Wait, Who Are You? And Just How Much Cash Are You Waving In My Face?

If you watch television in the New York City area, you might be familiar with a particularly annoying — highly, highly annoying — commercial for a car dealership in Great Neck that fills the low-budget local ad slots on various cable systems. I first saw it this summer during the late innings of various meaningless baseball games. Once it gets into your head, it's difficult to extricate it from your mental space.

I kept wanting people to see it, just so they could understand what I was feeling. It's sort of like when you taste something rotten and immediately offer it to your friend: "Oh, this is disgusting — smell it!" Unfortunately, no one had the foresight to upload a video of the commercial to YouTube. The closest thing I could find was a furtive comment on a "Most Annoying WFAN Commercials" thread.

But on January 10, 2011, the good folks of Great Neck Nissan finally shared the video with the world [4/18/16 Edit: So apparently it's not there anymore (thanks, eagle-eyed Adsensebot!) but the video is posted elsewhere]:

I am surprised it took them so long to post the video. Yes, it has the hallmarks of a viral marketing cliche, but these days — when the people who make Snuggies and Forever Lazy Adult Onesies are dancing on a thin line of self-awareness that confounds cynics — you could do a lot worse than adding this video to the pantheon of ridiculous shit you waste your time on while logged into YouTube. It's not so self-consciously oddball, or even if it is, you get the sense that they didn't perceive that it was until much later (especially given how long it took to make it to YouTube — it's as if they did it by popular demand).

(Speaking of which, I always assumed "all press is good press" was attributed to Mark Twain, but the origin of the phrase, or at least the sentiment, is murkier: As far as anyone can tell, "there is no such thing as bad publicity" seems to come from Oscar Wilde's "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about" and there does not seem to be a tidy explanation of the origin of the aphorism.)

The script is harmless enough — a man identifying himself as Joe Valentino — perhaps this is the same Joe Valentino — holds a wad of bills in his hand and speaks directly into the camera:

Five hundred dollars cash — that's right — five hundred dollars cash! This is Joe Valentino from Great Neck Nissan and that's what I'm willing to pay if I don't give you the absolute lowest price on any car, truck or four-by-four at Great Neck Nissan! So shop 'til you drop my friends — you can't lose — either a brand new Nissan or five hundred dollars cash!

Where does it all go wrong? It's not the out-of-place Lou Holtz/Notre Dame poster hanging over Valentino's right shoulder — even though it's strange in the way that the poster splits the viewer's attention between the Nissan logo to Valentino's left and this piece of Fighting Irish nostalgia on his right, I guess visually it does its part to help frame Joe Valentino. That said, while I understand why Notre Dame is popular — I cried watching Rudy, too! — the Irish haven't been relevant for quite some time, having lost nine straight bowl games until finally getting their mojo back in 2008's Hawai'i Bowl; hearkening back to this bygone era seems like a mixed message of sorts.

Further, I don't mind that Joe Valentino's undershirt is poking up from under that unbuttoned short-sleeved thing he's wearing. I see it as "authentic."

I also don't mind the video quality — yes, the audio seems to peak, and the commercial is jarring when you come across it during the lazy late innings of a ballgame — but that's what local commercials are all about; even though it looks like it was filmed on Betamax, there's a homespun, DIY aspect to it that we don't usually see in professionally produced commercials.

I don't even mind that Joe Valentino keeps punching at the camera with his middle finger sticking out — I didn't even notice that part until now, actually. It's pretty aggro if you look for it. Though if your mind wanders, you might find yourself remembering a similar gesture that Daniel Pearl made with his middle finger on that gruesome video in which he acknowledged his Jewish heritage to terrorists under duress. Is Valentino sending the same sort of veiled message?

No, let's be real — we all know where it goes wrong — it's that voice — that voice! — "fiiiiii-vundred dollars caaaash!" Hear it once and you think, "Oh, wow, that's over the top," but after the fiftieth or one-hundredth time, yikes — it's pretty unrelenting. And it doesn't have to be this way — had, say, Alistair Cooke recorded this, it would have been gentler, more inviting — in a smooth British accent, the promise of five hundred dollars cash would be hard to resist. Even Keith Hernandez would have been more appealing. His Coin Galleries of Oyster Bay ad shows statesmanship and class, and if I had gold I wanted to unload, I wouldn't hesitate to trust his endorsement.

