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It’s Not Easy Being Green

23 Feb



It’s Not Easy Being Green

L. Stewart Marsden

Control v. the lack of control is a conflict I’ve lived with for most of my life. It’s at the heart of AA’s mantra — and gaining the wisdom to know the difference is, in my experience, a life-long pursuit. In retrospect, I’ve been far more foolish than wise.

I’m hesitant to write these thoughts, as inevitably someone will point out there are no excuses for some/many of what I struggle with. The good news — at least to me — is that I do struggle with them. In a world that seems to have become black and white on so many issues, I’m in that fifty shades of gray area, and I’m not talking about the book and its focus. 

What I absolutely cannot and did not control:

  1. When and where I was born;
  2. Who comprised my family;
  3. What level of social status I was born into;
  4. What level of income my family had;
  5. What my level of innate intelligence was;
  6. What my skill tendencies and talents were/are;
  7. When and how I will die;
  8. What levels of pain those I love will go through, and whether or not they will endure them;
  9. Who I am attracted to;
  10. What tragedies will impact my life.

No doubt there are more, but the short list should suffice.

It has taken me these many years (I’m approaching seven decades on this earth) to realize and accept the responsibility that all of the above are not excuses, and that I have either controlled or abdicated control over the effects of those things over which I had no control. In other words, allowed the uncontrollable to control me. It’s the laissez-faire tendency that has been a challenge to overcome. The “well, that’s just who I am” attitude of helpless resolution.

I’m currently watching (binging, really) the Netflix series, “Grace & Frankie.” To mark just how far and to what extent American culture has changed, the show would never have been produced back in the early days of television. That’s not what goes through my head as I watch it, though. What goes through my head are the various elements of the series that I struggle with. I’m supposed to simply be and let be, right? And if I am uncomfortable about various scenarios of the show, that’s an indication there’s something wrong with me, right?

I won’t spoil the series for you with detail, other than the basic plot is two male partners in a law firm announce to their respective wives they are gay, and are divorcing their wives so that the men can marry each other. Archie Bunker would have dropped dead. I’ve never been an Archie Bunker type, but found myself not understanding it, either. 

What does that make me, then? Homophobic? I probably am. And I could probably point to the era into which I was born as an excuse, or the implied revulsion of the Bible over people who act out their same-gender sexual orientations. Or the myriad of conclusions the rigidly straight world makes as an explanation to one recurring question, “Why did God make me this way?” I won’t belabor the responses, which are just as fantastic as dogmatic believers explaining how the world was created in six days. That particular “sin” has found its way to the top of the charts, and has remained so in the religious minds of many.

Still, I admit to being bothered by it. So I’m left with what can I control about this issue? My mouth, for one. Not out of fear of being labeled myself, but making sure whatever I say and however I react is carefully measured for its impact. 

My children are more tolerant of far more than I. I’m not sure that means they are better people than I am — whatever that means — but they are certainly more understanding. They have lived with a variety of change that really wasn’t change for them. 

I grew up when the south was segregated. Separate, but equal, ran the dogma. Bathrooms. Movie theaters. Schools. Water fountains. And my parents hired black women to do various necessary things about the house — even though my mother didn’t work outside the house. Not every white family had maids or people to do yard work. But we did. How do I reconcile that past with what is now the norm? It clearly falls under the controllable part of my life. I wasn’t born a racist. As Rogers and Hammerstein clarified in South Pacific, “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” But I have worked sincerely on that aspect of my life in a variety of ways, yet, I suppose the term racist does apply to me at some levels. 

I grew up when “gay” didn’t refer to someone who preferred to sexually and emotionally connect with members of their own gender. Or when the other parts of LGBT where code words, and not political referendums.

I grew up when sex was not explicit — either in attire or behavior — on the scale it is today. When one-night-stands were not necessarily planned, and when females were more coy than aggressive in relationships. When married TV couples slept in single beds separated by a lamp table.

Grace & Frankie takes shots at many of these, including guns (another sacred cow). That’s probably the only controversial issue I have settled for myself: I don’t and probably won’t ever own one. It’s your right, however. What I cannot understand is how we’ve gotten to the place nearly all school children from kindergarten up have to be drilled in safety procedures to protect them from someone with a gun.

