Monday, June 30, 2014

Aging, Advertising and a Bad Latuda

Does anyone still get their news from television anymore?

There was a day when the country used to snap on the TV and watch Walter Cronkite or even two curmudgeons named Huntley and Brinkley deliver the goods every evening. Raise your hands, please.......

Hmmm, only a few. And I’m sure you’re mostly over 50.

Uncle Walter kept us all informed.
Although I, myself, belong in the afore-mentioned age group, I get some of my news at the computer, too.

Thanks to the internet’s proliferation of schlock, I am equally aware of when a family of six rents out Kim Kardashians’s cleavage or exactly which expletive Shia LeBeouf recently shouted at a police officer, as well as the developments in the White House, the middle east and under Hilary Clinton’s bangs.
Actually, maybe a family
of eight could live there.

For the most part, however, Seth and I watch nightly world news on TV and have been noticing a clear and unsettling trend that has usurped all advertising time during the half hour format: All the commercials are for hip and knee replacements, incontinence supplies for women and a variety of prescription medications.  

The most popular and bizarrely obnoxious commercials used to be for Viagra and its ilk, showing attractive middle-aged actors sitting in farted-up bath water in tubs out on their lawns or men with well-clipped beards ogling women as they cheerfully re-pot plants (apparently the writers of these ads find transplanting a geranium before lunch to be a huge turn-on) but now, most of the commercials seem to be about depression.

"Why are our bathtubs out here, dear?"
"I have no idea."

Everyone knows that depression is not exclusive to the older set but there must be a lot of it to justify the advertising blitz on the small screen. Perhaps we are kind of bummed that we need to replace our joints, take up gardening in order to have sex or buy handbags large enough to carry our spare Depends but that would mean that all that malarkey is true. Well, it ain't.

Still, the ads do come fast and furious throughout the 30 minutes it takes Dianne Sawyer to tell us that the world does indeed seem to be in quite a fix. Or, come to think of it, maybe we’re melancholy because we know what's going on from watching the news in the first place.

By the way, have you noticed the names of the medications?

Take for example, Latuda. That sounds like a bad attitude about latitude but, instead, it’s a medication  for bipolar depression. Prolia sounds like a rapid moving flesh eating bacteria but actually is a medication for osteoporosis while Spiriva is for bronchial issues. To me, spiriva sounds like a religious cult (or, possibly a Chasidic entertainer...either way, she's in trouble) as in, “My daughter's run off with Spiriva!! What shall we do?”

 There’s also Toviaz which is a prescription for overactive bladders but should be a futuristic and poorly reviewed  movie starring Will Smith. 

You go break a leg, you crazy bitch.
A very heavily advertised anti-psychotic called Abilify does actually sound like something sturdy and life-empowering but Cymbalta, for depression, sounds like a party: They’re having a big cymbalta on Saturday for their 25th anniversary, wanna go?”

Chantix, which  helps you stop smoking, sounds like fun, too while Lyrica -- for seizures -- sounds lilting and musical.

Then there’s the granddaddy of them all….Viagra. It’s chemical name is sildenafil citrate which does actually sound kind of droopy while viagra could be something to rub into your scalp to make your hair grow or, well, you know. Just seeing the word Viagra makes us all feel empowered and strong. I salute the drug namers for that one.
You might be next!

So, if someone under 25 were to turn on the evening news (as likely as Justin Bieber not hitting someone with his Ferrari) or, for that matter, even the decades-old news show, 60 Minutes on Sunday nights, he or she would be certain that the advertisers are very sure their audience is a bunch of pee soaked, creaking and depressed wrecks who need help in the bedroom.

Maybe some of us are but most of us would just like to be invited to a good cymbalta now and then and have a little fun.

"Toviaz!" starring Will Smith opens soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Power of Oz

Since I love fewer things than saying "I told you so," I am reviving this post from nearly two years ago. Now that Dr. Oz has been dragged in front of a congressional committee to talk about his claims that you can you lose weight with a variety of "miracles," I thought this might be fun (for me, especially) to read again:

Who didn't love Dr. Oz in the beginning?

Introduced to the public by Oprah, he was refreshing and kind. He told us things we needed to hear and taught us stuff about our health and bodies that was new and helpful.

While never entirely comfortable with his insistence on wearing green operating scrubs on the show every week, he was kind of cute with that flip of hair on his forehead and his droopy upper eyelids.

While I was never one of them, I suspect many women imagined him handling their pancreases with the same sensuality he fondled the preserved organs he brought as show and tell to the Oprah show.
Look at that body language!
Angry Steadman

This went on for a while.

Oprah's boyfriend, Steadman and I endured the increasingly touchy-feely relationship that appeared to be developing between Oprah and Mehmet (I call him that). They both seemed in a bit of a lather over the dessicated lungs and heart valves they were petting and, if you combine all this with purple latex, the show was starting to get a little breathy for my taste.

