Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Treating Diseases?

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials by now; the ones that advertise some new wonder drug that will make your life so much better. What amuses me is that most of these commercials don’t even tell you what malady this prescription treats. Note that I said TREAT and not CURE. We don’t cure anything anymore. We merely treat, but I’ll get to that later.

These wonderfully artsy commercials and print ads, with pastel colors and animation galore, are so entrancing that you almost wish you had whatever disease it treats just so you can be the first on your block to be taking the drug. And then some tiny little voice comes on at a million miles an hour and whispers about the side effects, hoping you won’t hear them. Ah, yes, the Side Effects. Or, as they call them,” Certain Side Effects”. They say them so fast as an obligatory disclaimer that you almost miss them. But once you hear what these effects are, you begin to wonder if the treatment isn’t actually worse than the disease. No, thanks, I’ll take the heartburn. A little acid in my stomach has to be better than nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and insomnia.

Here’s a little REALITY in advertising:
Overweight? Underweight? Tired? Can’t Sleep? In pain? Feeling too peppy?
Try new DAMITOL!!! Made from a special all-natural sucrose polymer, DAMITOL may not be for everyone. Consult your doctor. Do not take DAMITOL if you are pregnant, nursing, may become pregnant, have ever been pregnant, ever thought about being pregnant, are the product of a pregnancy, or know someone who has ever been, will be, or thought about being pregnant. In tests, certain side effects occurred such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, rectal bleeding, pus-like discharge from the eyes, spontaneous abortions, and certain sexual side effects such as festering sores comparable to genital warts and an inability to achieve orgasm ever again. Discontinue use if symptoms persist. DAMITOL…when you absolutely have to take SOMETHING…

Yeah, the treatment is worse than the disease, because as I said earlier, we don’t CURE things anymore. The last disease we cured was Polio in the 40’s. We can send a man to the moon, although not in the last 30 years, we can make handheld jukeboxes to hold 10,000 bootlegged downloaded songs, we have cellular phones with email and cameras, pay for groceries with a thumbprint, but with all the billions of dollars in research that goes on daily, the last thing mankind cured was polio. That’s because there’s no money in cures. All the money is in research and sexy drug treatments. They probably found a cure for cancer in 1960 while dreaming up a new biological warfare agent to kill communism but held onto the secret formula. How many people would go broke if the research labs and drug companies closed shop? Hell, they’d have to engineer a NEW disease to treat after that! We never even cured the really nasty diseases of old like typhoid. Instead, we quit drinking the water we crap in and started bathing regularly. THAT stopped the typhoid epidemics. Small pox wasn’t cured, it was just forgotten about once we joined the electronic age. If some dirtbag in a cave in Afghanistan set loose some smallpox in New York, they’d kill millions. But we don’t inoculate for it anymore….it wasn’t sexy enough I guess. Maybe we’d need a cool animated commercial for Poxitol!

NASCAR: The True Religion of the Bible Belt

I live in the South, where the Civil War is referred to as the War of Northern Aggression, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama is revered as an unofficial national anthem, and NASCAR is king. Folks here follow it religiously and are as loyal to their favorite drivers as Catholics are to the Pope. Daytona is the NASCAR equivalent of Mecca and receives almost as many pilgrims. Given the amount of fans he has around here, Dale Earnhardt could very well be canonized for sainthood before the late Pope John Paul II were it to come to a vote. Feuds have started and marriages have ended over driver loyalties and rivalries that make the Yankees/Red Sox debate seem trivial. If Jimmy Jack Billybob pulls up to the single-wide to pick up little Sally Sue to go a-courtin’ and he has a “24” sticker in his truck window, he better hope that her Daddy don’t answer the door with a shotgun, because his truck has a “3” and an “8” on it. People here take their car racing Seriously, with a capital S. It’s creepy. But NASCAR is no longer confined to The Bubba Belt these days, and has become huge business nationwide.

Of course, what would big business be without corporate sponsorships? NASCAR is a vast playground for advertisers. Every car is festooned with logo after logo for sponsors, as are the drivers’ jumpsuits and helmets. Each car has a major sponsor, and then a dozen or so lesser sponsors. Most drivers are so associated with their sponsors that were you to ask any average fan who drives the Interstate Batteries car or the Home Depot car, they can tell you in 2 seconds flat, without blinking. There are folks who take half their buying cues from NASCAR, folks who drink Coke over Pepsi because they don’t like Jeff Gordon and feel a certain kinship with guys driving the UPS truck but mutter under their breath when they see a Fed Ex truck in town.

