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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in bud_webster's LiveJournal:

Saturday, December 30th, 2006
4:06 am
HELIX SF #3

The third issue of HELIX SF went live last night.  Early, yes, but first and foremost we didn't want Melanie (the WebWizard) to have to do it New Year's Day, and secondarily, we figured most people will be too busy themselves to do much in the way of recreational reading.

I'm proud of this issue.  Well, I'm proud of all of them, but this one in particular is pride-worthy.  Terrific stories by John Barnes (written especially for us), Eugie Foster, editor-in-cheese William Sanders, and one by Ian Watson and Roberto Quaglia which is sure to piss off the PETA-zombies.  Michael Payne's story made me near widdle myself laughing, and the stories by N. K. Jemisin and Samantha Henderson are haunting.

The poetry is first-rate too, if I do say so as shouldn't: Bruce Boston, Lawrence Schimel, Mikal Trimm and JoSelle Vanderhooft sent me their best, which is pretty damned good.

My own column is a tribute to my late friend Nelson Bond, and I'll say no more about it except that it is heart-felt.

Please do read the twin editorials, especially Lawrence's.  Understand that we are completely dependent on our readers' donations to pay the people whose stories and poetry we use.  We don't accept advertising, as don't sell subscriptions.  And I will point you at Peg Robinson's (author of the lovely "Tonino and the Incubus" in #2) mini-essay on the subject as further incitement.  The bowl is there at our feet, folks, feel free to drop a few pence in it.

                                                                                                          * * * 
I have the first issue of HUB MAGAZINE in hand, and aside from a couple of minor production flaws (they're considering a change of printer), it looks very good.  "Bubba Pritchert and the Space Aliens" is the lead, and therein is the first and only depiction of Mike, the alien AI, anyone has seen fit to do.  I think they got it pretty much right.  The material on the HUB website, like LOCUS ONLINE, will be slightly different from the print version, and will include podcasts.  There will eventually be a HUB Forum, but it's not active as yet.

One thing that struck me about the print version is its size - 8.25x8.25" square, which will set it right between the digests and the slicks on the stands.  I hope that works to their advantage.  Another thing is its weight; it's printed on glossy stock, full color, and it's gotta cost them a chunk of UK change to mail it.  Editor Lee Harris tells me that they intend to cut the weight by 11%, which will cut their mailing costs by a third.  Works for me.

                                                                                                          * * * 
The contract for "Bringing It All Back Home" came in and went out with the next day's mail, and I should see a check sometime in the next month or so.  It'll be welcome.

I've also gotten fan-mail about it already, believe it or not, from William Warren, who's been assigned the illustration.  Bill did the very first Bubba story back in '94, and he really likes this one.  We've already batted ideas back and forth, and he's sent me roughs; I think I'm going to be very happy with the result.  I'm looking forward to this one appearing, I'm hoping reader reaction will be positive.

                                                                                                          * * * 
In other writing news, I've sold two more "Curiosities" to F&SF.  No contracts yet, they'll be in after the first of the year.  I've also lined up the next few "Anthopology 101" installments for the SFWA BULLETIN, to wit and in order: Asimov's Tomorrow's Children and Tenn's Children of Wonder, subtitled "Kid's Stuff;" the first two books of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (Vol. I edited by Silverberg, Vols. IIa and IIb edited by Bova), subtitled "The Books that Saved SFWA;" and for the issue falling on or near Hallowe'en 2007, Conklin's Science Fiction Terror Tales, Wollheim's Terror in the Modern Vein, and Merril's Galaxy of Ghouls, all from 1953, subtitled "On Terror Firma."  This last was originally begun for CHRONICLE when I was still doing the column for DNA, but was never finished.

All that having been said, I'll add that I hope you all had a terrific ChristmaHannuKwansa or Festivus or whatever, and I further hope that 2007 beats the hell out of 2006.

Stay warm, stay dry, stay safe.

Friday, December 8th, 2006
2:51 am
Bubba the Fourth (redux)

Well, this is a nice pre-Christmas present: I have in hand a note from Stan Schmidt at Analog which says, in part:

"I like BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, and a contract is coming."

So, just in time for the holidays, a bit of good news (which is more than welcome).  The story runs 27.5k words, which (as I noted a couple of entries back) makes it the longest yarn I've ever written.  If Stan and I can agree on some of the corrections/clarifications he wants, it will run in the July/August 2007 issue, a scant four years after the last one.

For those of you keeping score, here's the chronology:

"Bubba Pritchert and the Space Aliens" - July/August 1994 Analog
"The Three Labors of Bubba" - June 1996 Analog
"Triumph in the Desert" - July/August 2003 Analog

So, as you can see, Bubba is a Boy of the Summer.  The first two scored AnLabs, the third placed fairly high (according to Stan) but didn't win.  I'm hoping this one will get the nod, and further hoping that it'll get some Hugo action.  We'll see what happens.  I don't think it'll get much in the way of Nebula recs, frankly.  If I didn't make the short list with "Christus Destitutus," after all, I doubt that I ever will.  But me like that tall, skinny rocket ship.

Now, back on September 22 I mentioned my plan to write some framing material to tie the three stories together into a novel; this is still the plan, but I'm going to add something that I had mentioned to a couple of people just as a joke previously: a listing of the various pop culture/literary references in the four stories, a Pritchert Concordance, if you will.  Enough people don't get them, or at least not all of them, that I figure, what the hell - I'll let everybody in on the jokes.

In other Bubbular news, the new UK magazine Hub has purchased the reprint rights to "Bubba Pritchert and the Space Aliens," and will launch on the 8th of this month.  Editor Lee Harris approached me last summer about it, and after some back and forth, a contract was signed and I got paid - which is always nice.  In an interview with him in The UK SF Book News Network, he has this to say about the story: "As for established names, the first story that I knew I wanted in Hub is a wonderfully comic tale of first contact - 'Bubba Pritchert and the Space Aliens' by Bud Webster. I first discovered Bud's work through his recent Nebula-nominated 'Christus Destitutus' and had to read more. I tracked him down and he agreed to let us reprint 'Bubba' which has been published before, and won some awards. We won't be reprinting much previously-published material in Hub but I had to share 'Bubba' with anyone else who hadn't read it, as I loved it so much."

Well, I can't quibble with that, now, can I?  Except that I should mention that "Christus Destitutus" isn't considered a Nebula nominee since it didn't make the final ballot, a minor error on Lee's part which I can easily forgive.

I have some other stories out at the moment, too, but I'll talk about them later.

Saturday, November 4th, 2006
9:56 pm
Nelson Bond: 1908-2006
I've just received a note from Lynn and Kitt Bond that their father, Nelson Slade Bond, died earlier today from complications due to a heart-valve problem.

