Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

“Television commercials are an assault upon the senses and an insult to intelligence.”

The sentence appears quoted and italicized because I think it is a pretty good opening sentence. Opening sentences are important, as those first words of an author must grasp the reader’s attention just enough to induce that reader to continue for a few more sentences, after which the person is either hooked to the end or wiggles free and is off to words more to their liking.

I seem to have worked a fishing metaphor into the narrative so I’ll use it: opening sentences are the first cast of the hook and bait into the stream; success or failure the only options. And I have examples. “Call me Ishmael.” “Marley was dead: to begin with.” “Tom, oh, Tom!” “No answer.”; and the most famous of all: “Once Upon a Time …”. Each of these sentences are well known and lead readers on to wonderful stories.

It sometimes happens that I get comments about this column, which indicates a very polite society as the comments are always complimentary and I am assured there are many who, if they have not abandoned reading it altogether, surely disagree with those columns with left-leaning opinions.

The question of what to write about every week often comes up, and I am always at a loss to state exactly how that happens. I am sure that unless any columnist not set on one subject, be it sports or religion or politics, must struggle a bit with the subject of, well, subject. I have a scattering of scribbled on scraps with a variety of possible subjects, and for this week not one but two subjects came to mind as good as anything to go with; so here goes.

Television commercials are an assault on the senses … we’ll start there. I was ensconced on a friend’s leather couch watching an NFL Wild Card game on network television. What network I have no idea, but one of those that makes money off selling time to any entity that has something to sell. And the method of sales on television is far different than what the original Television Generation (of which I am one) knew as advertising. (OK, here I must state that though raised on television, I have not watched more that a maybe 75 hours of television in the past 12 years: you don’t wanna know.) I was aware that the one-minute commercials with a housewife in a party dress in a fake kitchen telling us how great Whirlpool was at making appliances were long gone, but today the opposite of that format seems chaotic.

I don’t know how many products were flashed before my eyes in the four two-minute breaks of a football game, but they came like rapid fire machine gunning. Some could not have been more that seven or eight seconds, but at the average speed of narration (reading from a script) of 180 words per minute that can be as much as 24-25 words. As in “Chevy trucks are built tough for any terrain in any season. See your Chevy dealer today for great deals on America’s toughest truck.” And in those few seconds they will show five images just long enough for the eye to convey to the brain a Chevy truck in different terrain and weather. Each image is worth the proverbial 1,000 words.

Now add those quickie blasts to the brain to a dozen more ads of varying length, and by the time the football contest is back on the screen, you’ve been inundated with flashing images, blaring music, staccato words and all the while you are often without full comprehension of what exactly the product is that is being touted. Now you must readjust the brain to the game with the hope some unplanned event on the field won’t take you away from the game and back into the world of buy, buy, buy blackbird. And believe it that nationally televised football takes a lot of long breaks so somebody can tell us all how great their product is and we shouldn’t live without it; a win-win situation for all but the fan at home sitting thought 60 minutes of playing time stretched into a three-hour ordeal of equal parts yardage and touchdowns and garbage and markdowns.

“… and an insult to intelligence.” (I did have more about the second half of the opening sentence; but something has come up to interrupt my thoughts.)


I have a photograph of three guys in a river, each visible from the waist up, enjoying the 50th birthday of the guy in the middle. At that time, we had known each other for 45 years; that was 22 years ago. I had the photo enlarged and framed and each of us was to take possession for a few years. And we did. Earl, who we called “Rusty,” had since college called Stephen “Tuna”; I’ve had many nicknames over the years, none stuck for long.

We each had the photo for some years; I have had it for the past five or six. The idea came about that as each of us passed, the possessor would place a black wreath above our head. So, it came to me to do that duty for Rusty last March when he died at 70 years of age. A phone call this morning informs me the probability of having to do that duty again is high, very high indeed.

It must be terribly hard for those who are caregivers for family members, for loved ones, as so many memories of times past are readily available while an inevitable end steadily approaches. My friend Stephen is near his end way down in Mexico; but the many, many memories of times spent together going back to elementary school days are here with me. Vaya con Dios, amigo.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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