Tuesday, February 27, 2018

More intrusiveness by the left: road running minimums?

Some of my favourite joys in my 19th season running races, which include five half marathons and a marathon, are watching children run the same distances as adults.  Some of my best friends running have their children run these races.  The local running club that I am a member has age groups as young as birth to 10 years of age for age group prizes.

Herein lies the story.  Hawaii's upper chamber has a Senate Monopoly Leader, as the 2016 elections resulted in a leftist Senate Monopoly Leader and Monopoly Whip, with no opposition, owning all 25 seats.  The Left is an intrusive group demanding more government control over everything for "social justice," such as rewriting marriage laws and age of consent laws to appease the sexual liberty crowd, new government controls over light bulbs, energy policy, vehicles, appliances, and the rest to appease the green earth, educational policies to create new liberals who will be on government payroll for life, and as we now see with tragic incidents, a ban on all guns.

Owning every seat in the state legislature except for four seats in the lower chamber allowed them to put to a second reading a bill designed to impose more restrictions.  SB 2413 claims to impose a minimum age of 18 for half marathon and longer races. But a further inspection of SB2413 notes that they can ban anyone under 18 from even participating in a one mile race on public roads and requires participants to pay an entry fee.

In a state that gave us the Ironman Triathlon, and has also organised a few notable half marathons and marathons, including the JAL Honolulu Marathon in December that featured a notable figure skater and 800m runner making marathon debuts on the same weekend I ran my 14th and a Daytona 500 champion made his debut (see December article on Kiawah) at the 42,195 metre distance on the other side of the country.  (Honolulu runs on a Sunday morning at 5:30 AM;  Kiawah is on a Saturday at 8 AM, owing to state law.)

The Left noted the Honolulu Marathon and the Hapalua – Hawaii's Half Marathon allow children under the age of eighteen years to participate, and the monopoly has proposed a state law to require a minimum age of 18 years, considering a friend of mine had a daughter run a half marathon last week at 17.  For the record, I ran my first road race at 24, debuted the 10k at 28, and was 29 when I made my half marathon debut in October 2004 at the Lexington Medical Center Governor's Cup, and six weeks later made my debut doing the marathon at Kiawah Island in December 2004 for what has been an annual excursion into the marathon distance.

What does it say about the Left when they have a bill that, based on the way it is currently written, could ban those under 18 from even running 5k races?  Many 5k and 10k  races offer awards for age groups as young as under 10 years of age, and some half marathons allow trained 14-year old runners to participate.  Now Hawaii wants to impose a minimum age of 18 years for even road races at the 5k level shows the absurdity of the Left's crusade against common sense.  First they went after Christians, then they go after industry, and now they go after athletes.  This example in Hawaii shows the absurdity of the Left's war on athletes. They're working to ban boys from playing sports (Mink Education Act of 1972), and now there is a crusade against those who run.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Billy Graham, R.I.P.

I s it possible to know someone not by who they are, but by who they aren't? Billy Graham wasn't the faith-healing huckster Oral Roberts, who lived lavishly and once told people God was holding him hostage to get them to contribute more money. He wasn't the Elmer Gantry-life Jimmy Swaggart, who married a 15-year-old and dallied with hookers; he made it a point to never be in a room alone with a woman with the door closed. He wasn't Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker; he never served time in federal prison, nor was he associated with industrial-strength cosmetics. He wasn't Joel Osteen, preaching the prosperity gospel in a megachurch that used to be a professional basketball arena; in fact, he never pretended to be a pastor at all. He was a preacher, who always sought advice from his own pastor. He didn't run for president like Pat Robertson; instead, he counseled them. He didn't have his own television network, he didn't live in a mansion, he never was implicated in personal scandal. That was who Billy Graham wasn't.

