The Week That Was

An Itch for Christmas
A few years ago, there were lots of stories around about ticks in Christmas trees. Well, the good news is that ticks are not really a problem. The bad news? There could be 25,000 other bugs on your tree.

Quote of the Week
“People don’t know what wine tastes like until they taste it.” – Paul Vandenburgh

That’s either a brilliant nugget of wisdom or the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Crushing It
I made a lot of news promos, and I’m still impressed when I see something that nails it like this MSNBC spot.

These folks have been portrayed by the idiot in the White house as enemies of the people. Their response: we do this because we love you. Extra points for using R.E.M.’s Orange Crush.

Tie One On This Christmas

So, about the Christmas tree.

On our way home from getting the tree, we passed another car on their way home from the same mission.

The other car’s tree was secured with a cheap piece of frayed twine that looked like it would snap at any moment. I was sure the tree would tumble to the road on the first sharp turn.

I try not to be judgmental, but the ability to tie things down is a fair measure of one’s competence.

My wife wanted me to honk and alert them.

I refused. “No. He needs to learn.”

My tree? There was a ratchet strap across the middle holding it snug to the roof and then a heavy nylon rope to keep it from pivoting. I could roll the car over and that tree would still be attached to the roof.

It wasn’t exactly pretty; no sailor would be impressed with these knots, but they were secure.

People get stressed out at Christmas, but the key to having a nice holiday is to accept that there are some things you can control and some things you can’t.

Accept the things you can’t control, and you’ll be happier — tying a tree to your car is something you can control, so don’t screw it up.

Media Roundup

Turkeys
The Times Union tried to charge us extra for the privilege of receiving their big Thanksgiving edition. What the what?  You should be paying me to take your giant pile of advertising. And , yes — I still have the paper delivered, which I guess means that I’m old.

Quote of the Week
“Everybody says something stupid at one point in their life.”                                   -Paul Vandenburgh

Yes, they do. In fact, some people say something stupid every fucking day of their life. On the radio. In Albany.

The Departed
Two high profile departures from WNYT announced this week: morning anchor Phil Bayly and meteorologist Jason Gough. Both were really solid guys and great at their jobs.

What does it mean? Maybe nothing, but two in one week seems a little weird; if we get a third, then we know something’s up. Too bad we don’t have a media reporter in this town.

That’s the News from Lake Wobegon

I’ve listened to Prairie Home Companion for more than thirty years, but it wasn’t until a few summers ago that I got to see the show live at Tanglewood.

When I heard the words, “From American Public Media,” in the canned open, chills ran down my spine. Within the first few notes of the show’s signature song, Tishomingo Blues, I swear to god, a tear ran down my cheek.

The show was great – everything I expected – but both me and my wife were struck by something: Garrison Keillor seemed to be unusually intimate with a young women he sang with on several numbers. Watching them, I thought that they were either involved romantically (eww) or he was hopelessly in love with her. Let’s put it this way, his attention wasn’t grandfatherly, unless your grandfather is Roy Moore.

——

I saw sexual harassment up-close once when an employee complained about unwanted attention from an older, male co-worker. This was not he said/she said. There was plain evidence that a line was crossed, and it even extended to outside the workplace.

I took the matter to my boss and it was quickly elevated to corporate HR. The people in that office (the ones who made us take endless sexual harassment training) then made it all go away. They basically told the complainant that she should first go to her co-worker and explain that she was not interested in his advances.

Yes, they told the woman who complained to go deal with the creepy fucker on her own. Good job, HR!

Look, there are no easy answers to all this. Maybe the current climate will bring change. If you have sons, teach them this: Treat women with respect, behave like a gentleman and keep your filthy mitts to yourself.

Santa Season

I watched for a few minutes at Bob’s Trees as children lined up to visit with Santa. He had a real beard and a pretty good looking Santa suit. Maybe he was a tad thin, but that’s OK. Good on him for watching his weight.

To a little kid, spotting Santa is a pretty big deal — and seeing those children reminded me of something that still makes me feel bad.

Years ago, I produced a Christmas commercial for a local liquor retailer. The concept was simple: this store has such great prices, it’s where Santa shops for booze. I hired a local actor with experience playing Santa — he even had his own suit — and we spent a morning getting shots of Santa darting gleefully around the store picking out bottles for people on the ‘nice’ list.

All this was going great — but then, a woman came in the store with her young daughter to buy a bottle of wine. While we worked, the little girl kept peeking around the end of the aisle to catch a glimpse of Santa. Our talent played right along and coaxed the girl out from behind a stack of boxes. He was great, launching right into full Santa mode, and it really made that little girl’s day.

