Green, Unpleasant Lawns, Decline of Whistling, Etc.

The American lawn is under attack, and not just from crabgrass. The University of Michigan recently issued a report urging people to consider a “smart lawn.” Instead of a grass-only swath, this consists of trees, shrubs, indigenous grasses and wildflowers. As such, it forgoes the fertilizer, pesticides, watering and mowing that make traditional lawns a bane for the ecosystem. (The report cites studies that blame 5 percent of air pollution on mowers and other such tools.) Taking up the call, an article in last week’s Time carried the headline, “Say Goodbye to Grass.” It told of moves by a growing number of cities and states to save scarce water by paying people to replace their grass lawns with less-thirsty versions. Could we be approaching the day when a verdant lawn becomes more a social liability than a status symbol?

Endangered-Stereotype Alert. The notion that women talk on the phone more than men is being undercut by technology. On the home phone, women chat 53 percent more than men, according to a study by International Communications Research. When it comes to cell phones, though, men talk 35 percent more. Women are more likely than men to use their cell phones for personal calls; men use them mainly for business.

Honors for Best Temperature-Related Excuse for a Cheesecake Photo go this week to Labatt’s Ice beer. Let’s hope Miss Nipples didn’t come down with pneumonia after being chilled for the photo shoot. Axmith McIntyre Wicht of Toronto created the ad.

Want a commercial to evoke bygone days? Have someone in it whistle. The unexpectedness of it will help the spot break through the clutter. As an item in The Washington Post recently noted, “People don’t whistle much anymore.” Whistling has become a “relic from a less technological, pre-225-channel time when folks had to keep themselves company and make their own amusement.” Once the emblem of “a certain jaunty happy-go-luckiness,” it has succumbed to the din of jackhammers, sirens and cell phones. All the more reason, then, why people might be pleasantly surprised by the occasional whistle in television and radio spots.

While consumer-confidence numbers have been as volatile as the Nasdaq average, a survey by the Pew Center for the People & the Press spotlights an important fact (see the chart): Just half of consumers now feel they can easily afford the things they want. But 63 percent expect their household’s finances to improve in the course of the next year, while 19 percent foresee a worsening. Oddly, people don’t give much credit to the low inflation rate of recent years. The poll finds 63 percent of respondents saying prices have risen “a lot” in the past five years; just 31 percent say (more accurately) that prices have climbed “a little,” while 5 percent say they’ve risen “not much at all.”

At the risk of feeding baby boomers’ delusions that they’re still young, we pass along a bit of data on how Americans view the matter. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion asked: “Do you consider 50 to be young, middle-aged or old?” While 67 percent of the respondents said “middle-aged”—as well they should—the “young” vote (27 percent) far exceeded the “old” tally (6 percent).