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The Darnedest Things May 27, 2010

Posted by Bill in Memories, Personal, Television, Uncategorized.
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Hearing of Art Linkletter’s death brought a smile to my face, not, of course, because he was dead, but because I was reminded of when I used to watch House Party with my babysitter. Art Linkletter ranks right up there with Captain Kangaroo and Underdog as being this then five-year-old’s favorite TV personalities. (Fred Flintstone would have made the list except I wasn’t allowed to watch him since one of the Flintstones episodes gave me a nightmare. You know the one– it was when Fred was on jury duty and voted to convict the accused, and the guy ran around saying, “Fred Flintstone I’m gonna get you!” I woke up screaming with that guy’s words reverberating in my head and wasn’t allowed to watch the show for a couple of years.)

I was the youngest of four girls, but my situation was somewhat unusual at the time in that my sisters were all two years apart, but there was a four-year gap between my youngest older sister and me. Nowadays a four-year gap between siblings is fairly common but in those days of stairstep kids, the four-year gap was almost enough to catapult me into a different family. My sisters all remember a different house, different friends and a different baby sitter. Their babysitter was Auntie Love, a wonderful woman who adopted our family and became our honorary grandmother. Because she took care of my sisters before I was born, I only remember her from visits my family made to her house once or twice a year. I always enjoyed the visits and I liked her, but she wasn’t MY babysitter.

My family moved to Lafayette, Indiana, when I was not quite a year old. My dad went back to Purdue to work on his Masters and my mother got a job teaching school. My first babysitter was Mrs. Becker, who came into our home every day to take care of me and my sisters once they got home from school. I barely remember her, but I’m sure I liked her. However, it is Mrs. Lemond who I really remember as MY babysitter.

Mrs. Lemond was only my sitter for one year- the year I went to Kindergarten. She was a widow who lived catty-corner across the street from us. Every morning my sisters and I would stop by her house and drop off my after-school clothes and a toy or two. I would then go on to morning Kindergarten and be delivered back at Mrs. Lemond’s house by the school safety patrol in time for Lunchtime Theater and a nap. When I woke up from the nap, I would watch Captain Kangaroo. Then I had to sit through Merv Griffin (yuck!) and Mike Douglas (double yuck!) and then Art Linkletter would come on. Him I liked.

Mrs. Lemond was a quiet woman, but she introduced me to a lot of things during that one year she was my babysitter. She had a huge old evergreen tree in her backyard, and I used to enjoy going out and hiding under the branches, pretending it was a house. She had a big old pool table in her TV room, and I liked rolling the balls around on the table and trying to roll them into the holes. She introduced me to Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, which she would buy me when she and I would drive to a nearby drugstore. She also unwittingly introduced me to the concept of a Mental Health Day.  One morning to my sisters’ surprise when we stopped by Mrs. Lemond’s house to drop off my stuff, I announced that I didn’t feel like going to school that day. Even more surprisingly Mrs. Lemond merely said, “Okay,” and I stayed with her all day, guiltily enjoying the morning game shows and reruns of Dick Van Dyke. When my dad got home that night he was not amused, and he immediately tromped over to Mrs. Lemond’s house to let her know that allowing me to play hooky was NOT acceptable.

Some of my best memories of Mrs. Lemond were from when she and I would watch Art Linkletter together. I liked his gentle manner, and I loved when he would interview the kids. Being a kid myself, I didn’t understand why people laughed at their answers because they seemed like perfectly reasonable answers to me. But what I really liked was the toys he handed out to the kids at the end. I would have loved to have gone on his show– what could be better? Sit in a chair, talk to a nice old man and get a brand new shiny toy? Pure nirvana to a five-year-old!

So hearing of Art Linkletter’s death reminded me of that kindergarten year with Mrs. Lemond, when life followed a predictable pattern, and excitement was driving to the drug store once a week and getting a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll. Mrs. Lemond died many years ago, but both she and Art Linkletter will continue to occupy a special place in my memory and in my heart. When I was five years old I loved them both, and earning the love of a five-year-old is not a bad thing at all.


Let’s Face It: Abortion Is a Hard Sell February 20, 2010

Posted by Bill in abortion, Family Values, health, Religious Right, Right wing, Television.
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Let me start this blog with a disclaimer: I strongly support the right of all women to have access to safe and legal abortion. I consider myself to be a feminist, and I abhor almost everything Focus on the Family stands for. However,  my personal opinion is the Women’s Media Center, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups did more harm than good with their protest against a Super Bowl ad featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother. Without apparently having viewed the ad in advance, Jemhu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center, said:

“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year–an event designed to bring Americans together.”

The protest letter from the Women’s Media Center suggested that CBS should have turned down the ad because of the sponsor, Focus on the Family:

“By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers.”

NOW Action Vice President Erin Matson, in a blog on their website shrilled:

“Make no mistake about this ad: it’s offensive to women. Yes, it features Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother, who had been advised to have an abortion after a serious illness. Standing alone, it sends the message that all women who give birth are heroes; it sends a message that abortion is always a mistake; and it is insulting to the one in three women in this country who have abortions.”

