Grilled Cheese

As a scientist, I can make a radio into a blender and use coconuts and palm fronds to send morse code signals to passing ships, but I'll be damned if I can figure out how to fix the SS Minnow.  (Image from flickr dot com)
As a scientist, I can make a radio into a blender and use coconuts and palm fronds to send morse code signals to passing ships, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to fix the SS Minnow. (Image from flickr dot com)

I read that scientists in Britain have determined how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.  Considering they’re scientists, one might expect that they would find a way to put the recipe into some sort of complicated formula that most of us couldn’t easily understand.  They did.  Considering they’re British, one might also expect that they would somehow include boiled meat and lukewarm beer in the recipe.  They did not.

I don't expect you to be able to completely understand this, but to simplify, this complex equation uses the square root of infinity to quantify the parameters of a good sammich.  (Image from flickr.com)
I don’t expect you to be able to completely understand this, but to simplify, this complex equation uses the square root of infinity to quantify the parameters of a good sammich. (Image from flickr.com)

I don’t doubt that following the recipe carefully could result in a tasty bite, but could something as subjective as a grilled cheese sandwich could ever truly be classified as perfect?  Chances are, it will only be perfect in the eyes of some, while too cheesy or too bready or too dark or too light in the eyes of everyone else.  I think if my long suffering wife made me one on an occasion when I was particularly famished and wanted nothing more than a grilled cheese sandwich, I might think it was just perfect, even if she skimped on the cheese as she has been known to do.

As it turns out, the Brits make grilled cheese open-faced under a broiler or toaster oven and have been known to call the finished product “cheese toast” or “cheesy bread”.  The scientists weren’t even testing real grilled cheese sandwiches!  Be that as it may, a scientific study is a scientific study, so they must be right.

Some of us might question why scientists are wasting their time on such nonsense in the first place.  The perfect grilled cheese sandwich seems kind of trivial when there are diseases to cure and CSI evidence to process.  Not every Bunsen burner jockey is necessarily the greatest mind of his or her generation.  Logic dictates that someone has to graduate last in their class at Scientific U.  I would hope that the really smart scientists are all working on important stuff, while the dullards are analyzing sandwiches and dissecting what are purported to be Sasquatch turds.

That's not a scientist; it's an actress doing a mediocre Betty Page imitation.  (Image from fanpop.com)
That’s not a scientist; it’s an actress doing a mediocre Bettie Page imitation. (Image from fanpop.com)

If I were one of the grilled cheese scientists, I know how I’d answer when asked what it is I’m working on.  I can just picture my wife and I mingling at a neighborhood Christmas party in some quaint British pub.  She’s wearing a classic little black dress and some pumps*.  I’m in my white lab coat complete with pocket protector and slide rule.  In my hand I hold a beaker containing precisely 275 mL of chilled vodka with +/- 2 olives.  Every so often, when faced with a lull in the conversation, I lift the beaker up to the light and inspect it, staring intently at the clear liquid through my safety goggles, with my head cocked to the side.  I take a sip, purse my lips and eventually swallow, my face reflecting deep scientific thought.

With that kind of grandstanding, it’s only be a matter of time before one of the impressionable young wives in attendance would ask what it is I work on in the lab.  I startle slightly as her question pulls me from my vodka-analysis reverie.  Lowering the beaker, I give her some sort of overly complicated answer.

“I’m currently concentrating on the effect of external thermodynamics on semi-solids in composites of gluten and yeast-based substrates,” I say with a gentle but slightly condescending smile.

“Oh my!” the woman stammers, no doubt confused, but probably more than a little impressed.

I continue on, in what might appear to be an attempt to help her understand.

“You see, the proportions required to maintain the desired ratio of moisture in the center to crystalized gluten molecules on the exterior is critical to the finished product.”

The woman, though totally confused, can’t help but show signs of excitement in the presence of my obviously giant science-brain.

My wife, who’s now affecting something of a Cockney accent, has had enough by this point.

“Look ‘ere, luv!” she says.  “Don’t let ‘im impress you too much.  What ‘e’s tryin to tell you is that ‘e spends all day in that lab of ‘is tryin’ to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich!  Sure ‘e wears a lab coat, but ‘e ain’t splittin bloody atoms all day.  ‘E’s nothing more than a flippin’ short order cook dressed like a scientist!”