I also find myself gravitating toward that bossy "shop 'til you drop, my friend" command. One, we're not friends! Two, I don't know that I want to shop until I drop — what if I can't get back up? When Valentino says stuff like that I start to envision the Great Neck Nissan car lot filled with hundreds of nonambulatory customers, some stuck on their backs staring into a blinding sun, some on their knees, legs trembling as they attempt to prop themselves up again. I don't know that this commercial ever aired during AMC's The Walking Dead, but if it had, there might have been another mixed message sent.

And this is all well and good — and I'm happy to help spread viruses — but by posting the video, Great Neck Nissan is clearly moving into Comfort Wipe territory. The danger/hope is what they come up with next.

Posted: January 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Do The Hustle | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

If LeBron Did Not Exist, Wieden+Kennedy Would Invent Him

In the ongoing list of things the internet does reasonably well — including but obviously not limited to song lyrics, footage of early punk rock shows, the shared experience of watching playoff baseball via an "open thread" on a sports blog and computer help* — here's one more: Coordinating chants at Cleveland Cavaliers games. To be fair, there was a clear and present matter at hand for Cavaliers fans — expressing their displeasure at LeBron James for leaving the team through free agency in a flashy narcissistic way — but the coordinated effort got a lot of press:

We ask for all of you who have been a part of this movement to continue to push in these final 24 hours. It wouldn't be possible without you, and won't succeed unless we make sure the "fourth quarter" of our efforts is as strong as the first three. Get the word out, send the sheet to co workers and friends, print out extras if you're going downtown, hand them out at bars, do whatever you have to. Get Cleveland chanting!

The sheet (.pdf) had instructions for what to chant when, e.g., in the second half of the first quarter "Whenever LeBron has the ball or is at the free throw line the chant is: Ak-Ron Hates-You (Clap, Clap, ClapClapClap)." It went on from there, and was to have culminated with a penultimate "De-Lon-Te" chant early in the fourth quarter, until the Heat stretched out its lead to thirty and LeBron was pulled from the game.

I had to look up the Delonte story because I missed it. Here's what that particular chant was about:

The 'Delonte' chant will be in reference to the reported affair that occurred last season between James' mother Gloria, and his teammate Delonte West. West is now a member of the Boston Celtics, but shortly after the end of the playoffs last season, in which West's and James' Cavaliers were eliminated by Boston, speculation ran rampant that James learned of West's affair with his mother during the playoffs and it caused his distracted and seemingly disinterested play.

No matter, the Cavs_Chants Twitter feed directed the Delonte chant to be moved up.

Meanwhile, everything else seemed to work as planned:

Despite being an otherwise meaningless early season game, Thursday night's 118-90 Miami Heat victory was the most anticipated regular-season game in the history of pro basketball. As the national media kept reporting all week, Cavs fans had been waiting more than four months to vent their spleens. And vent they did.

When James first took the court in his No. 6 Miami Heat jersey 17 minutes before the opening tip, he was greeted with a cosmic jeer, soon followed by a raucous chant of "a—hole, a—hole."

Midway through the first quarter, his ears were pummeled by a thundering chant of "Akron hates you, Akron hates you."

Buzz Bissinger recently wrote a book with LeBron James, and wrote an op-ed in The New York Times back in May about how he thought LeBron should handle his pending free agency. His opening paragraph seems like typical Bissinger — we read his A Prayer For The City for book club, about Ed Rendell's first term as mayor of Philadelphia and his tone is sometimes self-effacing to the point of obsequiousness (Bissinger's depiction of Chief of Staff David Cohen in the book is kind of the definition of "beat sweetener"). His LeBron op-ed follows that format:

When I first met LeBron James in 2008, I was in awe. He was 23 at the time and I was 53, yet it seemed as if the ages were reversed. He had been a basketball legend for years. As we embarked on a book project together, he had an affable poise that contrasted with my own babbling efforts to build rapport. I ascribed to him a worldly wisdom.

Then of course he goes on to sound every part the 53 year-old — hollow advice to leave and never look back, et cetera, et cetera and then something about "personal growth." Somehow he decided that James should have gone to the Knicks, which in retrospect looks absurd.

James followed Bissinger's advice to leave and do soul searching or whatever Bissinger's writerly heart wanted James the nonfiction star to do like not at all, which makes the Bissingerian plot line seem that much more hollow:

LeBron James's relationship to his community is profound: he built a palatial house in the Akron area and just finished his seventh season with the Cavaliers. But I believe those roots have become golden shackles. He is too loved, and therefore too coddled and too easily forgiven.

