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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What I Learned from Watching 3 Hours of Old Cigarette Commercials

Being something of a knowledge junkie, I wanted to better understand how tobacco products were sold over the years.  Enter YouTube, and after about 3 hours of videos, I've come to some conclusions.  Some of these are serious, some are stupid, but so be've been warned.

(Weird cartoon toilet bowl seat man smoking; from THIS video.)

Before I get to the list, I do want to make an important point:  Smoking is an incredibly stuping thing to do.  If you smoke, I really and truly wish you would stop.  Honestly, I do.  It's a truly senseless habit:  It costs a lot of money, it smells...and makes you smell...bad, it's basically a delivery mechanism for a highly addictive drug and it can kill you in ways that are just ridiculously horrible (citation HERE).  By any objective measure, smoking makes absolutely no sense.

Oh, and by the way, the argument that "well, it's no worse than obesity" doesn't fly here.  Why?  Obesity, while dangerous, represents an excess of something all humans  Yes, the worst food has some nutritional value, even if that's to provide basic calories.  There is, however, absolutely zero redeeming value in smoking.    Again, please stop smoking.

Anyway, here's the list.
  1. Teeth - Everyone in the commercials seems to have perfectly white teeth.  That's remarkable given the damage that chronic smoking can actually do to your teeth (see HERE).
  2. Tips - Filters that were made of cork, tobacco itself, activated charcoal, inverted or extroverted.  Or no filters at all.  Riddle me this Batman:  If you accept the need for a filter, which stops bad stuff from going into your lungs, doesn't that basically prove the very act of smoking (where bad stuff goes into your lungs) is in fact bad?
  3. Robot - The number of commercials narrated by Bob Tufeld...who also voiced the Robot on the original Lost in Space television show...was incredible.  I kept waiting for the phrase "danger Will Robinson" to come out at any moment as someone started smoking.
  4. 21 - A commercial noted that "21 different tobaccos" made up their product.  I didn't know that there were that many different types of tobacco.  I've since learned that there are three basic kinds of tobacco plants, but they each have been engineered into countless different varieties.  Interesting, but I suspect there are probably 21 different kinds of maggots as well.
  5. Athletes - Back in the day, athletes apparently smoked, a lot.  
  6. Everyone Smoked (except everyone really didn't) - Smoking commercials painted a picture of every adult smoking.  That's not actually correct by the way; the highest smoking rate, among men in the United States, was 56.9 in 1955 (citation HERE).  By the year 2000, the rate had dropped to below 25%.
  7. Coupons - Once upon a time you could collect smoking coupons by giving yourself lung cancer and then use them to buy stuff for your home (or even a puppy).
  8. Cartoons - The number of cartoons used to sell tobacco products was shocking.  Be it a particular brand sponsoring the Flintstones or an animated penguin selling menthols, it was, by today's standards appalling.  I know, get in line.  
  9. It's Hot In Here - Actual cigarette commercial premise:  Two young people are dancing in a crowded room.  The young lady says "It's hot in here, let's get some air", so she and her male companion go out to a balcony to smoke.  Isn't wanting "some air" and smoking, which actually prevents your lungs from getting air, somewhat contradictory?
  10. Minorities - Minorities didn't seem to smoke too much in commercials.  Nice to know that white-washing was an equal opportunity endeavor.
  11. All the Time - The commercials showed people smoking at work, at home, while eating, after eating, while making food, while relaxing, while being active outdoors and everywhere else imaginable.  There was even a commercial that showed someone smoking while taking a shower.
  12. Smells - Some tobacco products were sold as smelling "great".  That's ironic, given the fact that prolonged smoking harms your sense of smell (citation HERE).  As a side note, I'll also add that, by and large, smoking smells horrible.
  13. Taste Good - Another common theme among smoking commercials was that they "taste great" or something along those lines.  As is the case with the smell, smoking can actually harm your sense of taste (citation HERE).   
  14. It's Cool - Smoking makes someone look chic, hip, hard-working, fun, and countless other least according to the commercials.  They fail to mention though how cool it is to wake up and cough up a lung.  Every morning.
  15. Doctor Recommended - Countless early commercials touted the smoking habits of doctors.  That hasn't exactly aged well, now has it?
  16. Menthol Magic - Some commercials touted the "magic" of menthol.  I'd call that one down-right insidious.  Why?  There is plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that menthol infused tobacco actually turbo-charges the negative effects of smoking (citation HERE).
  17. T Zone - One brand touted the "benefits" smoking had in the "T Zone", which was basically your nose and throat.  Another example of a selling theme that basically says: "This is bad, but not as bad as others, and that makes this thing actually good".  That's smoking logic for you, circa the 1950s.
  18. Lucille Ball - Listen to Lucille Ball's voice during one of the many early commercials she did for the tobacco company that sponsored her television show and then in the years right before she died.  It's borderline shocking.  By the way, smoking was linked to her death ("Ironically, Arnaz died of lung cancer in 1986, and Ball of heart disease three years later — deaths that have long been linked to their cigarette smoking."; citation HERE).  She went from high-pitch to a frog.  
  19. Language - A "short smoke" is when you only smoke a part of a cigarette and is indicative of the need to switch brands.  There was also other smoking lingo used in the commercials.  Kind of like a cool kids club secret language.  I'd suggest adding "lung rot" to the lingo list.
  20. Older Folks - A large majority of smoking commercials featured younger to middle-aged folks and were centered on getting people to switch cigarette brands.  Older folks were excluded.  I suspect the marketing thought was that it didn't make sense to sell cigarettes to older people who were going to be killed by your product before too long anyway.
Too harsh?  Too snarky?

