1/23/2015

Super hype, super hearts

If you've come here to escape the 24 hour press cycle about deflated footballs, welcome.  I'm tired of hearing about it too.

Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, their-word-against-ours...you would think that all the other news in the world didn't matter.  Airplane had a rough landing at Logan...but here's even more dreck about under-inflated footballs!

Actually, something did happen that was pretty important, frightening and humbling.

When adult children have sick parents, they do everything in their power to make sure their ill-fallen parents get excellent care.  One man was so distraught, so angry, over the circumstances, ones he could not control, that he shot dead a well-respected cardiologist before turning the weapon on himself.

If the Patriots weren't going to the Superbowl, the Brigham and Women's story would be top news.  We would be hearing from experts about armed assailant safety, how healthcare can be a drain on savings and mental health, and how people remembered this wonderful cardiologist.

All we're hearing now is extraneous, unnecessary, rude, obnoxious noise about under-inflated footballs, whose lives matter more, which bar has the best Super Bowl specials, and what the Kardashians did this time to get into the trash magazines.

One of my friends I went to high school with pours her heart into job as a cardiology nurse.  Her own mother died of heart disease and she volunteers in Rwanda to do free heart surgeries via Team Heart.  This is the perfect antidote to shallow and fleeting hype: to read about those who were about to die receiving new hearts and enjoying life again.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to deflate the manias of silly things.  When Vladimir Konstantinov was brain injured after a serious limousine crash in 1997, all that celebration sublimed into support for a man who will never play hockey again.  Travis Roy became a spokesperson for spinal injury after his accident in 1995.  They converted tragedy to something much more significant and thoughtful.

That makes the hype about under-inflated footballs much more trivial - almost insignificant.

1/17/2015

Power matters

A few weeks ago, when the protests against the grand jury decisions were tendered, I made a prediction that it would take a stupid, obnoxious stunt to sour awareness and harbor irreparable resentment towards protesters.

White college-age kids chaining themselves on I-93 would certainly do it.  In fact, anyone with nothing to lose are plum candidates: no one with a job need apply; just a lot of bravado and bail money.  White dupes is a better term, because it's hard to ignore a homogeneous white person from the 'burbs, pretending to be a champion for social justice.

There's a special kind of delicious irony when the sad-sacks who thought they were making a difference and fighting a war as a soldier of a bitter, rigid ideology are themselves handcuffed and tossed into a State Police cruiser.  The bullies and narcissists who think that disrupting everything now is a wonderful thing find "in your face" in prison is grounds for being seriously injured, because the pecking order there nips that kind of arrogance in the bud.

Someone else has hijacked the circus of the "lives matter" movement. Inside the vacuum of the grand jury decisions, a slick, moneyed group of radical agitators (with a list of grievances and agendas that would make War and Peace look like an Archie comic book and Das Kapital a beach read) pounced in.  Following behind were the warped intelligentsia,  career agitators, celebrities with little else going for them save their past, and anyone else dumb enough to follow them.

If you want the real hash tag that is cleverly hidden among others, it's that power matters. That's all it is, after all: a bunch of suave radicals wanting to grab power while everyone is busy dying-in, slinging around slogans, or tying up traffic.  They don't care about race, money, brutality, or anything else.  They want to take over, and by all means not peacefully.   It is militancy,  control, and seizure of all goods they want - justice is how they bait guilty, upper-class whites with nothing to lose except their dignity into doing their bidding.

It's certainly not what Martin Luther King, Jr. and those championing civil rights did.  They carried themselves with respect and dignity for others, and understood not everyone would warm to their cause immediately.  Gradually, people began to agree that the status quo was not the best way to conduct daily life, and as such, the government realized it also, and the laws changed.

Anyone who believes the "lives matter" movement or equivalent will do the same should seriously rethink what rights, justice and freedom mean when all three are taken away, especially when the protest is a death sentence and the only slogans approved are ones that reflect a warped, dangerous reality.

1/13/2015

Not quite lovin' it

When you're in the hospital, the food served to patients can leave a lot to be desired.  It is bland/tasteless/awful not because the doctors want to add insult to injury, but because a person having a major surgery shouldn't want filet mignon, even if they're high on anesthesia.

Over the years, I've grown out of the taste of McDonald's.  I've found other burger places that do it healthier and much better, so I don't visit as often as I used to.

A children's medical center in Victoria, Australia wanted to bring in a McDonald's.  I don't think it's a good idea either.

There are medical protocols that would preclude a patient having McDonald's anyway (A Big Mac after an angioplasty defeats the purpose, for instance).  A nice cold shake after a tonsillectomy is a great idea, but then the question of wound healing comes into play (and possible infection) - and ice chips do the trick nicely.  And would you want hotcakes and sausage after an emergency appendectomy?  No - I'd want morphine, plenty of it, damn the small monkeys monitoring my BP and Tiny Tim playing his ukulele crooning "Shake It Off."