Well I saw the ad, and I sure didn’t see any of those things. The truth is, if I hadn’t been aware of the furor ahead of time, I wouldn’t have realized it was an anti-abortion ad. The word abortion is never mentioned. Pam Tebow talks about Tim being her miracle baby and says his birth was difficult. She says that she almost lost him several times and added, “With all our family’s been through, we have to be tough.” Tim then comes on and tackles her and she scolds him. “Timmy, I’m trying to tell our story here.” A message comes on the screen telling people to go to the Focus on the Family website for more about the Tim Tebow story, and  Tim asks, “You still worry about me, Mom?” She replies, “Well yeah. You’re not nearly as tough as I am.” The interplay between Tim and his mother is rather sweet. My guess is that the dreaded, so-called anti-abortion message skipped over the heads of most people watching unless they already knew about it.

By protesting so heavily against the ad, the women’s groups only came across as shrill and as seeming to be against the very things they claim to support: freedom of speech and freedom of choice. The posts on Now’s Blog for Equality in which they screeched against the ad pretty much bear this out. One comment said:

“This woman chose life. Why would you be against that? She had the right to make her own personal choice, a choice which opposed the advice of doctors. Isn’t that a success story, that a woman had the right to choose? By your outcry, you send the message that abortion is the only choice you support. Please, don’t do this, it hurts the cause.”

A big problem with the pro-choice movement is that abortion is a hard sell. The anti-abortion groups can show inspirational messages such as the Tim Tebow spot; they can show cute babies and children frolicking, they can plaster billboards with a chubby cheeked toddler saying, “My mother chose life,” and there’s not a real good way to argue against that. The pro-choice people can’t exactly show a picture of a child in a wheelchair with the counter message of, “my mother didn’t have the choice to abort me,” now can they?

Let’s face it folks. Abortion is NOT a good thing. We want less of them. Not more. However the message that came through was that these groups only support abortion and that they are against choice. What the pro-choice groups really need to get across is that NOBODY likes abortion. Presumably NOW doesn’t like it. Ditto the Feminist Majority.  They could have used this ad as a stepping point to show what they do support. They could have said something like,

“Pam Tebow had a choice. We support that. We also support universal access to quality medical care such as what Pam Tebow evidently had. We support easy access to birth control and comprehensive sex education. We support programs that give girls and young women the skills they need not to be victims, not to give in to pressure from their boyfriends to have sex and how to protect themselves against rape and incest. We support programs that give all women access to prenatal care and programs that fight against alcohol abuse and drug addiction in women of child-bearing age as these are things that can affect the health of unborn children. We support programs that teach boys about responsibility so they can learn how to be fathers and not just sperm donors, and we support programs that ensure that no child has to go to bed with an empty stomach.

“We support programs that will move us forward to a day when no woman needs to choose abortion. But we are not there yet and until that day comes, we support safe and legal abortion. We support women. We support families. We support choice.”

The women’s groups had a great opportunity with the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad, and they blew it. Rather than attracting anyone to their cause, they alienated a whole bunch of people and ensured that others who probably wouldn’t have even noticed the ad amidst all the other ads on Super Bowl Sunday paid a great deal of attention to it. They enabled Focus on the Family to take the high road, and that is the last place that this  group deserves to be.

Is Letterman a Hypocrite? November 22, 2009

Posted by Bill in Family Values, Television.
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The radio DJ on my morning drive to work was railing long and loud about David Letterman’s recent revelations about his affairs with staffers. According to the DJ, Letterman is a hypocrite for making fun of people like Clinton and Sanford when he was guilty of the same type of behavior. The DJ was so het up about this that I turned him off and went to my audio book, but it did make me think a bit about the question of whether or not Letterman was actually guilty of hypocrisy on the same level as those politicians and religious leaders who proclaim support for family values out of one side of their mouths while carrying on affairs with various other parts of their bodies.

Letterman is a comedian. He’s paid to make people laugh, and he frequently does so at the expense of people who are in the news. However, he is not an elected official. He does not attempt to gain constituents on the basis of his support for family values, nor is he responsible for passing legislation on the basis of what are perceived to be family values. It is highly unlikely that anybody is going to look to Letterman for advice on family values– seeing that he only recently married his girlfriend of more than twenty years. Has he ever preached fidelity? To my knowledge, he has not.

Granted, we can consider Letterman to be a sleazebag on the basis of his revelations. But a hypocrite? No. I still think that label is reserved for those who don’t practice what they preach.

At the End of the [Reading] Rainbow August 31, 2009

Posted by Bill in Television.
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After 26 years The Reading Rainbow is coming to an end because of lack of funding. I always loved Reading Rainbow, not the least of which because of the presence of Levar Burton, who my kids and I knew from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It makes me think of other shows I used to watch with the girls– Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, The Electric Company, Zoobilee Zoo. Some of these were easier to watch than others– Sesame Street was always fun but Mr. Rogers was boring and I thought the puppets were stupid. Zoobilee Zoo was okay but Electric Company was a little over the top.

What were your favorites of the PBS kids’ shows?