It’s a difficult transition from the world I grew up in to the world in which we now live. My pathway has been along lines that are less absolute. I wouldn’t have either thought of or predicted that when I was sixteen. But when I was eighteen? As I’ve written before, the convergence of civil rights, women’s rights, and Vietnam was the point 9 earthquake that seemed to shake things up forever. Of course, these are not excuses either.

I’ve often looked back to wistfully remember “the good old days.” I realize they weren’t good for everyone; that the agonizingly slow change for the better for them has not been as easy for me and others like me as well. We had to either change as well — or dig in. Many chose to dig in. Others of us have elected to change within. Either choice has its results and/or consequences. Neither is easy.

It’s not easy being green, said someone very wise.


24 Jan


L. Stewart Marsden

An Opinion


According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definitions of the word “binge” is an unrestrained and often excessive indulgence.

One can binge on food or drink, for example. A favorite dessert (Rocky Road ice cream comes to mind), or to catch up on a made-for-TV series. I binged on Sons of Anarchy to my regret. Twelve billion people were shot, stabbed, blown up or otherwise massacred on that bit of “entertainment.”

Binge is also a party. It’s possible to have a binge binge, where everyone binges on something at a party. Like Rocky Road ice cream, or Sons of Anarchy.  This “party” is not necessarily to be understood as a political one –– but if the shoe fits …

As an eating disorder, binging often morphs into bulimia nervosa  — not considered normal. In point of fact, I’m not sure the word binge is ever considered normal. Not binge-drinking, not binge-eating, not binge-watching. 

Yet it seems to me America is binging, and has been for some time. We binge on the news, and on information gleaned from social media and other bingey sources. It has become the bane of technology — again in my opinion.

We binge on whatever news slant brings us that temporary euphoria and escape from reality. Feed Me! we cry out to the blurred entities behind the supply of information. 

“And how would you like your eggs this morning?” 

“Over-easy with a slab of country ham and grits ‘n red-eye gravy with a mug of hot coffee. Pile them up and keep them coming, ‘cause I’m famished!”

“A slice of melon with a pirouette of dark chocolate swirled onto the plate, plus a croissant with a dab of blackberry preserves.”

“Tofu,” if you are vegan.

Like the Belushi food fight in Animal House, or, just maybe, like the caged chimpanzees at the cheap zoo, we fling our food and more at each other, emboldened by the anonymity of not really being anywhere close by as we spar and attack and dodge and dig in. As I’ve said before, the beaches are filled with lines drawn in the sand that wash away with the tide of opinion.

Most of the other types of binges come with hard and fast consequences –– as well as regret. This kind of binging is nefarious. None of us sees the widening gap or the hardening of resolve that separates us. Don’t get me wrong, we need resolve for many situations. But not the immutable stances that are really more like quicksand than not.

Binge. An unrestrained and often excessive indulgence.


24 Sep


By Homer P. Nogginfogger

Dear Mr. Marsidoo (I hope I spelt it right),

Please publish the following essay of my opinion of what is bass-ackwards in this great nation of ours. I’ve limited it to three or four, but believe me when I say I coulda gone on and on. Nevertheless, every journey begins with a step, and this is my first step at being vocal, seeing as how every other jack-ass is allowed to scream and shout what they think. I’m gonna use that little comment you use so often to apply to this here below: my opinion and 75 cents will get you a cup of coffee anywheres. That excludes Starbuck’s, of course. Which I also exclude on a regular basis, if you know what I mean.

Thank you, Kind Sir,



Bass-akwards. One of the best words to de-scribe most of what ails this country and me.

Once notions was based on simple and plain logic: what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours; and don’t do or say nothin’ to nobody you wouldn’t want done or said to you. You know, the Golden Rule thing.

Seems to me, though, as this nation has got older and sophisticateder — “wiser” some folks might say — we ain’t done more’n get things so turned around we don’t know which way is up anymore. We got things bass-ackwards, in other words.

Like marriage. Used to be a guy and a gal honeyed up to one another on the porch and listened to the radio and sipped lemonade. Then the guy would go ask her papa could they marry (her and the guy, that is — you have to be so clear about that these days), and the wedding would be planned down to the First Baptist Church. Wasn’t no super expensive deal. Friends and family brought a cover dish and the Oak Holler Boys would show up with the music, and there’d be a barn dance afterward.

Then the new couple would sneak off to the cabin he had built during their courtship and consummate the vows. Later that night, some of the wedding guests would show up a bit tipsy and proceed with a shivaree, banging pots and pans and sometimes firing a pistol or shotgun in the air.

