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Food For Thought

I keep hearing statements that, at first, seem to be perfectly logical but, upon reflection, don’t make sense at all. A month or two ago, I heard two vastly different films touted as “classics.” One was a new animated movie which was described as being “a new seasonal classic” and the other was Ken Burns’ documentary about the Civil War. I find it difficult to believe that two such diverse films have enough in common to be described by the same adjective.
First, I went scurrying to my dictionary in search of a precise definition of the word but found so many accepted meanings that I was more confused than ever. After reading through the entire litany of applications, I came upon the one that seemed to fit what I had always THOUGHT the word meant– and which didn’t particularly fit either of the instances that had started me on my search. I’d always believed that “classic” meant enduring unchanged over time, as classic fashion, literature or art. Something that retains its value and appeal despite the passage of time. Which leads me to the next question. How old does something have to be in order to be considered classic? Neither of those films has been around long enough to be tested by time (although, the Civil War itself might qualify as a classic battle in history, the film itself is comparatively new.) And the animated film, which was advertised as “a new classic” is even more recent. I don’t think that “new” and “classic” are exactly compatible concepts. And then, “classic” also implies the best, definitive work of the person who created it. I’d hate to think that a genius like Ken Burns will never make a bigger and better documentary. And I’m reasonably certain that there will be better Disneyesque entertainment to come – there has to be.
While I think the science of meteorology has made great strides in recent years, and while I admire in general the efforts the weather forecasters on radio and television make to educate and inform us, sometimes what they say causes a chuckle or two. In all seriousness, Joe Winters asked the listeners if they knew “how long after the last clap of thunder should you wait before going outdoors?”
Sounds like a sensible thing to know the answer to, it might save someone from being killed by a lightning bolt. Most of all, though, it makes me wonder just how are you supposed to know which clap of thunder is the last one? Suppose you wait for the safe amount of time, go outdoors and, BAM, there’s another clap of thunder. What are you supposed to do, run back into the house and start watching the clock all over again? I guess I was so busy wondering about that that I missed the answer and still don’t know how long you should wait. Is it a matter of minutes? Hours? Days? During certain times of year, with fierce storms roving all over the place, you could be trapped in the house for weeks!
That meteorological question reminds me of a silly law I read about years ago. It seems that a town in one of our northern states had a disastrous fire one winter and couldn’t subdue it because the fire hydrants were frozen. At the next city council meeting, they passed an ordinance that required all the city’s fire hydrants be checked within twenty-four hours before every fire. Good idea, bad reasoning.
Statistics, as we all know, can be misleading. People bend them routinely in order to support their own opinions, and although they often sound impressive, they aren’t always logical. Take a current Toyota commercial that claims 80 percent of Toyotas sold in the past twenty years are still on the road today. Sounds impressive but I can’t help but wonder how many of them are actually 20 years old. How many people were buying Toyotas 20 years ago? I suspect the ratio has gone up over time, as compared to other makes of cars. How long have they been making Toyotas? You might say that 80 per cent of them made during the past FIFTY years are still on the road – it doesn’t mean that ANY of them might be more than 10 years old. Totally useless numbers, when you stop to think about it. The real clincher, of course, and the thing that keeps me wondering, is that the commercial gives us no frame of reference for comparison. We are quoted no statistics for other makes of cars during the same time frame, or even a percentage of all makes of cars combined. This leaves me totally unimpressed, since 20 percent might possibly be quite low on the graph if we could see the whole picture.
The people who dreamed up that Lunesta commercial showing the big green moth fluttering around some guy’s bedroom must not have ever had trouble sleeping. If I thought there was a gigantic, florescent green moth in my bedroom, I definitely wouldn’t be falling peacefully asleep. I’d be screaming down the hall, turning on all the lights on my way, seeking the can of Raid, a baseball bat or a shotgun. The only bright spot in that ad (aside from the glowing moth) is that, perched on the guy’s back, the moth gives him a comical resemblance to Tinkerbell. A good laugh might possibly be a better sleep aid than a pill.