The Making of Fragile Snowflakes

by Brad Nelson9/12/16

I had a Return to TV Land this weekend. I was looking for some computer cables and stuff inside an old box and instead found an old TV antenna. I had gone about a year without any cable at all. (I pulled the plug). My search for the computer cables having been forgotten, I went off on another tangent.

Those who have followed my monastic-like methods will have noted that my TV viewing had already decreased to merely the odd sports event or an old movie on Turner Classics. With Mr. Kung’s article, Turn Off, Tune Out, and Drop In, in mind (as well as his follow-up article), I was very interested to see what could be had for free over the air.

Once I found a reasonable position for the antenna, I was able to pick up at least a dozen channels, some of which specialized in re-playing old standards. In fact, just last night I caught a Johnny Carson interview with Peter Falk taking about his “Columbo” series — a series I have been regularly re-watching. This interview was obviously early in that series’ history. I think this was on the “Antenna TV” channel.

But the first thing I tuned into was an old Doug McClure sci-fi flick with Peter Cushing (an odd role as a doddering old English professor): At the Earth’s Core. This is a great old flick, and not just because of the skimpy clothing worn by love interest, Caroline Monroe. (Lucky horse.) Doug McClure is the b-actor of all b-actors. He’s a real pro. They don’t make them like that anymore. This is a great campy old film on the campy-old-film channel otherwise known as “Comet.”

I even watched an exiting football game between the Patriots and the Cardinals last night. These digital channels (which they all seem to be) are very clear. Some flutter and pixelate a bit which is surely the sign of needing a better antenna and one placed higher up. But it’s a start.

Or is it? I love some of the old programming but find the commercials and the interruptions of the commercials to be a deal breaker. I’ve gotten used to the seamless universe of Netflix, streaming movies, and rented DVD’s from Red Box. I kept picturing in my head some fellow from the 18th or 17th century who had suddenly walked into our world. These commercials are so bizarre, vulgar, garish, and jolting that they might think this was an intentinal ploy by someone to turn us into passive idiots…a plan that apparently is working very well.

But you get used to the practiced lying, exaggeration, and just plain idiocy. Well, I don’t want to get used to it, so I’ll likely stick to my Netflix. But commercials are also a great tool for reading the culture. Perhaps it’s the only tool besides tattoos. (Can anyone read them like phrenology?) The saccharine (to my ears) rainbow butterfly unicorn happy-place emotional utopia presented in just one children’s program on Saturday morning is astounding to see.

I forget the program, but it’s typical of what existed even 30 years ago. The program itself had some interesting educational elements. But what caught my eye was the string of “public service” (I’d call them “public indoctrination”) commercials thrown in at every commercial break. There was a series of them produced by some entity called “Values.com”. Here’s one of them. You must stop now and watch it. Pass It On. (I can’t find any way to embed it.)

I gut-busting laughed out loud when the punchline came. But I wasn’t laughing with the producers (and the mindset) behind this commercial. I was laughing at it. This is how you grow a fragile snowflake in the guise of being “nice.”

And, good god, did the upper part of the continent slide south after a major quake or something? There were about five or more Spanish channels that my antenna also picked up. Yikes. Learn English, dammit. But I suppose that’s better than being a snowflake.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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32 Responses to The Making of Fragile Snowflakes

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    These commercials are so bizarre, vulgar, garish, and jolting that they might think this was an intentional ploy by someone to turn us into passive idiots…a plan that apparently is working very well.

    But you get used to the practiced lying, exaggeration, and just plain idiocy. Well, I don’t want to get used to it,

    Funny you should mention this. I just came across a quote from Dorthy L. Sayers, who worked almost ten years in advertising before her success as a mystery writer. This is what she wrote about “truth in advertising.”

    … the firm of Pym’s Publicity, Ltd., Advertising Agents …

    “Now, Mr. Pym is a man of rigid morality—except, of course, as regards his profession, whose essence is to tell plausible lies for money—”

    “How about truth in advertising?”

    “Of course, there is some truth in advertising. There’s yeast in bread, but you can’t make bread with yeast alone. Truth in advertising … is like leaven, which a woman hid in three measures of meal. It provides a suitable quantity of gas, with which to blow out a mass of crude misrepresentation into a form that the public can swallow.”

    As you recall, I believe that the advertising industry is responsible for pouring out constant lies on society and this constant flood has handicapped society to the point that it has lost, at least partially, the ability to tell truth from falsehood, reality from dream.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Mr. Kung, thanks for sharing that great quote. And I agree with your premise about the ill effects of advertising. Also throw in that it creates an ignoble pampered society where every little inconvenience is blown out of proportion. We become used to saying, “Why don’t they fix that?” It’s a cycle that provides enormous commercial opportunities in “satisfying the demands of the customer.”

      In truth, I’ve seen this cycle turn people into such big babies. So add that to your list, please, of ill effects.

      There once was a man selling soap
      Who presumed he could sell to a dope
      An old product not moving
      Now called “new and improving”
      He made a Tidey fortune on hope

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Appropos your limerick, I am reading Sayers’ “Murder Must Advertise” at the moment.

