DECEMBER 2, 2016 A MINOR 1977 MYSTERY
I live here in Washington, PA, and Ive got a complaint.
What is that, maam?
Youve been giving out my phone number on television!
I beg your pardon?
Ive been getting calls from strangers trying to buy a sweater. They say theyve seen an ad on cable TV with a phone number, and its mine! I paid extra for an unlisted number so I wouldnt get any of these nuisance calls, and now my number is all over TV. I need you to do something about this!
Uh, weve never run a commercial like that here on TV-3, so Im not sure how that could be happening. But were only a local channel here in Washington. There are other channels on the cable. Maybe one of them is running that ad. Maybe WOR-TV from New York.
But why would they be telling people to call a Washington number?
Youre right, that doesnt make sense. Let me look into this. If I may ask, what is your number?
Im at 225-1410. But its unlisted.
Okay, Ill see if theres anything I can do. Thanks for calling.
[Ive disguised the digits to protect the unlisted. In the 1970s, that was actually the number of our TV-3 studio, area code 412.]
I pondered the mystery. Commercials of this sort often invite viewers to phone a toll-free number. What if it happened to be 1-800-225-1410 in one such ad? A viewer in Washington might see it and think 225? Thats a local exchange. Our numbers here in Washington start with 225. I dont need to dial the area code for long distance. Ill just dial 225-1410.
To test my theory, I dialed 1-800-225-1410. Are you selling sweaters? Yes. I explained why I was calling. Then I dialed 225-1410 to tell our local resident what was going on.
Of course, this hardly satisfied her, because the 800 number was still being advertised. But at least now she knew she could tell her unwanted callers to dial 1-800 first, stupid.
And it satisfied me. The mystery was solved.
28, 2016 THE
NOVEMBER 27, 2016 IS THAT 23 OR 38?
NOVEMBER 25, 2016 THE RICH NEW RULER
No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along, wrote Charles M. Blow in an op-ed column in Wednesdays New York Times. You slammed Clinton about conflicts of interest while she was secretary of state, and now your possible conflicts of interest are popping up like mushrooms in a marsh. ...You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts to satisfy your ambitions. I dont believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.
A certain ruler asked Jesus, saying, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may be a great President?
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. But if thou wilt enter into the White House, keep the commandments.
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus sighed and said, Honour thy father and mother, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not tell falsehoods, Defraud not.
And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: Sell all that thou hast. No man can serve two masters. Thou canst not serve God and money. If thou profess to serve the people yet at the selfsame time retain thy businesses under the control of thyself and thy sons and daughters, the people will raise a great complaint, saying, Thou art misusing thy high office and our taxes so as to enrich thy businesses and thyself. Verily, that way leadeth to very many lawsuits, and contending with judges will prevent thee from doing any thing.
And he was sad at that saying, and went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. And he pondered whether it was better to divest himself of his riches, or of his Presidency.
NOVEMBER 23, 2016 OH, THE HUMANITY!
Here are two tales of long-ago mayhem from the archives of the newspaper in my old hometown, the Richwood Gazette.
NOVEMBER 20, 2016 MOST INTERESTING, MAN
I neither drink beer nor speak Spanish, so when I first encountered the product name Dos Equis I wondered what it meant.
And thats our language lesson for today prompted, of course, by the fact that the musical guest on Saturday Night Live last night was called The XX.
NOVEMBER 16, 2016 NOW DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
Today would have been my parents 76th wedding anniversary. My guess is that my future father never slipped an engagement ring onto my future mothers finger before they ran off to Kentucky to get married.
As the years passed, my mother expressed a desire for a proper diamond. You may wonder why she hadnt received one for her 1940 marriage. It would have been unusual if she had! Ken Jennings explained as "The Debunker" for woot.com last month.
NOVEMBER 11, 2016 PEACEABLE SOLDIERS
The nearest combat was more than 150 miles to the south, where British and Gurkha and Indian troops defeated the Japanese at Kohima and Imphal in July 1944.
