Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Good Ad vs. Bad Ad


With all of the political posturing on the airwaves lately, I haven’t seen a “good ad” in a while*. But I did see this one. And it’s bad.

It’s by advertising legend** Alex Bogusky, featuring music by pseudo-hippie musician Jason Mraz, and it’s been getting a lot of play within the advertising community.

On the surface, the concept isn’t a bad one—take the polar bears back from Coca-Cola. But polar bears aren’t the most svelte animals to begin with, what with the long winters and the layers of fat for hibernation and all, so showing changes in body composition is a bit of a stretch.

If you actually fed real polar bears Coca-Cola and showcased the results, the spot might be an interesting, shocking and impactful one.

But this spot fails on so many fronts: 1. You have to buy into the idea that sugar is pure evil, 2. It’s too long and not entertaining enough and 3. It’s condescending to the audience it’s trying to reach.

This spot delivers a lot of “sugar is bad” information. Well duh. People don’t drink soda because they think it’s healthy; they drink soda because it tastes good. If the goal of the spot was to say, “hey, did you know a soda a day makes you X times more likely to be obese, get diabetes and listen to Jason Mraz songs?” you might start to get people to realize just how bad soda is to their health.

But people don’t respond to facts alone. And just saying, “sugar is bad” is not enough. People need to be shown a way out—and dumping soda into the ocean*** isn’t it.

Is it realistic to expect people to go from a soda a day habit to plain old water?
How do you convince people to replace sugar drinks with healthier drinks?
Are diet/lite/zero drinks better?
Is it to get people to switch to 100% fruit drinks, which still have a lot of sugar in them?
Is it getting them to drink more natural coconut-water drinks at $2.50, when they are used to paying 89-cents?
What about iced coffee or iced tea drinks?
How do you get grocery and convenience stores to stock healthier options?
Is a win to just get people to drink one fewer soda a month/week/day?

Sure, we could all stand to consume a bit less sugar, especially on this day of free candy as far as the eye can see. But if you’re going to give up sugar, do it for yourself—not for some poorly animated polar bears.And definitely don't do it for Jason Mraz. That guy is like diabetes for your ears.

*The Joss Whedon Zombey ad was too long and half-assed for my tastes
**If there really can be such a thing
***Sugar is bad for you, but great for the environment? #$%@ing seriously?

Monday, October 29, 2012

What I learned on my impromptu vacation

Last week, I was on vacation. You probably discovered this fact when you came to this site and saw my note saying as much. At this point you probably felt a rush of emotion ranging from sad to happy to exultation to mild annoyance to sleepy and finally apathetic resignation. We’ve all been there.

And to answer your first and only question: No, I didn’t go anywhere—unless the hardware store multiple times a day counts as a vacation destination*.

Since every moment is a teachable one, here are the things I learned:
1.     It takes about four days to stop thinking about work. You know the routine: You think about looming projects when you wake up, you check email several times a day, and you can’t fully relax because you have a gnawing sense you’re forgetting something. Yeah, that wears off by Tuesday for me.
2.     The weather doesn’t take a day off. Plan all you want: Mom Nature don’t take no reservations. So be prepared to pour that concrete on Wednesday and clean out your basement on Tuesday instead.
3.     There will be blood. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving heavy furniture or hanging a picture of a kitten, you will always end up bleeding at some point.
4.     Green Lantern was a rather disappointing movie. The CGI was surprisingly rudimentary and the plot was surprisingly overly complicated. Swap those two around and you might have something worth watching. Moonrise Kingdom was pretty good though. See that.
5.     When it comes to Halloween costumes, don’t get cute. I felt bad about recycling a past costume—Charlie Brown—so I thought I’d update it with a sheet with holes cut out of it—Charlie Brown going as a ghost. Pretty Meta, right? Also, pretty stupid waste of time when the first friend I talked to said, “What are you … a holy ghost?” Off with the sheet. On with the fun.
6.     I love me some naps. That’s not code for anything**. I took a 10-minute nap every afternoon and it was awesome. Seriously, you should close your eyes more often.