And they’d have kids — enough to work the land and help bring in the harvest — and that would be that. 

Today you got to sign a prenuptial agreement, where nobody much makes out but the lawyers. It is a contract that says who gets what if who does what to whom. Kind of an albatross that hangs out, waitin’ for what has come to be very common in most marriages: divorce.

I ain’t sayin’ divorce didn’t happen way back when — it was just that it was more uncommon than common — and for a lot better reasoning than in-com-pati-bility! That’s a big way of sayin’ “we don’t get along anymore.”

My parents was married more than fifty years — and to each other! I know people these days been married nearly that long, but to two or three different spouses. So it don’t really count.

These days people go into marriage kinda with the attitude if they stay hitched for five or more years, they done good! But with that prenuptial in place, they figure they done even better! Seems these days people go into a marriage for what they can come out from it with, not with the mind of what can I put into it. Used to be “for better or worse” meant the good and the bad times, period. Today, it’s better until I figure I’m worse off. That’s bass-ackwards, I think.

Then the divorce, and the only ones benefitting are the lawyers — onct again! Everyone else is miserable and angry!

And insurance. Again, bass-ackwards! I pay money to a company that is betting I’m not gonna get sick, crash my car, say something horribly bad about someone else, or any number of really bad things — while I’m betting I am! Then, when something bad does happen, the insurance company — who has already invested my money in land and bonuses and paying off the politicians — says to me, “You can’t have your money less you can prove the bad thing meets our guidelines! What guidelines! I never saw no guidelines! Well, it’s in the fine print. And I get a letter back from the insurance company saying my claim is denied. Or, if I do get any money — say for a car accident — they begin deducting. Depreciation. Mileage. Wear and tear. More if it’s my fault, yet still some even if it’s not my fault. And then they do what? They raise the amount I have to pay them! Bass-ackwards!

And, finally, taxes. I know. Ain’t nobody likes them. But some of us get the tax-shaft. You know, good, honest workin’ folk. We grind and we sweat, and we pay out to our country, state, county, city, and through sales taxes on just about anything and everything until there’s barely enough to squeeze out for the rent and the water and the lights and a trip to the grocery store. That don’t include what I call the luxuries: clothing, gas, and going to the doctor (by God, the government has got us by the scrotum on that one, too). 

So I wear my jeans and shirts until they’re so thin they don’t even make good rags. And by the time I give up on a pair of shoes, I can scoop up a dime off the street with the leather that flaps as I walk.

Even if I get a raise from where I work on account of inflation, it is eat up with higher taxes! Social Security. Medicare (do I care?). And other stuff I never see. But I hear Congress has a fine time with those dollars!

And the rich? Hell, I personally know a rich man brags every April about the amount of taxes he pays: nuthin! So many loop-holes and what-not, that only the rich understand and can take advantage of. Plus their high-paid tax accountants. Me? I go down to the Y and some volunteer helps me file my taxes for free. But even that might go away, the way the Infernal Revenuers are headed. Even the E-Z tax form takes a PhD to figure out. No matter what, I always pay more.

Bass-ackwards! The rich need to pay their fair share. Make it across the board fair — like five percent or so. Way it is, them that’s got, gets. Like at the bank, where when you apply for a loan ‘cause you need the money, but you get refused on account you need the money. Whereas the rich get all they want, and they don’t need it! I seen a skit on that on TV one night, where a poor man trying to keep his house is rejected. Then a rich man comes in and the banker keeps shoveling money to him by the handful. I laughed and cried at the same time. Even if it’s funny, the truth hurts.


I know. Lynn Anderson made a record, “I beg your pardon,” and truly I don’t expect a rose garden. Pretty as those flowers are, they can still stick you with their thorns. And I know that the Almighty Grave is the great equalizer. But none of that makes me feel better at the present. Maybe in the Hereafter I’ll feel better. Sure hope so.

And even if these bass-ackwards things didn’t exist, we’d still have a time of it. I know that. But I’m not asking much. Just the three. Get ‘em right, for God’s sake. Then I can turn my mind to more important matters.

Yours truly,

Homer P. Nogginfogger



We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy. [No, really … the quote actually ends this way]

— Ellen DeGeneres



19 Aug



To some extent, we are all storytellers. Our abilities to weave a tale hie back to childhood (at least mine did), when confronted by Mom with such questions as:

  • Did you break that?
  • Where have you been?
  • Why didn’t you answer when I called you?
  • Why are you late for supper?

