And If Someone Wrote A Story About A Rooftop Sign Decrying Halal Cart Vendors Who Get Asinine Summonses From The NYPD And Then Are Posthumously Baptized By Mormons, My Head Might Actually Explode

There are several candidates for the most infuriating story of the day.

There was the piece about city officials bending over backwards to approve a new "iconic" sign for JetBlue in Long Island City's Queens Plaza. Basically, JetBlue wants to build a 40-foot sign on the top of a building it's leasing. They want to do this because there are two similar signs in Long Island City, both vestiges of the area's industrial past, when people thought nothing of putting ugly-ass signs on the tops of buildings. The context here is that New York had to lobby hard to keep JetBlue from leaving for Florida. So basically now you have city officials selling ad space.

What, not infuriating enough? OK, how about the Business Improvement District head that called out sidewalk food vendors for being "terrible citizens"? Sure, not so strange, until you see the accompanying photo of a halal cart in the article and a report that the BID apparently objects to "odd smells." You hear the same language from landlords looking to discriminate against tenants from cultures that make "pungent" food. The solution, according to the BID, is to embrace more foodie-friendly food trucks that make less smelly food. This is what gentrification looks like: A neighborhood gets a Business Improvement District that forces businesses to contribute money ostensibly to clean up a neighborhood until it gets too powerful and starts to dictate who or what happens in the neighborhood. Maybe you feel good about more hipster food trucks. I do — I love hipster tacos, hipster mayonnaise and hipster small-batch bourbon — overpriced artisanal products make me feel better about my small, shitty existence — but at some point you have to step back and ask the simple question Who the fuck do these people think they are?

What, you don't care about a dumb little food cart? OK, fine — maybe it is a bit of faux outrage. How about this: First we heard stories about poor saps in the Bronx and places that we don't really spend a lot of time in who were not just given tickets but actually arrested for putting their feet on subway seats. And that's shocking (even worthy of a pre-emptive revenge fantasy), but then this first person account makes the whole practice look totally fucking insane. There's a literary quality to the back and forth, but what might be the most infuriating thing are the comments underneath that seem to blame the victim for being entitled to think that the cops shouldn't be handing out idiotic quota-filling tickets. The message seems to be Don't think you're too good to get harassed by the police. There's something seriously wrong with the NYPD. And sure, maybe you should be more upset when cops shoot unarmed civilians or surveil whole communities based on their religion (in other jurisdictions, no less) but there's something that's so blatantly and stupidly wrong about this that it almost rises to its own level of idiocy. You may not be an 18-year-old kid in the Bronx or a Muslim in Newark, but nearly everyone takes the subway. And you probably put your feet on the seat once. The mayor or city council either needs to let some fucking common sense prevail and fix this or the commissioner needs to go.

Easy collars don't make you that upset? OK, then here goes: Mormons have posthumously baptized Daniel Pearl in 2011, who was forced to admit "My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish" before someone who was quite possibly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself beheaded him. The idea that he should be Mormon in some weird quasi-Freemason white-tiled heaven of some sort is frankly one of the most offensive things I've ever heard. Daniel Pearl's head was sawed off not because he thought Joseph Smith dug up zinc tablets sent down from god that were transported by boat to Palmyra, New York from Israel (or whatever they think). Daniel Pearl's head was sawed off because he was a Jew.

I thought I learned once why Mormons do this. My recollection was that it was sort of like cooking the books — an easy way for missionaries to build their up numbers. (I vaguely remember asking the guide at the temple on 67th Street — before it opened and they allowed non-Mormons to tour the building — about this and I think that's what she said.) But, really, I totally don't give a fuck why the Church of Latter Day Saints does this — it's so offensive and horrible that it should never, ever happen again.

The church was already shamed for doing this for Holocaust victims and I thought I heard they stopped. The article says that officials admitted that it was wrong to have baptized Pearl, but the fact that it happened at all is just astonishing. It's sort of like, Dude, this is supposed to make people think Mormons aren't totally bizarre? You're not helping . . .

And there you have four stories that may raise your blood pressure just a little bit.

Posted: March 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Andy Rooney | Tags: , , , , , ,

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: , , , , , , , , , ,