Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm certain I'm missing something

On the rare occasions that I don't have a book with me, I love to read Skymall, the catalog you find on airplanes. Actually, I have a love / hate relationship with Skymall. I am never disappointed when it comes to the products I find it in: I can always find something that completely mystifies me.

The companies selling their goods and services in Skymall run from the very familiar, like The Sharper Image, to those you may have never heard of, like The Brightfeet Lighted Slippers company. You won't be surprised to learn they sell lighted slippers. So you can put them on and walk to the refrigerator in the dark at 3 am. The tiny lights on the front of your slippers shine a path for you. Once you step into them, they automatically light up if it's dark. And when you step out of them, they stay lit for a few seconds so you can safely get back into bed.

Our kids had light up slippers once. The lights lasted for about three weeks before growing ever weaker. I will tell you, however, that the ones they wore were definitely NOT from the Brightfeet Lighted Slippers company.

I usually try to find the most annoying product in the catalog and sometimes it's difficult to make that decision. Last weekend, on a trip back from Las Vegas, I had plenty of time to study the selections. I actually couldn't make a final decision so I had to settle for two products that tied for the most ridiculous and overated items in the catalog.

The first was a trash can that opened as a result of an electric-eye sensor. Because I can't top the copy that accompanied this product, I'll quote the sales pitch here: "Sure, a step on trash can is covenient, but how often do you get frustrated fumbling for the foot control? Free your feet and your frustrations with our stainless steel touchless trash can, a completely foot- and hands-free waste disposal system." I love that: "waste disposal system."

It goes on from there to explain the specifics but I couldn't help but think the following in my head: We have a step-on trash can in our kitchen and I don't believe I've ever missed the foot control - ever. It isn't really all that hard to find or operate. I can name three dozen things that frustrate me on a daily basis but finding the foot pedal on our trash can isn't one of them.

In a tie with the electronic trash can, I found the 'Breakfix Cereal Dispenser.' It's not that I'm opposed to a device that dispenses cereal - although it feels much like dog or cat food dispensers to me - I cringed at the copy that accompanied the product. "...fixing the day's first meal will never again be a messy, time consuming chore."

We're not talking about making eggs benedict here! We're not even talking about microwaving bacon strips. We're talking about 'fixing' a bowl of dry cereal!!!!! We have reached some kind of nadir as a society of thinking, breathing human beings when we can be sold a device with ad copy that calls pouring a bowl of cereal for our kids a "messy, time-consuming chore." If three seconds is time-comsuming, it's news to me.

I love the photo for this product. In the background, we see a young, attractive mom in jeans and a t-shirt, smiling gratefully at her young daughter who is holding what appears to be an empty ceral bowl. I imagine the daughter is saying this with her expression: "My mommy is so lame she can't even pour me a bowl of cereal. I think she resents having to put in such a time-consuming chore every morning to make sure I leave the house nourished and ready for my day. Look at her. You can just tell she'd rather be at the gym than caring for me. But that's okay. When she's ninety, I'll set up an automatic pill dispenser in her ratty little apartment and smile as I leave her when I visit three times a year."

Okay. Maybe she wasn't saying that. But she should be.

Talk soon -

Monday, October 23, 2006

# 4,967 in the list of things I don't understand

I'd like to think I'm not dense or obtuse about most things in life. Don't ask me to explain even one thing Stephen Hawking ever wrote about or how electricity works but despite the title of this post, I feel pretty comfortable moving about on a daily basis; understanding many things about my environment and the people in it.

Except for my latest problem: cell phones. I swear to God in heaven I don't understand what it is with men and cell phones. The only thing I can think of is that a cell phone is kind of like a remote control men can speak into. And since years ago I figured out that a remote control is a polite way for a man to hold himself in a room filled with family or friends,a cell phone is yet another way for him to do it. Except this time, he gets to take pictures with it and set up lots of individual bells and whistles to announce to the world: this is mine! Look at me!

With cell phones, smaller is better - perhaps the only place in a man's life that you'll find that to be true. Cars are getting bigger but phones are getting smaller. So if you're a man who wants to really make a statement about your own conspicuous consumption, drive an Escalade and talk on a chocolate phone. Drive a Hummer and listen to your mini.