The woman will look back over at me with a bemused look, then back at my wife.

“So your telling me ‘e’s makin’ cheese toasts in the name of science?” she’d say to my wife.

The two of them start grinning and I know I’m in trouble.

“Tell you what, cap’n; if you start workin’ on figurin’ out which type of cleanser works best on cleanin’ the loo, you can set up your lab over at my ‘ouse!  Me and yer missus will be out in the kitchen, eatin’ grilled cheeses and drinkin’ a few pints if you need us!  I’ll be expecting that me tiles’ll be gleaming white, they will”

My wife and the woman are now cackling and appeared to have bonded in their desire to emasculate and ridicule me.  I slink over to the bar and dump more vodka into my beaker, sloshing way beyond the 275 mL mark and ruining the integrity of all the data I’d gathered up till this point.

I may not have a great deal of research to back this up, but it looks like this will be a long night.

*Loyal readers will be quick to point out that my wife is known to abhor pumps and prefers more sensible footwear irrespective of my begging her to choose otherwise.  Further, what little accent she has is closer to  Philadelphian than it is to British.  Neither my wife nor myself have ever been to the UK.  Both my wife’s attire and the location of this fantasy were editorial decisions on my part.  Despite my choices, I still ended up looking like a knucklehead in my own fantasy.  I wonder if there’s a scientific reason for that.

The Things You Don’t Do For Love

I'm such a hopeless romantic. Nothing says love like a nice drawing of the heart with annotations. (Image for USF.EDU)

I went to a movie with my wife the other day.  Between the fact that we already pay too much for cable and the brilliance of our flat screen TV, going to the movies is a fairly rare occurrence.  Still, the little woman had her heart set on it, so in the spirit of being a supportive husband, I got the keys and out the door we went.  I wasn’t overly eager to see this particular movie, as it had virtually no nudity or sophomoric humor in it.

We found two seats, on the aisle and near the back.  There was only one row of seats behind us, which were reserved for people with disabilities and their companions.  I briefly considered limping into those seats, but knew I’d feel really guilty if someone came in after me and toppled down the dark steps with their walker.

My wife and I got comfortable and watched the previews for upcoming attractions, all of which looked more exciting than the movie we were about to watch, and all of which had ungodly loud special effects.  Let’s face it, if the sub-woofers don’t physically shake the concrete floor of the theater, people feel cheated.

Before the coming attractions were over, I heard the two seats behind us become occupied.  Considering the massive amount of audio input I was receiving from the coming attractions, it was not a good sign that I could hear people settling into two seats over 36 inches away from my ears.

I dared not look back at these two people, preferring instead to entertain myself by imagining them throughout the course of the movie.  I’d then sneak a peak at them when the lights went up to see how close I had been in my mind.  I also knew that if I looked at them, I would be more tempted to start some sort of dialogue with them later in the movie.  Any conversation with these people would almost certainly take away from my wife’s enjoyment of the movie, especially if the people and I started cursing at one another.

One thing I could tell immediately was that both of them were overweight, but the man was in the worse shape of the two.  He had the labored breathing of the morbidly obese, with the added likelihood of being a longtime smoker who may have worked with asbestos at some point in his life.  He undoubtedly had sleep apnea, and I silently prayed that the movie would not be too boring, lest he doze off.  His breathing was such that every other exhalation he made a “Hhhmmf” sound.  As disturbing as it was, I realized how much worse it would have been if the movie actually had nudity after all, as the “Hhhmmf” had an almost pleasurable undertone to it.

Don't say anything....don't even look....just pretend they aren't there...try to focus on the movie....Uh oh, here comes another stupid comment! (Image by ChrisQueen.net)

It soon became readily apparent that the two of them could not imagine sitting through 2 hours of big screen entertainment without multiple boxes and bags of snacks.  The first course was definitely in some kind of cardboard box with an inner wax-paper liner, like breakfast cereal or Triscuits.  I was prematurely happy to hear the empty box fall to the floor 20 minutes into the movie.  My joy was short lived as I immediately heard the second snack being torn into.  It was in a type of crinkly cellophane wrapper and may have been sticky, as there seemed to be a small struggle to pry the food loose from the bag and/or itself with each handful.  It must have had some chewy goodness to it, as it elicited lip-smacking and denture sucking with each mouthful.  Finally, the third snack sounded like it was some small, hard food in an unlined cardboard box.  It rattled around in the box, as if these two were enjoying the un-popped kernels at the bottom of a popcorn tub.  Each handful would be accompanied by the sound of the few morsels which got away, rattling down the side of the box to be scooped again later.