Nelson Bond was one of the giants, a pulpster who made the transition to the slicks long before any of his colleagues. He began his writing career in newspapers and public relations, but went on to publish more than 500 short stories in magazines ranging from AMAZING to BLUE BOOK, the latter featuring a Bond story in nearly every issue for more than a decade. 

He was also one of the first writers to work in television, adapting not only his own works but those of others for a number of anthology programs. He told me of times when he was fractically typing scripts for a radio program while the actors were already live on the air, with secretaries rushing his stencils to the mimeograph machine. 

He published eight collections of his stories plus a novel; most of his work remains unreprinted. He was James Branch Cabell's personal choice as literary executor, which task he performed until the death of Cabell's widow. 

Nelson was a good friend, always willing to have us over for a beer and conversation, always willing to look over a story (until macular degeneration made it impossible), generous with his time and valuable advice. 

I had the privilege to know Nelson for more than a quarter of a century, both as a fan and as a fellow writer and antiquarian bookman, and was highly honored when he asked me to write his biography for the BULLETIN when SFWA named him Author Emeritus. He was witty, smart, acerbic, and frequently cranky - but he'd earned the right to be so long since. He allowed me to act as his agent for one story, "Pipeline to Paradise," which I was able to place with Roger Zelazny for the Wheels of Fortune anthology. Nelson insisted on paying me an agent's fee, which I took in the form of an autographed copy of my favorite of his collections, The Thirty-First of February, a title given him by Cabell. 

As is too often true in these cases, I hadn't spoken to Nelson in more than a year. I will always regret that. Nelson, I will miss you and your jokes, and your beer, and the hard, practical advice you gave me as a writer. May the earth rest lightly on you.

Nelson is survived by his sons, Kitt and Lynn, and his wife, Betty.
Monday, October 2nd, 2006
3:43 am
Helix SF #2, October 2006
The second issue of HELIX SF is up and running, with stories by Terry Bisson, Jay Lake, Jennifer Pelland, Peg Robinson, Vera Nazarian, Melanie Fletcher and Doranna Durgin. The Bisson and Robinson are, in my utterly non-humble opinion, two of the most striking and effective pieces of fiction I've read in a long, long time.  Jennifer Pelland's story ain't far behind, either.

There are also poems by Mike Allen, Greg Beatty, William Sanders and myself, and I do myself no favors by stating that mine is the weakest of the four - and none too weak at that.  The regular features are there as well: Steven Silver's column on alternate history, reviews by Lynn Calvin and Melanie Fletcher, editorials by William and Lawrence, and my own Past Masters column, this installment on the writings of early UFO contactee and Mt. Palomar fry-cook George Adamski.  We have a few real letters this time as well.

Overall, and I'm admittedly biased, a stronger issue than #1, for all that our first was still pretty damn terrific.  Take a look at us.  If you like what you see, then by all means bitch-slap that PayPal button until it whimpers.

I'm proud of the work I've done on and for HELIX, and I'm even more proud that we've been able to find stories of quality and import.  I welcome any and all discussion of same here, so click on the link up there in the first paragraph and find something to praise or condemn.  In the words of a Great and Terrible American, it's ALL good - white meat or dark?
Friday, September 22nd, 2006
3:23 am
Bubba the Fourth

So, the other day I finished the fourth - and last - of the Bubba Pritchert yarns, "Bringing It All Back Home," and in a week or so (after I've had a chance to let it cool off and take one more pass at it to sand down the joins) it'll be off to Stan Schmidt at Analog.

It's quite the longest story I've ever written at 26k words and pocket change, and I finished it in what is for me a blazing hot spate of non-stop writing.

Let me explain.  I began the story several years ago, and got it up to 17k or so before setting it aside for a number of non-fiction projects - all of which are not only easier, but pay better - and only got back to it this past July after finishing a particularly difficult column for the SFWA Bulletin on Ray Bradbury.*  After looking it over and noting just what needed to be added in order to finish it, I promised myself that I would have it ready to go by the end of August.  I only just missed that goal, for which I'm duly proud.**

I had enormous difficulty in obtaining some information, though, from a source I would have thought would not only be brimming over with it, but eager to cooperate with someone writing a story sympathetic to its own goals: NASA.  I called, I e-mailed, I called back and sent follow-up e-mail, and got little or no response.  I thought, silly me, that I was going through the right channels by contacting the people NASA wants writers to contact, namely the PR and Media people.  I'd get a friendly "Gee, that's a good question.  Give me your number and I'll call you back," then I'd never hear back from them.

This went on for almost six weeks, and I was at my wit's end; I had one last important scene to write in which Bubba is fitted for a space suit, and I could find nobody who could simply walk me through the process so I could get it right.***  Finally, Mary piped up and suggested (not for the first time) that I call the folks at Space Camp.  I did, and was almost immediately shunted to a very nice man who told me exactly what I needed to know, even passing along a bit of jargon to make it read more authentic.  He was as tickled to be of help as I was that he helped me.

So, I wrote the last scene, then went over the manuscript**** to make sure all the connective tissue was there and to basically tweak it by adding a line here, a paragraph there, and using this more appropriate word rather than that more stupid one.

Then off to the First Readers (you know who you are) for comments, the which I await with breath bated.

And a phenomenon I've noticed in the past, albeit less consciously than this time, occurred: post-story depression.  I've been thinking of nothing but the story for the last six weeks at least, every waking moment devoted to this scene or that bit of dialog, finding the right way to describe day one of the cross-country journey***** and the proper way to handle the press conference, and generally writing, writing, writing in my head from the time I get up to the time I fall into bed, whether or not I'm actually at the keyboard.

Now, by and large, it's over.  Oh, I'll get a handful of suggestions or corrections from the FRs that I'll have to deal with, but the fire is still raging, and I don't have a ready project at hand to take the heat.******  So there's a sense of let-down, of anxiety as I wait for the FRs to get back to me so I can close the door on this project and move on.  I've noticed it before, but it's been several years since I actually finished a fiction project******* and this aspect of the process had just slipped from my memory.

So, once I've finally heard back from everyone, I'll assiduously begin sifting through the unfinished stories on the metaphorical spike and find one I can use to maintain this sense of momentum, as well as beginning work on the next Anthopology column.

A sidelight to indicate just how different the corporate world can be from the scientific: I needed some information on the Segway vehicles, since I was planning to give Mike, the alien artificial intelligence that is Bubba's boon companion, some "legs."  I went to their website and found some of it, but I wanted to make sure of not only the technical data, but usage requirements as well.  I contacted their Media department, expecting the same kind of run-around I got from NASA, and was pleasantly surprised when, upon calling to follow up the next day, I was briefed by another very nice person - this one female - who gave me the wherefores for the legal use of trademarks and such, and who had forwarded my e-mail questions to one of the software engineers who gave me all the help I could possibly use to make sure that what I wrote matched reality.  He was enthusiastic about the story, and made several good, solid suggestions which I adapted for the final version.

