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Adding Insult
(2017-2018 Archives)
Lucki Melander Wilder

Lucki, I think we're kindred spirits on the advertising thing.  I notice many of the same little nuances,
and have often thought I should keep a notebook handy to write them down.  -- Tom Ligon, SF author

It's surprising (or perhaps not) how many times I "Say what?!" to TV advertising, and want to share the fun with someone (everyone?) else.

Email me to subscribe and receive notice of new entries, with feedback, or to call attention to your own (un)favorites. Not all feedback necessarily appears in this page, and may be edited for links, typos, multi-source redundancy, and relevancy. That doesn't mean we consider negative feedback irrelevant or refuse to post it, as negative feedback can often help us learn to do more and better.

Dishing Dirt

OK, so he's making her an anniversary dinner. By hand. From scratch. I can buy that that's special. Especially if it's not his usual wont. Which the mess in the kitchen would indicate it's not. No wonder her eyes go critical at the sight.

OTOH, if he makes - or is - that big a mess in the kitchen, does it make you wonder how good his one dish of "ta-DA" food could possibly taste?

But never mind that. Let's move on. 'Cuz she apparently appreciates the effort. Possibly also the taste. But what's really gotta stoke her steamboat is that he goes back into the kitchen after dinner and cleans up after himself. None of this "I cooked, so you clean" bushwah.

So far, so good. In the midst of all this warm and fuzzy, though, the narrator informs you that one bottle of what hubby-dear is using, well, you see, it has the grease-cutting power of, and I quote, "two bottles of this other liquid." (Or "three". It depends on which version of the commercial you see.) You are even shown one bottle of the touted blue liquid with its brand-name label next to two (or three) bottles of the green liquid labeled "Dish liquid".

And my suspicious head goes, "Dish liquid, huh? Not soap. Or detergent. Or even cleaner. Just liquid."

A stack of dirty dishes and 2 "dish liquids"See, I can take something like a bouillon cup or a ramekin. A casserole dish or a serving tureen. A gravy boat or a punch bowl. And I can pour plain old tap water into it. And I can add a few drops of food coloring. And I can decant it into a bottle. And because I made that colored liquid in some kind of dish - as opposed, say, to a bucket or a bathtub - I can call it "dish liquid" if I want to. But that doesn't mean it has very much in the way of cleaning power. Especially on grease. Not compared to actual soap. So the fact that the blue brand-name bubbles do a better job by twice (or thrice) than what may just be water(ish) simply isn't all that impressive.

But they want me to think it is.

Understand, I'm not saying that's exactly what they did for the commercial. (After all, for all I know, maybe each green bottle does have actual dish detergent in it. Like, ya know, at least one eyedropper full. For authenticity.)

But they could've.

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Entries During

2018-12-03 Dishing Dirt

2018-11-19 If the Suit Fits

2018-10-22 It's Only Physicsal

2018-09-03 Soupçon o' Soup

2018-08-25 Battle Plans
2018-08-05 The UnWhisperer
guest blogger: Tom Ligon

2018-07-15 Tomb with a View?
2018-07-05 Ah, Sugar Sugar

2018-06-24 Pod People

2018-05-09 That's Cheesy

2018-04-19 It Does What, Now?

2018-03-01 Berry Deceptive

2018-02-21 Borrower Beware

2018-01-01 Wan Cave

2017-12-04 Pizza Crumbs

2017-09-30 As Opposed To?

2017-08-08 Balto & Company

2017-07-25 Autos on Parade

2017-06-05 Let There Be Lights

2017-05-14 Forgive Me Not

2017-04-14 Cold Cuts

2017-03-15 Amok Time

2017-02-14 The Bird's Afoot


Go to Older Entries

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Switch to Aphor/Memes

If the Suit Fits

Suit worn by gentryNever mind whether it's bespoke or just off the rack. Tailor- or customer-designed. Expensive or in-. It's gonna be a beautiful suit, guys. They really craft it with care. The best fabrics. The carefulest cut. Stitching so good you can almost infer even the machine stitching is hand-done. And don't forget the four - count them, FOUR - buttons on the jacket sleeves.

(Lemme see, now. The original purpose of those buttons on the sleeves was to keep the gentry - who were the only people that could afford such finery - from wiping their mouth or nose on the sleeve while eating or fighting a cold. I wonder if they still have to serve that purpose. Yugh.)

Anyway, the guy buying the suit is so pleased to get it. Spinning away from the mirror, he buttons the jacket and strides towards the camera. Looking proud as a peacock. Happy as a high-tide clam. Totally ready for prime time. Insert the cliche of your choice.

Just one problem. It doesn't fit. Maybe it's the wrong size. Maybe it's the wrong cut. I dunno. I just know it looks off somehow. Then again, maybe it's just me. Or have you noticed, too?

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It's Only Physicsal

I enjoy Dennis Haysbert. A lot. His body of work is impressive, spanning as it does films, TV shows, commercials, and even Broadway theater and video games. His straightforward, confident, and confidence-inspiring style was, for example, absolutely perfect for his 5-year portrayal of President David Palmer in 24 ... which arguably, given that show's main target audience, contributed in some measure to the election of Barack Obama as our first African American POTUS.

So it doesn't surprise me that he's once again being tapped as spokesperson for that handy insurance company HQ'd in Chicagoland. What does surprise me is how poorly the FX people seem to be at properly matching his environments to him.

Neon sign in insurance office windowCase in point - Park Road America: He's walking down a series of American roads named "Park". But the towns named aren't the towns - or sometimes even the country - filmed in. The runners don't adequately cover one of the "snazzy" transitions, making it jarring instead. And on the final road, we see people in winter coats, slush and snow all over the sidewalks, and dripless icicles on the overhangs. Never mind that Haysbert is apparently comfortable in T-shirt and light jacket ... hey, that's why it's called "acting". But in all that supposed cold, we don't even see the vapor that marks one's breath in freezing and near-freezing temps.

Case in point - 4-Way Observation: He's sitting in the middle of an urban intersection, cars roaring around him. The speeding car leaves big, dark treadmarks. But the car that slams on its brakes doesn't leave much at all? Some undercranking goin' on there to make it safer than it looks? And I totally agree that his (or anyone's) life is too imporant to let that final car in ski mode get as close to him as it appears in the eye-level long shot. But adding the overhead shot that allows the viewer to see the actual distance between them just plain aborts the "takes your breath away" quality of that finale.