People often eat in movie theaters, and it takes a good deal of willpower not to succumb to the lure of overly buttered popcorn and $5 cups of Coke.  If the couple behind me had just been big time eaters, I would likely be writing about some other topic, like what’s annoying me about Facebook this week, or getting to that Gluttony piece for the Seven Deadly Sins challenge.

Sadly, these two were not just movie theater gourmets.  In an unfortunate combination of binge eating and bad manners, these buffoons talked with food in their mouths, in a theater, during the movie.  As if the symphony of the two of them rooting through their stores of goodies wasn’t annoying enough, they insisted on guessing what would happen next, or worse yet, commenting on what we had all just seen happen, as if perhaps we’d missed it.

“They killed that guy” he said aloud, with a mouthful of tasty morsels nestled in his cheek, right after a character had been stabbed in the heart and lay motionless on the ground, with his eyes glazed over in a blank death stare.

“Uh oh, now they goan fight!” she predicted in her outside voice, her mouth packed with Milk Duds, as characters on the big screen in front of us began picking up weapons and looking at each other menacingly as the music swelled.

Throughout the movie, the two serenaded anyone within 20 feet of them with declarations of the obvious.  In between helping those of us who were too mentally compromised to follow along with the plot, he would say “Hhhmmf”

I silently wondered where the hell these two were when I went to see “Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy”, I could’ve used some help with figuring that mess out.

Despite my overwhelming urge to turn and make some comment to the two of them, I kept my silent promise to my wife and said nothing.    At the end of the movie, I caught my glimpse and rewarded myself with an imaginary prize for being so close in my guess as to their appearance.  As a reward for my excellent behavior, my wife shushed me the whole way to the car.

Later, I couldn’t help but imagine the two of them, driving back home and showering each other with one obvious quote after another as they crept along going too slow in the passing lane.

“The light’s still green”

“Looks like the iHop is open”

“Those people in the theater were sure quiet”

In reality, they probably drove home in utter silence, having already used up all their small talk for the weekend.

“The Hunger Games” Meet the Voices in My Head

I’ll admit it, I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of trends.

Take for example, the fact that “The Hunger Games” movie came out the other day, and I’m just starting to read the book.  Actually, I’ve been reading the book for a while, it’s just that between blogging and working and drinking, there isn’t too much awake time left for paperbacks of “The Lottery” meets “A Coalminer’s Daughter” meets “Futurama”.

I’m not a literary critic, so I’ll try to stop that.

When I started reading that book, I couldn’t help but notice that the words on the pages were echoing in my head in a British accent.  If I’m reading a P.D. James mystery or Thomas Hardy novel, the same thing happens.  I’m not sure if it’s due to my knowing  that the authors are from jolly old England, or if it’s because they write in a British style – I just know what the narrator’s voice in my head sounds like.  For the record, when I read the works of Stephen Hawking, the voice in my head takes on the automated sound of computer generated speech.  I know who wrote the piece, and it adds to my reading experience.  Besides, it adds an element of entertainment to the chore of reading the otherwise incomprehensible work of a mega-genius.

"I say, old boy, I believe my favourite smoking jacket is at the tailor's shoppe. Be a sport and toddle down to wardrobe and fetch me a new one, won't you? Also, I'm simply parched, would you mind bringing me a glass of port as well? Jolly good of you!"
(Image from kued.com)

As for the accents, it’s usually my voice, but a decidedly British version thereof.  If I close my eyes I can practically see the Brit version of  myself, sitting in a wing-back chair with a snifter of something brown on the table next to me with a doily beneath it.  There’s a tasteful lamp barely lighting the dark wood library behind me.  My pipe sits prominently in it’s holder next to the snifter.  My legs are crossed in the more feminine vertical fashion and I appear to be wearing some kind of Hugh Hefner/Don Draper smoking jacket.  I tilt my head slightly in an intellectual fashion and smile gently at the camera, revealing my crooked yellow teeth.  A dusty, leatherbound edition of “The Hunger Games” is open in my lap.  I regard the camera one last time, put on my trusty wire-rimmed reading glasses, look down to the pages and start reading.  You could practically smell the steak-and-kidney pie and scones baking in the nearby kitchen.

