THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 181

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 181

…“Listen to you! There IS a devious bone in that good-old-boy body…”

“Well my VP can’t be another Texan and it can’t be another space guy, so why not a rifle-toting, rock’em-sock’em reformer from America’s Dairyland.” Candidate Roy’s brain gears are churning away. “And we can sneak it in at the end of the Space Colony tribute.”

“Morbidly, you may be on to something, tying this whole deal in with the McKinneys, but, and I underline but, I don’t think it should distract from the solemnity of the memorial service.”

His wife is buying into the notion. That low, murky, gray cloud that has shadowed Roy the past four months {always a step behind like a political version of an undertaker} is starting to clear up, replaced by the blue-hue of tranquility.

With calm comes clarity, “We will wait until the scheduled news conference that afternoon. The emotional impact will be different from the memorial, I won’t even deviate from the respectful reminiscing I have been working on, but sliding the announcement in at the end will negate any negative reaction to Charlotte.”

“Listen to you! There IS a devious bone in that good-old-boy body,” Francine is impressed.

“The time is right for a female Vice-President and I believe you prefer my choice to that Georgia peach of a Congresswoman… the one whose husband just died of a brain tumor… and she has called me twice to express her interest?”

Francine is quite aware of Roy Crippen’s baser appeal. He is a tabloid rock star, a media darling, and the hottest thing presidential since JFK {after an extreme makeover and an injection of swagger}. But just like Kennedy he is more than a pretty face; men with a hypnotic power of persuasion and the adept skill to lead the nation down the road of turbulent uncertainty.

Another welcome asset in his corner is with his support team’s ability to keep a secret. In a society where security and info leaks are an art form, thanks to the instantaneous news cycle and continuously connected individuals throughout the world, in those somber days leading up to the posthumous honoring of Celeste and Sampson McKinney… not a single peep, hint or drip about candidate-elect Charlotte Walker.

THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 181

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

…any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel…

“The country would not stand for news of the McKinney deaths… they adore that couple,” President Sanchez makes a politically generic statement.

“This should have nothing to do with Time Magazine Online “Most Influential People” issue and everything to do with putting reprobate rulers in their place.” Roy moves to move the President of the United States of America into action. The man is stuck on how this latest development makes his administration look, instead of recognizing the threat to the welfare of the planet itself.

“Chances are Pete,” using his first name for effect, “that armchair diplomacy or economic sanctions will not work here.”

Sanchez should ask himself why, in retrospect, that the very same type of jealous admiration exhibited by Korea, were one and the same as his quest for the United States Senate, lo those many years ago. As a younger, more idealistic politician, Sanchez had practiced a suspicious mudslinging campaign against the incumbent Senator, in the primary election that year. And though Sanchez did not get the nomination and the other party ultimately won the general election, it ruined the man’s reputation unnecessarily.

It is a lesson for those who are lame ducks or out of favor; there may be someone or some country lurking, ready to ruin his legacy or bring down the entire nation he is ultimately responsible for.

“I guess we need to flex our muscles.”

“And forget about that gratuitous speech you are about to deliver,” Roy whispers under his breath. “And you know that we at NASA and SAC will be vigilant, Sir.”

No sooner than the phone goes dead, Roy wonders if the President meant yet another dreaded commodity embargo or economic isolation; neither of which work against those determined to make, in this case, outer space mischief.

Francine is privy to one side of the conversation, but any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel. She is aware that stakes of the game have changed and she will have a front row seat to it all.

It is getting late at Lovell and making the trip home to Houston less desirable than usual, but in these times of fear and doubt, where better to spend the night but at King Ranch, “I’ll give Braden a heads up about an incoming Canadian-made helicopter with a Russian sounding name (Sikorsky) and two tired NASA people aboard,” she states.

Home is where the heart is; a tired old phrase with new meaning for Francine and Roy. Their days of freewheeling solitude are coming to an end; work like a dog, return to an empty apartment, check all social outlets, make sure the world hasn’t gone mad, grab a quick bite and do it all over again tomorrow.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 149


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 147

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 147

..When it seemed like he wouldn’t let her go, his European Police Siren ringtone lets the whole area know that he has an incoming call. Upon seeing the I.D….

“Thank you and good day.”

Francine backs away from the podium, turning toward a stage left exit, when a cry comes out from the crowd, “Miss Bouchette!!! Is it true that you left KHST in Houston in violation of your “sweetheart” contract?” He must be a friend of her former fiancée.

