OLD PEOPLE WATCH CABLE NEWS – BY TOM CURLEY

I watch way too much cable news. Which is odd because I don’t really like the news. I worked for CBS News for over 40 years. I had to watch the news. I was making the news shows. It was my job.

If I had a choice, I would rather watch the cartoon network  But now I watch cable news all the time. I seem to be morbidly fascinated with the steady decline of America and what the ass-hole-in-chief did today.

I have noticed one interesting thing. Well, interesting to me.


Only old people watch cable news.

How do I know this? Simple. The commercials. They’re the same. Fox, MSNBC, CNN and for the most part CBS, NBC, and ABC.

By “all the same.”I mean the same advertisers. They break down into a few categories: drugs, medical products, drugs. Medicare supplement plans, drugs. Life Insurance and annuities, drugs, walk-in bathtubs, stair lifts and, oh yeah, drugs.

Every last one of them is depressing as hell. Most of them, I simply don’t understand.

Let’s start with a drug supplement that is supposed to help your brain think better. Why does it make your brain better? Well, they proudly tell you it’s because of an ingredient found … wait for it… in JELLYFISH!

Yes, jellyfish.

Because, you know, when I think of something that involves brains and intelligence, the first thing I think of is a jellyfish! Billion-year-old multi-cellular organisms who float in the ocean waiting for food to become entangled in their floaty dangling tentacle-like thingies. Also, they have no brain.

Then I got to thinking about it and maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe jellyfish are the most intelligent, intellectual philosophical thinkers on the planet. You know, like those advanced omnipotent species that show up on Star Trek.

I mean, what else do they have to do all day? They just float around.

JELLYFISH 1: I think, therefore, I am.

JELLYFISH 2: Free will is an illusion.

JELLYFISH 3: Hey! Some food just bumped into my tentacle thingies!

Next, reverse mortgages.

This is where if you own your house you can sell it back to the bank. They pay you a monthly payment until they buy your house back. Then you have no place to live. So, you’re betting you die before you become homeless. And older.

Is that a bet you want to win?

Then there are all the companies that want to buy your life insurance policy. The pitch goes something like this: “We needed more money for our retirement. We found out we could sell our life insurance policy. Now we are set for life.”

UNTIL ONE OF YOU DIES and the survivor has no life insurance to collect and live off of!!! Isn’t that the reason you bought life insurance??

Isn’t that what happens when the person holding the policy dies??

I guess you could room with the guy who just became homeless. Except, oh yeah, he doesn’t have a home.

Then there are the catheter commercials almost always being hawked by a guy who looks like a middle manager for an insurance company.

Actual catheter guy. And they all have the same mustache.

They all start out with the guy saying, “I don’t like pain when I cath.”

WHAT? Are there people out there who like pain when they cath? And when the hell did “cath” become a verb?? If you don’t know what a  catheter is, Google it. I’m not going to explain it.

Having said that, here’s a true story.

Back when I was a college freshman I worked as an orderly and an ER technician for a hospital. One of my jobs was catheterizing patients. I had only done the procedure on old guys who were unconscious or in a coma.

One day the head nurse gave me a cath kit and told me to do it to a 45-year-old wide-awake guy who was being prepped for surgery. I walked in the room and said I had to catheterize him. He asked me what that was. I explained it to him. When I finished there was a really long pause. All he said was, “You gotta be kidding me.”

It was at that point I realized that:

    1. I had never explained the procedure out loud to anyone before. And —
    2. He had a point. 

So I went back to the head nurse and said “Not doing this one. You’re on your own.”

Finally, drug commercials.

Lots and lots of drug commercials all of which are incredibly annoying because they take a beloved song from my youth and pervert it into shilling their drug. They all tell YOU to ask your doctor if whatever drug they’re selling is right for you.

Shouldn’t your doctor already know that? If he doesn’t, have you considered getting a new doctor?

Here’s the main take away from all drug commercials.


DON’T TAKE ANY OF THESE DRUGS!!!

