What’s a Little Lie Between Friends?

Jim Hagarty
Punn Ditt Inc.

One time, when my son was very young, I asked him if he had seen my hammer.

He said he hadn`t.

At that moment, he was standing there, looking at me, denying having seen my hammer. While holding my hammer in his hand.

He would have fit right in at this week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. People are standing there holding hammers which they have denied seeing.

Yesterday, the convention’s theme was the economy. The online news site Politico has a great article today explaining how the convention goers believe the U.S. economy is terrible when in fact, by every measure, it has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Seventy-six straight months of job growth. Fifteen million new jobs under Obama.

But here is the phenomenon. If they believe it, it is true, facts be damned.

They believe Obama has been a terrible failure at the economy (and everything else) so, he has been. Case closed. A man who has bankrupted his companies four or five times, is involved in over 3,500 lawsuits related to his businesses, and is a known fraud artist, somehow will be better than Obama at handling the nation’s financial affairs.

Alrighty then.

I spent my life in the newspaper business. Once in a while, I would uncover a story that was just too good to be true. Wow! Made my day. Front page. Holy hell. I had just won a newspaper award. Yay!

Then I would get a phone call. From some authority who knew the facts. Someone like a police chief, for example. Was I aware, I would be asked, that my story was completely wrong.

In the newspaper business, you had no option but to retract, sometimes to apologize.

In the Republican business, no such need.

Carry on.

World’s Worst Garage Saler

By Jim Hagarty

Maybe your experience has been different from mine, but for some reason I cannot explain, I can’t get rid of my junk by holding garage sales.

They obviously do the trick for other cluttermongers – some communities, in fact, pass bylaws limiting the number of yard sales a homeowner can have in a year because some are basically small businesses in disguise – but the few I’ve had have ended only in discouragement and embarrassment as I am continually forced to haul all the old stuff back into the garage.

It might be my prices. I’ll admit, greed gets the best of me and with visions of walking away with sagging pockets of freshly minted coins, I may be pricing myself out of the market. Maybe $10 is too much for a picture frame that cost $3 five years ago. And presentation could be a problem. I kind of just spread everything around loosely on the grass, on the driveway, in cardboard boxes, on a couple of old tables. It may be that I need to hire a marketing guru or business coach to help me catch the eye of those hard-nosed bargain hunters out there.

But the biggest drawback, I can easily see, has to be with my timing. It appears as though you cannot straggle out of bed at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning and start pricing and hauling your stuff to the street after that. The real, professional garage sale junkies have already ransacked the town by then and have gone to wherever these people hang out between garage sales.

Which might be the crux of the problem. I guess I am a stranger in the yard sale subculture. If you get offended by people wandering through your garage offering you a buck for things they’ve been clearly told are not for sale, then yard peddling might not be the thing for you. And putting an ad in the paper saying, “No early birds, please” just seems to serve to attract them.

You also cannot have sensitive feelings to be a success in the garage-sale world. When someone thinks 25 cents is too much to pay for an old flute and tries to work you down to 15 cents, you simply can’t take it personally. Accept that you are talking to an alien, take their 15 cents and move on, and see if they ascend to some sort of Mother Ship after they leave. In fact, if rudeness bothers you, don’t even think about exposing yourself to it by displaying the things you’ve been hoarding all these years. Your tender ears might be shocked at what you’ll hear.

But here’s the real rub. If everyone was as much a washout at this activity as you are, you might feel surrounded by compatriots. That, however, does not seem to be the case. A woman down the street announces proudly that she made $500 on her recent sale ($75 of which was yours). And an old friend from another town says he recently hauled in $950 at a blowout lawn sale.

Give me a break!

Two summers ago, my son and I sat patiently watching people glance at – and walk by – our pile of what might euphemistically be called rubbish on their way to a neighbour’s place two doors down. The couple there were doing a booming business and we watched with bewilderment at how everything they had for sale, sold, including all the stuff on this big, long table. And then, when they were packing up for the day, somebody came along and bought the table!

Last weekend, I put a few things out and amazingly, sold a couple of items. I leaned the bike I bought a few weeks ago for $10 up against a tree with a pricetag of $15 on it, hoping to launch a career as a capitalist. A woman pulled up in her car, got out and asked whether or not I’d take $10 for it as that is all she had on her. I said sure.

I also vowed never to do this again and have spent all week making deposits at the various charities around town as well as the dump where I probably should have been taking all this stuff all along.

Those Low Expectations

By Jim Hagarty
Punn Ditt Inc.

I need to add something to my earlier rambling about the Canadian versus the American election.

Not to freak anyone out, but there was one big difference and maybe one big similarity.

First the difference. The Conservatives had been in power in Canada for 10 years so people were ready for change. In the U.S., in the White House in any case, it has been the Democrats in charge for the past eight years.

Now the thing that might be the same. Expectations for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau were incredibly low. Part of that was the Conservative’s own fault. They advertised relentlessly for months before the election all about how Trudeau just wasn’t ready and they openly mocked him. So Trudeau just had to hold his own to be praised for exceeding expectations. There is some discussion that the Democrats and progressives in the U.S. might be helping Donald Trump by painting him as such an incompetent and also by mocking him. If he shows any competency at all, voters will think he has been misjudged.

