Matt McHugh
Matt - Blog - February 2004


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Yellow Pages Index Words II

Some more amusing combination headers from the Yellow Pages. (See Feb-27-2004):

  • Bridal - Bumpers (sounds like a SpectraVision movie)
  • Coin - Comedians (wonder where you insert the quarter)
  • Hog - Home (see also "Pig Sty")
  • Janitor - Japanning (apparently "Japanning" is a type of metal finishing, not holding a mop like a samurai)
  • Projectors - Psychic (you are going to call, you are going to call)
  • Travel - Tree (hroom-hom, hasty to travel unless at need)
  • Wheelchairs - Window (see "Hitchcock, Alfred")
  • Word - Zippers (much hipper-sounding than "copywriter")
  • etc.

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Yellow Pages Index Words

Had to use a phone book the other day--something I haven't done in years. Serendipity is one of the pleasures of browsing such a print work (that, and the smell of newsprint ink), and one of the forgotten joys I've always had with the Yellow Pages is checking the index words at the top of each page.

These "index words" (not sure what they're really called) are running headers that tell you at a glance what categories of listings are on the page, e.g., Painters, Pet shops, Plumbers, etc. If a page covers more than one category, the first and last category names are shown with a dash, e.g, Painter - Plumbers.

This leads to all kinds of amusing combinations. A few favorites:

  • Artist - Astrologers (a compatible dual calling)
  • Baked - Balloons (sounds like an old expression, "She'll bake your balloons, let me tell ya!")
  • Chiropractors - Churches (both require a great deal of faith to be effective)
  • Demolition - Dentists (I've heard of reconstructive dentistry, so every yin has yang, I guess)
  • Environmental - Escorts (hey honey, want an eco-tour?)
  • Formal - Fruits (no gay marriage jokes, please)
  • Karate - Kitchen (In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife... get that joke and show your age!)
  • Metal - Ministers (an Issac Asimov novel, I think)
  • Pen - Pest (someone who just will not stop writing letters)
  • etc.

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The Trump Brand

Didn't get a chance to watch all of The Apprentice this week, though I saw the opening 10 minutes. Only saw two new advertisers to add to the boycott/buy list (see Feb-19-2004):

• Aveeno skin cream           • Folger's plastic coffee can

However, the one thing I did catch was that the pseudo-business task for this week was to sell a new brand of bottled water --"Trump Ice"--that The Donald (hey... just like "The Mel"!) is supposedly launching to that woefully under-exploited market. The label is fascist-chic red, black, and gold--with a picture of The Donald staring menacingly (does he have another expression?). Anyway, to help out, here's a few product slogans they can use if they like:

• Just like in Donald's veins
• Just like mom used to make
• Drink it and pee like a billionaire
• Drawn from the finest water hazards in NY State
• Straight from the horse's ass

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The Mel's Passion II

I've been obsessively reading reviews of M.G.'s The Passion of the Christ (still love the "the" ... in honor of it, I'm going to call Mr. Gibson "The Mel" from now on). As tempted as I am, I will not comment on a film I haven't seen--except to say that I have little desire to see it anymore. For one, babysitters are expensive, and I have to choose evenings out judiciously; secondly, I just don't think I'd like it.

I'm actually very interested in religion and hearing people's different views. I love to discuss and debate and argue with thoughtful, intelligent believers of every stripe. Such creatures are pretty rare, however, and I've often entered into discussions that ended up with me having to listen to someone parroting dogma they obviously didn't understand, or getting blank stares in response to fundamental questions they were incapable of thinking about. They end up offended, and I end up bored and unenlightened.

That's pretty much what I expect with The Mel's movie here. As much as I love The Mel, from what I've gathered (admittedly with some hearsay in there!), I just can't imagine he has a very interesting grasp of such essentials as the nature of Christ's divinity, the implications of suffering as God's chosen mode of redemption, the tension between personal morality and social momentum, etc. etc. The contemplation of which, I think, help edge a person closer to spiritual wisdom. All I think The Mel wants me to feel is guilt. Well, sorry, The Mel... but got enough already. Don't feel too bad, though. Go buy yourself another ranch or something.

