Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Restless Blackjack Syndrome

I can't imagine how difficult it must be, to be afflicted by the horrible condition known as Restless Leg Syndrome. Suffers have symptoms like, "an urge to move, usually due to uncomfortable sensations that occur primarily in the legs." When I was a kid, we called that being antsy. But from the nifty little article on Wikipedia I gather that at least some people have real problems with it.

Thankfully, Mirapex is ready to heal your restlessness (with a doctor's prescription of course). I experienced a Mirapex advertisement today, and one phrase blew my mind:
... if you experience increased gambling, sexual, or other intense urges, then see your physician...
Come again? Should we be calling it Viagrapex? That must be some potent stuff indeed.

I kind of thought of Restless Leg Syndrome as a great alibi when you kick your partner in bed. Sorry honey, I guess it's the RLS acting up again! (wink, wink) But it sounds like the side effects are even worse. After all, it's easy to blame an innocent kick on RLS, but it's quite a bit harder to explain how you got caught binging on Butterfingers at a Texas Hold'em poker orgy. I guess it was the Mirapex, sweety!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

World's Highest Product Placement

Continuing on the theme of the Everest show, I started looking a little more closely at the climbers' jackets, and I started seeing things. Well actually, I started seeing corporate logos. In particular, the best climber, Mogens Jensen, has a bunch of "gsk" logos stuck to his jacket and his hat. Could that be the drug conglomerate Glaxo-Smith-Kline? Yep.

And if I wasn't mistaken I also saw logos for Motorola and (maybe?)

Now I seriously doubt that Glaxo-Smith-Kline manufactures mountaineering parkas or hats, nor does Motorola.

Of course not. These climbers are advertising for corporate sponsors. What I don't know is whether they found their own personal sponsor, or if the producers provided a certain number of "product placement" emblems throughout the show. On the one hand, it's clear that "gsk" has been Mogens Jensen's personal patron for at least two years (he's an asthmatic, and I'm sure they have asthma medicines for sale). On the other hand, product placements are sure money-makers for reality shows. Other shows like Top Chef have so many product placments that it's hard to draw the line between entertainment and advertisement anymore.

I predicted that by the third season, we would be seeing aspiring young actors auditioning for the show. Now I wonder if we will instead be watching a climber drinking his Evian springwater while warming his feet on a Coleman Stove and watching CNN on his Motorola mini-TV...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Beyond the Limit

The Discovery Channel is airing a new season of its reality program, Everest, Beyond the Limit. I find it fascinating that the show is sponsored by Mastercard. The producers are already working on the new hit series, Your Credit, Beyond the Limit. I mean really, did Mastercard even look at the title before they sponsored it?

The program itself is quite fascinating. It's a reality-info-tainment documentary of climbers that pay a guide service for the privilege of climbing Mount Everest. I assume that the producers are paying for the same privilege for their camera and sound men to trail along and catch all of the grueling details. And to attach small cameras to the Sherpas that blaze trails and help climbers. The so-called SherpaCams™ can go places that normal mortal camera dudes can't.

The danger of death is very real, much more real than Deadliest Catch, where Alaskan crab fishermen lounge around at sea level and breathe luxurious 21% oxygen. Climbers have to deal with high altitudes, icy and windy conditions, and bad weather. The casualty rate is usually not measured by whether somebody died in the season, but how many died. And even those who don't die are susceptible to losing their fingers or toes (or nose!) due to frostbite. But this is not a huge surprise, to anybody who has read the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

The really interesting thing is that the conditions are so extreme, and the location is so remote, the documentary crew are not really impartial observers any more. Last season, a climber David Sharp died right on the trail as other climbers hiked by. There is some controversy over whether Sharp was seen by the climbers early in the climb on the way up, or later on their way down. Still, the expedition leader David Brice made the decision to continue his expedition and provide no rescue assistance. Understanding that the camera crew, Sherpas, and Brice himself were being paid by Discovery channel and the other climbers, one can imagine that the urge to continue the expedition was quite strong. We have a TV show to make here. Interestingly, the portion of the video where Sherpas encountered Sharp was editted out of the show. It's not clear if there was a "right" decision that could have been made, but in that kind of situation the decisions of the filmmakers themselves could have life-or-death consequences. (Another example of this is the documentary Black Tar Heroin which followed several heroin users for a year in San Francisco.)

This is the second season of the Everest show. I can already see that the producers have "selected" the climbers for the greatest entertainment value. So far we have been introduced to the Biker Dude, the L.A. Reporter, the British Pub Mate, and the Asthmatic Athlete. I'm surprised that none of them is an aspiring actor trying to get onto Desperate Housewives. It's so hard to get onto reality television these days, don't you know?