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Old and Improved

Jeff Fitzgerald, Genius By

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It should come as no surprise to those of you who follow this column religiously (welcome members of St. Bud's and Our Lady of Perpetual Drinking) that Your Own Personal Genius must, from time to time, step away from his post at AAJ to recharge his creative batteries. While this happens less often than it used to, since I switched to lithium ion from the outdated nickel cadmium creative batteries, I must still occasionally retreat from the pressures of being Your Own Personal Genius and from my grueling writing schedule (three words a day, like clockwork).


When I do need a respite from my important work, and it happens to fall in that dreaded time between the Super Bowl and the hallowed beginning of baseball season when I am reduced to watching arena football just to keep from chewing my own foot off, there is a place where the Once and Future Mrs. Genius and I both find solace when even the refined refuge of the Provisional Geniusdome becomes overwhelmed with pizza boxes and dog flatulence.

Firmstone Manor, a 34-room Victorian mansion that will serve as the model for our private residence once this whole Dean of American Jazz Humorists® gig starts to pay off in earnest, is located near my hometown (and the future home of the Jeff Fitzgerald, Genius, Museum and Diesel College) of Clifton Forge, Virginia. Built in 1874 and almost fully restored to its former glory, the manor is filled with the gilded reminders of an era when people really knew how to live. Except for the whole indoor plumbing thing. And the virtual absence of dental care. And all that damned folk music.


Of the many pleasures and diversions of the manor, the one that held my attention and filled my imagination was a collection of Life magazines from the 1940's. My love of magazines in general is well documented (in Errol Morris' award-whining documentary House of Blow-In Cards), but my particular taste for those of bygone eras is especially pronounced. In fact, it is my overall opinion that almost everything was better in the old days. Jim Crow laws, World War II, polio, and Elvis' jumpsuit era notwithstanding.

One of the things that most intrigued me about my find wasn't the quaint, innocent depiction of a time when people actually cared about Iowa's reigning corn queen. It wasn't the photographic documentation of a time when women wore three pounds of underwear and had hairdos that were both aerodynamic and bulletproof. It wasn't even the pervasive support of the war effort that left me with an insatiable longing to buy bonds and use my ration points on something more substantial than chicken wings. What really grabbed me, and held me breathlessly enthrall, were the ads.

Modern advertising, hamstrung by the cumulative complaints of the excessively credulous, has mostly been reduced to either an adolescent plea for attention or a ham-handed appeal to the baser instincts. Lost in an era of overwhelming choices, when it's easier to choose a name for your child than order a cup of coffee at Starbucks, was a day when advertising could be joyfully hyperbolic, unrepentantly conformist, and unafraid to engage in that uniquely American art of total bullsh*t.

Which got me to thinking.

Perhaps that's just what we at AAJ and in the jazz community at large need to set ourselves apart from the myriad of options available to the music listening (and buying) public. It isn't enough simply to stand above the morass of creative bankruptcy that has turned popular music into a bland, silly charade of lip-synching, crotch-grabbing, and Idol worship. What we need is a dose of good old-fashioned soft-shoed hucksterism.

A few ideas:

What's wrong with Joe? Why, he suffers from tired blood. It makes him listless, unable to focus on work or family. Is there hope for him? Of course! All he needs is AAJ with Hiptuitol, the secret ingredient that 15 out of 23 doctors agree will restore pep and vigor to even the most limpid veins.

Now look at Joe, after logging on to AAJ for just minutes per day. What sagacity, what charisma! His wife has never been more satisfied, and he's up for a promotion at work. That AAJ is sure some stuff! Get yours today wherever fine websites are downloaded.

What's the matter, Susie?

Oh, I'll never find a date for the big dance. All the boys think I'm just not "with it.

Don't despair, there's still hope.

Not unless you have a pair of magic slippers or something.

I've got something better! Just say "Minutes a day on AAJ.

But, what does that mean?

Why, just a few minutes every day on AAJ and you'll be the most "with it girl in school. The boys will line up for the chance to "cut-a-rug with the most "happening gal around!

Wowzers, that sounds absolutely dreamy! Where do I get AAJ?

At your favorite Internet-enabled personal computer. Be sure to remember, "Minutes a day on AAJ. Ask for it by name and accept no substitutes.

I sure will!


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