Tuesday, February 24, 2015


A lady of my acquaintance was bemoaning television commercials the other day.  Whatever happened, she asked, “to the happy, clean fun ones we used to see?”  Well, sez I, “they're still on the air but harder to find in the mix of horrific computer-designed violence and over the top volume that assaults the eyeballs, ears and normal minds.”  While I didn't put it quite that way, let's just say I shared her disappointment.

Just about everyone agrees that the Super Bowl commercials were, once again, the best show on the tube (they should be with their airtime price tags.) Still it's hard to wait a full year before that broadcast treat rolls around again. Budweiser stole the 2015 show with the little lost puppy being rescued by their Clydesdales, but there were other great ones too. Some even better than the Katy Perry half-time extravaganza.

Advertising keeps in step with the times; essentially going down the drain along with long-honored social graces like table manners, saying “thank you” and other happy memories from earlier days.  I'm not big on government interference in our lives, but next to what goes on with motion pictures in theaters, television programming is, thanks to a certain federal oversight of the public's airwaves, a paragon of virtue. The movie theaters “coming attractions” alone are enough to damn all values of decency. The USA exporting this violence and trash all around the world has renewed the tag of “Ugly Americans”. It's just plain sad. America is far better than this.

Tailoring television ads to the demographics of the viewer population is an art form of sorts.  Here in Florida (“Heaven's Waiting Room”) we are inundated with commercials for retirement homes, surgery for back problems, stairway power chairs and erectile dysfunction. The latter with its constant warning to “call your doctor if you experience an erection lasting four hours.” The standard answer among the over-80 group is: “I will call my doctor, but only after I've announced it to all my golfing buddies at the club.”    

Medications are so widely promoted on the TV tube, it's silly to spend all that time in the doctor's waiting room. The answer for whatever ails you is most likely just a click away on the remote.

Monday, February 2, 2015


My son is in broadcasting. Like many another working soul he commutes daily from leafy suburbia to an office in a major city.  He is also among those hardy souls who drive daily, a group I especially admire. In my day we commuted by train where each of us had our very own seat location, much like an Episcopal church on the tracks. And we let the choo choo do the driving.

Radio and television run in the veins of our family. These media are very competitive, exceeded in my son's case only by the stress involved in highway driving to work and departing from there back to home again. As Charles the Younger navigates his long long trail a winding, highway danger lurks five-fold with inattentive drivers on cell phones. There for a while it all appeared to be a conspiracy against him. But it's not. More than one driver has rolled down the car window to bellow: “Get off the phone!”  It's a plot against all of us and the key word is “oblivious.”

Recently I had rare opportunity to observe a lot of this insanity firsthand when I was a front seat passenger in a car well-driven by a friend. Instead of focusing on bumpers and turn signals ahead (when drivers choose to use them) I had the luxury of observing what was going on all around our vehicle. It was an enlightening experience. Whether automobiling or walking, virtually everyone in sight was on a cell phone. There is no safety on the sidewalks either; not paying close attention to the “walk” signals is dangerous for sure. High noon when folks are going to or returning from restaurants is a particularly hazardous time. Still driving in a ton of steel is much more risky. We all know that and we also know that using a cell phone (let alone texting) while behind the wheel is risk-extreme.  Why do so many do it?  Because we are in our own little bubbles, in a word “oblivious” to the world around us.

The zenith of cell phone mania is found in and around supermarkets. We are pretty much used to endless chatter inside the market (“I’m in the vegetable aisle right now heading over to the pastry counter”) but the real challenge comes when conversations continue on the way back to the car. Pushing a cart while continuing a cell phone conversation is double jeopardy. Doing so while also balancing an $11 Starbucks is a medical trifecta.

Turn your cell phone off.  Call later when you are at your desk or back home. Nothing is worth losing you.