Wednesday, May 23, 2018

And sometimes life is nasty, brutish, and long

The oldest women on earth has spoken. A bit short of her 129th birthday, Chechnyan Koku Istambulova has plenty to say. And ain’t none of it cheerful.

Poor Koku sure missed out in the joie de vivre department.

'I have not had a single happy day in my life. I have always worked hard, digging in the garden.

'I am tired. Long life is not at all God's gift for me - but a punishment.' (Source: Daily Mail)

Of course, there are plenty of reasons for that profound unhappiness. Koku was born in a poor and backwards – even by the standards of 1889 – village. She lived through the Bolshevik overthrow of the tsar. Watched Nazi tanks roll through her town. Was deported by Stalin – along with everyone else in Chechnya – to Kazakhstan, which was/is no garden spot. And as if Kazakhstan wasn’t bad enough, she was shipped to Siberia for more living misery, digging through the permafrost, trying to make her garden work. And as if Siberia wasn’t bad enough, she eventually landed back in Chechnya, which resulted in zero joy, even though Chechnya was her native land and Koku missed it when she was in exile.

To add to Koku’s misery, she outlived all of her children, including a daughter who died a few years back at the age of 104.

But not one “single happy day” in her entire life? Yikes!

'Looking back at my unhappy life, I wish I had died when I was young. I worked all my life. I did not have time for rest or entertainment.

Hmmmm. I consider myself to be someone who has “worked all my life,” but there’s work and there’s work. And when work is pure, unadulterated drudgery without any “time for rest or entertainment”, well, I might “wish I’d died when I was young” too. But, Jeez Louise, grim as the story of Koku’s life is, you’d think there might be at least a scintilla of happiness in there. One perfect spring day when her kiddos were small and the family had an egg to share. Talk about depressing.

'We were either digging the ground, or planting the watermelons. When I was, my days were running one by one. And now I am not living, I am just dragging through.'

Man, not even being able to take some pleasure from eating watermelon. Of course, she just mentions planting them, not eating them. Maybe she had to sell her entire crop.

One of my husband’s favorite TV shows was the late 1970’s-early 1980’s sitcom Taxi, and his favorite character was Latka Gravas, who had emigrated from some fictional Eastern European hellhole. When talking about his childhood, Latka would say that it wasn’t that bad, even in those early years when his family lived outdoors. “We had the bucket. We had the chair.” (I have a tiny bucket ornament that hangs on my Christmas tree in honor of Latka and my late Christmas-hating husband. Jim’s favorite quote from Latka was this one: “The only thing that separates us from the animals are mindless superstition and pointless ritual.")

Anyway, Latka’s life sounds like an absolute fun-filled pleasure cruise compared to Koku Istambulova’s. 

I’m not one of those folks who want to live forever. Right about now, 90 sounds good for the endgame. But ask me if and when I hit 89. If I still have my health and mobility, if I’m not demented, if my home isn’t underwater (literally: I live on landfill), if my family and friends are still around in good health and mobile, and not demented, well, why not?

But 129 sounds like about 29 years too much for anyone, even for someone like me who’s led a pretty good life with plenty of happy days along the way. Let alone for someone whose highpoints were watermelon digging while Panzer tanks rumbled past.

Guess Hobbes wasn’t right about everyone’s life. Sometimes it turns out to be nasty, brutish, and long.

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A shout out to the wonderful Lauren Duca, who tweeted about poor Koku, and who “cannot wait for this feature film starring Kate McKinnon.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Robots are people, too?

While we haven’t yet reached the technological singularity (when AI will just start getting smarter and smarter and surpass human intelligence: can’t wait), it’s no secret that robots are keep getting smarter and smarter. (While it sometimes seems that actual people are getting dumber and dumber, I don’t think that there’s actually any evidence that this is the case. Yet.)

Anyway, the robots, or their virtual, software-based cousins, the bots, are out there. And some of them – especially those nasty little bots; especially those nasty little Russky bots – are up to no good.

As robots/bots get older, wiser, and more malicious, the question arises about who’s responsible if one of them does something bad. Prosecutorially bad.

