Archive for January, 2009

Betsy’s at work from early morning to late afternoon teaching high school art. I’m home, plugging away at my bookstuff.

She comes home, we say hi – catch up on this and that. She kisses me goodbye and goes out to the gym to work out/run errands.

An hour or two later, I go off to my Combat Hapkido class.

I get home around 8:15PM. She’s done working out, fed, and winding down, sitting in her Lazygirl in the living room, sipping a glass of Merlot, and tapping away at her laptop.

I change my clothes, mix a martini, and sling back in the Lazyboy positioned beside her. The TV is on. It’s just another presence in the room. It doesn’t matter all that much what’s on, but it kind of matters – especially on Thursdays when her “Earl” is on and my “Office”. But I think the key is that whatever’s on can’t be irritating to either one of us (not always an easy find).

I pull my laptop onto my lap.

So, there were are. Husband and wife, laptops on laps – side by side as our night winds down.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t know. We’re together – less than two feet apart. We share interesting things we come across on our computers – and beyond (you know, real life), as they come to mind. Sometimes, we’ll hold up the laptop so the other can see what we were just laughing at. Sometimes, although we’re side by side, we’ll forward it in an email – “Did you get it yet? Check again!”

Is this much different from the husbands and wives of yore who sat side by side watching the flickering flames in the fireplace, sharing stories as they came to mind? Or enjoying the shared silence? I mean, instead of staring into a fire, we’re staring at little computer monitors. Oh, and our fireplace is burning, too, but it’s propane generated. It looks kind of nice, but it’s not the same as a real fireplace.

Fast forward to the 50’s through 90’s – the pre-wifi days, when couples and families would sit and watch what the television had to offer. People seem to have the need to stare at something when they’re doing nothing. Books are good, but that’s not really a social thing. I read after she goes to bed. She reads in the summer – sometimes all day. But it does appear that we need some kind of focal point. Lately, it’s been of a digital nature.

Hey, we interact. We share. We commiserate. We opine. We laugh.

I don’t know if it’s better, the way things are now. I don’t even know if it’s all that different. One thing the digital age has brought us is a new kind of guilt; that of wasting too much time on our computers. Betsy and I have been together for about 30 years – since before most people had video tapes. I think we talk more now than then, despite all the wonderful new distractions technology offers.

Betsy and I do have a rule. When one of us speaks, the other stops what they’re typing/reading/playing to make eye contact and listen. I think that’s a good rule.

This isn’t the scenario every night, of course. We go places. We rent movies. We make stuff and do stuff, but during the workweek, there are just nights when you don’t want to do anything. There are so many ways to do nothing, and this just seems to be the way we’re doing nothing now.

I kinda like it.


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Global Cooling

global-coolingI was bundling up to head out into the cold when a friend, Ed Riccuiti, a writer and former science editor, said “Remember how in the 70’s everyone was talking about the ice age we were heading into?” Wow! Now that he mentioned it, I did! At the time, I was in high school in Long Island, New York. Part of the reason the global cooling scenario stuck in my head was because it had inspired me to look into the last ice age. You know, to get a sense of what we were in for. It was then I learned that my home was sitting on a terminal moraine scraped about 20,000 years ago from the surface of what was to become my current home state of Connecticut. While I knew I would never be around to see this ice age, I wondered how my descendants would fare.

As the years passed, I heard less and less about the impending “big freeze”, to the point where I forgot all about it until that recent reminder. It turns out that while there was slight downward temperature shift from the nineteen-forties to the mid-seventies, only about ten percent of the climatologists saw it progressing to another ice age. Most of the talk was generated by the media (National Geographic and Time Magazine among them). It did make a good story. The shift to the current talk of global warming moved in like a racing glacier (which is still pretty slow). It’s sure picked up some speed in recent years, though.

Given the choice between global warming and global cooling, I’d opt for the latter. Why?

    You can pile more layers on, but there’s a limit to how much you can peel off.
    The Long Island Sound ice bridge would make it easier to visit my relatives in New York.
    Woolly Hippos! Can you imagine it?

Would the Ice Capades just be called the Capades?

Anyway… as far as global warming goes, it’s hard to deny that, yes, we’re warming up. I have an open mind to the possibility of it being helped along by humans. Some say it’s hubris to think people can actually change the climate of the earth. I’m not so sure.