For God’s sake, listen to the list of side effects they describe in each of them.

        • Explosive diarrhea!
        • Sudden stroke!
        • Sudden death!
        • Rectal itch!

There’s actually a commercial for an anti-depression drug where one of the side effects is suicidal depression!

The drug side effects are worse than the disease you’re trying to treat. Except maybe for the one with rectal itch. I just don’t remember what disease it was treating.

So, to all you young folks out there. If you want to see where your life is going to end up, watch a cable news station for a day.

Me, I think I’m going to go back to watching the cartoon network.

DON’T READ MEDICAL ADVERTISEMENTS ON THE INTERNET – Marilyn Armstrong

Every now and then, I get lured into reading some advertisement on a news item. This one was “The Four Worst BP Medications.”

Now, I always knew that one of them was funky because it did weird things to me and I stopped taking it. When my doctor said I should, I said “No, I shouldn’t,” and I stopped. Garry turned out to be highly allergic to it. After he stopped taking it, he stopped needing any blood pressure medication. He’s normal and doesn’t take any medications.

I’m a different story. And that was one of the really bad things about the article. First, it wasn’t written by a doctor. Okay, she is a nutritionist and specializes in Asian medicine … but she’s not an M.D. or even a nurse.

She goes under the assumption that all blood pressure issues are the same and they most assuredly are not. Garry briefly had high blood pressure after he stopped working and quit drinking. It took his body a while to adapt to the changes, and then he went back to normal.

My problem is a (probably) a genetic version of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It’s not a reaction to stress, but a reaction to a malformed heart that apparently I had from when I was born. It didn’t “do” anything to me until much later in life and might well have been triggered by the drugs I took for breast cancer. You have to make choices. You know the drugs for cancer are powerful and no doubt causes problems in other parts, but the alternative is death. So you deal with it.

Some people are born with my heart issue and live with it. It never seems to cause them any problems.  Maybe without the other medications, it would have gone that way for me too … but it didn’t.

A special diet won’t cure it. Telling people that a special diet can cure all blood pressure problems is the kind of thing that kills people. Very few non-medically trained people have any idea what causes high blood pressure. Most people don’t know anything about how their hearts work.

I’m sure the right diet can help some people, but we aren’t all the same. When you’ve got implanted valves, a Pacemaker on which you depend 100% to have any heartbeat, and thickened heart walls that won’t change, you’re stuck using the best drugs available. Moreover, you can’t cure every heart problem. Some things are chronic and the best you can do it control them. Carefully, cautiously.

I’m pretty sure that it was advertisements like this one that got so many moronic parents to stop vaccinating their children. If “natural immunity” were all that common, we’d never had needed vaccination in the first place. We’d never have had the Black Plague, cholera, whooping cough, polio, or smallpox. And thanks to our overall ignorance and faith in whatever is posted on the Internet, we have most of these things back in our world, even though we thought we’d cured them.

The pressure in the arteries increases when the heart beats and decreases while it is resting.

So are these people trying to save us or helping to kill us off? What do you think?

Oddly enough, this was also the subject of Samantha Bee’s show yesterday. It wasn’t a brand new show — maybe a week or so old — but what she said was exactly what I said. People die from these ads and while there are laws against them, there aren’t enough humans to monitor all the ads on the Internet. They rely on us — you and me — to report these false and/or insufficient advertisements.

Consider this a warning. I tried to find the ad that triggered this post and I couldn’t find it. The advertisements rotate on the Internet, so when you see something and it needs to be reported, write the information down. I’m not sure to whom you are supposed to report it. It’s one of the federal agencies, but which one? When I have a chance, I’ll try to track it down.

In the meantime, if you read it on the Internet and you have no other source of information, DO NOT follow it. Some of it may be okay, but much of it is rubbish or much worse than that.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES – Marilyn Armstrong

Xfinity has an advertisement. They assure viewers that their wi-fi is so fast, you will definitely be able to keep up with the Joneses.