And the skills and tendencies grow over the years.

  • How do I look?
  • Did you like the meatloaf?
  • Tell me you love me first.

Face it – each of us has a story to tell. Some are riveting, others, sleep-inducing. Some need “tweaking” to portray us in the best light. Witness 45 and the life-long politicians who reside and feed in Washington and state capitols around the country.

From fish tales to impossible golf shots to the hottest person we ever dated (and what we did on the date) to the largest-ever gathering for an inauguration, we’re ready to mesmerize our friends and families with our fantastic feats – however based in truth or not.

The counter-tale of little George owning up to his dad with “I cannot tell a lie” is probably hogwash. It’s the historic manipulation of fact in order to get us to spit-paste our cowlicks and ‘fess up – which flies in the face of reality.

“Don’t worry, Chief. This treaty will ensure your people maintain their lands and way of life without any interference from Washington.” 

Wink, wink; nudge, nudge.

Stories are the centerpiece of every gathering, whether about the long past, when it’s now okay to reveal an exaggerated truth; or about a trip or an experience. And when the stories fly, it’s like different hands grabbing the bat handle to see who can triumphantly cap off the end of the bat in victory with “the greatest story.”

Like the famous challenge between Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron to write the best horror tale, we gather over dinner and in dens to joust with our own tales of interest, each story perhaps spinning on the edge of truth along that dangerous precipice of – what shall we call it? Creativity?

What’s that? You say you don’t or never have done that? You say you’ve lived the pristine life of a cloistered monk in terms of never exaggerating or perhaps stretching the truth a bit? 

Some of you – even now – are thinking “but that would be lying!” 

You say toe-mah-toe, and I say tew-may-toe. Again, like our politicians, it depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

I say you are a storyteller. You say you are a truth teller.

Psssst! Don’t look now but your pants are on fire.

Vulnerability v. It Ain’t Easy Being Green

16 Jul

Continue reading

The Phil Mickelson Caveat

18 Jun


The Phil Mickelson Caveat

By L. Stewart Marsden

As expected, sports news talking heads are all abobble about one of the two major take-always from the 2018 U.S. Open Golf Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Course this weekend in Southampton, NY.

An aside: Wonder why the nation is not equally outraged by the golf course’s logo? It never came up, somehow.

One has clearly drawn the serious attention away from the other. Phil’s desperate antics on the 13th (ironic, no?) hole in venting his day-long putting frustration by whacking his putted golf ball that was clearly going to end up (oh, who knows where?) drew the commentating from how the PGA screwed up again with an unholy course, already difficult, and made three times more difficult by shaving the grass from the greens.

At least for the moment. While spewing venom at the game’s most likable pro, greens keepers flooded the greens at the end of Round Three after Big Guy Dustin Johnson unceremoniously slipped the balding slopes from what looked like an insurmountable four-stroke lead of -4 to a share of the lead by day’s end at +3.

“Cheater!” cried the pompous PGA elders.

”Horrible precedence,” they added.

So, without due process, Mickelson was hung out to dry. If only he had taken a knee instead of stopping his hockey puck putt!

Did you know that duffers like me make mince-meat of the rules of golf on a regular basis?

Ever hear of the 10-inch rule? According to my brother, you can move your ball to any point within a 10-inch diameter to improve your lie. You won’t find that one in the book.

Ever hear of the Mulligan rule? Or the reincarnated Mulligan?

Ever hear of the “within the putter grip” rule?

The PGA has spent a lot of money trying to get golfers to follow the rules.

Actually, Phil DID follow the rules. Ask any defense lawyer. He gladly took the penalty.

Was it the right thing to do?

Well, if morality is going to enter the conversation, then let’s talk about DJ’s reported dalliances. And what about … TW? How quickly we forget and forgive. Don’t worry, plenty more scarlet letters where Phil’s “C” comes from.

Did you know it’s thought golf was actually a drinking game? At least, the winners were afforded drinking credits. And even that it was banned and against the law to play it? Look it up. It’s on the internet. Gotta be true.