I needed to confirm my suspicions that the author of “The Hunger Games” Suzanne Collins, was originally from England, or had at least spent some serious time there.  I looked for a quick explanation, flipping my paperback over to find the usual all-about-the-author blurb.  You know how those go:

“R.I.P. Skippy – We Miss You!” is David Lovett’s 4th blockbuster novel.  He lives with his wife and several beloved pet iguanas in a small cabin in the Azores.  Born in Illinois and raised in the hard-scrabble streets of suburban New Jersey, he attended several American Universities earning degrees in fields which he eventually abandoned in favor of writing blockbuster novels.  Look for his next action packed novel “A Hangover Dissected” hitting shelves in Early 2013.

I was unable to find anything on the book cover and had to look online to find out whether Suzanne Collins came from Oxford-Hamptonshire or Hastings-On-Kent.  I was amazed to discover that she doesn’t appear to have a single tie to England whatsoever (She did work as a writer on the Nickleodeon show “Clarissa Explains It All” – which may or may not explain why she wrote a series of books about teenagers hunting and killing each other).

I was stumped.  The British voice in my head was still there.  Was it the bleak, Dickensian setting of “The Seam”?  Was it the weird names the characters had?  One’s named Katniss, one is Peeta – her bio says she’s adopted feral cats – are we surprised?  Anyway, back to the voice in my head.  I was having a hard time enjoying the book, because of reading each sentence multiple times.  The first time would be in a stiff, formal British Parliamentary kind of tone, the second would be more on the Cockney side (Eh Guv-nah?), then the third would be in my own glorious American accent.  By the time I’d read a given sentence three times, I’d have to go back and read it a fourth time because I was too busy affecting an accent to actually absorb the meaning of the words.  If you’ve read the book, you know these are not generally sentences which improve with multiple readings.

Luckily for me, lots and lots of people have read the book.  Even people who almost never read seem to have read all three of “The Hunger Games” books.  I began asking people who I work with whether they had had similar experiences with the whole British accent thing.  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that not one person understood what the hell I was talking about.  Despite being rabid fans of the books, almost all of these people wanted to drop the topic of Katniss and company and talk instead about the voices in my head.  Many of them became convinced that I have some kind of paranoid schizophrenia and a few seemed a little frightened of what the voices might say to me.

“Is the voice in your head a man’s or a woman’s?”

“When the voices speak in accents, do they tell you to hurt yourself?”

“Does your dog ever tell you to do things?”

After a day or two of this, the voice in my head told me to stop asking people about the voices in their heads.  It went something like this: “I say old chum, it seems these blokes think you a bit daft.  I suspect you’d be better off not chatting them up about what I say to you.  Wouldn’t want them committing you to some sort of ‘looney bin’ as you Yanks like to say, what?  Now then, let’s not tarry, we’ve got rope and shovels to buy and a list to finish”

The men of television – stupid or really, really stupid?

Look at Trixie and Alice. How they suffer, married to those two imbeciles.

There was a big flap recently when a diaper maker chose to hype the incredible ease with which their diapers could be placed on little poopers.  As you may have heard, they chose to describe the diaper as being so easy to use that even a Dad could do it.  As you probably also know, it didn’t go over too well.  Unlike cavemen, who only have a few delegates, plain old regular Dads represent a pretty sizable demographic.  There was outrage and multiple pouty guys interviewed on the  news whining about being unfairly ridiculed.  As is the case with just about any issue these days, there was a Facebook page where sensitive, caring fathers could weigh in about their quiet, painful outrage.

In this age of hypersensitivity and rampant political correctness, you have to wonder how an ad agency could have thought this angle would have skimmed by without ruffling feathers.  My guess is that they just took a look at the typical representation of guys on TV and went from there.  If that’s true, it’s actually kind of surprising that they felt that there could possibly be a diaper design simple enough to work.

Men of television commercials and comedies, for the most part, are complete, bumbling idiots.  They can’t find their sunglasses when they’re right inside the hoods of their sweatshirts.  They can’t remember anniversaries or birthdays.  It’s a wonder that Tim “Tool Time” Taylor could find his way home from work every day without a trail of breadcrumbs and a GPS.