This was, I will hasten to add, mirrored almost exactly by the people I spoke to at Johnson Space Center in Houston, specifically the good folks at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, who not only set me straight about training time in the tank there, but were equally helpful with data about the "Vomit Comet," both of which are important to the story.  Apparently, it helps enormously if you can actually get with someone in coveralls instead of a suit, and this is the route I'll take in future.

As for the story itself...well, if it doesn't sell to Analog, and I can't really imagine it won't, it'll pop up somewhere.  I'll let you know about it here.  I'll also let you know here and now that I am planning to take all four stories, add some framing material in the form of quotes from blog entries, e-mails, letters and newspaper articles to tie them together into what the Brits call a "fix-up" novel.  No publisher as yet, of course, but I think I can probably find one or two who might be interested.

Next time, more about commercials, bad and good.  Ta.



_________________________
*See "Anthopology 101: Of Purest Ray Serene" in the Summer 2006 issue.
**I have lousy writing habits.  Ask Mary.
***Believe me, when you write stories for Analog, you HAVE to get this stuff right.  If you don't, you'll get a dozen notes from readers in the industry gleefully pointing out how wrong you were.
****All 87 pages of it.
*****You'll have to buy the magazine when it comes out, I ain't gonna tell you.
******Or, rather, I have too many.  Just not one that screams louder than the others.
*******"Frog Level (Is Not Congruent to) Frog Level", for those of you keeping track, and that was four goddam years ago!

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006
4:14 pm
What I Did Last Summer, By Little Buddy Webster, Age 54

When I was a kid, I had it all; however, none of it was anything anyone else wanted.  I was smart, I was mouthy, I was fat, and I read all the time.  They might as well have stuck a flashing neon target on my back.  The only thing I didn't have (aside from friends, popularity, and a safe route home after school) was the position of Teacher's Pet - but only because I was mouthy to the teachers, too.

I got my ass kicked on a regular basis.  It was well understood around the bully water-cooler that I was more or less fair game.  I suspect that there was some kind of schedule they made up between themselves so that they all got their shot and none of them were left out.  I have visions of them standing around the boy's room at elementary school, alternately dropping cherry bombs in the toilets and smoking their social studies books while their Secretary for Victim Allocation said something like, "Okay, Butch.  You've got him on Tuesday on the playground.  Munchy, Wednesday after school.  Don't forget his itinerary; Wednesday is route A-65/2396-X, so if you can get set up at the end of the alley, he'll run right into you.  Joe-Bob, how's Thursday for you?"  And so on.  The only reason I didn't get beat up by girls was that they wouldn't even have that much to do with me.

This went on for several years, or, in kid-years, just short of all my life.  My father, being a father, was adamant that I should fight back; that, he insisted, was the only way to teach a bully a lesson.  All I know is that the bullies in his day must have been smarter, because the only thing that ever happened when I did fight back was that they kicked my ass that much worse.  My mother just thought I should associate with a better class of people.  Like this was my choice.

Three things happened in close proximity to change what otherwise might have been a proto-Columbine where I brought three or four squirt-guns to school and started wetting everyone down at random.  I'll mention all three, but I'll concentrate on what I think is the most important.

The first thing that happened is that I started taking judo lessons at the local YMCA.  Nothing spectacular, just rolling around on the floor slapping the mat for the first few weeks, and doing calisthenics, which I hated.  But the uniform was cool.

This was supposed to not only give me the tools with which to fight back, but to instill such self-confidence that I could, in theory, walk away from a fight, head held high, serene in the knowledge that I was a Better Person than they were.  The only time I actually tried this I got hit from behind, knocked to the ground, and then got my ass kicked anyway.  Judo did come in handy later, I'll admit, but that's another story for another time.

The second thing that happened was that my father bought me my first guitar and amp.  It was from Sears, and the whole set-up probably cost him about $125 in today's money.

Now, I'd been listening to rock'n'roll all my life, what with having two older sisters who liked Chuck Berry and Elvis and Frankie Avalon and Dion, and who listened to the local top-40 station all the time.  I grew up with what were, by the time I heard them oldies (both sisters being my elders by at least a decade), and segued from that into the Beatles, the Stones, and other Brit Invasion bands.

So, from the very day that I got that guitar, I sat down with my sisters' records, plus the few of my own I'd been able to buy on my allowance and with paper-route money, and I played along with them until I knew them by heart.

Judo be darned, the thing that instilled me with a sense of self-confidence wasn't the ability to throw an opponent to the mat and then choke him, but the skill to play "Louie Louie" or "My Generation" before any of my classmates could.  With a guitar in my hand, I was unassailable, invincible, and girls actually smiled at me.  That I seemed to have a talent for it was beside the point - the miracle of the dancing bear, it is rightly said, is not how well it dances, but that it dances at all.

I would play music, for fun and for profit, until well into my thirties; I'm still at home backstage at a club, or on either side of a mixing board in a recording studio, and I'm proud of all of it.

The third and most important thing that happened was that I made one of the bullies laugh.  I was standing, arms held by two cronies (bullies always seem to have cronies, or minions, or henchmen, or dacoits or whatever you want to call them, probably from a local jobbing house that supplies them for a fee); the bully in front of me was leaning forward in battle-stance, his fists balled up, ready to wail on me like John Coltrane playing "My Favorite Things;" and something smart-assed and probably suicidal just popped into my head.

Pain is an absolute.  I figured that anything I said wasn't going to make what was going to happen hurt any more, so what the heck, I might as well say it and be darned (I was a staunch Baptist in those days, and did not Swear).  So I said it.  I have no idea what it was, mind you, it's been lost in the annals of time.  But the bully - we'll call him Stomper, since that was his specialty - stopped, cocked his head, and said, "What did you say?"

Tossing all caution to the winds, into which I was convinced my blood, tears and bits of clothing would soon follow, I repeated it, with perhaps a simple and subtle elaboration.

Stomper snorted.  He rocked back on his heels, and looked at me with wide eyes.  Then he began making a choking noise in the back of his throat, right where you apply lung pressure when you want to hock a loogey, and dropped his hands to his sides.

All of a sudden, I realized he was laughing.  His cronies/henchmen/minions/dacoits realized it too, and looked uncomprehendingly at him and then each other.  Clearly this wasn't covered in the crony/henchman/whatever handbook.  They relaxed their grips on my arms.

Now, I could have run at this point.  I might not have gotten far, but we were only a block or so from my house, and I might have been able to out-maneuver them until I got to my front porch, universally recognized as Sanctuary.  But I didn't run.

