Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cracking the Viagra Ad Code

In my college American Studies classes, we used to look at all manner of cultural artifacts from high culture literature to low culture like newspaper and magazine articles and advertisements.  We would analyze these artifacts from a cultural history perspective, articulating what the existence of these items at a given point in time said about the culture at that moment.  Even though I rarely need such skills these days, my brain is trained that way.

Even though I wasn't looking for it, I had a cultural history epiphany watching a Viagra ad the other day.  Among the little traditional TV that I watch, live sports predominate, which means I see a disproportionate amount of erectile dysfunction pharmaceutical ads.  Of course, the male protagonists of these ads are all men of a certain age with wives who represent the most beautiful age-appropriate spouses the industry can find.  Actually, that's not universally true.  In Cialis ads, our good lady with the beautiful smile appears up-front.  In Viagra ads, Ol' Jim Handsome is alone most of the time with the twangy guitar underneath the narrator.  More about how these ads end in a minute.  

The Viagra campaign, in particular, has this thrust (pun not intended, but also not edited out) about these handsome salt-and-peppers getting stuff done.  That's about as much as I'd paid attention until Sunday when I saw a more elaborate pattern.  Maybe the theme I'm about to unveil has been patently obvious to you, but it wasn't to me until the other day.

It's not just that Ol' Jim (maybe I should call him Ol' ED) gets stuff done.  It's that something that had been working suddenly stops working, and he's just the guy to get things back on track.  Once he gets things sorted, he heads home - in no particular hurry - to find the upstairs bedroom light on (or getting turned on if you know what I'm saying).  That saves money in the casting of beautiful forty-six-year-old ladies, no doubt.

Maybe you've already gone through the collection in your head, but in case you haven't, here are the ones I can think of:
  • The truck hauling the horse trailer gets stuck in the mud.  Ed gets out and hooks the horses up to pull the truck out and get back on the road. (see bottom of post for that one)
  • There's massive bridge construction with klieg lights everywhere...until they all go out.  Ed knows just which switch to flip to light the whole place back up.  That's apparently his only job because then he heads home.
  • The printing press is churning out some printed matter (inserts for prescription bags?) when something gums up the works.  Ed straightens out the machine, wipes his hands on a rag and goes home to look at the upstairs bedroom lights.
  • The lighter breaks on the beach while Ed's lighting a campfire with a tent in the background.  Is that gonna stop Ed?  Heck no.  He goes cave man, gets his folding knife, a rock and some dry tinder and lights that fire.  Once the narrator has told us about the side effects and when to call our doctor, the light goes on in the tent.   Mrs. Ed is actually silhouetted spreading out the sleeping bag in this one.  Seems like she's pretty tired tonight.
The message is clear.  This is nothing to be ashamed about.  Just push the right button with this pill, and everything will be fine again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Obviously, from a genetic perspective, Paige and I contributed equal parts of DNA to our boys.  In some ways, we all four have a lot in common.  But there are some distinctions that up to now align Charlie with Paige and Teddy with me.  Thinking about things that differ between me and Paige and between the boys, I then made a McKinsey & Co.-worthy matrix.

This list felt a lot longer and more definitive before I actually stopped to write it down.  And yet, I still can't think of a single thing to put in the Paige/Teddy box.  I've been sitting on this for a while, but I'm not getting inspired with more entries.  So I'll just put it out there and let people (especially Paige) weigh in.

Parent-Child Attribute Alignment

Paige Jeff
Charlie needs glasses
thick hair that can be shaped
freaky good memory
puts ketchup on food 
sleeps in

likes Taco Bell
wears emotions on sleeve
soft, flimsy hair
perfect vision (so far)
gets up early pretty much every day

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Isaac, Behave

(A parenting poem in some jest)

When we're in church and you can't sit nice
And the scripture's about child sacrifice,
I cannot cope.

You should hope when I go to punch your ticket
That the Lord provides a ram in the thicket.
 It's your only hope.

Before church, I tamed your wild hair.
We stand for hymns and kneel for prayer.
It's what we do.

Yes, you have to wear church sandals.
Yes, they're going to light the candles.
Now sit in the pew.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

From HuffPo: 10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make

A friend posted this on facebook, and I gave it a quick read.  It's a useful list that lends perspective to parenting in the current era.  It feels a little Fox Newsy to me, though.  By that, I mean that parents who make these mistakes are so blind to them that this article won't change their approach.  Parents who don't make these mistakes (or recognize them when they slip into them on rare occasions) will sit back smugly and think about all of the bad parenting they observe...done by other parents.  Of course, this blog is only frequented by savvy people, so if you read the list, get ready to get your smug on.