It would be pure exaggeration by making the analogy that putting a McDonald's in a hospital is similar to putting a liquor store next to a sober house.  When you mention McDonald's to a person who zealously keeps real and imagined artifice out of their body, consuming only snob foods, and lecturing others as if they're the prime authority on life, you've earned yourself a fire-and-brimstone lecture on the evils of corporatism, or if you're lucky, a snort and a sneer because you dared mention Ronald McDonald.

Perhaps the comfort and trust in the brand is why people fly into a rage.  If that energy could be put into developing a healthier alternative or equivalent to fast food without defaulting into nanny mode, it would be a huge advance in improving health.  Or, in the case of hospitals, putting improvements in hospital food and nutrition therein would make a McDonald's unnecessary.  It doesn't have to be five-star, just nutritious, appealing and satisfying.  

Rather than childish foot-stamping and the indulgence of nanny-state shenanigans, meaningful discussions on what to do now and how things can be improved will reap much bigger dividends...and perhaps much smaller, but full bellies.

1/09/2015

The five-ringed albatross

The Olympics, as intended, is meant to be the celebration of sport, not the ostentatious display of kleptomania or fringe rage.  It is not an excuse for the elite to live high off the taxpayers' beneficence, nor is it an excuse for extreme activist groups to violently disrupt the games.

The Olympics has transformed from a revered activity to a lesson on how goodwill, if abused, sours into hard-line resistance and revolt.  The 2014 Olympics - pitting an autocratic Russian president flexing his power versus neo-Bolsheviks armed with slogans, hashtags, accusations, and projectiles - is a prime example of this kind of denigration of a once august ceremony.  They give no gold medals for human rights violations, Molotov cocktail tossing, and synchronized hand-wringing (masks to hide identity optional).

Boston has had quite enough negative attention, from the sinfully bloated cost overruns of the Big Dig, to being the launching pad for the 9/11 attacks, to the Marathon bombings in 2013.  Likely, the US Olympic Committee selected us as a sympathy vote, one where they saw Boston Strong as a hard selling point.  Four people lost their lives and several others lost limbs?  Pish tosh!  Here's a $40 T-shirt to go along with those $30 sunglasses.

If the Olympics do come, it won't be about sports - it'll be about who can grab the first shiny dollar first.

Boston will be overrun by the same irritating goo-goo tourists from other parts of the country that dutifully carry their Mike's Pastry boxes and other overpriced souvenirs and attempt to affect our accents every summer, only with much more ferocity.  They will overload hotels, our overcrowded transit system, and our streets and highways. Local residents and even suburbanites will be forced to stay home under a virtual lock down for the length of the Olympics. The media will mangle place names, flog "human interest" stories for ratings, and indulge in the soft glow of electric self-satisfaction.  The burghers will give the key to the city of anyone willing to write a check for their campaign chest.  

And most of all, it will be quite interesting which foreign dignitary will call first dibs on whose motorcade gets to gum up I-93 for their trip to the equestrian trials.

I'm on the far saner side of the Olympics argument: that talented athletes who make it their dream to get a medal should be honored, watched and celebrated for their efforts.  That thrill to see a young 16 year old girl win gold after years of hard work is priceless.  That the man who worked so hard to be beaten out of a medal by a fraction show his sportsmanship and congratulate the victor gets respect, but not television time.

The Olympics must be about the participants.  Period and full stop.  Not ratings.  Not money.  Not sloganeering.  Not power.  Not politics.

A pure, unadulterated, uncorrupted Olympics committee, completely cleansed of narcissists, would make their mission to return the Olympics to their former glory and respect.  It will tell politicians their graft is wholly against the spirit of the Olympics and their presence is not needed.  It will tell the media that only the events will matter and they will be the only things broadcast.   It will tell activists that they will not acquiesce to extortion in any way. It will tell its host city they will leave their city just as they found it, perhaps pitching in money for cleanup and maintenance.

Until that happens, the Olympics are a sham and an excuse, abusing goodwill and hard work.  I'm not for a boycott - rather, it will be deliciously ironic to watch all of these people be hoisted by their own petards because the Olympics failed so miserably.

12/31/2014

Last post of 2014, aka tooting my own horn

I can't believe it's been eight years since I wrote my first post back in 2006.  I remember beginning this blog with silly stuff, being read by lots of people (for some reason I'm popular in the Russia, the Ukraine and Germany) and discovering ear wax removal is the most popular subject one would want to read (last time I looked it had 6403 views).  The second most read post (with 1913 views) is my entry about why I quit graduate school.