Case in point - 500 Year Storm: He's sitting at the edge of a rural field. Okay, they did a halfway decent job of matching background and foreground for the storm. Though it is obvious that the wind machine isn't affecting him the way that storm would. But afterwards, when the rainbow comes out, it's in roughly the same part of the sky as the sun. We know this because, one, the shadows (which don't all quite match each other) indicate the sun is behind his left and, two, he looks past his left shoulder at the rainbow. But any kid knows that from wherever you're standing, the sun and the rainbow are on opposite sides of the sky. AND that it has to still be raining for the sun's beams to be bouncing off the falling raindrops.

I don't care how good an insurance company or spokesperson you are, you can't really defy physics.

P.S. - Delayed double take at that middle case: Wait a  minute. The company's gonna send you real-time analyses? And driving tips? On your phone? While you're DRIVING?!

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Soupçon o' Soup

Recently saw a commercial for a canned soup that claims to be too good for a fancy restaurant. Well, I enjoy John Lithgow's delivery even reading soup can labels. But what captured my attention most was the reminder that the company changed its labels about two years ago.

I can see some of what the company (and designer Hornall Anderson) were trying to get at with the new labels. They make some important distinctions between hearty, regular, and light soups, for instance. And the picturing of different bowls, cups, and spoons is interesting. Never mind that to my mind, the new labels are a little flatter and duller, therefore less "tasty", and they make the distinctions between some flavors harder to see. What soon barged its way into my mind, above all else, was suspicion.

Tube of generic ointmentI've been burned before. I once noticed a packaging change in a chain pharmacy's house-brand of an ointment. "NEW!" it screamed. I compared the labels on a new purchase with the old label on a previous purchase. Exactly the same ingredients. In exactly the same hierarchical order. I checked the active ingredient and dosage versus other ingredients. I checked all the other descriptive material. I checked the directions for use. Etc. Nothing on the label had changed. Nothing. Except….

The main background and main print color had changed, to make it look more like its brand-name competitor. OK. That figures.

And one other thing. There, right below the huge, blaring "NEW!" What was actually NEW was the price. The product had gone from $4.49 to $5.99. 33% price increase. For nothing.

I'm sure they made some kind of change to the product, so that they wouldn't fall afoul of regulations. But the only thing I could figure once I started using the new-and-improved version was that it was a little more watery than the old (although "water" still fell in the same hierarchical position in the list of ingredients). Making it a little less useful to me and, I'm sure, a little less costly to produce for them.

So, being the obsessive that I sometimes am, I went and compared some of the old and new soups can labels in my pantry. And yes, the company has changed the product, too. (And before you get on my case, I use canned soup when I don't have access to fresh ingredients. Like in the dead of winter, when I can't get to the local fruit market.)

Bowl of questionable soupTake their light chicken enchilada soup. The protein amount is the same. However, it has a little less fat now, about half a gram. It also has a smidgen less salt, though not enough to change the percent of daily value. More to the point, it's reduced the dietary fiber by 25%. So it's not only less tasty, it's less filling, too. And not as health-promoting. The bulk weight, however, is unchanged. Well, you know, if you have the same amount of protein, less fat, and less carbs, that means the weight is being made up in additional plain old water. For which I'm expected to pay the same. If not more. Thanx a lot.

It's not a fluke, either. I also checked out the chicken and dumplings. And are you ready for this? In the broth style, the new regular soup has less fat, less dietary fiber, and 20% less protein than the old light soup.

(Credit where credit is due, though. The new creamy style of light chicken and dumplings has less fat - though not less of the unhealthy saturated kind - a tad more salt, less carbs, but a gram more protein than the old light one.)

Not gonna bore you with more stats. Suffice it to ask that if some such pervasive reduction in quality happened at a fancy restaurant, would you still keep going there?

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Battle Plans

Do you remember the reptilian critter from my first ever Adding Insult? (Also briefly mentioned in a P.S. later that year.) Well, I've got questions about a couple of its more recent adverts.

BattleshipOne has the little lizard being flown in a helicopter. To proudly land - after an airborne tour around Norfolk, VA - on the forward deck of the docked U.S. battleship named after the state just north of mine. The last battleship on a navy list in the world. Where said reptile is to meet the captain for a tour of the museum ship. And sure enough, there's the captain standing and waving at it. From beyond the giant forward artillery turrets. A good third of the way back from the prow. (Those cannons on that ship were the last ever fired from a battleship in combat ... in support of U.S. troops ashore during a war.)

And the ingrate greenie complains. That it's going to take it all day to get back to where the captain is standing. And that the helo could've landed closer to him. (Even though the pilot landed exactly on the marked landing pad.)

Hey, if it's such a VIP, why doesn't the captain come forward to meet it? At least once the copter has lifted away and the critter-choking dust has settled? More to the point, if it has to move so slowly on its hind legs, why doesn't it just drop down and run on all fours? Which'd probably get it across the deck quicker than any of the human crew could move anyway. 'Cuz small lizards are fa-a-ast. And can turn on a dime ... or rivet. But no, it's too pretentious to ever be its gekko-y self, huh?

HarmonicaThe other one I question has the upright/uptight lizard becoming irritated and stymied by an harmonica player's interruptions. If the critter is that thin-skinned, what's it doing trying to be a spokesreptile? Who even hired it if it's that easily distracted from its job?

Hey, if that were me, I wouldn't stop promoting my product. I'd get into the rhythm and start using the harmonica/voice "battle" to highlight and add interest to what I'm saying ... and selling.

But that's me, I guess. Just sayin'.

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The UnWhisperer

Been way too long since we posted an entry by renowned author, long-time follower, and guest blogger Tom Ligon in either Abiding Blog (not since April 2015) or Adding Insult (not since December 2014). Time to remedy that. Past time. Especially as Tom was so quick on the draw, he beat me out on an advert I was intending to write about this month anyway. But I'll let him tell you. Take it away, Tom.

There's a dumb TV commercial on recently that has just been begging me to suggest it for your blog.