Probably yes on both counts.  

If this offended you, well, you can get even with me by kicking the smoking habit.  Deal?

Sunday, January 19, 2020

I Don't Like Games... in board games, card games, etc. 

In fact, I think the last board game I played may have been in 2015 when I intentionally lost in  Monopoly to my younger stepson.  I'm sure this causes all measure consternation among my wife and her family, all of whom are up for all manner of gaming.  It was not always this way.

Growing up, I had three brothers (and we are all a year apart...Rich, Steve, Chris, and Joe).  Given that crew, games such as Monopoly and Life weren't all that uncommon, along with the odd card game of War, what passed for Poker (in our minds) and probably other things I am forgetting.  Back then, I felt an intense need to win.  Maybe having fun was part of the supposed reason for playing, along with keeping young boys busy, but that didn't occur to me.  No, it was about coming out on top.  It was about beating my brothers.  That was my mission, and as I recall, I was fairly successful.

When I think about the paths we (my brothers and myself) have taken, that "have to win" mentality certainly played out for me time and time again.  Whatever and whenever my brothers had something I didn't, well, it irked me.  I was losing, and I needed to win.  Granted, having something of a long-term view of things helped me in all of this, as I didn't feel compelled, for example, to boost a 7-11 in order to get the money to get a better car than Chris' early 80's Plymouth Arrow.  But it still stuck at me nevertheless, and I knew I had to...and the car game.  Just like Monopoly.

In hindsight, well, it was all so what's the word?  Oh, stupidIt was stupid.

Reflection and insight have taught me that I was actually competing against myself, against my own sense of having to win...of having to be "good enough".  A stern self-judgment holds no quarter.  At least not in my head.

So, one of the casualties of it all has been my disdain for anything resembling competition.  There has been a notable exception in that I played on an ad-hoc trivia night team, but even then I could feel the intensity of the competition.  I had fun doing that, but it did remind me of so many competitions of the past.  And I secretly (well not secretly anymore) loved it when our team won, which it did from time to time.  For the record, I never would have played trivia without the invitation from a former co-worker, and I am grateful to her for the ask.

Where does this leave me?