Who Billy Graham was was a man who appeared 60 times on Gallup's list of the world's most admired men, who integrated his own crusades in 1953, who preached with Martin Luther King Jr. and once bailed him out of jail, who sold out Madison Square Garden in New York for 16 consecutive weeks 1957, who understood the power of radio and television and used it successfully in a way few ever have. (His radio program, Hour of Power, continued for 60 years.) As a dynamic speaker who could mesmerize television audiences as well as those viewing him in person, he was rivaled - perhaps - only by another evangelist, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Let's talk a bit more about Billy Graham and television. Those sold-out crusades in New York City in 1957 were telecast on ABC, Saturday nights from 8:00-9:00 p.m. Today, it would be unthinkable to see such programming on a national broadcast network, but it was the first of four times Graham would appear regularly with his crusades on ABC over a two-year span. Later, when the networks banished such programs from their their regular lineups, Graham would appear on syndicated broadcasts carried by massive numbers of network affiliates; those stations, who would gladly preempt network programming in order to gain advertising revenue, carried Graham's crusades commercial-free. Granted, the time was bought by Graham's organization so it wasn't as if the stations were being totally altruistic, but neither were they ignoring that which appealed to their viewership.

I don't know how many people came to Billy Graham through television, who found their way to a relationship with Christ that changed their lives; I think you could plausibly argue that he had a greater direct impact on his viewers than any other star of any other television program that has ever been shown. Although he didn't preach my particular brand of Christianity, I would sit mesmerized listening to the man speak, and seldom heard anything I could disagree with. Watching the young Graham preaching from the Garden, there is a power, a magnetism, a fire, to his words that is almost astounding - if you've only heard Graham in his later years, even in the '70s when he'd become somewhat less the revivalist preacher, you owe it to yourself to look up one of his sermons online; his own website has many of them, and be reminded of the power of speech.

For many years, Graham was associated with the Twin Cities, his headquarters being in Minneapolis, and he appeared here with his crusades several times, but I saw him in person only once, in the '90s when he was older and more frail. So unassuming was he that when he took to the podium to speak, not everyone realized it at once. But when he did speak, it was as if time had stood still, perhaps even wound its way back a decade or two. Standing there preaching about Christ and salvation, his face was animated, his voice strong and clear, and it was obvious that during a half a century of preaching, the externals may have changed - the celebrities who appeared with him, the hairstyles, the clothing - but the message never changed.

After his death last week, The Wall Street Journal asked rhetorically whether or not there would ever be another Billy Graham. The answer, of course, is no; there is never a second version of a one-of-a-kind. The question, I think, is whether or not this medium, present as it is in today's culture, will ever see anyone like him again. Forget the message, think only of the man and the way he penetrated the camera lens and met the viewer wherever he or she happened to be, physically or emotionally. The answer to that, without doubt, is also no.

Cross-posted to It's About TV!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Flashback Friday: The death of FDR wasn't such a surprise

Sunday was the 70th anniversary of the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As anniversaries go, 70 years is no biggie; in 2020, on the 75th anniversary, which will also be the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we may have more material on which we can ponder.

It is not etched in the memory in the same way as the death of JFK, although it made no less an impact at the time, for several reasons.  Television, of course, is first and foremost; with the exception of the shooting itself (which we wouldn't see until some years later, when the Zapruder film was made public), everything was carried on television.  It was a community experience, and the availability of that coverage, all these years later, makes the event vivid even for those who weren't alive in 1963.*  And then, there was a war going on.  Much is made of the famous headline in The New York Times on Friday, April 13, in which the news of the President's death and the succession of the new President, Truman, has to share top billing with the latest Allied push toward Berlin.  It seemed to a great many at the time that Roosevelt's death was a part of that war, the most significant to be killed in action, although far from the only one.

*The continuing mystique of the Kennedys doesn't hurt, either.

I was looking through the online archives of the Chicago Tribune yesterday as I am wont to do*, reading some of the stories from that time.  We learn, for instance, that shocking though Roosevelt's death may have been, life continued pretty much as usual in the Capital.  "Capital Gayety Uninterrupted by News of President's Death," one story tells us, adding that with the exception of prayer services at churches and continuous reporting on radio, "the glittering capital maintained its war time carnival air, with bars jammed, movies playing as usual, crowds standing in line for cigarets, and Thursday night shoppers thronging the stores."  Washington, where so much of the action was during the war, may have been the exception; another article notes "N.Y. Night Life Loses Gayety as President Dies," with nightclubs and hotels eliminating their musical entertainment, and many diners leaving restaurants as soon as they'd received the news.

*And what a magnificent resource it is - digitized copies of entire issues going back as far as the eye can see, and all for free.  Other newspapers should take note. 

The death of Franklin Roosevelt came as a shock to the nation; as one teenager would later note, he was the only president she and many others had ever known.  However, what I find most interesting about this issue is the article headlined, "Roosevelt's Health Failed Steadily Since Late in '43," where we learn that the President's declining condition had been an open secret in Washington and among the press for almost two years - a period of time which included the 1944 presidential election.  "For the most part the press of America refrained from publishing alarming stories, altho [sic] reporters saw the President wither under their eyes, lose his mellifluous voice, and slow down mentally."

It had been known since December 1943 that Roosevelt was having health troubles; prostate surgery had been planned for late 1944, was postponed until after the election, postponed again until after the inauguration, and then abandoned altogether when doctors decided it was "too late."  "In recent weeks," the paper reports, "physicians who examined the chief executive or cardiograms, reported he could not live six months.  One of these reported privately the President would be dead before July.  Another said the President was undergoing a complete physical collapse."  During a recent banquet, Roosevelt seemed at times to be "out of the room," repeated asking those sitting next to him to repeat remarks made by speakers, and lighting his cigarettes with hands that "shook markedly."  Roosevelt had lost 35 pounds in the past year, and "within the last few weeks, his impending death was open conversation among senators."  In just the last month, three Secret Service men had been assigned to the Vice President, providing him 24 hour coverage.

So then, Roosevelt's death was no surprise to those in the know.  Reading this was no great surprise to me either; based on histories I'd read, doctors had been increasingly worried about his health for some time, and what happened - the outcome, if not the specific cause - was entirely predictable.  What I didn't know, however, was how quickly this knowledge had come to light; here we have a major newspaper (albeit one not terribly friendly to FDR) printing this information the day after his death.  How did those who had voted for Roosevelt, with little interest in his little-known running mate, feel about the disclosure?  There had been much speculation about the President's health during the campaign, speculation that was dismissed by the chairman of the Democratic Party as a "whispering campaign going on and being intensified about the President."  Presumably he, too, knew the truth, and was part of the coverup.

The press was in on it, of course.  I doubt they'd be part of that today, if they were doing their job.  Maybe they would, if it behooved them to keep such a secret quiet for ideological purposes.  And I suppose one could make an argument that, being in wartime, it was not in the national interest to publicize the failing health of its President, which could create an air of instability and serve to encourage the enemy .  But then, one could argue the same thing about holding a presidential election in the middle of a war, as the United States did - twice.  How did Thomas Dewey, the Republican candidate in 1944, feel about it?

In making such a decision, to hide the truth of Franklin Roosevelt's medical condition, it would seem that the press overstepped its bounds, becoming a part of the story rather than reporting the story itself.  It kind of makes a mockery of the Times' motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print."  If the health of a president who isn't expected to live even one year beyond his election isn't fit to print, then what is?  Perhaps the voters would have reelected him anyway, putting their trust in his judgment, and in the men with whom he chose to surround himself.  I don't know.  I do know that these aren't questions that are being asked for the first time; the controversy about Roosevelt's health and the press' complicity in hiding it have been an issue for decades.

But it was seeing it right there in print, the day after, that proved to be the shock to me.  It wasn't a coverup that had to be uncovered; there was no search for a smoking gun, no digging in archives to find out the truth.  It was an open secret, not only with the press but, apparently, with almost everyone in Washington.  The man who ran the tobacco stand at Union Station probably knew more about FDR's health than the average citizen in middle America.  The press was complicit in this, a partner with the President and the Administration to keep quiet about something they knew.  Is it ethical behavior?  Does it belie the duty of a free press?  Were the reporters acting as Roosevelt "partners" first, and journalists second?  Or did they see themselves as Americans first and foremost?

Could something like this happen today?  My first instinct is "no," but then I ask myself: are there any true journalists left in Washington, or anywhere else?  To the extent that they are in Obama's pocket, would they keep something like this quiet?  Particularly if they saw it as improving the chances of advancing an ideological policy they favored?  I don't have the answer to that, and the fact that I can't answer it tells us more about the state of the press today than anything that might have happened 70 years ago.