But, man! I can’t help but temper my opinion on this with the realization that in a mere thirty years I’ve heard the trumpeting of both extremes!

Heading out now – have to take another stab at chipping away the ice in my driveway.

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Commercials I Mute!

muteFor my inaugural blog, I will share some gripes about TV commercials. While I understand their necessity in non-public supported programming, there are some that irritate me more than they should. I think the problem with commercials often lies in the sponsors’ need to reach as broad a market base as possible; as quickly as possible. This leads them to create a spot designed more for getting you to react and remember it, than for telling you about what they’re selling. It’s like a little kid smacking a girl he has a crush on. Sure, he gets her to notice him, but she just wants to smack him right back.

So here we go – a list of the kinds of commercials that incite me to pound on the mute button (in no particular order):

1 – Shout-outs. This is where you see a huge crowd of people shouting some unintelligible slogan or company name. I don’t know what you’re saying! I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING! YOUR VOICES ARE BLENDING INTO SOME KIND OF ROARING AURAL TURBULENCE!

2 – Sentence Relays. One person begins a sentence which is continued by another, and then another, and then another… Yeah, I know, they are attempting the “bandwagon” scenario – learned about that in my college commercial art courses. But this has been so overused, it’s painfully cliche. Add to that, the editing is more often than not too choppy. I mute the known offenders on sight, and continue with my own Mad Libs version of the narrative.

3 – Shouters. Okay, there’s this one guy who leads the pack in this department. I won’t say his name because he wants me to. Okay, I will – Billy Mays, as in “BILLY MAYS, HERE…”. He shouts at me in my living room every day. Why is he doing this? I want to call him up and tell him that his spiel is being recorded with a microphone and his voice will carry from the far reaches of the planet via receivers, satellites, transmitters, and speakers. And who IS this guy anyway?

Stop yelling at me Billy Mays!

4 – Buy this product so it can kill you or make you sicker. This one is for the pharmaceutical companies. In a two-minute commercial you have to listen to one minute and forty-five seconds of the narrator telling you how their product will give you, oh, I don’t know “oily discharge”? Brain aneurysm? Hypertrichosis? Listen, these are prescription drugs. Let the doctors and pharmacists inform the potential patients. I guess what bothers me is what I’m hearing is the lawyers telling the sponsors how to cover their asses against any lawsuit that could arise.

Funny thing is these self destructing legally-over-analyzed commercials started multiplying right around the time political candidates felt required to tell us, at the end of their ad, they supported the nice things the ad said about them (even when we saw them saying it themselves!). No comment on that – just an observation…

5 – Dad’s An Idiot! Yeah, yeah, we know. Dads/husbands are inept cretins. We can’t do anything right. Ha ha ha. We get it. (That’s all I dare type – my wife may read this)

6 – Out-of-Tuners. For some reason, some commercial directors think it’s humorous when “regular folks” sing loud and way out of tune in (faux) earnesty. Don’t they realize it’s only funny when I do it!

7 – Purposely Cheesy. Certain advertisers think it is kitsch to make their commercials seem as hackneyed as possible. It’s not. It just comes off as something produced by high school kids who’ve recently discovered beer/pot – not something to inspire confidence in their product!

Which leads me to…

8 – Bob’s Discount Furniture. I don’t know if you are subjected to his torture in your area, but in mine, he won’t go away! His nasal squalling is inescapable on nearly every local channel (and radio!).

AHHHH!!!  He's even in my BLOG!

AHHHH!!! He's even in my BLOG!

He takes already overused catchphrases and tries to make them his own, while flashing images of furniture most of us would drive past on “heavy trash day”. And he insists on putting his own desperate visage in every single commercial (and on his trucks and storefronts). He even names furniture (that he bought from a warehouse) after himself and has puppets that look like him. I am positive that the purpose of his business is to raise money to put his narcissistic face on TV. I have been tempted to send him a bill for all the AA batteries I drained from having to hit the mute button so many times.

Okay… calm down, John…. Take a breath…. These are just commercials, the backbone of a consumerist society. You can always change the channel, mute, or zone out until your show comes back.

Or get Tivo.


Did I miss any?

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