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Matt - 1/13/01

I apologize for the lack of updates for the past week or so, I'm just now recovering from a pretty severe bout with depression stemming from the grim realization that I'm not athletic enough to be a champion lacrosse player. You know, I've got shoes with two inch heels to boost my height, I drink as many calcium-fortified shakes as possible, but try as I may, I still don't know how to play the game. Anyway, facing depression leads to a lot of things, as I'm sure most of you know. You act different. You look different. The tremendous physical comedy of one John Ritter does nothing for you anymore. But worst of all -- it really fucks up your sleeping routine. You could be stuck in zombie-mode watching television all throughout the night, and this is where depression strikes at its very coldest. For those of you who are too distraught to sleep, you too might be exposed to an epidemic of massive proportions. Yes, we're talking about...


Infomercials have been society's scourge for years, sucking in the innocents and converting them into idiots who firmly believe salvation lies with a machine that can make jerky out of clam meat. Here's how the scam works. Generally, people who watch television consistently between 2-5 AM aren't in the greatest frame of mind to begin with. These are the people who usually have something awful on their minds -- a problem that really needs to be solved, and quick. Luckily for them -- the stars of the infomercials are here to change their lives! Now, some other things to consider...

People who are watching television this late might be wide awake, but they know deep down that its just way too late for them to expend any energy. In layman's terms, this means that getting up to find the remote control or to (gasp!) manually change the channel is absolutely out of the question. We might be awake, but we're not freaks. So it stands to reason that if you happen to be awake and watching TV when one of these accursed paid advertisements graces your living room -- you're gonna be stuck watching the entire thing. Mistake #1, my friends!

Finally, we have repetitive reinforcement - The infomercial's most important tool. I speak from experience. I've fallen prey to these gimmicks more times than I'd like to count. This house is filled with more get-rich-quick videos and instruction booklets on how to sell land in the Florida swamps than you could imagine. Here's how repetitive reinforcement works...let's take all-star infomercial swindler Don Lapre for example...

Grrr. GRRRR. Stare deep into the devil's soul, readers. He stands before you, and believe it or not, even the devil himself got his start from his tiny one-bedroom apartment! Yes folks, its Don Lapre's Secrets to Success, a 47-step program that could be summed up with just one much shorter step: stop buying shit like this, and you'll have money. We've got way more to cover than Don Lapre, so I don't want to waste time...all you need to know is that the 'product' he's pushing absolutely sucks. You get what appears to be a children's workbook on how to make money, complete with illustrations of happy people carrying money bags around that looks like it was drawn by a kid puppeteering a crayon in his cat's paws. So how does Don keep selling this shit? Repetitive reinforcement! The first time you see the infomercial, your instincts are correct. You'd be a complete idiot to buy this. But after countless, countless repeating viewings, Don doesn't seem that bad. Think about it -- if you're watching Don Lapre's infomercial every night, chances are you're sleeping through most of the day. And the twilight hours aren't exactly social, so Don becomes your surrogate best friend. You trust him! And because anything will sound logical when its drilled into your head night after night for weeks upon weeks...eventually, you too will fall prey to the infomercial insanity.

See, this only works with infomercials. They're too long to ignore. If they were regular commercials, you could train yourself to hold your eyes shut for the thirty-second spot. Nobody could resist temptation for a full half hour though. Here, I'll prove my point. Here's a regular commercial, which doesn't give you enough time to believe the nonsense as truth:

Giggles! Remember these things? The snack that'd make you laugh uncontrollably the second you bit into it? The poor cookies never stood a chance. With a short fifteen/thirty-second commercial, there's just not enough time to hypnotize you. And well, my point's proven -- do you see Giggles on the store shelves today? Nuh uh -- absolute and total failure. A good salesman knows it takes time to bullshit an audience. Why do you think most of my articles are so long?

There is a cure, however. A very succinct and successful cure -- something the infomercial makers never thought of when formulating their evil world domination plans: check out these commercials when you're really awake, and you'll realize how ridiculous this shit really is. Today, we start your rehab.



I wouldn't even need to explain anything here. The pictures speak for themselves. Some of you might be familiar with this 'psychic' who promises to tell you when you're gonna die or when your husband is gonna cheat on you -- but now that you're looking at her during wakey wakey time, don't you realize how asinine it would be to believe, even for a fleeting second, that this hideous creature has the answers? Jeez, if anyone out there is willing to take the word of Psychic Jemima over their own instincts, they deserve whatever phone charges they get.