Cowboy on bucking broncoA cowboy needs to break a new pickup: A lunging monster. Jittering its steering wheel. Snorkel-equipped...I guess because the payments will soon have the new owner underwater.

In the confines of the corral, encouraged by his friends on the sidelines, he cautiously approaches, calms it, gets in, and settles down. Suddenly, the truck takes off for several hard circuits of the enclosure, before its door opens and he is thrown on the ground.

The reason the seatbelt he was wearing failed to hold him is unclear.

The truck guns its engine a few times, charges the fence - scattering the observers as it bashes through - and breaks loose in the company of several other off-road models. The cowboys and -girl "mount up" in their various vehicles and take off in pursuit.

This leaves me wondering about the intent of this ad.  Are the manufacturers trying to sell me a new truck, or are they trying to convince me to keep my old 1993 Dodge Dakota truck? (We also have last year's model of a small hybrid SUV from this pick-up's not-Dodge maker, and it already brakes for obstacles on its own, plus it monitors lane departures like a nervous aunt.  It's available with three radar systems.)

No, there is nothing in this commercial that makes me want to buy this product.  Not even an itsy little bit.


I hear ya, Tom. And why did the cowboy want to "break" his new motorized steed in the first place? Ain't he never heard of truck whispering? (Pioneered by the same author as "Xenophon and the Art of of Motorcycle Maintenance", wasn't it?)

Of course, I wouldn't buy it anyway, as I don't drive. But yeah, I definitely don't want a vehicle that would spin its wheels at me as I stand in front of it, smash out of its garage, and take off for parts unknown without me. That's taking autonomous autos a bit too far.

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Tomb with a View?

I usually snipe at corporate ads, but occasionally a house ad gets my goat, too. And this one was so egregious that I just had to comment on it.

I won't ID the local nightly news broadcast this house ad ran on. Not even the network it ran on. But I will tell you what it said.

It said that there is something new I need to know/do because it could save my life.

OK, I'm willing to be interested. What is it?

Then it said I have to tune in tomorrow to find out.

Say what?

And not tomorrow at the same time, when I might (then again, might not) be watching the local news anyway. No, tomorrow at some gawdawful hour of the morning when I'm normally not even up.

Say WTF?

Unhappy ghost watching televisionI know that "if it bleeds, it leads". And it certainly leads for me if I'm the one that might be bleeding. I know they're no longer in the business of giving me the news as a public service. Somewhere along the way, news operations were forced to turn into profit centers. Which means they don't care a fig what news is important, vital, crucial. They only care what "news" will suck in viewers. So that they can sell us viewers by the boatload as a product to their advertisers.

But tune in tomorrow about something that could save my life today? Hey, what if the whatever-it-is kills me tonight? Whom are you going to sell to your advertisers if your viewers start kicking the bucket over things you could've warned them about but you waited?

After my initial ire, I decided the last thing I was gonna do was tune in tomorrow at some gawdawful hour of the morning when I'm normally not even up. 'Cuz if they were willing to put it off like that, then I assumed it just wasn't that important. So their ad both ticked me off AND did the opposite of what it was supposed to do. (In fact, I didn't even watch them the next night, either!)

Hey, news org, there is something new you need to know/do because it could save your profitability. Tune in next month and I'll tell you what. (Or maybe I won't.)

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Ah, Sugar Sugar

Among the primary reasons why the Internet was invented was so that people can post cat pix. Hilarious videos. Cutesy stills. Colorful paintings. Silly cartoons. Sweet little kittens. Cats wearing costumes ... and, understandably, expressions of annoyed disgust. Endless variety. CAT is a meme all by itself.

So it's no wonder that advertisers want to jump on the bandwagon. But it doesn't play well with me when they pick up on some of the worst possible stupidities re cats. I mean, if I posted a protest over every dangerous myth and method of cat "ownership" that individuals post, I'd have to be at it 24/7 and still barely scratch the surface. But at least I have time to express my own disgust with certain commercial cat-astrophes.

Cartoon kitty eating an ice cream coneThe latest one I saw was a doozy. It featured a little kitten licking an ice cream cone. I NO'd so loudly that I scared Angel right off of the cat condo's penthouse and into its panic room.

I used to spend time on my uncle's truck farm. He had milch cows. Which I learned to milk by hand. And he had cats. Working cats, keeping rodents out of the fields and grain bins and mangers. And every once in a while, he'd skim a spoonful of cream, after it rose to the top of the milk, and give it to a cat as a treat.

Every once in a great while. Not 'cuz he was miserly about it. 'Cuz it wasn't good for the cats. More so now. Even heavy cream - with it's rich concentration of tasty fat that can so easily lead to obesity in relatively inactive pet cats - really isn't. Milk - which has a lot less fat per volume and therefore a higher concentration of lactose (milk sugar) - most definitely isn't. The more "skimmed" the milk, the unhealthier.

Cats lose their lactose tolerance as they become adults. Milk starts to cause upset stomach and diarrhea. Even cream can have that effect. No fun for the cat. No fun for their person.

Furthermore, cats can't taste sweetness. They don't have the chemical receptors for it. They're missing 247 letters on the TAS1r2 gene (one of the two genes that allow sweet-detection in most mammals, including us). This deficiency means (a) they aren't interested in sweet but (b) they can't tell how much sweet they might be eating. Which is a real problem (as I once personally found out) 'cuz cats can so easily be thrown into a diabetic condition.

This is exacerbated by the fact that while a wild cat pretty much sticks to meat (if - except for catnip - they eat grass or leaves, as some cats do, it's not for nutrition; it's to force themselves to barf), most cat food is made with corn or other grains that add natural sugar to the cat's diet.

So just giving that poor advertising kitten milk or cream bothered me. But ICE CREAM?! With all that added fat and sugar? Not cool.

Cat with a ball of yarnAnd while I have cats on the brain, there's another kittenish thing I've seen in commercials that really bothers me: Letting them play with a ball of yarn. That's equally dangerous. And can kill them. Painfully.

As highly dedicated carnivores, cats have short intestines. But there are still plenty of curves and crooks and hooks and nooks. Remember: a cat's intestines aren't equipped to digest plant matter (to say nothing of synthetics). That's why wild feline hunters of all ilks must get their vegetative fiber and vitamins from the partially digested vegetation in their prey's stomach.

