GENE OWENS: Guts, glory and guns on the playground

  • Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013 9:44 p.m.

Drifting down the stream of consciousness after a restless night of tube-watching:

• The news hawks tell me a South Carolina legislator is in favor of teaching schoolkids to use guns. That should liven up the cowboy-and-Indian games out on the playground.

• Some commercials roll over my head. What do guts and glory have to do with a pickup truck?

• Speaking of guts and gory, why do the people on “CSI” always open up their corpses just as I’m taking the first bite from my bedtime cup of ice cream?

• Speaking of unappetizing scenes, what gave the fast-food people the idea that a close-up view of a guy with a three-day growth of beard taking an oversized bite out of a hamburger and spilling sauce around his mouth would make us want to go out and buy hamburgers?

• Who thought of stealing the title of a respected 19th century book on human anatomy and transferring it to a program set in a 21st century hospital in which the main content is sex, not surgery?

• Where is the intellectual bar for the people chosen to come before Judge Judy? My assumption is that anyone with an IQ of 70 or higher is automatically disqualified. You have to be dumb as a brick to submit yourself to Her Honor’s acid tongue. A tin ear for morals and ethics is also helpful.

• I’m amazed at the number of contestants on “Wheel of Fortune” who say, “I’ve been married to my wonderful, handsome husband (or gorgeous wife) for two years and we have three awesome children.” Does the show require contestants with fairy-tale relationships and picture-perfect kids? I’m waiting for somebody to say, “I’ve been married for 30 years to a paranoid misanthrope and we have three ugly children and a bunch of weird grandchildren.”

• Why do the talking heads on the local newscasts say, “We’re digging for answers” when they’re only doing what we were taught to do in Journalism 101: check with sources and ask the obvious questions?

• Who types the closed captions for live TV shows? I suppose this duty falls on voice-recognition equipment which is powerless to figure out what the sounds mean. How else do you come up with a reference to “General Ration” when the speaker says “generation,” or “It’s our job to asses these threats,” when an added “s” on the end is obviously needed.

I suspect an electronic villain, because the synthesized voice on my GPS pulls similar stunts. I drive down Vandiver Road, pronounced “VAN-di-ver, with the short “i.” My GPS calls it “Van DIVE-ER,” as if “Van” and “Diver” were separate words. The U.S. in “U.S. 29” is pronounced like the pronoun “Us.” And once, while I was driving around Charlotte, N.C., the gadget directed me to “Stat-us-ville road” instead of “Statesville Road.” It shattered my illusion that there was a lovely lady riding a satellite on high, keeping watch on my vehicle and lovingly directing me to my destination.

On the other hand, I have known live humans who were no better at transcribing the spoken word. I once had a live person type “Rustomatics” from a tape which, judging by the context, referred to Lester Mattox, the former governor of Georgia, and another who typed “English is a two tonic language” when the speaker obviously was referring to its Teutonic origins. Maybe there was gin in the two tonics and the transcriber had just traded in an ancient Oldsmobile with Hydramatic Drive.

• Speaking of closed captions, has anybody ever figured out how to enable them with a single click of the remote? Miss Peggy and I both need them to follow dialogue on TV, and activating them requires the equivalent of a master’s degree from MIT.

• Why does modern technology rely so heavily on ancient hieroglyphics? Like a lot of old people, I have less-than-perfect vision, so it’s hard enough to read stuff written in the English alphabet, especially when it’s in raised black letters against a black background. But now the people in High-Tech Land express everything in icons, which means that in addition to making out the image, I have to figure out what it represents.

I’ve just discovered the icon for “mute” on my remote. It’s handy for turning off the sound during commercials, especially the automobile commercials in which the dealer or somebody in the dealer’s family yells at you about what a great deal his 10-year-old Rustomatic is. I’m glad I now know which button to push to squelch the loud-mouth, although I was managing pretty well by pushing the “down” end of the volume button.

• I could miss the entire middle of “Criminal Minds” without losing the story line. The writers have honed the formula to perfection. First some “unsub” commits a string of gruesome murders and the FBI crew goes “wheels up” to fly to the scene of the mayhem. Then, using only their super intellects, they describe the “unsub” unerringly, figure out why he’s doing it, and where he is at the moment. Then they arrive with screaming sirens and drawn guns, just in time to save the latest victim. I could skip the whole thing, except for the closing quotation, designed to prove that cops are not only literate but imbued with an appreciation for lofty writing as well.

• How many more crime programs are going to feature an arch-villain who killed somebody in the hero’s family and is thus the object of a never-ending search – never-ending because, if he’s found and brought to justice, there will be no further basis for the program?

• Why do so many commercials feature voice-overs while the cameras focus on some scantily clad chick, causing me to forget about the product and what it does and why I need it?

On the other hand, it beats watching some unshaven dude’s lips closing sloppily on a sauce-dripping sandwich.

Readers may email Gene Owens at

Gene Owens is a retired newspaper editor and columnist who graduated from Graniteville High School and now lives in Anderson.

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