Category: Advertising

5 things I don’t remember buying

I’ve been on a de-clutter mode recently, clearing out the pantry, closets, and drawers.

I may try to weave today’s items into a short story. Or maybe a song! After all, I do have a banjo.

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1 – A UFO

No, not really. It’s a palm-sized massager that someone once gave me when my back was bothering me. I’ve never used it and have no idea if it works or whatever creative uses other people have found for theirs.


2 – Fig Newton Doll

Four inches tall and just so cute. I didn’t buy it. I don’t even like Fig Newtons. Someone gave it to my mother as a joke and I like having it around.



3 – Learning Tenor Banjo DVD

Technically, I did buy this but I forgot about it.

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4 – Horseradish – Bacon Dip Mix

Got this at some company Christmas party after a gift exchange with a $5 limit. It might be good, but this particular package was 8 years past its Sell-By date.


5 – Suede Oklahoma Christmas Ornament (with twine hangar)

Boy howdy.

It’s a coffee maker. No, it’s a music box!


When I’m at a loss for a blog idea (which is often), I call in the Never-Fail Blog Topic Generator: the Hammacher/Schlemmer catalog. They seldom disappoint, and yesterday this gem appeared in my in-box. It is a combination music box and espresso maker that plays an odd assortment of 30-second snippets of songs such as Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water as the beans brew. (Let’s just pause here a moment while you run those two tunes through your head.)

If you are reaching for your credit card so that you can have your very own Music Box Espresso Machine, I should warn you that it will set you back $4200. That’s a lot of beans, friend.

I try to imagine how this product came about in the first place. Did the inventor’s children accidentally Crazy Glue his wife’s heirloom Swiss music box to Mr. Coffee? What else can we juxtapose?

Oh wait, those already exist.

For just an instant, I considered trying to invent something and pitch it on some local cable TV channel at 3AM, but that would be silly.

Any fool can see that all the good ideas have already been taken.

Why I understood Betty Draper


I always had mixed feelings about Mad Men, although I was a faithful viewer. Having lived through that period in the 60s and 70s when it seemed like the whole world was exploding, I appreciated being able to view that time from a distance so I could reconsider the period without having to live through it again.

“Change” was not a big word in the neighborhood where I grew up: stability was the goal. World War II had ended a few years earlier. The veterans came home to get married, start a family, and not talk about what they had seen.

The houses on our street were built especially for the returning veterans, so the families were approximately the same age. The homes were nearly identical, save for a different front door or the bathroom tile and no one seemed to have a problem with that.

Neighbors became friends; the neighborhood became their social club. There were summer picnics for the families and winter holiday parties for the adults. Weather permitting, we children played outside all day–sometimes into the night with games of Flashlight Tag (otherwise known as Hide-and-Seek during the daylight hours).

It was difficult to see some families move away, less so others. But then we had new neighbors to meet, so we busied ourselves waiting for the moving van and getting our first look at the new family.

The Sullivans–Bill, Maggie, and their 3-year-old daughter–moved in early 1960. The Sullivans were about 15 years younger than my parents. I think my mother and I both thought of Maggie as our personal friend. She was tall and almost beautiful. She was an artist and vocalist, but she mostly set those talents aside to be a wife and mother.

You would see her in the morning wearing a tattered bathrobe and a pair of Bill’s socks. That evening, when I came to babysit, she’d changed into a black sheath dress and pearls and reminded me of Jackie Kennedy.

I’d arrive before they went out for dinner with two other couples. They’d met at their house for hors d’oeuvres and martinis and would return for a nightcap after dinner.

After they left, I’d wash the martini glasses and line them up on the counter. I’d wrap the cheese and return it to the refrigerator until about a half-hour before they all returned from dinner. Then, I pulled out the cheese and crackers, made sure there was ice, and brought out fresh napkins ahead of their return.

My mother was a wise and wonderful woman who taught me countless, invaluable things. Maggie taught me a few more: how to be a gracious hostess, how to make everyone feel that they truly were the most important person in the room.

What I rejected was the desire to be the corporate wife.

She was fortunate enough to have parents who could send her to college but, despite her obvious intelligence and creative gifts, she left school after one year to marry Bill. Her career was to be his wife and raise his children. My mother and I both agreed that she had married down.

After she left the inner circle of her family and friends, Maggie had no first name. Whether it was an article about her work with the Junior Women’s’ Club or her own book club, she was always “Mrs. Robert Sullivan” in the newspaper articles in the “Women’s pages” in those days–weddings, club notes, but nothing truly important to the men.

