you didn’t say “duh,” allow me to summarize the evidence: even though it would be shallow to assert that physical appearance has any real importance, let’s just admit right off that 6 is the most beautiful number (with 9 a close second). It’s round (though far from being a 0) and lovely without being too heavily made-up. A wholesome, all-natural number — the kind you might bring home to meet the parents.

6 pairs well with almost any other number (although not, ironically, with 66). It has no sharp edges, no special demands, and is completely free of controversy. You would certainly have no second thoughts, for instance, about rounding up from a 6 (as you might, say, from a 5). It might be suggested that it is unpleasant to be at 6s and 7s, but think about it. Without getting too deeply into personality types (or criminal records, for that matter) which of those two numbers do you think is the real problem there?

“(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” moreover, is a very catchy and upbeat musical number. Is there anyone who doesn’t love a 6-pack, whether bottled or abdominal? What sense is more mysterious and intriguing than the 6th sense? And where would we be without the 6th Amendment? In jail, that’s where!

Numerologically speaking, 6 represents Gaia, the giver of unconditional love. It also symbolizes home and hearth, loving relationships of every kind, and deep compassion bordering on empathy. What more could you want from your favorite integer?

6 is similar, both in sound and spelling, to the word “sex.” Sex, in case you are not familiar with the concept, offers a wide range of health benefits, including enhanced cardio-vascular performance, improved higher brain function, and resistance to nail fungus. It is also thought to be the absolute best method of procreation. Six, perhaps not coincidentally, provides the same benefits. And even a bad six is better than no six at all.

The sax, widely accepted the best musical instrument, shares the same kind of affinity. You’d be crazy to shrug off these kinds of “coincidences.” Indeed, the fact that there is no such word as “sux” might even be considered conclusive proof of this theorem.

Perhaps the only blot on 6’s escutcheon is Surfside 6, the unlikely 60s TV show starring Troy Donahue as private eye “Sandy” Winfield II and Diane McBain as his yachty neighbor. To make matters worse, the show was a cheap knock-off of 77 Sunset Strip. Sadly, that kind of inter-digital stain is indelible. I only mention this unfortunate piece of trivia in the interests of fairness. Which reminds me — 6 is also the fairest number!

Wait a minute. Have I gone too far? Okay look, I’m sorry about all the bad puns and, you know, the clumsy word play. I really shouldn’t allow myself do that. I can only tell you that when I think about the pain and discomfort I may have caused others, it makes me six to my stomach.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon