Vermont Country Sex?

Kish occasionally will suggest a “blogworthy” topic, and yesterday she came up with a doozy.  While flipping idly through the pages of the latest catalog of The Vermont Country Store delivered to our home, she came upon a page that advertises none other than “intimate massagers” and “pleasure-enhancing creams” –right next to an exercise device that is supposed to help incontinence and bottles of an “old-time tonic of apple cider vinegar and 14 herbs and spices” that “some folks” call “the elixir of life.”  The products are on the company’s website, too, and can be found by clicking on the “apothecary” tab and then on “intimate solutions.”  The website offers more products than the catalog, including a wide array of “extremely discreet massagers,” DVDs to “spice up your love life,” and other products of a similar nature.

Apparently this is not a new part of the catalog; the proprietor’s explanation notes that there was some news coverage about these products several months ago.   The proprietor says that the products are not about sex, but rather about “Aging Well, about fully embracing all that life offers as we age.”  That’s putting a noble spin on what is one of the oldest truisms in our consumer culture:  Sex Sells, even if your target audience is senior citizens who otherwise may make impulse purchases of jams, lawn chairs, of a “Blossom-Bordered Muumuu, in Colors as Fresh as the Garden.”

Death Of A Sidekick

Ed McMahon in the early days

Ed McMahon in the early days

I was saddened to learn of the death of Ed McMahon. Younger people probably don’t know much about McMahon, but he was one of the most recognizable TV personalities of my childhood and young adulthood. As the announcer for Johnny Carson, McMahon was the consummate sidekick — he laughed at Carson’s jokes, threw some good-natured barbs at Carson’s many vacations and marriages, played straight man for Carnak and other running shticks, and cheerfully endured familiar jibes about his weight and his drinking. His laugh was legendary and the stuff of easy imitation, and his cries of “Yes!” and “Hey-oh!” became part of the TV lexicon. Of course, his most famous trademark line was “Heeere’s Johnny!”

Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson in their prime

Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson in their prime

During the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, people watched The Tonight Show because it was funny — Carson himself was a master, he always booked great comedic talent, and he always brought out the best in his guests — but also because it was so easy to watch. Ed McMahon was a big part of that. His familiar jocularity, his grinning presence on the couch, and his willingness to laugh at even the weakest Carson jokes helped to make the show as comfortable as an old shoe. I’m sure Carson appreciated having McMahon at his side, ready to chuckle and help him to salvage a failed comedy routine. It’s not easy being the second fiddle, but McMahon accepted his role with equanimity and made his own significant contribution to one of the most popular, long-running TV shows ever broadcast. Tonight I’ll hoist a beer in tribute.

Recession, By The Numbers

We’ve been noting the rise in unemployment rates as the recession has dragged on.  This article also addresses the increase in welfare rolls as unemployment benefits expire, including a sharp jump in the number of food stamp recipients.  The article includes a well-done interactive graph that allows state-by-state comparison of unemployment rates over the course of the recession.  Michigan’s unemployment rate has increased steadily and is now a staggering 14.1%.  The bad economy also has hit the Sun Belt states; California’s rate is a stunning 11.5%.  Who would have thought that Nevada would have a higher unemployment rate than Ohio, or that Florida would have a significantly higher unemployment rate than Pennsylvania?

The statistics help to explain why states like California are having such difficulty balancing their budgets.  As the recession deepens, jobs are lost and businesses close, which adversely affects the revenue side, and citizens begin to use more government programs and government money, which increases expenses.  The data also suggest that the rosy scenarios that underlay the federal stimulus bill and the federal budget projections are not panning out, and that federal budget deficits will be higher than forecast.