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P.S. - I'm trying to push "The Mel" as a new catchphrase, so spread it around. It helps if you say it like George Wendt used to say "Da Bears" in the SNL Superfans skits.

Gay Marriage

So President Bush is now urging support for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. This one really baffles me. I can't see it's worth wasting any legislative energy on, let alone mucking with the core document of the republic.

Fine. Forbid gays to get married. Let them have federally recognized civil unions, with all the legal, tax, and inheritance benefits afforded married couples. To deny consenting adults of sound mind those rights is simply discrimination. For the sake of the 90% straight population--and whatever vociferous segment feels that traditional marriage is sacrosanct--you just don't call it marriage. A perfectly equitable compromise, no?

Problem solved. Can we move on to more important things now? (Of course not... it's an election year.)

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RICIN as a Lobbying Tool

Today, the FBI posted on its website an update of the investigation into the RICIN-containing letters found in October. Both letters came from someone calling themself "Fallen Angel" who claimed to be an owner of a fleet of tanker trucks. The letters demanded repeal of impending changes in federal regulation of truck drivers' hours of service. It seems the new regulations say truckers must rest at least ten hours a day; Fallen Angel wants it rolled back to eight.

What all this just underscores for me is that, in a big, complex society like ours, you're always going to have wackos--even some capable of doing real damage. The rare combination of someone patient enough to manufacture potent poison, yet rash enough to actually deploy it. Disgruntlement sublimated into meticulous destructiveness. People may go nuts fairly often, but the real trouble comes when they systematically plan the effect of their insanity.

Our greatest defense against such things is that they just don't coincide very often. But, alas, with 6 billion people in our shrinking world, it's a trend definitely on the rise.

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Farewell Sex and the City

Charlotte gets a baby, Samantha gets her groove back, Miranda goes all family, and Carrie gets slapped (been hoping for that last bit for three years). Sundays at 9:00 are the only time my typically gladly remote-yielding wife has categorically refused to relinquish control of my beloved clicker. After all the karate movies and multiple-viewings of Battlefield Earth (it's not that bad, really) I've subjected her to, I have no right to complain.

But I will anyway.

All I'll say about show itself is it's OK. Not great. Not horrible. It struck a nerve with an audience, but--not being its target demo--its success sort of baffled me, and as a pop cultural phenomenon, often annoyed me. But it had a good run, and here's to it.

What's always bugged me most about the show is the way it's framed by Carrie's vacuous musings, shown in tight shots of her laptop screen as she types such trenchant posers as: "can't we just all get along?" ... "how much is too much?" ... "if your past is imperfect, should that make your present tense?". I have never met or read the work of Candace Bushnell, the socialite-authoress upon whose book the show is based (I know people who have, but I will resist the urge for hearsay), but she'd better be a damn sight cleverer than Carrie Bradshaw or I'll forever lose faith in my long-held belief that best-sellers are of unassailable literary quality.

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Mel Gibson's Passion

Mel Gibson's heavily advance press-ified movie The Passion of the Christ (interesting theological comment with the "the" ... way to go, Mel!) is all set to open on Ash Wednesday. Everybody says everybody's talking about it, and maybe everybody's right. I have not seen the film, so I can't comment on it specifically, however I stand in absolute awe of the marketing campaign. A grand-slam like that truly only comes along every other millennium or so.

Christians rejoice (finally... someone is telling our story)! Jews fear backlash for their ancestors' role in the death of Jesus (I wonder why Italians don't? I guess everybody knows nobody f***s with Italians.) Mel gets lots of ink on his being a conservative Catholic (i.e., a sect of loyal Papists who think Vatican II was a mistake). News coverage! Magazine covers! TV interviews! Water cooler debates! Blog postings out the wazoo! As they say in the ad business, you can't buy publicity like that.

Or can you? Mel reportedly sunk $25 million of his own into the movie. Various reports claim he stands to easily make double that, when all's said and done. I'm sure Mr. Gibson considers his making of this film an act of devotion, and undoubtedly thinks that his take on the story is something "everyone should see." Why not forgo the pricey marketing blitz and give out the movie for free? Generate interest via a grassroots word-of-mouth campaign spearheaded by, say, a dozen or so dedicated reps. It's a strategy that's worked before, though it's long-term. I guess the financially interested parties don't want to wait a few centuries for their ROI, and can you blame them?