Instead, I stood there, book-bag at my feet, knees trembling, sweat rolling down my back (in October, please note), and told another joke.  This time his two whatevers started laughing.  So I told another one, cribbing unashamedly from every Shelly Berman or Bob Newhart album I'd ever heard, every Bill Cosby or Jackie Mason bit I'd seen on Ed Sullivan.  I even sang a little Tom Lehrer.

And I saw something I'd never seen before, never even considered as a possibility, something that shines out in my mind like a rare gem in a pawnshop window: I saw the bullies on the ground, helpless, with me standing over them.  And nobody was bleeding, nobody was crying, nobody was even hurt (unless you counted their sides).  It was...a revelation.  After a while, they got up, said goodbye, and I walked home in one piece.  For once.

A couple of days later, I was on my way home from school when I ran into yet another one of my tormenters with his whatevers, standing in my path with his arms folded across his chest.  "Hey, you," he said belligerently.  "Say something funny."

So I did, and they laughed, and again I walked away clean.  

Oh, I still got my ass kicked once in a while.  One time I succeeded in making the arm-holders laugh at the bully himself, and earned the worst whupping I ever got.  But eventually I got it down to a science, and gradually the ass-kicking stopped.

But my smart-assery never has, and, the fates willing, never will.

Monday, July 10th, 2006
6:47 pm
I see by the paper....
This entry has nothing to do with commercials, advertising, or writing - at least, not mine. It's an obituary (again, not mine), one that ran in yesterday's (Sunday, July 9) RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH. I'll post the URL, but just in case this goes away, I'm quoting the obit in full below that.

http://www.legacy.com/TimesDispatch/DeathNotices.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonID=18382676


Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark, who had tired of reading obituaries noting other's courageous battles with this or that disease, wanted it known that he lost his battle as a result of an automobile accident on June 18, 2006. True to Fred's personal style, his final hours were spent joking with medical personnel while he whimpered, cussed, begged for narcotics and bargained with God to look over his wife and kids. He loved his family. His heart beat faster when his wife of 37 years Alice Rennie Clark entered the room and saddened a little when she left. His legacy was the good works performed by his sons, Frederic Arthur Clark III and Andrew Douglas Clark MD, PhD., along with Andy's wife, Sara Morgan Clark. Fred's back straightened and chest puffed out when he heard the Star Spangled Banner and his eyes teared when he heard Amazing Grace. He wouldn't abide self important tight *censored*. Always an interested observer of politics, particularly what the process does to its participants, he was amused by politician's outrage when we lie to them and amazed at what the voters would tolerate. His final wishes were "throw the bums out and don't elect lawyers" (though it seems to make little difference). During his life he excelled at mediocrity. He loved to hear and tell jokes, especially short ones due to his limited attention span. He had a life long love affair with bacon, butter, cigars and bourbon. You always knew what Fred was thinking much to the dismay of his friend and family. His sons said of Fred, "he was often wrong, but never in doubt". When his family was asked what they remembered about Fred, they fondly recalled how Fred never peed in the shower - on purpose. He died at MCV Hospital and sadly was deprived of his final wish which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party. In lieu of flowers, Fred asks that you make a sizable purchase at your local ABC store or Virginia winery (please, nothing French - the *censored*) and get rip roaring drunk at home with someone you love or hope to make love to. Word of caution though, don't go out in public to drink because of the alcohol related laws our elected officials have passed due to their inexplicable terror at the sight of a MADD lobbyist and overwhelming compulsion to meddle in our lives. No funeral or service is planned. However, a party will be held to celebrate Fred's life. It will be held in Midlothian, Va. Email fredsmemory@yahoo.com for more information. Fred's ashes will be fired from his favorite cannon at a private party on the Great Wicomico River where he had a home for 25 years. Additionally, all of Fred's friend (sic) will be asked to gather in a phone booth, to be designated in the future, to have a drink and wonder, "Fred who?"

Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 7/9/2006. 

********

Now, I didn't know Fred Clark, and I strongly suspect that we were diametrically opposed politically, but were he still above ground I would gladly shake his hand. Anyone with the balls to do this gets his props, my respect, and my affection.  THIS is the way to go out.  I hope his kids are damned proud of him.

Now, to get to work on my own obit....
Wednesday, June 28th, 2006
12:39 pm
What Were They Thinking? Part the Third
I saw an ad night before last that I'm having trouble believing. I know I saw it, but I was so open-mouthed about it that I don't recall for the life of me what the product was, aside from a diet aid. In this case, that's a blessing.

It featured an African-American "comedian" costumed like a bottle of the product being advertised - which is, in itself, bad enough - doing what we used to call "playing the dozens" or "signifying."  To wit, he was declaiming (and I use that word advisedly) a series of nasty and mean-spirited insults aimed at fat people.  The editing was faux-hip, with lots of jump cuts to make it seem more emphatic.

And that was it.  Just fat joke after deliberately hurtful fat joke.  Nothing those of us who might be customers for the product hadn't already heard hundreds of times - hurled at us by bullies and thugs, people who consider themselves wits, but who are only half-right. Nothing that didn't make many of us cry alone at night after school, wondering how people could be that cruel and not implode from their own hate.  Nothing we haven't had to pretend time and time again we didn't hear, while the flush of humiliation and helpless anger rose to make our cheeks burn red.

There was a brief voiceover about the product and availability, then it ended with this same "comedian" spitting at the camera, "Fat-fat-fat-fatty-fat McFat-Pants!"

I won't ask the usual questions.  You're asking them yourself already.  Yes, some ad-grunt thought this was a good idea (and got paid for it).  Yes, the agency okayed it, it was cast and produced.  And yes, the client bought time for it on national television.

I could go off here, more so than I already have, and use words like "insensitive," "ignorant," or even "bastards" or "pricks."  I won't, unless I see it again, at which time I will, in fact, note the manufacturer's name, find their website or mailing address, and let them know how truly bad, how utterly unspeakable and completely insulting this campaign is to the very demographic they're trying to sell to.

Nothing funny here today, folks.  Nothing funny at all.
Thursday, June 15th, 2006
1:54 am
HELIX SF: A QUARTERLY ON-LINE MAGAZINE OF SPECULATIVE FICTION
I am proud and delighted to announce the launch, as of midnight tonight, of a new on-line sf/fantasy magazine, HELIX SF.

In the past week, a lot has been said about controversial stories and the inherent problems of writing and publishing them, but Jim Grimsley's recent experience with the publishers of ASIMOV'S was simply the latest straw on an already groaning camel's back. There is, and has always been, a need for a venue for untouchable (but eminently publishable) speculative fiction in the spirit of Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions, and we've been working on this one since March.

Take a look at http://www.helixsf.com/. No registration or subscription is necessary - and never will be. Read the editorials by Senior Editor and Mean Old Bastard Emeritus William Sanders, and Managing Editor and Freelance Pedant Lawrence Watt-Evans to see where we are now and where we intend to go.  Read the stories by Rick Bowes, Janis Ian, and Adam Troy-Castro; I think you'll be intrigued and perhaps moved.

