Patsy Porco

Archive for May, 2018|Monthly archive page

Wash Away Your Fat and Freckles

In advertising, Humor on May 29, 2018 at 1:28 pm

I was going to blog about my recent uncovering of a universal truth that could change the lives of everyone forever. I also planned to request credit for my discovery, along with the requisite fame and riches that would be expected to accompany a revelation that will add my name to the list of the other “great thinkers of all time.”

However, as I wrote, it became apparent that I couldn’t say for certain that somebody else hadn’t divined my secret first. I haven’t read the writings of all (or actually, any) of my fellow great thinkers, so I can’t say with certainty that my brainchild hadn’t been discussed before today, and, most importantly, I have no clinical-trial evidence to prove that my discovery works, which is mandatory for being taken seriously in 2018.

So, I scrapped my original post about my secret, and read up on the history of baseless advertising.

Beginning around the 1920s, many advertisers began placing print and radio ads that claimed that their products had amazing powers, and no proof of their assertions was required by law. All an advertiser needed was money. For decades, advertisers made all kinds of unfounded claims and consumers bought them, literally.

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“One to three cakes usually accomplish the purpose.”

Cigarette ads were everywhere. Babies and doctors recommended them. And if a movie actor recommended a certain brand, they had to be good, right?

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Unlike today, advertisers didn’t have to be politically correct. They could insult your body and your skin with impunity. Nowadays, advertisers have to be more circumspect about how they make you feel less than perfect.

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In the 1970s or 1980s, freckles were identified as skin damage, but back in the day, they were just called ugly. Ads for getting rid of them were ubiquitous.

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No claim by an advertiser was too outrageous. Lysol, which is used to clean toilets, was advertised to women for feminine hygiene use. And the ads implied that if women didn’t start using it, their husbands would be put off by their smell and leave them.

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Pitney-Bowes even suggested that murdering a woman might be defensible, under the right circumstances … such as her refusing to use a postage meter.

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I’m not sure what they’re selling here.

Judging these advertisements with a 2018 perspective, we wonder how consumers could take them seriously. But the beginning of the 20th century was the Wild West of advertising and no claim was too wild. And no laws protected consumers. And consumers believed what they read. Or maybe it was just hope that the products did what they were purported to do. Advertisers have always exploited human insecurities to sell products.

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It’s really too bad that inventions and discoveries are now regulated by intrusive government agencies. We would all be better off today if I could disclose my secret. But if I did, I’d probably be prosecuted for false advertising, because you just know that some crank would say that my “thing” didn’t work for him or her. And then I’d get arrested.

I’d rather take my life-changing revelation to my grave rather than to a jail cell.



Photo credits were impossible to trace. I obtained most of the pictures from this Google page of old ads.

Royal (Wedding) Ruminations

In Humor, r, Royal Wedding on May 20, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Princess Diana had to have a virginity test before she could marry Prince Charles in 1981. All the while, Charles was carrying on an affair with the married Camilla Parker-Bowles.

Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle lived with their fiancés before marriage. How things have changed in a not-very-long time. But that’s how progress works. One day you’re riding in a horse and carriage and a few years later you’re in a horseless carriage, and then an airplane … and then a horse and carriage again, but only if you’re the bride and groom leaving the church after your royal wedding in 2018.

The largest stride in progress has to do with Meghan’s being biracial. Now, every young girl, no matter what her racial composition is, can dream of becoming a princess, or whatever she wants to be. It was a long time coming. Even longer than it took Mattel to recognize that girls come in colors other than white. And for Crayola to acknowledge that “flesh tone” isn’t peach for half the world. And for cosmetic companies to make foundation that was darker than beige.

I am glad that Queen Elizabeth relaxed her standards. It couldn’t have been easy. She was raised in a much different time, when royal rules were strict … and when you broke them, you were discreet. Rumors abound about royal bed hopping and wedding vows that were ignored once the wedding dust settled. But misbehaving was done on the down low. Your friends and family knew, but they weren’t talking.

So, it’s probably better that everything is out in the open. Allowing Kate and William and Meghan and Harry to live together prior to marriage protected them all from learning later that their spouse had someone on the side. I don’t know how Diana didn’t know about Camilla. She probably did, but expected Charles to give Camilla up once they were married. She didn’t fully comprehend how the palace operated. But she was young.

Kate and Meghan were much older than Diana when they married (Kate was 29 and Meghan was 36, while Diana was 20). They knew more about the world than she did; plus, the world had changed enormously since 1981 when Diana and Charles tied the knot.

What intrigued me the most about the wedding of Meghan and Harry was Meghan’s wedding dress. It was beautiful, of course, albeit excessively plain and severely tailored. But that wasn’t what shocked me. What made me look twice was that it was pure white.

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 8.18.21 PMWhen I got married in 1991, the old notion that white dresses were for virgins had been discarded. But white dresses were still for first marriages. Not anymore. Meghan is in her second marriage, which is another giant leap for progress in the royal-thinking department. But, really, how could Queen Elizabeth say that Harry couldn’t marry a divorced woman when her own son, the next in line to the throne, is married to a divorced woman? She couldn’t.

