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  • April 19, 2017



    I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I watch enough of it to make some critical judgements about what the masters of the medium are trying to sell me. When it comes to the commercials, we’re all seeing the same things, and you may have your own ideas.

    Here’s a small sample of some of commercials I like and some that I hate.

    Untuckit.com, Grade: F

    Here we have a manly character walking down the street, playing it straight, talking about why you should buy his shirts.

    “My problem, like a lot of other men, I couldn’t find a shirt that looked good untucked. So this became my passion. To design a shirt that captures the perfect balance between light and fit…”

    I’m glad he is doing well in the untucked shirt business, but his passion is to design a shirt that looks good when you don’t tuck it in. Really? He gets the award for aiming low. And his shirt? It looks like a shirt. I don’t know how long it took him to design a shirt that looks like a shirt, but I think his pitch falls short.

    Untuck it.com gets an F.

    Mybetriq, Grade: A-

    On the other hand, I find myself charmed by the little blue-eyed pink bladder that goes around with his mom, holding her hand, and giving her a tug whenever it’s time to go to the bathroom. If some genetic genius could clone little bladders like that to sell as household pets, I would buy one.

    The point of the ad is to sell Mybetriq, a prescription medicine to treat overactive bladder. The symptoms of OAB are urgency, frequency, and leakage. Side effects are increased blood pressure, urinary tract infection, common cold symptoms, and headaches.

    What I like best about the commercial is that after the woman goes to the doctor and starts using Mybetriq, she still hangs out with her cute little bladder. The bladder is a winner. I give it an A-minus – a minus only because of the nasty possible side effects.

    Virbezi, Grade: F

    Speaking of characters who represent bathroom diseases, one of my least favorites is Ilana Becker – a talented actress, who unfortunately plays an irritable bowel. She is very good at being an irritating bowel, which is what she was hired to do. But by the second time you see the commercial, you want to go the bathroom yourself, at least until it is over.

    Fortunately, the poor Irritable Bowel Syndrome victim learns about Viberzi, a prescription medicine that will cure her problem.

    Unfortunately, even after she has been treated and cured, she still has to hang out with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome character. Other side effects include new or worsening abominable pain with or without nausea and vomiting.

    The Virbezi commercial also gets an F.

    Mucinex, Grade: C-

    An even more disgusting character is the short, fat, and annoying green glob of mucus that hangs around whenever somebody has sinus congestion. He’s a friendly enough little guy, but obviously not attractive. No matter how well he dresses or how friendly he tries to be, it’s hard for a ball of mucus to have friends. Nobody wants to be around him.

    What happens in the commercial is that his sinus-suffering friend takes some Mucinex, and her symptoms are relieved and he is cast aside once again. Honestly, I feel for the little guy. All he wants to do is hang around and be friends.

    He may be a disgusting little creature, but unlike the irritating bowel lady I do feel some empathy for him. Poor little booger. The Mucinex commercial gets a C-minus. He may not deserve a passing grade, but I would hate to hold him back for another year.

    2017 Honda Hydrogen Fuel Cell, Grade F-

    The creepiest ad of the year has to be the decapitated heads of children singing “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow,” while a narrator touts the glories of the new Honda hydrogen-powered automobile. The children’s heads are supposed to symbolize hydrogen molecules, but every time I see it, it reminds me of an old movie – the 1962 black-and-white horror film, “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.”

    In this movie, a mad scientist and his beautiful fiancé are in a car crash in which her head is severed from her body. The grief-stricken scientist rushes her to his lab, where he keeps her head alive in a jar while he stalks strip clubs looking for a new sexy body to attach to her head. Yuck!

    The Honda ad is even worse, because the severed heads belong to innocent little children. And nobody seems to be particularly troubled by it. All they want to do is sell their stupid car.

    I give this ad an F-minus, if there is such a grade. Each time I see it, it just gets creepier and creepier.

    Of course, there are many more commercials on TV. I’ve barely scratched the surface.

    But it’s getting late and I’m tired. And frankly, it’s time to turn on the tube.