One note the author doesn't really hit upon: kids whose parents make these mistakes are miserable children.  They know they're not supposed to be in charge, and the weight of being in charge weighs on their smooth, little shoulders. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Other Bloggers Agree

It was nice to see this post from a lady blogger on a friend's facebook wall.  It's very much in keeping with the spirit of Competent Parent.  Dads aren't dumb.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Rob Lowe on Sending his Son to College

It happens this way:  A friend links to something on the web.  Then another friend and another.  Depending on how busy I am, by the third or fifth friend, I'll often click on the link.  After all, my friends are using their social media capital to tell me about this item, I might as well read it.

Last week, the item was Rob Lowe's essay about sending his son off to college.  Timed with the release of his book Love Life, the essay has been published by Slate.  It's not a super-long read, and I invite you to go read it before I share my take on it.

This is not a book review of Love Life, even though I used that label on this post.  I've only read the college essay they're pushing out in the publicity for the book.
  •  Facts highlighted by the essay or surfaced in subsequent Rob Lowe research - some striking, some not
    • Rob Lowe is ridiculously attractive and shared his genes with his son
    • Rob Lowe is still married to the mother of his two children as the older one goes off to college.  Impressive for a celebrity, especially given the above fact.
    • Love Life is Rob Lowe's third book! Look out, JK Rowling.
  • Gut reactions to the essay
    •  After being winningly honest about growing up as a child of divorce, Lowe demonstrates a need to be friends with his sons that feels not quite appropriate to the father-son relationship.  It feels a little dependent and clingy.  Maybe we all work to make up for what we saw as most glaringly missing or painful in our childhoods.  Having shuttled between his parents as a kid, it's apparently really important to Rob Lowe the Father to be very close and just one of the gang with his kids.  This is apparently backed up by an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in which he confesses to being an "inappropriate frat dad".
    • A fact relevant to the above: Lowe didn't go to college.  At the age at which he would have, he left home not for a campus full of his peers but for a 3-month movie shoot with grown-up actors and crew in Tulsa.  This does put an interesting spin on his life event of sending his own son off to college.
    • Being a celebrity does not inure one from being a proud papa.  He gushes so much about the incredibly competitive school his son went off to that I finally had to google what amazing institution this is.  Turns out it's Duke.  That means the president he quotes is my own beloved former professor Richard Brodhead; that was a cool upshot of my web stalking of Matthew Lowe.
  • It's a touching essay and definitely better than if he were unmoved by his beloved eldest's departure for college. 
Watch this space for my own version of this essay in six years, three months and six days.

    Friday, May 9, 2014

    Casserole Week: Italian Easter Pie

    It's hard to believe casserole week has already drawn to a close.  Some may not believe that the dish below is a casserole.  I've never been one for angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin philosophical discussions, so I won't feel the need to defend it as a casserole.  But it has meat, squishy cheese, a green and top and bottom starch layers.  That sounds like it fits somewhere in the casserole genus.

    Apparently Italian Easter Pie has been a thing for years.  We just found out about it through the April May 2014 issue of Cook's Country magazine.  The guy at the fancy cheese section of my local grocery store knew about it.  Of course, I bragged about how we planned to use the sharp provolone I was buying.  Mmmmmmm, sharp provolone.

    Shopping tip: some places call broccoli rabe "rapini".  Also, the one time we made this (the week after Easter, it turned out), we toned down the spiciness by using sweet Italian sausage and a mix of hot and mild capicola.  There's a lot of gooey cheese and starch to stand up to the spice, so we might ratchet that back up the next time out.  Our friends to whom we served it mentioned a sausage that gets its kick from black pepper as a possible alternative.

    This recipe might seem intimidating, but it's actually a bunch of easy steps.  We created some of the filling stages - sauteeing the broccoli rabe and sausage and mixing the ricotta/pecorino mixture  - the night before, baked it in the morning and served it in the evening.  As the recipe says, it could be baked on Good Friday and stored until Easter in the fridge.

    before the top crust

    before baking


    come and get it

    ohhhhhh yeeeeeeahhhh

    Masthead image from Flickr - user: JillPyrex, photo: small pyrex casserole.  Used under Creative Commons license