Sunday, May 18, 2008

It Has... Maps

Long time no see! It's been, what, a whole week? Everything kind of blends together for me this time of year, so I can barely even keep track any more. I work, I play Grand Theft Auto IV, I watch the profoundly underwhelming NHL Conference Finals games, and then I sleep until the cycle restarts.

I'm currently working full time at an entry-level sales job; I've yet to encounter a balanced and steady work day, because the store has precious little middle ground between overflowing with customers and being absolutely stone dead. (I'm working this entire Long Weekend, incidentally.) On one of the days where there was nobody around for miles, I found myself in a bit of a bind; I was on shift alone, I'd wrapped up all the available busywork, I'd already finished the book I'd brought, I'd fully depleted the batteries in my old Game Boy Advance (no I can't afford a DS shut up) and I was majestically hard up for anything to do.

How bored was I, you ask? I was bored enough to start reading the phone book, that's how bored I was.

I didn't even have the good phone book! I initially started flipping through this one because I thought it'd be like the actual Yellow Pages -- which occasionally have little boxes with helpful general advice in them, like "slow down on the highway to encourage tailgaters to pass you" or "lighter wallpaper or paint makes a room look bigger". Not so with this book; the E-Z Finder Phonebook instead spends that hint space on desperately and ineffectually promoting itself.

Dang. So much for learning something today.

Even still -- having plenty of time to kill, I shifted my expectations and instead decided to just look through for artwork. Businesses have to promote themselves somehow, right? Good art, bad art, odd art, maybe some funny business names or some typos -- surely there'd be something worth a couple seconds of interest!

I ended up going cover to cover through the whole book, as it turned out. (It was a very slow day, I'm not kidding.) And I was, occasionally, rewarded; there actually are a few surprisingly nice pieces of art in there, even if some of them look to have been torn directly from old training manuals somewhere.

Mind you, the charming pieces are few and far between. It's a thick book! And there are also some very, shall we say, unattractive objets d'art within these pages:

Are those eyelids? What on earth is... no, no, I'm better off not questioning this.

There are a lot of cartoon mascots in here that don't quite sit right; they aren't drawn poorly, necessarily, but I'm pretty sure that I would end up reflexively punching them in the face if I ever met them.

"Y-yeah, sure, it-it-uh... it's a-affordable! W-why would you e-even ask that?"

The extra 'A' there may seem extraneous, but the phone book is a very cruel and cutthroat place! The only way to succeed is to take every advantage available, as these fellows clearly demonstrate:

I didn't call them, because I'm sure it would have ruined the gag for me, but I like to think that they actually answer the phone like that. You've reached the AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH--

Additional A's aren't the only way to get noticed, of course. Other common themes in advertising include: superheroes!

Insipid puns!

Mascots with gigantic heads and really tiny legs!

And, of course -- attractive women in various stages of undress!

The 'urban' look for dudes apparently means wearing all white and slouching a lot. Good luck eating spaghetti, chief.

Oh wait, right, the phonebook advertises this kind of stuff. Whoops! Now, I don't include this picture because I advocate using these services (note to readers: don't do this); rather, you might suspect that I included this picture to point out that she's actually wearing more clothing than the women in other ads. And she is! Good catch on your part.

But the actual reason why I included this picture was to express my astonishment and consternation over the 'mature' categorization system they employ here. Hey, ladies, guess what! When you hit the age of twenty-eight -- surprise! You're old. Sorry!

Hey, can we go back to that one superhero ad for a second? Could we--

Yeah, that one. Check out that grin! It would do my peace of mind no good at night to think that I've left my business alone and unsupervised with a guy who smiles like Bubs from Homestar Runner.

This is hardly an isolated coincidence; there are plenty of lookalikes and cameos to be found in the E-Z Finder Phonebook. Thrill to such luminaries as:

Winnie the Pooh!

Aslan, King of the Beasts!

Mario's brother Luigi!

Dr. McNinja!

The Black Spy from Spy vs. Spy!

And, uh... Kilroy? Well, he needs the work these days, I guess.

Yes, the E-Z Finder Phonebook boasts a star-studded cast -- but that's not all! If incongruities are your bag, then baby, this book has you covered!

When you think 'locksmith', do you think of a penguin in a top hat? Well, you do now!

And affordable towing, naturally, is represented by a cowboy hat. Why? Because shut up, that's why.

Whoever Bill Knight is, he really missed his calling by going into carpet cleaning and not science-fiction B-movies. Hazard suit over here appears to have just opened up a meteorite filled with adorable but radioactive alien puppies, and he is not sure how to react to this new development.