    — George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • April 17, 2017

    Lyrics, Poetry and Prose IX

    A place to share some words of beauty, inspiration, and fun. This week we feature some songs about love on the rocks. The artists are Bob Seger, Stevie Nicks, and Bob Dylan and each of them wrote the featured song and each of the song has a different feel. The Dylan video is from a live performance by an older Dylan backed up by Eric Clapton, with a different take on the same material. Click on the name of the piece to get a video or more information. You have some favorite lyrics? Please share…

    It’s been coming on so long
    You were just the last to know
    It’s been a long time since you’ve smiled
    Seems like oh so long ago
    Now the stage has all been set
    And the nights are growing cold
    Soon the winter will be here
    And there’s no one warm to hold
    Now the lines have all been read
    And you knew them all by heart
    Now you move toward the door
    Here it comes the hardest part

    Famous Final Scene Singer and writer Bob Seger

    I took my love, took it down
    I climbed a mountain and I turned around
    And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
    ‘Til the landslide brought me down
    Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
    Can the child within my heart rise above?
    Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
    Can I handle the seasons of my life?

    Landslide Singer and writer Stevie Nicks

    I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe
    Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
    But goodbye’s too good a word, gal
    So I’ll just say fare thee well
    I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
    You could have done better but I don’t mind
    You just kinda wasted my precious time
    But don’t think twice, it’s all right

    Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright Singer: Bob Dylan accompanied by Eric Clapton, Writer: Bob Dylan

  • April 10, 2017

    Hello Darkness My Old Friend…


    I grew up in a low-light community. It wasn’t designed to be a low-light community and it wasn’t called a low-light community – it just was one. There was one street light on one corner of each block in my neighborhood of dirt roads and run-down houses. It was unfortunately, the longest block in the world.

    I knew this because I would come home on the streetcar when I was 7- or 8-years-old after going to the movies downtown and have to walk that one dark block to get home. It was a long time ago, when nobody was undone by a boy that age being out after dark by himself. I was basically a free-range kid, back before “free-range” became a term or a controversy.

    It wasn’t as though I was coming home late in the night, but in the winter, it got dark early. My problem was that I loved the horror shows – Frankenstein, Dracula, the Invisible Man, and the ever-popular Werewolf franchise. I couldn’t get my fill.

    But of all the scary movie characters, the scariest of all for me was the Mummy. The Mummy was not fast, in fact he was really slow. You could easily outrun the Mummy. But he never stopped. You could run like Hell, but you couldn’t slow down. You take a nap, you wake up, and here comes the Mummy. You run into the store for a Moon Pie and a Nehi grape soda, you barely take a bite and here comes the damn Mummy. The Mummy wasn’t fast, but he was relentless.

    My mom knew how the horror movies scared me, but she also knew how much I loved them, and she gave me the standard mom advice. “Remember, it’s just a movie.”

    I tried to remember that. I would get off the streetcar, look down that long, dark unpaved street, take a deep breath and tell myself: “It’s just a movie.” There are no such things as vampires or werewolves or mummies.

    Then I would start walking, over the creek where the alligator lived and into the darkness. At the beginning, I would be OK, but as I neared the middle point between lights, and the night got darker and more foreboding, my imagination would suddenly kick in, slap the bejesus out of my courage, and I would start running for home.

    I would always arrive flush and out-of-breath. My mom would pretend she didn’t notice, and she’d ask how was the movie, and I would tell her it was good, Mom, really good.

    That was obviously a long time ago. Now I live once again in a low-light community, and I like it. You tend to forget after years in the city what the stars look like on a clear night. Country folks take the darkness for granted. If you have lived for years in the city, you rediscover it, and there is a comfort in dark streets and the feel of the night.

    It’s not just the darkness. There is the twilight that precedes it and the dawn that ends it. I love the neon and glitter of the city. But the nightly shift from sunshine to twilight to darkness is a joy to rediscover. And this time around, I’m not even afraid.

    Mom was right. Who’s surprised?

    — George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • Lyrics, Poetry and Prose VIII

    A place to share some words of beauty, inspiration, and fun. This week we feature some songs associated with the Hotel Chelsea in New York City – a hostelry famous for the artists and cultural icons that resided there.

    Famous guests included such luminaries as Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller.  Dylan Thomas died of pneumonia in 1953 while residing there. Arthur C. Clarke wrote “2001 a Space Odyssey” and Jack Kerouac wrote “On the Road” at the Chelsea. In 1978, Nancy Spungen, a 20-year-old schizophrenic drug addict and former prostitute, was found dead in the hotel room she shared at the hotel with Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. He was later arrested, but died of a drug overdose while out on bail.

    Leonard Cohen wrote about his brief affair at the Chelsea with Janice Joplin, who had a room down the hall. Bob Dylan wrote “San Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” and Joni Mitchel wrote “Chelsea Morning” at the hotel. Click on the name of the piece to get a video or more information. You have some favorite lyrics? Please share…

    I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
    You were talking so brave and so sweet,
    Giving me head on the unmade bed,
    While the limousines wait in the street.

