A Modest Proposal

Ban all commercials. That’s right; just get rid of them.  And those infuriating mouseover ads that clutter up one’s viewing of web pages.  Might as well ban print ads and radio commercials, too.

So why am I being so Jonathan Swift-like?  Actually, I’m sick and tired of those awful acne/skincare line commercials and the even worse commercials for the make-up line hawked by a certain supermodel.  They go on for way too long and are pretty dull. And I’m sick of before and after photos.

But it’s getting even worse.  Yesterday, I noticed TWO other make-up lines with new commercials along the same lines.  And both again seemed to go on forever.

These particular ads usually run after prime time… I know, serves me right for being up.  But prime time is pretty bad, too.  I haven’t done a study but I think there’s more commercial time now than even a few years ago. So I thought I’d take a moment and search the web for some data.  A Wikipedia entry on “Television Advertising” says the average hour-long prime-time show in the 1960′s averaged 51 minutes of actual show time.  For more recent shows, it lists the average as being 42 minutes of actual show time.  In other words, average commercial time increased from 9 minutes of ad time to 18 minutes of ad time – BIG increase! That would also mean that now the average commercial time is 30% of the typical prime-time hour.  Some snippets I saw around the net in my rough search put the average at 32% or so.  Is it just me, or does it feel like even more?

Sometimes the shows are so chopped up with commercial breaks, it takes some enjoyment out of the viewing experience.  On a certain network which often runs romance movies, I had on one of their original movies once not too long ago.  I was able to concentrate on it more during the second hour.  It was so chopped up – it seemed like 6 – 8 minutes of movie then 5 – 6 minutes of commercials. I didn’t really sit with a stop watch, but I was watching the clock and it felt like commercials were actually taking up close to 50% of the available time.

Another instance and one that really gets me riled is this one.  On that same network or its partner network, they sometimes run my favorite telemovie.  I watched it when it originally aired, and have loved it ever since.  But now when they air it, they cut out a pretty good chunk of one scene, and smaller parts of others.  And trying to give them feedback was almost impossible.  Sometimes I think companies DON’T want honest feedback, only compliments. And I can’t compliment them on butchering this wonderful telemovie, that their company made with such care originally!

This increasing of commercial time has more implications besides simply being annoying. The fellows who wrote the book Dollarocracy have noted that there seems to be a trend of local news broadcasts increasing political ad time at the expense of real news time.  Think of what that means in terms of voters really being informed.

And I’m also thinking about what this means for our attention spans.  With shows as choppy as the one I described above, is it feeding into decreased attention spans or helping to create conditions to decrease them?

So let’s just ban those commercials – or – even more modestly – see if we can at least scale back their encroachment.

Some Whys

I’m feeling pretty curmudgeonly today and really feel the need to vent.  So here are some of my “whys”:

1. Why do we put up with automated phone systems when so many people need jobs?

2.  Why is the singer who hawks an antiacne/skincare line sporting facial hair?

3.  Why do we too often have to sign in or register just to leave a comment on a blog or website?

4.  Why do we have those annoying internet ads that take over web pages when we browse to those sites?

5.  Why is half the stuff I want in the grocery store out of my reach?

6.  And why are there so many displays that clog the aisles in said stores?

7.  Why is the sound when I use my DVD player much softer than usual on my tv?

8.  Why don’t they come up with a better alternative than those pump bottles for hand lotion that just allow lotion to harden in the pump?

9.  Why does ‘everyone’ think that hot/spicy foods are so great? Can’t stand them myself…

10.  Why is it when you change radio stations to hear something different, you get first commercials, then some song you really detest?


OK, I feel a little better…


50 Years Ago

Can it really be 50 years ago?  50 years since JFK was assassinated?  It hardly seems possible.

In a previous post, I told how I was only in 5th grade when this happened. It’s still one of those events which sears into your memory where you were / what you were doing when you heard the news.

The assassination has haunted me as it has so many others.  How could this be?  How could he be taken from us?  Then come the what ifs. What if he had lived?  What if he had been reelected?  What if he were still with us – at age 96 now?

We can only wonder.  Then, we must remember. The worst crime would be to forget him, his legacy, his contributions.  I’m sure he would urge us forward; but we still must never forget.

Review of “Outliers”

Ok, so the book is what – 5 years old?  My cousin gave me a copy so I just started reading it this year!  In fact, I just finished it just a short while ago.  I’ve been waiting for that to happen to be able to really write a review.

I really enjoyed the book.  It says a lot of what I’ve always felt – we don’t achieve alone, persist,  practice.  He makes a point about success of minority law students from U. of Michigan – they made the threshold, they were smart enough and after law school had achieved every bit as well as non-minority students.  I loved that!  I also found lots of the book to be fascinating.  It was intriguing to learn that plane crashes were in any way linked to communication patterns (well, I should have guessed that,  as I’ve always had a theory that 90% of the world’s problems are due to communication problems) and that the Chinese numeration system is much simpler than ours.  For me, the very best chapters were: “The 10,000 – Hour Rule” and “Rice Paddies and Math Tests”.  I also found “The Three Lessons of Joe Flom” chapter quite interesting.

Now for a bit of a critique and a few questions/thoughts.  Keep in mind that I still think this is a fine book.  First, I found “The Three Lessons of Joe Flom”  chapter a bit mish-mashy and I didn’t feel it was as tied together as well it could have been.  Also, “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes”  chapter was very interesting, but I was a bit put off by the end of this chapter where he recounts the end moments of the central plane crash.  I don’t know if Gladwell wanted this to be some sort of memorial to the crash victims, but couldn’t that have been done in the ending of a section of the chapter?  It might have been nice to end the chapter as a whole with the positive developments in this area.

