Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Snob Appeal

The dictionary defines a snob as someone who admires and cultivates relationships with those considered socially superior and disdains those considered inferior; someone who looks down on people considered to have inferior knowledge or tastes.

Such a person sounds pretty unpleasant, don't you think?

The last thing the world needs right now is more snobs. Especially since there is already an ample supply available.  It makes me wonder why advertisers want to appeal to these folks right now, the economy being what it is.

Perhaps it's because the snob mob may be the only people right now with surplus disposable income. They comprise the notorious One Percent so often referred to in political and social campaigns, also known as "America's wealthy elite." Sure, we all get it. The majority of money is controlled by a small number of Americans. What else is new.

But by its very nature advertising would seem designed to reach a vast portion of the public.

Advertising should make consumers aware of new products which have become available or familiar items which have been somehow improved. If only One Percent of the country controls most of the money, then why do advertisers even need to reach the rest of us? Couldn't they just start a chain letter and send it to say, Warren Buffett, and ask him to let someone else know?

Advertising needs to reach the masses.

Recently the stories on the evening news seemed extraordinarily bleak. It was filled with news about the ongoing drought, how farmers are about to lose an entire year's crop of corn requiring years of recovery. Then there were folks in Syria, shooting each other and killing children, refugees exiting the country in droves. U.S. foreclosures continue to plague the housing market as cities decide how to deal with vast communities of empty structures. And those were some of the more upbeat stories.

Then it was time for a commercial. That advertisement was for an extremely expensive luxury vehicle. It featured two couples exchanging congratulations for having the insight to purchase a $60,000 vehicle which is also good for the environment. How special. What normal, all-American folks.

Only they aren't "normal" at all.

I have personally known a number of people who seemed to have it all: good career, a lovely family, social position (whatever that means today is questionable) and the admiration of others. In several cases, however, this appearance had nothing whatsoever to do with reality. Many of these folks were living right on the edge, afraid to admit they were overextended, concerned that their house of cards which could slip away in the slightest breeze.

Examination of the so-called One Percent confirms that the wealthy may not be what they appear to be. In some instances, public image is all important, overriding such traits as sincerity and -- my personal favorite for its rarity -- integrity.

An increasing number of magazines have declared that they can no longer afford to publish paper issues and mail them to subscribers. No doubt the rising costs of production and postage rates have caused incredible hardships. Many publications are going digital and will remain available by online subscription. Others are simply folding.

The last time I picked up a slick, high-quality magazine, the most obvious contents were advertisements. Not ads for simple decorating updates for our homes or fun activities that won't cost a fortune. These were ads for extremely high-end products: watches so expensive they don't show the price, jewelry too ridiculous to wear but acceptable for museum display. You get the idea. Pick up any well-known, high quality magazine and see for yourself. Perhaps there is some relationship between their mistaken audience and the real world. Perhaps this gap is catching up with advertisers.

If advertisers believe they are aiming at the 99 Percent and giving them something at which to aim, they are mistaken. If advertisers wonder what is happening to their advertising dollar, they need to rethink their approach.

The 99 Percent forms a considerable consumer base. Advertisers need to take it down a notch if they want to remain in the market.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wise Words Indeed

Occasionally it's nice to hear something said that makes sense. Such statements demonstrate that the speaker (1) had something to say that was worth sharing and (2) took the time to organize those ideas in a meaningful way.

The older we get, the less intelligent conversation we encounter. Today, many people speak in sound bites, talk in short bursts during TV commercials or type their communication via text messages or email.

Expressing oneself in heartfelt conversation has become a thing of the past. People on TV still talk but it's a far cry from speaking intelligently. Try to remember the last time you heard a speaker express himself clearly and confidently. Chances are the clip came from one of the following sources:

1. Historical television video. In days gone by, people took pride in their reputation as an intellect. In fact, some people who were branded as being "intelligent" saw their careers screech to a halt. Folks like Jack Paar and Dick Cavett were apparently too esoteric for the general public. Guests on their programs included celebrities who possessed wit and sophistication comparable to that of the hosts. Watching them interact was entertaining and enlightening. However, scintillating conversation had limited appeal in a world of diminishing comprehension and networks could not afford to lose viewer ship. After all, words over two syllables were difficult for most to absorb.