Originally published April 14, 2015

Thursday, February 22, 2018


This ad came to my attention as the anniversary over a popular newsman's death was posted by that station's Web site was last week.  They posted an ad for local news and watching the weather forecasts that was around a much different generation.  My, have news reporting changed, and with the modern generation choosing X-rated programming over local broadcast television, they ignore the fundamentals of television such as local news, weather, and sports in favour of what they want at the time they want.  Was this how your local weather forecast was promoted?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Opera Wednesday

This week, the Minnesota Opera came out with its schedule for the 2018-19 season. It is, quite frankly, more interesting than some of the other, larger opera companies are offering. For example, I thought that both the Met and the Lyric of Chicago had very safe programs for the coming season, but there's a little adventure to the Minnesota lineup.

In honor of that, let's look at one of those operas on the schedule. Here's Angela Gheorghiu singing "Che il bel sogno di Doretta" from of Puccini's lesser-performed operas, La rondineThis performance was at the Metropolitan Opera in 2009; Marco Armiliato is the conductor.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Flashback Friday: Crossing The Bridge

What with all the madness that's been going on the last couple of weeks, and the idea that killer whales should be considered human beings, it seems an apropos time to remind ourselves that there's nothing new under the sun.

A few years ago, when Drew first penned this piece, it was in reaction to a proposal by some liberals that to “reduce the carbon footprint” on the planet by depopulating – in other words, humans must die (off) so the planet can live on. Taking it one step further, there’s the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, which suggests that “everyone in the world should stop having kids all at once.” As someone said at the time, that would indeed be the only logical extension of such thinking. “Wouldn't it be only proper for people suggesting this (and heck, given a chance, they'd enforce it) to kill themselves and set an example?”

This was precisely the idea behind D. Keith Mano’s brilliant, disturbing 1973 novel, The Bridge. Long out of print (as is, sadly, most of Mano’s work; the best place to find them is a used book store), The Bridge is set in the dystopian New York of 2035, where civil war has resulted in a world run by a radical environmentalist/totaliarian regime. In this world, all forms of life – “down to the merest microbe” – are considered equal. All acts of aggression – even disagreement – have been outlawed. The absurdity of their thinking is summed up in the words on a plaque outside the now-deserted and crumbling Yankee Stadium, “Where, in an age of brutality and ignorance, men presumed to compete against their brother men.” (Interestingly enough, Mano didn’t anticipate the use of inclusive language – which shows you that 1973 was, indeed, a long time ago.) Mano demonstrates the ruthlessness, indeed the inhumanity, of such inflexible thought with this exchange between two prisoners of the regime, discussing the consequences that followed when all automobiles were banned:

"It was after the road breakers came. After my brother died because there was no car to take him where the doctor was."

"Lots of people died like that."

"They said thousands had died in cars. It was better that one man should die because there were no cars."

Despite these and other decrees designed to, as we would put it today, “reduce the carbon footprint,” a mass genocide continues, to which the regime’s response is stark, and final:

Whereas it has been ascertained irrefutably by the Council's Emergency Committee on Respiration that the process of breathing has and will continue to destroy and maim innumerable forms of microscopic biological life, we of the Council, convened in full, have decided that man in good conscience can no longer permit this wanton destruction of our fellow creatures, whose right to exist is fully as great as ours. It is therefore decreed that men, in spontaneous free will and contrition, voluntarily accede to the termination of their species. . . It is hoped bretheren, that you will donate your physical bodies to the earth in such a manner that the heinous crimes of murder and pollution committed by our race throughout history may in some small way find redress.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one could almost imagine the names of some of our more prominent environmentalist/politicians being attached to a statement like that, don't you think?

From thereon in, The Bridge becomes something of an action thriller, with Mano's protagonist - the unlikely, but typically Manonian-named, Dominick Priest, who had been imprisoned for the crime of "competition" (playing chess) - on a quest to return to his home and his wife, a journey which will take him through a landscape run riot by decay, overflowing vegetation (remember, even cutting grass is a murdeous crime) and wild, feral animals, and regime officials seeking to enforce the Council's mandatory suicide decree, culminating in a harrowing crossing of the remains of the George Washington Bridge.