Here’s what would be fair in terms of the controversy over Phil’s sin:

Make him play the remainder of the round, and the next five tournaments in which he plays, right-handed. Now that should be tantamount to cutting off his hands at the wrist. Except Phil is actually right-handed, and I’m sure would adjust. Then cut off one of his feet. “I’m still playing!” Okay, then –– cut off the other foot. “I’m still playing!”

You live by the rules … you die by the rules.

You might look at Phil’s action from a different perspective, however. Isn’t he really saying, I’ve done this that you may be free (of the rules)? Kind of a golfing savior for the rest of us golfing wannabes.

Back to the real problem this weekend: while there was some nasty satisfaction at watching the world’s best golfers get massacred by those gatling gun greens, it was also sad.

Please don’t ever do that again! Choose courses for The Open that are indeed challenging and have the respect of each golfer, but don’t make them impossible! I hated looking at the leaderboard this weekend. Don’t go back to Shinnecock Hills until they pledge to

  1. plant a few trees back,
  2. let the grass on the greens grow a bit.
  3. change their logo. How about a shield that has something representing a shin and something that represents a cock?

As it is currently, I’m sure most of the PGA golfers who played the course this weekend felt cuckolded –– by the course AND by the PGA.


Kicking the Tires

15 Jun


Kicking the Tires

By L. Stewart Marsden

My dad was an auto mechanic for years. On the weekends he and me used to work on an old jalopy he bought for practically nothing. Said it was his therapy. Well he musta had a severe case of the crazies on account he worked on that car till the day he died.

Sally, he called her. And she was the jumpin’ off point for many a life lesson I never forgot.

“Sally is just like a woman,” he said a lot. “She may be old, and may not work the way she did when she rolled off the assembly line, but she’s reliable and fixable. Not like the shiny new cars you see in the dealerships. No. And she wasn’t made for the smooth life of the highway, but the bumpy backroads.

“Once she’s back in shape, she’ll purr like a kitten and be the envy of every guy within three counties.

“Not like those fancy-finned gals with all kinds of gadgets. The ones what seems great the first time you take ‘em on the road, only to fall apart after not too long. The ones with built-in ob-so-lescence. Cosmetic crates, I call ‘em. Lemons with a fancy paint job.”

My dad’s ability to hone in on Sally as a universal roadmap to life was better than a lecture from a triple-PhD at some high-powered college or university. According to my dad, those guys had nothing but wind chimes for brains, which tinkled loudly whenever a fresh wind blew.

But Sally was the real thing. The true compass. From sex to marriage to being dependable and trustworthy as a worker. She was the rusted splotch-polished real McCoy example of how life should be, and once was.

“The thing about marriage is you are drawn by the sleek sexiness of a sedan or a convertible under the lights on the car lot. Never buy a new car at night, by the way.

“Oh, the shine and the new vinyl smell and the reflections of city lights as you cruise the boulevard make you think you’re in heaven! The AM/FM works just fine, and the steering is tight. The big rubber whitewalls grip the road on every turn, and you only have to tap your breaks to slow or stop on a dime. The clutch is taut, and the gears slide like butter from first to third.

“And there ain’t no crusted-over milkshake spills on the floorboard. The cigarette lighter is virginal, and the ashtray slick and clean. The visors hold where you place them, and the rear view mirror ain’t spotted.

“And it’s just fine as it can be, you say to yourself.

“But you worry. About the first bug marks on the silver bumper that won’t scrub off. Or a ding on the side where some jack-ass parked too close and swung open his door. Or the temperature gauge light popping on suddenly when you are miles from a filling station.

“That first slow leak from a nail in the road. Is that person going to stop at the light or not?

“It’s all a worrisome time.

“Plus your car needs the high-priced gas, not the cheapest leaded fuel, although you are tempted to ask the attendant to use regular instead, knowing your baby will eventually chug and shudder on the road –– right when you’re trying to pass a semi on a two-lane county back road with oncoming traffic.

“And you begin to try to save in other ways, avoiding the manufacturer plugs and points and air filters for the cheaper no-name brands. Less expensive motor oil. Maybe you don’t change the radiator fluid for a while. You quit hand-washing and waxing and zip through the new automats.

“Then it’s not too long before you hear the door hinges and springs creak loudly, and there is a crusted-over milkshake spill or two on the floorboard. The vinyl smell is gone. The cigarette lighter has turned gray-white on the coils, and the ashtray is dusted over and no longer shiny. Rust spots dot the bumpers and other chrome trim. And when you idle at a light, blue-gray puffs of lead-filled exhaust spew from your loud muffler.