Yes, my father was a veteran of the Second World War, but he didnt see any action. Neither did a veteran of the First World War, my grandmothers brother Luther. Uncle Sam drafted Luther, taught him to be a butcher, and shipped him to France a couple of months before hostilities ended. I had a gun awhile brought it with me from the States, he wrote. But I got tired carrying it around, so I turned it back in.
They also serve who only pick up the payroll or cut the meat.
NOVEMBER 10, 2016 COME TOGETHER
Suddenly, television commercials have become much kinder. Let us give thanks.
On the day before the election between 6:15 and 6:30 pm, two commercial breaks on a local station were cluttered with 23 spots. I kept track. In addition to five sponsors' ads, there were three promos for upcoming shows on the station. There was one positive political ad: John Rafferty promising what he'd do if elected Pennsylvania Attorney General.
And then there were 14 negative political ads. Of these, one attacked Rafferty's opponent, four attacked Hillary Clinton, two attacked Donald Trump, five attacked Sen. Pat Toomey (including three such spots in a row at one point), and two attacked his challenger. All were hateful. All were filled with accusations of lying and other moral failings while asserting their own half-truths.
On the day after the election, there was a wonderful silence. Not only were all the political ads gone, but commercial sponsors began giving us uplifting inspiration. These ads don't sell the sponsors' products directly; instead, they promote love for other Americans! For people who may be different from ourselves!
In a commercial for Johnnie Walker, a Latino voice recites:
The speaker, Rommel Molina, was of course quoting Woody Guthrie's 1940 folk anthem, which ends with this stanza:
Another commercial, originally aired by the University of Phoenix during the Rio Olympics, features a poem from Maya Angelou spoken by black lesbian Gail Marquis, a 1976 Olympian in basketball.
NOVEMBER 8, 2016 MY CLAIM TO SENIORITY
Each week I listen to an amusing podcast that originates from Portland, Oregon, hosted by Jeff Bayer (on the left below) and Eric D. Snider.
Heres a slightly condensed moment from episode number 334, which was posted on November 4. Like all who speak into the void, Bayer and Snider wonder whos on the other end receiving their words. Eric said:
Jeff added, Well, not him. Once you get to know an old person you realize theyre not all like that. So, no, Toms different than all the others. From most of the other olds.
NOVEMBER 6, 2016 DRAWING THE LINES
My father was one of the first members of the Greatest Generation, born approximately between 1909 and 1925. I myself am among the oldest of the Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964. But the fuzzy definitions of these groups have been unclear to me, so I looked them up.
Heres how one source defines the breakpoints. The numbers on the left indicate the current age of someone born at the midpoint of their generation.
(Speaking of voting, I agree with Stephen Colbert when he calls it my favorite right to exercise besides my right to not exercise.)
NOVEMBER 3, 2016 PARABLE
Tuesday at the laundry: A guy stuffs a bulky comforter into a washing machine. How much detergent to add? The sign says no more than half a cup, but that cant be enough. He pours in a whole cup, and then some.
When he leaves with his comforter, theres a huge mess on the floor. The woman who manages the place arrives.
People dont read the signs, notes one customer. And they wont listen, adds the manager as she sweeps the suds out the door onto the sidewalk. I explain thats too much soap, and they get mad. Dont tell me how to do my wash! But if my husband tells them, theyll listen to him.
So you wont trust a woman to lead you. She's probably lying. But a man youll believe everything he says, true or not.
After all, strong women are demons, according to the hostile sexism of some fearful and frenzied folks.
OCTOBER 31, 2016 HALLOWEEN SPECIAL
OCTOBER 27, 2016 LOCK THEM ALL UP
The odds of finding a red car are actually down, according to a recent report from PPG Paints. White remains the most popular color by far. Worldwide, 38% of vehicles built in 2016 are white, up from 35% last year. In fact, if we include the three next most popular shades black (16%), silver (12%), and gray (10%) more than three quarters of all cars lack any chroma at all!
OCTOBER 24, 2016 EPOCH-MARKING DAY
Today is the big day!
Today we celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Teletheatre.