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006
2:56 am
The Unanswered Questions, pt. the First
Am I the only one who thinks that the new Lexus ad with the robot arms and fingers sensuously stroking the exterior and (oh, ICK) interior of the vehicle is more than a little creepy?

Am I the only one who wonders how the BASE-jumping commuter in the Grand Vitara ad gets back up to his house at the end of the workday?

Am I the only one who thinks the VW Jetta ads about stereotypes are as witty as a bag of rusted hammers? (For this, they stopped running the wonderful "unpimp your ride" campaign?  Ooh, schnap!)

Am I the only one who thinks Jon Lovitz is wasted in the Subway ads?

Am I the only one who would pay good money to see that unctuous, smarmy, glad-handing Ditech asshole savagely beaten with rolled-up loan forms until his eyes cross?

Am I the only one who figures that, by now, Royal Caribbean Cruises has found out that their theme music is about a heroin addict, but it's too late to change it, and in any case, anyone who listens to Iggy and the Stooges is unlikely in the extreme to book a cruise with them when they could just as easily go to Disney World?

Am I the only one who is convinced that, somewhere in the bowels of the Verizon home office, some poor bastard is sitting for hours at a time with a phone clamped to his ear saying, "Yes...yes...yes, I can hear you...Oh god, just shoot me now!  Yes...."?

Am I the only one who thinks those utterly non-ironic Ovaltine ads are vaguely...disturbing?

And lastly:

Am I the only one who would love to run over that goddam Geico lizard with a Garden Weasel?
Wednesday, May 17th, 2006
6:24 pm
Anthopology 101
The Spring 2006 issue of the SFWA BULLETIN is in hand, this one the special annual Nebula Awards issue.  Doranna Durgin does a frightening (if accurate) overview of health insurance for freelancers; Bruce Holland Rogers, Leslie What and Jerry Oltion collaborate on an article about collaborating; Alexis Gilliland gleefully bemoans the changes in science that have made science-fiction largely irrelevant; Steve Carper talks about the battle between stars Google and the Author's Guild; and there's my column, of course, this one about science-themed anthologies.

But that's not why I'm posting here today.  Well, perhaps peripherally, but certainly not primarily.

The Resnick/Malzberg Dialogue is long-running BULLETIN column featuring "debates" between two disparate, but equally experienced, writers/editors, Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg.  They choose a topic, then back-and-forth it in an attempt to clarify, prove, or disprove their central thesis.

In this issue, the subject is critics, not limited to in-field critics by any means.  They decide that criticism is almost certainly an integral part of sf/fantasy, and inevitable as well, a contention that I don't necessarily agree with.  But again, that's not the subject of this post.

At a recent convention, the moderator of a panel introduced me, in part, as "writer, poet, bibliographer, and critic."  I was startled by this.  Well, not by the first three, but by the fourth.  Am I, in point of fact, a critic?  The thought was a little daunting - I don't believe for a minute that I'm qualified to be a critic, I barely qualify as a reviewer.  Now, it's true that I hang with critics on-line: John Clute, Mike Ashley, the inestimable Malzberg himself, and I had frequent exchanges both on-line and through the mails with Damon Knight.  But me, a critic?

So, while digesting my lunch this afternoon in the aftermath of this issue's Dialogue, I considered my position vis-a-vis the field of sf/fantasy, trying to determine just what my purpose was in writing the kinds of things I write about the genre.

I am, I decided, a tour guide.  I walk my readers through the halls of sf, pointing out the interesting bits and describing their relative importance.  I take people into the side-rooms where odd-ball things are stored, trying to show how, in the full schema, they all fit together into a gestalt.  Sometimes, I lower my voice and whisper some iota of gossip about some book or person or painting just to hear the tourists gasp and/or laugh, then say in my normal voice, "So we're walking, we're walking..." and go on to the next exhibit.

In every case, my intent is to inform; in every case, I want my tourists to walk away enlightened - and entertained.  After all, they could always go to another museum, another historic site, another alligator farm.

So, whereas I am frequently critical of sf and fantasy, I do not consider myself anything other than a purveyor of facts, some speculations, and maps to the stars' homes.

Sometimes, I even get to drive the bus and use the microphone.

(It isn't necessary to be a member of SFWA to subscribe to the BULLETIN, it's available to anybody with a valid credit card or checking account that actually has money in it.  Go to http://sfwa.org/bulletin/ for details.)
Monday, May 15th, 2006
5:46 pm
Things that make you go "Oh, ICK!"
Just a quick note to the ad-grunts out there who are considering additions to the plethora of badly animated "characters" in TV commercials:

Lower-middle class Brooklyn/Bronx/Queens louts constructed from mucous, along with their friends and family, are not funny or cute, no matter how long the conga line is.  Especially when they leave a trail of green slime.  The tastelessness of phlegm-personification would seem to be a no-brainer, but go figure; not even Ren and Stimpy went that far.  I'd almost rather watch Mr. Hanky (but not quite).

Toe-nail gremlins.  Isn't that enough for me to say?  Probably not.  It's uncomfortable enough to  contemplate real fungal infections and the pain and itching they cause.  Do we have to see these nasty little bastards lifting the nails up and digging around?  In herds?

Badly designed bumble bees with bedroom eyes and bad Fernando Lamas accents get up my nose - literally.  It's bad enough that Nasonex has side-effects than might include bleeding without this little sumbitch flying around trying to correct the ignorance of equally badly-designed owls.  Where are the people who drove the Frito Bandito back into the shadows when you need them?  Or is your culture being misrepresented as seducers somehow preferable?

I won't even mention that silly little migraine monster - anyone troubled with migraines knows how insulting it is to have your pain and anguish reduced to something from a bad Ub Iwerks short.

More later.
Saturday, May 13th, 2006
5:40 am
AD-nimals, Part the Second
Okay, last time we talked about bears (ugh) and that goddam gecko, as well as the AFLAC duck. Heres a few more animals, this time ones I like.

The duck, by the way, would appear to be Jewish, at least culturally. In the latest spot, where a married couple sit on their porch talking about how lucky they are to have AFLAC, the duck marches jauntily down the front stairs, their bill payments in beak, to the mailbox. At one point, striving mightily to open the box with his feet, the duck utters a heart-felt "Oyyyyy!" of frustration. Nothing definite - I, myself utter the occasional "oy", heart-felt or otherwise - but indicative nevertheless.

Anyway, onward.  Cows.  Real California Cheese is making a definite play for Wisconsin's market share.  They're doing it with Happy Cows.  Not Laughing Cow, mind you (although there are plenty of cows laughing in the spots), but Happy Cows.

