Thursday, August 24, 2017

Elementary: a Missed Opportunity
On CBS and Hulu.

It's too bad CBS couldn't see their way to doing something a little different with their Sherlock Holmes. How about having Lucy Liu play a female Sherlock, instead of the Watson role, for instance? Instead Liu is stuck in essentially the same role Bitty Schram played opposite the much more appealing Tony Shalhoub in Monk. Oh, but that was comedy and this is drama, you say? Let's not kid ourselves that Elementary is somehow serious drama. There are no social issues, no philosophy, not much psychology, nothing to elevate this above a hundred other TV series with smart, anti-social male protagonists. A woman in the Watson role is not news, even if Lucy Liu does her best to make her Watson fun to watch; it's just a "spunky" woman in her traditional place, playing the social interface for the man, three steps behind him.

More compelling, if less pretentious, is "Rizzoli and Isles." As the title suggests, the two female lead characters are more nearly equals. Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), as the detective, naturally is the more dominant character, but Isles (Sasha Alexander) holds her own as the chief pathologist. Not only does this reflect a more democratic ideal, but Rizzoli's leadership seems organic, based not only on their different roles in solving investigations, but also on their personalities. Let's have more of that.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Red Flags for Football


The year 2014 saw NCAA sanctions against Penn State's football program—a substantial $60 million, a four-year postseason ban for the football team, a scholarship reduction from 25 to 15 for four years, a five-year probation for all Penn State sports, and the vacating of all football wins from 1998 through 2011. Those sanctions are a second big hit against youth football as we've known it. The first was an accumulation of research showing that the full contact game damages players' brains. It's time for parents, schools and coaches to stop damaging boys with hugely expensive, brain-damaging football like the pros play, and turn to flag football.

Let's not for a moment forget that money was the reason Jerry Sandusky had to be protected despite a long history of molesting kids in the Penn State youth football program. Football was too big an investment and too big a cash cow for Joe Paterno to let sexual assault on children trip it up.

And what about brain damage? At Penn State, Paterno notably put an emphasis on his athletes being decent students. Where does brain damage fit in this picture? It's one thing for men—professionals—to decide they're willing to sacrifice their futures for good—no, great money in the present tense. But should kids under the age of majority be allowed that choice? What about teenagers, whose brains, we now know, undergo major changes on the passage toward adulthood? And does anyone really think 10-year-olds should be exposed to the risks of brain damage and later depression, dementia and suicide?

Let's consider what would become of football if it were a non-contact sport—at  least through high school. Kids—both boys and girls—would learn the basic rules, as boys do now. They would learn teamwork, leadership, sportsmanship, just as boys do now. They would focus on agility, conditioning and strategy, even more than they do now. It might not be as big an attraction as it is now—less money invested, less incentive for cover-ups. On a par with soccer or lacrosse maybe.

No doubt professional football—full-contact football—would  feel the effects of such changes. Would there be less emphasis in the pro game on bigger and bigger men hitting harder, hitting to injure, and pay-to-injure bounty schemes? And if so, wouldn't that be a good thing? Would young players, coming out of college with fewer years of brain-jarring hits, play smarter and better for having years of more agility, conditioning and strategy training and fewer head and joint injuries? And, without the money incentives to protect winning coaches no matter what else they do, might some great players stay in the game through high school and college because they haven't been molested by a coach?

Protecting kids—a beginning, not an end.

Keeping Health Care Costs Down

Having recently escaped from the expensive clutches of a certain health conglomerate whose initials are like those for “kitchen patrol,” I can suggest three tried and true strategies for other health organizations to avoid diagnosis and keep treatment costs down.

1)      Suggest an old-fashioned and painful sounding treatment. “We can stick a hot electrode into your sinus and cauterize.” (No need to offer a diagnosis.) This shuts them up every time.
2)      In cases where conditions have gotten complicated—in  an older knee joint, for example—diagnose the untreatable condition (say, arthritis) using the least expensive diagnostic tools possible: a cursory hands-on exam and, if necessary, x-ray. Ignore anything that would be costly (like a torn ligament or meniscus).
3)      Insist that there are no diagnostic tools to examine the part of the body where the patient feels pain or discomfort. “That part of the body is essentially a black box.” Further, behave as though the use of the term “referred pain” is an indicator of mental instability.

These methods have served the Kitchen Patrol just fine. Give them a try.