Monday, February 07, 2005

TV: Super Bowl Commercials

It’s bad enough that the game was a stiff. Then the annual rite of critiquing the commercials was made superfluous by the hilarious FedEx/Kinko’s spot that ran during the first quarter. It ticked off all the ingredients needed for a memorable Super Bowl ad as they appeared – celebrity (Burt Reynolds), talking animal, cute kid, hot babes, awesome song (Journey – yes!), right down to the bonus ending. For the rest of the game I was calling out these elements as they showed up in other ads.

Brad Pitt’s Heineken spot is something of a watershed moment. The stigma against movie stars appearing in American TV commercials is ending. Soon, the storyline of LOST IN TRANSLATION will be no more than a quirky relic of a bygone era.

This could be huge. As significant a transition as James Stewart’s decision to take profit participation instead of a straight salary on 1952’s BEND OF THE RIVER. And who can forget where they were when that happened?

Book: Sex and Rockets, The Occult World of Jack Parsons, by John Carter (1999)

I’ve read a few of the wild titles published by Feral House. So far I’ve managed to avoid being on their mailing list. I have my future political ambitions to think of.

The book’s fantastic cover got my attention, but I read it because of the fascinating subject matter. Parsons was an aerospace pioneer whose innovations in rocket fuel are used to this day, and a key figure in the history of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His social circle included science fiction writers like Jack Williamson, Robert Heinlein, A. E. van Vogt and L. Ron Hubbard. Parsons was also a disciple of “black magician” Aleister Crowley. He eventually died in a mysterious explosion involving the use of hazardous chemicals in his kitchen.

Carter (a pseudonym, and I’m sure any resemblance to the name of the Edgar Rice Burroughs hero is purely coincidental) spends way too much time on the arcane rituals that obsessed Parsons and not enough on how he managed to live his double (hell, triple) life. It’s one of those books with idiosyncratic capitalization, as when Robert Anton Wilson refers in his introduction to “those few who, like Parsons, have taken the hermetic oath to Will and Dare and Know and Keep Silence.”

Although I was disappointed by the book, I still think Parsons’ life would make a great movie. One of those off-kilter, ED WOOD-style biopics that could employ the gee-whiz tone of ‘40s sci-fi in telling his story, where real and fictional superscience collide. Along with generous dollops of sex and black magic. Kind of a SKY CAPTAIN meets THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT.

My visit to the Feral House website pointed me toward another of their books that I’ll have to read: SIN-A-RAMA, a history of erotic paperbacks from the 1960s. Purely for research purposes, you understand. I’m not sure what I’m researching yet, but there’s gotta be something.

Miscellaneous: Link

Novelist and noir expert Eddie Muller on how Humphrey Bogart made THE MALTESE FALCON safe for grown-ups.