Under an ongoing EU proposal, it might just be the bot itself. A 2017 European Parliament report floated the idea of granting special legal status, or “electronic personalities,” to smart robots, specifically those which (or should that be who?) can learn, adapt, and act for themselves. This legal personhood would be similar to that already assigned to corporations around the world, and would make robots, rather than people, liable for their self-determined actions, including for any harm they might cause. The motion suggests:

Creating a specific legal status for robots in the long run, so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently. (Source: Slate)

Oh.

The “robots wouldn’t have the right to vote or marry.” I agree with robots not getting the vote, even though they’d certainly be smarter than certain low information voters, that’s for sure. On the other hand, robots/bots could “decide” to make some truly terrible electoral choices. And the prospect of robots marrying is too ghastly to contemplate. Would a robot be able to marry a bot?

But robots are surely more like actual living, breathing persons than are corporations, and SCOTUS has declared corporations people. So who knows what’s going to happen in the long run.

At least with a corporation, you can identify who’s responsible and accountable for bad corporate behavior: the officers of the corporation. They can be fined, and even become imprisoned, if their companies play fast and loose. Because we know that, when it comes down to it, the “corporation” isn’t the actor. It’s the people running the corporation.

Who’s responsible when it’s a robot? The robot’s owner? The person who created the code that the bot used to smoke the entire power grid of the US?

With robots/bots “self-learning”, getting smarter and perhaps nastier, who’s responsible when they go rogue?

All this fretting about robotic personhood:

It’s a forward-thinking look at the inevitable legal ramifications of the autonomous-thinking A.I. that will someday be upon us, though it’s not without its critics. The proposal has been denounced in a letter released April 12, signed by 156 robotics,* legal, medical, and ethics experts, who claim that the proposal is “nonsensical” and “non-pragmatic.” The complaint takes issue with giving the robots “legal personality,” when neither the Natural Person model, the Legal Entity Model, nor the Anglo-Saxon Trust model is appropriate. There are also concerns that making robots liable would absolve manufacturers of liability that should rightfully be theirs.

My goodness, who knew there were that many models of just what defines personhood? I’m just as happy to sit here in blissful ignorance, without worrying a whit about the economic, legal, and philosophical underpinnings that need to be considered if and when robots get declared people.

Certainly, before I gave such vaunted status to machines, let alone software, I’d vote for creating a demi-personhood category for sentient beings, like doggos and pygmy chimpanzees.

I don’t know what John Frank Weaver, a Boston attorney who works on AI law and author of Robots Are People, Too – and here I was thinking that my blog post title was original -  thinks about doggo or bonobo (pygmy chimp) personhood, but he does think that we should be figuring out just what status robots have.

Weaver has written about what it means to give robots various aspects of personhood, including the right to free speech, the right to citizenship, and legal protections (even for ugly robots). As you can guess from the title of his book, he himself recommends limited legal personhood for robots, including the right to enter and perform contracts, the obligation to carry insurance, the right to own intellectual property, the obligation of liability, and the right to be the guardian of a minor.

Okay. I’m nodding along until I get to “guardian of a minor.” A minor human, or a minor robot? The inquiring mind of an actual human would like to know.

Meanwhile, while I’m fretting about whether dogs should be given some of the rights of personhood – so many dogs being so colossally superior to so many humans – I do have to point out that robots are dogs now, too. If you haven’t seen the Boston Dynamics pup, check it out here. (See Spot run!) All I can say is that, if humanoid robots are going to get personhood, surely dog robots should too. Arf!

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*I initially read this as “robots”

Monday, May 21, 2018

The All-American Language Lab

This map’s been around for a few years, but there’s something pretty fascinating about it, no?

Language Map

It makes sense that, in California, Nevada, and Hawaii, the third up language is Tagalog. Lots of Filipinos in those states And lots of Vietnamese in Washington and Texas make sense, too. Washington is West Coast, and I remember reading about Vietnamese shrimpers/fishermen in Texas. But who’da thunk that it would be the third most commonly spoken language in Oklahoma and Nebraska?

And what’s with Oregon and Russia?

It’s interesting to see where the native tongue is a native tongue: Navajo in Arizona and New Mexico, Yupik in Alaska, and Dakota in South Dakota. I like that a lot. But compare and contrast South Dakota with North Dakota, where the third most popular language is German – one of 16 (if I counted correctly) where that’s the case. I knew that the Midwest and Plains states were loaded with Germans. And I’m pretty sure that Lawrence Welk was from North Dakota. But, given that the last great wave of German immigrants was probably in the immediate years after WWII when the Germans who’d made it over during earlier waves brought over a bunch of second-cousin displace persons, where are all these German-sprechters coming from? This last wave was 60-70 years ago, so who’s out there speaking all that German?