Cats who play with yarn balls often swallow a length of yarn. And don't even always bite it off. So as the length of yarn progresses undigested through the intestines, the ends of the strand can be pulled away from each other. And the stretched strand can actually cut through the intestinal walls. Creamed cat gut. Not pretty.

What happened to "No animals were harmed in the making of this film"? (Not that you can always trust that, either.)

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Pod People

Their product is bright. And beautiful. Colorful. Easy to handle. Individually packaged. Ultra convenient. Very effective. And extremely poisonous. Especially to small children.

And they've finally gotten around to admitting that those colorful, convenient detergent pods for the washing machine or dishwasher are a danger to children. Small. Cheery-looking. Wrapped in plastic. (Quickly dissolving plastic, at that. In water. In saliva.) All of which screams "CANDY!!!" to a little kid.

So what are they doing about it? You know, 'cuz they care so much about your children?

They're telling you that you need to invest in their particular, very safe, childproof container. (Oh, goodie, more plastic.) And then remember to use it. Properly. Every time. (As if no little kid has ever, ever figured out or lucked across how to open that type of container. Assuming it's always properly closed in the first place.)

Well, if they care so much, maybe they could do something on their end? Instead of expecting you to do something on your end that's more costly to your pocketbook and the environment? (Please don't misunderstand. You should do everything you can on your end, too. But not everyone will. And sometimes stuff happens anyway.)

Maybe they could do something like, I dunno:

Colorful candy= Stop making the pods and let you go back to using the bottled stuff?
= Do the extra research and spend the extra penny per pod to make it smell (and taste, before it dissolves) terrible, so kids don't try to eat it?
= Do/spend the extra to make it dissolve in rapidly sloshing water but not in relatively motionless saliva?
= Make the pod material thicker so kids can't bite through, and longer lasting so it doesn't dissolve before someone has the chance to notice what the kid did and get it out of their mouth?
= Get rid of all the bright, cheery coloring, which has nothing to do with function and everything to do with visual impact on sales, so kids don't mistake it for candy in the first place?
= All of the above?

But they can't do that, right? 'Cuz it might reduce their profits. Or cost them sales. Who cares if it reduces the population? Costs kids their health/lives, right?

Well, I do. Bet you do, too. I don't even have any kids in the house, and I still refuse to buy the things and thereby support their production and sale. Just sayin'.

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That's Cheesy

I've written before about my disdain for pizza commercials made by, to quote myself, "insensitive boobs". But the latest entry I've seen catapult into that well-represented category really raises my ire. Of course, maybe I'm overreacting, but....

I'm talking about the advert where the guy is told that his desired pizza, which is already the cheesiest in existence, now has another several feet of cheese rolled into the edge of the crust. And as a result, he ends up in the doctor's office.

Mental Health Awareness ribbonNot, you understand, in a cardiologist's office. Not 'cuz of his even more rapidly clogged coronary arteries or obesity-related issues. No, in a psychiatrist's offce. 'Cuz he can't get his head around being given all that extra cheese. He's had a mental breakdown. He's sitting there frozen, mumbling in catatonic fixation.

This is supposed to be funny? We have a massive mental health problem in this country, and we're supposed to think mental illness is funny? Laugh at it? And consequently get motivated to buy somebody's pizza?

I've written about mental health before. At length. Over in Abiding Blog. Most notably, maybe, a six-day series for the Baha'i Blogging Challenge back last November. And yeah, maybe I'm super sensitive right now 'cuz of an even more recent encounter with the devastation of mental illness. Being on phone calls with a friend who kept talking about suicide. A friend I couldn't just go get and physically carry to a crisis facility.

Mental health - First aidBut I did what I could. I listened. Honestly told them that I didn't really know what to say. That I wasn't professionally qualified. So, asked them what they needed to hear from me. Repeatedly encouraged them to schedule AND ATTEND a session with the therapist they'd been sloughing off weekly appointments with. Urged them to be totally honest with her about what they were feeling. Reminded them about the Lifeline crisis hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255). Assured them there was always help to cry for. Added that I believed they had the courage it takes to cry for that help.

They used the phone. They made an appointment. They kept it. They were honest. The therapist recognized the intensity of the crisis and acted immediately and decisively. They received help. They survived.

Ridiculing paralyzing mental illness to sell pizza? Higher-calorie, higher-cholesterol, cardboardy chain pizza at that? That's just plain f~cking cheesy!

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It Does What, Now?

You know all those commercials lately for the latest, greatest, prescription wonder drugs. The ads whose sole purpose is to badger you into badgering your doctor into prescribing their latest, greatest, wonder drug (or device) for you.

Don't know about you, but they're having the opposite effect on me. Why? 'Cuz I noticed a trend. So I started paying attention. Even did some timing research. And the results are in.

Side effects may varyNo matter the product, seems like every single one of those adverts is forced to spend more time listing the warnings, countraindications, deleterious side effects, even fatal risks associated with the drug than they spend telling you what it's good for. Yeah, that's a real incentive.

And I mean "more time" literally. I stopwatched four such cases in one short evening of viewing, just to document if what I was perceiving was real.  It was.

And as if that weren't enough, there's also the waffling language they use to puff up what the drug does manage to accomplish.

I mean, that happens all the time with OTCs, too. Like, how often haven't you heard that some OTC pain reliever works for UP TO Xty-bump hours. Which, ya know, emphatically is not the same thing as working for a whole Xty-bump hours. "Twelve hours" is twelve hours. "UP TO twelve hours" might be twelve hours. But don't count on it. More likely it's, I dunno, ten and a half hours. Or nine hours. Or five. Come on, anything over twelve minutes would still be included in "up to" twelve hours, right?

Waffling. So I was especially suspicious of the language claiming that a particular birth-control method that's made to be used for as long as five years had a 95% success rate for each year of use. 95% ... that sounds pretty good. If I use it (not that I need to) for one year, I have only a 1 in 20 chance of getting pregnant. Not the greatest odds. But acceptable for some women ... I suppose.