Since its infancy, TV has portrayed men as the blithering stooges who their women simply had to tolerate.  In “The Honeymooners”, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton were constantly hatching idiotic schemes.  In case anyone watching forgot what dolts they were, they’d occasionally don silly raccoon hats as a visual reminder.  When their secret plot would inevitably fall apart, Trixie and Alice would look at each other with knowing glances – sisters in the sorority of intelligent women who stood beside their knuckle-dragging, idiot men with the noble air of martyrs.  To further accentuate the differences, the women always look so much better than their men.  Ralph was a fat slob and Ed constantly wore a pork-pie hat, T-shirt and vest – a fashion statement which has yet to catch on, 150 years later.  Meanwhile, Trixie and Alice were as svelte and sophisticated as two women with under-achieving husbands could possibly be.

"Which truck is mine? I mean, they're all brown and full of boxes, how am I supposed to figure this out?"

As the years have flown by, it seems the men of television have managed to get even dumber.  They continue to just barely bring home the bacon to their lovely, long suffering wives.  “The King of Queens” followed the trials and tribulations of another fat slob married to a looker.  It was a weekly contest to see whether Kevin James could appear more idiotic than Jerry Stiller, whose character was so pathetic that he spent many of his golden years living in his daughter’s basement.

How many times did we have to watch as that dopey Ray Romano made his wife look like a Nobel Prize laureate in “Everybody Loves Raymond”?  I realize he was playing a sports writer and not a nuclear physicist, but you get the picture.  Now that Ray’s TV wife is married to the janitor from “Scrubs” and living in Indiana in “The Middle”, we can see more clearly just how bright she actually wasn’t.

You really have to wonder why this is.  There have got to be a ton of guys writing these shows and commercials.  Is the portrayal of men as idiots an accident?  Is it a formula which worked so well for so long that people just accept it without question?  Or…is it something more sinister and calculated?

I’m going to go ahead and float an idea for you.  I think that the portrayal of men in popular media is an elaborate plan to both fool and appease women.  Studies have shown how effective subliminal messages can be (I have no idea who did the studies or what they even say, but I also know that starting a sentence with the words “studies have shown” tends to give a whole lot more weight to whatever words follow).  By making women think we’re dumber than we actually are, these writers have given men the ability to get away with all kinds of things, just by feigning a lack of intelligence.  The idea of idiotic men has become so pervasive in our society, we don’t even have to know what “feigning” means or how to spell it.

A feeling of intellectual superiority is strong medicine for the women of America.  Studies have shown that even in present day America, women still do much of the shopping for the household.  If women were insulted by programming which showed them in a less than flattering light, they might turn the channel and miss critical soap and canned chili advertisements.

Women regularly get together for bunko nights and girls’ nights out, spending countless hours comparing notes on whose husband has the thickest skull.  They laugh and giggle, secure in the false belief that they have the upper hand and superior intelligence.  They revel in the notion that their lame-brained partners are sitting at home scratching themselves then sniffing their fingers like the Al Bundy of old, while they enjoy sophisticated fun.  In reality, these women are the victims of a complex ruse.  It turns out their husbands are intelligent, urbane examples of civility, almost all of whom are more than capable of changing a diaper without getting ka-ka on themselves or surrounding furnishings.

If women choose not to believe me that’s fine, but it doesn’t make them look very smart.

Marriage 101 Required reading: Man to woman dictionary

  • She Says: "This will hurt me more than it hurts you"
  • She Means: "If this hurts me more than it hurts you, I'm doing it wrong"

Do we have to wonder why this artist only lived to be 38?
Bartholomeus Molenaer (1612-1650)

 

I recently read a blog which troubled me.  The fact that I read a blog which troubled me also troubled me, as I tend to stay away from troubling blogs, preferring to occupy my time with light-hearted, funny blogs and those with pictures of cleavage in them.  The blog in question detailed a woman’s frustration with her husband.  It took no time at all to realize the problem.  These two lovebirds had a serious communication breakdown.  I felt badly for them, as there seemed to be no way this husband and wife would possibly find a way to understand each other without some outside assistance.

I knew that I had to step in and help.  I had planned on cleaning the garage and policing the yard for dog dookie, but I would have to put these selfish acts aside and work on bridging their gender communication gap first.