*It doesn’t.
**Actually, it’s code for lightly dozing on my couch.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Out this week

I am on vacation this week and will return on the 29th. That is all.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Where I'm from (The Pacific Northwest), people pull over to the side of the road immediately whenever an ambulance has its lights flashing and sirens blaring. It's like there are free tacos being served hot and fresh from the curb to whomever gets there the fastest.

But in Missouri, it's not quite as pronounced. Missouri drivers seem to pull over to the side with all the expediency and effort of a napping child roused from sleep trying to get out of bed. "In a minute, jeez."

It's truly bizarre to me. And what with all the gunshots and such.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

All of us, alone together.

I don’t despise small talk. Small talk is the duct tape of life. It’s the temporary bond holding two things together long enough to see if they connect. Sometimes they do and sometimes they politely go their separate ways.

Some of my favorite conversations have been with taxi cab drivers. I’ve spoken with people from all over the world: Ethiopians, Mexicans, Iranians and even a guy from Jersey. One guy told me he works 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. I hope he never gets hemorrhoids.

Flying, too. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not the guy talking your ear off on the plane. But I have had people tell me fascinatingly intimate details about themselves as they’ve tried to distract themselves from their palpable fear of flying. I even sat between two women who had the same fear—one drank a lot of alcohol and the other gripped my hand like I had the last parachute strapped to my back.

In line, I don’t usually chat with my fellow customers, mainly because I don’t want others looking at my items as conversation starters—“You wear pants? I wear pants!” But I will give the cashier a joke or a smile if they ask how I’m doing.

And, of course, there are the conferences. Business conferences with nametags are the best. You have people with ulterior motives asking leading questions. It’s magical, especially if you go in with no agenda. "Tad, what if I told you that one conversation could change your life?" "Maybe after the crab cakes ... they're sublime."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Horror.

As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of gristly and gruesome horror movies; suspense is more my game. It’s not that I can’t handle them; I just don’t enjoy seeing people as they are being tortured. I gave up watching the TV show, The Shield, because it just had too much violence, torture and rape—not my chosen ways of unwinding after a long day at the office (strangely).

That said, I do appreciate the inventiveness and unpredictability of the genre and can see why so many people are drawn to the movies as a whole.

All of this is a roundabout way of talking about the movie, The Cabin in the Woods. The less you know about the movie the better. It is still a gristly and gruesome movie, but a truly original one. My one criticism is that it was too short—it left me wanting more. But maybe that’s why there will inevitably be a “The Cabin in the Woods 2”.

Monday, October 15, 2012


My friends and I were on a bike ride and stopped at a scenic viewpoint. To our north, an older woman and six teenagers, all dressing in what looked like fun run T-shirts, posed for pictures. When one of the girls wandered close by I asked, “Hey, what race are you guys with?”

She looked at me funny and then said, “Bosnian.”

The rest of the weekend, my friends called me a “race-ist”.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The only alarm clock I've ever owned.

SONY Dream Machine
Not to go all "old man" on everyone, but "they don't make 'em like this anymore". This faithful little friend has been waking me up every single day (more or less) for close to 30 years. Let's see your precious pets do that! This marvel from yesteryear still features an easy to turn dial, big can't-miss snooze button, an AM/FM radio and a dimmer switch. In an age of "I need a new phone ... this one is three months old", it's nice to be reminded that there still exist electronic goods that can last for a score or more. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Potential Halloween Costumes

Long time readers of mine know that I pretty much have it locked down when it comes to awesome Halloween costumes. So for any of you thinking to yourself, "Hey, I wonder what That Tad Guy readers suggest for costumes*", here they are. I recommend "smelly tupperware".

*Oh, there's no use in being shy. We've all been there. Just go with it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ugh. Are we really this gullible?

I've done something outrageous. I've clicked the "like" button for all three political candidates on Facebook. If you haven't done it or are afraid to do it, let me tell you something: you are missing out on some comedy gold. Getting three completely opposite takes on issues? How is that even possible??

First, let me say that Gary Johnson's staff needs to get better at social media. Facebook is a visual medium and just linking to links aint gonna work, bro. We the people want super reductive posters that distill the issues down to easily understood "facts".

Take this poster from Mitt Romney.

No way! Really?! The earth has flown around the sun 3 and 3/4 times too. Should we attribute that to him as well? Help me understand great leader.

Or this poster from Barack Obama.

