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Friday, June 5, 2015

Presidential Campaign 2016 - Wake Me Up in 14 Months

With GOP and DEM clowns tripping over each other to create headlines that will get them some media coverage, I am ignoring all political coverage until the herds are thinned.

Other than knowing some names, I can't tell you what a single candidate's position is on an issue at the moment. Frankly, their position doesn't really matter since the vast majority of them will adjust their stance to the middle of the road to win votes if they are lucky enough to actually still be in the conversation once the race actually begins. Of course, the far right Bible beaters and the far left radicals will cater to their fringe elements and go down with the ship.

The whole campaign process is sickeningly too long and irrelevant. It exists largely to give the media something to fill their ad and news space while candidates rake in billion dollar war chests. It gives a number of pretenders an opportunity to build exposure for some future endeavor, book deal, or speaker's fees.

If I see a piece on the Internet or in the paper about a political candidate, I skip right over it. I change the channel as soon as a story starts about this person or that person declaring they are running for office. I will not watch any candidate debates or forums until we are down to a single candidate for each party and any independents who are running. You may think that approach is willfully being uniformed but I believe nothing meaningful is coming out of the mouths of candidates or the media until they get down to serious brawlers.

Primaries and caucuses have become irrelevant. Convention delegates seldom reflect the actual popular vote. Listening tours are nothing more than mega fundraising scams. Given the speed with which news travels these days and the power of the Internet, voters can be informed, the media can fully investigate and the entire presidential campaign process could be shrunk to three months. Moreover, the speed with which the world, our nation and the economy change, you can expect the specifics of a candidate's views to have little relevance in 18 months.

But an abbreviated campaign period would cost the major networks and their local stations hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue, the lobbyists and influence peddlers would have to operate in a shrunken window of payoffs and candidates wouldn't be able to amass bank accounts that assure them of funds for years to come. Hotels would lose bookings that state conventions generate, sign and banner makers would have fewer orders, etc., etc. None of those parties are willing to do what is best for America at their own expense, which is why the election process isn't going to change.

Just so you don't think I am apathetic, I have already made some very firm decisions about whom I will not vote under any circumstances. I will never cast a vote for a Bush or a Clinton. Those two families should not have the right to rule this nation for the better part of three decades, which is what it would amount to if either is elected. The other "nonstarter" name for me is the pathetic clown with orange hair, Trump. Hopefully, by the time this farce of a lengthy campaign process winds down, a worthy candidate from either, or hopefully, no party will emerge. Wake me up then.
 

Posted by Jim Paglia at 12:35 AM  Links to this post

Friday, January 30, 2015

Super Bowl Ads Are Like America's Presidential Elections

With no effort on my part other than a mouse click, I've seen "leaked" Super Bowl ads from six different advertisers via FaceBook. Rest assured, none of these are leaked but rather released with the hope they'll get extra exposure to amortize the outrageous expense of producing and airing them. Sadly, not even the cutesy Budweiser or dramatic domestic violence spots moved me. Ads that merely make me say "Aw" or reinforce what I already know to be despicable conditions but don't actively entice me to DO something are a waste of money. More on this later.

It dawned on me, Super Bowl ads, and the Super Bowl itself are akin to America's presidential election process. 1. The far too long lead up is just a bunch of overwrought theater that serves little purpose other generating billions of dollars in ad sales. 2. The main characters are almost indistinguishable from one another and of little interest except to a small pocket of supporters. 3. The event itself is anticlimactic despite all the hoopla and drama the media tries to invent. 4. Two weeks after the event it is all but forgotten by most people. 4. The public participates because it has come to believe the experience that revolve around the concept of parties is a form of patriotic obligation. 5. The next morning, most people feel noting but a nagging headache and regret. 6. Regardless of who wins, the outcome has little or no meaning in the lives of 99.9% of Americans.