As we all know, flying is just throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Or, in this case, replace 'ground' with 'hot tub'.

The other possibility here, of course, is that somebody needs to call some exorcists pronto. We're dealing with forces beyond our control, here, and those forces hate your new jacuzzi something fierce.

Govoch's? Gowoch's? Gooch's? Guch's? Gwch's? G:Pch's?

At the top, a decent if uninspired drawing on an advertisement for cleaning services. At the bottom, an otherwise docile office worker flipping out and destroying his workplace with a devastating crucifix powerbomb.


Either my windows are going to be partially obscured by a series of flaps or I'm about to get the living shit kicked out of me by an eighty-year-old kung-fu artist.

I don't know what DOS game this is, but I obviously just got killed in it!

This business is genuinely trying to get sued. There is no other possible explanation for this logo. Really, now.


I'm sorry, I can't possibly order anything from here. That is the most heartbreaking 'okay' sign I have ever seen. I need to lie down.

The funny thing about this ad is that it has two drawings on it, done in completely different styles, one of which is pretty good and one of which is quite rubbish; the piece on the right is the better of the two and looks a lot like they ripped it from a clip art gallery or an old instruction sheet on how to install doorknobs.

So imagine my astonishment when I flipped to the next page and once again saw the... other drawing, being used by a completely different company with some hilariously goofy buzzwords written around it.


When the Barbershop franchise began to flag, moviemakers knew that they needed to find another concept to latch onto. It didn't take them long!

what the hell is this

what the hell is

I know, I know. You're looking at that dude's face and thinking I must have photographed the page wrong, aren't you? Well, have another look; the text in the image is perfectly clear. You're not going to believe me when I tell you this, but it's the truth -- this is what the ad actually looks like. I don't know how, and I don't know why, but the book's printers downloaded a picture of this man's face that was obviously pixelated and then put it in the ad anyway. If you open the E-Z Finder Phonebook and look for real estate agents, you're going to find a listing for an agent who looks like a character portrait from a Super Nintendo RPG.

Think that's weird? That's not even the weirdest thing you'll see in that section, because

I haven't decided yet whether I'm irrationally amused or irrationally terrified by this. Leaning toward the latter right now!

The Winnipeg scenery included there makes me chortle a little, but that's because I'm thinking about a different advertising medium entirely.

You know that one local television spot for the Hampton Inn -- I'm pretty sure it's the Hampton, anyway -- where it shows a dude in a shirt and tie wandering around the hotel? The ad lists a few of the features of the place, like its in-room internet and its hot tub, and then the baritone announcer -- who handles the rest of his duties perfectly fine -- suddenly finds himself forced to deliver the line "Do business in Winnipeg!" And he doesn't know how to do it! He doesn't know how he's supposed to sell the idea, so he ends up completely overplaying it; the line comes out hilariously overblown, like "Do business -- in WIN-NI-PEEEEG!"

And even though I'm laughing every time I hear it, because he makes it sound like the most sarcastic suggestion ever made, I still feel bad for the dude. I mean, come on, the hell is he supposed to do with a line like that. The poor guy.

I don't have any cute side comments to make about this one, I just thought that header was really awesome. Explosives! Hell yes!

Anyway, this might come as a surprise to you, but I don't recommend sitting and reading the whole book. It drags in a lot of spots, the cast is misused, the nudity scenes just come across as gratuitous, and it ends suddenly without ever resolving any of the plot threads. Just jump in and skim a couple of pages, you'll get the general idea.

Perhaps the most telling sign is that even the book itself has trouble finding its selling points. When pressed to outline its comparative usefulness against other phone listings, or even to justify its own existence, the book thought for a second before describing itself with this glowing endorsement:

Well played, E-Z Finder Phonebook. I guess I can't argue with that.

Pete Shelley - Telephone Operator (XL1, 1983)
[buy | site | info | myspace | uh, second myspace]

David Mead - Chatterbox (Tangerine, 2006)
[buy | site | info | myspace]

Hey - Hanging on the Telephone (The Nerves) ([sic!], 2001)
[buy, if you have any zloty on you | site | info]

Phoenix - Long Distance Call (25 Hours a Day Remix) (Long Distance Call Maxi-CD, 2006)
[buy | site | info | myspace]

Ha ha, geez, I'm gone for a week and my big comeback is writing about the phone book. Maybe for my next trick I can liveblog about watching paint dry!


Princess of the Universe said...

I found this to be a surprisingly riveting post...

James Howard said...

I'm so good, I can even make the phone book riveting!

Ha ha ha ha no, no I can't. I can certainly try, though!

jst said...

the most G$%D*$Ned funny thing I've seen all day. Keep up the awesome.