Is "what's wrong with this picture" that it compares the tax rate for Capital Gains (Form 1040*, line 11, Schedule D) to the tax rate on Wages, Salaries, Tips, etc. (Form 1040, line 7, W-2)? Did I get it right? These strange numbers confuse and frighten me.

Look, I get it. Attack ads supposedly work. But should we let them? "Like" this poster if you like thinking for yourself.

*I suspect that Mr. Romney actually fills out different or additional forms since the income was significantly higher than $100k

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

With compassion.

Sometimes a story just sticks. The following three stories of compassion, or lack thereof, have stuck with me through the years. The first is a must-read for anyone who practices a religion—any religion. The second questions what exactly makes a community. And the third, well, the third is a story all its own. Enjoy.

If Not Higher. By I. L. Peretz

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. By Ursula K. Le Guin

The Blue Bouquet. By Octavio Paz

Monday, October 8, 2012


This past weekend the temperature dropped like an infield fly ball at Turner Field. I mean that it got really cold, really quickly. Thus, I chose to turn on the heat in my home for the first time since the spring. This wouldn’t be of much consequence had I not come across a passage in a Men’s Health article about the Paleo Diet and body temperature.

“ … brought to mind a 2006 study in the International Journal of Obesity, which listed a series of reasons why our population may have gained so much weight in the past 30 years. Among them: In 1923, the "thermal standard for winter comfort" in U.S. homes was a brisk 64°F. By 1986, the average thermostat was set to a balmy 76. It's natural for us to "upregulate" our metabolism in winter to keep warm while downshifting in summer, when heat slows our appetite. Living in a climate-controlled world can mess with that balance, potentially leading to weight gain over time.”

The result is that I have now reprogrammed my thermostat to drop to 64°F at night and rise to only 67°F in the morning. Should be interesting to see if I get any sleep or die of hypothermia.

Friday, October 5, 2012

An abundance of excess

Last night, while out with friends, I had a beer. This was no ordinary beer, but rather dessert in a glass. It was a creme brulee-flavored beer. And it had an enticing aroma, as well as a smooth, sweet flavor. You definitely can't have more than one at a time, although I wouldn't be surprised to find it served over vanilla ice cream.

My best guess as to the brewery is Southern Tier:


Thursday, October 4, 2012

STL Bicycle Trails

I’ve had the good fortune of making friends with fellow adults* who like to ride road bikes. This has given me the chance to ride a lot of the trails in and around the city of Saint Louis. Below are some of my favorites.

Forest Park. You always remember your first. This trail is perfect if you’re new to biking or acquired a bike you’re not familiar with—for instance, switching from Schrader to Presta valves. Why? Because if you get a flat, this looped trail only puts you a couple miles away from your car at any one time. Plus, the terrain varies quite a bit in just 6 miles and the Boathouse is close by in case you want to grab a nosh or cold beer.

Grant’s Trail. Got a need for speed? This trail offers a lot of straight-aways that you can flat-out fly on. It also passes by Grant’s Farm in the middle section, so if you’ve got a hankering for a cold beer or some good hearty goat petting, you have that option.

Creve Coeur Park/Lake. This picturesque ride offers a nice flat loop that wends its way through trees and roller bladers. While a little tricky to find at first**, it’s worth it for the ease and convenient parking. There’s also a restaurant where you can rest and get a cold beer***.

North Riverfront Trail. This little-known gem takes you right alongside the Mighty Mississippi (and formerly Tent City). It offers quite a few straight sections and a good hill in the middle. Best of all, you can crack open a cold one as you straddle the Missouri-Illinois border on the scenic Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Katy Trail. I’ve only ridden bits and pieces of this trail, but some friends do an annual trip across a good part of the state and tell me its outstanding****. Plus, it runs by some wineries, so you can always pop in and enjoy a nice cold White Zinfandel.

*I originally wrote “people”, but that made it sound like I rode with 7-year old children. No.
**I’m a City Guy, so it was tricky for me; locals might find it easier.
***Yes, there’s a theme developing here.
****Okay, maybe not exact words.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Presidential Duh-bates

America, we can do better. We deserve better. Tonight marks the first of three Presidential debates, but we’ve lost before we’ve even begun. What do I mean?

