A brief review of the Superbowl ads.

Bud Light: one commercial featured a fellow who attempts to chat up some beach bunnies by feigning a conversation with a sea shell; a crab leg deploys from the shell’s pink aperture and clamps on to his lip. This is a very successful ad, if you’re aiming at that portion of the beer-drinking demographic who secretly fear vaginas hide spiny crustacean appendages, but it left me cold. Another Bud Light ad featured a couple out on a date; the fellow had three arms. She asked why. He said it made it easier to order, pour, and consume Bud Light.

Adding an extra arm so you can drink Bud Light is like having a doctor punch another mouth in your face so you can kiss your sister.

Most inadvertent bad comparison: Cadillac. We see a man waiting for a train in the subway; he’s sitting beneath a big ad for a lovely old Caddy, one of those battleship models that looked like someone threw a stiff sheet over Kate Smith’s corpse. It’s shot in sepia tones, which tells you it’s THE PAST. To me it looks like they hired Andres Serrano as director of cinematography. As the train accelerates, time accelerates as well, and the passenger glimpses the future of Cadillac, which sucks. Led Zep’s “Rock and Roll” introduces us to the next model of Caddy, which looks like an Aztek that had an elephant dropped on it.

Best ad: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. One simple idea: huge human meat-anvil is hurled at frail cubicle dweebs, and after he knocks them down he berates them. Hilarious, utterly unconnected to the product, but when it was done I could hear the word REEBOK throbbing in my brain in great loud red letters.

Monster.com: a semi truck with no driver cheerfully careens through fields and towns. Nicely shot and well-edited. But it reminds you of the year when every other ad was for an internet-bubble company. One has survived, and it’s the site aimed at the unemployed. There’s the latter nineties, in a nutshell.

mLife. Still don’t know what the hell it is, one year into the campaign. Not a good sign. One ad suggests that mLife would have saved Gilligan & crew, but it’s a few years too late. We’re in a post post-Gilligan age now. The other ad required that the viewer be familiar with “Antiques Roadshow,” and poked fun at people who still plugged their phone into the wall instead of relying on cellphones. Yes, my wallphone regularly fails because the batteries are dry, or because the connection was inexplicably dropped, or because our house suddenly moved into an area without coverage. Once again: no idea what mLife is, except that it seems to involve small, portable phones. Perhaps they think we’ll sign on out of curiosity and pay more money every month, hoping for the secret of mLife to be revealed. Great: the telephonic equivalent of Scientology.

Most pretentious: Levis. In a curiously unpopulated world that nevertheless has sufficient industrial infrastructure to illuminate the entire city, two Gen YZs walk down an empty street at midnight in their jeans while a herd of bison thunder towards them. The bison, recognizing through animal intuition the power of stiff blue-hued fabric, do not mow them over, gore the corpses and toss their bloody bodies in the air. Pity.

Pepsi. Warning, Osbornekenotonics: contains Osbournes. Ozzy has had eight lives, each of which lasted 15 minutes. The timer is about to ding on #9. And please: someone feed his sullen, talentless brood to a trash compactor; I’m sick of the bludy lot a’ them.

Michelob Ultra - a female boxer (is there any other kind?) is shown working over a punching bag in what looks like some elegant Gilded Age ballroom. It looks like the same room used in a Lenny Kravitz video. And a Stones video, if I remember correctly. In any case, I gather this is a beer for people who work out in monochromatic, underlit environments. Noted.

The StarTribune, where I work, ran a big piece in the opinion section about Minnesotans’ attitudes toward terrorism. There were almost 60 quotes from “ordinary people” who’d attended many Strib-sponsored convocations. Fifty-five quotes, and only three or four weren’t from that alternate universe where France is a global power and the US Capitol is in Berkley. America is a bully, we export Dynasty and Coca-Cola, some Muslims might be terrorists but Christians bomb abortion clinics, etc.
I decided to apply Layne’s Maxim, and had some fun googling the names of the ordinary people this afternoon. The Internet knows all, sees all, forgets nothing: one fellow who tossed off some boilerplate about American arrogance turns out to be a member of the Episcopal Peace and Justice Network for Global Concerns, and he said this on a message board:

The white racist system created in the European "Enlightenment," evolved and bequeathed to us by our white forebears in the USA, now imprisons us all in institutional structures and practices, and cultural mores and assumptions, as well as personal socialization, that perpetuate racial hierarchy as a defining element of our society.

Burn a cross for Voltaire! But here’s the quote I loved the most, once I got the context. One fellow said:

“We don’t know who these terrorists are. They’re such an ill-defined enemy . . . but to try to attack countries that we think may house terrorism or encourage it? A lot of those people think we’re the terrorists . . . every country in the world is going to hate us if we go that route.

“We’ve got to at least have the sanctions of the United Nations before we do anything rash. President Bush has got to be restrained. He acts like a cowboy; ‘I’m going out there and I’m gonna blast them.’ It’s really bad. I think we’re losing our friends.”

Well, we do know who the terrorists are. They’re not an ill-defined enemy. Naturally the Iraqi leadership will regard us as terrorists, inasmuch as the end result of 600 cruise missiles heading their way will be terrifying. Every country in the world will not hate us if we got that route. Oh, some will - Syria, France - but most will be indifferent and some will be grateful. (Iraq, post-mullah Iran.) We already have the sanctions of the UN; hasn’t he been paying attention? And if Bush has been acting like a cowboy, then it’s the curious sort of cowboy who spends a year rounding up a posse and sending deputies into the bad-guy’s hideout to look for stagecoach loot before he acts on a warrant issued 11 years ago.

As for losing our friends, well, nations usually don’t have friends. They have allies whose interests intersect with their own. But we do have friends: The UK. Australia. English-speaking Western democracies disinclined to submit to the will of Allah.

And that’s a crucial point. One of the speakers quoted in the article said we’d insulted Arab cultures: “Long after the Gulf War was over, we had arms depots outside of mosques, American servicewomen dressed inappropriately for where they were.” So women shouldn’t be in the military? No, of course they should serve. So they shouldn’t be posted to the Middle East? No, they should have the same opportunities as men. So they should wear the veil while they’re on the base?
No, but we have to understand that their presence upsets the local culture. So you support overturning the governments that impose strict miserable sexist regulations on females? No, we just have to realize how they see us. And then we do what? I don’t understand the question. Once we realize that they see us as a Godforsaken culture that lets women drive cars AND planes AND wear shorts and thongs, AND dance with someone they just met five minutes ago AND have a day job operating machine guns, then what? Well, we enter into a cross-cultural dialogue that enables a syncretic process aimed at facilitating strategies of coexistence. Yes, but what if they want to kill us because we actually think that their concepts of female servitude are negotiable? Well, I don’t accept your definitions; I think we have to change the terms of the debate so violence is never an option. It’s an option for them. It’s Job One, as the Ford ads used to say - oh, look, it’s a fellow with a bomb-belt, running towards us. Should I shoot him? Violence never solves anything. It’s about to solve you, ma’am. It’s about to solve you for good.

Back to the fellow who made the point about how we’re losing our friends, and we can’t act alone, how we must get a hall pass from the UN, etc. The article gave his last name; googling revealed one fellow in the metro area with his name and home town. The name also popped up as a local high school teacher. Same fellow? Maybe; maybe not. I've no idea, but it is a rather unusual name to my eyes. If it's the same fellow, then what do you think he teaches?

Shop class? Gym class? Social studies? Math?

Here’s his class list:

Ancient World History
Modern European History
United States History

He has learned everything, it would seem, and understood nothing.
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