I have over 70,000 views on this blog.  Compared to the biggies (which could be 70,000 per minute), that's pretty darn good.  I'm not writing for the big time, or a paycheck.  I'm writing because I enjoy it.  I'm writing as a catharsis, for social commentary (sometimes biting, sometimes just nibbling playfully at the edges), and to express an opinion.

Thanks for eight years...and keep reading.

12/13/2014

Airing of the Christmas Grievances

When I was younger, Christmas was always an exciting time.  We would be keyed up at 5am, have the presents opened by 7, be at our grandparents' house by 9, eat lunch by noon, and be in bed by 8pm so our parents could exchange gifts.  Even as teenagers and college students, we actually looked forward to Christmas because it meant tons of food, presents (later on, cash), and good times (except for 1993, when I got sick on Christmas Day).

These days, the old fogey in me is looking forward to New Year's, the first crippling blizzard, the first time the sunset is at 5:00pm, filing my income taxes, and St. Patrick's Day.  Heck, I'm ready for the first day of over 90 degree weather with a dewpoint of 75.

Why, you ask?

I like Christmas.  I hate the hype.

The relentless Christmas songs, sung by people of mediocre talent, just for another paycheck.

Christmas marketing pushed ever so farther back that Christmas sales begin in August (which actually wouldn't be a bad idea - putting the fourth of July and Christmas together kills two birds with one stone).

Enough tinsel and pine trees to put a Broadway set designer into a sulk for years.

Atheists screaming that Christmas is too religious.  Christians screaming that Christmas has become too secular.

People making total fools of themselves on Black Friday, snatching up garbage "because it's cheap."  Anti-consumerists going into long, self-indulgent speeches about corporations.

The constant shoving of Christmas into the faces of people who don't want it or don't want to be reminded of it.   "Remember your Uncle Pat who once weighed 350 pounds and wasted away to 150 due to cancer with this Chia Pet!"  "If you don't buy this $900 stereo, the terrorists have won."

And schools?  Someone with a sore across their buttocks manages to get themselves in the news for suspending a student saying "Merry Christmas," or alters Christmas songs to something so unrecognizable, it might as well be sung by a thrash metal artist.

Everyone who participates in this ridiculously obnoxious Christmas circus must go home.  Take your red-and-green pom-poms elsewhere, preferably with someone who kills "Silent Night" and not in a favorable way.

For those of you who don't buy into the hype, who eschew all its garish trappings, this is for you.

When you believe the real meaning of Christmas - the one with not just holy reverence, but one that not only encourages celebration, includes reflection of the year, remembrance of times and people past, and a resolution to do better in the next year - everything else is filler.

There will always be people who we will miss (living or late), pain (physical or emotional), conflict (armed and unarmed), debt, poverty, and other unpleasant things during the holidays. The things that happen every single day do not stop during the holidays.

Even if you have a deity other than God and/or Christ, or believe in no deity at all, the holidays are more like a pause button.  One day to give thanks to your deity, or to celebrate Festivus, or simply to enjoy solitude, won't hamper those who celebrate Christmas.

Once December 26 rolls around, though, those who have been high on the Christmas hype will be forced to come down to earth.  The hype will be gone, until Harvey Leonard sees a "major coastal storm with snow measured in feet."

Then the hype for bread, eggs and milk to make French Toast will be upon us.

11/28/2014

"Thankful I'm alive"

Yesterday, at my family's Thanksgiving feast, we all were asked what we were thankful for.

I was pretty much caught off-guard by this question.  I didn't want to say anything flip or rude, so I blurted something out fast, like "Thankful I'm alive."

Back in June 9, 1989, I was working at what was Crown Shoes over on Hyde Park Avenue and getting change from what was then the Suffolk Franklin bank.  I was crossing the street and I got hit by a car.

To say that Someone Upstairs was keeping an eye out for me was an understatement.  I walked - yes, walked - away with two stitches in my head (the only pain I felt was the lidocaine burning and numbing my head) and numerous scrapes.  I was well over six feet then, but anyone smaller would have easily been dead.

When it came to that revelation, it was one resting in my subconscious until it got jostled by accident.  Awaking the slumbering part of my life that was bad at one moment but turned out very lucky, as it were.  Sidney Friedman, the MASH psychiatrist played wonderfully by Allan Arbus, would be the one sitting in front of me, asking why I said that, and then after recounting what happened, would drolly say, "It's funny how what happened earlier in life comes back at the strangest times."

So I am thankful I'm alive. And I am forever grateful Someone Upstairs thought I wasn't ready for wings yet on June 9, 1989.

The Top 30 Gold Survey