And not only are the cars and drivers sponsored, the races themselves all have a corporate sponsor it seems. The Pepsi 500. The Golden Corral 500. The Bud Shootout. Plus, each level or series of racing has its major trophy sponsor. The Busch Series. The Craftsman Truck Series. And the big daddy of them all, the Nextel Cup. The Nextel Cup? Yeah, that’s right. It’s used to be the Winston Cup before NASCAR went all family-oriented. Corporate America used to bow down to soccer moms, and now it’s after NASCAR Dads.

Last year, the Powers That Be decided that in order to be more family-oriented, no longer would a cigarette company sponsor the major trophy. Now it’s a cell phone company instead. However, while the smokes may be gone, there’s still beer and sex. There’s cars sponsored by Miller Lite, Budweiser, and Coors, as well as Viagra and Cialys. What’s more family-oriented than beer and erectile dysfunction?

Truth be told, it’s just about money. It’s filthy expensive to go to a race, with tickets priced in triple figures. I thought only U2 and fancy hookers charged that much for 2 hours of entertainment? Nextel paid out more dough than Philip Morris to be the corporate demigod of NASCAR, and the others have put all their money in the kitty, too. If marijuana were legal, there’d be a sleek shiny Chevy Dopemobile Racing team. You name the product and it’ll be found on someone’s car, suit, or helmet. I saw a guy with the PORK logo on it. I guess if he crashes he’ll be the Other Burnt Meat. When will we see the E-harmony.com Racing Team? Or maybe the Axe Body Spray Team?

Notably, though, there are no condom manufacturers sponsoring cars. That’s a shame. They could help cut down the number of teen moms in trailer parks if Trojan had a race team. They could change the car’s paint scheme every couple races. Red for the old-school original condoms. Light blue for the lubricated races. They can call the car the Trojan Chariot. Come on, kids, burn a little rubber with Trojan Racing!

I myself don’t follow NASCAR. To me it’s 75,000 drunk-ass hillbillies watching 40 guys drive in a circle waiting to see a crash at 200 miles an hour. Give me hockey any day.

Mail Order Penis

Here’s Bob. Bob’s life sucked till he started taking MiraclePeckerGro2000. Now he’s the toast of the town. Everyone wants to be his friend. His boss kisses his ass. Sports teams rally around him. He could part the Red Sea with his Johnson. Yeah, right.

You just gotta love these commercials for Male Enhancements. If it’s there, but doesn’t work, there’s Viagra, Levitra, and Cialys. If it works but it’s too small to suit your ego, there’s Extenz and Enzyte. Yeah, the vagina may have had its monologues, but the penis is big business.

I don’t mean to make light of men with erectile dysfunction. It’s a very real, very serious, debilitating medical condition. It’s the guys so worried about how big it is that need a whack in the forehead with a 10-pound codfish. The commercials are slick; slick as ever, just like any drug company advertising has become these days. The commercials for Enzyte make you feel that with a big enough unit, you can slay dragons and win the Nobel Prize. Bob smiles all the time, gets promoted, saves kittens, gets the key to the city, is the envy of all his friends, (and the lust object of his friends’ wives) and the Good Guys win all the sporting events just because Bob’s a fan of their team. Yeah. Sure. Okay. On the surface it seems Bob’s a success because he’s uber-confident now that he takes Enzyte, but the commercial’s darker underbelly makes you think that a monster tally whacker is the key to life, the Holy Grail of Manliness, Cock Almighty.

The commercial for Extenz is even more insidious. It’s a 30-minute infomercial that comes on at 3AM. It features porn star Ron Jeremy and a casting couch full of silicone tarts that couldn’t come up with three brain cells among them if the fate of all mankind rested upon it. I came across this train wreck on cable one night after getting up to use the bathroom and couldn’t immediately fall back asleep. And a train wreck it is; you can’t stop watching it even though you feel evil for doing so. Okay, I’ll give Ron Jeremy his props. He’s made a 25-year career out of having sex all day long, and he’s a seriously homely guy. His nickname is The Hedgehog; need I say more? So he’s sitting there leering and grinning as these porn chicks talk about how sex is always better when a man has a bigger Special Place. Yes. I kid you not. They call it a Special Place, or Special Part. The same chicks that scream the F-word as bad music hums along in the background while getting plowed by some doofus with a freakishly giant dong are referring it to it now as a Special Place. Please, kill me now. This infomercial pretty much convinces the impressionable that with a bigger penis, you’ll now finally satisfy all women, and you too can get porn stars to fake orgasms for you instead of for Ron Jeremy. Either way, these vultures are preying upon the fears and insecurities of men and making them feel that deep inside, you have a small pee pee and you’ll never amount to anything unless you take our drugs.

And remember, erections lasting more than four hours, while rare, require immediate medical help. Call 911? Not bloody likely. If I get a 4-hour woody, I’m calling CNN.