By the way, I know about DPs because a lot of them ended up sleeping on my German grandmother’s couch in Chicago. When we visited Chicago – an every other year routine – there was always a landsmann or two buzzing in and out of Grandma’s house on North Mozart. Nephews, cousins, fellows from her home town. Most of the ones I recall were men, but I’m sure there were women among the people by grandmother sponsored. (The only woman I remember was the French wife of one of those German cousins. They’d met during the war.)

Anyway, I’m guessing that when German is the third most spoken language, all that means is that there aren’t a lot of folks in the state who speak anything other than English or Spanish.

I see that the third most spoken language in Illinois is Polish, rather than German, and that Polish outpost floats in the sea of German. Not much of a surprise – lots of those Central Europa types immigrated to Chicago. But I would have thought that there’d be more Germans than Poles. Maybe this reflects more recent immigration patterns. I know that there are a fair number of newby Polish immigrants in the Boston-area. (Don’t know if it’s still the case, but for a while there were a number of imported Polish priests around here. One of them said the funeral Mass for my cousin twenty years ago. We were all a bit weirded out that someone with such a pronounced Polish accent was officiating at a parish so Irish-y that the statue of St. Pius X that adorned the front entrance resembles JFK.) Anyway, maybe the Chicago Poles are newcomers.

The Midwest outlier, however, isn’t Illinois. It’s Michigan, where Arabic comes in third. Hamtramck, outside of Detroit, used to be a majority-Polish Catholic town. It’s now homing in on becoming majority-Muslim. Hence the Arabic. Or it’s Minnesota, where Hmong is third-most-likely to be spoken. That’s because in 1975, when Laos was more or less destroyed, Minnesota welcomed in a lot of Hmong refugees.

After German, French is the language placing third in the most states: 11 in all. (Twelve if you count French Creole in Florida.) Four of the French states are in New England, which comes as no surprise, given the French Canadian population of these states. Massachusetts and Rhode Island, however, have Portuguese as their third. Lots of Azores/Portugal folks – think the Gloucester, Provincetown, and New Bedford fishing fleets. And there are a ton of Brazilians in the Boston area these days, too.

Back on the French front, Louisiana is one of the Francophone states, as anyone who’s seen The Big Easy will understand, eh cher? But what’s up with West Virginia? French? C’est vrai? (French for ‘huh?’)

For those of us who know folks from Philadelphia or who are familiar with Frank Sinatra, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen’s mother, it’s no shocker that Italian is the third language of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

And anyone who’s spent more than a New York minute in Manhattan will get why Chinese is spoken there.

Two states speak Korean: Georgia and Virginia. Why not?

I really don’t know why I found this little map so interesting. Guess it’s because, if you squint a bit, you can see something of the history of immigration to the U.S. More or less. Plenty of British Isles immigrants over the years. And lots of Irish in that immigrant flow as well. Thanks to the British occupation of Eire, the Irish contributed little to the Tower of American Babel. Our English wa already baked in.

In any event, I had fun looking at the All American Language Lab. It’d be even more fun to look at what they looked like in 1900 and 1950. Spanish probably wouldn’t have been Number Two, other than in California, Texas and a couple o other states. But I’m too lazy to track down those earlier maps. If they show up in my Twitter feed, however, I’ll be so there.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Where’s the beef? In the carnivore’s freezer.

It seems like only yesterday that I was putting down my bowl of ice cream to chuckle about the Paleo diet. You remember Paleo? Think only foods that Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble would have put on the table: meat and fish, fresh fruit and veg, eggs and nuts. Strictly hunter-gatherer – no grains, which need to be cultivated – no processed foods, and no dairy, because I guess there were no domestic cows for Wilma and Betty to milk. And Fred and Barney were getting their meat from animals like hyenas and not bothering to milk them on the fly. Or from animals like dinosaurs, that don’t produce milk.

