Between the sloppy weather and a bit of a cold, I've spent too much time parked on the couch watching TV this week. My normal viewing habits are pretty deep into the satellite channels, shows about Brits buying and restoring classic Citroens, farm shops of the Midwest, and CNBC's version of news. But I have TIVO, and so generally speaking, I don't see the commercials. I actually went searching for a commercial for a health insurance company that was filmed at my ranch, and features several family members, looking well-insured and healthy. But with that exception, I fast forward through the ads.
But I ran out of TIVOed material, and actually had to watch in real time. If the products and services advertised on TV are a reflection of our society, we really have reached the end times. The most painful observation was that my viewing tastes have placed me well outside of the golden demographic advertisers are looking to reach. Somewhere in the last decade, advertisers who choose the same shows I do tend to be selling Medicare supplement insurance and reverse mortgages instead of beer and condoms. I guess those are still there on the football games, but so far, I've never been either sick or bored enough to watch football.
One ad really jumped out at me. A very attractive woman is dancing on stage, and we are told that she is wearing Depends under her slinky little dress. She is doing this for charity. What the hell kind of charity fundraiser has people dancing in diapers? Do you really want the money from the kind of people who would contribute to such a thing? I wonder if the Live PC, Give PC people have given that any thought. They hauled in $832,000 in one day, which is very impressive. But how much more would they have raised if, while adjusting the totals on the board, they had all been wearing Depends? There's always next year.
And it's not just the ladies who spring the unexpected leak. There is a kind of fat, Italian-looking guy who is helping some buddies with manly, home-repair sort of stuff while encouraging them to diaper up. The Depends folks also have three NFL football players, including Clay Matthews of Campbell's Soup endorsement fame, out there practicing while wearing diapers for charity. Frankly, I don't need to know if Clay Matthews is doing blocking drills with his junk in a diaper.
Assuming that advertising is attempting to help us solve our basic needs, we appear to be a society of hormonally challenged, impotent men with serious income tax problems and a weakness for violent video games. They are married to incontinent women who have fallen and can't get up, and take pain relievers by the bucket that may cause organ failure or death. Together, they long for a perfect mattress, clean ductwork, and cheaper car insurance. And everybody is going to get a new Lexus for Christmas.
Skiing can't get started soon enough. Get me outside and away from all that!
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination (how's that for a segue). We all remember exactly how that day unfolded, except that about half of the country was not alive then. For me, it was deeply upsetting. I was just a little kid. The teacher made the announcement after another teacher, with tears streaming, came in and whispered to her. It was close to lunchtime, and she told us to all go to lunch early.
Everybody lived close enough to school that we all went home for lunch. This was before mothers had jobs. The friends I walked with didn't know what to make of it, so we just hurried home in confused silence. When I got home, my mother was in tears. She made lunch anyway. We sat there and watched Walter Conkite, also in tears, go over the story and the few details available, over and over again. I didn't go back to school that afternoon. Nobody did.
It was the first time in my life that something on that scale had gone so terribly, cosmically wrong. The only event since with similar impact was the 9/11 attack. My parents always likened it to Pearl Harbor. My older siblings didn't come home for lunch, and so the afternoon was just me and Mom watching the endless loop of the car driving down the street and the shot ringing out, and Johnson being sworn in. She didn't even try to explain because she couldn't.
Fifty years have passed. Even now, when I see the replay of the tape of the shot, I can still feel my fingers gripping the fringe on the green ottoman in our old house, where I sat that afternoon feeling the world change underneath me.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.