These ads are da BOMB.  Well written, terrific voice casting (I spotted Allison Janney and Edie McClurg amongst others), and funny as hell.  

Cow: "Do you think cows are pretty?"  
Bull: (wearily) "Yes."
Cow: "Would you marry a cow?"
Bull: "Look, could we just have our ball back?"
Cow: "You mean this ball?" (kicks the ball into the next area code)
Bull: "Okay, she's on our team!"

Don't even get me started on the cows ringing the farmer's doorbell and running, or the photo op with the infant, or hitting the snooze button.  If these ads were available on DVD, I'd join NetFlix in a heartbeat.

From cows to something almost as furry: cavemen.  Now, I've gone on at length here about how much I hate that damned lizard, but Geico has managed to do some funny commercials without the little bastard.  Right now, they're running an ad - the third in a series - featuring the slogan "It's so easy, a caveman could do it!" with the reactions of real cavemen who have apparently survived and gone on to better things, like large LA apartments, light piano jazz, and roast duck with mango salsa.  My only problem is that they're hammering the current spot hard, with heavy rotation on a number of channels.  they need to do more, or bring back the first two.

For me, the pinnacle is the expression on the face of the caveman sitting in a plush restaurant with a friend and the Geico spokesman who is abjectly apologizing for the slur and indicating that they didn't even know there were still any cavemen around.  When the waiter shows up to take their orders, he politely says, "I don't believe I have much of an appetite," then gives the spokesman such a LOOK you could plotz.  Great campaign, but lets see a few more; don't wear this one out.  And kill that damn gecko, willya?

One more thing and then I'm outta here.  The kid in the jello commercial dancing with the "cow" is my HERO.  If I coulda danced like that when I was a pudgy kid his age, I'd have a million dollars now AND a Ferrari.  He's got my vote for American Idol.

So long until next time; I'll try not to make it as long a wait.
4:24 am
What Were They Thinking, Part the Second
Oh, GOD.  They've done it again.  You'd think they'd have learned, but apparently they don't read this blog.  I swear, if these people would just call me....

There's a new Hardee's ad.  Instead of the speechless - but certainly not silent - spots that came before, this one has dialog.  If you want to call it that.

It features two Joisey cabbies, muttering unintelligible gibberish, as one slogs down (wait for it, now) a double cheese burger with a Philly steak sub on top.  As God is my witness, I am not making this up.  This obscenely huge portion of food would feed a family of four with leftovers.  If they'd dropped a couple of bags of these from airplanes into Biafra in 1968, the world would be a different place today

These two dirtbags - and they are, make no mistake about it - are argle-bargling about this sandwich from Hell, while their dialog runs across the bottom of the screen as subtitles.

Mother of Mary, what the hell were they THINKING?  Why on God's green Earth is this supposed to make anybody hungry?  HOW is it supposed to?  Two completely incomprehensible, inarticulate yahoos, one talking with his mouth full of greasy food, and both carrying on a conversation straight out of Harold Pinter, are supposed to make me hungry?  For this abomination?  OH, my people.  

And the worst thing is, some ad-grunt as some agency not only pitched this campaign, but got paid for it.

No, the worst thing is, it's probably working.  For some unfathomable reason, these repellent ads are actually selling Hardee's food.  I cannot imagine why, and I refuse to speculate about it, it's too depressing.  But if they weren't working, they'd have killed the campaign like Pizza Hut seems to have ditched that disturbing Jessica Simpson spot where she gives some 13 year-old kid his first erection.

If it is, if this awful campaign is, in fact, working, I refuse to visit any Hardee's for any reason for fear of encountering the kind of microcephalic goombahs who the ads WOULD attract.
Wednesday, April 12th, 2006
3:40 am
AD-nimals
(Sorry I haven't had a chance to add to this lately, but work's been a royal pain and I gotta put it first no matter what.)

Animals in ads.  Talking/singing dogs and cats I can cope with, or, at worst, ignore.  They're cute, they're fuzzy, and if they're pimping for flea treatment or kitty litter, at least it's stuff you need if you have dogs and/or cats (or ferrets, or gerbils, or any mammal that doesn't breathe through the top of its head, I guess).

But there's one mammal I want to address tonight, one that's been bothering me for as long as the damn campaign has been running: the Charmin bears.

I suppose that to some ad-grunt the idea was irresistible.  Yeah, bears DO, in fact, do it in the woods (heh-heh...he said "do it..." huhhuhhuhhuh...), but I suspect that it's only in the Charmin ads that they actually use toilet paper afterwards.

And you know, the worst thing about those ads isn't the cute little dances they do, or the incredibly moronic idea that one only needs FOUR GODDAM SQUARES of toilet tissue to finish the paperwork.  Neither of those are the worst aspects of this campaign.  

The worst thing about this whole misguided, misbegotten advertising campaign which features animated anthropomorphic bears taking craps in the woods in between doing cute little dances and then cleansing themselves with the advertised product...worse than the pastel color palette, worse than the faux-whimsical music and the carefully non-threatening character design, worse even than the running-around-with-legs-crossed saccharinity of the concept as a whole, worse than all of that...are their ecstatic expressions, and the three or four wavy lines that emanate from their heads, during their MOMENT OF TRUTH.

That's right, friends and neighbors, in case you missed it, we actually get to SEE these damn bears shit in the woods, and they really, really seem to enjoy it.  At least, that's what the agency art-grunts went out of their way to depict.  You wanna clean up TV, Rev. Wildmon?  Then forget about the sex and violence and go after the damn bears.

Bears and toilet paper...what kind of brain-dead agency hack came up with THAT?  Don't get me started....

At least bears are fuzzy.  There's another animal that I'm even more sick and tired of, and that's the GEICO gecko (sorry, Mike).  Come on, guys, you've had at least three different versions of this damn thing, and none of them have worked for more than about three spots.  The latest incarnation, the Cockney gecko, is the worst you've done yet - the last time I heard a UK accent that bad, Dick van Dyke was dancing with penguins.  IT DOESN'T WORK!  It's off-putting, it isn't funny, it isn't cute, and - here's the kiss of death - it sounds like a con-man, a carney barker, a Soho three-card-monty artist with a graduate degree in Flim-Flam.  I wouldn't trust it as far as I could kick it in Doc Martens.

In fact, the only time it's worked as a corporate mascot was when it was playing mute second-string to the Blond Nerd, a campaign I thoroughly enjoyed, and was genuinely funny and well-produced.  THAT guy I'd have bought insurance from, if only to see the gecko do the robot.

We'll get into the cavemen next time.  Ta for now.
Friday, March 31st, 2006
1:44 am
Anthopology 101, part deux
Okay, where was I? Right. DNA.