Ultimately, what Priest represents is the resiliency of man, the urge to survive, the quality which is the bain not only of the Council, but of totalitarian regimes throughout history. Priest is not altogether a likeable hero; Mano has chosen to portray him not as some kind of monastic crusader seeking to redeem the world, but as a man on a singular mission to live, with only a limited comprehension of the higher, existential meaning of life. As such, Priest is filled with all the foibles of man, and then some. This leads to a startling, indeed deeply disturbing (while at the same time somewhat satisfying) resolution, the consequences of which can be seen in an epilogue taking place years later.

Keith Mano has always been identified as a "Christian" novelist, and it is true that his Episcopal faith has made itself known through all of his books - from Take Five, in which a man slowly loses each of his five senses, to Bishop's Progress, featuring a confrontation between a lukewarm Episcopal Bishop and the devil, to Horn, a debate between the priest of an urban parish and a radical black leader. His most commercially successful novel, Topless, can best be summed up by the book's tag line: "Father Mike Wilson's having a bad day. He just found a headless body in his topless bar." As one might be able to gather from that last description, Mano's books have always been laced with a heavy dose of black humor.

It would be wrong to call these "comic novels," however, for the humor is mostly of the ironic sort, presenting a scenario that often borders on the absurd but merely serves as the setup for Mano's provocative probing, challenging questions on the meaning of life, and our ability (or lack thereof) to ascertain it. Religion - or faith, if you will - is never far from the surface but, despite that fact that most of Mano's protagonists are priests (in name or fact), the religiousity is not of the overt, preachy type that so often passes for "religious fiction" nowadays. It's more, as one critic put it, in the style of Waugh or Greene, probing into something deeper, and often darker – not just what it means to be a believer, but what it is to actually believe in anything.

Mano's books, while critically acclaimed, were for the most part less than commercially successful; he once recounted that his agent told him after his latest slow-seller that the only way he'd be able to get published again was under a pseudonym. His most recent novel, The Fergus Dialogues: A Meditation on the Gender of Christ, was published in 1998; since then, he has for the most part retreated from writing due to the onset of Parkinson's disease.

And that is a shame, professionally as well as personally, because in novels such as The Bridge, Keith Mano proved himself to be not only a provocative novelist but a prescient one as well.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Opera Wednesday

When we have more time, I'll write at greater length about Francis Poulenc's stirring Dialogues of the Carmelites, which has a tremendous relevance to the post-Christian times in which we now live, but in the meantime here's the dramatic conclusion: the Carmelite sisters, having been condemned by the Satanic French Revolution, make their way, one by one, to the guillotine.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Flashback Friday: The trials and tribulations of being a fan

I'm not entirely sure how one conveys the experience of being an Arsenal fan if you’re not a follower of the English Premier League, or soccer in general. To compare the experience to that of being a Chicago Cubs fan is too extreme; Arsenal’s had nothing like 110 years of futility. There’s a similarity to it, though, the sense that no matter how well things might be going at a given time, the Gunners are going to find a way to screw things up. For the last decade or so, Arsenal has been the dictionary definition of “good enough,” a team which has gone a dozen seasons without winning the championship* but always manages to finish in the league’s top four, which qualifies them for the lucrative Champions League.

*Virtually no one expects them to prevent this from becoming season number 13.

It’s not that Arsenal lacks good players, or the money to buy more. It’s that their players often fail to rise to the level required for a championship side, and the team’s management seems intent on bargain shopping, passing up the chance to acquire top talent not because they can’t afford it – like every other team in the Premier League, they have plenty of money thanks to the League’s new television contract – but because they can’t justify to themselves that the cost is worth it. They’re like the old lady who’s lived in squalor for as long as anyone can remember, only when she dies it’s discovered she had two million dollars stuffed in her mattress, and another million or so in bonds hidden in a cookie jar. They may be quite right in judging that Paul Pogba, for example, isn’t worth anything like $116 million, but as long as their competitors are willing to pay that amount, then Pogba’s objective value is meaningless; it’s his subjective worth, that of being a player who can bring the title to Manchester United, that is the only thing that matters.

Last year was perhaps a defining stage in Arsenal fandom, at least from this fan’s point of view. For the first time in years Arsenal was actually favored to finish in first, and even the team’s followers seemed ready to put all doubts aside, particularly since the League’s traditional powerhouses – Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea – were all struggling. If ever there was an opportunity, this was it.

