Saturday, July 3, 2010

Funny the Way It Is

I was watching the Mets vs. Nationals game on Fox this afternoon, and noticed how distracted television is sometimes. The game was on the screen, but also on the screen was a yellow box running an ad for the upcoming All-Star game (on Fox) that we were required to read, I assume. While all this is going on, the play-by-play announcer was entertaining us with a random baseball story that had nothing to do with either what was happening on my TV screen or on the playing field.
I think that the only way Fox could have created a more mentally distracting sight would have been to run loud music over the entire thing. That, or they could have tilted the screen a little so that I would have to move my head. Now they have another new idea.
And then, there was an ad for a Dodge truck whose big selling point was that it had a cargo bay "capable of holding 5.5 pounds of chili." Really, that's what he said. It's gotten to the point that chili storage is a positive trait in a vehicle. Here I was, concerned about fuel mileage or handling. Don't cook and drive.
NASCAR held their annual July 4th weekend race at Daytona Beach tonight. As part of the celebration, Darius Rucker sang our National Anthem and there was an F-18 jet flyover. Three great American traditions were celebrated at once: War, jingoism and a black crossover country singer. It doesn't get much more American than that.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My Name is Wawa

When I was married, my wife would often complain about my penchant for watching television. While she viewed it as a boring past time, I saw it as a learning experience. I told her I don't watch television the way most people do. Every so often I get the chance to explain that concept:
I was watching a My Name is Earl episode called "Cost Dad an Election" on CW Philly tonight and noticed something strange. During the episode, there is a wide shot that shows the sky. In the background was a Wawa billboard, which I found odd. Wawa is too regional a brand to show up in a Hollywood-produced show, so what's with the billboard?
Since I have the DVD, I popped it in and voilĂ , no billboard. CW Philly had it added in. The photo shows the DVD version, with the blank sky. I wish I had the presence of mind to rewind the show while I had it on, but take my word for it, there was a Wawa sign back there.
And then I heard that the episode was sponsored by Wawa, so the shameless tie-in made sense. Have the producers done this in other areas with other local franchises? I'm not sure if I'm in favor of electronically manipulating programs to insert advertisements. But, I noticed, didn't I?
And that's exactly what they wanted.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My expert opinion on experts.

From Blogs and Stories by Randall Lane:
In an era of epically wrong financial predictions, boisterous Jim Cramer's declaration that "Bear Stearns is not in trouble!" a week before its March 2008 collapse, rated among the most moronic, or at least the most infamous.
But it turns out that Cramer made one call far worse: He decided to make a stock-picking star out of a mumbling former Major League Baseball All-Star named Lenny Dykstra, giving him a high-profile column and ultimately an expensive "premium" newsletter on Cramer's site How did Dykstra return the favor? As I reveal in my book,
The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade Wall Street Went Insane, Dykstra took money—$250,000 worth of secretly issued stock—in exchange for recommending that stock to subscribers. He also promised access to Cramer in exchange for the stock, which he apparently hid under his brother-in-law's name.
We love the experts. We love to hear them tell us what to do, which stocks to buy, which books to read and which sports teams to wager on. When things go wrong (as they often do) we like to have people to blame, and that's partly why we love experts.
I saw it during the recent World Cup soccer (er ... football) matches. The US team rode a wave of jingoism into a match with Ghana. People who don't watch soccer that much (most people) bought into the experts' opinion that the US team had a shot. As it turned out, they weren't quite good enough, and our patriotic hopes were dashed.
It happens with a lot of things that people don't pay much attention to until something big comes up, like the Stanley Cup final, the Kentucky Derby or the stock market. Mostly, it involves gambling or some money sport of some kind (like stock investing) and we want to know what to do with our money so that we'll have more money. That's where guys like Jim Cramer come in.
He boisterously proclaims that he knows something, and under that grand style that is distinctly American, he figures that if he yells loudly and has a TV show, people will believe him - and they do. If the stock goes up, it's partly because Cramer yelled about it and investors bought it up. That's part of the charm of the stock pickers.
But ask yourself, "why would someone want to share their knowledge to help me get rich, when they could just as easily do it themselves and be rich on their own?" The answer is, because there is more money in telling people how to become wealthy than there is in actually doing it for yourself. That's odd.
There are a ton of real estate investment programs that tout "secret" ways to turn ten dollars into ten million, or some such scam. Supposedly, you can be rich just like the people on the infomercial. Try it, and let me know how it went.
Mostly, we're all kind of dopey and we like to rely on others' opinions to make our decisions seem less like we're screwing up and more like someone else led us astray.
Here's a tip: Do it yourself. Read, learn and make your own decisions. You'll fail, just like the guys on TV, but when you succeed you'll be able to tell people how smart you are.
Just like the guys on TV.