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Meditations on the media


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 30, 2001

My favorite technological tool is the mute button on the remote control for the TV. The rackety music during commercials drives me nuts. The remote control is also convenient for changing the channel quickly if sports present themselves on the screen.

I continue to be puzzled about football. Why do grown men spend the afternoon running around and bumping into each other? Do their mothers know what they are doing? They might hurt themselves. Even more puzzling is the fact that other grown-ups will pay to watch them!

Further, I grieve at the amount of money spent on sports stadiums as compared with the amount we allocate to schools. I wish I could direct my tax dollars to the projects I want to nourish.

Football games don't get much attention at our house, but we do like to see the evening news. I notice there has been a change in TV commercials. They used to advertise laundry soap and chewing gum. Remember the Doublemint twins? Now the ads seem to be mostly for cars and pharmaceuticals. Modem society wants to solve all problems with a fast ride or a pill.

Recently, however, I found myself asking my husband, who was sitting next to me enjoying a dish of pineapple sherbet, "What are they advertising? What's the product?" The commercials might be clever, but neither of us has any idea what they are selling.

Other technology: I do not understand why there is so much surprise being expressed about the fact that computer sales are down. A year ago, I said that would happen. I'm not even good at business. I have trouble balancing my checkbook. When the Y2K panic took place, there was such a flurry of upgrading computer equipment that it became clear computer sales would be down for a while. Everyone bought all the new equipment they needed a year ago. No one needs any new stuff.

It has been comforting to me to read of a new library being built and another being enlarged. Recently three people have referred me to libraries for research and information rather than to "the Web." I still like to browse the shelves. The additional related subjects there give me more to consider than I know to ask of the computer.

Yes, I get information from the Web, and it sometimes is helpful. But not always. For instance, I tried the phone book option to see how it worked. I clicked on "white pages" at and asked for my own listing. The computer responded: "Sorry, but we are unable to find the city of St. Petersburg, FL."

Yes. I spelled it correctly.

I recently searched the Web for a college class on early American history. None was listed for St. Petersburg. On campus, however, I picked up a month-old catalog and there it was, on paper, just the class I was looking for.

On the other hand, the computer is the best typewriter I ever had. I would not want to go back to my IBM Selectric. E-mail is wonderful for keeping in touch with my sister on the West Coast. We have become best friends with the daily interchange.

Movies have changed, too. We're tired of car crashes, noise and the ubiquitous F-word. I saw Casablanca on television recently, with no ads, and wallowed in the final scene. It was not the "Round up the usual suspects!" line that captivated me, but this:

"Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon. And for the rest of your life."

Now, there was a movie. It had a plot, good music (As Time Goes By), no foul language, wit, drama and a clear and hopeful resolution. Not only that, I got to look at Humphrey Bogart for an hour and a half. What a dish.

- Write to Niela M. Eliason in care of Seniority, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731; or send e-mail to

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