But that is where the similarity ends. Trudeau got better the closer he got to the big day; Trumps seems to be getting worse.

The Republican’ts

Jim Hagarty
Punn Ditt Inc.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. Too sickening to watch, in my opinion. The Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the Donald J. Trump ultimate reality show, in other words. It opened Monday. Goes on all week.

But I read the coverage today and apparently, according to the “progressive” sites I read, the entire theme of the first day’s events and speeches was fear and doom and gloom. America is going down the drain. Only Trump can save it. A strongman is needed.

Maybe I can’t watch it because I saw it all play out in my own country, Canada, about a year ago. The anger, the cynicism, the appeals to fear, the hatred.

But I am here to give you some good news. Those who ran the most awful, negative federal election campaign in Canadian history were trounced at the polls. And in large part, it was women and young voters who took them to the woodshed.

We had, in the Conservative party (our Republicans), religious extremists who were experts in stoking fear and presenting themselves as the only ones who could respond to it. Economic fear, especially, but also fear of the “other.” The federal party pledged a ban on Muslim headdress that covers the face, beginning with any contact a woman has with the government.

And then they crossed a bridge too far.

Towards the end of the campaign, getting desperate, the Conservatives announced they were setting up a snitch line where Canadians could report “barbaric cultural practices” to the authorities. Forget the fact that those practices are already unlawful in Canada and all it takes is a phone call to police to get some action. This was a direct anti-Muslim appeal.

But perhaps worse was the character assassination of the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau. The Tories laid every possible terrible thing at his feet. They called him a no-nothing school teacher who was just a pretty boy, an empty suit with an empty head. Before the campaign ended, they had Trudeau opening up marijuana shops and brothels on every street corner in Canada.

Trudeau did not respond with a negative campaign. Instead, he campaigned positively and laid out a platform that Canadians found appealing and realistic. At one event, he was at a podium, with groups of young supporters behind him. The name of a political enemy came up. The kids started booing. Trudeau turned around angrily and told them to stop. “We don’t do that,” he said.

Canadians also saw through the awful BS being peddled by the Conservatives. It will be a long time before they try that again.

Take heart worthy neighbours in the U.S. You will get through this. We were terrified the Conservatives would somehow pull it off. They didn’t even come close. They still have some awful yahoos in their party but they are being sidelined by newer, more positive people, still, in my view, with flawed messages but they are trying at least to smile now and then.

After Trump burns the party to the ground, the Republicans will have to start over. Purge the party of the retrogrades and build something positive.

Or they could disappear.

There are some other, interesting parties on the U.S. landscape.

A Regular Heat Wave

By Jim Hagarty

OK, explain to me the deal with the patio heaters and fans

You might think that one of these days, modern technological innovation would suddenly come to an end, every possible inventible thing having already been invented. Instead, it is the reverse: The pace of innovation is speeding up all the time. Or is that the pace of marketing?

A while back, I was flipping through a flyer when a photo of a beautiful backyard deck caught my attention. I think what impressed me the most was that the quality and price of the furniture on that deck would exceed the value of the tables and chairs in many people’s homes. In the insides of their homes, that is.

In fact, it occurred to me that this particular arrangement of furniture could easily replace the average person’s inside stuff and I started thinking back to the Lawnchair Years – university and shared apartments and all that. A sturdy lawnchair in those days was a prized possession.

But how wealthy do we have to be to be able to sink hundreds of dollars into furniture that birds will poop on and squirrels go tearing across?

The phenomenon is this. For years, we have been trying to replicate the outdoors inside our homes. We have showers, grow plants, and start fires and even allow birds and four-legged animals – in some cases snakes, iguana and turtles to run and slither around and birds to fly about.

Now, we are taking our indoors, outdoors. And we are willing to spend a king’s ransom to do it. Further proof is needed, you say. Well here it is.

In the photo in that same flyer I referred to above was a stylish outfit known as a patio heater. Now, is this an achievable goal – to warm up the outside?

Here is some more proof. A few weeks later, I saw a similar device, the job of which it is to cool down the patio. Hence, its description as a patio fan.

So, in our obsession to control every minute detail of our environment, we have invented patio heaters to do the job of the sun and patio fans to do the work of the wind.

The person who thought up the patio fan must have turned to someone and said, “Do you think anyone will buy something like this?”

“Send it down to marketing,” would surely have come the reply. “They can sell anything.”

And if you think that isn’t true, ask yourself what would have been your reaction if someone had told you a dozen years ago that you’d be willing today to lay out a few hundred dollars for a wee, high fidelity juke box that fits in your pocket. Or a bicycle powered by an electric motor.

The more educated and populated becomes the world, the more new devices will be created, useful or otherwise.

I talked to a man recently who told me he can open his front door here in Stratford when he is in Toronto, a two-hour drive away, using his smartphone. That’s not something that most of us need, but someday, we probably will have that same gizmo.

And as long as we want our lawns to look like indoor carpets, and our indoor floors to look like big, flat outdoor rocks, the inventors and marketers will keep laughing all the way to their automated banking machines.