His play in the fifth game of the N.B.A. playoff series this month against the Boston Celtics, a 120-88 trouncing, was bizarre and inexplicable. In missing 11 of the 14 shots he took, he simply looked as if he had given up, astounding not only for James but for any professional athlete competing at the level of the playoffs. It was inexcusable, whatever the circumstance.

In a place like New York, the tabloids would have screamed "LeBomb James!" In Cleveland, there were a few boos, but they amounted to nothing compared to the desperation of the fans to keep him for next season and beyond. In such an atmosphere, human nature inevitably takes over: you stop constantly pushing yourself because there is no real incentive, particularly when you have so many good nights on the basketball court and keep your fans satiated.

. . .

LeBron, take the chance. Just go and never look back. In the greatest city in the world, you will never regret it. It is time to leave home.

You get the sense that Bissinger wanted LeBron to leave the Midwest via a large Greyhound with a duffel bag over his shoulder, the coach bus kicking up dust as it stopped to pick him up on a rural stretch of U.S. 224. I don't know what Bissinger thought about the ESPN special.

(Speaking of which, J.A. Adande seems to posit that it's Soledad O'Brien's fault that the story veered off into some giant debate over race in America . . . maybe Jon Stewart has a point about cable news? Three of us briefly debated this aspect last night while we were watching the Heat-Cavaliers game and in retrospect it seems silly to have done so. At any rate, not worth bringing up again.)

All told, Cleveland's fans were the most interesting part of the game last night (with the exception of this, which is kind of awesome). Some cities are like that. Philadelphia is one place. So is New Orleans, I recently learned — it seems that the entire city jumps up and starts waving handkerchiefs whenever K. Gates' "Black & Gold (Who Dat!!!) Superbowl Edition ft. Ying Yang Twins" is played. Seriously, it's weird — it looks like those scenes in Season 2 of True Blood when the Maryann Forrester character puts the entire town of Bon Temps into bacchanalia trances.

You get the sense that Cleveland fans wouldn't need a "Fan Up" campaign to remind their fans to arrive to games on time and stay until the end. You'd think that players would like that aspect of playing in a city, but that's clearly not the case. In that sense it reminds me of something someone reminded me once about art museums: Museum-goers are under the impression that museums are primarily about seeing art but there's a case to be made that's not the real reason museums exist — rather, museums are about maintaining collections of art, and viewing the art is only a secondary purpose. Some collections are better than others in this respect, but most only show a small percentage of what they hold.

In the same way, maybe the Miami Heat are less a root-worthy team than they are a collection of museum pieces — like a Platonic ideal of "Starting Lineup" (minus the point guard). And instead of winning championships or giving a city something to cheer for, the team simply exists to make overwrought Nike ads.

Of course, without those overwrought Nike ads, we wouldn't have the spoofs:

In the commercials LeBron says "What should I do?" over and over. But for the rest of us taking it all in, it's more like "So what do you do?" — because there's not much else interesting about the story line now except to want to see the Platonic ideal fail.

*See this, this, this and this, respectively.

Posted: December 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Thrill Of Victory And The Agony Of Defeat! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

What To Do When You Rotate An Image On Your Digital Camera's Storage Card And It Doesn't Show Up In Your Camera Software When You Later Try To Download That Same Image

Earlier I wrote how there is an ongoing list of things the internet does really well, including but not limited to song lyrics, footage of early punk rock shows, probably porn and even the shared experience of watching playoff baseball via an "open thread" on a sports blog (sadly, the sports blog I wrote about has completely disappeared from the internet).

In this post-Thanksgiving week of meditating upon the things that the Internet does that you give thanks for, I'll add one more — computer help.

I suppose there's a sort of irony in using your computer for computer help. Maybe it's just ironic in the Alanis Morissette sense of the term. Maybe it's neither textbook ironic nor Alanis Morissette ironic but rather just kind of obvious that you'd go to the internet to fix your computer, but at any rate, that's what it is.

It used to seem that I'd often be Googling why my Windows operating system was doing something Windows-like, and the best advice tended to come from people sharing their trial-and-error tips online. Funny how little the official Windows help actually helped — instead it was always people on message boards selflessly helping "newbies" and amateurs figure out how to clear caches, reset settings, defragment disks or whatever else it took to get a computer to run properly. I'd gobble up these tips and go right back to work, barely acknowledging where the tips came from, much less thanking anyone for the help.

So as part of righting this wrong, I want to do two things — one, say a blanket "thank you" to all the heroic folks who selflessly contribute to the Internet ecosystem by helping Windows users navigate the quirks of their operating system. Thanks!