OK, that doesn’t sound bad, does it — and the commercial turned out great — so what’s the problem?

Even now when I think about that day — and this was nearly 30 years ago — I get the nagging feeling that it was wrong to put Santa in a liquor store. To that little girl, this was the real Santa, and I was using him to sell hooch.

Santa’s been used to sell so many things, but to see the power he has over children, right before my eyes — in a liquor store, for god’s sake — just made me feel dirty.

I’m probably the only person in the world who remembers all of this, but Santa, please accept my apology for exploiting your image in such a crass way.  I hope you can see fit to forgive me — and if you do, a bottle of Glengoyne 18-year-old Scotch might help ease my mind.

Foto Friday

Reenactor at Stirling Castle, Scotland

I Don’t Like Tuesdays

My EMS shift on Monday evening runs from 6pm until midnight. Sometimes we’re on the go all night. Other times we sit and sit. You pass the time reading or watching TV. I’d sleep, but when I try to nap, it’s never satisfying.

One thing is certain, Tuesday morning can be tough, especially if you get a late call that keeps you until after midnight. Four hours of sleep or less is the routine.

My strategy for Tuesday is simple: try to be agreeable, and to accomplish this, a good strategy isto say as little as possible. I even have a list of pre-approved phrases that help me get through meetings:

    • Great idea!
    • Let’s talk more about that.
    • I hadn’t thought of it that way.
    • Maybe we should bring that to the team.
    • Can you send me more information about that?

By the way, if you say these things, don’t do it with a sarcastic tone of voice. Not good.

But the real problems start when you go off script. Sleep deprivation can impair you in the same way as alcohol. And like with alcohol, if you start running your mouth, the results can be bad.

So, here’s my workplace tip of the day: Tired? Say less, smile more and stick to the script. Or just consider calling in sick.

Witless

I’ve figured out why AMC’s The Walking Dead is such a bummer: the show is completely humorless.

And what’s so funny about brain eating zombies?

Nothing — but horror aficionados know that the best work has some laughs to diffuse the tension. Without that, it’s just a relentless downer, but mix in some funny bits with the scares and you have a winner.

Right wing talk radio is like the horror genre in that regard. You may hate Rush Limbaugh’s politics, but he can be entertaining. Even while you disagree, it’s fun to listen.

You can’t really say the same for Talk 1300’s Paul Vandenburgh. I’ve been listening to him for years and never once heard him say anything that’s funny. Not a joke, never a witty remark, no humorous observations. Never. Not once.

Some people think humor is related to intelligence, but not always.

Vandenburgh’s obviously smart enough to pull in some listeners with his angry guy schtick — and smart enough to be 13% owner of his radio station — so he must be smart enough to come up with a zinger now and then.

Right?

Maybe not.

I think there’s something else going on with humorless people and those with no appreciation for irony: they are missing a certain part of their brain. Whatever little node or fold that makes a person funny is absent or undeveloped.

In the interest of science, I hope we can get hold of the brains of some of these humorless people when they’re gone — not in the zombie sense, but for research. We must find a way to help them. God knows, we’d all be better off.

Candy Left Over From Halloween

A sack of candy on Halloween is a small thing that makes children very happy.

You remember dumping out that bag on the kitchen table and sorting through your loot. You’d carefully guard the good stuff, separate out the second-tier items (I’m looking at you, Smarties) and throw out the crap that looks sketchy. In my day, you’d sometimes get apples, which we discarded immediately.

But why do people insist on making this a bad thing with candy buy-back programs? I’ve written about these fun cops before, and how they tempt kids to trade their sweets for a small reward, as if having some Snickers bars is like keeping an illegal handgun tucked under your mattress.

This year a local mall is behind one of these schemes, offering the worst deal ever: for each pound of candy you bring in, they give you a gift certificate worth… one dollar. One dollar. But, wait — the offer is good for up to five pounds of candy, so kids could net a $5 payback. What a haul.

“But, Rob,” I can hear you saying, “They say the candy will be donated to ‘local organizations’.”

That’s certainly a nice idea, but here’s a better one: just take the funds you were going to pay those kids and give these “local organizations” something that will actually help them: cash.

The whole thing is beyond dumb.

Kids, you worked for that candy. Don’t be part of someone’s ill-conceived public relations scam. And parents? If you want to turn this into a lesson, here’s an idea: have the kids donate a little money for each pound of candy they wish to keep. Then, everybody wins.