I did five columns for Science Fiction Chronicle over the next year, covering everything from Heinlein's Tomorrow, the Stars (which he didn't actually edit) and Leinster's Great Stories of SF (which he did) to Zacherley, Wollheim, and Boucher (that two-volume Treasury that the SF Book Club kept in print for decades). However, it became more and more evident that Warren and I could be friends or we could work together, so we severed business relations and once again, I was looking for a home.

Enter Mark Kreighbaum and the SFWA Bulletin.

I'd approached Mark earlier, before I went with DNA, but he didn't have the space at the time. When DNA and I parted company, though, I sent out still more feelers and someone passed one along to Mark. This time, he was interested, and my first column for the Bulletin - on The Eureka Years, Annette Peltz McComas's tribute to the early years of F&SF - ran in the Spring 2005 issue, my eighth installment overall.

This was, in several ways, a significant step forward for me. First and foremost, Mark pays me almost three times what Warren could, even though my ostensible word-length is 2k words as opposed to 3k at Chronicle. However, on those occasions when I needed more space, Mark has been more than willing to find it for me.

More than that, though, Mark gets it. Not only does he understand what I'm doing with Anthopology 101, not only does he enjoy the columns and the way I write them, he thinks all the minutiae and biblio-tweakery I get off on is cool, too. The more back-stage stuff I can dig up on the way a book was assembled, the better he likes it. To date, I've done another five installments for the Bulletin, with two more green-lighted and no end in sight.

What's coming up? Well, the next one is scheduled for the Spring 2006 issue, which will highlight the Nebulas. Since that issue contains more pages than the rest of the year, I was able to look at three books instead of the usual two, in this case, three science-themed anthologies: Great SF By Scientists, edited by Groff Conklin; Time Probe: The Sciences in SF, titularly edited by Arthur C. Clarke (but in fact ghosted by Robert Silverberg); and Great SF Stories By the World's Great Scientists, edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg and Charles Waugh. I was able to get solid information about the books from Silverberg, Greenberg, and several of the authors.

Still in prep is a column about two anthologies Ray Bradbury did for Bantam back in the 1950s, for which Bradbury's biographers William Nolan and Donn Albright have supplied information, and for which Albright has offered to conduct an interview with Bradbury for me. After that will be a piece on Judith Merril's first two hardcover anthologies, Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time and Beyond Human Ken. After that...who knows? I'll come up with something.

Sometime soon, after another rant about bad TV commercials maybe, I'll talk about the Curiosities pieces I've been doing for F&SF.

Later.
Thursday, March 30th, 2006
2:39 am
Anthopology 101
Not much to say about commercials right now (I told you I wasn't going to do this every day), but there's other stuff going on so I may as well use this forum to talk about it.

All of you know, I'm sure, that I'm a writer, as in published professionally by markets who write me checks, not as in "published by some faceless internet yobbo with a website who'll let me upload my stories FOR FREE! or who will lie to me about how traditional publishers never, ever publish new writers, it's a conspiracy, and who will charge me a ridiculous amount of money to print and bind - badly - a trade paperback that I can give away to my friends and family because nobody will ever buy it, instead of just taking the goddam thing to Kinkos so I can at least have a decent cover and get the pagination right."  You know, the real kind of writer.

As such, Mary gets cranky with me (rightly so) for not writing more, or at least for not writing more fiction.  Fair enough.  Once I'm on the other side of my seasonal job, I'll get right on it.  I promise.

In the meantime, I do write a lot of non-fiction, specifically articles about stf/fantasy, mostly because it's way easier and pays better, but also because I can actually get paid for showing off all this abstruse and obscure knowledge about the history of the stf field that I've been accumulating over the past 35+ years, which I'd be doing anyway if I were at your house or at a convention, but at least when I write it down I don't have to see that glazed look in your eyes.

Whew.  Gimme a minute to catch my breath.

Okay.  So, back in 2001, I hooked up with Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri (how, at this remove, I just don't remember) who were doing a small, but well-respected, magazine called bare*bones, which was the successor to their even more highly-regarded The Scream Factory.  I had been thinking about a series of articles which would examine stf/fantasy through the pages of old anthologies, but was at a loss for a publication venue.  The two perfect fanzines, Lan Laskowski's Lan's Lantern and Dick Geis's Alien Critic/SF Review, were long gone by then, and I was unfamiliar with the more current crop of 'zines.  I also knew that none of the major fiction magazines would be interested in such a think unless I could keep it to under 1000 words, and I just didn't think I could do a book justice in what amounted to four manuscript pages.

So either someone alerted me to the existence of bare*bones or someone alerted them to me.  Whichever the case, the first column, Anthopology 101: The Pohl Stars, appeared in vol. 3 #1 of that magazine - which was their last.  This, after they'd greenlighted me to do at least one more piece for them, an abbreviated version of the Groff Conklin index you're all so damn tired of hearing about.

Peter and John had little or no money for content after producing the magazine, which I knew going in.  Still, you have to start somewhere; it was publication, and they let me pretty much do what I wanted, which made up for a lot.  However, I was now cast back into the howling abyss of not having a home for the column, and I was determined to continue them regardless.

Next stop was The New York Review of SF, again, a highly-regarded and critically acclaimed magazine, this one semi-pro (which means they pay, but not a lot).  They were interested not only in the abbreviated Conklin piece, but in reprinting the Pohl article as well.  They appeared in issues #161 (January 2002) and 162 (September 2002).

But I was uneasy at NYRoSF: they didn't pay much at all, and they took their own sweet time about doing it.  So, I began sending out feelers once again, which culminated in the owner/publisher of DNA, Warren Lapine, approaching me at a con in Durham that August to do the column for Science Fiction Chronicle.  We negotiated the important stuff like word rates and column length over the next few months and the third installment, The Best of Time and Space, appeared in the February 2004 issue.  This one was a comparison of the first two important sf anthologies, The Best of Science Fiction (edited by Groff Conklin, Crown 1946) and Adventures in Time and Space (edited by Healy and McComas, Random House 1946), and would establish the basic format of the subsequent columns: take two (or more) books, connected thematically or otherwise, place them in historic context both in and out of the field, then slam them together hard to see what squishes out from between the pages.

Now, Science Fiction Chronicle paid a lot better than NYRoSF, but there were more space constraints, which meant that I wouldn't be able to cover certain series, or do more than two books at a time.  This, although inconvenient, didn't rank very high on my bitch-o-meter, especially since DNA was paying me pro rates.

And here I'll end this chapter in the history of Anthopology; more tomorrow, perhaps.
Sunday, March 26th, 2006
4:39 am
The Good Stuff, Part the First
You'd never have thought that Gilbert Gottfried and Stan Winston would meet, would you? I mean, any circumstances under which the two would cross paths - let alone work together - might border on the disturbing.

But back in 2000 they did, and one of my favorite ad campaigns was born: the AFLAC duck.

