Friday, January 30, 2015

Dr. Oz — Brand gone bad

This modern tale reminds me of an old German movie I saw in college about a fussy, goatee-d professor-type — the proverbial "old fool" — who falls in love with a sexy show-girl — the classic, cold-blooded seductress — leading to his disgrace and doom.

In one scene, the show-girl literally twirls the old fool around her finger by his neck-tie — and he's loving it.

In the modern version, the part of the old fool is played by Dr. Mehmet Oz — the charismatic heart surgeon and vice-chairman of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Oz has a sharp outfit, good career and solid reputation. He can use his own hands to save human life.

Ah, but Dr. Oz — like the old fool in the German movie — stumbles into a den of temptation. His eyes fall on the irresistible show-girl — and predictably, he reacts like this: 
Dr. Mehmet Oz at the moment of temptation
The audience shudders! No, Dr. Oz, danger, danger! Don't go there. Don't fall for her! ... even though she looks like this:
In this tale — as in the original movie — the old fool falls in love and plummets inevitably to his disgrace and doom. The audience is shaken... but knows that this disaster was avoidable.

Here is the final scene:

What a tragedy! Such a promising career! All thrown away by the natural human weakness for erotic German cabaret singers in stockings with their legs arranged to reveal just enough carnal charm to drive even a distinguished heart surgeon to act like an insane old fool.

Ach! or whatever they say over there. Merde! ... um... Saab! ...
But of course, it wasn't because of a cabaret singer at all. This waste of a perfectly good reputation was all for money.


Friday, January 23, 2015

NFL fans: Get a Grip!

Is the NFL brand tarnished because the Patriots might have stuck a needle in 11 game balls and let out some of the air? I know, I know, everyone is upset over the perceived damage to the "integrity of the game." But lace my mouth shut before I say it: This is professional football, not Court TV.

This is a human activity where intense violence + astute strategy = success.

When there's as fumble, and everyone jumps on the guy with the ball, what do you think goes on under that pile of fired-up men? No one's serving tea and crumpets. 

Let me ask you this: Why does each team bring its own footballs to the contest in the first place? Doesn't that imply that each team has, shall we say, preferences as to how the balls are protected and prepared?

If the condition of the ball were so crucial to the outcome of the game, why aren't the game balls secured and provided by the refs?

This "scandal" is ridiculous. Means little. Will not "tarnish" the game, the Super Bowl, or Patriot Coach Belichick's reputation — which is carefully cultivated for its misanthropy.

Brandsinger displays grip on his preferred not-fully-inflated ball

Plus, I'll admit to another factor: I prefer playing with a football that's not fully pumped up.

— Brandsinger

Thursday, January 15, 2015

When a catch is a cantaloupe

We live in an age in which every conceivable human activity is defined by — surprise! — lawyers. Take, for example, the ordinary act of reaching up to a flying object... and drawing that object to your body with both hands. What would you call that action? ... a what?... go ahead... are you having trouble here? ... I'll try again. An object is tossed by a schoolchild, friend or colleague ... and it's flying in your direction and you reach up with both hands and gain possession of the object,  bring it close to your body and then come back to earth on both feet. What do you call that? Is there a noun that comes to mind? Is that a plastic spoon? noooo. that's not it. Is it a building? no... that's not right either. Is it a peach? ... c'mon, it's much easier than that! It begins with a C. Are you closer now?... a c-c--c-c-c-c.... cantaloupe? no... Think again. You reach up, grasp it in your hands and come down on your two feet with the object in your hands. Still confused?

Let me describe the action in pictures:

1 You leap up and grasp an object firmly in both hands... bring the object to your body as you come back to the ground...

3... and you lunge forward... still holding the object with both hands.

What do you call this? Got it now? --- We've seen this action all our lives from playground to gym to pizza shops. We all know what it is. It's called a "CATCH!"

But here's the problem: In the lawyered-up National Football League, that's not a catch.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ebola education NYC style

The number one job of elected leaders and health officials is to keep citizens safe. Facing the deadly Ebola virus, New York City officials seemed torn between the need to contain the spread of virus and the desire to contain the spread of fear.

One could reasonably ask, “Which is worse, catching Ebola or panicking?” 

Personally, I prefer panicky people shunning contact with neighbors, boiling their clothes and spraying money with Lysol than having perfectly calm people spread a deadly virus by hugging everyone including you and the mailman.

In any case, I  see that, after months of concern over Ebola, New York City is still trying to guide New Yorkers on how to perceive the danger of catching this lethal disease.

Has NYC succeeded in communicating clearly? You tell me:
Seen on the #1 subway train was this poster with EBOLA in giant letters.
The first point tells riders that "You can ONLY get Ebola from direct contact with the body fluids of a person sick with Ebola or who died of Ebola."

The second point — trying to be reassuring — says "You CANNOT get Ebola through the air or sitting next to someone who does not have symptoms." 

Well then, no danger sitting next to someone on this train... because...clearly no one sitting next to me on this train has any "symptoms." I'm sure... 