I remember one summer morning when my mother and I were sitting in Maggie’s back yard. She sat in a lawn chair with a mixing bowl balanced on her lap as she snapped the ends off of some green beans.

My mother and Maggie were talking and laughing. I was mostly observing them, so I may have been the first one to see Maggie’s body tense and her eyes cloud over. Her body stiffened and, as we called her name, she fell to the ground.

Years later, when I read about catatonia in my college psychology classes, the image of her stiffened body returned to me.

Maggie recovered quickly that morning. She laughed and returned to her green beans, but my mother knew there was something seriously wrong. Mom told her that she was trying too hard to be the perfect wife and mother, that perfection was an impossible goal.

I saw it differently. Here was this highly intelligent, talented, and wonderful woman who denied her own talents to become a corporate wife and mother.

I suspect the truth lie somewhere between our generations, which brings me back to Mad Men.

In the first episode, Betty Draper is driving her children in the Ford station wagon when her hands stiffen and she loses control of the car. There is a minor crash on a neighbor’s lawn. To her credit, Betty’s first instinct is to rush to check on her children, who are both fine and giggling over the adventure.

Her concerns, however, tell us much about Betty: it would be all right if her son had sustained a scar from the accident: scars on men are OK, but not so her daughter Sally.

Here was a woman who was certainly better educated than Maggie. She spoke fluent Italian and had a degree in Anthropology from Barnard College. She was prettier than Maggie, but probably not as intelligent. I suspect she was the most important woman in her neighborhood, though.

More importantly, Betty lacked two important things that Maggie had:

  • Loving parents
  • A sense of humor

We never meet Betty’s mother but we learn that she recently died before this fictional first episode. Don grudgingly agrees to pay for Betty’s sessions with a psychologist but then he and the doctor collude about her sessions over the telephone.

Granted, she is married to a deeply damaged husband. But the most important thing we learn about Betty we learn in this first episode and it’s almost a throwaway line: “My mother died a few weeks ago,” she tells the psychologist.

I know how the death of my mother affected me and the time it took for me to recover, but Betty is afforded none on that. She is a grieving woman who is deemed not worthy of consolation.

And so it goes for Betty, arguably the best-educated woman in the neighborhood, but also the unhappiest.

She cannot give love, for she has never known it.

Maggie, however, did know love. I do not pretend to understand her frustrations, although I know that she was capable of so much more, and she knew it as well.

Perhaps it is fine to truncate your goals, to never realize your potential. Maggie knew love and therefore knew how to love. Betty Draper knew that her beauty was her best asset but she failed at love.

In her final letter to Sally, she tells her that she knows her life will be an adventure. Then she spends more time telling Sally what she wants to wear for her final appearance at her funeral. The chiffon dress is in the closet; the lipstick is in her purse.

If Mad Men does nothing else, I hope it gives us an accurate picture of the well-defined misogyny of the era. I lived through much of it.

On our street, however, Maggie was my role model growing up. I would rather be her than Betty, but in truth, I’d rather be myself.

Just checking the time.


All right, I’ll admit it. I love wristwatches.

Oh, I know. They’re considered passe by a lot of people. Why check your wrist when you can check your phone? Better yet, why not just get a watch that’s synced to your phone or monitors your pulse?

Well, because I enjoy having different watches, that’s why. I pick them to match my outfits. I change them because I can.

If you were to read the catalog of the watches I’ve owned, you’d notice one theme: none of them–from my first Mickey Mouse watch to the current group of battery-powered and nice-enough looking watches–were very expensive.

There are gaps when I go without a watch, however.This is due to my practical but inefficient method of gathering them all up to have their batteries replaced at the same time. This is not a good plan because the batteries die at the same time. I go from a wealth of timepieces to nothing that runs. Then, instead of just replacing the batteries, I end up buying another watch from one of those revolving display cases at the drug store.

This does not mean that I don’t appreciate a fine timepiece; I just can’t afford most of them. I don’t mind this because it keeps me humble.

I do, however, indulge in pouring over the watch advertisements in the Sunday newspapers. These are timepieces that I cannot afford, so I just read the ads and admire the watches. One thing I’ve noticed is that the more expensive the watch is, the less the ad talks about the watch.