I didn’t know it was a race. I didn’t know I was supposed to be keeping up with anyone.

If you use Xfinity, you will be able to keep up with the Joneses, whoever they may be.

“Garry,” I asked. “Are we keeping up with the Joneses?”

“The who?”

“Joneses.”

“I don’t think so. We don’t know anyone named Jones. I actually can’t remember ever knowing anyone named Jones. Lots of Smiths and many of them named Mike. No Joneses. Of any name. So probably we aren’t keeping up with them.”

On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever worried about keeping up with anything that didn’t have a dollar sign attached. I certainly don’t worry whether or not I’ve got faster wi-fi than my neighbors, especially not in Uxbridge. This just isn’t a “keeping up with the Joneses” kind of town. We all use Charter. We don’t have any choice. That’s what the town decided for us.

We have enough trouble keeping up with the mortgage, bills, and taxes.

SPEEDY ALKA SELTZER – Marilyn Armstrong

RAPID. JUST ONE LETTER CHANGE AND IT’S RABID. 


When I think of speedy, I do not think of me. Or Garry. Or anyone I know these days. As the years have advanced, we have slowed. Whereas we used to walk fast and even sometimes (gasp) run, now we stroll. Or if you are me, stagger and weave.

But Alka Seltzer was speedy. Drink it and ignore those laughing bubbles and voilà, your stomach troubles were gone for good and all.

In my world, speedy is mostly Duke, the dog who leaps fences. He’s gaining weight, so I’m wondering how big he’ll need to be to make him stop jumping. He’s something to ponder, isn’t he?

Remember: RAPID is one short letter away from RABID. Get those rabies shots on time! Especially if your dog likes to hang out in the woods with the wild things.

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING 101- ELLIN CURLEY

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m not very tech savvy. I’m finally on Facebook. Which now may be becoming old school. Passé and/or politically incorrect. But I’m still proud of myself. Even though I’m still not sure how to upload posts onto Facebook.

Anyway, our audio theater group, Voicescapes Audio Theater, just took the plunge into the 21st century. We hired a social media marketing firm to promote us on Facebook and Instagram. Today, you don’t exist as a business if you don’t have a social media presence.

We thought we could do this on our own. So we’ve been posting things on Facebook for over a year. With little effect. We have learned that that’s because there is an art to using social media effectively. And we haven’t mastered it. We don’t even know what it is.

Our media people carefully craft a very short message to go with a carefully chosen photo. The message is not geared to imparting specific information (unless we’re promoting an upcoming live show). It’s primarily to pique people’s interest in our group. The goal is to get people to check out our next post, and our next. Then maybe they’ll go to our website. Maybe even listen to a few of our pieces.

That would begin to give us name recognition. That means people will be more likely to go to one of our live shows in their area. Or tell friends about us. That’s the name of the game.

What strikes me is the very specific skill it takes to craft an eye-catching, mind engaging post of just a sentence or two. I don’t have that skill yet. I’m used to writing in a longer format where you get to present ideas, develop them and reach conclusions. Or take your time describing something in living color and vivid detail.

Now I have to train my brain to miniaturize. To compact everything into one image or idea. Or just to pick one thought and highlight it. So far, I can recognize a good post when our marketer presents it to me. But I can’t quite come up with them on my own. What image will catch the imagination of Facebook or Instagram followers?

I shouldn’t feel bad about not being able to master this new skill right away. In fact, our marketers are each very specialized. One person only handles emails. One person only handles Facebook and Instagram. And the email person won’t go near Facebook or Instagram. And she’s a professional marketer!

I’m still not sure what the real world benefits are of ‘a social media presence’. I guess I’ll find out. In the meantime, the education process is fascinating!

To see some more of our new professional marketing posts, go to the Voicescapes Audio Theater link on this site, or our Facebook page and maybe then to our Instagram account.

A WHOLE LOT OF SPAM

Akismet, WordPress’s virus scanner-remover hasn’t been doing as good a job lately as it used to. It used to catch all the spam for this site. They did such a good job I didn’t even worry about it. These days, a lot of spam is sifting through as “trash,.” Trash isn’t categorized as spam … and as a result, it isn’t blocked the same way.