“And you think to yourself, ‘It’s time for a trade in.’”

Don’t get me wrong. Dad loved Mom. And he always treated her like the fine Cadillac convertible he saw her to be.

But he was at his happiest when he worked on Sally. And he whistled. And he compared life to his life-long restoration project.

He and Mom stayed married sixty-seven years.

“Don’t ever forget, Son. You gotta kick a few tires to find the right one. And never –– ever –– buy a new car at night.”

Words to live by.

I hear voices

8 Jun

I Hear Voices

By L. Stewart Marsden

I hear voices. They come from out of nowhere like seeds borne by a dark wind, down into my ears and along the canals, edging further into my head where they take root.

That’s the best description I can give when considering how I come to write a poem, or a short story, or play, or argument about something.

Mysterious; elusive; inexplicable.

I hear the conversations between characters, who verbally spar with each other in my stories or plays. I hear the rhythm and rhyme of thoughts that spin into poems about whatever I’m experiencing. I see the stages where the works take place: an ocean, a mountain, a savanna, a city street. I smell the salt air, the pungent sassafras, the dry grass, the wet pavement. I hear the surrounding sounds of the background: a wave gently crashing onto the sand, the kree of a circling hawk, the rustle of the ocean of grasses, a distant ambulance.

Sometimes the voices are therapeutic. They worm into my subconscious and attack my fears and misgivings and self-doubt. They break the grip of things that seem to want to paralyze me and hold me back. And when those things are exposed to the light — as when Mommy bursts in to turn on the light during a nightmare — there are no ogres or monsters or creepy-crawlies under the bed or tucked into my closet.

Just the words. The poems. The stories.

My tinctures and salves are as imaginary as the ailments they address. Just words and thoughts.

Not all hear the voices. It’s both curse and blessing. Curse in the dead of night when they persist to prattle on until I eventually crawl out from my covers to tap them out onto the screen of my iPad. Blessing in when the effort is complete, and awaits the next step. I can fall back into my bed, deeply exhausted, and the voices are quiet.

You might think it’s madness. I suppose to a degree it is. There’s enough to surviving a lifetime than adding to it more things to read, to consider, to mull over.

But the voices don’t care about that. They want their day, whether they are read or not; appreciated or not; understood or not.

Me? For some reason I’m just one of the many vessels through which they choose to flow.

Next time you’re on a plane, or the subway, or walking a crowded street, or lingering in the shade beside a creek — listen.

Do you hear them?

I hope you do.

10 Easy Habits to Separate Yourself From the Pack

26 May

10 Easy Habits to Separate Yourself From the Pack

By L. Stewart Marsden

Below are 10 suggestions to form as habits that should glean unexpected positive results wherever you are. While not talents, I would classify them as definite skills you can nurture. It’s surprising how doing things as simple as listed below will separate you markedly from the crowd. Assuming you want to be noticed that way, of course.

  1. Address anyone older or in a position of authority as Sir or Ma’am. You don’t have to be Southern to say Ma’am. Observe anyone who has served in the military and most of the time you will hear “yes Sir” or “yes Ma’am.” That goes for your own home as well.
  2. Remember to say “Thank, you” when someone does anything for you, whether holding a door or serving as a host. A generous tip at a restaurant is a way of thanking your wait person, regardless of their level of service. Everyone has a bad day, and a well-placed and well-timed “thank-you” may make their day. You like it when people thank you, right?
  3. Practice good table manners.
  4. Use the word “please” often.
  5. When writing, know the differences between they’re, their, and there; also to, too, and two. Especially on Facebook!
  6. Offer to help.
  7. Clear your own plate.
  8. Avoid profanity.
  9. Offer guests drinks or food first.
  10. Listen more than you talk.

You don’t have to be a goody-goody to adopt these habits, and many of us struggle to overcome other habits that don’t present us well to others. And you may have heard it takes 21 days to form a habit. According to the Foundation for Economic Education (, depends what kind of habit you want to form:

Indeed, overall, the researchers were surprised by how slowly habits seemed to form. Although the study only covered 84 days, by extrapolating the curves, it turned out that some of the habits could have taken around 254 days to form — the better part of a year! What this research suggests is that 21 days to form a habit is probably right, as long as all you want to do is drink a glass of water after breakfast. Anything harder is likely to take longer to become a really strong habit, and, in the case of some activities, much longer.”