And yet, we all know how that turned out – 5,000:1 shot Leicester City pulled off the upset of all time and won the title; Arsenal finished second, its highest finish in years. But even when Arsenal threatened, shortly after the first of the year, it was difficult to cheer them on; Leicester had already captured the hearts of soccer fans worldwide with their Cinderella run, and it seemed somehow more compelling, more important, to root for the Foxes than to waste the energy on an Arsenal title bid that would likely end in failure anyway. The fact that Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Leicester on February 14* was actually somewhat disappointing seemed to confirm the Arsenal fan experience – or lack thereof.

*Leicester’s third and final loss of the season, which explains why they won the title; Arsenal, by contrast, lost seven. At three points per victory, the four extra defeats amounts to 12 lost points. For a team that finished 10 points behind in the final standings, that makes all the difference.

Arsenal’s majority owner is the American Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Los Angeles Rams. This article, although it pertains to the Rams and doesn’t once mention Arsenal, goes a long way toward explaining how a once-powerful side could wind up mired in mediocrity for so long, and how hard it is to root for a side owned by, to be blunt about it, a creep. These two articles, on how long-time manager Arsene Wegner has failed to adapt to the times (so much so that his name has become a noun in the Urban Dictionary for being unwilling to spend money), shows how why he’s become the perfect Kroenke manager, just as Arsenal has become the perfect Kroenke team. When “good enough” means making the Champions League every season and turning a profit, rather than spending the additional money required to win the League Championship, when a soccer team evolves from a fan’s passion to a sober businessman’s profit-and-loss statement, then it becomes time to assess what it means to be an Arsenal fan.

It doesn’t mean selling the jersey or burning the scarf, it doesn’t mean casting aside years of support, even though that support has been destined from the outset to end in disappointment. It does, however, call for a break, a hiatus – a sabbatical, if you will – in that fandom. If that means rooting for Leicester City to make lightning strike twice or seeking out another Cinderella team’s bandwagon to jump on, if it means finding another team with an attractive style and dynamic manager (Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp),  even if it means identifying the most hated team – Manchester United, in other words – and pulling for whoever can stop them from the title (Manchester City, in all likelihood), so be it.

Eventually, Arsenal supporters, who already pay the highest ticket prices in Europe, will find that the only effective weapon they have is their wallet, and they will make their displeasure known. Eventually, Stan Kroenke will find Arsenal’s resale value to have peaked, and will unload his shares before their value can sink, probably to some Asian or Middle East potentate willing to spend whatever’s needed to regain past glories. Eventually (likely after this season), Arsene Wenger will step down, leaving an illustrious legacy nonetheless tarnished by the last decade-plus, and a new manager looking to create his own legacy.

When that happens, the Arsenal fan will find that the red-and-white colors on the jersey and scarf have not faded for having been in the closet for a few seasons. And then it will be time to break them out and let them show once again; after all, the colors we currently see on the pitch week after week have faded enough as it is. By then, it will be nice to have something fresh to look forward to.

Originally published on August 24, 2016. Things have only gotten worse for Arsenal since then. But thanks to some new acquisitions during the Transfer Window, maybe we have a future worth looking forward to!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

But first, a word from our dealer

It is hard for me to adequately express my hatred for television commercials pushing prescription drugs. And I use the term ‘pushing’ fully aware of its connotation, because I find it appropriate.

This is a level of resentment that far surpasses the annoyance we have all felt with certain commercials: used car ads where every line is screamed instead of spoken; commercials that change the lyrics to iconic songs to sell cat food; the subtle advancement of social justice agendas where the practical person of color has to explain something simple to the doltish white guy in the office.

Prescription drug ads irritate me at a more primal level. I find their very existence odious.
Some of this stems from ubiquity: on certain cable channels every other ad contains the phrase “Ask your doctor about…”

I’m a proud capitalist and have never felt I had the right to tell anyone how honestly-made income should be spent, whether that’s a CEO salary some might consider exorbitant, or paying $10,000 for a limited-edition wristwatch that provides the same time of day as Mickey Mouse.