Odd as Paleo struck me – I ain’t never going to give up my grains, thank you – it made more sense to me than vegan. Sure, vegans can have grains, which is an improvement on Paleo. And I’m cool with the vegetarian aspects. What I don’t get about vegan is thinking that it’s exploiting a chicken to take an egg, a cow to spritz some milk, a bee to nab some honey. If you have the chickens in your backyard air-conditioned chicken coop, and know that they’re cared for, etc., how exploitive is it to ask them to produce an egg or two for you?

But, hey, I couldn’t stick with Atkins or South Beach for more than three days before falling off the no-carb wagon and landing, mouth wide open, in a big old bowl of pasta.

And then there’s the carnivore diet…

…a regimen that involves eating only animal products like meat, offal and eggs, and no plant-based foods. It’s an extreme version of the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet – which trains the body to run on fat rather than carbohydrates – that has become popular in recent years. Proponents of the diet say it reduces inflammation and blood pressure while increasing libido and mental clarity. (Source: The Guardian)

I like meat and eggs just fine. But offal? Oh, how awful.

I wouldn’t refuse liver if it were the last food on earth, and I do occasionally eat pate. But kidney? Isn’t their function to filter out impurities? And don’t they come with a whiff of urine?

Sweetbreads I tried once: too rich for my blood. Brain I ordered by accident in Paris. I recalled from high school French that veau meant veal, but I forgot entirely that cervelle was brain. It actually didn’t have much taste, but it looked kind of like chewing gum that had been extruded through the space between my front teeth.

As for tongue. Big gross beef tongue. Little pink lamb tongue. Really weird duck tongue. Yuck of yucks.

And no plant-based foods? No apples. No oranges. No peppers. No pears. No pistachios. No tomatoes. No potatoes. No broccoli. No grapes. No peaches. No cereals. No asparagus. No cukes. No bread. No blueberries. No walnuts. No rice. No thanks…

One of the adherents to the life of carnivory is Shawn Baker, a surgeon who eats roughly 4 pounds of steak a day. Which is about the amount of steak I consume in a year. Baker admits.

“It can be monotonous eating the same thing over and over again, but as time goes by you start to crave it.”

I tend to be kind of a boring, monotonous eater. After all, I’m somone who ate a baloney sandwich on white bread with kosher dill pickle every Monday through Thursday for all four years of my high school career. (On Friday’s – fish day – I ate a PBJ.) Yet I don’t think I could hack eating steak all the time.

But Baker likes the simplicity of it. No meal planning, no thought going into what’s to eat, quick in-and-out grocery shopping. All you need to know is where the beef is. Sort of like wearing the same outfit everyday. (What to wear today? Jeans and a sweater. That was easy.)

It did not surprise me in the least that:

…the all-meat diet has been embraced by a cluster of cryptocurrency entrepreneurs, who describe themselves as “bitcoin carnivores”.

As Michael Goldstein, a “bitcoin and meat maximalist” has it:

“Once someone has grown capable of seeing beyond the lies and myths that experts peddle in one domain, it becomes easier to see beyond them in other domains as well.”

Should we all be spending more time on Reddit and with InfoWars? Will that help us grown capable of ferreting out lies and myths?

While all sorts of wonders are attributed to the carnivore diet, many are skeptical. One such skeptic is Stanford professor of medicine Christopher Gardner, who has this to say:

“Are these T rex? African lions? Or humans? Assuming [you are referring to] humans, this sounds disastrous on multiple levels,” he said.

The lack of dietary fibre in an all-meat diet is likely to wreak havoc on the bacteria in our colons, known as the microbiome, he said. “Growing evidence suggests that in the absence of adequate fibre, the bacteria in the colon consume and thin the protective mucus lining, which then leads to impaired immune function and inflammation.”

Well, mucus-consuming bacteria is a bit more medical-ness than I needed. But it does seem logical that all meat wouldn’t be all good for you. There’s also research that suggests that consuming more meat is bad for your heart. Then there’s:

Factory farming of animals is also linked to antibiotic resistance in humans and is a huge contributor to the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

You’ve convinced me. No carnivore diet for this gal.

Think I’ll go have a cookie and a glass of milk.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

That Aaron Schlossberg sure is one clever marketer

Advertising costs a ton, and I’m guessing that’s especially true for the lawyer ads that run on TV. Better to take advantage of free press and social media. Which is what NYC attorney Aaron Schlossberg did the other day. What better way to reach your target audience, attract new prospects, than have all kinds of buzz buzzing around you?

Here’s the scoop on Mr. Schlossberg.