Exception: TVs. Thin screen: yes. Small screen: NO. Imagine the man who sits in front of his 6 foot television screen holding his remote and his cell phone. The whole image is scaring me just a little bit.

Women - god help me - will never understand this. Every single thing in a woman's life isn't much more than a placeholder until she can get together with someone face to face. Cell phones, watching tv, listening to music - fine, lovely, fun. But nothing compared to meeting up with a real live person or people to connect in person.

I just can't get excited about new cell phones. It's just not in my DNA. I can fake it - enough to be thrilled for everyone in my house who has a new phone these days -but I don't really get it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

this is just plain sad

I just realized I am old enough to have been one of Josh Holloway's babysitters when I was young.

It's just a little sad to think that Holloway is ten years younger than I. And that the character he plays on Lost - the character I find most attractive (Sawyer)- really, if you were honest about it - is way too young for me. Had I lived up the street from him many years ago, when I was thirteen years old and he was three, I could have been reading him books, helping his mom get him potty-trained, or doing other useful "mother's helper" kind of tasks, and earning a dollar an hour to do it.

That's the weird thing about age. I guarantee you not one of us imagines getting older every single day - not to mention every single year - but we do. We tend to think of ourselves in some kind of perpetual state of suspended animation; where the rest of the world changes but we're pretty much the same as we were when we were 32 years old.

I mean, short of actually doing the math, what would ever possess me to imagine I'm too old for Sawyer? (I'm of course leaving out the fact that I would never have the opportunity to get to know Josh Holloway in any personal way for the rest of my life. Or that I've been married for twenty years and have three sons. Or that he's married - maybe he has kids. Or that I've never been to Hawaii and have no plans to go to Hawaii where I would have zero chance of runing into him in a 7-11 as he heads to the studio one morning anyway. We're talking imagination here, not reality.)

There must be some "sweet spot" for age - where we think we live and how we think the rest of the world sees us - that we choose for ourselves and never adjust as time passes by. It's the Glory Days Springsteen sings about - those days where we are at our best, with just about everything good in life to look forward to, where we and everything around us, can only get better.

Thing is, even when the Glory Days can arguably be called "behind us," we still think we're in 'em; or even that they're just ahead. I know I couldn't really function at my best if I didn't believe on some level that the best was yet to come in my life, as Sinatra (?) sang many years ago.

But that can't really be true - or it can't be true for a lot of us. I suppose there is that Grandma Moses kind of stuff that happens. You (and the rest of the world) can discover a whole new amazingly wonderful element about yourself after you've spent about seven decades just picking up around the house and balancing your checkbook.

This leaves me exactly no where with my revelation about Holloway and my old age. But I'd love to know what age most people believe they are - what is your imaginary age? We forget the limitations that come with youth - and rely on the standby theory that goes something like, "if I knew then what I know now"... then what? We'd all be brilliant twenty year olds? Doubt it. I'm not a brilliant almost 50 year old. We want to retain our collected "wisdom" (for lack of a better word) that our advancing years afford us. But we want to feel thirty-two. And have the world see us that way, too.

Maybe that's where friends and family come is. As you age together, you preserve the whole fantasy together on some level, right?

Which is exactly the reason I could never really hook up with Josh Holloway. We don't have a past - even a parallel past - to share. When he was playing Little League, I was writing my senior thesis on D. H. Lawrence for college. I can try for a very long time and I guarantee you there is just no way to connect those two events into anything really substantive.

Sorry Josh - I was born too late.

talk soon -

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ummmm; how shall I put this?

How about: I don't care.

Or more accurately (I hope): we don't care.

That's how I felt when I read about Runaway Bride - that's how she'll always be referred to forever, it will probably be on her tombstone some day - Runaway Bride Jennifer Wilbanks - suing her ex-fiance for something like $500 million bucks. Honestly, I could barely skim the article so if you want the real story, don't count on finding it here. Something about he kept the toaster and the sofa and the shower gifts - and - oh, yeah - most of the money she made on her deal to tell her story to Regan Books.

Poor R - B Jen. She really needed a better lawyer than whoever it was who set up her book deal and left her fiance - not even her husband - holding all the money. She's the one who did the running - and the subsequent fessing up - and the community service for causing all that angst in her hometown - not to mention nationwide if you'll recall. (I wasn't particularly anxious about her running but many were.) And he gets most of the money, not to mention the fondue pot and cappuccino maker? Is there no justice?