I'm still not going to play games.  I'd play trivia again, but that's about it.  At least for now. Maybe one day I'll be able to actually play a game for the fun of it.  Granted that may have to be with grandchildren, but that does give me something to look forward to.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Goals, Goals, Goals

Note:  I was actually thinking of the Motley Crue song (as odd as that sounds) when I came up with the title.

As I’ve noted here in the past, every year I set some goals for myself.  Some might call these new year’s resolutions, but I've never thought of it that way.  Rather, I think everyone should always have some set of goals they are working towards, be they simple or complex.  There’s just too much of life to be experienced, and documenting the steps involved in that experience only makes sense.

Anyway, as I began thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2020, I decided to learn about some of the best practices for setting personal goals.  That turned out to not be all that helpful.  For example, there’s some decent thought out there that says we should only set no more than 3 goals for ourselves at any given time.  That’s something which simply doesn’t work for me, in part because my thinking and interests can be so divergent, that I could never come up with just three.  However, I did settle on “three” in a sense:  I broke my goals up in the three categories:  Personal, Professional and Home.  From there though, there was no limiting things to just three.

In another vein, I am reviving a practice for 2020 that I had many years ago, namely that of setting a theme for the year.  This year, the theme is “Creating a New Normal”.  That’s an important idea for me, as it seems like the past 10 years of my life have been just been a rolling series of upheavals and dramatic change, far from anything that would seem like “normal”.  Sure, there was plenty of change in the pre-2010 world as well, but things over the past few years just seem like they have gotten particularly out of hand in that particular (change) department.

So, what am I planning?  Well, there’s some usual stuff…
…lose some weight
…read more books (I read a lot, but I sometimes lack the focus to devote to whole books)
…many projects around the house (such as creating a walk-way to our garage)

There are also some new things on the list as well, such as decluttering my vast store of stuff*. 

Some of the goals are simply reminders to take the time to do things I really enjoy, such as photography.  

Mostly though, the goals are a kind of reminder that, since there are a lot of things outside of my control, it's important to focus on those things where my reach does not, in fact, exceed my grasp.

Here’s to all of us creating a new normal in 2020.

(*) For example, I have every work performance appraisal I have received since 1989.  Why do I need to keep that?


Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Interesting Life of Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani has been in the news quite a bit over the past few months, and none of it has been all that flattering.  In a way, he’s a modern-day tragic kind of figure:  Going from “America’s Mayor” in New York City during 9/11 to now someone more known for outrageous statements to the press and seemingly shady foreign dealings.  With that noted, here are some facts about Rudy Giuliani, most of which are actually true.

1.     Rudy Giuliani has been married 3 times.  If you add his marriage count to that of RushLimbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump, you get a total of 13.  This puts him below the average for that list of family values espousing Republicans.  Rudy can thank Rush for boosting the average above 3. *
2.     Rudy Giuliani’s first wife was his second cousin. *
3.     Rudy Giuliani and his first wife did not have children.  If they did though, for example, have a male child, that individual would be both Rudy’s son and his cousin.  That would make for some confusion at family reunions.  “This is my son, I mean my cousin, I mean my cou-son”.  *
4.     Rudy Giuliani’s favorite television show of all time is All in the Family. **
5.     Rudy Giuliani is a cancer survivor. *
6.     Rudy Giuliani is rumored to use 23 and Me as a dating app. **
7.     Rudy Giuliani could technically be called “Rudy Giuliani, K.B.E.” after receiving an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. *
8.     Rudy Giuliani is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. *
9.     Rudy Giuliani has many detractors, but few doubt how much he loves his family.  Especially his cousins. **
10.  Rudy Giuliani once said, while defending President Trump, that “facts are in the eye of the beholder”.  It’s a good thing that the doctors and scientists who developed his cancer treatment had a differing opinion on the subject of “facts”.  *

(*) Actually true; see links for references.
(**) Not actually true, at least as far as I know.