Regardless the length of time it takes to form the 10 habits above, I believe you will find the efforts will pay off in the long run.

And Now a Word …

23 May


And Now a Word …

By L. Stewart Marsden

I’ve been amazed at the quality and production value of TV commercials over the past few years. Especially the ones aimed at the national marketplace — though it’s difficult to tell, sometimes.

It used to be that various industries dominated the airways in attempts to bend my mind to buy their products. As a kid, that didn’t work so well. Most were aimed at Mom and Dad. Dinah Shore and Chevrolet (Burt must have liked those). Speedy, the animated drug pusher (although the Drop, drop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is part could have been used for a laxative product as well). Madge and her green “you’re soaking in it!” reveal. The incredibly mesmerizing Comfort Fit bra commercials (as close to skin as it got in the day and much better than National Geographic).

For me they were real bothers (other than the bra commercials), especially if the Lone Ranger was about to ride Silver into a canyon where there were about a hundred bad guys lying in wait. The cliff hanger.

And now a word … That part hasn’t changed. Then, no remotes to click on the “Last” button to toggle to another show. But even that has been taken into consideration today in a last-ditch effort by Madison Avenue, and most of the commercials seem to be synchronized to begin at the same time. I’ve actually surfed through several stations at commercial time and landed on the same commercial, milliseconds separation. Technology!

The only commercials I paid attention to were the rough and gruff cowboys who rode off into the sunset with a Marlboro stuck to their lower lips, the ash about 3 inches long (symbolism?). Or the Chesterfield commercials where doctors told me smoking was safe ( At the time, a pack of cigarettes could be bought for a quarter from the cigarette vending machine tucked into the Men’s room of a local gas station.

Today, commercials are full of comedy, action, good writing and incredible acting. There are two times a year I look forward to a barrage of commercials willingly: the Super Bowl, and the Clio Awards. The first is an all-out competition between brands to wow and spin us about with ad producers’ incredible creativity and artistry. The second is an industry pat-on-the-back of its blatant efforts to seduce and manipulate.

My current favorite is the All State commercial where a teen enters his parents bedroom to admit a fender-bender ( incident. I can identify as both the kid as well as the adult.

The arrival of the industry to this level of entertainment wasn’t overnight. Coca-Cola has been striving for years for the emotional prod for a long time. “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” is iconic –– as well as the Mean Joe Greene commercial If you don’t know of these, you are too young and need to be spanked and sent to bed.

There have been ads that leave you puzzled, like the EDS commercial Cat Herders ( An example of the medium overwhelming the message. It was banned by somebody or organization for some reason. Probably cat lovers. I don’t remember seeing a disclaimer that no cats were harmed or branded during the production of the ad.

While the tugs and pulls at our senses, sentiments, and savings haven’t changed, I’m glad the commercials have. Launched quite a few acting careers as well, like the I’m a Pepper guy ( who later starred in the best werewolf transformation film ever (albeit the budget must have caused the director to stop the film without the typical beast resolution —

There was a time TV was “free.” Of course it was underwritten through advertisers who used the programs to siphon from America’s money gas tanks. But still, it was free to the consumer. Now, alas, not so much (I recently begrudgingly wrote out my monthly cable service fees).

Commercial sponsors once ruled the day, and provided America with much-needed diversion from the day-to-day grind. Now we’re content to spend the big monthly bucks to see our fare without interruption. Or, as the Romans might have said, continuatam scilicet entertainment. And that decision has dire ripple effects:

  • On our bladders.
  • On fewer trips to the kitchen, hence less consumption of various foods (chips and sodas, which constitute two of the five major American food groups. Pizza and McDonalds and ice cream are the other three).
  • On our social interaction skills. There are also other entities currently mastering this demise: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • On our ability to discern between night and day (if binge-watching).
  • On the advertising industry, which will be forced to lay off thousands of writers, directors, producers, actors, and Best Boys.

The result will be that whatever “free” TV remains. The commercials will be local, and you know what that means, right?


Sorry about that. Too much uninterrupted binging on The Walking Dead.

You get what I mean.

Don’t be a putz. Let’s save the TV commercial industry by giving up those expensive cable TV contracts. And by doing that, save the many careers that will inevitably be eliminated. And if they are, the only commercials we will see will be like the following: