Month: August 2015


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Ads on television irritate most of us to a greater or lesser degree, though some viewers, I suppose, welcome them as providing potty breaks or a chance to replenish drinks and snacks. Of course some—a few—very few—are downright entertaining. I loved that one that has a baby discussing intricate financial deals from his crib or high chair. In general, though, TV ads are annoying. (Yes. I know: advertising is vital to our capitalist system.)

Especially irritating is the sound factor. Wasn’t there a law passed some years ago that forbade increasing the volume during commercials? Or did I just dream that up in a fit of wishful thinking? TV producers want you to at least hear that X brand of toilet paper is better than Y as you dash to the kitchen to grab another beer.

Then there is the repetition. We all know that repetition is a time-honored propaganda device. Hitler and the Swift Boaters provided excellent examples. Tell a thing often enough (and loud enough) and people will begin to believe it. Truth be damned! But the same ad over and over—as many as five times in the same show? Give me a break!

Political ads that purport to be informative but deal only in half-truths are dishonest, if not immoral. Repeat it often enough . . . Case in point: ads for or against that pipeline or those dealing with energy sources, renewable or otherwise. Just think what we are in for as 2016 closes in on us! How many people bother to note who has sponsored thus and such an ad—if you could even read the fine print whizzing by on the screen? Just imbed a loud half-truth in the collective mind of the public and . . .

Call me a prude, but I really object to afternoon and prime time ads selling remedies for dysfunctional sex problems. Take, for instance, those tasteless ads hawking a tasty lubricant to “increase a couple’s pleasure” or those assuring menopausal women that “intercourse shouldn’t be painful” or those telling men of a certain age that this little pill will have them performing as they did in late or post adolescence (though they must beware of “an erection lasting more than four hours. Say what??). The most ludicrous of these is that one ending with two people gazing off into a glorious sunset from their separate bathtubs. Good grief!

I often wonder what kinds of questions parents have to answer when these things are aired. And we ask ourselves why children today see themselves as sexual beings at a younger and younger age.


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Grab BagHerewith is a hodge-podge of items that I find interesting or annoying (mostly the latter). Some are trivial, some not so . . . What do YOU think???

Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” There are those among the electorate who find the phrase arrogant and rather silly. Of course there is always room for improvement, but some of us think America is pretty darn great as is!

Black Lives Matter. Shouldn’t that slogan be “Black Lives Matter TOO”? Those Seattle women who pushed Bernie Sanders off his own stage certainly did not advance their cause. After all, Bernie Sanders has championed equal rights longer than they have lived their lives that “matter.” Does anyone else suspect their own aggrandizement mattered more to them than their cause?

Exaggerated make-up. What is it with the proliferation of false eyelashes on heroines of some TV movies and on some talk show females? Thick, black brushes that I swear make some of them look like they have caterpillars perched on their eyelids.

The ACA. Republican candidates for President to a man—and woman—have come out against the Affordable Care Act which they never refer to as anything but “Obamacare” (in a tone of contempt). They often insist that they do not want to abolish it (despite some fifty votes to attempt just that), but to replace it. Fine. With what? Could we please have specifics on those alternatives that would improve health care for all?

Polls and pollsters. Does anyone really trust those call-in (Twitter, what have you) polls sponsored by talking heads on FOX or MSNBC? On anything? Biased samplings and loaded questions are just the most obvious of their weaknesses.

Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews. Both these men are bright, well-educated, and rather personable. And they are equally offensive when they constantly interrupt guests they presumably invited to appear on their shows. They regularly ask questions and before the guest can respond or finish a point, these two interrupt with another question or some comment as to what the answer should be. Talk about rude!

And finally: Why did MSNBC cancel Joy Reid’s show and keep Al Sharpton’s? In prime time yet. Personally, I find Ms. Reid interesting and on target in reporting issues while Sharpton is, more often than not, pushing an agenda.

Oops. One more. Does anyone else of a certain age see parallels in Donald Trump’s campaign style and that of Richard Nixon?

That’s it. For now . . .


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No, I am not going to try to convince you that treasured Bible stories like Noah and Jonah are myths (though I do believe they are). No. I want to climb onto one of my favorite soap boxes and expound upon the necessity of having a working knowledge of the Bible and, at a minimum, Greek mythology. I firmly believe children who grow up without it (as I did) are at a serious disadvantage culturally and educationally.

Those iconic stories and characters are basic to western culture. Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel. Noah. Jonah. Abraham and Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. Moses. David and Goliath. Samson and Delilah. Job and his “comforters.” And a host of others.

Regardless of your religious bent, you cannot consider your education complete without understanding the milestones of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. For the secular student as well as his devout classmate, all four of the gospels provide keys to that life, but the book of Luke is perhaps the most straightforward. Besides, Luke gives us those marvelous—iconic—stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.

Well, that’s a start. . . .

For the basics of Greek mythology, start with the pantheon of Greek gods goddesses. Learn what each symbolizes, his or her domain. For instance, Apollo, god of the sun, commands all light, including knowledge of virtually everything. After all, the muses are his minions. One cannot believe it accidental that Apollo sided the victorious Greeks while Ares, god of war, championed the losing Trojans.

Basic elements of the human condition are seen in Greek mythology: the battle of the sexes, pettiness, honor, loyalty, compassion, integrity. Also, mindless pursuit of wealth and power, violence, and jealousy. And, of course, some marvelous fantasy figures such as the Minotaur and Pegasus.

For an overview of Greek Myth, Edith Hamilton’s work is classic. Of course, one could do worse than just plunge directly into Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey—with a good dictionary or encyclopedia of mythology at hand—and just see where the adventure carries you.

Want bedtime stories for your children? Give them something that will be truly helpful in later studies: Bible stories and Greek myths.


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This venture onto the Oregon Trail is proving to be an incredibly lengthy affair. I mean, I have been at the process of writing this book for several years now. If Oregon had depended on people like me for bringing it to Statehood, it would still be a wilderness territory (which might not be entirely a bad thing).

I must admit I am learning lots of interesting “stuff”:

Did you know pioneers packed eggs for travel in barrels of flour or cornmeal? (Some used sawdust.) Or that they “churned” butter by simply hanging a bucket of milk to the jostling, bumping wagons?

Many carried a supply of wood or buffalo chips from one camp to another—or soon learned to do so. Still, they often had to settle for cold meals due to lack of fuel for a fire.

In pictures and the movies, we often see women riding sedately on the wagon seat. In reality, they mostly walked that 2,000 miles, though those capable of doing so sometimes rode horses or mules.

Another mistaken impression from pictures or the movies is the idea of a train of wagons lined up single file. That was the case often enough, but where the terrain would allow it, they strung their vehicles out across the prairie in an attempt to avoid each other’s dust.

A “Westward Ho!” movie is rarely without an obligatory Indian attack. In truth, this was a rare occasion. Native Americans tended to avoid confrontations with the “emigrants.” They might steal livestock if it was not adequately protected, but mostly when they approached wagon trains, it was to seek to trade handiwork (like beaded moccasins) for food. Increasingly, the Indians’ primary food source, the buffalo was being destroyed by the careless wantonness of white hunters. Is it really a wonder that natives often made little distinction between hunters and emigrating farmers?

As I say: I am learning a LOT—but so far I’m not writing much.

But this, too, will pass.