Oh, come on, they're funny as hell. Write your own blog. The scripting is good, Gottfried's voicing is (as usual) spot-on, and Winston's manipulation of the stuffed duck (with a real duck filling in for long shots, I'm sure) is terrific. It's all about timing and delivery, folks, just like any other comedy, and although I'm sure the editing is what makes the ads what they are, the editors have great material to work with.

My favorite, I think, is the one with Yogi Berra at the barber shop, which came out in 2002. Berra's trademark malapropisms, uttered completely deadpan, are a perfect match for Gottfried's over-the-top frustration and confusion. Damn near soiled myself laughing first time I saw it.  But recent spots parodying noir, hard-boiled eggs sorry, detectives, and "Perils of Pauline"-type silent movies are almost as good.

It's a classic example of what the adgrunts call "branding." When you see the duck, you know immediately what the ad's for. If you heard that inimitable voice so much as sneeze, you'd think "AFLAC."  It's like with the Dell Dude, except without the pot.  And less annoying.

I realize that I'm going to get a lot of guff from some of you who can't stand the duck, but that's okay - I'm secure enough in my own anitididae-uality that I don't care.  And what if AFLAC had decided on a dugong for a mascot?  Who do you think they'd have gotten to voice that, Jerry Lewis?
Thursday, March 23rd, 2006
7:48 pm
What were they thinking? Part the first
Back in 1997, CKE, the parent corporation that operated Carl's Jr. fast food joints in the West, bought Hardees. They were welcome to it, frankly. I've never cared for the food (although Mary insists that they have the best biscuits) and their service has always had the worst rep in the industry.  There have been all too many times when the front line was deserted as the cashiers lined up at the back line waiting for orders to come through.  Bad management, and I've seen nothing to indicate that it's gotten better.

Nevertheless, they've been successful for whatever reason, although looking at their ads I can't figure it.  First of all, that logo is the worst I think I've ever seen.  Yeah, I know, it's a Carl's thing.  I don't care; it's way too generic to be attractive, it's silly at best, and it sinks into the background along whichever Miracle Mile the joint happens to be located.  There's no character there, there's no come-on.  It's static, soulless, and so damn cold that it could only have been dreamed up - and approved - by corporate bean-counters.

So, okay, leave that aside for a minute.  Let's look at the ads.  They've been running a national campaign featuring big, sweaty, greasy guys noisily munching on their equally greasy Thick Burgers* with hands that look like they were last washed during the Tet Offensive.  They lick their chops, they slop, they chumf, they wipe their mouths with the backs of their hands, they smack their lips...I swear to God, if they were first-graders they'd all be sent to Quiet Time.  I'm convinced that the only reason these guys don't tilt where they're sitting and fart is because some religious group would rise up righteous and boycott.  Otherwise, it'd be the campfire scene from Blazing Saddles all over again.

And THIS is supposed to make me want to eat?  By whom is this attractive?  I really can't imagine anyone who'd be convinced to transfer their brand loyalty to Hardees by watching these things, or even wanting to keep their loyalty with Hardees.  But let's face it, the primary skill of admen is selling stuff, right?  There's little functional difference between selling Joe Lunchpail a bad hamburger and selling Joseph Expense-Account III on the idea that filthy, greasy rednecks will sell their product.  Little difference except, that is, the multi-million dollar contract to produce TV spots for Hardees.  

Of course, we can't ignore the possibility that the CKE CEO (there, isn't that a clever juxtaposition?), for some unknown and unfathomable reason, wanted his customers portrayed as piggish day-laborers with the table manners of Bart Simpson and that the agency simply shrugged and went along with it. The race, after all, is not always to the swift nor the fight to the strong - but that's the way to bet it.

The result of this incomprehensible campaign is to indicate to me, anyway, that Hardees (and by extension, Carl's Jr. and CKE as a whole) holds its customer-base in contempt.  Come on, I've seen more attractive commercial "spokesmen" (none of whom ever speak - apparently they can't eat lunch and vocalize at the same time) on the Springer show with their shirts off.  Do I expect the campaign to go on?  Absolutely - nobody ever lost money underestimating the taste of the American people, after all.  I mean, look at Family Guy.

("What were they thinking?" will be a series of rants about commercial stupidity; collect the set.)

________
*Except for one where it's a sweaty, greasy woman truckdriver eating a salad, for God's sake, and all but rubbing it into her hair.  It is to ick.
3:45 am
Vigilo, ergo blogum.
So. I bend to the winds of technology and begin my blog. Huzzah. There's a reason, of course. There's always a reason. In this particular case, I've been threatened by my Significant Other with arcane tortures* if I don't create some other, less annoying (to her), venue for my nightly rants in front of the idiot-box during the commercial breaks. I don't get it, myself. I'd have thought she'd be grateful for the benefit of my experience** and my intimate knowledge of the innate quality (or lack of same) of commercial advertising, but NOOOooooo. SHE wants me to do it HERE, and, in her words, "Shut the hell up." Of course, she says it with great affection and lady-like delicacy. Vigilo, ergo blogum.*** What I'm going to do here from time to time is post remarks about TV commercials, both the ones I like and the ones I don't. Some of my remarks will be considered, filtered through my own experiences with advertising and my very definite opinions about what constitutes a good ad and/or campaign, an effective ad and/or campaign (the two are NOT necessarily synonymous), and CRAP. If I think an ad is good, I'll be effusive with my praise. If I think it sucks, I'll say so, then try and delineate why I think so. Having said that, let me state categorically that the current state of TV advertising is far better overall than it was even twenty years ago. With a few exceptions,**** TV ads are more interesting, more arresting, and more memorable - which is the single most important factor - than ads were when I first started doing voice-overs at local studios for local agencies back in the early 1970s. Be that as it may, there are still a far larger number of forgettable and boring ads than there are at the other ends of the bell curve, and I plan to ignore them thoroughly. But those curve-ends should be commented on here, if only so Mary will have a little peace in the evenings as she sits, be-catted, and drinks her tea.***** So, each night as I sit and watch CSI, or House, or World's Most Dangerous And Painfully Embarrassing Videos, I'll quietly jot down my thoughts and spare her the annoyance of my running commentary.****** Look for it soon. Bud Webster ________ *Such as frozen marbles dumped in the bed while I'm sleeping, or dropping anchovies into my mouth at night as I snore gently and genteelly. **I've written advertising copy for both local and national campaigns; written, produced and done voice-work for radio and television commercials; appeared in a number of television ads; and written catalog copy as well as brochures for everything from local record and book shops to seaport chemical storage facilities to PSA pamphlets. All this both as freelancer and in-house staff. And I watch a LOT of television. And I don't get up during the ads. ***Oh, come on. You figure it out. ****Like those unnerving and vaguely disturbing Ovaltine ads. *shudder* *****Fat chance. ******See above.
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