2. Foreign heads of state (especially the British). American politicians are not good speakers because they are too concerned about open microphones. Politicians are aware that everything they say -- including missteps -- will be scrutinized on every computer and television screen from New York to Los Angeles. An unintended slight or display of stupidity will damage reputations, if not lose an election.

Foreign politicians actually think about what they are going to say before opening their mouths. How refreshing! They are generally quite well educated, aware of their audience and the impact of their words.

3. Old movies. Dozens of phrases have morphed into our everyday conversation from their origin in classic movies. Here are a few examples:

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."
"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
(The Godfather - Parts I & II)

"Here's looking at you, kid."
"Round up the usual suspects."
"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"Tomorrow is another day."
"As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
(Gone With the Wind)

Part of why these phrases (and many others) have endured is that they were carefully constructed, not blurted. Occasionally I will hear a phrase spoken in a less memorable film or television show that catches my attention. The line leaps off the screen because of its perfection. At such moments, I think to myself that someone actually wrote that line. No doubt when the writer typed the line, he/she leaned back in the chair and smiled. A writer cannot help but acknowledge a great line. Gems stand apart from the rest.

Alas, all fields of entertainment have decided to scale back what they expect from the public. Rather than confuse the audience with new ideas or sophisticated concepts, the majority of television and films now focus on portraying ludicrous situations, rude behavior and bodily functions. Some in show business have dared to challenge today's guidelines only to find themselves considered as box office poison.

In a world that fails to see beyond ratings and box office receipts, this trend is likely to continue for a while.

Hopefully the pendulum will swing back one of these days. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Do I Really Need to Buy This?

While driving past a nearly empty parking lot recently, I noticed a couple of items for sale that really caught my attention.

One was a motor home, an enormous vehicle which appeared to have all the bells and whistles. It was a monstrosity with picture windows, multiple air conditioners and a ladder to make getting on the roof easier. This vehicle, with an elaborate grey and black swirl paint design, was quite impressive.

Two boats were stored nearby in the same lot also bearing "for sale" signs. These were large recreational boats parked on trailers. Not "let's row out and catch some fish" boats, but "let's make a weekend out of it" specimens equipped for cruising the lake all day and sleeping a crowd all night.

One phrase ran through my mind when I saw these three examples clustered together and posted for sale: conspicuous consumption.

It's not surprising these days to see such "toys" being sold. Newspaper listings routinely include playthings for use on the water -- ski boats, jet skis, bass boats. Drive through nearly any town and notice for sale signs in driveways as residents unload unnecessary items that seemed like a good idea when they were purchased. Once the novelty wears off and the item remains in the garage week after week, reality (or a spouse) decides it is time to downsize.

What is surprising is that some people are continuing to purchase extravagant items. Obviously sales of recreational toys have dropped off significantly in the past five years. Several local dealers who sold RVs, campers and off-the-road vehicles have either closed or adjusted their inventory to fit the current economy.

But people still buy things they don't need and may not ever plan to use very often. In this economy, why is that?

It's because adults can justify nearly anything if we so choose. See it everyday.

A couple I know recently purchased a second home approximately 2,000 miles away from their home. They then bought a nice camper-van to drive to the new house. The husband had wanted a camper-van since college and decided it was now or never. Then he and his wife recently drove the van across the country to their second house, camping only twice because of the hot weather. They returned home by air, leaving the newly-purchased vehicle parked at their second home. It will be there when they return and decide to use it. To the observer, it all seems a little extravagant.

Another acquaintance and her husband -- both retired -- have lived in the same house for almost 40 years. It is a nice house in a good neighborhood with good friends. The property is mortgage-free and they have redecorated and updated until the house is exactly to their liking. They love that house. Yet they recently bought another much larger house and will move shortly. The new house is located in a more rural setting. It's the type of house they should have lived in when their kids were at home, not now when most couples consider downsizing.

How to explain these surprising purchases by mature adults?

One theory is that folks remain in denial about the current economic frenzy. They don't understand that stories about houses being "underwater" and being foreclosed are not fiction. These events occur around us everyday. Having financial problems or being inundated by debt are not confined to headlines. Financial worries are private matters, discussed over the kitchen table late at night and not usually shared over burgers and beers.

An old friend recently lost her home to foreclosure. Many people who knew her were completely stunned and had no idea that such a thing could happen to someone we knew.