Two, I want to play a very small role in the ecosystem by adding my own tip here. It's not a smart tip or a particularly inventive tip, but it was something that I didn't immediately discover an answer for when I Googled it. So here it is — feel free to use it and don't worry about thanking me because Lord knows I never bothered thanking anyone else for tips or computer help.

What To Do When You Rotate An Image On Your Digital Camera's Storage Card And It Doesn't Show Up In Your Camera Software When You Later Try To Download That Same Image

Like I said, nothing revolutionary, but it was confounding to me when this happened the other day when Jen and I were away from home and she needed to use an image I took for something she was working on. Instead of first downloading the image and rotating it on her laptop's desktop, she rotated the image directly on the storage card. First off, don't do this — it changes the information in the file and seems to screw up stuff. If you take an image off a storage card, copy and paste it onto your desktop first (otherwise known as "downloading" it), and manipulate it later.

But if you spaced and didn't download it first, and ended up rotating the image, and maybe even ignored one of Windows' incessant warnings that pop up and which are way too wordy to quickly comprehend while you're busy working, also didn't realize it would pose a problem later, there's something you should know. First, this is what the image will now look like in your camera:

Incompatible JPEG

Incompatible JPEG

And when you go to download the image along with the rest of the images once you finally get to your desktop, you might find, as I did, that the camera software will no longer recognize the image as an image, and decide not to download it.

But don't worry! It's still there! At any rate, I was convinced it was still there, so I decided to check it to make sure.

When I download images from the camera, the "AutoPlay" command box pops up. It recognizes what camera I have and asks me how I want to download the images. It looks like this:

Windows AutoPlay Command Window

Usually I click the "Downloads Images From Canon Camera using Canon CameraWindow" button, and the Canon CameraWindow software opens, and I click another button and the images are copied onto the computer. (Incidentally, what's with the aversion to using spaces when labeling software? "AutoPlay," "CameraWindow" — are they telegraphing some kind of quality here, like it's so advanced and quick that there's no need for spaces?) That's here:

Windows AutoPlay Command Window With Canon CameraWindow Button Highlighted

But like I said, when I did this the other day and the "incompatible JPEG" was on the storage card, the camera software didn't download the "incompatible JPEG." So instead of opening the images via the software, I used the "Open device to view files using Windows Explorer" feature on the AutoPlay text box:

Windows AutoPlay Command Window With Windows Explorer Button Highlighted

You'll see a few weird folders — "Removable Storage" and "DCIM" — but click around "DCIM" and the odd folders therein and you'll find the image (the Wikipedia says that "DCIM" stands for "Digital Camera Images" — fewer spaces, expanded acronyms — the mind reels).

Thus ends my small contribution to the ecosystem.

Speaking of contributions to the Internet ecosystem, I don't know whether yesterday's big Wikileaks document dump is the "9/11 of diplomacy" or if it "represents why Internet was invented and what it should stand for".

The first Wikileaks document dump was ostensibly doing something along the lines of informing the public about the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and were seen by some as continuing the tradition of the Pentagon Papers. Fine, whatever. But given that, I don't know what the point of this second document dump would be beyond positioning Wikileaks as the Gawker Media of geopolitics. While reading the initial reports, I had the same feeling as when we saw the pictures of Brett Favre's penis — kind of like, "oh well — that happened." I'm thinking of this exchange in particular:

Mr. Saleh, who at other times resisted American counterterrorism requests, was in a lighthearted mood. The authoritarian ruler of a conservative Muslim country, Mr. Saleh complains of smuggling from nearby Djibouti, but tells General Petraeus that his concerns are drugs and weapons, not whiskey, "provided it's good whiskey."

And then there's Kiribati. I never knew there was a country called Kiribati. Now I know.

It is interesting — maybe ironic even! — that the reason all this may have come about was because the intelligence community was forced to connect dots after September 11. And while people like Joe Lieberman are coming down strongly against Wikileaks, people like Joe Lieberman also came out strongly in favor of more intelligence sharing which in retrospect seems to have amounted to oversharing. I suppose we'll learn more about sexting the world over — er, I mean how it seems every Arab country wants the U.S. to bomb Iran, but on a day when people will be coming out "against" what the internet can do, it seems appropriate to remind ourselves of all the wonderful small things we can accomplish together — meaningful stuff like song lyrics, footage of early punk rock shows, camera software tips and yes, I guess I should admit, maybe even Brett Favre's schlong.

So what can you say? On to that big State Department spying scandal! Or maybe just stick to this. There's a lot of stuff to check out — maybe I'll get to some of it.

Posted: November 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Help Desk | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,