Ask questions about drugs!But wait a minute. Lemme parse that out some more. A hundred women use this product. Five of them still get pregnant in the first year of use. Ninety-five left unpregnant. But then in the second year, another five get pregnant. Only ninety left unpregnant. Three more years. Five more women get pregnant each year. Over five years of use, that's a total of twenty-five moms with unexpected babies. Out of a hundred. 5% per year has turned into 25% over the whole five years. In other words, the annual odds of 1 in 20 have now become 1 in 4 over the life of the product. Shoot, the rhythm method scores better than that over a whole twenty-year period.

Back to the original subject. If the list of possible bad results outweighs the list of hoped-for good results by an order of magnitude, be suspicious. It hasn't been tested enough to be proven better, or even safe, over the long term. Don't ask your doctor to prescribe it. Better yet, if your doctor does prescribe some new wonder drug, it's best to wonder about that drug. Ask why s/he's going for that option instead of one more tried and true. Of course, if s/he is truly a skilled and caring physician and really does have a solidly sensible reason, go for it. But ask first. And think about the answer. An informed patient makes the best - and ultimately healthiest possible - patient.

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Berry Deceptive

I adore cranberry juice. I like its cheery color. Its sweet/tart taste. How wonderfully it mixes with seltzer, ginger ale, lemonade, grape and pomegranate and other juices (except raspberry ... waste of good cran). I appreciate its health benefits, too. Fiber. Vitamins. Antioxidants. And especially, since I don't live in an area where the water supply percolates through limestone, its preventative benefits on my personal water reclamation system.

Comparing cranberry juice colorSo adverts for cranberry juice usually catch my eye. And there's one company that prides itself on how rich its juice looks. Well, they all do, I suppose. But this one invites comparison. You see their bottle. You see their competitor's bottle. Yep, their juice looks a slightly deeper color. Richer. Jucier. Ultra-cranny.

Well, sure, I'm willing to check that out. Maybe they specialize in the darkest species. Which may or may not equate to better taste. Or maybe the deeper color indicates they use an optical sorting machine to select for ripeness. Which I expect would equate to better taste. Or maybe they actually use a little more juice concentrate and a little less water in bottling. Which would certainly equate to better taste. See? Lots of reasons why that juice might seem crannier.

Plus which, they give you the best bang for your buck in terms of filling the bottle up to the tippy top. You're paying for juice, not air. That's cool. Worth a try, anyway.

Cranberry juice bottle tinted I go the store and I check it out. And yep, their juice looks darker and richer in real life, too. So I buy me a bottle. I have a glass with supper. And it's good. What you'd expect from a brand name. But it's not head-and-shoulders above other brand names.

And I find out why they like filling the bottle to the tippy top.

It's so you won't notice, in the store, that the reason their juice looks darker and richer than the competitors' juices shelved next to them is 'cuz their bottle itself is slightly tinted. Their bottle is "better". The juice itself, not so much.

Ain't that a bite?

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Borrower Beware

Some "ad insults" make me want to laugh in disbelief. Some make me want to sigh in pity. Some make me want to spit in disgust. Some make me want to cringe in revulsion.

And then there's the ones that make me want to shake my fist and scream profanities at the screen. Or throw a brick through it. They're the ones that don't just sell you something you don't need or play silly games with the truth. They're the ones that actively target the vulnerable to push something, knowingly, that'll do their audience damage. Think, for example, cigarette print-ads. Aimed at kids.

They do it by making stuff up. Think "comfort proteins". Which a company claimed only their baby formula had. Yeah, 'cuz they made up the term.

They do it by pretending to care. By preying on fear. And by insisting that down is up, Left is right. Red (danger; stop) is green (safe; go). Tomorrow will never come. And that you're an idiot if you don't believe it.

Your House Is Not Your BankThey do it by telling you something is the opposite of what it really is. Think "life insurance". Which sellers figured who would buy it if they called it what it really is. Death insurance.

So, there's this reverse-mortgage commercial that says, and I quote, "Your house is your bank." No, it's not! Your bank is your bank. And they're out to make a profit. Not for you. For themselves. Your house, though, your house is your HOME. Don't do anything to jeopardize it. Like thinking you can take out a loan on it (that's what a "reverse mortgage" really is) without ever having to pay it back.

But of course, they don't tell you what you're jeopardizing. They don't tell you any of the cons (and I mean that in both senses of the word). They don't tell you that:

=  Home ownership is a - if not the - primary factor in the financial wealth of middle-class families. Especially black families. But with a reverse mortgage, you cannot pass on that home as unencumbered wealth to your heirs. Not to your kids. Not to your spouse. Not even to your signature charity or religious community. Not to no one. Good way to make sure the "wrong" people don't start accumulating wealth through the generations.

=  If you have a relative, partner, friend, roommate, or boarder living with you who is not a party to the reverse mortgage (and can't be if they're under 62 when the contract is signed), when it comes due, they're stone out of luck. Doesn't matter what kind of financial need for or emotional attachment to the home they might have. When you die, the lending bank immediately forecloses on your home and sells it to repay the loan. Now, maybe the bank will happen to sell it for more than the loan. In which case, the residue would go to your heirs. But what do you think the bank is motivated to do? Sell high, so they can give your heirs some of the money? Or sell quick, so they can get theirs?

=  In fact, all that also happens even if you just move out. God forbid you should have to move for, I dunno, your health. Or to be near family as you age, or as they have kids/grands of their own. And here's the really fun part. If you have to stay in, say, a nursing home or hospice or assisted living for a year, you're considered permanently moved out of your home. At which point, the lending bank expects you to repay the whole loan. All of it. Right now. And guess what they immediately do with your home if you can't? So where do you go from there?

=  Yeah, you get money in hand for current expenses. And usually you'd do so because of high, long-term medical expenses. The kind that almost always mean you can't work any more. But what do you do if and when that money runs out? Or are you betting (like you do with death insurance) that you're going to die sooner rather than later?

=  Plus which, if you need money so badly as to risk your home to get it, how are you planning to still pay the real estate taxes and, if applicable, assessments? As well as all your home maintenance costs and homeowners insurance premiums? PLUS the added burden of the premiums on the mortgage insurance you are now forced to carry?

But of course, the commercials don't tell you any of this. They try to woo you - happy, happy - by presenting the absolutely - see how happy our "homeowners" are - best case scenario. Only, if you're in that kind of financial bind, there is no best case scenario on offer. Not from them.

Talk about a case of "Let the borrower beware!"

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Wan Cave

My thesaurus says that one synonym for "white" is "wan". And my dictionary defines "wan" as "colorless and weak". Yep, that fits.

The oh-so-white insurance company has gotten creepy again. This time, it's not any of Flo's fault. This is the advert about the two guys in the basement man cave. And it's not any of their fault, either. Although one of them seems curiously oblivious. Or maybe he thinks he's hallucinating and he's trying to act like nothing's happening/wrong.

It's a cool man cave. A super man cave, even. At least the two guys think so. I'm willing to concur (references to alcohol aside). Big screen. Great sound system. Leather easy chairs. Three-stool bar. Pool table. Pinball machine. Dart board. Skateboard. Weights. Suit of armor. Football-field carpet. Hunting and military and roadtrip and sports memorabilia and trophies. Etc. And remote-control everything. Your nachos even come to you on a tooting toy train exiting a beer-keg tunnel.


But as the commercial progresses, everything in this colorful man cave starts turning white. I mean everything. By the end of the commercial the only anything in that wan cave that's not white - barring the two drones from the competition on the TV screen, who are white guys anyway ... and of course the pool balls, 'cuz how could the happily heedless white-guy buddy keep playing with all cue balls? - the only anything is Kyle Erby, the brother who plays the owner. Said super cool cave man is just confused. Hesitant. And, I should think, unhappy.

I mean, hey, if I thought that buying insurance - or any product/service - would take everything in my house, or even just in my favorite room that I worked so hard to get just right, and turn it all white and wan and colorless and weak, I'd never ever even think of making that purchase in the first place. And I'd raise holy hell if the bleachiness cropped up as a side effect they never warned me about.

But maybe that's just me.

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Pizza Crumbs

I like pizza, even though I don't often eat it. Sometimes I'll make my own versions. Elsewise, I'd prefer to go to a worthy local pizzeria. Especially with a good friend or six. Rarely do I frequent some big pizza chain. Let me rephrase that. I don't like cardboard pizza, so I don't waste my limited income on those big chains named for tile games or trying to convince me it's my father's or some emperor's creation or pretending they're just this little one-oven operation in a nearby shanty.

#1 Dad hatSo I pretty much ignore their commercials. But I will sit up and take notice when I think their commercials have been put together by insensitive boobs.

Like the one where the little boy criticizes his father for not bringing home the best pizza deal (not, BTW, the same thing as the best pizza). Shames him. Makes him feel a failure. And strips the "#1" symbol off his "DAD" hat. Talk about harsh. NOT funny. That mouthy brat shoulda had just one line: "Thank you, Dad." (I'm not gonna get into whether the kid's folks should be feeding him cardboard pizza in the first place. That's beside the point here.) Kid desperately needs some lessons in honoring thy father.

Downward trend on onscreen chartThat was bad enough. Another of their commercials - yeah, same company; they're obviously in a rut - crows about their new product making the pizza economy boom. Exudes about all the new workers they'll need. Questions where they'll get them. And as the "analyst" from the Bureau of Pizza Labor and Toppings looks out his spacious office's window with his binocs, he sees a herd of people stampeding to one of the stores, waving applications.

Oh yeah, let's really do make a joke of our flailing economy and the desperation of so many talented people who can no longer earn a middle-income living ... or any living at all. It Ain't Pretty. I know some of them. Up close and personal. (I likely woulda been one of them if not for the calamitous providence of becoming disabled.) They're angry and impatient and despairing. 'Cuz they're frightened. My heart goes out to them. Obviously the hearts of this pizza chain and their ad agency don't. Assuming such hearts are not made of stone. Or even exist.

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As Opposed To?

There's a string of commercials that's come out over the last while. Each one starting with the same tiptoe-through-the-paintcan-pallets/palettes music and scene-set. It touts a particular brand of house paint. These ads enumerate the various wondrous attributes of their paints and stains. And posit a lot of "what ifs". What if their paint could:

Paint can & brush, green= Withstand blazing sunlight without fading?
= Self-balance to its richest color?
= Resist not just moisture but clouds of steam?
= Rejuvenate something old, dated, even extinct?
= Protect your deck in every kind of weather?
= Pass rigorous testing of its new, superpowered ingredients?
= Make you question everything you do and don't know? About paint, anyway?

Question mark, fusciaAnd so on. And then they ask you: Is it still paint?

Well, duh. Yes, it's still paint. You yourself are saying your paint is paint. That's what you're calling it. Paint. So as far as I'm concerned, it's paint.

Unless you were lying. In which case, why would I want to buy your whatever-it-is?

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Balto & Company

My previous post here started me thinking about another type of false advertising. The subliminal kind that indoctrinates us. That bombards us below the threshold of consciousness. That affects/infects our minds with hideous, insidious memes without our being aware of it. By telling us certain things are universally true that just plain aren't. Worse, telling our children these lies.

(Maybe this article really belongs over in the Abiding Blog. Tough. I'm leaving it here. With all the other negatives. For now, anyway.)

If you've seen the 1995 animated movie Balto, you've seen one of these "ads". A 78-minute commercial for racism. Training our children to see all things dark as dangerous and all things lighter as good.

Do you see that sled team in my previous article below? Do you notice the color of the lead dog? It's black. That's not mere happenstance. Many aboriginal/traditional mushers firmly believe that black dogs make the best lead dogs. Some even traditionally named their dogs according to how much black the dog had. Blackfoot. Blacklegs. Blackback. Many-Black. All the way up to the coveted Black-All-Over.

As I understand it, much of this bias was due to the fact that lead dogs might sometimes be unharnessed from the team so they can scout ahead some 50 paces and find a safe way through. In a case like that, a black dog would show up best against the snow. Heck, a black dog could also show up best in the harness in a blizzard. Which would make it easier for the musher to determine if the lead dog was steering as expected. So mushers naturally selected to combine the important traits of intelligent, brave, independent, fast, strong, and black. And over time, black dogs indeed became generally the best lead dogs.

Balto in museumWhat does all this have to do with false advertising? Simple. Hideously, insidiously simple. In films long and short (and believe me, there are untold numbers of them) like Balto, the villain is black and the hero is not.

Think Sylvester in the Twenty cartoons. Think Scar and the hyenas in The Lion King. Think Ursula in The Little Mermaid. Think Maleficent all in black in Sleeping Beauty. Or think the dumb, lazy crows in Dumbo, including - I KID YOU NOT - their leader being named Jim. And for a real change of pace, think the little black centaur in pickaninny braids waiting hand and hoof on all the big showy white centaurs in Fantasia. (Oh yeah, never mind, they finally edited that character out. After, like, 30 years! Can you say "historical whitewashing"? But I saw it as a kid. And I didn't forget.) And let's don't forget Tiana. The only brand-name princess who spends most of her movie being a frog. (And, of course, she's not a real princess until she marries that not-black prince, right?)

Balto, the real Balto, was mostly black. He had some white sock, bib, belly and, when he got old, muzzle markings. Places that wouldn't normally be visible to the musher when the team was coursing. He fit to a tee the description of "Black dog makes the best lead." But you wouldn't know it from the movie. In the movie, the dark dog, the one that looks most like the real Balto, is the odious villain. Vain, mean, bullying Steele. And it ain't like the animators didn't know better. They could go see for themselves, right there in the museum. So I guess the coloring decisions were made with malice aforethought, yeah?

Wasn't the first time. Won't be the last.

False advertising. Secretly selling you a load of absolute bull. The biggest insult of all. And one that definitely causes injury. Beware!

P.S. In case you're wondering, the other dogs in a team behind the lead dog/duo are now commonly called the swing dogs, followed by one or more rows of swag dogs, and lastly the wheel dogs.

P.P.S. "Fits to a tee" doesn't really refer to either a T-shirt or a golf tee. It originally (probably) referred to a T-square. I dote on discovering stuff like that. Especially that one, which took me back to my long-gone days of wielding a T-square and triangle.

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Autos on Parade

Four harnessed sled dogsDear Young Lady with the pristine white turtleneck and the pretty red parka and not even a scarf: Is it really much of an adventure when you call your significant other or bro or whomever to come out in his big "adventurous" car and ferry you and your sled dogs across a knee-high melt?

And when they tell you, the viewer, that their car with the luxury interior, internet access, and safety features STARTS AT  X dollars, what does that obviously mean? That your X dollars gets you that car without any of those glitzy features. So be prepared to pay beaucoup bucks for each one added.

Then there's the insurance company with the big promise. If you get their special "forgiveness" package, they won't raise your rates after your first accident. As if you couldn't figure out that their special package raises your rates from Day 1. Before your first accident (whether you ever have one or not).

A similar pitch tells you that if you had the other guy's insurance company, and if you got into an accident, and if they then raised your rates, you didn't have the wrong plan. You had the wrong insurance company. So come over to us and buy our accident-forgiveness insurance. Wait a minute. Not just our normal, everyday insurance? Our accident-forgiveness insurance? Isn't that a PLAN?

Plus which, when I saw the robot horses, and then a real one winning through, the only car I expected wasn't that luxury Japanese car. (Shoot, I had to look that up, 'cuz I couldn't even remember what they said it was.) The only car I expected was a Ford Mustang. Not terribly, um, accurate, was I? Didn't the ad firm/car company realize that was bound to happen?

Burly brown bearBut the cleverest commercial I remember is, in a way, also the saddest. There's the little boy securely belted into the back seat. Good thing, 'cuz the witchy tree they almost backed into is trying to catch the car in its waving woody tentacles. Next, the bearded guy in their blind spot turns into a burly bear on the run. Growling. Then they nearly rear-end a trailer-borne boat. But of course it's really a 3-masted ship pitching wildly in the stormy sea. Probably a pirate or some similar kind of (dare I say it?) rogue. And finally, as the tired boy waves goodnight to the car that safely got them all home, the car's headlight winks goodbye back.

Very cute. Vibrantly creative. Keeps you engaged in the wonders of a child's imagination. I wonder what young Hunter Frieborn felt when he saw it with the SFX all put together.

All, sadly, merely to sell you a new car.

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Let There Be Lights

OK, I get it. The senior walking his dog at night can't understand why the "haunted" house's lights are going on and off. Not all at once. In different rooms. In no particular pattern.

Lights randomly going on & offOf course, we can't really tell if he's also hearing the overly portentous sound effects. Or just we are. We also can't really tell if that second - creepy - repetition of "What's happening?" is the high-pitched voice of a ghost or ghoul sneaking up behind him. Or his voice and he's being strangled to death. Or he's on his cell phone using one of those scary-voice apps to call a friend. Or the neighbors who own the house. Or 911.

In any case, it turns out the light show is compliments of a little boy playing with his mother's smartphone. Which, why did she have it where the kid could reach it in the first place? For that matter, it's a family dinner, so why is her phone out, and on, at all?

And do you notice how, when the kid is doing something untoward (though obviously very "kid") - on her phone, remember - suddenly he's not her son, he's the husband's son? "Your son"? Not "my son"? Not even "our son"? Waydahgo mom.

Yeah, I admit, that's a common trope. But should it be? We think kids don't notice what we're saying. Don't remember. Don't take it to heart. But they do.

And just to really confuse the kid with mixed signals, mom and dad also offer a smile and a doting look askance as reward for the kid's antic.

So, all that aside, here's the really weird point. She takes the phone away from "your son". She leaves the house-security app. She even goes to an insurance app. Problem solved.

Only, the lights at the house are still going on and off. Is it maybe really haunted? Is mom maybe so amused as to forget something as simple as clicking the wonky lights off. Has the app maybe learned how to keep itself on after you shut it down? Like, you know, so it can start to take over the world?

Maybe that old pet-owner is right to pick up his dog and run.

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Forgive Me Not

That kid ought to be in sales. (Not just the character. If Matthew Isen ever decides to "retire" from acting, he too could probably still make a bundle selling some modern version of snake oil door-to-door. But then, isn't that what actors...?)

He sure has the gift of gab. Can glad-hand and blarney and smarm with the best of them. Has mastered the vocabulary. Done his homework. Marshaled his facts. Knows his audience. Displays the right combination of confidence and diffidence. Understands the art of sidetracking. Etc.