The irony here is that Queen Elizabeth became queen much earlier than she should have, if at all, because her uncle, King Edward VIII, wasn’t allowed to be king and be married to a divorced woman who had a living ex-husband. Since King Edward was determined to marry twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, who had two living ex-husbands, he abdicated the throne to Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI.

Now, Queen Elizabeth’s son, Prince Charles, who is married to a divorced woman with a living ex-husband, will presumably be king. Prince Charles is really lucky that the rules changed since 1936.

Prince Charles is in a tight spot, though. He probably loves his mother and doesn’t want her to die, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he wished she would step aside and let him become king before he gets much older. He’s going to be 70 on November 14, 2018.

Queen Elizabeth is probably going to live forever and never step aside, though, in order to thwart Camilla. I wouldn’t blame her.

Camilla looks like a royal pain.

buckingham palace

Buckingham Palace

The Dress 2.0

In Humor, Yanny/Laurel on May 17, 2018 at 11:18 am

Most people remember “the dress.” In 2015, it was an Internet sensation because

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Picture from Wikipedia

some people, when they looked at a photo of the striped dress, saw the colors as gold and white, while others saw them as blue and black. No matter which side you were on, you couldn’t imagine how anyone could see the colors differently from you. In fact, the dress and how people saw it are still being discussed in scientific circles.

Now, in 2018, everyone is discussing the “Yanny/Laurel” recording. A computerized voice says a word and people hear either Yanny or Laurel. Again, it’s inconceivable to listeners that others could hear an entirely different word than they do.

These phenomena got me wondering. Is half the world seeing and hearing different things than the other half?

What about taste? Do some people dislike a food and others like it because they’re experiencing different tastes when eating the same food? Could kale taste delicious to some people because it tastes like chocolate ice cream to them?

How about smell and touch? Does tomato sauce simmering on a stovetop smell like gasoline to some people? Does velvet feel soft to some people and like gravel to others?

I suspect that the dress and Yanny/Laurel are just the tip of the iceberg, which, by the way, is probably so cold that it could be experienced as being hot.

What intrigues me is that many people got annoyed at the dress controversy and insisted that everyone stop talking about it. The same will occur with the Yanny/Laurel discussion.

Why do people want to ignore puzzling discoveries? I understand that hearing the same debate over and over can get tiresome, but the dress and Yanny/Laurel raise some questions about perception and how it differs between people, and don’t those questions deserve some consideration?

For instance, color-blind people are a known entity. We all know that they see some colors differently than most of the world sees them. But there could be other aberrant entities that we’re unaware of … because we’re part of them and we accept what we sense as being the truth. Suppose we’re all seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and hearing different things when we use our senses?

This raises so many questions and, yet, it also clears some things up for me. For example, when I ask my family to do something, it’s not uncommon for them to not do it, and then act confused when I complain. Maybe, when I say, “Please empty the dishwasher,” they hear “Enjoy the baseball game.”

I could have been misheard all along. Now, I’ll have to investigate before I nag my family. I’ll need to ask them what they heard me say before I criticize them. And even then, when they tell me what they heard, I might hear them say something different entirely.

This is probably why people got fed up with the dress conversation and will soon get equally tired of the Yanny/Laurel discussion. It’s not that they don’t want to contemplate the possibility of an alternate reality. They just don’t see the point because there’s no absolute answer.

For the record, I saw a black/blue dress and heard “Yanny.” Social commentators have said that younger people hear “Laurel,” but maybe they really said that younger people hear “Yanny.” I guess we’ll never know.


A Slow Workday

In dogs, Humor on May 2, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Yesterday, I wrote about a horrible stench outside my family’s house, which was especially noticeable in our yard. I had a few theories about the smell: maybe a neighbor had used pungent fertilizer in her garden; or perhaps the dog we buried in our yard last summer was decomposing. It turns out that neither scenario was correct. The truth was far worse.

Today was a light workday for me. I ran out of things to do mid-afternoon. Since I was working from home, I didn’t have to pretend to be working, so I went outside. It was a beautiful day today: the sun was shining, the temperature was in the 80s, and there was a cool breeze. Except for today and one day last week, the weather has been miserable, so today was a perfect day to be outdoors.

I decided to start the spring clean-up in my yard. Last fall, we raked up all of the leaves in the front of our house and moved them into our fenced backyard. Where they stayed. I rationalized my laziness by saying that they would decompose and add much-needed nutrients to the soil. I have no idea if that’s true. But fast-forwarding to today, I was faced with a backyard and side yards filled with leaves.

I chose to de-leaf our deck first. As I swept, I noticed that the horrible odor was especially bad over on one side of our house. I left the deck and went over to the side yard to see if I could get to the root of the problem. I looked around and saw nothing … except for the neglected side yard, filled with leaves and three lid-less trash cans. We use those trash cans for the sticks and branches that we pick up in our yard. I noticed that the cans smelled funny. I looked a little closer and saw that they were filled with branches and rainwater. Lots of rainwater.