I'm sorry, I don't know her name. We'll call her Cleo. (there's a 97% chance she actually goes by this name...the only other options are 'Psychic Zelda' or 'Madame Future') Cleo ups the ante on the old Psychic Friends Network commercials by offering just the bad news. I'm not kidding -- they don't advertise how they'll tell you about your future riches, incoming fortunes, new jobs, new loves...anything that'd make you smile. Instead, Cleo and friends will tell you when your spouse is going to jail, when you're going to get murdered, when you're going to miscarry that baby, and when you'll start losing your hair. Why anyone would want to spend five dollars a minute to hear someone make up things about how the future sucks is beyond me, but Cleo's got a real racket going here. She makes a living by forging lies detailing when and how your life will go to shit. That's pretty impressive. So where does Cleo get all these magical powers? Jesus attention!

Tarot Cards. I'm not going to sit here and argue whether or not Tarot Cards actually work, whether they can really tell the future, or whether its okay to pronounce that last 'T' as a non-silent entity. But - I do take issue with Cleo being able to pick up one card and realize that Caller Carol from Boston's husband has been cheating on her for six months with a redheaded secretary named Bobbi who plans to steal her grandmother's heirloom diamond ring. I've seen Tarot Cards. They don't say all that shit.

Celestial Decor. Really, if given the choice between two psychics, who wouldn't pick the one who had a backdrop consisting of a sun/moon throw blanket and candles that obviously enhance clairvoyance. We already know we're dealing with bullshit, so we need all the help we can get. And honestly, have you ever met someone who has candles and star-colored walls who wasn't a psychic? Cleo's covered all the bases.

Psychic Seashell Necklace. I should note that Cleo speaks in the worst faked 'black gypsy' accent I've ever heard. Course, its the only faked black gypsy accent I've heard, but I'm certain its also the worst. Cleo knows that appearance is everything -- a theory she takes all the way down to her choice in jewelry. She doesn't want to draw attention to a face that would make a mother gouge her eyes out, so she dons the necklace to end all necklaces. Magic shells! Christ, could this situation get any more cliche? I felt like an idiot watching this, I can't imagine what the people who actually called feel like now. Picture the conversations.

Cleo: Cockamamie yah hear me now talking to ya you do! (15 sec. pause) Dissa Cleo heah, and I be the one holding the cards and the cards have the answers and the cards have the answers for you. (25 sec. pause) What yo name?
Caller: Rose, I'm from--
Cleo: Rose now iddin't datta pretty name - named after a flower y'know. Yes, a flower. Flowers very pretty Rose, like you. I'm sure you're pretty Rose, like a flower. Cockamamie. How old are you Rose?
Caller: 29. I have a--
Cleo: 29! Well why didn't you go and say so earlier Flower Rose? 29 be my lucky number, don't you know I know it? Yes ah 29 and me Cleo go back long ways, long ways so far back I can't even recall dem days. Do you have a (3 min pause) question for ol' Cleo tonighhhht?
Caller: Well, yes. Its about my husband. See--
Cleo: Drop the dead weight mon, before he rapes your mother and steals your money. Trust Cleo on this, lizzin' da cards! In the cards, Flower!
Caller: That's not what I mean...he's dying of cancer, and I--
Cleo: Ohhh you must break it off before he go an' steals your money, Rose! I am salvation to your distress, cockamamie. (50 sec. pause) Rose, Rose! Mmm Rose Sunkist now be producing new 'Tropical Medley' raisins. Rose!

I've called lines like this in my earlier, stupider years. The convos actually aren't far off from that. To complete a verbal exchange that'd usually take under 5 seconds will stretch for over three minutes, all the more convenient for Madame Cleo, since she's making around 7 bucks a minute to tell you about your horrible life. Best part is, everyone knows these lines are fake. Even the commercial has to covertly admit that in the fine print. So why are people spending money to hear fake predictions about how bad their lives are gonna become? My fake psychic told me my future wife who I haven't met yet is going to cheat on me with all three of my brothers. And it only cost me 27 bucks to find that out. Nice, huh?


Wow. Now you really have to be on your last wit before bedtime to fall for this one. Women of the world, stop right there! Been hitting the gym? Getting pumped? Getting those legs, arms, and abs into shape? Well, you've forgotten one very important area: your face! Yes, this mask's job is to, literally, exercise your face. To accomplish that goal, you've got to sit around in full Phantom gear while the magic mask practically beats the shit out of your cheekbones.

You've gotta wonder how many women who watch television at 4 AM are wondering if their face gets enough exercise. You'd think that would be the one area you wouldn't have to feel guilty about. Stomach, legs? Sure. But if people gotta start worrying about their eyelids and lips putting on too much weight, I think our society as a whole might need to be completely purged. Ten to one: the people who are privy to be awake for this show have some more timely problem areas to worry about than their sinuses.