Here now, I present some common Man-Woman / Woman-Man translations accompanied by typical interpretations:

  • When he says:  “Honey, have you seen my car keys?”
  • He means: “I can’t seem to find my car keys – I hope you’ve seen them”

The common female interpretation is: “I’m an idiot.  Even a toddler can keep track of a jingling set of shiny keys.  Maybe in the future I should secure my keys to a massive chunk of 2 X 4 so they’re harder for me to lose in my limited mental capacity.  I don’t deserve a woman like you.  Please help me”

  • When she says: ” Does this skirt make my butt look fat?”
  • She means: “Do you ever wish you’d married someone else?  Do you realize I shopped for hours to find this skirt?  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to lose this baby weight?”

The common male interpretation is: “Don’t you dare answer this question.  It’s a trap, run..RUN NOW!!”

  • When he says: “Is that a new blouse?”
  • He means: “I wonder how it will look in a heap on the floor after we get the kids to bed”

The common female interpretation is: “Does that idiot think this is a new blouse?  I bought this back when we were still dating!  Crap, I could’ve bought a new blouse”

  • When she says: “Do you mind helping with the dishes?”
  • She means: “Do the dishes yourself and be glad I don’t break a plate over your head!  Wasn’t it enough that I cooked the dinner in the first place?  Do I have to do everything?”

The common male interpretation is: “The Browns are a 10 point dog against the Steelers.  My neck itches again.  Did she just ask me something?  Crap!  What should I say?  I’ll just nod.  Maybe if I do the dishes she won’t wait for an answer to whatever she asked”

  • When she says: “Hey Shakespeare!  I thought you were going to organize the garage today.  Why are you still sitting there typing”
  • She means: “Unless you’re going to start making money doing that blog nonsense, you better turn off the laptop and start organizing the tools and patio furniture.  And don’t forget, it was your bright idea to get a dog”

The common interpretation is: “Did she just ask me something?  Dammit, there goes my train of thought!  I was just about to come up with a witty, smart-assed way to end this post”

Marriage 101: Constructive criticism

Having been married for quite a few years, I feel it’s my civic duty to give a pointer now and then about relationships to all three of my regular readers.  The marital status of you loyal fans is irrelevant, as I’m offering free advice for free, so stop whining.

I had written the first draft of my homage to St. Patty’s Day, and asked my wife to give it a read and see what she thought of it.  This woman is no stranger to me (obviously) and certainly no stranger to reading.  She plows through books constantly in what most would consider to be a thinly veiled attempt at avoiding having to speak with me any more often than absolutely necessary. She seemed like the perfect person for the job.  Plus, she was sitting right over there.

Hey Honey? As long as you're over there hanging that art on the fridge, why not whip me up a little something to eat? (Image from Good Housekeeping 1948)

My standard way of writing these masterpieces is to just spew every word and thought I have out onto this virtual paper.  Then I go back and filter through it, taking out redundancies and dead sentences and trying to make it flow.  My St. Patty’s Day piece was created in much the same way.  I had put it through the distillation process several times (alcohol-related pun intended – I’m just so clever) and thought that it was ready for a critical eye.

My expectation was that my wife would read it, stopping only to chuckle or dab the tears of laughter out of her beautiful eyes.  She would finish it, shaking her head in amazement at my creativity and savvy with the word-thingies.  She would pronounce it hysterical and ready for print.

She did read it, but there wasn’t a single guffaw the whole way through.  She did shake her head, but it was in more of a dismissive “I can’t believe you made me read that crap!” kind of way.  She proclaimed it “wordy” and suggested I cut out at least half of it.

I’m sure she meant well, but it still hurt.

If your child showed you a picture they drew, would you tell them that they need to work on their shading and composition?  Of course not!  You’d praise their incredible talent and put that hideous mess of crayon and marker right up on the fridge with the rest of their body of work.  If your wife asked whether a particular outfit made her ass look fat, would you say yes?  Of course not!  You’d tell her that the garment which is capable of making her ass look fat has yet to be invented, then you’d politely ask her to move her tiny derriere out from in front of the TV, as it looks like the Ducks might be going for it on 4th down.

