A Monthly Meditation on Branding and Language
From Your Favorite Copy Shop, Editorial Emergency

#33 (Oct. 30, 2009): Fun-Size Issue

Since we're on the road (actually, ACROSS the road from the Bridge Street Cemetery in picturesque Northampton, Mass.), this month's issue is a short-form ramble. But enjoy a few mini-musings about eternally spooky Halloween brands; the scary world of an anxious teen; reader feedback on not getting smart; the mysterious world of the doo-dah — and, as ever, a terrifying exhumation of those Tales From the Cryptic, aka Not Our Clients.

Monster Brands: Mercifully Deathless

ImageThe horror genre has changed. With the exception of the occasional up-market remake or tongue-in-cheek revival, the tragic monsters of yore (the Frankenstein monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy) don't lumber through our multiplexes all that often. The culture's lousy with zombies, to be sure, but the dread conjured by "Night of the Living Dead" has been replaced by comedic splatter. Vampires are well represented, though more often as teenage sexpots with expensive haircuts than becloaked Mittel-European aristocrats in cobwebby castles. Torture and dismemberment at the hands of moralizing puzzle freaks seem to cut more ice with modern audiences, alas, than sad-eyed beasts upon windy moors.

But cinematic trends are cyclical; if you want to see which Halloween brands are truly with us for the long haul, hie thee to the general retailer. There you'll find all the aforementioned old-timers, as well as a heaping helping of cackling witches, grinning skeletons, flapping bats and shrieking ghouls. Sure, a few psychotic icons of the slasher era — as well as assorted kid wizards and transforming robo-thingies — have infiltrated the retail ranks, but by and large the Halloween aisle at your local Rite-Aid or Target is a reassuring indicator that classic frights trump the latest bloody trend every time.

Fear Has a New Name: "Headlock"

ImagePerhaps that headline is a tad misleading. "Headlock: Chronicles of a Psychiatrist's Son" isn't a new horror franchise; it is, in author Eugene Rubin's words, "a mostly true account of growing up in New York in the '70s as a privileged, neurotic Jewish kid with a famous psychiatrist father." But this sharply penned memoir does offer an extensive gallery of terrors, courtesy of its obsessive young protagonist. It's also an alternately hilarious, mortifying, raunchy and poignant read, suggesting a brainy, anxious mash-up of Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, "Animal House" and "Freaks and Geeks." And we're not just saying that because we helped create the content for the book's handsome website, HeadlockTheBook.com, where visitors can download the first three chapters for free (before purchasing the complete volume); peruse Rubin's crankily amusing blog; read his bio; and thrill to a series of excerpts titled "Eugene's Teenage Anxieties" — leaping spirochetes, lurking lumps, pre-expulsion from college ... Scary indeed.

Don't Get Smart, Part 2: Taking the Stand

ImageLast month's article on the public vocabulary of certain spokespeople (notably in the law-enforcement community) seems to have touched a nerve, and nowhere more so than with Edwin Soler of Avondale, Penn. While Mr. Soler acknowledges some of the piece's "very good points," he notes, "You picked a very bad example by using law enforcement as people that have to 'smart up' with their talk because they [fear] being seen as dumb. I myself work in law enforcement and when you take the stand, you do in fact need to and are taught how to direct your words in the court room or anywhere else when in uniform or 'suited up' and out in the community in a dangerous neighborhood." Well, Mr. Soler, though we stand by our story, we truly appreciate your service and your feedback and, as usual, we encourage all of you to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it whenever the spirit moves.

The Doo-Dah Parade

ImageSince we're always tracking the inventive use of language in social media, our hat is off to friend of EE Mollie Johnson, whose Twitter account is now unofficially TheDooDahForum. What is a doo-dah, you ask? It's a seven-syllable phrase, ideally a rhythmic match to a line from "Camptown Races" (and thus followed by two rousing "doo-dahs").

Ms. Johnson began collecting doo-dahs at a young age and now catches them instantaneously in everyday conversation; visit her online tweet shrine and add your own. Here are a few thematically appropriate examples to get you started: Halloween is coming soon (doo-dah, doo-dah). Dress up like a skeleton. Fun-sized candy makes you fat. Monster movie marathon! Now step up and write your own, oh the doo-dah day. (Apologies to Stephen Foster.)

Not Our Clients: Lost Marbles Edition

From right here in our temporary Western Mass. neighborhood, a window into the inscrutably wrong:

This is "too" confusing.

Our thanks to Megan Zinn for this foul specimen. We thank her also for allowing us to stay in her mansion without losing her marbles. If you have the requisite intestinal fortitude, lay your peepers on the other latest inductees into our macabre gallery here. Do you have a suitably scary candidate for our hall of shame? This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it along a photo and we'll reward you with the customary iTunes gift certificate.


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