I hate this story. I hate that they made half a million bucks. I hate that we were subjected to hearing about this story for several weeks a few years ago. I hate that she took the money - only to lose it to her ex-boyfriend, when she should have donated it to a women's shelter or some national organization that truly tries to help women who NEED to run for their lives.

Maybe Katie Couric will do a follow up interview and ask Jennifer about how the relationship ended, what she learned about herself along the way and why she didn't have a decent pre-nup in place. I can't wait.

Talk soon -

Friday, October 06, 2006

I have hair gel and I'm not afraid to use it

Before I hear from all the hysterics in the world who write to tell me I don't respect or understand our need for national security, let me save you the trouble. Yes. I do.

But as I passed through security the other day at Dallas Fort Worth airport, I wondered if we had all gone just slightly insane. I had heard about the "carry your potentially dangerous creams,lotions and gels in a plastic bag or else" edict from the FAA. I even told a traveling companion about it in case she hadn't read the news.

I thought I'd be safe (and logical), by zipping up my grooming accessories in a plastic bag designed for travelling, the kind that comes with your luggage and is easy to use.

I was wrong. No sooner did the security officials begin barking out the "show us what you're carrying" orders, than I was under scrutiny by one of the officers at the checkpoint. He picked up bag and my stuff and said, "This isn't in a plastic bag." Me, being a perfect combination of bold and dumb, touched the bag as if to reassure myself that I did recognize the product commonly called plastic and said, "I thought it was plastic." At which point, he jabbed at a zip lock bag on the counter and snarled, "THIS is a plastic bag." He pawed through my things and removed a tiny tube of toothpaste, a teeny bottle of perfume - really teeny - and a 4 oz tube of brilliant brunette styling gel which I had just purchased not so much as a week earlier and was still quite full of the stuff I love to use on my hair. I was furious but what do you do? Nothing.

I wanted to say this (but didn't for fear of being locked up and missing my opportunity to get some frozen yogurt just down the hall by our gate): "I'm so sorry you have a small penis and need to assert yourself in this pathetic way. But - we all have our burdens."

Seriously, I thought it would be pretty funny if I had boarded the plane, gel intact, and at some point accosted the steward...err, flight attendant and held the tube to her head: "I have hair gel and I'm not afraid to use it. I want another bag of pretzels - now - or believe me, your hair will not know what hit it. And if that's not enough, I'm going to start dabbing this perfume on every pulse point on your body." Maybe I would have gotten a round of applause.

I'm positive that in about ten days, the FAA will refine their restrictions and rule that any plastic bag with contents that are clearly visible is acceptable. And where does that leave me? Replacing my confiscated stuff and packing lunches for my kids for the next seven years.

I kind of love the fact that the plastic bag security system has been a great equalizer among travelers. The first class flyers have to carry and reveal their bathroom accessories in zip lock bags, exactly like the rest of us (and the homeless). How soon will it be before Lands End or Magellan or some such higher end company designs and begins selling "name" zip lock bags for their customers? It can't be too long. I want to watch who carries them and laugh.

Talk soon -

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

a satellite visit

Today's brush with greatness - or near greatness actually - took the form of a short interview I had with the news organization at the Howard Stern Show.

Stern reporter Steve Langford called to discuss Sunday's Morning Call column on Howard Stern and the relentlessly bad press he's received of late - most of it courtesy of one particular reporter. The column I wrote did little more than point out the questions all of us should ask regularly about what we read and what the agenda behind it may be. Yes, the column discussed Howard and his current leadership position on satellite radio but the larger question is this: how do we filter the information we get and why do we tend to believe what we see in print?

It's hard to know who tells the truth and who has a spin that twists the facts of the story just the slightest bit. I write an opinion column; I'm not remotely an investigative journalist. But even with opinion writing, I take the time to make sure I'm being as accurate as possible so I don't mislead readers about the "truth" that prompted my response.

I'm kind of stunned that a rumor - with just one published column in the New York Post- could then become a "report" that created an illusion of fact but I watched just that unfold with the Stern story. If I weren't already skeptical of what gets reported as "news" these days, this little incident would encourage that skepticism. It shoud do the same for you.

If you missed the original piece, it's online at in the opinion writers section.

Talk soon -