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P.S. - Note to Mel & Co. My suggestion for a lobby poster tagline. Feel free to use it as you like: "See it for Lent."

Warning: Contains Beer

Here's the Government Warning label on my bottle of Yuengling Traditional Lager by America's Oldest Brewery® (whatever that means):

(1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.

Now why, exactly, is that there on the curved bottle neck label in virtually illegible 4pt ALL CAPS type? Obviously, it's to make sure this warning is always available to someone who is just about to drink a beer. OK... why? So that if they drink it and experience some ill effect as described, they can't say they weren't warned. Again why? The only logical reason I can come up with is to help indemnify the manufacturer against legal action. It's a disclaimer that makes it harder to sue them. Placed there by government mandate. Same thing on cigarettes.

So the government is helping to protect the livelihood of the alcohol and tobacco industries. Makes sense... after all, they bring in oodles of tax revenue.

Anybody got a better explanation? I'd love to hear it.

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Advertisers on The Apprentice

Continuing my vendetta against this latest annoying, contrived, "reality" show (see Feb-12-2004), here's the advertisers from tonight's episode. Boycott them if you hate the show, too... or buy them if you liked it. I don't particularly care. Just don't try to tell me, like, oh-my-god, you, like, can't believe what Omarosa said about Heidi. (Anyone else grow up in the Philadelphia area and find the name "Omarosa" just reminds them of a bakery?)

Anyway, here they are:*

  • Chrysler Crossfire
  • Cingular Wireless
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • AT&T GO Phone
  • Spy Kids DVD
  • Head & Shoulders
  • Eurotrip (movie)
  • Chase Bank
  • Chevy Impala
  • Samsung
  • GE Profile Appliances
  • Barbershop (movie)
  • Sprint PCS
  • Pringles
  • Cold Mountain (movie)
  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
  • U.S. Airforce
  • Ziploc Disposable Containers
  • Verizon Wireless
  • Dominos Pizza
  • Ford Service and Parts
  • Mecedes Benz
  • Chrysler Town & Country
  • Burger King
  • Honey Bunches of Oats
  • Capital One Credit Card

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* - Many thanks to my lovely, beloved, TV-lovin' wife for taking notes. I can't stand to watch it.

Garage Band with a Vengeance

To harp again on my aforementioned noodlings with Garage Band (see Feb-15-2004): the software has spawned a significant subculture of digital music engineers in scarcely a month. A bona fide phenomenon in an age where revolution is routine. Of course, the products range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Everything from pointless, techno-dance-mix crap (ahem...) to impressive experiments. You'll find a pretty respectable collection at

The first Garage Band song I came across, and still a favorite, was Jason Clark's catchy, Morrocan-tinged Mirage (it's linked at the end of his review).

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Drive-Time Radio

The town I live in runs a little shuttle bus to and from the train station. It's a very useful service (my tax dollars at work), and I ride it every day. In a few weeks, we're moving to a new house, no longer on the bus route, and I'll be forced to walk to the train station.

The driver in morning listens to an R&B station featuring a group of chattering DJs serving up assorted comic fare such as a crank call segment (titled "Y'all Been Snapped!" ... or something similarly goofy) or political wisdom from Reverend Al. The driver in the evening listens to a conservative talk show, dedicating to saving America from terrorism and the lies of the liberal media.

I can't wait to start walking to the train station. Though, I'm sure someday I'll be trudging along in the rain wishing I was on that little bus, listening to reason number 9 why George W. Bush is the greatest Commander-in-Chief in U.S. history.

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Point-and-Click Art II

Now that I'm officially an Independent Record Producer (see Feb-15-2004), here's a metaphor for my new status that occurred to me.

You hire somebody to redecorate a room. They hand paint murals on the walls, build shelves and furniture from scratch, and dye all the upholstery. The finished design is edgy and original. You hate it. You hire somebody else. They whitewash the walls and buy a bunch of stuff from IKEA. The finished design looks like, well, an IKEA showroom. You love it.