Apparently hoping to expand his client base, he did a bit of inspired performance art in a Manhattan restaurant when he stopped in for lunch. Overhearing a couple of employees speaking Spanish – a language that, according to his web site, Mr. Schlossberg is fluent in – the man went on a full-bore/full-boar rant. Fortunately for him, someone was able to capture his performance on her smartphone. And as luck would have it – or maybe just clever planning on this part – the video went viral. You can check it out here.

Some of the highlights:

In the video, the man tells an employee, “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English... This is America.” (Source: Huffington Post)

Which reminded me of a weird old experience I had when I was in college. My roommate’s widowed mother and two maiden aunts came into town and took us out to The CafĂ© Budapest – back in the day, one of the swankier Boston restaurants. There was a couple sitting nearby, speaking French. For some reason – likely associated with tee many martoonis – the two maiden aunts went into a bit of the rant about people coming to this country and not speaking English. Part of their rave included repeatedly emphasizing the fact that their parents were immigrants, but they had always spoken English. They omitted the fact that their parents, who were themselves the offspring of Irish immigrants, spoke English to begin with. My roommate and I, along with her mother, were completely mortified. Eventually the maiden aunts calmed down.

That was nearly 50 years ago. The world one might have hoped had changed for the better, not the worst.

The employee attempted to explain that his co-workers were simply interacting with other customers.

That hardly satisfied the man, who can be seen pointing wildly around the room at everyone he said he overheard speaking Spanish.

After other customers laugh at his antics and taunt him, with one telling him he’s “fucked up,” the angry man becomes even angrier.

“My guess is, they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of [them] kicked out of my country,” he said. “They have the balls to come here and live off of my money I pay for their welfare, I pay for their ability to be here. The least they could do, the least they could do is speak English.”

Schlossberg seems a bit confused here. First off, he forgot to call these people “animals”, which seems to be the on-trend word for Hispanic immigrants of late. Second, these were Spanish-speaking folks with jobs, so what was that about paying for their welfare? But Schlossberg’s the clever marketer, and he’s the one that would know best about what search terms would most help him reach his ideal clientele.

On his firm’s website, they tout their creativity:

We are proud of our ability to develop out-of-the-box solutions while still offering exceptional litigation strength that can win for our clients when more conventional approaches are most appropriate.

Personally, I’d prefer my lawyers to take that more conventional approach if it is, in fact, most appropriate. But that’s just me and, anyway, I’m not their target client. I will say it’s good to see that his firm is committed to out-of-the-box, whether they’re litigating or marketing.

Prior to his brilliant out-of-the-box video – he even got a complete stranger to shoot and post it for free – Schlossberg had already proven himself adept at social media. As I saw in his LinkedIn profile (which for some reason seems to have been taken down), one of his two references was from a woman with the last name of Schlossberg, of all things. I’m sure it was just a coincidence. After all, while Schlossberg is not as common a surname as Rogers, there are plenty of them around. Isn’t Caroline Kennedy a Schlossberg?

Anyway, the review on LinkedIn wasn’t written by Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. But by using a reference that gets us thinking – is this his mother/aunt/sister/cousin/wife? – Aaron Schlossberg is demonstrating his prowess with out-of-the-box thinking. I mean, anyone can have a LinkedIn reference written by someone who’s not related. But, hey, the most conventional approaches may just seem the most appropriate.

I wish Attorney Schlossberg all the luck in the world.

He may need it if he wants to do any more take out lunching in midtown.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

So good, so good, so good…

Tomorrow night, I’ll be seeing my first live and in person Red Sox game of the season, a make up for the rained out Patriots Day game. The weather forecast is great – in the 70’s, no rain – which is quite a bit different than the weather on Patriots Day, which featured temps in the upper 40’s, soaking rain, and headwinds in whatever direction you happened to be walking or running in.

Throughout the season, I watch a bit of pretty much every game, usually flipping back and forth between the talking heads on MSNBC and the talking heads on NESN, which broadcasts the Red Sox. Sometimes – if the news just gets overwhelming – I’ll stick with the full game. If a game goes extras, and I end up giving up on it (especially if it’s an extra innings West Coast game), I’ll typically check on the score if I get up in the middle of the night.

But there’s nothing like seeing a game up close and personal at Fenway Park.