These debates are pabulum. Look, I’m not saying that Obama and Romney aren’t viable candidates. But without any of the qualified—and I get to that below—third party candidates, we’re not really going to get anything more than pre-scripted talking points. We deserve answers and solutions instead of an extended “he said, she said” production about taxes, the economy, pseudo-morality, blah, blah, blah.

The problem is that the debates aren’t constitutionally mandated and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a non-non-partisan organization. Yes, I made that a double negative (in more ways than one).

Here is an excerpt from their site:

“The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.”

Ah, but there’s the rub: “… provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners”. Apart from being subjective, can you really have the “best possible” with only two marginally opposed candidates? Shouldn’t you have vastly divergent viewpoints in order to test what’s “best” and what’s “worst”?

My opinion aside, the CPD does outline their selection process:

“The mission of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (the "CPD") is to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates are held every four years between the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States.”

First, they make sure everyone is constitutionally eligible (age, nationality, etc.). Makes sense.

Second, and I agree with this, the candidates need to prove they have enough support to win—in this case, they need to be on enough ballots in enough states to mathematically have the chance to win the requisite 270 electoral votes.

Third is where I, and a lot of people, have an issue.

“The CPD's third criterion requires that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.”

I’m sorry, but “five selected national public opinion polling organizations”? Selected by whom? Is College Football’s BCS commission running this? This sounds as messed up as the “computer rankings” that kept Boise State out of National Championship-eligible games for years. Except the stakes are much higher. Why add this provision? Because the CPD isn’t a non-partisan organization and it knows that when campaigns cost 100 Bazillion dollars, it’s practically impossible to get 15% support if no one hears about you. A non-partisan organization is the League of Women Voters. But they stopped hosting the debates back in the 1980s.

“The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates...because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

Right now, at least one third party candidate, Gary Johnson, satisfies the first two requirements. In my opinion, he should be allowed to debate the other candidates. He may not win, and I don’t even know that I would vote for him, but it’d be valuable to hear what he has to say.

So if you agree and want to affect real change, forget your representative in Congress. I would voice your displeasure starting with these organizations right here:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Graffiti, Section 1

Unbeknownst to most, there is a wealth of graffiti down by the Mississippi river. It's as if a modern-day Tom Sawyer is getting kids to spray paint works of art instead of giving the levies the old white wash. Regardless, 200 photos later, I have about half of it recorded. This is the first section. I'll post more sections as I stitch them together.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Discover me!

This past weekend I was talking with some friends and one of them mentioned that they were getting a lot of interns at work lately who came across as entitled and even seemed to possess a certain, “I’m better than you” attitude. They asked if I had experienced the same thing.

My response was that I saw it more in the applicants we received than the ones we had hired. The interns we’ve had the fortune of bringing on have been smart, hardworking kids—so I don’t know that it’s necessarily symptomatic of the entire generation, as my friend was implying.

I do, however, remember one applicant in particular. He was connected somehow to one of our upper level managers and we were supposed to be considering him for a writer position. He didn’t have a portfolio, but was still given a test assignment. It was sloppy. The ideas were fine—honestly, better than expected—but there were typos everywhere.

A few writers and I were asked to interview him. Unfortunately I was running late, but when I got to the meeting it was clear that the other writers were tiptoeing around the elephant in the room. So I got right to it: “Why do you think you’re a writer? There are typos everywhere in these documents.” He said that his connection had told him he was “clever” and should “be a writer”, which is often how a lot of advertising writers get started, actually. He didn’t have any formal training, but said he was a big idea guy. He wanted “to be the guy who comes up with the big ideas.”

Yeah, get in line, pal.

It reminds me of a clip I recently saw from The X Factor.  Apparently, this girl had a look, had style and personality, but had picked a song that didn’t fit her voice. In a rare move, the judges were letting her come back and re-audition with a better song. Unfortunately, she was off-key in certain sections and just didn’t do well. When the judges told her the bad news, she broke down and said, “I have the look, I have personality, and I KNOW I have talent.”

 For the aspiring writer in the interview, I offered to help him become a writer if he wanted to build a portfolio, work on his craft and show me work at any point down the line. He might have talent, but I’ve never heard from him since.