Saturday, May 26, 2012

To watch TV ads or not watch . . .

This is inspired by an article in, by Wendy Davis.

"It's fair to say that people always had ways to avoid commercials on TV. Long before the days of the VCR, people who didn't want to watch the ads would stretch their legs, get a snack, or change channels during the commercials. Once the VCR came around, people could fast-forward through the breaks."

To watch the TV ads, or not to watch the TV ads,--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous hype
Or to take a remote against a sea of dancing animals,
And by opposing end them. To sleep, to nap, to grab a snack,
and by a sleep to say we end the noise. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished.
To sleep--perchance to dream: of TV shows without commercials.
of remote controls with batteries that need no charging.
Where's the respect that commercials give the viewers?
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The to be continued episodes, the angrily shouting politicians,
The adverrtisers' increasing volume,
The arrogant prognosticators,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the miracle toothpastes.
And yet, without these regular interruptions, where
would TV be? Who would pay?
Thus boredom and lethargy makes cowards of us all.
And good books lie unread.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Years ago, when Edgar and I contributed to a community newspaper, an editor asked us to photo and write about a fashion show. Sounded like fun. We drove far out into the sticks, interviewed the models, and took photos of the designer gowns. Then, we took the film to be developed and enlarged. We requested doubles of our 4 by 6 inch color prints and put one set away in case we needed them. This was our SOP.

The editor loved the photos and the story and then dropped a bombshell that she had promised copies of the photos to the models, "as partial payment," she said. I bristled. "Edgar never gives away his photos," I said. Especially when one considers that we viewed our whole experience with the community newspapers as a hobby that didn't cost us too much. The editor shrugged, agreed to payment, and examined the photos that were 100% perfect for the paper. And, although agreeing that the photos were beautiful and would reproduce wonderfully in the community paper, "they were somewhat blurry," and not quite "tack sharp." This episode reminded me of the hilarious test in "My Fair Lady," when the language expert prounced Eliza Dolittle a fraud. "Her English is too good, he said. This clearly indicates that she is foreign. Whereas others are instructed in their native language, English people aren't."

So, rather than calling the editor a fraud, we agreed to having the photos redone by a photo lab of her choice. We waited two days, and brought in the second set of photos - the duplicates that we had originally made. "Oh, these are much better," she announced. "Can't you see it?" she asked, as she cocked her head and put the two sets side by side. I put on my glasses. Peered at both sets of photos, and shook my head. "Whatever you say," was my response. "I'm glad you like these."
And she did. And she paid.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Secret of Secrets

I remember, many years ago, a radio show called "Name that Tune." It followed Walter Winchell's weekly Sunday night broadcast - "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press. . . " At the end of Winchell's show, he presented his best guess as to the jackpot song. When the contest began, the radio station played one note, and, believe it or not, people called in with their guesses. The next week, the stations played two notes, and each week, the jackpot increased and the number of notes increased, until finally, enough of the melody was played that someone could accurately "Name that Tune." And each week, millions of Americans would tune in to Winchell for his exposes and tune clue.

After a while, TV presented a similar paradigm - People would choose a genre of music and say that they could name that tune in X number of notes. Sometimes they could and sometimes they couldn't. It didn't matter.

All of this, as a preface to the current day fascination with secrets:
the secret of losing weight
the secret to being fit
the secret of living longer
the secret of more energy
and so on.

I can reveal most of those secrets in two words:
losing weight - EAT LESS
being fit - EXERCISE MORE
more energy - LIFT WEIGHTS
living longer - STOP SMOKING
being less tired - SLEEP MORE

And so on - - -

There are no secrets. The proponents of secrets make these secrets sound mysterious. The proponents claim that the secrets are revealed to them and they are prepared to share the secrets with the world.

Sometimes there is a price involved to be privy to these "secrets." Sometimes, the price is money, other times, it is fame and glory.

Did I miss any secrets?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Life Among the Cannibals by Senator Arlen Specter, a book review

Vigorous and feisty, Senator Arlen Specter names names, dates, times, and places in his newest book, "Life Among the Cannibals."

This insightful primer on political shenanigans reveals layer after layer of treachery, lies, difficult decisions, and ever increasing party squabbles and vindictiveness - written by somebody who was there.

This historically accurate diary of Congressional and political activites moves forward at an amazing pace. I have to offer this caveat - do not expect to take this book to bed, read a couple of pages, and put it down. That won't happen. It's a page turner and the reader wonders will Senator Specter survive or be knifed in the back again.

Senator Specter suffered defeats for Philadelphia mayor, for Philadelphia DA, for senator, and for Pennsylvania governor before winning the senatorial seat in
1980. Born in 1930, Senator Specter's first career ambition was to be a sports broadcaster. He joined the debate team in Russell High School in Kansas and said that debating was the best education he ever had.

His role on the Senatorial Judiciary Committee resulted in his unhappiness with justices Roberts and Alito who both promised to follow prcedent and promised to follow Congressional fact finding but they didn't. He laments that the Supreme Court has become a super legislature, an imperial court, with no TV's. It's almost as if the Supreme Court is saying "let the public be damned."

Specter's main thesis is that the people's business is not being done. Congress is gridlocked and dysfunctional. The extremists of both parties show no inclination to minimizing their views, even a little bit. "I always called them as I saw them," Specter repeats many times, using different words.

Senator Specter, discussed his vote for Obama's stimulus bill. He lived through the "great depression" and the economic disasters and shortfalls are permanently imprinted on his memory. "I voted my conscience to prevent another depression." He viewed this as a very important vote and he had to do it, as an act of patriotism. When Senator Reid, President Obama, and Vice President Biden backed down from their assurances that they would back him, he writes that of course he took it personally.

Many times, during the course of this book, Specter writes that "it is important to compete and take your chances of winning and losing." Once you win one, you forget the losses. He also chose his fights carefully, reminding me of the lines from the song "you have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em."

His optimism and hope for the future is evident in this book. "Democracy is not a spectator sport," Specter asserts over and over again.

I'm still looking forward to an interview with Senator Specter. I have lots and lots of questions for him.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bogus e-mails sent to postal customers

Some postal customers are receiving bogus e-mails about a package delivery or online postage charges. I was one of these customers and, carefully, checked the website to discover the following warning.

The e-mails contain a link or attachment that, when opened, installs a malicious virus that can steal personal information from your PC. The e-mails claim to be from the U.S. Postal Service and contain fraudulent information about an attempted or intercepted package delivery or online postage charges. You are instructed to click on a link or open an attachment. But Postal Inspectors warn: Do not click on the link or open the attachment!

Clicking on the link or opening the attachment will activate a virus that can steal information—such as your user name, password, and financial account information.

The fradulent email that I received also said that because the package, addressed to me, could not be delivered, I would be charged $20 something dollars a day for storage and I should be sure to click on the link provided to end the charges and determine what I wanted done with the package. This is not the first kind of fraudulent email that I have received and, as warned by my children and grandchildren, I NEVER click on a link unless I am 100% sure that I know the sender and know what the link contains.

In spite of all my care and diligence, my email accounts still get hacked, and I change my passwords with regularity. My credit cards also get hacked and, fortunately, the credit card companies are on top of the illegal activity and get in touch with me to confirm the charges as OK or unauthorized. The unauthorized charges result in no penalty to me and the credit card companies send replacement cards with speed.

Nevertheless, please take this warning to heart. If only the crooks would use their cleverness for legitimate activities.