I’ve been trying to keep up with it. Most of the spam I get is full of viruses, worms and who knows what else. Often it is pages long and each line is a link to something I don’t want any part of. Last night, during a look around my site, I casually checked to see what was in the “comments” section of my personal page … and I realized there were more than 3,000 spam messages there — all received during that past 10 days.

What?


“Ham” is e-mail that is not Spam. In other words, “non-spam”, or “good mail.” It should be considered a shorter, snappier synonym for “non-spam.” Its use is common among anti-spam software developers, and not widely known elsewhere. In general it is probably better to use the term “non-spam”. 

Note that Askimet’s assessment of “missed spam” is a lot less than the spam they really missed. They missed thousands of them this month. 


I tried to delete them in one go — as in “Delete spam” — and the site crashed. Which it usually does if I try to delete more than a small amount of anything. This system is much better at adding stuff than removing it. I finally discovered that 50 was the maximum number of spam messages the system would delete without crashing. I deleted and deleted and deleted and noticed that for every fifty I deleted, another half-dozen would arrive. All were labeled as some version of “buy cheap auto insurance.” The comments which are, I assume, copied and pasted from who knows where, ranged from gutter porn to a criticism of political views I’ve never expressed, as well as the usual offers to set me up for working at home for triple digit salaries every week.

Half of the incoming posts were labeled trash, which I converted to spam and then deleted permanently, but I couldn’t get on top of it. I finally copied the contents of my page and deleted the original. Then I pasted the contents into a new page. I went into settings and removed “comments” as the default setting. I can add it for any post, but it won’t automatically appear and this is important on those pages where we don’t usually look.

It took me hours to deal with this. I’m writing this as a warning: there can be spam and dangerous viral spam in more places than just the spam and trash folders. If you have other pages, check and see what’s wormed its way into the “comments” on those pages.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting a lot of hits from Google these days, but the volume of spam coming has gone way up. It isn’t the highest it has ever been, but it has been very persistent and worrisome insofar as half of it comes it as “trash” rather than spam. Sneaky.

Popularity is something we aim for as bloggers … but spam is the price we pay for it. I’ve been hit by more than 20,000 spam items this month. I know a lot of people think spam is sort of funny and cute, but so much of it is full of malicious malware and viruses, I am having trouble seeing the humor of it. Mostly, I wish it would go away. Oh … and all the spam in my regular comment pages is mostly from the same five or six spammers, except for another few dozen who call themselves “floor sanding” companies.

A lot of it was originally written in Russian, Chinese, Greek, and other alphabets I can’t read.

Floor sanding?

Cheap insurance?

Does anyone … anywhere … look at this stuff? The people who do this must do it for a reason, presumably. They are trying to make money, right? Does this stuff actually make any money? Is there anyone so naïve that they believe this is “real”?

LOST HORIZONS: ARMSTRONGS MISS IMPORTANT LUNCHEON, EVENT-DAZED, CONFUSED IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON

This is a hard one to share. Make it embarrassing, BIGLY embarrassing for someone who lived and worked in Boston for more than 30 years. The résumé says I worked as a knowledgeable, street savvy TV news reporter. Familiar with all the nooks and crannies of Beantown. Well, as the man says, that’s FAKE news!

Outbound

We had premonitions of a mission impossible last night when we discussed if we should attend the noon luncheon featuring nationally respected Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Marilyn and I bandied emotions about the drive from rural Uxbridge into the big city.

Yes. No. Maybe.

We agreed it would be a noteworthy event. I looked forward to getting  Bill Bratton’s take on crime in the United States, especially the frequency of mass shootings across the country.  I remember Bratton’s tenure in Boston when drive-by shootings filled my assignments three or four times a week. Bratton has also headed Police departments in New York City and Los Angeles.