        When discussing one of the managers of the advertising agency, in which the story takes place, Sayers writes of his attitude to advertising as follows.

        “…the word “pure” was dangerous because if used too loosely, it could put the advertisers at risk of being put on notice by government inspectors, while the words, “highest quality, “best ingredients”, ‘packed under the best conditions”, and so forth were meaningless to a court and therefore without risk.”

        I think that gives a good insight into the “profession.”

        Since I am reading the book in German, I can’t guarantee the words are exactly the same as those written by Sayers, but they are close enough.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Reminds me of the conservtards who say, “Now, Brad. You’re just a purist.” Ummm…no, dumb ass. I just expect a president and Congress to stick to the Constitution. Words mean things.

          Of course, in the world of commercials, they do not. And a very important point just occurred to me, Mr. Kung. I believe the best writers are the ones for whom words mean things. For the intellectual, he can create word salads very easily because words are not concrete things. He builds not a wall but a flowing river of rhetoric that is here today, gone tomorrow.

          A good writer may be wrong or even wrong-headed. But if he or she honors the idea that words mean things, he or she will most likely express a meaningful thought, and one that is clear. Surely this is another way that the cheap and malleable rhetoric of commercials has corrupted our minds. We are indeed soaking in it.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Well, I can’t say if Papa John’s really does create better pizzas with better ingredients, but they do create good ones with good ingredients, and have been our #1 pizza choice for some time — though I haven’t had pizza for dinner since January 2012 due to the sodium factor. (My preference is for a pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, and extra cheese.)

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I don’t remember having Papa John’s before. I’ll have to try that to see if your “#1 pizza choice” is false advertising and due an investigation by the FTC. I think there’s a Papa John’s very close by.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Words mean things.

            Of course, in the world of commercials, they do not. And a very important point just occurred to me, Mr. Kung. I believe the best writers are the ones for whom words mean things.

            For advertising execs, one wonders if they have a hold on reality.

            Sometime in 1984, I went to a huge party in Tokyo (I believe it was at the Okura or New Otani hotel) given by a large American advertising agency which had an office in Japan. As I recall, the party was to welcome the new man who would take over as the creative head in Japan.

            It turned out that this guy was something like 27-28 years old and about as full of himself as anyone I have ever run across. Sometime during the party he was called up to introduce himself to all those attending the party, who included real customers which I was not.

            This guy got up and started waxing eloquent about the advertising business, how important it was and how it attracted the best people, blah, blah, blah. Then he said something which gave the true measure of his arrogance and lack of perspective.

            It went something like,

            I am sure that if William Shakespeare were alive today, he would be writing copy in the advertising industry.”

            I thought that comparing one’s writing ability to that of William Shakespeare’s was a bit much. I finished my drink and departed shortly thereafter.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              There was an Alfred Hitchock episode about a man who hires someone to arrange his wife’s “accidental” death. When the proposed method doesn’t live up to his brilliant presentation, the man who had arranged it noted that like many corporations, they put their best effort into sales rather than the actual work. (But the whole thing turned out to be a scam. If you hired someone to kill your wife and he didn’t, how are you going to get your money back?)

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I believe At the Earth’s Core was a title in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar series. Was the movie based on that series?

    Ir has seemed to me that when an ad has a neutral announcer say something, it has to be true (note that Papa John’s faced trouble just for its slogan “Better ingredients, better pizza”). But if it’s acted out, or someone expressing an opinion, anything goes.

    Recall that Sayers ended Murder Must Advertise with “Advertise, or go under.” His temporary boss there thought Lord Peter had a talent for ad copy.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      “Advertise, or go under.”

      I believe those are profound words of market wisdom, Mr. Lane. And, of course, it depends upon how you define “under.”

      This-here article is a mix of topics. One is the submersion of the modern individual in inane and inherently dishonest advertising. The other is, well, I’m still trying to convince some people I know that instead of redefining reality so that our “self esteem” never takes a blow, maybe the kid should keep swinging that bat until he hits the ball. And then hits it again. And again. And gets better.

      Pretending that his failure is really a success may be “cute” in the way that chicks and girly-men get warm fuzzies over marketing gimmicks. But I’m pulling for the kid to learn to hit, and hit well. In fact, instead of warping reality to fit some kind of libtard utopian fantasy where no one ever fails, and success is as easy as everyone agreeing that defeat is victory, I would volunteer to pitch to that kid every Saturday from the mound for an hour or two. That is the kind of reality that helps.

      But, some would say, “It’s only a commercial.” And I would say: Sure, if “only a commercial” wasn’t something we were soaking in 24/7, somewhat like Madge said to one of her Palmolive housewives. (Great commercial, by the way.) A drowning man adrift in the ocean might say, “But it’s only water.”