Instead, you get copy such as this:

  • Patek Phillipe: “You never actually own a Patek Phillipe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
  • Rolex: “Live for greatness.”
  • Movado: “The art of time.”
  • Ball: “This is your invitation./To realize that yesterday’s best is just a starting point for today…”

This raises the bar considerably higher than what I’m used to, which is “Timex takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

The watches in the ads are lovely timepieces but, honestly, I’m fine without them. I don’t need the ego boost or the worry about whether my watch will be stolen.

I just check my watch to see if it’s time for Downton Abbey.

5 more things to worry about


I work with a very nice woman named Brenda, who loves her car. I mean really, REALLY loves it.

She only drives it on days when there is no rain in the forecast. She stores it in the winter so that it is never driven in the snow. She vacuums it out every night. If you ride with her, you are instructed to make sure you pick up your feet when you enter it, to as to not soil the kick plate. Brenda doesn’t get many passengers and I’m sure she’s just fine with that.

My relationship with my car is a bit different. I have a long commute each morning and tend to have breakfast in the car while I’m driving. I also have a large dog who sheds, so I cover the back seat with a “hammock” that keeps the seat somewhat covered. Somewhat.

In short, my car is not in showroom condition, although I do prefer clean to cluttered. I decided that I needed a small vacuum to help keep it respectable, so I went online to that Online Retailer We All Love to Hate and found a small shop-vac that received rave reviews and I can see why.

For one thing, this little guy is cute–there’s just no other word for it. It’s a small version of a wet/dry vacuum used in workshops, although the canister is only 1.5 US gallons. It has built-in wheels, a strong motor, and several attachments. What’s not to love?

It is perfect for what I need but I am not here to talk about its features. No, I want to discuss the warnings in the User Manual.

Having written more than one manual in my time, I understand the precautions that the Legal Department takes. If we warn them in the manual, we might not get sued if something goes wrong.

Being the jaded woman that I am, I just enjoy reading these warnings for their entertainment value. This little vacuum, generated 24 warnings in the manual. Here are my favorites:

1. Do not allow to be used as a toy.

Sorry, kids. You’ll just have to ride the dog instead.

2. Do not pick up anything that is burning or smoking, such as cigarettes, matches, or hot ashes.

I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Duh.”

3. Use extra care when cleaning on stairs.

I live in an old house with a twisting, narrow stair case. I just want to say “Thank you” for this important reminder.

4. Do not use your cleaner as a sprayer of flammable liquids such as oil base paints, lacquers, household cleaners, etc.

Well, this pretty much wipes out my plans for Saturday, but I appreciate the information.

5. To avoid spontaneous combustion, empty tank after each use.

OK, this one creeps me out. I watched the movie “Spinal Tap” and I remember how they lost 2 drummers to spontaneous combustion. Now I’m really concerned.

I didn’t realize that Brenda was putting her life on the line every time she vacuumed out her car. Maybe I should warn her about the spontaneous combustion?

When your car drives better than you do

KTneKaL8c Have you seen the “Distracted Driver” commercial for Infinity automobiles? As the man at the wheel drives through the streets, his mind is racing: “Am I missing a deadline?” “Will I get there on time?”  “Am I going too fast?” (On this last question, might I suggest he check the speedometer on his dashboard?)

A mere four seconds into the commercial, he makes his first driving error: he drifts into the next lane. But wait!! His Infinity alerts him. “Stay in your lane,” he reminds himself.

Does this mistake cause him to sit up a little straighter and pay attention to the road? No, it does not. He goes right back to daydreaming. “I don’t think I sent that e-mail.” “I should have made a reservation,” he thinks as his car drifts into the path of an auto in the next lane. Didn’t he learn anything from six seconds earlier? Apparently not but what does that matter? His Infinity is on duty and it sounds the alarm! Accident averted. The driver realizes his mistake. “I thought it was clear,” he thinks. (And how many times have we read that statement on an accident report?)

Certainly the driver has been jolted into a state of caution, you might think. But you would think wrong because this driver is now gazing out the right side window as he drives. He is unaware that the van in front of him has come to a sudden stop. His Infinity saves his bacon once again. There will be no rear end collision because the Infinity brakes for him, but the driver is not chastened. He does not park the car and walk. He does not admit that he is the worst driver in the world. Instead, he keeps driving and we hear him think, “I didn’t see that coming.” Well, duh!

So does the commercial end with a disclaimer to not ever drive like this man? Of course not. It ends with a voice-over announcer delivering the tag line about this Infinity: “Its instinct to protect leaves you free to drive.” Yes, drive like a blindfolded chimpanzee. Drive into Walden Pond. Just drive someplace where you won’t hurt anyone.