AND knows when to take "yes" for an answer.

Snake oil salesmanSee, he had this very minor fender bender. In an unreasonably narrow fast-food drive-thru lane. But it's OK. 'Cuz he checked with the insurance company. And the family policy includes accident forgiveness.

Now firstly, the commercial is called "Grounded"; but the kid isn't. Yeah, he can't drive the car for *gasp* four whole weeks. Big whoop. He can still go out wherever he wants. Ride with friends who have cars whenever he wants. He can take a cab. The bus. Bike. Walk. What, when your feet have to touch the ground somewhere/somewhen along the way, that's you being "grounded"? For that matter, he can still go shoot hoops, attend a rock concert, talk and text his posse and femfriends, play video games, access the Netflix account, all like that. *Grounded* my asterisks.

Secondly, if it's such a very minor fender bender (or even if it weren't), how come he gets to foist it off on the insurance company? So, like, you know, if heaven forbid the family ever gets in a major accident and totals the car, the "first-accident forgiveness" clause won't have already been used up on a very minor fender bender. And what, they have no deductible anyway?

I don't own a car and never did. But if it were me and my kid, I'd be telling him about how the only place he gets to go for the next month or six - besides school, of course, until he graduates - is to (find) work so he can make the money to pay me back for the repairs on his very minor fender bender. Then he'll have accident forgiveness.

P.S. Plus which, what the blazes was he doing in a fast-food lane? So late that his parents were already in bed? How come he didn't come home to eat supper with them in the first place? Preferably something healthy? And why didn't his folks raise that point, either?

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Cold Cuts

You know, I'm all for convenient cleaning products. Provided they have at least some ecological soundness. Which means I'm not usually into disposable cleaning cloths, though I do use them on rare occasions.

But I don't think they're a solution to things that are more important than cleaning house. And I certainly don't think they should be a distraction from things that are more important than cleaning house.

Diabolical barberWhich brings me to the commercial with the diabolical little barber.

He's been scissoring away at his yellow-haired stuffed lion. His green-haired stuffed gorilla. His black-haired and blonde dolls. (Well, maybe they're aren't really his.) And now he's about to start on his little red-headed sister. With a diabolical look askance at his chagrined mother.

And what does she do? Does she holler at him to stop? Does she take the scissors away from him? Does she send him to his room for a time-out? Does she even at least tell him in no uncertain terms that his sister's hair is verboten?

No. She flourishes her disposable-sheet mop and duster. With a similar smirk on her face. Like she just won. Like cleaning the fake hair off the floor and table and chair is going to solve the much bigger issue of her son trying to take the scissors to his sister's hair.

I don't know who's more cold-blooded, the son or the mom. Maybe the kukui nut doesn't fall far from the tree.

I'm sorry, lady, but even once you trap and lock all that debris in your mop/duster, your job still ain't DONE. Not by a long shot.

P.S. On the other hand, I'm down with that sheet-mop-wielding dad who more-or-less calmly lets his little princess play with her muddy-footed frog.

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Amok Time

Have you seen the "Kindergarten" commercial? I have. It's not childlike fun. First of all, there's all the rowdy, out-of-control, vandalizing kids who are (in alphabetic order):

ABCs=  bouncing on a ball
=  hitting the teacher in the head with a giant spit ball,
=  messing with the aquarium, including sitting in it,
=  pairing up to duct tape a third kid to a chair,
=  pounding the wall with a giant tube,
=  scraping the greenboard with a broom,
=  spelling a childish 4-letter word on the wall with tacks,
=  smacking a globe onto the floor with (I think) a cricket bat,
=  talking on the phone...apparently the teacher's phone,
=  standing on the teacher's desk, and
=  throwing toys at each other...hard.

Where is this school anyway? So I can avoid it. 'Cuz I sure don't want any kid I know going there.

Malicious little impsNow maybe the principal has it in for the teacher. Has assigned her every trouble maker in a hundred-block radius. Is nefariously trying to drive her insane.

Or maybe, more likely, she's incompetent. (Certainly nothing like most all the teachers I have known. Dedicated, hardworking, child-nurturing teachers who keep it together no matter how horrid the circumstances. Who don't deserve to be dissed.)

Or both. In either case, she doesn't need a vacation. She needs a different career. One she can handle. Yesterday.

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The Bird's Afoot

Three bright birdsLike the tap-dancing white pigeon (or dove, if you insist; but pigeons are bigger than doves, and those two white birds look biggish), I too am happy that somebody's finally eating vegetables. Especially those kids. Although I wonder what their parents were doing, letting 'em get away for so long with NOT eating their veggies.

True, I wouldn't be tap dancing. Still, a little joyous disco dancing wouldn't go amiss. Ya know, help me beef up that daily, pedometer-measured step count I've been doing. But that's neither here nor there.

What royally galls me about the commercial is that the pigeon clobbers himself silly with a fork that's as tall as he is. And a lot harder-headed. And what does the family do?


LAUGH?! At someone or something hurting itself? Not just the kids, who maybe don't know any better yet? But the adults, too? Which explains why the kids don't know any better yet. Shoot, even his fellow spokesavian just shakes its head at the dancer instead of moving to help him. I don't care if it's animation. WTF kind of message is that to send kids?

I don't know about you, but I prefer the messages I get from 'Abdu'l-Baha (the first three from Baha'i World Faith and the last from Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha):

     Educate the children in their infancy in such a way that they may become exceedingly kind and merciful to the animals. If an animal is sick they should endeavor to cure it; if it is hungry, they should feed it; if it is thirsty, they should satisfy its thirst; if it is tired, they should give it rest.

     Ye must not only have kind and merciful feelings for mankind, but ye should also exercise the utmost kindness towards every living creature.

     The physical sensibilities and instincts are common to animal and man. Man is, however, negligent of this reality and imagines that sensibility is peculiar to mankind, therefore he practices cruelty to the animal. In reality what difference is there in physical sensations! Sensibility is the same whether you harm man or animal: there is no difference.

     To blessed animals the utmost kindness must be shown, the more the better. Tenderness and loving-kindness are basic principles of God's heavenly Kingdom. Ye should most carefully bear this matter in mind.

'Nuff said.

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