11 May 2012

On Virtue

“You know, I’ve been troubled by the Cranbrook episode for most of my life, and I feel relieved, in a way, that it’s come out now. I did a really stupid and terrible thing. Teenage boys sometimes do such things and deserve to be punished for them. What I most regret is that I never apologized to John and won’t be able to now that he’s gone, but let me apologize to his family and friends. Bullying is unacceptable under any circumstances. It is especially unacceptable when prejudice — against one’s race, ethnicity or sexual orientation — is involved. If elected President, I will try to atone for my teenage behavior by campaigning against bullying all across this country. What I did back then should be an example of how not to behave. I hope we can all learn from this. I know I have.”

— The Mitt Romney Who Never Was

To Patrons

The first advertisements in The Old Farmer's Almanac featured Dutch quills, penknives, ink powder, writing paper, and various books, including a "cheap edition" of Watt's Psalms and Hymns and "a novel by an American Lady." The year was 1794. Other than in our annual Special Edition (sold in bulk without advertising to companies who give it to their customers), advertisements have been an integral part of every regular newsstand edition of this publication since that year. (Arm & Hammer Baking Soda has been with us for more than a hundred of those years!)

Some people, cynical by nature, may tend to disbelieve those almanac advertisements that, for instance, promise to "drive fish crazy," restore vim and vigor, provide 60 percent more juice from apples, aid your hearing, remove your corns, stretch your shoes, or provide a peek into the "afterlife." Those same people, however, may accept the notion that romance, social status, and financial success will automatically be theirs if, like the beautiful folks in the slick four-color magazine ads, they drink a certain brand of whiskey.

The advertisements in this publication deliver. Those chickens really do lay colored eggs. Last year someone wrote to complain about that particular advertisement, saying, "You can't call the color" before the hen lays her eggs. Evidently he had experimented by loudly shouting "red!", "blue!" or whatever directly at the hen as she was commencing to lay her egg. To no avail. The hen would lay an egg in whatever color she felt appropriate to the moment. We patiently pointed out to the complainer that the advertisement for these chickens has never claimed you can "call the color."

We won't say that Jimmy Carter's ads for fishing worms and "raising instructions" in this almanac during the early 1970s enabled him to ascend to the presidency. That would be silly. But we do know people from all over the country were well satisfied with those worms from Plains, Georgia.

There are lots of advertisements we will not accept. They include those for mind-altering drugs (like liquor), cigarettes, sexual items, or "sex literature," and advertising that, in our opinion, is otherwise in bad taste, dangerous, or deceptive. The latter category occasionally creates argument. However, in our view a metal "golden hand" that promises "good luck" is not deceptive. A pill that promises to turn body fat into plain water is deceptive. Potentially dangerous, too. This year we refused to print a little more than 14 pages of such advertising.

Not long ago, Charles Kuralt of CBS News devoted a portion of his national television program to our advertisements. After describing a number of them, he concluded by saying, "There's not a brittle, sophisticated ad in this whole edition. The Old Farmer's Almanac is willing to leave that market to Playboy and The New Yorker. These ads speak to the real America, the one that is worried about its false teeth falling out or its pants falling down... Publications come and go with their ads for designer gowns. The Old Farmer's Almanac offers remedies for aching feet. That's why it's lasted for over 190 years."

One hundred and ninety-three, to be exact, and still counting! With the help of a few "rooster pills" from time to time, we hope to go on forever...

— J.D.H, June 1984

07 May 2012

I saw something today.

A father walking with his daughter. He was a short, stocky man. He wore brown pants and a faded button up. His daughter like Pocahontas had dark hair that flowed down her entire back. She was probably eight, nine, ten years old. In her free hand she held drawings of sunsets and daisies and unicorns. In her other hand she held her father's hand. I could hear them counting down. Three, two, one. Ready? Ready? Go! Then they burst off in a foot race. The father kept a measured and steady pace, and his daughter oscillated between leading and following. I could hear them laughing as they sped away, and when they turned the corner, I could see bright eyes shining among shared smiles and laughter.

03 May 2012

Hope

Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not, as some modern people think, a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

— C. S. Lewis

02 May 2012

Escape

An Oxford student on Tolkien,
Well, I think it's a very basic appeal because everybody likes a fantasy. They like to escape from life when it becomes dull and boring. And you can get this kind of escape through detective thrillers and science fiction stories and spy stories, but you always come back to the real world thinking that it's even duller and more boring than it was before. And you think, I wish I was the first man on the moon, or I wish I was a spy instead of leading the kind of life I'm leading. Whereas when you finish reading the Lord of the Rings, not only have you had a marvelous adventure story and a marvelous fantasy, but some of the magic has been rubbed off on the ordinary, the very homely things of life, like a good meal.