Surely, he would have cogent observations I could share via blog and our local newspaper. That was all on the plus side for attending the Boston luncheon. The negative side?  Marilyn and I shared murky smiles about our mutual nemesis — the Mass Pike and downtown Boston. It seemed almost comical as fear gripped our sensibilities.

Boston awaits

Sometimes you shouldn’t sell your fears short. We made it into Boston with minimal trouble, but I wasn’t fooled.  The first hint of trouble came when the designated Mass Pike exit was a no-show. No problem!  Marilyn, always the excellent navigator, directed me to and into Boston’s financial district.


Marilyn’s Note: You just know your excursion is in trouble when the designated exit from the Pike doesn’t exist. It means the directions are old. When there’s one error, you can bet your bippy there will be more.


The second hint of trouble came amid confusion in the parking garage of our designated building. First, we were on the wrong side of the building and that part of the garage was only for those with a transponder. We got to the other side of the building. Parked. It turned out we were in the wrong building entirely — despite the instructions on our invitation. I was confused and angry. I believe Marilyn was irritated with my confusion. Why didn’t I, the know-it-all reporter, know where we were supposed to be? I was irritated with myself!!


Marilyn’s Note: I was not irritated at Garry’s inability to find his way through streets that have changed completely since we lived there. I was annoyed because I told him to make a left and he ignored me — and went straight ahead. It turned out not to make any difference since we were at the wrong building in the wrong part of town. 


As the situation deteriorated with ever-increasing aggravation, we finally agreed on something.  Let’s get the hell out of Boston and head home!! Surely, the worst was behind us.  Make that mistake number three! We escaped Boston and were back on the Mass Pike. We would laugh about this when we got home and relaxed.

Mistake#4!

Marilyn was talking to me but I couldn’t hear her over the ambient car noise and blare of sirens from Police Cars that snaked around us and the Pike traffic. She thought I was faking deafness — which elevated my irritation as I focused on the route home and our newest nemesis, a giant midday traffic jam on the Pike.

Mother of Mercy!

Judas Priest in your Mama’s combat boots!!

I couldn’t take much more of this. Marilyn talked. I nodded while missing almost everything she said. I looked down at the dashboard and saw the fuel gauge edging down to “Empty.”  For chrissakes! We’re running out of gas??

Obscenities filled my mind as traffic inched along like an aging battalion of frogs. I had a nightmarish vision of what might happen next and told Marilyn I’d tell her about it when we got home. Surely, now the worst really was behind us. My stomach was churning as the highway traffic continued at a snail’s pace. Marilyn was taking pictures of our slow-mo drive to document our long day’s journey into hell.

Finally, we negotiated our exit off the Mass Pike. I casually looked at the fuel gauge which had now dipped below “Empty.” I silently cursed the gods and looked for an opening on the last major artery of our drive home.  My mind drifted off to other things, including tonight’s World Series game.  Something to smile about in anticipation of more in what’s become an exciting fall classic between the Houston Astros and the La La Dodgers.

I was pondering the possibility of my hero, broadcaster Vin Scully dropping in to cover tonight’s game. That thought prompted my first smile of the day.  My smile grew bigger as I realized we were HOME … in downtown Uxbridge.

Home again!

We ended our afternoon with Marilyn explaining to shoppers and staffers at our local supermarket why we were dressed in our Sunday best. Marilyn’s account of our trip to Boston seemed to draw smiles and laughter.

I’m glad someone thought this day was funny.

NOTHING’S LIKE IT USED TO BE

A couple of weeks ago, I needed some new nightwear. Nothing fancy. No lingerie. That’s for display, not sleeping. I’m talking about the ubiquitous cotton sleep tee. For years, I bought them from L.L. Bean. They were comfortable, loose, soft. Lightweight in summer, heavier, long-sleeved for winter. Then, L.L.Bean stopped making them and offered only heavy flannel or pajamas. In ugly colors.

bz-panel-09-07-13store

I don’t want elastic while I sleep. I want soft, loose, breathable, comfortable. Priced so I can buy more than one. Colors other than flaccid pink and dainty floral on white.

