Saturday, August 04, 2007

"How are things in Glocca Morra?"

The first time somebody asked me "How are things in Glocca Morra?" I was just a kid and I didn't know what he was talking about. I'd never heard of Glocca Morra, and the only two words I knew that sounded even remotely similar were Guatemala and Guacamole.

Nobody ever asked me again how things are in Glocca Morra, but somehow I learned that "How are things in Glocca Morra?" was the principal song in the musical Finian's Rainbow. I'd never seen Finian's Rainbow, and as a little kid I somehow got it confused with Finnegan's Wake, but I must have heard someone singing the song one time because in the back of my mind I always had a vague sense of part of the melody.

The movie version of Finian's Rainbow was on cable last week, so I decided to watch it. I'm not a big fan of musicals -- I like Singin' in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, and The Music Man, but that's probably about it. West Side Story seems sort of heavy-handed and dated to me (although some of the songs are pretty good), and My Fair Lady is okay, but I can pretty much take it or leave it.

But I decided to watch Finian's Rainbow. It was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and he's a pretty good director, so I figured it would be a halfway-decent movie. It was okay, and I watched all two hours of it, but I can't say I particularly liked it. It wasn't really my kind of movie -- or even my kind of musical -- but I think the main reason I didn't really like it is because I don't like leprechauns.

I don't want to sound like I'm prejudiced or anything, but I've never liked leprechauns and I probably never will. I'm not sure when it started, but it was probably the first time I saw a commercial for the cereal "Lucky Charms." I don't know if they still make that cereal anymore, so you might not know what I'm talking about, but the commercials always had some obnoxious little leprechaun who would jokingly assert that children were "always after me Lucky Charms."

Of course, as a young boy, I identified more with the children than the leprechaun, so my reaction was always something along the lines of "Give those kids their fuckin' cereal, god damn it!"

And in case you're wondering, I don't always automatically side with cereal commercial kids or anything like that. For example, I never knew why those two kids wouldn't share their Trix with that rabbit, but it didn't seem right. Were they so stingy that they couldn't give one lousy bowl of Trix to the rabbit? Those commercials just made kids look selfish and greedy, in my opinion, and I believe they taught little children the wrong lessons. Who says Trix are for kids? Rabbits might enjoy them just as much, or maybe even more so. I don't know about you, but I never really liked sugary cereals. I didn't like Trix, I didn't like Lucky Charms, and I didn't like Sugar Frosted Flakes. It's not that I didn't like sweet things, because I did -- I just didn't like the way the cereal made the milk all sugary.

But getting back to the subject at hand, maybe it's unfair of me, but I hold leprechauns responsible for a lot of trouble in the world. They're responsible for decades and decades of violence and unrest in Northern Ireland, of course, but I believe they've also had a hand -- either directly or indirectly -- in salmonella poisoning, forest fires, reality TV shows, dogs that bark too much, and the current HD DVD vs. Blu-ray war. They're just mischievous little bastards -- that's all there is to it.

Anyway, as I mentioned last week, I don't watch a lot of mainstream TV. But I have seen a few episodes of Jeopardy! recently. I'm not a regular viewer, but I was home, and it was on, so I watched it. And if you ever watch it, have you noticed that whenever they have a special celebrity episode (in which all three contestants are celebrities), they always make the questions a lot easier? Why do you suppose they do that? Is it because they think celebrities don't know as much as everyone else?

Maybe celebrities don't know very much, but I don't think that's the reason. It's probably because the celebrities don't keep any of the money they win -- it all goes to charities of their choosing -- so the celebrities have no real incentive to spend months and months cramming their heads full of obscure facts the way that the non-celebrity contestants do.

And by the way, I realize I'm using the term "celebrity" a lot -- in the previous paragraph I used it four times -- and I don't think it's the right term, but I really don't know what else to call them. So I'm using the term rather loosely -- when I think of celebrities, I think of movie stars and people like that, but when the producers of Jeopardy! think of celebrities, they apparently think of former athletes and TV actors I've never heard of. It seems to me that if you're a celebrity, you have to be famous, but maybe you don't. Maybe I'm still using the old definition of the word.

Anyway, I don't mind that the questions are a lot easier for celebrities, but the sad thing is that they still manage to get so many questions wrong. I'm not exactly a font of infinite knowledge myself, and if I were a contestant, I would almost certainly finish in last place, but some of the celebrity questions were worded in such a way that even if you didn't know the answer, you could easily guess it. At least I could. And yet the celebrities very often got those questions wrong.

If it were me up there, I'd be embarrassed about missing such easy questions, but the celebrities didn't seem to mind a bit. Of course, these are professional athletes and actors, so their reputations aren't exactly harmed by showing how stupid they are on national TV. And no, I don't think all actors and athletes are stupid, but since they don't have to routinely challenge their intelligence the way people in other professions do, it's only natural that they might not be as sharp as a lot of other people.

And returning back to the subject of television commercials, what's the deal with celebrity endorsements? Why would anyone buy a product just because some football player or retired television actor was paid to tell us what a great product it is? I will never understand this, and neither will anyone else, but some things don't really need to be understood -- they just need to work. And celebrity endorsements apparently work, or else the advertisers wouldn't be giving Tiger Woods millions of dollars to tell us what a wonderful automobile the Buick is, for example. Maybe if Tiger Woods actually knew something about cars in general or Buicks in particular, I'd listen. Or if he wanted to recommend a particular set of golf clubs, I can understand why people might pay attention to that.

I remember many years ago, I was talking to some woman who worked in advertising or marketing or some such field. I asked her why Pepsi would continue to pay Michael Jackson tons of money to endorse its product even after he went on record as saying he never drank the stuff. She told me it didn't matter. They were paying him all that money just so he'd dance in the commercial. The assumption was that people would enjoy watching Michael Jackson dance, and that would keep them from switching the channel to a less interesting commercial.

I guess things are sort of tough for advertisers these days. Back when I was a kid, there weren't many channels to choose from, and since most TVs didn't have a remote control, if you wanted to switch to another channel or turn down the sound during a commercial, you'd have to get up and walk to the TV. It was easier to just sit there and wait for it to be over. So the advertisers have to work a lot harder these days to get you to watch their commercials.

Okay, now I'm beginning to tread on some of the ground I trod upon last week, and since I don't want to run the risk of repeating myself, I'll end this week's post right here. I'll just sum things up by saying that anyone who would buy a car because Tiger Woods said to is probably in need of psychiatric help. But sometimes I think I may be in the minority, since celebrity worship seems to be at an all-time high, which is a pretty sad commentary on the state of the world today.

And how did the world get this way? You can ask yourself that question if you want, but you already know my answer.

Fuckin' leprechauns.