Work of Art: Don’t try this at home

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How many times have you been admonished: “Don’t try this at home”?           

We read the notice most often on television, when someone demonstrates some kind of skill that might prove dangerous if someone goes ahead and attempts it, without proper supervision.        

Where I work, there’s a surprising amount of humor swatted back and forth. We in the newsroom would carry off all honors if there were actual competition, perhaps a trophy being offered. So when we fellows in the newsroom share some of our humor, we implore others not to try it at home. They might be disappointed.

But back to things that matter: There’s some dope in an Allstate commercial on TV who bounces on a tree limb many times while chanting “shaky, shaky.” He bounces on the branch until it snaps, plummeting him and the huge limb onto a car that just happens to be parked below. Whew! I was worried, but felt reassured when I read the disclaimer at the bottom of the TV screen: “Demonstration: Do not attempt.” Well, thank heaven for that. I was about to take my entire family out to our favorite tree, do a group shaky, shaky to see what happens.

The message, I guess, has to do with liability (and stupidity), with some mention that it’s a good idea to have insurance to avoid such mayhem. But what kind of mental peewee does the giant insurance company aim for?         

Some of us recall the McDonald’s hot coffee case, in which an elderly woman named Liebeck in 1994 spilled hot coffee on her lap and got awarded $2.86 million (later reduced to $640,000). That case happened in nearby Albuquerque. Sure, we can all sympathize with the woman’s injuries, but isn’t hot coffee by definition ... hot?
Soon afterward, a number of service stations began selling cold drinks with quite visible warnings that the contents are well ... cold.           

Urban legends or fact? We heard about a pre-teen, influenced by Christopher Reeve’s persona in the Superman series, who tied a cape around his neck, mounted a tall building — and jumped. Myth or reality?

Or the many cases in which automakers try to appeal to the testosteronically challenged by advertising a macho car that can do 140 in a milli-second. Even though there is no need for any road vehicle to go faster than 75, manufacturers nevertheless appeal to our macho leanings by peddling their high-performance wares.

Oh yes, if you look closely enough, you’ll see the notice: “Closed track; Professional driver; Do not attempt.” You mean we mustn’t try these kinds of Indy-500 antics, even though you just showed us how? So at best it’s a mixed message. The advertisers lure you with all that raw power under the hood but urge you not to use all those horses. Yeah, right!

And finally, a fast-food company urges us to save our money by buying their product. So banal was the commercial that I’ve forgotten what’s being advertised. The off-camera voice intones, “Don’t throw away your money,” whereupon we see the woman inserting a five-dollar bill into her mouth, as if the oral cavity were a change-maker in a laundromat.           

But thankfully, the little message below warns us not to try this at home. I was worried for a while. The expression, “Put your money where your mouth is,” refers to doing more than talking about something we believe in but in being willing to support our position.
But apparently the currency-munching woman in the commercial took things literally. Not too sanitary, ma’am.

• • •

A Minnesotan named Joe Bayer sent an e-mail from a local motel, praising our city and commenting on my recent “Mudslinging” column. To learn more about Las Vegas, Bayer said he used the Internet.

He wrote that Las Vegas “has piqued my interest and in the morning, rather than jumping on the freeway ... we plan to drive into town and get a closer look and feel of Las Vegas.” He wrote about enjoying breakfast at Charlie’s Spic and Span.

Coincidentally, Bayer wrote that he grew up in a small rural town in Minnesota and went to a Catholic school, as I did. He said he “can imagine and understand the concept ... described in the grade school incident.”

Apparently, a Sister Mary Macarena of the type I’ve described in previous columns also influenced Bayer.

Did I ever mention having been slapped — twice — in elementary school when the slaps were intended for my seatmate? I must write about that some time. Meanwhile, don’t try it at home.  

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.