I turned the trash cans onto their sides to drain them. The bad smell increased as the water poured out onto the ground. I suspected that the water had become putrid, which would explain the awful aroma. That is, until I saw a lump of gray fur tumble out of one of the cans onto a pile of dead leaves. It was followed by another gray lump, and another, and another, and another.

I looked closer and saw five long, bloated, pink-bellied squirrel corpses lying on the ground. Oh my God. Not only were they horrible to look at, they stunk like a sewer.

I should have dug five little graves, but instead, I shoveled them up, one by one, and bagged them. Then I bagged the bag. And put them into the trash. Thank God that tomorrow is trash day. I should probably give the sanitation workers masks to wear. And a large tip.

I’m still curious as to how five squirrels drowned in our trash can. All I can figure is that the squirrels, who sit on the top of the lattice surrounding our deck, fell into the trash can that was filled with water and drowned. I don’t know how this happened five times. Maybe they all jumped in to rescue each other.

While I was bagging the squirrels, our dog, Duke, decided to roll around in the mud where the squirrels had lain, and where the carrion flies were still buzzing around. I shooed him off and continued working. After taking out the trash, I poured a gallon of bleach onto the ground and into the trash can where the squirrels had decomposed, and then hosed everything down.

During the decontamination process, Duke noticed that I hadn’t shut the fence’s gate all the way, so he nudged it open and took off. For the next hour, I walked up and down side streets and main streets, covered in mud, leaves, sweat, and squirrel dander, calling, “Duke! Duke!”

Eventually he turned up. A neighbor had found him and followed the sound of my voice until she reunited us. After I thanked her and she left, I told Duke that he was in big trouble. He grinned and wagged his tail. I suspect that English isn’t his first language.

I took Duke home and put him in his crate for the rest of his life. Then I started worrying that he was getting squirrel cooties all over everything, so I sent him to the dog-washing place with my son, who had just gotten home and probably wished he had stayed away longer.

Once they had left, I knew I had to disinfect his crate, so on my way to get cleaning agents, I went out back to grab a Coke from a 12-pack carton that had spent the winter on the deck. I opened a can and it exploded in my face.

What a day. After I cleaned Duke’s crate, bathed, and burned my clothes, I realized that I should have pretended to work after all.

trash can


The Tell-Tale Smell

In Humor on May 2, 2018 at 2:36 am

Oo-oo that smell
Can’t you smell that smell?
Oo-oo that smell
The smell of death surrounds you.
Lynyrd Skynyrd

There’s a deathly smell in our backyard. It fills my nostrils with its stench and my heart with dread.

Our neighbors on both sides have recently begun landscaping their yards. I’m hoping that the foul odor is emanating from the fertilizer that one of them used. I know better, of course. And the truth is making my heart race and my stomach twist with anxiety.

The fear I’m experiencing is akin to the terror felt by the protagonist in Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Tell-Tale Heart. He killed an old man, dismembered him, and buried him under the floorboards. Even though he knew the old man was dead, he was driven mad by the sound of thumping, which he believed was the beating of the dead man’s heart.

My heart thumps wildly every time I step outside and am assaulted by the pungent aroma of decay, which sends me running back inside.

I know that smell. I’ve smelled that smell. A once-living being is rotting in my family’s yard. It’s only a matter of time until the jig is up.

Many years ago, my husband and I took the subway from Manhattan up to the Bronx to visit his mother. We had to walk several blocks from the subway to her house. As we walked down a short block, we were overcome by a vile aroma. We hurried down the block and soon forgot all about it. Then, the next day, we saw on the news that we had walked past a car that had a dead body in its trunk. The body had been in there for weeks.

Decades later, I still recall the foul air surrounding that car. And now it’s back. In our yard.

My fear is that it’s coming from the grave we dug for our dog, Rudy, last August. He died rapidly and unexpectedly on a Sunday evening as the sun was setting. The grave we dug was about three feet deep. We didn’t have time to dig any deeper. It was getting dark and flies were landing on him. We wrapped him in his vinyl wading pool and buried him before any nocturnal animals or vultures could become curious and pay us a visit.

The next day, the top layer of soil had sunk a bit, so we spent the next few days adding dirt to the top of the grave. No animals disturbed it. No rank aroma arose from the grave for the rest of the summer and fall. Then winter froze the ground and we felt confident that we were out of the woods, and Rudy was part of the earth.

But now, I wonder. Maybe the pool delayed his decomposition. Maybe he thawed out this spring and is just starting to decay. Maybe the vultures are on their way. Maybe the police are on the vultures’ heels.

There’s only one thing to do: buy especially offensive fertilizer and spread it all over the yard. We’ll have to do it every week, until the original stench dissipates. It’s going to be hard to differentiate between the two stinks. I guess we’ll have to fertilize forever.

At least we’ll have a legitimate explanation for the rancid cloud enveloping our home.





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