watching the wheels

Mac and cheese

By Wayne Wood

That Apple guy is really getting on my nerves. I’m talking about those Mac computer ads where the two guys stand against a white background and talk about their computers.
You know who I mean, the smug, smarmy little twit who tries to appear friendly and helpful but doesn’t quite conceal his disdain for people who aren’t as cool as he thinks he is. Jerk.
The actor playing Mr. Smug Apple is named Justin Long. Apparently he was in the movie Dodgeball and the TV show Ed, although I’ve seen the movie and saw a few episodes of the TV show and don’t remember him from either one. The actor who plays the personification of the P.C.—the uncool computer—is John Hodgeman, who is a occasional contributor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the radio program This American Life. Hodgeman is also the author of the humor book “The Areas of My Expertise.”
So what we have here is a shocking example of advertising not accurately reflecting real life. The cool guy is played by a third-string actor who isn’t really cool, and the nerdy guy is played by a guy who is, in his understated way, cooler than the “cool” guy.
The reason that I am whipsawed by this so much is that I like Macs. I have had three home computers over the years, all Macs. Sharon has a Mac laptop. I have used a Mac at work for 15 years or so—in fact, those of us who do publications work were Mac’s only reliable market before the iPod came along. While we’re on the subject, I also have an iPod (Sharon got it for me for my birthday last year), and I like it a lot, too.
So if there’s a discussion going on about which computer operating system is the better one, I’m on Apple’s side. And yet, somehow they come up with an ad in which I find the personification of Apple annoying and the personification of Brand X more appealing. John Hodgeman strikes me as a smart, funny guy who makes the P.C. look more appealing than 20 years of actually being around P.C.s ever has. That’s quite an advertising feat, Apple!
I know what you’re thinking: that I’m not identifying with the young hip guy with the untucked T-shirt because I’m old, and that I like the older guy in the suit and tie because I’m a member of the tie-wearing fossil-American community myself. To sum up: you’re thinking I’m reacting this way because I’m old and will be dead soon. That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it?
Well, I take a backseat to no one in my dedication to wearing untucked T-shirts, as anybody who hides in the bushes and watches me in the back yard goofing around with the dogs can attest. But I can’t imagine why, if your product already has the reputation of being used by smugger-than-thou, I-was-into-the-Gorillaz-and-Gnarls-Barkley-before-you-were types, why would you use millions of your advertising dollars to reinforce that image?
But, after all, my opinion of Macs hasn’t changed—only that of Mac advertising. I think the computers are good and the ads are bad.
This is the opposite situation from Volkswagen. Sharon and I had a Volkswagen Rabbit years ago that was—and I say this with the knowledge that it is a difficult statement to scientifically verify—the worst single car ever made. It would stop suddenly and for no reason and leave us stranded, it ran up hundreds of dollars in repair bills, its brakes were terrible, its electrical system was so screwed up that there was one time I seem to remember when in order to get the radio to work the wipers also had to be on.
So when we finally got rid of that thing, we swore we would NEVER buy another Volkswagen.
But Volkswagen advertising is very good. There was one of their television ads a few years ago that had as its soundtrack a catchy, ethereal song by Nick Drake called “Pink Moon” that was just a beautiful short film. I had a tiny moment of weakness in which I thought, “Well, maybe a Volkswagen would be an OK car to consider.”
And then I remembered our actual personal experience with owning a Volkswagen, which would have been set to another song, maybe AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” and I came to my senses.
So in the future I will buy Macs, despite their lousy ads, and will not buy Volkswagens, despite their great ads. Some of my best friends are marketing people. I don’t envy them a bit.

(Wood is editor of House Organ, Director of Publications for VUMC, and author of Watching the Wheels: Cheap Irony, Righetous Indignation, and Semi-Enlighted Opinion, which is a collection of past columns.)


October 2006


Feline Frenzy
Matthew Pearson is a brain surgeon who also happens to love show cats.

Pope Photos
John Pope, M.D., turns a passion for photography into a gallery show at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Celebration Memories
A photo retrospective of some Employee Celebration Month highlights.

Health Plus
grand opening

At long last, Health Plus, the staff and faculty wellness program, has a new home.


Malcolm Sloan, longtime chief radiological technologist, dies

Malcolm Sloan, who retired as chief X-ray technologist in 1993 after a 42-year career at VUMC, died Aug. 28 at the age of 74.
Mr. Sloan’s career was marked by honors from others and respect from his co-workers.
In 1992, he was one of the first winners of the annual Commodore Award, given to staff members who far exceed the expectations of their jobs. The annual award given by the Radiology department to the outstanding medical imager is named the O. Malcolm Sloan Award in his honor.
“Malcolm Sloan was one of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals that I have ever known.  He was highly respected by all who were associated with him,” said James A. Patton, Ph.D., professor of Radiology and Physics, who worked with Mr. Sloan for many years.
In addition to his skills as an imager, Mr. Sloan was also known for his ability to fabricate catheters for interventional radiology procedures.  He had a small shop in the department and would often produce a special catheter at the request of a radiologist for a diagnostic procedure and then assist the radiologist in the performance of the procedure.
“He helped train many technologists and radiologists and this legacy remains today as a tribute to him,” Patton said.
Mr. Sloan is survived by his wife of 52 years, Ann Baker Sloan; four children; his mother, Eura Krantz Sloan Van Atta; a brother and sister; a father-in-law; six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Along with his Sunday school class and deacons from Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, faculty and staff of the Vanderbilt Radiology Department were honorary pallbearers at his funeral.
Mr. Sloan’s family requested that gifts in his memory go to the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center or to the Malcolm Sloan Radiology Student Scholarship Fund. The faculty of the Department of Radiology has funded the initial $25,000 of the scholarship fund. Donors should indicate which fund they desire their contribution go to and address the memorial donation to Vanderbilt Gift Processing, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, VU Station B #357727, Nashville, Tenn., 37235.

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