So, when your ruggedly handsome, hard-working husband finally stops playing poker on the computer and looking at smut, deciding to write a blog instead, be thankful.  Then, when he asks you your opinion of what he’s written, try one of the following:

1) I LOVE IT!

2)You’re a genius!

3) Don’t quit your job to do this full time, it just wouldn’t be fair to those poor authors who don’t have the other marketable job skills that you possess.

4) Did you steal this from David Sedaris?!  It’s just so witty!

5) I think it’s great, Sweetie.  I’m going to put it right here on the fridge next to your drawings!

That wasn’t so hard now was it?

Advertising in the age of E.D. drugs

The Astoria Column - How has this not shown up in a commercial?

Over the past several years, big pharmaceutical companies have begun spending increasingly huge amounts of money on advertising for almost all of their products.  They’ve always given out pens and mid-size sedans to doctors, but now they’re also bombarding the airwaves telling Average Joes the great news about how well their products work.

Before this advertising blitzkrieg, relatively few people even knew what E.D. stood for.  Now, thanks to countless commercials, millions of Americans are exposed to those letters every day- especially if they’re watching golf or NASCAR.  Erectile Dysfunction medications are being hyped all over the tube like Color-Safe Fabric Softener and Ginsu Knives.

For obvious reasons, the ad agencies have to find ways to sell the E.D. products without actually showing how well they work.  The two biggest purveyors of woody medicine have fairly different approaches to the task.

The first manufacturer’s strategy shows men being men.  Sometimes they’re sailing, but usually they’re driving – classic muscle cars or pick-up trucks hauling horse trailers.  The sound track is often some fairly obscure blues track.  Fans of the Howlin’ Wolf such as myself will take note when hearing his familiar guitar licks on the TV.  At first we’re tickled because someone somewhere took the time to find this cool song and put it on TV.  Then a moment later, we’re disheartened to realize it’s being used in a commercial for boner pills.  The ads focus on portraying these handsome, accomplished men as masters of their own destiny, having figured out how to get where they want to be in life.  The unspoken message is this: If you can figure out how to get that horse trailer unstuck, you can certainly  figure out how to solve the linguine-in-the-pants problem.

The ad agency for the other main pharmaceutical company goes with a different approach.  They show men and women engaged in mundane, mutually tedious activities.  Then they brush elbows, and the garden shed they’re working on re-organizing magically morphs into a Tahitian love-hut complete with tropical breezes and an ocean view.  They discard their work gloves and start slow dancing onto the lanai.  As always, the commercial ends with the two of them sitting alongside one another in matching bathtubs watching the Polynesian sun set.  One could argue that if those pills worked so well, the two of them would have jumped into the same tub.  This particular Madison Avenue approach puts the emphasis on the romance and emotional connection of sex, rather than the dirty, sweaty aspects of it – otherwise the “erections lasting longer than 4 hours” part would be part of the sales pitch, not part of the disclaimer.*

Speaking of disclaimers, there’s also the one which warns users to “consult with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to have sex in the first place”.  Like any disclaimer, it’s there for legal reasons. In lay terms it’s because unlike the rugged horse trailer drivers in the commercial, the actual users of the pills may not be quite so fit.  In other words, many of the actual users of these pills may bear more of a resemblance to the Michelin Man than to the Marlboro Man.

When it’s all said and done, ED drugs and the rest of the pharmaceutical goodies in the world are hawked no differently than any other products.  The subliminal psychology is used and abused to give people all sorts of messages which are patently absurd.  You may suffer from that medical problem, but you’re no more that guy in the vintage Camaro than your wife is the smoking hottie in the air freshener commercial.

Now go enjoy yourself.  If things don’t change in another 3 hours and 52 minutes, you’re going to have to seek medical attention.

*Now that I’ve written this, the company has stopped using the powder-room-with-the-backed-up-toilet-morphing-into-a-mountain-cabin-with-canopy-bed approach and just shows men and women getting close.  They share crossword puzzles and snuggle on couches.  Anyone will tell you that there’s no better way to kill desire than sharing a crossword puzzle – I mean, who could be attracted to someone who couldn’t come up with the five letter word for “calcified instrument of lovemaking(?)”, beginning with b.  The twin tub part has now been reduced to a stylized logo at the very end of the ad.  I’m trying to write here!  Couldn’t you guys leave well enough alone and not change your commercials long enough for my references to be topical!?