Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Organ Recitals

I don’t watch much television advertising. That isn’t to say I don’t watch television. Like most Americans, I probably (probably nothing!) watch too much.

And like many people in this land of too much plenty, we have a DVR that I’ve learned to use. It’s easier than a video recorder, but I learned to use one of those too.

The advantage of the DVR is that it records programs - we have the capability to record two at the same time. And we can watch something completely different while two other programs are recording. That may not sound like an advantage, but I generally fast forward through commercials. Sometimes, we start watching a program 15 or 20 minutes late so we zoom through commercials and end up watching the last few minutes in real time.

Occasionally we get “caught up” with our viewing and watch entire programs in “real time” and read through the commercials. I get irritated when my wife reacts to a commercial and interrupts my reading, just as I irritate her when I do the same. But we don’t have a don’t-bother-me policy. We keep communication open.

And so I was surprised to notice recently how many commercials are organ recitals. I don’t mean E. Power Biggs playing Bach fugues. Not that kind of organ recital. No, I mean discussions of medical problems.

The amount of drug advertising on television is astounding, and somehow it has crept up on me. And this is the political season. I can’t imagine what it will be like after the election.

I have watched huge numbers of men with ED, something I don’t particularly want to know about them. I was appalled when Bob Dole started hawking - in a most presidential loser kind of way- Viagra, and I continue to feel uncomfortable about men - actors, I hope - who talk about not being able to achieve manhood.

I am just as uncomfortable with women who can’t stop peeing. The teacher who almost doesn’t make it to the faculty washroom at the end of the day, the pipe people who have trouble with their plumbing, all of them seem to be airing their dirty laundry in public, to coin an especially apt phrase. When I taught, if I couldn’t wait, I threatened my students and rushed to the loo and back as fast as I could. There was never a problem. I was probably very lucky that no one got stabbed, but I also knew which classes I could trust and which ones would tear the place up.

I don’t want to know who has a stent to any place in his/her body. Or who has heart problems. Or who found cures at Cancer Treatment Center A or Nationally Recognized Hospital B. If they have to advertise, they’re jacking up their prices, something insurance companies pass on to me (to the tune of just under $15k per annum for my wife and me, and going up).

Other ads are for high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, bariatric surgery, high cholesterol, diabetes, and teeth whitening, all diseases or complaints I want to talk to my internist or dentist about, not rely on advertising and drug companies to fill me in on.

Sometimes I think Americans have a fetish with bowel movements. There are mongo ads for nutritional supplements that encourage regular bowel habits. You can stir a tasteless (you can say that again!), odorless powder into any kind of liquid. You can eat yogurt with special active bacteria, something like gotothebiffy regularis I believe. You can even use a sugar free sweetener with a stool softener in the cookies you bake, the coffee you drink, or the lemonade you make.

Aaaaarrrrgggggghhhhh. What is it with us and our poop?

Is there an answer? Is there even a problem? I suspect that I just have to read more and fast forward through the commercials. That should take care of it.

As always I invite your comments. And in the previous blog I explained how to post them.


I love to hear from people who read this blog, and I occasionally do. I hope that you enjoy what I write, and that I don’t come across as too much of an Andy Rooney curmudgeon. I regularly check the counter on the right hand side of the blog to see how many people stop for a look, but I never know who the lookers are unless they mention something to me in person or comment.

I have heard from several people that they are unable to comment at the bottom of each blog, so I thought I’d give some instruction here:

First click on comments under each blog. A popup window should appear with a box that says Leave your comment.

Write what you have to say in the box. I do not edit them, so good, bad and indifferent all get posted. It may take a few minutes for the comment to be posted but it will appear.

Below the box, you have some choices. If you have a Google blog, you can click the button that says Google/Blogger and then hit publish your comment.

If you prefer not to identify yourself that way, my suggestion is to click the Anonymous button. It may ask you to copy some goofy, hard-to-read letters that are wavy or have a line through them. That’s a way to keep automated programs from putting advertising or spam in each comment box. Keep following the directions, and you’ll end up with your comment posted.

If you are far more knowledgeable than I, you will know what to do with the OpenID and Name/URL buttons. I’ve never used them and I don’t know what to do with them.

By the way, the advertising “Ads by Google” are a way for me to earn income. Every time you click one, I get something like a tenth of a cent. When enough people click for me to collect $100, they’ll send me a check. I’m not holding my breath.

Again, I look forward to your comments. When you have a reaction, good or bad, click comment at the bottom of the posting. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Second Chances

I’m a big believer in second chances, probably because I have received so many of them throughout my life.

My biggest second chances occurred after my son Daniel died at 19 in an accident in January of 1993. A couple years later, Derek and Shannon, whose biological father left when they were not yet in school, chose me their dad; and then my friend Tim gave us his two sons, Jonathan and David, to grandparent. I can’t imagine greater gifts than the gift of children and grandchildren. Derek, a veterinarian and veteran, and Shannon, who is working on an MBA, and whose previous degree is in criminal and social justice, are in their early thirties now, both younger than Daniel would have been, and David is a college sophomore, Jonathan a high school junior. They are, with my wife Ann, the greatest joys of my life.

Friend Tim recently remarried and we got two more grandchildren, Alexa and Grayson. The universe - in the form of God’s Grace - keeps on giving.