I have to return to the topic of a specific ad. Slapping a web address at the end doesn't move me to action. In the case of the domestic violence ad, donated by the NFL, I found it to be nothing more than gratuitous, exploitative, lip service. FYI, NFL, the public is already aware that domestic violence is an issue. Your members have given us repeated examples. Pat yourself on the back for "raising awareness" of a critical issue if you like, but most of us would prefer to give you a swift kick in the ass for your attitude and handling of the topic.

I'll be skipping the game. What ads I haven't seen will be available on Monday. Let's hope they actually attempt sell something and give me valid reason to consider buying but I predict it will feel like any other Nov. 5th.

Posted by Jim Paglia at 5:30 PM  Links to this post

Labels: BudweiserNFLSuper Bowl ads

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to Bed Loses A Customer to American Mattress

The Internet is a wonderful place and surprise, it's addictive! Admit it, you know you're one of us. We are up all night, blurry eyed and unable to walk away from our keyboard, unable to pull our gaze from the screen. The late night images fuel our imagination, the words on the screen seduce us with urgings to "click here to enlarge."

 

Nothing gets my juices flowing like the need to make a major household purchase, which of course, cannot be made without countless hours of research. Such was the case when it was time to buy a new mattress to replace a trusty predecessor, retired after nearly two decades of service that has been with me from bachelorhood through two Midwestern states, a wife, two children, three dogs, a couple of cats other assorted life measures.

 

Let's just say I left no stone unturned in comparing brands, models, technologies, coil gauge, foam, gel, prices, industry practices, sales techniques, and customer ratings and testimonials. I considered online offers, newspaper specials and the in-store discounts offered by eager sales people. After all the research and comparisons, I had my mind set on a higher end Beautyrest model.

Back to Bed, a retailer with numerous locations in Illinois and Indiana, which carries the Beautyrest brand opened a new store in Michigan City, IN and ran ads touting its grand opening with significant discounts. My wife and I took a ride over on a pleasant fall Sunday afternoon fully intending to make our purchase.

The store was cold looking, poorly lighted, uninviting and had the appearance of a strip mall "box" that was unfinished and a temporary location. The products were in lines and aisles that reminded me of an old fashioned  hospital ward. It gave me the feeling that Back to Bed just plopped its beds down in a space where the rent was cheapest, and they spent nothing to create a showroom. It was also empty except for a single sales person who was stationed in the far, back corner of the deep store. He was leaning with his elbows propped on the counter as he listened to a football game being piped through the store's sound system.

He yelled out to us, "Hey, how ya doin'? Have anything in particular in mind today?"

I yelled back that we were just browsing. He pointed to different sections of the store to show us how the styles of coil, foam and "hybrid" beds were arranged. We wandered around, honed in on the Beautyrest display in the very front of the store and tested different firmness options.  That's when I noticed the listed sales prices varied significantly from what I thought I'd read in the newspaper ads. I walked back to the sales person who had yet to move off his elbows and asked about the sale prices. He got immediately defensive, maybe because I was interrupting his listening to the game, whipped out the newspaper ad from under the counter and suggested I misread the ad. "Sale prices are based on the original list price. The percentage discounts you read are already reflected in the yellow prices." The yellow prices were no better than we'd seen advertised by other retailers as their regular prices.

My wife and I took a look at each other, silently agreed we'd had enough of his lazy attitude and the misleading offers, turned and walked out. We left the parking lot somewhat deflated.

However, directly across the street was an American Mattress store and I decided to stop there just to get my wife's enthusiasm back for finding a mattress that met our needs and budget. It turned out to be a watershed experience,

Unlike the store we'd just left, this one was bright, inviting and products were arranged in small groupings that included bedroom furniture, carpets, decorator pieces and accent lighting. This store was also empty except for a single salesperson. Soothing music was playing overhead and I would swear they were pumping fragrances throughout the showroom because the store smelled fresh and inviting.

Before we got five feet into the store the salesperson shouted a friendly hello and began moving in our direction. He shook our hands and then backed off about ten feet before asking us how much we knew about mattresses. "A knowledgeable customer is the best kind of customer" was how he opened. He asked for permission to walk us through how mattresses are constructed and how the categories varied without concern for manufacturers, models or prices. He was most interested in us determining the type of mattress that suited us before considering a choice.