      Back to another topic in the mix. If man is nothing more than homo economicus, then advertise or bust, for sure. Market growth and profits are the only measure of man. The few non-phony Christians we have here (at least the ones who could find a way to either praise Mother Teresa or put five dollars into the kitty to help a good cause) could tell you that there is another measure. And, no, I don’t mean being “saved by Jesus.” That may or may not be true, but is only a formula, not a way of life. That’s what I call “Jesus magic,” whereby most of the point of religion is simply to unlock that salvation via whatever beliefs, prayers, and rituals are necessary.

      No, I’m not referring to either phony Christians or Jesus-magic Christians for their shallow, almost commercial-like, understanding. I’m talking about a measure of life not lived either inside a commercial of one type or another or measuring one’s life by the well-being as measured by homo economicus. This is why I can laugh at commercials instead of defending them. My life isn’t perfect but I’m surely not soaking in Madison Avenue.

      Surrounded as we are by both commercials and rampant commercialism, few have the imagination (no matter how faithfully they go to church) to actually imagine measuring life by something else. If they can, I do wish they would write about it. It’s the kind of profound writing that can be very moving.

      That kid in the video reminds me of your typical phony Christian. Life didn’t work out? Well, just make up a story so it does. Then there are the people who say, “Hey, kid. Instead of playing pretend, how about I teach you how to hit a baseball and we stop with all this make-believe nonsense. Let our ritual be hard work, development of hand-and-eye coordination, dedication to the game, and faith that if you put your whole mind and heart into in, you will improve. You may not be the next Ted Williams. But there’s only one way to find out and it’s not by redefining failure as success.”

      Isn’t that the kind of real that is marginalized by our culture of commercialized deceit, a commercialized deceit that obviously extends to our politics as well (and to our religion, if you ask me)? Don’t we need a president who can at least walk to her damn car without fainting? Don’t we need a president who is married to the Constitution instead of a string of trophy wives?

      Just a thought. A few thoughts, in fact.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Note that Sayers later abandoned fiction for religious writing (a decision foreshadowed by The Nine Tailors)>

        As for Madge and Palmolive, having the woman soak her hands in dishwasher soap seemed to take it too far to enable “the willing suspension of disbelief”. It’s like the insurance commercial in which the agent says that when a high school coach who was a client was ill, he coached for him — and the coach said he actually did a better job.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I’m not sure that soaking in dishwashing liquid is what most dermatologists recommend. Either Palmolive is indeed mild on the skin (the version I use with Aloe is very nice to the skin) or that commercial was a great example of entering the Matrix of commercialism and redefining reality.

          But it’s such a humorous and iconic commercial, I’m going to cut it some slack. It doesn’t do to go through life with one’s ass cheeks puckered all the time and upset over this or that. I fell in love with Madge at first sight, and the excesses of Colgate-Palmolive and their hucksters can’t change that.

          I’m prone to finding humor in commercials. But I’ve learned to wall my emotions off from the scripted schmaltz. The warm-fuzzies that move so many others (and much too easily) seem like an oozing pond of overripe treacle. But once in a while, even in the making of a commercial, you can find rare wit. Not much these days, for sure. But it’s happened before. A bit of art leaks in almost despite itself.

          Come to StubbornThings where you’re apt to find reality. In fact, you may be soaking in it.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I like humor, too, especially when one commercial parodies another. I’ve seen a number of interesting example of that over the years.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              There was a manacurist named Madge
              Who wore her green soap like a badge
              It wasn’t a sin, it
              To be soaking in it
              In fact it was every mom’s Hajj.

              • Gibblet says:

                When I was a little girl my Dad leased space in his grocery store building to a hairdresser named June who wore a uniform just like Madge’s. She had a board that went across the arms of the salon chair that my Mom would sit me on. Then June would ask how I wanted my hair cut, and I’d say, enthusiastically, “Pic-thee” (which she properly interpreted as “Pixie”). I’m not sure which one I “met” first, but I adored both, June and Madge.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Being a male of broad shoulder
                And of macho things the holder
                It sounds a bit sissy
                To speak of a pixie
                But that cut is quite fetching I told her

  3. Gibblet says:

    “But that cut is quite fetching I told her”

    Where did you find that picture of me???
    Actually, I wanted to post that picture of 3-year-old-pixied me with the Woody Woodpecker guitar, but don’t know how.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I don’t recall ever seeing Woody Woodpecker with a guitar.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      What in the world, what the heck, her?
      She baits me to rhyme with Woodpecker
      But propriety begs
      Word play of crossed legs
      If Bangkok is next, then I’ll deck her

      • Gibblet says:

        I’ve never been to Bangkok,
        For a ticket there, my Woodpecker guitar I could hock,
        I would wear red cowboy boots and a frock,
        and for good-luck, on some wood I would knock.
        Oh, Bangkok, you rock!

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Robert Bloch wrote a humorous short story about a woman with a sexual obsession — without technically using naughty language. She saw ink blots in the Rorschach test as a cockatoo and a sperm whale, for example. She later said she was moving to Bangkok because she liked the name.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          A limerick that’s only suggestive
          Would cause dirty-mind congestion
          When plugging a dike
          Is that subtle or “Yike!”
          My development should be arrested

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