Who's the greater artist? Who showed more creativity and expressive honesty? Who gave you something bold and challenging? And who simply recycled the work of others to give you something blandly comfortable?

All I'm going to say is that I like IKEA stuff.

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Point-and-Click Art

Just made my first "song" with Garage Band. For those not of the Apple faithful, Garage Band is new music-creating software included with the latest release of the iLife suite. It's designed to let you assemble multi-track digital sound compositions from a library pre-recorded loops--or record and edit your own vocal or instrumental performances. Basically, for $50, you can do anything Moby can.

That's not meant as a slam at Moby (about whose work I know little), but a comment on how technology has once again plopped professional-level artistic tools in the hands of the masses. Anyone who can invest a little hobby money can record decent-sound music, take high-quality photographs, animate cartoons, make movies, typeset magazines, print in color, or publish globally online. Simply put, that's a democratizing of the ability to create and distribute works of art unprecedented in human history.

Of course, there's no accounting for talent. Any yutz with a Mac (case in point) can hold up his noodlings for the world's consumption. It's for the world to decide if it cares. There's always been a glut of would-be artists and wanna-be stars. History has no qualms about remembering a handful forgetting the rest. Perhaps it has ignored some unfairly, anointed others undeservedly, but that's life. At least now we have techno-toys that make taking your whack at immortality a lot of fun.

(BTW... here's my my_first_song.mp3, 1:36 of pointless, techno-dance-mix crap. But it was fun to do.)

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Smart v. Pleasant

A favorite line from the movie Harvey (with my apologies to Jimmy Stewart for any paraphrasing):

"My mother always used to say, to get by in this world you need to be oh so very smart, or oh so very pleasant. For a long time I was smart, and I recommend pleasant."

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Embryo Cloning

So a group of scientists in Korea have announced they've successfully cloned human embryos from adult somatic (i.e., not reproductive) cells, with the purpose of harvesting stem cell lines (i.e., not creating people). In preparation for all the assorted lunacy this is likely to stir up, I have a few thoughts.

Basically, cloning is just a way of replicating DNA. People around the world replicate human DNA all the time, and with a lot less concern for the ultimate outcome than scientists. In a world where millions live under poverty, war, oppression, etc., the fact that we get all worked up over the contents of few dozen petri dishes proves to me that our priorities are completely out of whack. Yes, the future possibility of human cloning raises moral and ethical questions. The current reality of mass starvation raises a shed load more.

What it comes down to is that I simply can't take politicians, religious leaders, or the public at large seriously when they rant about the evils of cloning--of scientists manufacturing people--when they seem to care so little about so many of the ones we've already made the old-fashioned way. It's simply grand standing about a "hot" issue to grab some headlines, and reprehensible in that it exploits ignorance, paranoia, and obliviousness to more immediate problems.

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The Apprentice

Been watching (to my great shame) The Apprentice. It annoys the crap out of me. Like all reality shows, it's completely contrived--and if not formally scripted and rehearsed--every moment is coached. The camera angles alone tell you that. Can't film a conversation between several people with close-ups, reaction shots, and wide angles without at least one of the multiple cameras getting in view at some point. Unless, of course, you stop, move the cameras around, then shoot the conversation again. (Anybody remember William Hurt in Broadcast News?) At that point, it's all controlled by a director who says "OK, now tell him again that you think he's incompetent, and you shake your head when she says it." It's pro wresting, without the athletic ability.

But, the thing that really burns me is that a show that, in theory, is about young, bright entrepreneurs applying their talents to a variety of bizarre business situations, ends up being about nothing but staged bickering. I could give a dozen examples, but in the end, it's just an example of network television treating viewers like idiots. Real business is beyond your comprehension. Cooperative problem-solving is boring. We're going to give you people acting obnoxious and immature and downright stupid since we know how you love to feel superior to others.

And the worst bit of all? They're right. But it's not the cast of the show I'm enjoying feeling superior to (they're sniping all the way to the bank... a lot smarter than me); it's the creators. I'll have to pay more attention to the commercials so I can avoid the products.

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