Nowheresville USA from Kasey Musgraves

This voice is antithetical to the previous 30 queries, antagonistic, from the middle of the mulling transcriptional troubadours. She was going to ignore the provocation and continue on, but chooses not to retreat from the cowardly question asked when the lights have been doused and attentions have shifted… by someone she recognizes.

“If I am not mistaken Mr. Loyd, with one L, weren’t you under contract when you left Nowheresville, Arkansas for the greener pastures of the Dallas market six years ago?”

The man’s self-righteous grin is inverted to a frown as he slithers toward the door, while other reporters in the know inherit his smile. Pockets of applause erupt from those remaining to witness Francine’s rapier wit.

In the wings, Roy exhibits delight for Francine, fully aware of the awkward position he has asked of her. She is more relieved than pleased, but accepts his warm embrace.

police-siren-animated - The HostBaby BlogWhen it seemed like he wouldn’t let her go, his European Police Siren ringtone lets the whole area know that he has an incoming call. Upon seeing the I.D., “You’ll want to take a seat for this one.”

He makes the caller {the President} wait five rings and clears his throat, preparing for a preemptive strike lobbed all the way from the Hawkeye State, “Your Press Secretary delivered a real snow-job at that presser, which was nothing more than an advertisement for funding of a second space colony, Director Crippen. I think they would be more interested in the incompetent handling of the New Mayflower Incident!”, Pedro “Pete” Sanchez blusters in his best  back-seat bravado!

“Mr. President Sir, we are talking about a clear matter of self-defense and protecting the World Space Consortium’s investments from the jealous actions of rogue nations.”

Francine could not possibly guess what Roy is about to tell the leader of the free world, of all people.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 147


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U Gotta Have This – WIF Consumer Corner

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Marketing Campaigns

That Went

Horribly Wrong

Marketing is definitely not a science. They can teach it in school, people can claim to be experts in it, but sometimes even the most successful businesses and brands drop the ball in absolutely stunning ways. A good campaign is a rare thing, and it inspires consumers to go out and consume your products. Most campaigns are perhaps effective but forgettable at the same time. And then a select few are bungled so badly that they’ll be talked about for years to come and used as examples of what you should never, ever do. Like these:

10. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Bomb Scare

It’s a good rule of thumb that if your advertising campaign immediately invokes a police response because people think you placed improvised explosive devices around the city you’ve done something wrong. This was the case in 2007 with a guerrilla marketing campaign for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie in Boston. Turner Broadcasting took responsibility for a series of LED light displays that were placed on buildings depicting the Mooninites characters. For whatever reason, when people saw these with their hastily wired and powered frames, complete with some electrical tape and exposed wiring, they determined it must have been a terror attack in the making.

Word is that it took the intervention of a staffer at the Boston mayor’s office before law enforcement officials even realized what was going on. Because everyone who had fallen under the impression that these were explosives was too old to know what Aqua Teen Hunger Force was, only this young staffer was able to point out that this was a cartoon character everyone was getting so worked up about. The whole debacle was labelled a bomb hoax even though no one was implying there were any bombs anywhere and while it did garner some attention, it was probably not what the producers of the show were hoping for.

9. Miracle Mattress’s 9/11 Nightmare

Every year in September we remember the events of 9/11, and often businesses will do something to commemorate the somber occasion. In 2016, Miracle Mattress in Texas decided that their best method of memorializing the events of September 11th would be to have a twin tower mattress sale, complete with a commercial in which two employees fall backwards into twin towers of mattresses, knocking them over. It was arguably one of the most tone-deaf advertising campaigns in the history of advertising. If there’s one rule that most companies will go by, it’s not to make comedy out of tragic loss of human life, especially for the sake of making a few dollars off of a mattress.

The backlash was fairly severe. The owner of the company issued a statement apologizing for what happened, claiming that the commercial had been done by one single location without his approval. The woman featured in the commercial made a tearful apology video but the damage was clearly done at that point.

8. The McAfrika Mistake

A fresh, tasty pita topped with seasoned beef, cheese, and tomatoes sure does sound tasty, and that’s what McDonald’s thought in the year 2002 when they released it in Norway as the McAfrika. That proved to be a very bad move.

While Norway no doubt had consumers eager to eat the tasty snack, the fact that a terrible famine gripped Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and many other African nations at that very same moment made it a case of utterly abysmal timing.