This brings me back to the motor home and boats. A large portion of the population is having difficulties. Now. Everywhere. It's time to re-evaluate the next big purchase and to speculate what might happen if the economy continues down the same path for a while longer.

We can all benefit from paying a bit more attention.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Being Happy

A few years ago, I worked as a secretary to a young businessman. He had a good job, a secure position, a wonderful wife and three young sons. My boss decided to quit his job, sell his house and move his family an hour's drive away to be closer to his family.

This seemingly drastic relocation caused the rest of the staff to question its wisdom. The result meant that his family was undergoing several changes at the same time and caused ripples on many fronts. In the years since, I also left that job and had lost track of the young man.

Recently I ran into one of my fellow co-workers from that office. After chatting for a few minutes, the name of my former boss came up in conversation.

"Say, how is Mr. X doing?" I asked.

"Oh, he's very successful. Has generated a lot of business. They built a new house. Two of his sons are in college now and making good grades," was the reply.

I paused. "No, I was wondering about Mr. X. Do you think he is happy?"

My friend stared at me blankly. "Happy? I don't know. Who IS happy these days?"

Obviously this conversation was going nowhere. My friend and I chatted on casually and soon went our separate ways.

I suppose the reason that I included happiness as a means of evaluation is that I consider happiness to be the ultimate goal in life.

Being happy is something that everyone can control. It doesn't cost anything and doesn't require bulky equipment or the consumption of medication or other substances. Being happy means different things to different people. As the saying goes, you can choose to be happy or unhappy. It sounds simplistic, but I believe that is true.

To some, happiness means being in charge of their own life. That can include not having a nagging spouse or demanding children, a micro-managing boss or burdening debt. It might mean enjoying good health. Perhaps it means pursuing a task/job/hobby that is significant and provides stimulation and reward. Happiness is something we value and usually the result of small moments of contentment.

It might be hard to find two people with the same definition of happiness. To desert nomads, it might mean finding unspoiled surroundings in which to spend time. To hungry travelers, it might mean finding a good restaurant after a long drive. To someone undergoing a financial setback, it might mean locating work with a decent wage. It's all subjective.

It seems to be a term often used rather carelessly. "Oh, that makes me happy" is a phrase a young mother might use when her infant eats his veggies. We laugh at a funny movie if it provokes a smile or chuckle. That is the same response given when receiving a much-anticipated Christmas gift. It might mean the delight found in cutting into Mom's chocolate cake. Each of these actions can make us happy and yet they are not similar.

Life seems tenuous at best. We tend to get caught up in arriving and leaving on time, achieving results at home and at work and purchasing items we don't need. Such rather unimportant tasks absorb and dominate many hours of time, leaving little opportunity for the things that really matter. Sometimes retirement provides the necessary time. But there are people who never know that makes them happy and they fail to recognize happiness at any age.

Each of us should learn to understand what makes us happy. Then we need to find and spend time doing what we like. Like my shirt from the "Life is Good" store says: "Do what you like. Like what you do."

It's rather simple really. Be happy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Things have Changed

Let's pause a moment for a moment of silence. Customer service is dead.

In this hustle, bustle world, it's not too surprising that customer service has suffered. But I believe it has now turned the corner entirely.

My first moment of "what's going on?" occurred after I moved to northern Virginia in 1990. I had gone to a local courthouse to retrieve some documents and stopped at a kiosk for directions. The girl behind the glass was doing her nails, in the middle of the lobby at the courthouse. I couldn't believe that a courthouse employee/civil servant would be so nonchalant about her job. But my journey had only begun.

It was shortly after taking a job in Washington, D.C. that I was reprimanded by a senior partner for smiling too much. A few years living inside the Beltway did a lot to dissuade me of being friendly.

In hindsight, perhaps Washington, D.C. was at the cutting edge of rudeness. Perhaps they began the wave of indifference which has now spread coast-to-coast. After all, Washington has always been a trendsetter.

Since moving to small town America, I've learned to navigate through life seeking out service providers and cashiers who will at least make eye contact and attempt to be pleasant. There are still some folks with manners out there, survivors of "the customer is always right" school of thinking. No one ever really thought the customer is always right but they at least pretended to give a hoot.

