Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Set It And Fuggedabout It

In an effort to jump-start the next couple of days prior to my deadline, my brain decided to keep me awake as much as possible, so I managed a few hours' sleep last night, then another few hours this morning, until finally, I just gave up and opted for a shower. However, in between, I managed a few nascent nuggets of nocturnal nuance: I finally realized why Ron Popeil is The Devil, and why he should be offed.

Now before anyone goes apeshit and either calls Big Vinnie and Guido for a Colombian Necktie special, have no fear -- I don't actually want The Ron dead. However, I wonder how many people who have purchased his products are FDAU (Face Down, Ass Up) and hoping for that very fate for Mr. Popeil.

It started when the introduction to his latest infomercial appeared. In a teary tribute, the announcer -- a pudgy man who appeared to have the mental capacity of a manager of a Blockbuster Video store -- detailed all of Ron's recent accomplishments. And one by one, they ran down the list -- the head-spray, the "pocket" fisherman (every time I see that one I wonder if it's for guys that play pocket pool), the 432-piece cutlery collection, the pasta maker, and the Showtime Rotisserie BBQ.

The first item on that list -- the "head spray" -- is a spray that lets balding guys (ie guys with a bald spot) cover it up by spraying some colored material onto their head. If you've never seen nor heard about this phenomenon, I shit you not -- it's a spray that lets one make their bald spot disappear. I've never seen this in action -- it's sort of like walking into a friend's house and finding a lot of empty bottles of Viagra or Rogaine -- but I had some questions about this head spray. What happens if you are caught in the rain? Does colored dye conspicuously leak from your head? And does the dye flake out of your coiff should you fall asleep before showering it out? Is it for guys who want to go to a singles' bar and get lucky, or is it merely for self-conscious aging post-baby boomers who are too cheap to staple a rug onto their noggins? Basically, if you're looking for my opinion on this particular invention, I say it's got disaster written all over it -- anything that has the potential to be a topic centerpiece on a Seinfeld episode -- even as a mistake or a goof or a "Not Quite Good Enough to Be A Topic On Seinfeld" -- is something which you'd best avoid. Think about it: "Kramer uses Ron Popeil Head-Spray and leaks all over J. Peterman's Antique Louis VVI Chair during an Interview." You know it could happen, I know it could happen -- so don't let the Vette-drivin', chest-toupee-wearing, Mr. T jewelry-sporting friend in your life let it happen.

There's not much I can say about The Pocket Fisherman. As indicated above, each time I hear the ad on my television, I imagine some guy masturbating through his pockets. And no, that's not a very good association -- this is one of those times when negative PR is definitely not preferable.

Either way, this device looks sort of like a small iron -- you know, the things your mother used to fill up with water and then de-wrinkle your shirts before the Koreans invaded and made self-shirt-dewrinkling obsolete. It's got a little handle, and apparently, a plastic doo-hickey, and apparently there's a place that releases fishing line.

The pocket part, presumably, indicates that it's small and portable, and can be taken anywhere with little or no fuss. And god knows, I've been in loads of places where I've thought to myself, "Shit, if only I'd brought my fishing pole, my lines, a tackle box, my galoshes and a six-pack of Milwaukee's Best." Weddings, bar-mitzvahs, Scott Baio appearances at malls in the midwest and even antique car auto shows can be preludes to sudden fishing excursions with The Pocket Fisherman. What a pain in the ass that you actually need a body of water to go fishing.

Back to reality: I enjoy fishing, but if I'm going to actually make my way to a body of water with the requisite tools to actually engage in the practice of fishing, having something that reminds one of a self-pleasurer is not the solution. Feh.

The Popeil cutlery ad is like everything else awful -- it pulls you in and hyonotizes you with its awfulness. Before long you care about his tomato-slicing Uncle Morty and don't even question as to why he's filleting a canteloupe or cutting a block of frozen spinach in two or why any normal human being would need 632 crappy knives that were made by some sweatshop in Mai Ling. By my last count, the knife set featured 632 pieces of "cutlery" and costs $7.95. That means it approximately costs about $0.79 a piece. Except of course, there's that $64 dollars in shipping and handling that you'll need to contend with. I love how a "free" or cheap item on TV ends up costing more in "shipping and handling" than a typical postal employee earns in a week.

Can anything suck more than the Popeil Pasta Maker? Let's put it this way -- if I made my way into a friend's home, it'd be just as awkward seeing the Popeil Pasta Maker on the kitchen counter as the Popeil Head Spray in his bafroom. And I can affirm that, after watching this appliance in action -- and seeing thick bands of chocolate ooze extrude from the machine (chocolate pasta my ass), I think I'd rather eat the Head Spray. By the way, for anyone who's actually seen this product on infomercial, is it me or is it odd that a $150 machine that's supposed to be so well-made has a little plastic doo-hickey that winds down to cut the bands of pasta oozing from the machine? And have you noticed that Mr. Popeil's stuff has a lot of doo-hickeys, thing-a-mah-jigs and useless, unexplained knobs and levers that don't seem to do anything? Personally, I think it's the devil's work.

Finally we reach the pinnacle of the Popeil Product Portfolio: the Showtime Rotisserie Barbecue. This is the "Set It And Forget It" device that is "as wide as a toaster oven." I'll be brief -- anything that weird-looking is not something you want to invite into your home. Soon your husband will be levitating, your children will be wearing all black and practicing witchcraft, and the refrigerator will begin to bleed. The toilet will explode, the walls will moan and the roof will fly off into space during a dry lightening storm.

Okay, maybe it's not THAT bad, but some things that I have noticed about it are pretty obvious. Every time Mr. Popeil suggests that this monstrosity is the width of a toaster oven, he doesn't mention that it's three times the height of a toaster oven and will barely fit under most kitchen cabinets. When he mentions it uses less electricity than a hair dryer, he doesn't mention that most people use a hairdryer for about ten minutes a day, whereas this thing takes like thirty hours to cook a turkey. And the plastic trays that top this gargantuan Yugo Of The Kitchen are supposed to be filled with items like rice, vegetables, mashed potatoes or gravy. Except since there's so much heat coming out of the top of this thing, the plastic trays either get completely water-logged (due to steam) or they're just gonna melt all over the place, sending your brussel sprouts into the vents of this beast.

And what really, really, REALLY frightens me is that "Flavor Injector" thing that lets you inject solid flavors -- like garlic cloves, etc. -- into the heart of a side of beef, a hunk of lamb, or some other type of meat. $50 says that within a few years, the Popeil Flavor Injector winds up being part of a bad guy's arsenal in some heroin-fueled Tarantino movie. I'll let your imagination guide you, but keep in mind that I've already thought this through and I cringe each time I see it on TV.

In essence, I'm not anti-Ron Popeil; he's not a bad guy, I am sure, and I'm sure he isn't an arrogant, self-centered prick who drives his Porsche convertible and thinks he's still The Man. However, for anyone considering any of these useful inventions, just remember that "As Seen On TV" is a warning, not a plus. And if and when the shipping and handling -- aka "S&H" -- costs more than the actual device, think it through. Next thing we know we'll be seeing Jerry Springer selling law degrees.

After head spray and the pocket fisherman, can we be that far behind?

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