As H. Winfield Secor wrote in an 85-year-old article, October 24, 1931, will undoubtedly go down in history as the epoch-marking day when the world first saw Television billed as a feature in a regular theatre program. ...Theatre audiences, not to mention those in private homes, will consider television an everyday necessity, and expect to see as well as hear the latest news, and such exciting events as foot-ball games, on the television screen, at the moment they are occurring.
OCTOBER 20, 2016 A VISIT TO LOCK 8
OCTOBER 16, 2016 HAMMER-THROWER MAKES GOOD
OCTOBER 10, 2016 DOCTOR & MISTER MOVE TO MIDWEST
Each year more than 40,000 new MDs seek to complete their education with a residency somewhere. A non-profit organization matches each doctor with a position at a teaching hospital. However, the hospital may not be close to the doctor's current location.
So it was that Jan Olson, an Easterner in only her second year of marriage, found herself (and therefore her husband) assigned to a Midwestern city. Fortunately it was a city she knew well. But the couple had to pack up and move all their possessions ... even the grasshopper and the great white whale.
OCTOBER 6, 2016 SPORTS FROM TUESDAY
Even those of us who work at Pittsburgh Penguins hockey games were caught by surprise this week when the team suddenly announced that its building, until now known as the CONSOL Energy Center, would henceforth be the PPG Paints Arena.
Consol is losing money in the coal and gas industry, so now PPG will promote its paints by assuming the honor of paying for the naming rights. The structure which replaced the old Mellon Arena only six years ago is again getting new signage.
Weve been referring to the building as the Consol for short. We need a short version of the new name as well, because it would require too many syllables to say Im goin dahn to th Pea Pea Gee Paints Arena.
Some fans suggested we could call it the Paint Can or the Bucket. Theres little enthusiasm for either. However, the PPG Paints Arena is now the only arena in town, as the college basketball teams play at centers. We can refer to it as we did its predecessor!
Sorry, PPG. Were goin to call it simply th Arena.
Also Tuesday, Jack Nicklaus and many other friends of the late Arnold Palmer honored him at a memorial service in nearby Latrobe. For some reason, that reminded me of 1960.
At that years U.S. Open, although the amateur Nicklaus was leading by two shots with six holes to play, the professional Palmer charged to a two-stroke victory. However, my particular memory must have been from the Masters, which took place earlier in 1960. Our TV would have been tuned to a Columbus, Ohio, network affiliate, and as a 13-year-old, I remembered this moment as an example of local boy makes good.
My recollection is that during the final round, the TV coverage jumped ahead to the 18th green, where a blond, rather overweight young man was lining up his putt. The announcer said something like, Were going to cut away from the leaders briefly to show you this young amateur as he closes out his tournament. Hes only 13th on the leader board, but hes had a great week here at Augusta. Hes 20-year-old Jack Nicklaus, from Columbus, Ohio. He won the U.S. Amateur tournament last year, and people are calling him the best amateur golfer since Bob Jones. And listen to that applause. Remember the name: Jack Nicklaus. Youre going to be hearing a lot more from this young man in the future.
OCTOBER 2, 2016 NOSTALGIA TIME
Yesterday Eric D. Snider tweeted, Last time Trump paid taxes, a Clinton was in the White House, the economy was good, and Internet trolls didn't exist. Make America great again!
Of course, thats not exactly what the famous baseball cap is trying to tell us. What do you mean if you want to Make America Great Again? You want to turn back the clock to a time when real Americans ruled the world. When life was better for people like you, at least.
How far back? A good guess would be the middle of the twentieth century. Say the 1950s.
On the satellite radio channel called Willies Roadhouse I recently heard some classic country music from that era, including the first two songs below. They reveal that even in the twentieth century, people were dreaming of the good old days. People were dreaming of the manly South of the nineteenth century.
I had some trouble with my sweethearts pa,
Tennessee Stud, written by Jimmy Driftwood
One sad day Billy cried Ho, ho,
One day in 1878
Billy Bayou, written by Roger Miller
the winter of 65, we were hungry, just barely alive.
Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, written by Robbie Robertson