Sunday, June 28, 2009

Farewell, Billy!

Billy Mays died today.

For many, it's not a big deal, but for some of us, it marks yet another TV pitchman silenced. No, he didn't have the following that Farah had, in fact he was rather annoying. He didn't live as decadently as Michael did, but he was everywhere on our televisions.

Growing up in a small town South of Chicago in the 1950's, I came to enjoy the shrill pitchmen that graced local television. Sounds odd, but the fact that they were always there, and a bit comical to boot, was quite entertaining. Nearly every part of the country had there own "salesmen", pitching local products and businesses.

In the local Chicago market in those days, we were bombarded by the Bert Weiman commercials, featuring Lyn Burton. We learned that Bert was our TV Ford man, located at 3535.... NORTH;.... on Ashland Avenue. Every Saturday, he'd shill for Bert, in a dramatic voice, urging us to buy a new, or used car. Of course, we always got to see just one side of the car he was promoting, and had to assume the other side was there! Then there was Larry Goodman, for Goodman's Community Discount stores. The closest one to us at the time was up in Harvey Illinois, and when I got older, I had to go see one for myself. It was a total PIT, with things just thrown about by the shoppers. And who could forget Bushelle carpet cleaning (and I know I spelled it wrong) at HUDSON 3-TWO-SEVEN-HUNDRED! Or C.E.T. for television, at "Mowhawk 4-4100 Call for a free home demonstration" which featured a "Native American" and a pounding tom-tom beat, where they sold TV's using the unique "quarter meter bank" You put in a quarter to watch TV, and eventually paid for it.

Later, the ads got more savvy, such as the Long Chevrolet ads, featuring a young kid dressed as an old time paperboy named Timmy. He'd shriek "Extra. Extra, Read all About it!", and you wanted to just choke him! Of course, the pitchman that endured the longest was the "Empire Man" hawking Empire carpets at 588-2300; EMPIRE! I'll admit, we even succumbed to his pitch, and had Empire install a carpet in our old house.

TV pitchmen (and women) are an integral part of the viewing experience, whether we like it or not. They live on, no matter where you move to.
When we arrived in the Ozarks, we immediately discovered Stephanie, who hawks furniture for Furniture Factory Outlet, or a huge horse puppet who sells carpets for The Carpet Barn. Better yet, an (at least) million year old Robert Vaughn, "The Man From Uncle", shills for a local lawyer's office, urging us to "Call on the hurt line.......Right now!"
It's as much a part of Americana as anything out there. Love them, or hate them, they're with us 'til we turn the TV off.

So rest in peace, Billy, and I'm picking up some Oxi-Clean tomorrow when I go to town!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's tourist season in the Ozarks, and things are promising to get crazy this summer. We've already had three drownings, (and only one of them was a tourist for a change!) and a plane crash, where three people from the St. Louis area died. Worse yet, it's not even the 4th yet!
The local roads are clogged with cars bearing out of state license plates pulling all sorts of campers, boats, and sometimes both at the same time. Not to mention the huge motorhomes that take up large amounts of space in our local parking lots.
It's a great thing, as our economy is based on tourist dollars, much like the City of Branson to the north. Our lakes attract people from all over, and while it's good for the economy, people tend to get a little wild while out on the water. You see them everywhere, young people in varying states of undress buying huge amounts of alcohol on their way to the lake. Recently, 14 underage party goers were busted on a pontoon boat in lake Norfork, all were from Jonesboro, and all were out on bail within an hour. Pretty amazing if you ask me!
Then there's the time a couple of years ago, when a speedboat full of people charged out across the lake in pitch darkness, only to blast the boat 25 feet up the shore. Think they weren't drinking?
My point is that our guests here need to slow down and enjoy what the Ozarks have to offer, and behave themselves both for their own safety, and ours!
And now for my final thought, and the main reason for this rant:
All you elderly ladies out there, that go to the local stores wearing a bathing suit, and a cover-up, please make sure your cover-up covers you up! Yer grossing me out!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cash for Clunkers?

Washington is now debating a bill that would offer vouchers to people in order to spur car sales. The vouchers would give a cash voucher to anyone who buys a new car with a rating of at least 2MPG more than their old one, and even more for a new auto that gets 4 or more MPG than the old one. Now how on earth is that going to help consumers? Most people in the "real world" don't make enough to buy a new car, even with the help of a voucher. With our "clunkers" paid for, we can continue to drive them to our jobs, and in some cases, our old rides get better mileage than the new ones! Worse yet, the goal is to get us into alternative energy cars. Last time I checked, the now Chevy Volt was supposed to be priced at over $40,000 (plus tax), and the Tesla retails for over $120,000!
That's more than my house cost! Other than Wall Street executives, who can afford those prices?

Take for instance, the truck pictured above. It has 208,000 miles on it, and is going on 17 years old. It was purchased for under $15,000, and has been a reliable friend and companion. Even it's clutch is original! It has a V-8, and standard transmission, and gets 22MPG, doesn't burn or leak oil, and in fact is very finance friendly. Where can you get the same thing today, and afford to pay for it? I haven't seen anything offered that I like more, and the last I've heard, automakers aren't giving them away for free. With more and more people out of work, folks just aren't foolish enough to get rid of something they've paid for in order to buy a new one.

So I'm wondering why the government wants to even get into this debate.
There are other HUGE wastes of petroleum going on that never even get a second look.

For example, let's look at the "frequent fliers" that flit all over the world, wasting precious resources, when they could stay home and teleconference. Or the airlines themselves for that matter. Are some flights really necessary? Do there need to be a couple dozen flights from airport A to airport B, going off half full?
If our leaders really wanted to make a change for the better in our oil consumption, they would move forward on electric high speed rail (which they're doing), and eliminate the wasteful short hops the airlines make. Instead of vouchers, give subsidies to the rail lines in order to lower ticket costs.
Americans have become a nation of people who rely on instant everything, air travel included. Would it kill us to wait for the train? I wonder.

This whole debate seems centered about forcing the people who can least afford it, to make the changes envisioned. From my point of view, that's just plain wrong!