When L.L. Bean stopped making what I wanted, I switched to Land’s End. I’ve been wearing their sleep tees for more than a decade. But with each passing year, the fabric has gotten rougher, and the cut skimpier. The neckline has gotten tighter to the point where it’s hard to get your head through it. The price keeps going up. I gave up. While the price has risen, the quality has dropped to completely unacceptable. I found quality sleep tees on Amazon. Not as good as the old ones, but at least affordable.

Have you ever tried to find someone to help you in a real store? Shops have cut staffing down so low that there’s no one to help you and they did this long before everyone started shopping on line. They decided they didn’t need to offer help, that we could all fend for ourselves. We did. We just didn’t do it at their shops. When online became available, it was an easy switch.

Then there’s the whole “changing brands” without regard for what people want. Did “new Coke” bring new customers to Coca Cola? Or did they give Pepsi a huge boost? Did Windows 8 improve business at Microsoft … or did it move huge numbers of computer users to Apple?

A while back, I decided to go buy a book and I went to the mall. There’s a huge Barnes & Noble there. Did you know that Barnes & Noble booksellers — their brick and mortar stores — charge 30% more than Barnes & Noble online? For identical merchandise. If you want a discount card, that will cost you more. Even with the “discount,” their stuff still costs more than it would online.

When asked why I should bother to buy at the store, I was told the online and “real” stores aren’t run by the same organization and have different price structures. That’s not an answer.

Original Coke came back. Windows 8 passed into oblivion — to no ones regret. Windows 10 is into its third round of updates and the Windows world has settled down. Amazon is opening its own brick and mortar stores. What goes around apparently comes around. I’m waiting for the same thing to happen with the presidency. Even DiGiorno’s is selling pizza with “original” sauce. Vote with your shopping cart and get out there for the next elections and maybe we’ll get a government we can live with. It worked on Windows, so why not on the federal government?

Yet, I’m pretty sure I’ll never fully trust Microsoft, Barnes & Noble, or the U.S. government. Sometimes, when you break a trust with enough brutality, there’s no going back. You smile when you  meet, but you don’t really mean it.

What’s the price tag on trust?

NO SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION

I used to work in advertising, an industry about which it can be said — without fear of argument or contradiction — there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Or, for that matter, a stupid answer. It is an industry with a passion for stupidity. It embraces it. An industry in which the demographic bottom line makes a slow third-grader look like a budding Einstein.

When I worked at Doubleday, we used to put warning labels on books. “Warning: May contain sexually explicit material.

Half the time, there was no sexually explicit material. It was boilerplate. We put it on boring books to make them look spicy. No surprise, we got complaints from customers who sought in vain for The Good Parts, but had found nothing but … literature. We pointed out we had said:


MAY contain sexually explicit material.”


We hadn’t actually promised it. No guarantees, implicit, implied, or whatever.

calvin klein underwear

In the name of pure research, I asked my husband if he, as a man (not as my husband, as a reporter, or as an otherwise intelligent human being) thought naked women in men’s underwear advertising would be a good idea. He said (and I quote): “Well, it would probably be a smart advertising ploy.”

Psychological, sociological, or cultural explanations? Nah. Irrelevant. It’s about money. Advertisers will do anything to sell the product. Sex sells. It always has. Always will. Put a naked body on the cover of any book and it will sell better (not to me, but to somebody somewhere). The same book without a naked person will sell fewer books. Fact, not opinion.

Getting back to the important issue of marketing men’s underwear. The kid had a point. While I think women wearing the men’s underwear might confuse customers (presumably men), as you can see, there is far from universal agreement on that point. Of course there ought to be sexy, naked women selling men’s underwear. They should be gazing at it with longing. Rubbing it all over their bodies while they gasp with pleasure. Caressing their breasts with it.

As for the larger question — why aren’t men’s underwear manufacturers already doing this kind of advertising?  Who says they aren’t?

jbs-mens-underwear_18