Trying to make a purchase at an upscale department store has become difficult. First, you have to track down a "sales associate" who is available, not already busy, not on their cell phone, not about to go on break or otherwise encumbered. Second, you should already have in hand the precise item that you wish to purchase. Don't expect anyone to help you by locating another similar product, perhaps in a different color or size. Third, make it clear that you are going to buy the item with as little involvement from the clerk as possible. This declaration will no doubt bring a big sigh of relief as the clerk -- who is no doubt new to the job -- can swipe your credit card and be done with it. Everyone will be happier for the matter being resolved simply.

Like most folks, I have scores of personal stories about being treated shabbily.

Recently I was at a local grocery to buy liquor on a weekend. There was NO ONE among the store staff, cashiers, produce or meat departments who was old enough to ring up my purchase. They finally located an extra stock clerk working in the back who could do so. It was a long, complex episode but no one apologized or seemed embarrassed at all.

Recently I was dining out with a friend. We had been served and our food was excellent. But before being asked about dessert or receiving an ice tea refill, our waitress simply vanished. She resurfaced in a different section of the restaurant, waiting on a large party. We tried for 20 minutes to catch her eye without luck. I finally waved to the manager and indicated we were waiting for our check. The manager apologized, brought our check, even reducing the bill because of our long wait. My friend paid with a credit card. The manager returned with his receipt and left the table. My friend said, "I didn't get my credit card back." "Are you sure?" He shook his head. "No, I didn't get it back."

He approached the manager at a register. After they chatted, the manager reached into her pants pocket and retrieved my friend's American Express card. The manager smiled weakly and said nothing.

Unfortunately, there are many such examples. No doubt some of these incidents were due to extenuating circumstances -- staff shortages, poor scheduling, even careless employees. But the overall impression that the consumer takes away from such events is that no one cares about the customer.

If business or profits decline, perhaps CEOs should look farther down the corporate ladder to see where the problem may have begun.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Appreciating Antiques

I have always enjoyed looking at and shopping for antiques.

This fondness does not include large furniture pieces like armoires or marble-topped dressers which are beautiful but far too large for most of today's homes. I am grateful for the beauty of barristers' cabinets and roll-top desks and admire their classic craftsmanship. But I will gladly let someone with an oversized house take these fine items home.

For my taste, there is nothing more intriguing than the little pieces of yesterday. I can't resist small vintage items, the type of things with which we had contact as kids. Coin purses, compacts and small things that were found in our mothers' purses. The 1950s was in the period of gloves, scarves and other beautiful but now bygone necessities. I have to stop and admire key rings, advertising items like ice scrapers and folding drinking cups which related to riding in the family car. The small parts of everyday life are the things that hold the most memories.

Little girls naturally have plenty of domestic memories from the 1950s. Many of mine involved the sewing basket. Once upon a time, women did mending. Remember mending? It was a process in which clothes were repaired so that they could continue to be worn. Clothes of the era were made to last and warranted an occasional patch or adjustment to last a bit longer. So women (most of whom didn't work full time outside the home) often mended jeans and play clothes and depended upon their much-used sewing basket. My mother's sewing was kept in a round, dark straw basket with a lid decorated in beads. That must have been a popular design as I frequently see identical baskets in antique stores. Its contents were fascinating -- spools, thimbles, assorted needles, strange floss, even a sock darner. There were also several strange pairs of scissors, short ones to clip thread, a large pair to cut fabric, and waffle-y ones to "pink" seams.

Many early memories stem from the kitchen, which was training ground for all girls in the years following the war. One of the first things I learned to prepare was Jell-O chocolate pudding (this was before the instant variety) and I stirred the pot while standing on a kitchen chair. Kitchens were mysterious and delightful, stocked with assorted pots and pans, hot pads, trivets, bottle openers and other bizarre gizmos, like melon ballers and hard-boiled egg slicers.

Cooks could select from a variety of different apron styles -- waist aprons, bib aprons, pinafore aprons and cobbler aprons. They were necessary because cooking was more involved than popping a container into the microwave. But aprons were often bright, ruffled and otherwise stylish creations to help make the cooking task a little more fun.

Dinnerware varied from fine china to Melmac in many colors and patterns with serving pieces for specified purposes. There were gravy boats (which looked nothing like boats), relish trays, soup tureens and covered casseroles. Dining was often an adventure with multiple courses and a large number of eating utensils.

Homes were decorated with doilies and table runners to protect furniture and add a touch of elegance. Nearly every home included ash trays and other smoking paraphernalia including ornate table-top lighters because so many people smoked. Desks were adorned with letter openers, desk blotters and ink bottles (for the fountain pen, of course). Mechanical pencils were found in many homes and I always found them strange. After all, we also had pencil sharpeners.