After walking us through his Mattresses 101 course, which proved to be very helpful despite my extensive advance research, we honed in on a couple of choices and decided we'd go home and consider our options. Although he offered us a sale price that was significantly below the posted prices, I avoided haggling at that point. The next day, I stopped back to tell him we'd settled on a particular model at which point he and I entered into price negotiations in earnest.

His informative approach, low key but friendly demeanor and desire to match our needs all contributed to outstanding salesmanship. We spent considerably more than we originally intended and were happy to do so once we fully appreciated the differences in mattresses. Furthermore, he got us hooked on adding a motorized, adjustable foundation, the purchase of which we postponed to serve as an incentive for something my wife and I agreed we wanted to save for first. Where do you think we will be going when it's time to make that purchase?

The American Mattress salesperson might believe a knowledgeable customer is the best customer but I would add a fully satisfied customer who spreads the word is even better. 

Posted by Jim Paglia at 12:19 PM  Links to this post

The Sinner and Samaritan That I Am

A group of dedicated women spent months preparing for the John Marshall High School (Rochester, NY) 44th Reunion. We hadn't had a reunion since our 20th in 1990, so it seemed an odd year to have one but I've been eager to see long lost friends, some folks with whom I'd reconnected on Facebook and a number of people with whom I wasn't close in high school but curious about nonetheless.

Prior to the event, an eight-hour gathering seemed a little excessive to me but I was game since it was planned as a casual, catered party in a local park. In hindsight, eight hours was far too little time together. I intended to spend extended time with my friends Vern and Kris, Sandy and Mike, as well as Jim and Sandy for whom I stood at their wedding forty years ago. I was sure the other Kris and I would spend lots of time face to face given how we'd sent each other a series of notes over the months via Facebook. I don't think I spent more than five or ten with any of these folks because there were just so many people to see, so many hugs to share, so many memories to relive.

However, the day was defined for me by two polar opposite exchanges that took place about ten minutes apart as I was preparing to leave at the end of the day.

Dan and I were not only schoolmates but I was in his wedding when he married my dear friend and childhood neighbor, Mary Ellen.  Dan and I worked together at two different employers during and following high school. After they married, Dan and Mary Ellen lived in the apartment above my brother and me. (Dan's father owned the apartment building.) We hadn't been in touch in decades and were catching up when a fellow walked up and interrupted our conversation.

After a full day of encounters it was pretty easy to gauge the degree of warmth and sincerity behind each greeting. "Hi, Jim." was said in the most unfriendly tone accompanied by an equally icy look. Before I could respond, the fellow turned to Dan and said in an accusatory tone that sounded like it had been brewing for forty years, "He doesn't have any idea who I am." When I admitted I didn't recognize the man, Dan gave me a single clue, "Peanut."

That nickname was given to a boy who was small in stature and did not resemble in any way the man in front of me with the shaved head, perfectly trimmed gray facial hair and medium but fit build. Even after studying his eyes closely, I didn't see any resemblance. His expression never warmed toward me and he quickly turned his attention toward Dan to discuss dates of some upcoming social events. When they were done he turned and walked away.

As I reflected on my strongest recollection of this fellow it revolved around an incident where someone took his jock strap and lined it with a heat ointment when he wasn't looking. About the time he finished getting dressed in the layers of clothes we wore for wrestling practice he began to feel the burning sensation on his testicles. Most of the team was aware of the prank and we pretended to busy ourselves waiting for the unpleasant effect to kick in. We howled when he went running to the showers. A flood of other incidents rushed to mind and it struck me he was the target of many pranks that today would unmistakably be called bullying. While I never actively participated in any of the pranks, I witnessed many of them, laughed heartily and made no attempt to intervene. Forty years after the fact, I realized I was indirectly guilty of being a bully.

"I'll be right back," I said to Dan.