I'm sorry, I can't think of a single person who'd willingly devote 15-20 minutes a day to sitting in a chair with a vibrating mask on. That's no small price to pay. This isn't some oil you put on before showering, some simple pill, or even a gooey facemask. Its a friggin full-face helmet that you've gotta wear everyday of your life. Just imagine the identity crisis this'll lead to.

Here, the hostess and presumed 'doctor' have a chat. The guy in the doctor role has the toughest job on the show -- trying to make this ludicrous mask seem like a good purchase. What's he supposed to say? What results could he possibly claim for this stupid thing that'd warrant spending half an hour a day wearing it? I'm all for a suitable level of vanity, but to denote a special portion of the day as 'mask time'? C'mon. Not helping matters is the obvious comparison to scary movies. Here, take a look:

See? Dressing up like Michael Myers and electrocuting your face is the way to achieve beauty? I'm not kidding -- the mask comes complete with electrical charges to help enhance your face's features. You know how some groups say that beauty doesn't matter? Guys, they're just trying to protect you. When we get to the point where we'll electrocute our heads to achieve a better jawline, its really time to step back and reconsider our sleeping habits. Stay away from the infomercials.

Our last example is by far the weirdest, and remains one of my all-time favorites...


Here's one from the Product That Work But You Still Have No Use For Them - Ever department. The first time I saw this one, I was amazed. Now that I've had time to reclaim my senses, what we're seeing here is a clear cut case of the infamous impulse buy. This vacuum sealer boasts a commercial-quality vacuum, and while I'm not gonna dispute that, I've really got to ask: who needs one? The hosts tell you how you can save around a thousand bucks a year by simply VACUUM SAVING EVERY GOD DAMNED PIECE OF FOOD IN YOUR HOUSE - FOREVER. Their plan? Instead of buying an expensive slice of cheese - BUY THE BIGGEST FREAKING LOAF OF CHEDDAR AT WHOLESALE YOU CAN FIND. Vacuum-save it to insure stability and to save money with fabulous wholesale prices! Glorious!

The host of this one is a bubbly guy named Jan. His cohost is that blonde previously seen getting yelled at in Ron Popeil's rotisserie infomercial. Jan is sure to mention -- again and again -- that with the Foodsaver vacuum-sealer, your fish could last for up to two years in the freezer! People. PEOPLE! Who the hell hoards food in their freezer for two years? We're not squirrels. We're people. And PEOPLE - look at that fish! Its a friggin' marlin. Who in God's name puts giant, whole fish in their freezer...FOR TWO YEARS?!

Whenever Jan says something witty or comes up with a new theory, the blonde refers to it as a 'Janism'. Jan hates this, and its pretty hysterical to watch him get all flustered when the bitch tries to make a cute play on his name.

The award for Most Vile, Disgusting Hobby Of All Time goes to this guy, who actually collects pieces of fish he's had throughout the world for the past few years. Yes, he keeps a collection of half-eaten fish timestamped in his freezer. Shit, I collect plastic peanuts with baby chicken toys inside, and even I'm chilled to the bone by this one. But believe it or not, this is one powerful machine!

Jan demonstrates that power by crushing six soda cans. Well, I'm sold. Saving cheese and quickly marinating my steaks is one thing...but this? Is there anything the Foodsaver can't do? Wait - before you answer....take a look at this!

The thing can also crush thirty-six empty cans of soda. You heard right - 36. A self-defeatist exhibit of power when you remember that you're supposed to use this thing on strawberries and lettuce, stuff that'd be annihilated under the Foodsaver's iron grip in three seconds flat.

After that, Jan starts losing his mind. He's gone vaccuum-sealin' mad! No joke - he starts grabbing everything in sight and sealing it in airtight bags. By the time he's done, he's sealed off wedding dresses, wedding cakes, sweaters, baseball cards, ice cube trays full of turkey broth, three small children, shoes, silverware, the complete collection of McFarlane's series 8 Spawn action figures, and a globe. OXYGEN WON'T TOUCH A SINGLE THING YOU OWN AGAIN!

Escaping the vicious infomercial cycle isn't easy, believe me. You're dealing with some of the most heartless shysters on the planet. If you're considering giving in to one of these scams, there's four questions you should ask yourself first.

1) Is the item I plan to buy one I'd brag about to friends, or is it more likely one they'd kick me in shin for having spent money on?
2) Does the item defy all the laws of density and mass by warranting a shipping charge of at least 25% of the purchase cost?
3) Are six easy payments of 49.95 really all that easy?
4) Is Tony Robbins an empowering figure because of his business theories, or because of his ability to mouth an entire string of piano keys and hold a conversation simultaneously?
5) Does the man shown below appear, at any time, during the infomercial?

Be careful. Money doesn't grow on trees, or from psychic gypsies or Don Lapres.

- Matt