It's these little items of childhood that spark memories. Next time you browse in an antique store, look for the little things, the familiar items that we all recognize. It's an easy way to get in touch with our past.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Off the Grid

In the next few years, many people will likely choose retirement.

Deciding to retire can be somewhat intimidating, like taking a long walk off a short pier. It's unclear what awaits. The future is often uncertain. What about taking a loss of income? And, most frightening of all, what am I going to do with all that time?

I recently had brief reunions with two sets of long-time friends neither of which I had seen in many years. One is a couple who can't quite make the break from working though they are over 65. The other friend, a widow, appears to have a much better grasp of the big picture. Just seeing these two sets of friends in such a short period helped remind me that retirement is a big decision no matter what the circumstances and no two people have the same path.

Once people reach the age of, say 40, I would encourage them to occasionally think about retirement just to get familiar with the idea. Instead of even admitting that retirement might be an option -- even years down the road -- most folks dodge the topic entirely. What they should do is to daydream about something they would like to do when they have the time, not to pretend it will never occur.

The worst thing about spending decades in a career is that, no matter how you might try to avoid it, the job inevitably drains a large portion of your life force. That essence -- call it enthusiasm, energy or creativity -- would otherwise have been spent enhancing your own life. As a result some part of your life is being deprived. It might be your spouse/partner or children, seeing friends, spending time alone, enjoying hobbies, exploring other interests. Working full time means that something suffers.

My career demanded long hours and enormous responsibility. The return was job stability, pride in my work and significant paychecks. The choice was mine and I paid my dues. But during my working years I was aware that many things were neglected and I was missing out. It was a trade off.

Once I retired, the inevitable reality hit me. What was I going to do with my time? What was it that really interested me? These are thoughts that should have been on my mind prior to getting my final paycheck. But such topics were shoved back in my brain, like clothing in the back of my dresser drawers. I know that certain items are stuffed in the drawers but there's no rush in deciding what to do about them.

I have friends and acquaintances who don't know how to start retiring, so they continue to work. One former co-worker is now 75 and still works full-time. That might sound great to some, but she is working only because she doesn't know what else to do with her time. Another former co-worker retired at 92 and told me it was one of the worst decisions he ever made.

START TO THINK ABOUT IT. You may not want to retire, but chances are you will eventually slow down, even if you work part-time. Use your newly-found free time. Focus on a hobby that you have always hoped to enjoy. Learn to cook something new. Read a book. There are many things that require little equipment or materials.

Set small goals. Use a day planner, calendar or notepad and write down tasks that you hope to accomplish for the following week. I have found this approach to be very helpful in helping me utilize my time well. If a page is blank, then find something you want to do and put it on the empty page. You have then made a plan. It's called baby steps, but it is progress.

Retirement is a bit scary. It's a little like a prisoner being let out of jail after many decades. He hardly knows where to start. But it's better to be out there trying to find something that is worthwhile to do than to continue to sit at a desk/in a cubicle. Life is too short. Take a chance and find your rhythm.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hit the Road

For most families, summertime invariably includes some kind of car trip.

Whether it's going to the ball park to watch Tommy's first turn at bat or a portion of a longer journey, millions of people will drive countless miles each summer.

Cars have come a long way since the 1950s. Many vehicles manufactured in recent decades come with standard equipment that was once considered luxurious -- air conditioning, power everything, improved gas mileage and tech items like GPS and DVD players.

Roads have been radically improved, too. Current budgetary limitations have somewhat hampered major repairs and the construction of new highways. But if you remember traveling by car in the 1950s, today's patched surfaces are far more pleasant than anything we traveled back then. In the 1950s, the Midwest was linked by U.S. highways which meant single lanes of traffic moving along a roadbed no wider than 16 feet (that's for both lanes!). Driving to Chicago -- a distance of 200 miles -- was a slow, arduous journey for both driver and passengers.

So it would seem logical that travel has greatly improved since then, right? Not necessarily.

Car travel today is a little like travel by air. Travel used to be fun, being on an adventure to another part of the world. We were like pioneers embarking on a trek to an unexplored frontier. What would we find on arrival? What would we see along the way? What kind of food would we eat? What awaited us out there?