Despite widespread criticism for being insensitive, McDonald’s did not stop selling the burger and kept it on sale for as long as they’d intended. Their concession was to allow charities to collect for African famine aid at McDonald’s locations at the same time. Proving that McDonald’s was really adamant about digging their heels in, they even re-released the McAfrika six years later to support the Olympics and got the same negative feedback a second time.

7. Toyota Stalker

A good sign that your marketing campaign has gone off the rails is when a court allows a person to proceed with a $10 million lawsuit against your company for cyberstalking. That’s exactly what happened to Toyota with their guerilla “stalking” campaign.

It started when Amber Duick got a random email from a guy named Sebastian Bowler. Amber lived in LA and it seemed that Sebastian was from the UK. He emailed letting her know he was coming to visit. Amber had no idea who he was and just ignored it as spam. The next day he emailed her again, dropping her home address in the email, saying that he was coming to lay low. He was also bringing his pitbull, who had a problem with vomiting.

Sebastian continued sending daily emails to Amber, each one from a location slightly closer to her home. The emails detailed how he was trying to avoid the police as he road-tripped across America (in a Toyota Matrix, of course) to her home. Once she even got an email from a motel where Sebastian had apparently stayed, giving her a bill for a room the man had trashed. As it turns out, it was all a “prank” orchestrated by Toyota.

Toyota claimed Duick had agreed to be a part of an “experience” while she claimed she had no idea this was going to happen to her and suffered serious emotional distress. How did it end? Settled out of court.

6. Spotify’s Murder Doll

You can make a solid argument that this Spotify commercial is actually a really good commercial, but it still got banned in the UK. The commercial features the Camila Cabello song “Havana” and a creepy little doll that apparently murders people whenever the song comes on. It’s filmed in much the same style as a horror movie, with quick flashes of the scary doll and people screaming as it stalks them through a house.

The problem with the ad was that it was deemed to be too scary, which you could argue is a compliment, but it still makes it a fail at the same time. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that while they understood it was a parody of the horror genre, it was still likely to cause undue stress to children who saw it, and so the ad had to be removed.

5. Pepsi’s Harrier Jet

Humor is a tricky thing, and what one person finds funny another person will find offensive. What one person thinks is a joke another may take very seriously. Pepsi learned this the hard way back in 1996.

In 1996, Pepsi ran a campaign where customers could collect Pepsi Points and exchange them for swag like t-shirts or hats. The more Pepsi Points you collected, the better swag you could get. And in their commercial they tossed in a joke about how if you collected seven million Pepsi Points they would hook you up with a Harrier jet. John Leonard thought that sounded like a great deal. The fine print on the contest said that you could buy Pepsi Points for just $0.10 a piece without any purchase required of Pepsi products. That meant a Harrier jet was only going to set you back $700,000.

While Pepsi obviously meant this as a joke, assuming no one would ever actually collect seven million Pepsi Points, Leonard figured this was a sound investment because the Harrier jet normally came with a price tag of about $23 million at the time. So the 21-year-old found five investors to front him $700,000 and he sent it off to Pepsi to await his jet. Obviously this didn’t work out and a lawsuit came of it, which Pepsi ended up winning after a judge decided that no reasonable person could have believed Pepsi was going to hand over a multimillion-dollar machine of war in exchange for buying soft drinks. Still, they learned their lesson and when they ran the campaign later on they changed it from seven million points to 700 million points.

4. IKEA’s Pee Coupon

Everyone likes a coupon, and it’s hard to think of new ways to innovate getting those to customers. Leave it to IKEA to be ahead of the pack. In 2018, the Swedish company rolled out an ad featuring a picture of a crib. The text read “peeing on this ad could change your life.” So right away they clearly did something a little odd here.

The idea behind this was that if you were pregnant, you could get 50% off the crib. How could you prove you were pregnant? The ad doubles as a home pregnancy test, so that if a woman did in fact urinate on it and it proved she was pregnant, then the coupon for the crib would appear. On the one hand, it is very innovative, and on the other hand you have to urinate on it and then bring it to a store and give it to someone. While the ad campaign actually was praised for being so creative, the fact remains that it was literally asking you to bring a urine-soaked advertisement from your home to a store to give to some hapless cashier who would then have to perhaps file it away somewhere.