"Peanut" was sitting alone at a table eating his meal. He never looked at me or stopped eating as I began to explain how sorry I was for witnessing the bullying he endured and doing nothing to stop it. When I finished, he offered me his hand and despite not looking directly at me, I could see the hurt in his eyes. My apology didn't begin to make up for the suffering he endured or the forty years it took someone, anyone to acknowledge and apologize for it. I walked away feeling very ashamed of myself and equally somber recognizing that by my failure to stand up, I was a contributor to his being bullied. I was ready to leave the reunion.

Making the rounds to say my goodbyes I became aware of another fellow who appeared to be waiting for me. Although we had a number of mutual friends in school,  he and I didn't know each other well. He was an outstanding musician and performed with a folk group that I followed regularly so we were familiar with each other but never really spoke. I thought of him as a gentle, quiet and deep, thoughtful person. Unfortunately, those weren't the characteristics that I was always draw to in high school. Prior to the reunion, we friended each other on Facebook and I've come to enjoy his frequent, interesting posts but we haven't communicated directly.

He approached me as I headed to my car in the parking lot and asked if he could walk with me. He began telling me about an evening he was walking home from school and got accosted by a group of guys who were threatening him and who he was certain intended to hurt him. He didn't tell me why they wanted to hurt him but I could hear the fear in his voice and see the hurt in his eyes more than forty years later. "I don't know where you came from but  suddenly you were standing up to these guys, they backed down and never bothered me again. I've always appreciated what you did and I've retold that story every year since, including to the freshmen I meet each year." (He's in higher education at a major university.) As he spoke, I had absolutely no recollection of the encounter.

The contrast of emotions from facing my own failings only minutes earlier and then been informed of my actions to protect someone from bullying and possible physical harm was perplexing and a little overwhelming. I shared with him the general details of my recently extended apology and we agreed we'd both continue to tell the combined stories going forward. For me, the sequence and timing couldn't have been more powerful - from shame to redemption in under ten minutes. It took over forty years for my past to catch up with me in a ten minute flurry. It reminded me each of us has both good and bad in us. Which of those will prevail is as simple as each individual act we choose.


 

Posted by Jim Paglia at 12:00 PM  Links to this post

Friday, May 23, 2014

U.S. Soccer Signals "Wait 'Till Next Year" Attitude Toward World Cup

The American soccer community is all a flutter about Landon Donovan being left off the U.S. Soccer World Cup team.

I don't think the decision is about him. It's about protecting the brand.

The U.S. will be lucky to advance out of the opening round group play. Anything beyond that would be gravy but far short of a victory. Regardless of far it gets, this team will not come close to winning the cup.

So why include arguably the best player to ever wear the team's jersey and reinforce the opinion that even our "best" can't get the job done? Losing with Donovan leading the team sends a message to sponsors and television executives that American soccer is still not ready for prime time. To gauge the state of American soccer all you had to do was watch any of the English Premier League games on NBC this season and then tune in to any MLS game. The contrast is like moving from Major League Baseball to a Double AA minor league game.

Back to the subject at hand, losing by mixing in relatively unknown, up and coming younger players sets the stage for saying "the team is well poised to improve by 2018." Why else would you give the coach a contract extension ahead of the tournament when traditionally contracts are designed to be renewed right after the tournament?

The U.S. National Team and Major League Soccer are marketed as a package. That's why 15 of the 30 invitees to the tryouts are MLS players. The World Cup is being used as a means of promoting MLS players to build local market visibility in the U.S. These largely unknown MLS players will be seen by American TV viewers who normally wouldn't be interested in soccer on TV. Just maybe some of them will stand out enough to entice a viewer to attend an MLS game. After winning five MLS crowns, Landon Donovan has largely exhausted any ability he has to attract new fans to MLS.