The final point says that "SYMPTOMS" include a headache. Well... um... I'm 100 percent positive that no one sitting next to me on this train has a headache. No need to panic. 


Monday, January 5, 2015

"Racial Barrier Falls"

We've been through a season of difficult relations between the races in America. Polls indicate that racial tension and misunderstanding during the Obama years have intensified, not mellowed.

Race relations have worsened? How can that be? You would think that — after this nation's rocky, brutal and often violent history of race relations — the elevation of an African American to the Presidency would signal or even confirm a new era.

I was sorting through old files last week and found The New York Times from November 6, 2008 — the day Barack Obama became President-elect. The world seemed to rejoice.
Notice how the Times framed Obama's victory: "RACIAL BARRIER FALLS..." Everyone saw the significance of a black man becoming President. It was a moment of progress and hope.
Yet instead of a time of recognized and continuing progress for blacks and greater understanding from whites, 2008 to 2015 has been a period of palpable tension, greater mistrust... mounting mistrust.

Why is that? Has nothing changed since Jim Crow laws... and Selma?... Does this nation never get a chance to throw off the cross of race hatred? Are institutions to blame... or is it "history" (whatever that is)... or have people failed us... specific people?


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Is winter a brand?

Winter needs no marketing strategy. It differentiates itself by its contrasts. There is nothing blurry or ill-defined about winter’s experience.

Winter comes in stark opposites. Toasty inside, chilly out. Flowing warm bath water… versus the hardness of frozen earth. A cold, stinging wind… burning hot fireplace.
You bundle up to go out and strip off clothes to come in.
Winter reverses everything. 
In winter the flowers are indoors, but the yards are bleak and colorless. Wild mice decide to come in and bunk with us. Your skin — so damp in other seasons — is now dry as paper.
Spring embraces you, summer enchants you, fall is inspiring — but winter seizes you in its grip. Frigid air swirls down from Canada as winter presses you between unyielding knuckles.

Get away from the glare of the city… walk outside and stare into the black sky of a clear winter’s night. Stars and planets dot the blackness in sharp contrast to the heavens' infinite depth. The moon illuminates the hard ground beneath your boots. No impulse to move. There is no way to escape the grip of winter or the grim majesty of eternity.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 — The Sorry Year

Three days before the end of 2014, the CEO of AirAsia, which lost a commercial jet off the coast of Borneo, told the world, “Words cannot express how sorry I am." After meeting with relatives of passengers and crew he reported: "I have apologized profusely for what they are going through.”
Yes, another public apology — a fitting close to 2014, the Year of Saying Sorry.
Last spring Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla, apologized but failed to save his job. You’ll recall that years earlier he had contributed $1,000 to a campaign to outlaw gay marriage in California. Oh he tried to wiggle out by saying he is tolerant of all, committed to working with gay people and to continuing Mozilla's culture of acceptance. He apologized for "having caused pain” — but sorry, no cigar. 

He was booted, and what did Mozilla do? (Hint: this was 2004.) Mozilla apologized.
Wrote executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker: “We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves… We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry.” 

Rather comical is the fate of another 2014 groveler — the President of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney. She had written an email expressing support for those protesting police killings of unarmed African-Americans. “We are called to respond in several ways: to hold and heal those who are in pain; to teach, learn and share what we know; and to work for equity and justice.”

The problem, of course, was that President McCartney ended her email with the ringing cry “All lives matter” — oops. To the people she was supporting, this was heresy.
After being corrected for her “All lives matter,” McCartney wrote an email of… (remember, 2014) apology: “Specifically, I regret that I was unaware the phrase/hashtag ‘all lives matter’ has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against Black people…I am committed to working as a white ally, to learning from the lived experiences of people of color, and to acknowledging mistakes, despite my best intentions.”

Ball players too caught the bug. When L.J. Mazzilli, a minor league player in the Mets system, was caught using banned drugs, he wrote: "After everything my loved ones, supporters and the N.Y. Mets have given me, especially an opportunity to chase my childhood dream, I couldn't be more ashamed and sorry.”

Even Supreme Court Justice Scalia — the near god in judge’s robes — admitted to being inconsistent in a ruling: “As for my own culpability in overlooking the issue,” he wrote, “I must accept that and will take it with me to the grave.” He rationalized his failing by quoting Justice Robert Jackson (an FDR appointee): “I see no reason why I should be consciously wrong today because I was unconsciously wrong yesterday.”
From ball players to judges to CEOs to college presidents, the past 12 months offered regular opportunities to see public groveling in all its glory and infamy. Some apologies seemed heartfelt in the face of human tragedy. Others seemed required by political necessity.
My favorite apology of all time — Hey, don’t snicker, I collect apologies. You probably have a favorite glass elephant or something — is from an old movie. After you’ve seen it HERE, you’ll agree with me unreservedly that this is the pinnacle of a sad but often necessary art.
It’s still 2014, so I must say I'm sorry for going negative. Happy 2015, the year of...?