3. Vitamin Water Gets Offensive

Snapple really pioneered the idea of having cute little phrases inside their bottle caps. Unfortunately, not every company is able to replicate that same idea. Vitamin Water in Canada tried a similar marketing gimmick by printing messages inside of their bottles. In Canada there are two official languages and that means messages would have to be printed in English and in French. This worked out poorly when a customer popped open one of their bottles and found the message “you retard” inside.

The Edmonton woman who opened that particular bottle has a sister with cerebral palsy, which made the insulting message all the worse. She assumed it was some kind of prank, but it turned out to just be a very poorly managed linguistic contest. Coca-Cola, which owns Vitamin Water, had been printing one English word and one French word inside the bottles caps. In French the word “retard” translates as “late.” But when an English-speaking person is getting that message, paired with the English word “you,” there’s no particularly satisfying explanation for why it happens.

2. LifeLock’s Social Security Bungle

Few things are more embarrassing than smugly proclaiming you can do something better than anyone else and immediately learning how wrong you are. The CEO of LifeLock learned this in the hardest and worst way ever.

In 2006, in an effort to show off just how great their personal identity theft security system was, the CEO of LifeLock published his social security number in advertisements. The idea was to show off how utterly secure their system could make you. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that since then his identity has been stolen at least 13 different times. Adding insult to injury, the company was also slapped with a $12 million lawsuit for false advertising since all that identity theft proved their system did not do what they said it could do.

1. Heineken Gets Called Out for Racism

In 2018 Chance the Rapper took to Twitter to call out a commercial from Heineken that he felt was being explicitly racist. The commercial, which uses the slogan “sometimes lighter is better,” featured a bartender sliding a bottle of Heineken to a woman who looks like she really needs a drink. So far, so good. The problem was when you combine the “sometimes lighter is better” slogan with the visuals in the commercial.

The bartender was light-skinned, the woman who receives the beer is light-skinned, and everyone else is not. The beer slides down the bar past no less than three visibly dark-skinned people before it gets to the woman who drinks it. Now maybe it was only Heineken’s intention to be discussing the shade of the beer, but their casting choices made race become a prominent issue.


U Gotta Have This

WIF Consumer Corner

The NULL Solution = Episode 164

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The NULL Solution = Episode 164

…Surely the Ÿ€Ð  will overcome anything this Harmonia nonsense has to offer…

“What is a Seljuk cruiser doing in the Terran system? They are too timid to venture out this far.”

“The Seljuk ship is idled alongside one of the towers. I detect three creatures on board.”

“Have they seen us?”

We are larger than this planet’s two moons.”

“Have they seen us?”

“I wish not to offend the Great Leader. Perhaps we should investigate the complex named Harmonia.”

There is no Ÿ€Ð translation for the term Harmonia, harmonica maybe, because a harmonica is a thing. Harmonia is evolving into more of a concept, a function of ideology. Župzïð’s ideology can be contained in a thimble. “His way” in the Milky Way may not wash.

“Make ready the shuttle for planetary exploration. Assemble the most loyal warriors among us to accompany me.” He cannot help himself. Caution & bluster are mapped in his makeup. It is important to him that his image be strong, even when it is unnecessary.

“The weapons have been disabled Great Župzïð!”

“We may not need them!” His landing party consists of the most warrior warrior-types from here to Sexta A. Surely they will overcome anything this Harmonia nonsense has to offer.

Any brashness is stripped away at the entrance to the Martian atmosphere. All the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men… he may as well have brought a fiddle with him, for all the good his bluster does him here. His Collapsar-to-Harmonia shuttle is ushered to its rightful place alongside the mile high tower. Naturally he would have preferred one of the other 3.

Make that an ant w/a fiddle. The latest and final addition to the Mars reboot is dwarfed, as it should be, by the enormity of the moment, just as were the Earthling, Seljuk and Eridanian before him. Tom, Dick and Harry… no, Sam, Chase and Skaldy, all equally awed in their own way.

Neighbors separated by acres of new Mars soil, each following the instructions given them by their host. Not only would it be impolite, but it is mandatory, now that the Null has unlocked the first door of the mystery.  A beginner’s seminar: “Getting Along in the Great Expanse”, the true purpose of Harmonia is unveiled. Like a father speaking to his child.

Still the unknown Lorgan/O remains just that, who, what, where, how and why; in what order is a topic of for a later day. What is clear is that Lorgan is the straw that stirs the drink. No longer does it hide in the shadows, as it first did when Gus McKinney discovered the sphere obstructed from view by the Terran sun.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 164


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