Rumor has it, he wore no underwear beneath those scrubs. *

Then he got his own show and it didn't take long for me to grow annoyed.

Between the infatuated women in his audience who thundered to the stage to participate in some demo illustrating why we're all going to die very soon, to his constant groping of everyone in the studio, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.

Then as his producers realized that weight loss tips and tricks drew the biggest ratings, this became the focus of the show.

It now seems that every day he touts the miraculous properties of some new extract or powder harvested, perhaps, from the enlarged thymus of the Amazonian transvestite--freeze dried, packaged and express shipped to obese America to hasten the loss of belly fat, cellulite and bank account.

Instead of his original message of less food, more exercise there were endless supplements or ways to trick your metabolism, awaken one's enzymes or meditate your way to a slender figure.

As I grew tired of all this,  I noticed there was a co-host on "The Chew" (for those new to this blog, it is no secret that I have TV addiction issue but don't worry, I watch "Intervention" every week in the hope of learning how to overcome it) who was ditzy in a very uninteresting way and did not seem to know a parer from a grater from a ricer.

When I learned she was the daughter of Dr. Oz, it all made sense.

In general I have no issue with nepotism---it's how the world works. I, myself, pine for a successful relative to set me up but this girl was just so blah. Plus, I was insanely jealous that she got to hang around with my beloved Clinton Kelly--every straight woman's idea of the perfect man: funny, clever, can help you dress to minimize your ass bags, whips up delicious cocktails and does not want to sleep with you.

I just checked out the young Miss Daphne Oz and, guess what, I did not see any culinary or nutritional training. Hmmmm.

Then, to complicate matters, Dr. Oz's wife pops up on a morning show, introduced as a "relationship expert."

First of all, what is a relationship expert? By current television standards, it appears to be someone who has not yet taken hostages or killed a co-worker.

Hold on...let me google her. Well, no education or training in relationships...but, wait, she was captain of the tennis team in college!

All this worried me. We have an unqualified Oz talking about food on TV and another one giving advice--to millions of people. Was the Oz family attempting to take over the world?
Daphne Oz

I DVRed "The Chew" so I could avoid Daphne and go directly to the intoxicating Clinton Kelly, put my fingers in my ears and said "Lalalalala" when Lisa Oz came on and stopped watching her husband in the afternoons. 

But then I tuned into a summer medical show about real life doctors in New York City....and there was Dr. Oz, again-- and this time wearing scrubs for more than just foreplay with Oprah.

He was actually interacting with sick people and I found myself falling in love. This guy was warm and approachable. I found myself desiring bypass surgery just so I could playfully tug at the tie of his sterile mask and bask in the reassuring glow of his smile.

It was then I realized the power of Dr. Oz.

While I am still boycotting his show, I can understand it all a little better now.

* I started that rumor today.
I love you, Clinton.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Little Pot

This morning -- while preparing steel cut oats to share with the guy who, despite my general cantankerousness and morning hair, consistently returns here nightly demanding food and clean socks -- the handle of the little pot I was using came right off in my hand.

It snapped off cleanly.

There was no damage and minimal mess---a little noise and some oatmeal on the burner, but that was all.

Upon closer examination, I realized that the pot, most likely older than I am, was unfixable. The guy waiting for his oatmeal agreed but the little pot had led a good life. Part of a set of Farberware owned by my grandma, it had cooked things for three generations of women, myself being the last as of this morning.

It had, in fact, been such a stalwart little pot, that I washed it before discarding it so that it might get a better reception from the other little pots in the garbage dump or wherever it might end up. I suddenly felt very sad as I remembered that this little pot and none other was the “pudding pot” of my childhood.

Few things are better than a
fluted dish.
Not tiny and not large, it was the perfect size to stir a package of Royal brand chocolate pudding into two cups of cold, fresh milk, await the bubbling stage and then turn down the heat as the loose chocolate “soup” thickened into the perfect consistency for pouring into four small fluted dishes.

Once it cooled a bit, I was handed the pot to clean out with a chubby finger. After I'd licked everything clean, I’d put the pot in the sink for, in those glorious days, I was still too short to do the dishes myself.

Are you a "skin" person?

As for the pudding, some people hate the “skin” that forms on top as it sets, so to prevent it from forming, place saran across the surface before it goes in the fridge. We, however, did not.  Not a man among us did not love the skin best and, when I was little and enjoying the last throes of cuteness, occasionally someone would give me their pudding skin, the ultimate gift.

Now that the little pot lay in the garbage, it was time to mourn it and, believe it or not, tears were shed. Not for the pot, although its status as a relic from my past was duly acknowledged in my sentimental mind, but for the era in which it had enjoyed its popularity and purpose.

Some do this on purpose now....
Originally shiny and bright, it had been lifted from the large box it had shared with its matching companions, only one of which -- a stock pot with a dented lid -- remains.

