Sometimes I think you could write an entire local-TV newscast consisting entirely of the words and phrases “controversial,” “what you don’t know can hurt you” and “hidden dangers.”
As I mention here regularly, one of my income streams comes from a part-time job finding news about health care. Five nights a week, I venture out on the internets with a string of search terms as long as your arm. In the several years I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen the crisis in newspapers up close, and pals, it ain’t pretty. Fewer daily papers are paying close attention to health care and health care policy at all, and more are running the sort of syndicated garbage that allows them to fill their health pages with story after story about weight loss and, of course, hidden dangers:
Backyard barbecues are a big part of summer fun, but avoiding their hidden dangers is key to staying healthy and enjoying a cookout, a doctor suggests.
What are the hidden dangers? The doctor, from an outfit called Chicago Healers, ticks them off: You could get burned! You could get food poisoning! You might not know how to turn the grill off and on! And oh, the cancer that awaits you!
I saw this Sunday night on the USA Today website. Granted, this was the weekend, and it is the summer, but bishpleeze.
I have always, always despised journalism that assumes I’m a moron. (Except when it’s appropriate.) And in general, I just roll my eyes, turn the page, or click away. But later that night, I had a local newscast on, just some babbling to keep me alert, and the weekend anchor said, “Summer is barbecue season, but before you light that grill, you need to be aware of the hidden dangers that come with cooking outside.” The same goddamn press release! With a graphic! Telling us, yes, you need to cook your meat to a safe temperature, and make sure you know how to turn the grill off and on, and consider grilling vegetables instead, “a healthy alternative to meat.”
Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, this same station and hundreds of others like it will run a similar piece about the hidden dangers of leftovers. Did you know you should heat your gravy to a rolling boil before it’s safe to eat? True dat.
On the other hand, there is a way to do fluff well. The Wall Street Journal has a regular feature called “What’s Your Workout,” which on paper sounds ghastly, but is almost always executed well. They look hard for people who manage to cram fitness into hyper-busy schedules, and while there’s always a certain number of douchebags who ride $3,000 bicycles or work with $100-an-hour trainers, there’s also the guy who made a list of 20 workouts he can do in an hour, all with amusing names like “the Rhianna” (paddleboarding) or “Alex McCandless” (stair climbing), then throws Dungeons & Dragons dice to pick one. No re-rolls; what the dice say, goes. It mixes it up and makes the dice the bad guy.
There was another one, earlier this year, about a guy who could do an entire hotel-room weights workout using the wall and his briefcase.
And that concludes today’s episode of Bitching With Nance. This is what happens when you start writing before the coffee kicks in.
No, wait, let’s bitch some more: Remember earlier this year, when we discussed “Modernist Cuisine?” Someone called its author/editor, Nathan Myhvold, a patent troll, a term that was meaningless to me. Until last night, when “All Things Considered” did a shortened version of last week’s “This American Life,” which I’m working my way through now. It would appear “Modernist Cuisine” was supported, at least in part, by its author’s company’s patent trolling, which gives me just one more reason not to buy the book(s), which I wasn’t going to buy anyway. Worth your time.
And finally, a good story that’s a smile all the way through: Detroitblogger John on Fred’s Key Shop, a locksmith business, decades old, in the heart of the city:
“We get these calls from senior citizens that are going senile — ‘You gotta come change my locks, ’cause all the food’s moved around in my cupboards.’ We had this one lady, we were going there to change her locks three and four times a year — ‘Somebody’s been in my underwear drawer.’ You go out there and you change the locks and you don’t really charge them nothing.”
Other elderly people grow too weak to turn the key in their lock and think it’s broken. Murphy says the locksmiths will take it apart, grease it and loosen it, and leave without charging them. “I’m not going to charge some 90-year-old lady because she can’t turn the key.”
They’ve gotten Tigers fans into their locked cars, only to find out they’re broke. They let them go on their word. One showed up at the shop a few days later and not only paid his bill but also brought a case of beer as a thank-you.
“It always comes back, you know, good karma,” he says of the occasional free work. “You get it back if you give it.”
Let that be the parting thought of the day. Give it, and get it back. Someday.