    Chelsea Hotel #2 (short version) Singer and Writer:Leonard Cohen

    Chelsea Hotel #1 (long version) Singer and Writer:Leonard Cohen

    Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
    Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
    My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
    Should I leave them by your gate,
    Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

    Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands Singer: Joan Baez, Writer Bob Dylan

    Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw
    Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall
    Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon
    Oh, won’t you stay, We’ll put on the day
    Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall
    Oh won’t you stay, we-ll put on the day, There’s a sun show every second.

    Chelsea Morning Singer and Writer, Joni Mitchell

  • April 5, 2017

    The Badlands: Keep Your Eyes on the Road and Watch out for Falling Motorcycles

    THE BADLANDS                                                                                              — photo by George Cunningham

    There is a place between where we live and where we go to visit friends and shop, called the Badlands.

    The Badlands is what folks around here refer to as the curvy-twisty part of the 60 freeway between the San Gorgonio mountain pass where our home is located and the city of Moreno Valley, Riverside, and the rest of the Los Angeles basin. It is a challenging piece of roadway – especially when you drive it for the first time – but it is also very beautiful.

    Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hard for the driver to appreciate the beauty. The passenger can look around and see a vertical landscape of hilltops and canyons, but the driver needs to keep his eyes on the road. The speed limit through the Badlands is 65, but this being California, drivers tend to push that to 75 and even 80. Although the freeway has two lanes in each direction, loaded trucks have to gear down and creep up the grade in the right-hand lane at only 35 or 40 mph.

    What this means is when you get a timid driver, poking along at the speed limit in the fast lane, impatient motorists have to use the truck lane as a passing lane – getting up enough speed to get around the slow-poke without running into the rear of a truck in low-gear. There are no exit roads through the Badlands, so when there is a big accident, traffic is stuck there for long time.

    When we first moved to Banning and people referred to the Badlands, we thought it was just a local nickname for that 10- or 12-mile stretch of twists and turns. But we were wrong.

    The Badlands covers a good-sized area of Riverside County – south and east of Redlands to north and west of Hemet and San Jacinto. The actual geographic name for the Badlands is the “Timoteo Badlands” and it has a colorful history. Back before California became part of the United States, Indian vigilantes, as a service to landowners, would chase down bandits in the Badlands and kill them. Later, after California became a state, American settlers became upset about Indians killing white people – even if the white people were bandits and robbers. The Indians ended up fleeing to the San Jacinto mountains, just west of what is now Palm Springs.

    A few decades later – from 1864 to 1868 – the teen-aged Wyatt Earp lived with his family in San Timoteo Canyon up against the Badlands. This was years before Mr. Earp took part in the famous 1881 gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz.

    So the Badlands is not just scenic, it is also historic, which makes it an even more interesting place.

    But all of this is just prologue to my story. A few weeks back, a dirt bike rider, Kyle Katsandris, jumped across the Badlands stretch of freeway, then posted his stunt on YouTube. I have to admit that it was both pretty spectacular and incredibly stupid. It is obvious from the video that drivers on the freeway at the time of his jump probably didn’t even notice it. But he put them all in danger.

    No matter how skilled a dirt-bike rider is, things can always go wrong.  Engines can stall, tires can go flat, carefully laid plans can be in error. Think of Evel Knievel jumping the fountains at Caesar’s Palace on New Year’s Eve in 1967. At least Evel hurt only himself.

    Several hundred pounds of steel and human flesh suddenly falling out of the sky into the traffic lanes of the Badlands would be catastrophic.

    So now, as I drive the 60 Freeway, looking out for traffic, making all the twists and turns, trying to enjoy the scenery, I also find myself watching the sky, on the lookout for flying motorcycles. Mr. Katsandris is obviously a skilled and daring motorcyclist, but now that he has opened the door, you know that other less skilled, yet equally daring young men will attempt to duplicate his feat.

    So I find myself keeping an eye to the heavens as I navigate this challenging bit of freeway. And frankly, it makes me angry for two reasons.

    First, I shouldn’t have to worry about motorcycles falling from the sky as I drive back from the mall.

    And second, and most maddening, is that I know in my heart that part of the reason I keep looking up, is that if somebody does try to do it again, I sure-as-hell don’t want to miss it.

    – George Lee Cunningham

    POST SCRIPT: Although Mr. Katsandris made it over the freeway unhurt, he was critically injured on Sunday, April 2, when he attempted to jump over railroad tracks running through the hills in Simi Valley. The 24-year-old San Clemente biker had to jump 140 to 160 feet from one hill to another to clear the track. He was apparently injured after he overshot his landing zone.

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.