Yes, I know that most of the seats aren’t comfortable. I’m only 5’7” and if I’m in the bleachers, my knees are pressed up against the seat in the row in front of me. It takes forever to exit the ballpark postgame, those too-few exits obviously built for a time when folks weren’t always in such a rush to get to where they’re going after. And don’t get me going on the cost of the concessions. My mother fed a family of seven for a week on what you pay for a couple of hot dogs, a soda, and some Cracker Jacks.

But there’s still something about seeing a game live, especially at a park so steeped in tradition and, for me, memories that date back to my first game in July 1960. (Sox beat the Indians, 6-4. Ted Williams homered.) Love it.

I also like the singing.

Even though very few people sing along with the national anthem, I do. So does my sister Trish. Rather than have the Star Spangled Banner belted (or dragged or screeched) out by the 12 year old from New Hampshire or the singing firefighter from Brockton, I wish they’d encourage the crowd to sing. (A few years back, I wrote to the then-president of the Red Sox, and he responded by having a sing-along the next game Trish and I attended. We were announced on the PA, and it was fun – but would have been more gratifying if more of the folks around us had chimed in.)

I also like singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch.

If, during the game, they play the Dropkick Murphy’s Shipping Up to Boston, I’m in. Put me in, Coach, if that comes up, too.

When the Red Sox win, I like singing along with Dirty Water. And if it takes long enough to exit the park – which it often does – I like singing along with the Dropkick’s Tessie.

And I also like Sweet Caroline, which for the past 20 years or so, the Sox have played between the top and the bottom of the eighth.

But a lot of people despise this tradition, and the other day, the annual let’s-get-rid-of-Sweet-Caroline article ran in The Boston Globe.

The anti-Sweet Caroliners accuse anyone of liking this song of being pink hats, the sneering name applied to those who come to games because it’s a thing, fair-weather fans who don’t know the difference between a bat and a ball, let alone the definition of the infield fly rule. Real fans, the purists moan, are filling in their scorecards (K!), not jumping up and hollering “so good, so good, so good.” Even when the Red Sox are behind.

They complain that Sweet Caroline has driven them out of the park, that they no longer go to more than one or two games each year because they can’t possibly bear the two minutes of so when Neil Diamond’s playing and most of the fans are merrily singing along.

They point out that Neil Diamond once said that the song was inspired by a picture of Caroline Kennedy, taken when she was a pre-schooler living in the White House. This is certainly a plenty icky thought, given some of the lyrics – “touching me, touching you.” (Diamond later walked back this claim.) But it’s seems to me likely that, if Caroline Kennedy did inspire the song, it was her name that was the inspiration for the title, not her four-year old on a pony who inspired the sexually-tinged lyrics.

Anyway, I’m not a pink hat, and I like Sweet Caroline. So there.

But it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Red Sox decided that it would only be played if the Red Sox were ahead. After all, it does seem pretty stupid to be top-of-the-lunging the words “good times never seemed so good” after the Sox have blown a five run lead and are now trailing by a pair. Yes, I get that those making a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Fenway Park consider singing Sweet Caroline part of the overall experience – an experience they’ve paid through the nose to experience. But there is a legitimate argument to be more selective about when the song is played.

Someone suggested that, when the Sox are trailing, a better song to play might be Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. This would be a good choice. If your team’s behind, what could be better than singing, “Don’t worry, ‘bout a thing. Cause every little thing’s, gonna be alright.”

I would hate to see them get rid of Sweet Caroline entirely. Restricting it to game where the Sox were ahead half way through the eighth inning would work for me.

Some of the commenters who posted on The Globe article also want the Red Sox to do away with The Wave, which still pops up occasionally. Unfortunately, The Wave doesn’t really require any involvement by the team. People just start doing it. And as far as I can tell, it pops up at the most inopportune times. The lunkheads sitting in front of me are standing up and waving just as the payoff pitch is being fired in. I wouldn’t want to those who instigate The Wave – talk about pink hats (and/or drunkards) tossed out. But I would like to see more people sit it out and stop blocking my view. When enough people stop participating in The Wave, it’ll die a natural death.

As for The Sweet Caroline Abolitionist Society, they, too, can lead by example. If enough fans stop singing it, I’m sure it will eventually die out. I won’t be one of them, but have at it.

As for me, I’ll be singing along. So good, so good, so good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Free Whitening System? Hmmmm….