Now for some thoughts and questions:

1) In the chapter “The Three Lessons of Joe Flom” , several career genealogies are given, showing how generations progressed toward professions.  In the end line, the only professions shown were doctor and lawyer.  Not one teacher, professor, scientist,  engineer?  Were there none in the studies?  Were these selected at random?  As an educator (retired now) I would hope we count as “professionals”!

2)  While reading The chapter “Harlan, Kentucky”, which is about “cultures of honor”, I immediately thought of its implications in U.S. History.  For example, Pres. Andrew Jackson was of Scots-Irish descent and was known to fight duels ( I do think I heard his wife did calm him down at least once)  over ‘honor’.    Has a “culture of honor” mentality affected our leaders, citizen groups and thus, our history?  Maybe that’s not in the scope of the book, but I think an interesting area for discussion.  I also thought about how current urban street culture might fit into this “culture of honor” mold.  Might this be a way to approach looking at this ‘culture’?

3) As a retired educator, I was heartened to read that Gladwell thought education was working, but many students need more of it.  They may not have the summer opportunities for learning, even informally, some other students might.  This is definitely a challenge to our society.  Lengthening the school year is much discussed, but hard to accomplish.  I’m sure one reason is that teachers really could use a break to recharge!  Maybe we could look at creating programs staffed by volunteers, part-time teachers, or teachers who want extra work (!) to do some creative, but still educational experiences in summer.  With so many parents working, something like this on a more regular basis for most of the summer might be quite welcome.

I really felt this was an excellent read.  Gladwell has just published a new book, “David and Goliath”, which is about underdogs, advantages and disadvantages.  This sounds promising.  Keep on reading, folks!

Proverbs 31:31

I just couldn’t keep this to myself.  On the “Antiques Roadshow” segment I saw tonight (can’t remember from what city, though), a lady had a Woman Sufferage poster.  It had a great graphic and a most excellent caption.  The appraiser loved it.  He asked if the owner knew where the caption came from.  She replied she thought it was from The Bible.  The appraiser told her she was correct about that and provided the Chapter and Verse.  It’s a great verse for you virtuous women out there.

Proverbs 31:31 reads:  “Give her of the fruit of her hands;  and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

So here’s to all you virtuous gals — and guys, too!

Thanksgiving 2012

Hello to anyone who might read this blog!  Today is absolutely a day to be thankful and to count one’s blessings.  I certainly am thankful for the traditional things: family, health, job, cat, Faith and Church, and what goodies (foodwise and other) I’m blessed with.  Interestingly, one of the commentators for ESPN’s Monday Night Football (and I’m not sure who, as I really don’t catch it that often…) said something like being thankful sometimes for the opportunity to only worry about things like football.  And Glenn Swartz, the meteorologist, put on his blog following his heart attack that in recovery after surgery, he was glad to have the opportunity to go through that pain and recuperation.

These thoughts give a different take on being thankful – sometimes we might be thankful for what we DON’T have to worry about or sometime for even what seems to be a real problem!

So here, somewhat tongue in cheek, is a take on Thanksgiving, 2012 style:

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to only worry about who is the better rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck.

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to only worry about how many minutes of walking will burn off that Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to only worry about the sexiest man alive being young enough to be my….. um, younger brother (yeah, that’s it…).

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to only worry about where my keys are and not where my head is (thankfully  it’s attached to the rest of me).

I’m thankful for the opportunity for the steep learning curve involved in using my new tablet.

I’m thankful for the many opportunities to learn patience while dealing with these customer service phone systems.  Guess this is a lesson I’m still learning…

I’m thankful for the opportunity, and often challenge, of finding topics to blog about!

Hope everyone has had a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving. Hope you all have something to be thankful for!


What can I say about being able to read the novel one’s Mother wrote back in the 1940′s? It was quite an experience.

I knew she wrote this novel, titled Shades of Yellow (referring to people of mixed-race ancestry). We ran across it (the typewritten manuscript) together while working in a closet many years ago.  I always said I would read it – someday.  Of course we know that someday can often take a long time coming.  Mom died in 2002 and I still hadn’t gotten around to reading it. 

But I hadn’t forgotten it, and still vowed to read it – again, someday.  Well, last year after an aborted attempt at slogging through Julia Quinn’s Mr Cavendish, I Presume, I figured the time was finally getting right, so I VOWED to read it THIS summer. I finally finished it last night.

It really is a treasure to have this manuscript (it wasn’t published) that she indeed wrote.  It’s quite a window into the time (takes place in 1942) and the mores of her and her close contemporaries back then. 

The most positive aspect of the writing is that Mom did know how to move the story along; I felt as though I were marching through it, not slogging through it as I tried with the aforementioned aborted reading.  She also can get you with the characters.

It’s also a very Christian novel.  Many characters are always prayng, and the main family members are definitely Episcopalians!

The two negative aspects: I didn’t care for most of the male characters; I found them a blt condescending or something.  Kinda surprising for her, as Mom was surely no shrinking violet. Anyway, that made me glad she chose Dad. And there was a plot development I definitely DID NOT CARE FOR – one of the characters gets killed in a car crash.  I don’t know, but the older I get, the less I like plot developments like that (well, whodunits excluded, I guess); i. e., I haven’t watched Castle since they decided they would kill off a steady character (turned out to be the captain). 

Her writing could also be a bit preachy at times.  But I think a good editor or mentor could guide her through rewriting a bit to make it stronger.  She already seems to know how to do a good story which is something I don’t know if anyone can be “taught”.

All in all, I am glad I finally read it, but maybe it’s better waited.  I may have really taken her to task on that one plot development!  The fact that she actually did such a project, got it on paper is a cool thing as so many potential authors never finish that novel.  Well, she did and good for her!





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