Monday, November 26, 2012

Ad Nauseas

All together now, what's the one thing we all hate when it comes to watching TV? COMMERCIALS! Yeah, I know, we’re told commercials are a necessary evil. It’s what keeps so called “free” TV free. Advertising pays the bills for the networks to buy the talent and book the programs (no matter how lousy) so that we can all turn into obese couch potatoes and stare at a big screen filled with moving blobs of color until we morph into Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest right after he’s had his lobotomy.
But here’s the thing. Have you noticed the steady increase in advertising over the past year or so? Didn’t think so.  The sneaky bastards have incrementally been stealing our precious mind-numbing program time and using it to further imprint their products deep in our cerebral cortex (or wherever imprints are stored).

Let me demonstrate with the following data gathered by my painstaking research so that you don’t have to. I saw it as my duty as well as a public service. I think few other programs reveal the covert advertising plot for what is as well as the Discovery Channel. Here’s the breakdown of a random one hour show.
00:00 Opening credits and promo lasting until 01:43 into the hour.

01:43 to 11:11 Program
11:11 to 15:55 Commercial
15:55 to 25:36 Program
25:36 to 29:15 Commercial
29:15 to 36:35 Program
36:35 to 40:20 Commercial
40:20 to 46:36 Program
46:36 to 49:45 Commercial

49:45 to 50:32 Program HOLD IT! Look again at that time.  Programming was on for only 47 seconds before going right back to commercial. This has become a common practice. Sons a bitches.
50:32 to 54:00 More commercials
54:00 to 59:59 Program, but then, pay attention now, the DVR QUIT RECORDING!

 Yes, the machine stopped recording at the top of the hour just as it was supposed to, based on the program times listed on the guide, but the program wasn’t over! No, it ran for another two or three minutes past the hour, thereby cheating you out of the last three minutes of drivel. An anomaly? I think not. More like a plot to discourage you, dear zombie, from recording your favorite foolishness and forced to make the choice of missing the ending or sit through the commercials. How cold hearted is that?
And let’s not forget those annoying little icon ads tucked away in the corners of the screen, or worse, the distracting, scrolling promos across the bottom , or how about the little human figures that jump out with a sign saying “watch me?” OMG, where’s the gun?

Did you watch the OSU-OU football game last Saturday? Did you see the big net that came up behind the goal posts for the extra points and field goals? I saw it. It had a monster logo of the Allstate Insurance Company on it. These guys don’t miss a trick.

Now for the program to commercial comparison:  it came to roughly 25 minutes of commercials for every 35 minutes of programming, plus or minus a few seconds. This is a depressing change from the previous 20 minutes to 40 minutes ratio. You can see where this is heading.

There is one thing. Remember the 2012 Doomsday prediction, approaching fast, less than a month from now if you buy the date 12/21/2012 as the big cataclysm? And then…no more TV commercials. There’s that.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Cat Crisis

The Missus burst into the man-cave, eyes wide in fright. It was the horror of horrors.  “Blue cat just shot past me and ran up the stairs to the attic. She’ll smother in all that insulation or get stuck behind a wall, I just know it. I can’t catch her. What should I do?”

My first move was to utter a silent prayer, “Thank you God, that it wasn’t me to commit the sin of all sins and let a cat into the attic.” Sensing the extreme anxiety in the room, I saw this as an opportunity to gain favorable points, to nullify a few of my prior wrongdoings, and agreed to help.

I found a flashlight, ascended the stairs, and, like a prison searchlight scanning the grounds for an escapee, I began to sweep the attic with light, poking the beam in every niche and corner I could see, at the same time being wary of falling through  the ceiling at any moment. Then, from atop an air duct, glowing yellow eyes. The Missus calls out.

“Oh, there she is. Blue. Blue, Kitty, kitty, kitty. Come here, baby.”

Blue was having none of it. After dozens of failed attempts to finally, finally, get to the attic and all of its mysterious boxes and places to climb, responding to a mundane come-here-kitty request wasn’t going to cut it. In fact, she turned and disappeared even deeper into the cavernous blackness. For a few minutes, we could hear her moving around, doing whatever cats do in an attic, but then…silence.

“She’s buried under all that foam and has suffocated. My cat is dead,” the Missus wailed.

I suggested to my bride that she pour herself a spooker to calm down, maybe watch a little TV, or read a book. “I have a hunch your cat is still alive, possibly taking a catnap, and will come out when she’s good and ready.” The suggestion was ignored.

“I know. I’ll open a can of cat food, “ she said. ”The sound of the pop-off lid usually brings her running.”  Placing the other cats outdoors so as not to compound the problem, a can of shredded tuna in sauce is opened and placed at the bottom of the stairs. I return to the man-cave where I occasionally hear the sound of a spoon banging against the cat dish in a futile attempt to coax kitty-kitty down from the rafters.

Patience, especially when it comes to cat safety, is not the forte of the Missus. Back to the attic she goes, clumping around, moving boxes, calling, “Kitty? Blue? Where are you sweetheart? Come to mama.” Then: “I see her!”

A moment later, “Gotcha, you little shit.”