When it comes to dentists, I’ve led a pretty charmed life. I still have a couple of fillings put in place by my childhood DDS nearly 60 years ago. For a couple of years in my twenties, my dental care wasn’t up to the standards I was used to, and during this period I had a couple of teeth-related nightmares. And then I met my husband, and started going to his dentist. Dental nightmares begone! This guy is an incredibly good dentist, and I’ve been seeing him for decades now.

But he’s getting on in years – he’s now in his seventies – and our fear was that we’d be lost when he hung his drill up. Then, wonderfully, his son joined the practice. Also an excellent dentist, so I no longer have to worry about looking around in my old age for a new dentist. (Bonus points: his wife is my primary care physician, so top to toe I’m covered until death do us part.)

Bottom line: I’m not looking for a dentist. But if I were, the “three blonde female dentists” who run Renaissance Dental Center in Raleigh, NC, would most decidedly not be my cup of teeth-staining tea.

First off, I’m not wild about professionals – doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants – who advertise. I’ve never seen doctors advertising, nor dentists for that matter. It just might not be a New England kind of thing. But we do have lawyer ads, and I’d go back to law school and become my own lawyer before I’d “better phone Stone” and sign up for Jason Stone’s Stone Cold Guarantee. Or dial for dollars with Tom Kiley, The Million Dollar Man. Maybe I’d think differently if I were in the back of an ambulance that one of them was chasing, but for now…

Second off, the Renaissance ads that they run in a local mag are cheeseball even by the tawdry standards of professionals who advertise.

In the past, the three dentists – all quite attractive – have appeared as construction workers. They’ve posed in workout clothing, and with hearts and teddy bears for a Valentine’s Day-themed ad. (Awwww…)

Truly, based on the ads alone, I wouldn’t let one of these dentists near my gaping mouth with a drill. I don’t care how competent they are, I just couldn’t get past the kitsch.

But their latest ad would really have me questioning their collective judgment.

Free Whitening System

Given that one of the women is wearing a kimono and has chopsticks in her hair, and another is wearing Indian garb while posing with her arms folded in ugga-bugga-wigwam mode, a lot of people are squawking about cultural appropriation. Me, I’m not all that big on squawking about cultural appropriation. Okay, I don’t like to see drunken young women wearing fake Irish maiden outfits puking in the streets of Boston on St. Patrick’s Day  - or other ridiculous and disrespectful borrowings of ethnic look and feel – but why can’t a little boy go out as a Indian brave for Halloween? Why can’t an artist wear a kimono? Or paint a picture of a white woman wearing a kimono? (There was some brouhaha a couple of years back around Monet’s La Japonaise, part of the collection at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.)

All cultures appropriate. That’s how the world evolves. As long as it’s respectful and not exploitative, I think it’s okay to be both a borrower and a lender. (Take my Irish maiden costume, please. Just don’t go puking outside The Black Rose, okay?)

Anyway, if I don’t find the dentist outfits particularly offensive, how about the line below? FREE WHITENING SYSTEM?

Presumably, the dentist in the Scots garb doesn’t need whitening, but an authentic Japanese woman, and an authentic Native American, well, they would be actual people of color. And probably wouldn’t consider themselves in need of a whitening system, even if it were free. Talk about offensive. Talk about whatever the visual equivalent is tone deaf.

Not surprisingly, this ad had plenty of people gnashing their teeth:

“Free whitening system indeed,” one person quipped….

“No excuse to be clueless anymore,” another person added. “This is shameful.”

One commenter opined: “This is like if SNL did a parody on clueless white people.” (Source: Washington Post)

The backlash prompted the dentists to issue an apology:

In one of our recent advertisements, we attempted to focus upon something that unites us…the warmth and joy behind a smile. We now realize it was ignorant and offensive, and we are truly sorry. We have learned a valuable lesson in this situation. Again, our sincere apologies.

The Renaissance Three also pulled their ad, replacing it with one in which they cutesily appear as referees.

And the magazine in which it appeared has “implemented a more stringent policy for checking over ads.”

May be time for the dentists to get a new advertising agency. And how’s this for an idea? Why not pose in – get this – the outfits you wear when you’re being dentists? Makes more sense to me than the Village People approach they’ve been taking. And a lot more culturally and professionally appropriate.