But the sheer pervasiveness of this one type of product ad makes one question unavoidable: Why are drug companies spending this much money ($60 billion a year by some estimates) to promote the benefits of products that no one can actually go out and buy? Couldn’t these funds be more responsibly spent on research and trials and developing tomorrow’s cures?

I doubt physicians are being persuaded by commercials featuring an elfin redhead dressed like a human digestive tract, or a woman walking around town trailed by her anthropomorphic bladder. But I’m sure over the past decade they’ve become fed up with calls from patients, wondering why they are not getting the same stuff that that helped that woman on TV go bowling with her family again.

No wonder the American Medical Association has called for a ban on prescription drug ads. Can’t come too soon.

I also wonder what return on investment companies receive for all this advertising, particularly since some of these drugs are meant to treat conditions that are extremely rare.

Cars and candy bars and household cleaners are promoted via a medium that reaches into everyone’s home, because almost everyone buys them. But when I watch Danny Glover pretend to break into spontaneous tears and laughter to illustrate the symptoms of Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), I wonder why a national advertising campaign is deemed appropriate for a product that 99.3% of Americans will never want nor need.

And stop with that “PBA” stuff too. Suddenly every illness has to have a cute nickname. Atrial fibrillation is now “A-Fib” (any relation to J-Lo?). Will epilepsy soon become “Shakey Shake”?

I also abhor the length of these spots. There is no such thing as a 30-second pharmaceutical commercial. A full 60 seconds are mandatory to introduce our sad, suffering protagonist, to portray their discovery of a magic little pill that their doctor didn’t tell them about, and then to share in their joy as they are now able to walk their dog – play with their kids – take long bike rides through the park again.

Of course that extra time is really needed to accommodate the comical litany of side effects lawyers demand be verbally enumerated. This is always immediately preceded by the reluctant admission: “(drug name) is not for everyone.” These bits have been parodied plenty already, but that recognition should not distract us from the utter insanity of some of these stipulations.

Take Jublia, which you may do if you have toenail fungus. The condition is unsightly, but you can live a perfectly contented life if you wear socks. Jublia frees you from this burden, but if you’re pregnant and you rub it on your toe, it could harm your unborn fetus. If it could inject something into your system powerful enough to do that, what else could it do?

Oh, and it’s also flammable. Apply it to your foot by candlelight and you might burn down your house.

But the champion in the side effect sweepstakes is still Chantix, a drug that allegedly helps you quick smoking. Taking it, we are warned, could create “suicidal thoughts or actions.” Is there any other way to interpret “suicidal actions” than killing yourself? At what point does the cure become more dangerous than the condition?

I have one more selfish reason for diving toward the mute control every time one of these ads appears; I don’t like to be reminded of sick and dying people while I’m trying to watch Gilligan get off the island.

Does that make me selfish and heartless? Fine. I’ve been in hospitals and had conversations with doctors about medication for relatives in serious straits. It’s not fun. It isn’t supposed to be fun. So when COPD is portrayed with a cartoon wolf in a green sweater, or when an ad for a heart disease drug ad shows someone wistfully singing, “The sun will come out tomorrow” from Annie, in a way that suggests he’s not entirely sure he’ll be around to see it, it’s beyond tasteless.

If you have a conscience you don’t try to “sell” medication for people coping with late-stage cancer the same way you peddle remedies for a stuffy nose or a sore back. You have those conversations in private, with medical professionals and patients and their families.

Unfortunately, the very idea of privacy barely exists anymore, as those of the Millennial ilk broadcast every virtue and sin they commit to social media. As always, television does not shape culture, it merely reflects it. I wish there was something I could take to change that reflection.

Link: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/doctors-group-calls-for-ban-on-drug-ads/

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Opera Wednesday

Ed Sullivan was a man who liked to think he had his finger on the pulse of the American entertainment scene. “If he understood and liked an act,” biographer James Maguire wrote, “[the public] would; if he didn’t, his audience probably wouldn’t either.” That instinct didn’t often fail him, as the appearances by Elvis and The Beatles will attest.