Of course, they'd never admit it but the leadership of U.S. Soccer, MLS and the coaches of the National Team are already conceding the World Cup and trying to make the best of a losing proposition. It's actually a pretty shrewd strategy. Better to invest in the near term career potential of these MLS players and help to bolster the League's growth. No doubt the players who are chosen will play their hearts out despite the likely outcome.  Think that I'm being defeatist? Overly negative? Unpatriotic? Suggesting an outlandish conspiracy? Then you don't know the people involved or the underpinnings of the sport as well as you think.

Posted by Jim Paglia at 12:31 PM  Links to this post

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The "I" in DIY Stands For Internet in My World

Like an ever growing percentage of the population, I buy almost nothing these days without first doing my online research. Our house is about nine years old which means we are beginning to see items that need repair or replacement.

A couple of months ago, the sump pump needed to be replaced. It was easy-peasy since I added a battery backup model a couple of years ago and that required a bit more know how than a simple pump installation. As a visual learner, I find online videos better than the manuals and instructions that come with most products. Two weeks ago, it was time to replace the garbage disposer. A couple of visits to DIY store web sites and I knew my options and the best offers. It's been a few years since I installed a disposer, so to be on the safe side, I checked out a couple of YouTube videos to be sure I didn't install the new product incorrectly.

The same week, the ice/water dispenser on the door of our refrigerator died. An online search revealed numerous suggestions but most advice centered on the master control board. The online price seemed good and the product arrived in 48 hours. It took about 20 minutes to replace. Unfortunately, it didn't solve the problem. I posted a help request on a couple of web sites looking for instructions on how to get into the dispenser front panel. Hope burns eternal that I can fix the fridge myself.

This past week it was time to tackle trenching and then burying a new sump discharge line. The past couple of winters the line has frozen and we've had a flooded backyard when the drain tile backed up. Either the original was somehow clogged or it was buried too shallow and froze.

A neighbor lent me his pickup truck with a trailer. The local equipment rental place had a sod cutter and a three foot trench digging machine. Having used sod cutters before, that part wasn't an issue but the trench digger was a very intimidating monster. However, I was determined not to let it get the best of me. The weird part is the trencher is made to be operated walking backwards. Each time I stared from my house to the edge of the pond beyond our backyard 140 feet away, I began to question why I took this job on instead of hiring a professional.

After a few minutes of coaxing the trencher beast I became comfortable, but was still cautious with the machine. It's a self propelled model so all I had to do was use the dual shifters with one hand to steer and use the other hand to grip the clutch control. At times, the machine got away from me and I had to call a neighbor over a couple of times to help me get the wheels out of the ditch I was digging. Two days of hard work went easier than they might had I not spent an hour or so investigating the project online, first.

The Internet has given me the courage to tackle projects that I might have once considered too challenging just a few years ago. Now, there's almost no DIY job I won't attempt as long as I remind myself that the Internet is my first stop.

 

Posted by Jim Paglia at 12:28 PM  Links to this post

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Miller Lite Punch Can - Pours Better, Drinks Poor

Miller Beer has resorted to gimmicks to sell its Lite brand. Here's an excerpt from a corporate press release . . .

"Miller Lite is giving its cans a second tab for a smoother pour, and inviting beer drinkers to have fun opening it.

The Punch Top Can increases airflow, reducing glug resulting in an improved, smoother pour that highlights the great pilsner taste of Miller Lite. The second tab on the Punch Top Can can be opened with a wide array of objects such as a house key, golf tee or even a dollar bill, for those who are especially clever. Simply set the can on a solid surface, place your chosen opener against the edge of the can and use leverage to open the second tab.

'Miller Lite is giving beer lovers an even more enjoyable drinking experience with the breakthrough Punch Top Can,' said Amy Breeze, director of innovation and activation for Miller Lite. 'In our testing, consumers told us they prefer the Punch Top Can three-to-one over the standard beer can because it’s more like drinking from a pilsner glass. We’re proud of our product and think everyone will have a blast exploring different ways to open it.' . . ."

Oh, Amy, it should be embarrassing for you to attach your name to such bullshit. Your quotes are a perfect example of "puffery" and disingenuous blubbery used when a spokesperson has nothing relevant to say. Let me assure you, no one is having a blast exploring different ways to open a beer can unless they vigorously shake the can first. This release belongs in the PR Hall of Shame.