Part of the thrill of travel was the mere anticipation of the journey starting. We ventured forth willingly, anxious to see beyond our own neighborhood. Perhaps this was exciting because we were young and fairly naïve about the outside world. We hadn't been inundated by the internet yet. Fortunately, there was a whole world before we all became plugged in, when bigger issues loomed than what's the latest scandal among celebrities or which politician was caught being indiscreet.

Even taking a vacation was not a frequent occurrence. Driving a lot of leisure miles in the 1950s was rather unusual, making each trip all the more memorable. I remember on a few occasions taking a neighborhood playmate along with on our family drives because (1) it would be more fun with another person and (2) the friend had never been outside of our county. Such was the limited experience of the 1950s.

Kids are naturally bad travelers. They need to make restroom stops more often than adults. Who hasn't played "pinch the sibling" in the back seat? One of the most frequently used phrases in our car was "Don't make me have to come back there!" In fact, my dad didn't have to say anything. All he had to do was turn around from the driver's side and LOOK at me to stir fear in my small heart.

Today, vehicles come furnished with multiple cup holders so that every passenger can have his/her special beverage right at hand. We wouldn't want them to be thirsty, would we? Cars come equipped with great music systems. What's wrong with a nice, working radio? Many cars have built-in DVD players so the kiddies can watch cartoons while dad is navigating the freeway traffic. We wouldn't want the passengers to do something as mundane as look out the window and behave themselves. Let's entertain them! After all, they are used to being entertained every moment of every day.

On top of everything, there is the cost of traveling by car. Gas prices fluctuate nearly every day. Staying in a motel and dining out are enough to discourage anyone who plans to drive to their destination. With the economy in its present condition, perhaps we are all better off with a stay-cation.

At least then the kiddies won't keep asking, "Are we there yet?"

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Loving Film Noir

As I've raved about previously, I have always loved movies.

When I was growing up after World War II, moviegoers wanted musicals and color films filled with big stars. It was the heyday of spectacular productions including Biblical giants like The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. Audiences wanted bigger, epic dramas with noise and action.

Then television came along to alter movie-going habits. Kids grew into teens and would go to the theatre with their friends to see the plethora of teen movies churned out in the 1960s. Little thought was given to the plots but these films often featured heart throbs like Fabian and James Darren, fun at the beach and plenty of music.

During the 1960s, few things were as boring to many of us as "old" black-and-white movies set after the war. These movies had once been on the big screen but were now relegated in reruns on Saturday afternoon TV. "Turn that off," I would shout. "It's an old movie."

Many of these so-called old black-and-white movies belonged to a group known as "film noir" now viewed to be a vital chapter in American entertainment. There are many classic black-and-white movies not considered "film noir," including Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life which appear every Christmas. Film noir productions had an edge, sometimes depicting seedy lifestyles, often shown with criminal influences, folks undergoing personal difficulties and of course failed romances.

But know what? There are some fabulous films in this group. These movies were not glamorous but had themes of good and bad, often starring a mix of seasoned and rising actors (think Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, James Dean). I shutter to think how many of these great movies I turned off during my teen-age years.

I have learned to watch for these gems on upcoming TV schedules. I appreciate the values and lessons they present. These films also reflect the world as it was when we were young. The country was busy and energized. Streets were filled with large, classic cars, women's outfits required matching gloves and nearly every man wore a suit and a fedora. This period of Americana is depicted seldom outside of I Love Lucy reruns.

Film noir movies depict a world set in shadow, where you are never too sure of which side some of the characters are on. They may pose as allies but may unexpectedly pull a gun from their jacket -- or handbag -- when confronted. You just never know.

A couple of years ago I found a book entitled "Out of the Past - Adventures in Film Noir" by Barry Gifford. It is a wonderful guide to the lessons contained in film noir. Author Gifford includes a list of some of the better known and most notable films along with tidbits galore. I recommend the book as well as awakening an appreciation for these movies from a bygone era. We must not overlook these gems.

Try watching films from this genre and see what they have to offer. Some of the movies included in Gifford's book and worth watching are:

The Asphalt Jungle
The Blue Dahlia
Cape Fear
Double Indemnity
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Mildred Pierce
On the Waterfront
Road House
Shadow of a Doubt
Strangers on a Train
Sunset Boulevard

Next time the weather is just too darn hot, sit back and watch a nice film noir movie!