I smile. In mere minutes, Blue has gone from All That is Precious to You Little Shit. Cats are like that. It’s in their nature.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Broken Promises

Lately, with alarming and increasing regularity, my computer has been yelling at me. Things like, “What did you just try to do?” Sorry, but there is insufficient internal memory for things like that. Put on your big boy pants, if you have any, and come back when you grow a pair."

With the huge photo file sizes that today’s digital cameras are capable of producing, and at 12 frames a second no less, the strain on the present computer was becoming more than the old boy could handle. Clearly, it was time for an upgrade. But how much computer horsepower did I really need? How much RAM? What kind of graphics card? A consult with number one son, an expert in the field, was in order. We hook up on the phone and do some virtual on-line shopping together at Best Buy, a store that I’ve had some problems with in the past.

We decided on a Dell. It was like Christmas coming early. I want one of those and one of those and oh, throw in an extra hard drive while you’re at it. Before long, my cart was full and Best Buy was grinning. The icing on the cake, the toy in the stocking, the stairway to heaven, was something called a 256 gigabyte solid state hard drive. This in addition to the run-of-the-mill old fashioned, tried and true, hard drive. The son explains that this little 256GB dynamo will add amazing speed to the processing system, allowing me to power up in something like ten seconds. Ooooohhh. That sounded really, really good. With the present model, I can hit reboot, take a nap, and still catch the last of the icons lighting up.

I click Checkout, do a double gulp at the price, but went ahead and clicked Continue. Within seconds, I was looking at a rather speedy delivery, only 5 days away. Hoo Boy!

I spend the first four days backing up the present data on an external drive. On the fifth day, I’m in the street watching for Big Brown, the UPS truck. But the driver doesn’t stop, passes by with barely a wave of the hand.  Back inside, I find a message from Best Buy.

“Your order has been cancelled per your request. Thank you for shopping Best Buy.”

WHAT? I can’t dial the 888 number fast enough.

“What do you guys mean, cancelled per my request? I didn’t cancel anything!”

“Hmm,” the man says. “Let me check into that.” Click. The carpet grew soggy with tears before he returned to the phone. “I’m very sorry, Sir, but the model with those options has been discontinued and is no longer available.” Oh no! I call the son.

“I’ll look at some other brands and get back to you.”

Hours pass. Not being of the patient sort, I get on the Dell website. Sure nuff, right there under desktops, is the exact model denied to be in existence by Best Buy. Obviously, I need to talk to the folks at Dell. However, and as you may know, I am as deaf as a fencepost. Even with the aid of a closed caption telephone converting voice to text, my communication with the hearing world is pathetic at best. It’s a big problem at times like this. Around the house, with the Missus, not so much. Then I see a button for Chat. Aha. I can’t hear, but I can type.

The Chat Lady says her name is Hazel. I immediately think of that commercial about a customer support department featuring a scruffy bearded guy in a shack claiming to be “Peggy.” Might be the same guy. No matter. I explain the situation to Hazel. Hazel is more than happy to configure my new system but without the crown jewel, the 256GB Solid State kick-Photoshop’s-ass hard drive. I tell Hazel I’ll have to think about it. She’ll call me she says.

Frantically, I try to reach the son for advice. Do I settle for less? What can I live without?  But the kid with the online-all-the-time latest in portable devices, is like the elusive hard drive, unavailable. I don’t know why. I must admit, there are times when I forget that there are still people out there that work and have actual lives to live and do not have the luxury of excessive spare time that I seem to be blessed with these days.

An hour later and still uninformed, I get a call from Dell, but it's not Hazel. This time it’s Abdul or Ahab, or Ahmadinejad, something like that. Not only can I not hear him, I can’t begin to understand the strong accent. I try to explain that I’m not quite ready to place my order and once again inquire about the model that is “no longer available.” Ahmed states, “This is true. No have.” At least I think that’s what he said. The caption phone reads “speaker unintelligible.”

It’s late afternoon before the son who can’t seem to get his priorities straight, gets a moment away from his job and calls me. I replay the latest from Hazel and Akram. The son sums it up succinctly.


“But they keep saying..”

“Bullshit. Hang on. Let me get to a computer.” Moments later: “I’m on the Dell site. I have the model we want in my Cart" he says. “All I have to do is hit Buy.”

“Hold that place,” I say. “I’ll meet you at the checkout line.”

On my own creaky computer, I duplicate the keystrokes and soon, I too am looking at the new beauty, gleaming in the light, bulging with the coveted solid state hard drive, waiting to have its button pushed. Hmm. Could it be true? Or is it an allusion? I hit the Chat button. This time I get Ariston (a co-worker of Hazel and Ahmadinejad I presume).

“Ariston, darlin’,” I type (not caring if Ariston is male or female at this point). I am looking at my cart on your website. It has a computer in it with the features I require. Do you or do you not have the capability of sending me that bad boy so equipped?"

 “I do,” she types in reply.

“Sweet Baby Jesus! Write it up, Ariston, while I pour myself a spooker. It’s been a long and trying day.” Ariston sends me a smiley face.

Once again, I resume my vigil, quietly waiting on a lonely street for the return of Big Brown. I wish they would hurry. It’s getting a bit chilly out there at night.