He also realized that there was a great middlebrow audience out there, viewers who enjoyed seeing the latest Broadway plays and New York operas but didn’t have much of a chance to see them in person, and he was dedicated to giving them that opportunity through his show. Recreations of scenes from plays, musicals, and operas were common, with the singers and actors appearing in costume on a reproduced set. It wasn’t enough, thought Sullivan, to recreate the performance; he wanted to recreate the experience as well.

And that’s how, in November of 1956, the great Maria Callas came to be on The Ed Sullivan Show. Callas had made her Met debut on opening night of the 1956-57 season in Bellini’s Norma. On November 19, she would premiere perhaps her most famous role, that of Puccini’s Tosca. Sullivan knew the headlines that would be generated by Callas’ debut on American television, and booked Callas to appear on the show.

Maguire recounts some of the behind-the-scenes tension; Callas, a diva to the last, refused to do Tosca, preferring to save it for the paying customers at the Met. Sullivan, in turn, threatened to boot her off the show if she didn’t fulfill her half of the bargain. The result, of course, was this performance, from November 25, 1956. The first person you’ll see is Rudolf Bing, the general manager of the Metropolitan, followed by scenes from Act II of Tosca, featuring the Canadian bass-baritone George London as the villainous Count Scarpia. The orchestra is under the baton of Dimitri Mitropoulos.

In 1956, opera and theater were not uncommon on television. Aside from an occasional appearnce on PBS, where are the outlets for such programming today? 

Cross-posted at It's About TV!

Monday, February 5, 2018

What's wrong with this sentence?

Rousey’s longtime friend and fellow MMA fighter-turned-wrestling-queen Shayna Baszler (now a WWE performer as well, wrestling in NXT) was getting set to headline against Heidi Lovelace at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School."

Am I the only one who thinks this reads like a scenario from one of Christopher Buckley's satiric novels?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The LaRoche and Beyond Era began 16 years ago this coming Saturday when I walked into the School of Music practice hall room 012 to begin my first formal voice lesson, changed the way I saw music, with classical becoming a genre I appreciate most now where I attend Philharmonic concerts and have met von Stade (2011) and Fleming (2017, twice) and attending operas.

That appreciation has allowed me to ignore pop music as a whole, and the Grammys, because of the excessive junk being sold to both the church and to the general public.  The excessive attacks on the President elected by more than two-thirds of states by the few cities that want a rule of elite cities over all this year continued a long tradition of leftist propaganda based on their feelings.  One I remember too well was one group sang their sexual perversion propaganda hit while a marriage ceremony that flashed back to those of a cult minister referenced in the 1980 pop hit "Oh Buddha," with some couples of the same gender in violation of California's own Constitution (the event was held in California) that a Kamala the Bay Area Giant felt must be erased against the will of the people, repeating the tactics of King George III that led to the Declaration of Independence, as part of promoting the perversion agenda by singing their song pushing it.

But this year, I had finally seen something from those awards shows that infuriated me, and considering the 50th anniversary of a famous event in television, CBS was guilty.

The Farmers Insurance Open had been given the "Heidi" treatment.

Imagine turning on the television Sunday night, and seeing Jim Nantz, a longtime CBS stalwart, and the broadcast bug had the NBC Peacock on the bottom right corner and not the CBS Eye with "PGA TOUR" next to it.  Nantz was covering on NBC Sports the conclusion of the Farmers Insurance Open, as CBS had decided to give the first PGA Tour event on network television for the season the shaft.  It was on an NBC Sports cable channel, but the graphics were CBS, down to the CBS Sports banner on the 18th tower at Torrey Pines.  The three-man sudden death tournament aired for roughly two hours on the NBC Sports Group, with one player eliminated first, but for five holes, there was no winner.

(The tournament concluded Monday morning again on the NBC channel, with Nantz, Sir Nick Faldo, and Peter Kostis, carrying CBS flags, not NBC flags, though the broadcast bug said "LIVE PLAYOFF" with the Peacock logo.)

Both the paying spectators and CBS affiliates were given the Heidi Game treatment.  The conclusion of the Farmers Open was aired on an NBC Sports Group station Monday morning at 8 AM PT, and the spectators who had tickets had no refunds, and were not admitted to the conclusion of the final round.

The Grammys gave the tournament once known as the Andy Williams the "Heidi" treatment.  Oh the sad irony.
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