Knowing my grandma, she had relished its modernity, its newness, the fact that it matched other things in a household where very little matched anything. We ate from different plates, drank from assorted mugs and, to be honest, ignored much about the 20th century in general.

We were a tiny village unto ourselves in a neighborhood full of such households, mismatched in their own right as they stood testimony to the ethnic hodgepodge of mid century Brooklyn. And, at the time, mid century Brooklyn was not all that different from medieval Europe. The seventies had not yet happened…my friends and I all came home and ate our ethnic food with our ethnic families and that was that.

Brooklyn when I was a kid.
True enough but the pudding
will be lousy.

But sometimes there was pudding.

Made from a small box with a corresponding picture, it was very easy and even though it was not “instant pudding” (“What is this instant pudding?? You can’t make anything good in an instant!), it was quick and convenient and was always cooked in the little pot that gave up the ghost this morning at breakfast.

Seth saw me staring at the pot in the garbage and simply said “No.”

He knew that in my thwarted hoarder’s soul  I was assessing whether I could find another use for it….sprouting seeds next spring, mixing paints or spices?

Nah, he was right. Sometimes you just have to throw something out despite its years of loyal service.

So, I said farewell to the pot but not to the memory of my mother, pink-cheeked and smiling, surrounded by family in a teeny-tiny kitchen stirring chocolate pudding for us all to enjoy, skin and all.

"She wants that little pot back, guys...."

Monday, June 9, 2014

On Broadway: A Celebrity Encounter

Last night I watched the Tony Awards on TV. 

I always enjoy them but the Tonys remind me of how much I wish I attended the theater. Living a mere car trip (and a king’s ransom in garage fees) from the theater district in New York City, I haven’t seen a Broadway play in years.

The reason for my absence is not that I don’t love theater because I do. 

In fact, I love it all--spilling, with the excited crowd, from the sidewalk through the glass doors into the lobby and onward to the dark interior (always smaller than expected and, therefore, creating the magical intimacy of a true Broadway experience)…the strains of a tuning orchestra… a last minute set adjustment by a headphone wearing stagehand as you find your seat…receiving your playbill and, later, reading it in the dim light.

There is nothing quite like the anticipation as the curtain rises…except, perhaps, the feeling you get at an amusement park when, once buckled in, the roller coaster springs to life beneath you and the tickle in your belly tells you it’s going to be a great ride.

Why, then, don’t I attend? Well, it’s the cost of a ticket, silly. 
Maybe so.

Despite that it, apparently, seems to be what the market will allow, I refuse to spend $350 for a ticket….for anything. The days of my youth when my mother used to take me to Broadway for a $5 mezzanine seat are over. Back then, she and I saw the original casts of Fiddler, Man of La Mancha and so many others thanks to her attitude of “we may not have much but art--we got. ” 

Afterward, we’d grab a pretzel for the ride home and hum the songs on the subway. But ticket prices steeply jumped when I was a young adult…first to about $100 for an orchestra seat and, later, to the insanity of what they go for now.

The theater thrives and I’m glad. It doesn’t notice that I’m not there.

Occasionally, I have stumbled upon a deal or two. Most recently, we managed to get great seats to “Chicago” and, again, to see “Rent.”

What's the big deal?

Now, I – unlike the rest of civilization hated --  “Rent.” The music didn’t move me…nor did the tale of a bunch of freeloaders trying to avoid fiscal responsibility.

While trembling adolescent girls in leg warmers sang along, I waited for the lights so I could make a run for the ladies room. Poised to bolt, I rose and staggered up the aisle only to come – to my genuine shock  --  face to face with a sullen and narrow-hipped Sean Penn who leaned, in a studied pose, against the wall directly on the way to the bathroom. 

I somehow sensed  I’d now gotten my money’s worth…

Jeff Spicoli
Sorry, friends but I hate Sean Penn. I think he’s an over-rated creep who hasn’t offered an inspired performance since he played Jeff Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." My immediate reaction was to glare at him in disgust.

Already in full pre-sneer mode, he was more than ready for me and, whether his nasty expression was a reflection of mine or mine, a mirror of his, we looked at each other with deep and lingering hatred. 

If looks could kill, Sean and I would have fallen dead -- each a victim of the other’s loathing.

Oddly, it was a great moment for me since I do not deny being excited by celebrity encounters and this one, while the opposite of a happy autograph moment, was still pretty exciting. Who among you can say that Sean Penn glared at you with a death stare right before getting in line to pee? I didn’t think so.

Doubtless I’ve seriously angered both the “Rent” and Sean Penn fans among you and, in this politically correct world, have surely crossed some line of propriety.  

As for Sean Penn, I like to think he’d actually defend my right to hate him and maybe even remembers the moment when a middle-aged woman attempted to stare him down in a theater.

As for “Rent, ” if you can’t afford it, move back home with Mom and Dad.

I loved "Rent." "Susan Says..." is a horrible bitch.