More than the world needed a remedy for the dreaded beer glug leading to a smooth pouring beer, it needed another reason to mock a watered down beer. You've given us one more reason to do the latter in bars and on home sofas everywhere. I'm not sure that's the "fun" to which you were alluding in your release.

Posted by Jim Paglia at 2:40 PM  Links to this post

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty Is a Brand of the Highest Order

We have two TiVo machines in the house as a result of my wife's penchant for recording nearly every episode of every show on cable TV. No matter what I wanted to record it seemed the machine was already fully scheduled with her shows. Now, I have my own TiVo in the bedroom.

The truth is, most of my Season Passes are HBO shows. Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, the Newsroom dominate my list. There are some PBS specials and an odd episode or two of something but the most capacity on my recorder is taken by Duck Dynasty, the #1 reality show on American television. DD is now being syndicated all around the world.

In addition to enjoying the various personalities of the Robertson family and their interactions, I appreciate the wholesomeness, positive approach and family nature of the show. Each episode features different family members engaged in various situations whose stories are intertwined during the half hour. Ultimately, the show and the various predicaments are summed up by Willie, Duck Dynasty's CEO, while the extended family is shown gathered for dinner, which always begins with prayer. Willie does a voiceover that captures the common thread and uplifting value that ties all the stories together.

In spite of the strong moral messages and wholesome family depictions, in a sea of other nasty, negative reality shows, it's debatable whether this is good TV or not. But what impresses me most is the brilliant manner in which this family has taken a distinguished brand in a very narrow, niche market and expanded it. In addition to being the best known duck calls in all the hunting universe, through this show, DD has accomplished one of the most challenging and sophisticated brand expansions in history.

Think about it. Non-hunters everywhere, of all ages, are buying DD merchandise from cookbooks, autobiographies, DVDs and sunglasses to clothing, and a soon to be released Christmas album titled "Duck the Halls." This says nothing of the millions they are taking in from the television and appearance fees. All the while, The Robertson family maintains its squeaky clean image and boldly espouses its Christian faith.

Last night I attended the Porter County (IN) Fair and joined thousands of other fans who paid $25 to $100 a seat to hear Willie and Korie, his wife, speak extemporaneously about the family, their lives, business and faith. Throughout the fair, everywhere you walked, there were people wearing DD merchandise. The show has spawned four or five expressions associated with individual members of the family from Patriarch Phil's "Happy, happy happy" to Uncle Si's "Hey" and "That's what I'm talkin' about."

Relatively speaking, The growth and expansion of the DD brand is no less impressive or sophisticated in my eyes than what Apple has done with it's brand around personalized music. Apple didn't invent MP3 players but they did find a way to dominate the industry by showing people they could have precisely what music they wanted, when and where they wanted it. In doing so, they reinvented the way we buy music with iTunes and crossed into markets never before united in music.

DD has found ways to penetrate markets that have absolutely no connection to duck hunting or the passion the Robertson men have for killing things and it still won legions of fans. The popularity of the brand is found in the Robertson family behaviors, not merely the messaging, which is the real essence of a brand. I've worked with hundreds of brands including Disney, McDonald's, IBM, the March of Dimes, Wendy's, Taco Bell, American Express and even an arm of the Department of Defense and I stand in awe of what the Robertson's have built. I consider DD nothing short of brilliant brand strategy.

Posted by Jim Paglia at 12:26 PM  Links to this post

Labels: Duck DynastyWillie Robertson

Friday, July 12, 2013

Justice For Whom?

The call came from a junior defense lawyer (I think they're called associates) months ago that I was being named as a witness in a civil case in which I am not a party and would be required to give a deposition. Shortly there after I got a letter from the same person asking for a copy of every written and electronic piece of correspondence exchanged with the client over a two year period of time. Enclosed was a check for $20 for my trouble.