And the universe occasionally takes away. We have several friends who are quite ill, and with the help of very good doctors and the Grace of God, they too have second chances. Somehow I believe that God’s Grace is more important in their lives than the doctors who are taking care of them so capably. The people I write about below are certainly not the only ones in pain who need Grace, but I don’t want to overwhelm. If you are one of my friends whom I do not list, please don’t be offended.

Linda, a primary teacher, has ovarian and uterine cancer, but after surgery is in the middle of chemo. Her hair has fallen out, but her spirit and her life remain vibrant and optimistic.

Our friend and putative cousin Margaret had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast, and will start chemotherapy next month. She already shaves her head and is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. Her beauty is physical, of course, but she glows with an inner beauty that is impossible to describe. A Gwendolyn Brooks poem that could have been written about Margaret is at the end of this blog entry*.

Another cousin, Kathy, has multiple sclerosis and is mobile only because she has wonderful care and machines that get her places. At this point she can feed herself. MS is a dreadful, chronic, progressive disease in which the body betrays the mind. She too, is in good spirits and grateful to be alive.

Another friend, Bob, is in the throes of addiction. He goes up and down, and when he’s in the middle, he is the brilliant, charming, personable, witty, funny, wonderful guy we always loved. High, he isn’t that way. And when he’s in a low, he sleeps for . . . days. I despair that he will ever be well, but I continue to harbor hope. He says, “My continued existence is a little running gag that God and I have had going for the last thirty years or so... “ Grace keeps him alive too, and I believe that if he conquers his demons, he will be a huge blessing to the world.

As I said, I have been given second chances throughout my life. Please add your prayers that God will continue to bless these dear friends with His Grace.


As always, I invite your comments - and prayers - below. Just click comments.

*To Those Of My Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals
Never to look a hot comb in the teeth.

I love you.
Because you love you.
Because you are erect.
Because you are also bent.
In season, stern, kind.
Crisp, soft -in season.
And you withhold.
And you extend.
And you Step out.
And you go back.
And you extend again.
Your eyes, loud-soft, with crying and
with smiles,
are older than a million years.
And they are young.
You reach, in season.
You subside, in season.
below the richrough righttime of your hair.

You have not bought Blondine.
You have not hailed the hot-comb recently.
You never worshipped Marilyn Monroe.
You say: Farrah's hair is hers.
You have not wanted to be white.
Nor have you testified to adoration of that
state with the advertisement of imitation
(never successful because the hot-comb is laughing too.)
But oh, the rough dark Other music!
the Real,
the Right.
The natural Respect of Self and Seal!
Your hair is Celebration in the world!


Monday, October 13, 2008

Guilt by Association

Here we go. Again. Preaching hate.

How can the McCain campaign in good conscience and with any kind of honor create a lynching atmosphere at its rallies and in its campaign in general?

Shouts of traitor follow, naturally, the declarations by the second runner up in the Miss Alaska contest that Barack Obama associates with known domestic terrorists. Her behavior is totally irresponsible and merely perpetuates the stereotypes of intellectually lightweight beauty queens.

The idea that Barack Obama is a traitor is absolute horseshit. Barack Obama was only eight years old when Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn founded the Weatherman Group and ploted an end to the Viet Nam war and destruction of the Pentagon. They are now - dare I use the term?- community activists, professors at the University of Illinois Chicago Campus, and mentors to new teachers. They are on the boards of several high powered charities, and it is in that role that Barack Obama met them.

The McCain campaign, according to this morning's Wall Street Journal, is worried about the South in general, and Virginia in particular, going for Obama. To that end, one of McCain's campaign chiefs, the chairman of the Buchanan County Republicans, in published a column, that said if we were attacked by Al Queida, Obama would have us all learn Arabic, "raise taxes to pay for drugs for Obama's inner-city political base," and replace the stars on our flag with the Islamic symbol of a star and crescent.

This is the lowest, meanest kind of race baiting and creation of hatred. I cannot understand why McCain and his followers would try to split the country in this horrific manner. This is worthy of Charles Manson, who thought that the murders of Sharon Tate, et. al., would foment race war in the United States and he could take over.

The behavior of the McCain campaign sickens me.

The only bright spot has been John McCain's statement at a campaign rally that Barack Obama is an honorable and decent man and this kind of behavior is unacceptable. McCain was booed by his supporters for his statement. It does not show his control and leadership.

What we need now in the United States is some pulling together. We have been polarized long enough, and the Bush administration has actively promoted the separation of rich and poor, Republican and Democrat, those who read the Bible as literal truth and the rest of us, those who believe in the Constitution and those who wish to supress it, hawks and doves, red states and blue states. At this point we are all Americans, and someone needs to show some leadership to point that out.

Sicking his pit bull with lipstick on Obama with lies about his religious background and "terrorist" activities shows that despite speaking out at a campaign rally, McCain has very little control of his campaign, and that he would rather continue the Bush policy of using fear to tear us apart rather than pull the country together to make us better and stronger. (Palin lied point blank when she told the media that the investigation into the firing of her chief of safety in Alaska showed no wrong-doing, either legal or ethical, and that it was the work of Obama supporters in Alaska. Her statement makes me twitch. The investigation began long before anyone ever heard of her on the national scene, and was instigated by Republicans.)

A good leader pulls more out of his followers than they thought they were capable of. Unfortunately, McCain and Palin incite only fear and hatred.


As always, I invite you to comment by clicking below.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Life in a Box

This is an example of our "Hermes" at work. Oh, to be 16 and this talented!