I shot back a nasty email to the lawyer informing her, that like her, my hourly rate was more than $20 would cover. Since I had no contractual obligation with the client to retain records as I do with some others, hadn't worked with the client in well over a year and had no interest in ever working with this client again, saving the files was just more clutter so I discard all the files long ago when I upgraded computers and downsized my office.

Not long after, I got a call from the plaintiff's attorney informing me they weren't even sure I would be selected as a witness and it would be months before depositions would be taken and I might not be included.

Can someone explain why I am being forced by the court to participate in this case between former business partners who had a falling out that didn't involve me and getting jack squat for my time and trouble? Screw the civic duty argument. I am now being forced to give up a day's pay, engage an attorney at my own expense and pay $100 out of pocket (the cost of gas, tolls and parking) so these lawyers and litigants can debate who gets to keep the millions of dollars they are squabbling over. All the while, everyone in the system from the judge to the stenographer gets paid except for me.

Ironically, that junior lawyer bills for every minute she spends on the case as well as the three minute cab ride she'll take to get to the deposition. Some people get nervous in situations like depositions. I can assure you I will be angry and not the least bit intimidated.

Well, the dumb-ass court system can force me to be there but it can't force me to be cooperative, have "clear" memory or function other than as a hostile witness to the entire process. If I do it right, I will successfully avoid having to return (again at my own expense) for the trial. Screw you, Lady Justice. Your scale is way off as far as I am concerned.

Posted by Jim Paglia at 3:19 PM  Links to this post

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Without The Bottom, Where Would We Know The Top To Be?

If you've read any of my blog posts you know I do a lot of complaining. That's why I wanted to open this one by advising you that after some early critical comments, it will be a whole-hearted, feel good, post of praise.

After nearly 25 years of marriage it gets hard to come up with desirable gifts for my wife, especially since she has a longstanding reluctance about accepting gifts in general from anyone. Things we can do together, which we enjoy equally (that rules out any sporting event on her part), are always a safe bet. This is especially true about theater tickets.

With some reluctance due to the price in the reseller market, I acquired two tickets at more than four times face value to see Book of Mormon in Chicago. It was a rare date night for two empty-nesters. It was only after we were in our seats and I had a chance to read the program did I learn that the play was the work of the creators of South Park. This proved to be an unexpected bonus since my wife is a huge fan of the TV program. I've watched South Park a handful of times and it isn't my cup of tea.

While my wife thoroughly enjoyed Book of Mormon, I found it to be only mildly entertaining. It certainly didn't compare with many of the great Broadway shows I've attended. Because of the farcical premise of the play and exaggerated personalities of the characters, I couldn't identify with any of them. In most cases, I found the roles to be caricature like. The music seemed overly simple and formulaic. As an example, I can't recall a single tune from the show or the work of a single performer I thought stood out. That's pretty telling for what is billed as a musical. Sitting through Book of Mormon felt like just another South Park episode, that was about 30 minutes too long.

Here's where the praise begins . . .

In examining why I felt let down by Book of Mormon I realized that for me, the story, the music, the acting and the staging couldn't compare to a long list of shows I truly appreciated seeing.

If you haven't seen Wicked, you owe yourself the treat of seeing a truly brilliant book of music wrapped around a story of fantasy. Les Miserables may be the greatest staging, music and acting ever put on a stage where it is almost impossible not to identify with the characters. Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and even Joseph and the Amazing Dream Coat offer a level of audience appeal that is undeniably superior.

The key to each of the shows listed in the previous paragraph and dozens more that I have enjoyed is that I have seen each of them numerous times and never tire of the story or performances. Seeing Book of Mormon helped me appreciate all the more what separates an average high school musical from true Broadway worthy brilliance.

As an aside, it didn't surprise me to learn Book of Mormon will discontinue its Chicago appearance this fall, about a year into its run. Likewise, Wicked, which ran for about three years in Chicago and left for about a year is heading back to town. I will be in the audience and cheering loudly.

Posted by Jim Paglia at 3:02 PM  Links to this post

Labels: Book of MormonWicked