One of the 21st Century’s most successful advertising campaigns was “The Most Interesting Man in The World” for the Mexican beer, Dos Equis. The ads featured a stylish, bearded middle-aged man and described his fascinating life. It ended this year after a 12-year run and a failed transition to a younger lead actor. But that “interesting man” was a fictional character. If I had to select the real-life “Most Interesting Man in the World”, it would have been Gustav Born, a 96-year-old medical pharmacologist who died last month. His story reaches over centuries and involves some of the world’s most prominent people and events.
Some people, especially in today’s social media environment, crave public recognition. For those who actually achieve fame, it often turns out to be nothing more than “a barren reward” as it was characterized by the 17th Century English poet John Dryden. The recent deaths of three “famous people” illustrate that fame can bring a life of sorrow, and occasionally become a sanctuary for unadulterated evil.
As everyone knows, the Cubs won the World Series last year and broke the longstanding “Curse of The Billy Goat”. Now of course there’s really no such thing as curses, but then again it is the Halloween season. And perhaps in the spirit of the season, it’s time to reconsider whether the Cubs, in view of their meek surrender to the Dodgers in the playoffs, have been visited by a new curse. The “Billy Goat Curse” is no more, but have the Cubs now become the victims of “The Curse of the Disappeared Bullpen”?
With his geeky lab coat and nerdy bow tie, Bill Nye is one of the most familiar faces in America and something of a jack-of-all trades - Emmy-winning “Science Guy” on a PBS children’s television program, former Boeing engineer, author, and honorary co-chair of the 2017 March for Science. But a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times revealed another role –Bill Nye, utopian.
The smart set in Silicon Valley, the people who gave us Google, Facebook and other companies worth many billions, have never lacked for ambition. However, they may finally be overreaching as they attempt to solve two of history’s most insoluble problems: the search for truth and the quest for immortality.
It came as a shock when it was reported last week that actress Erin Moran died in Indiana, her body unceremoniously removed from a rural trailer park. In the 1970’s, she was one of the most recognizable faces on television. At twelve she played Ron Howard’s little sister Joanie Cunningham on the sitcom Happy Days, the cute girl who “The Fonz” used to call “Shortcake”. The show had a ten-year run after which she starred in a spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi, which was cancelled quickly. After that, Erin’s life spiraled downhill, and she became another in the long line of show business children whose lives ended tragically.
As it stands now, the blame for the debacle at the Academy Awards has fallen on the shoulders of one Brian Cullinan, who has suddenly become one of the most prominent figures in Hollywood. Mr. Cullinan, a senior auditor for PwC, formerly Price Waterhouse, allegedly gave presenter Warren Beatty the wrong envelope for the Best Picture Winner and then failed to correct the mistake promptly. Reports suggest Cullinan might have been distracted because he was doing a little backstage tweeting right before the Best Picture presentation.
Lt. General Hal Moore, one of the greatest American military heroes of the 20th Century, died recently and his passing received scant attention in most media outlets. This is lamentable because he was someone we should teach our children about - a formidable but loyal and compassionate warrior, and a brilliant natural leader whose name is legend at West Point. He will be forever be remembered as a hero of the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, probably the most important American military engagement of the last 60 years.
In an effort to prevent President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski from speaking at the University of Chicago, UC philosophy professor Anton Ford told a Tribune interviewer, “Sometimes there are people or views that are dangerous in and of themselves. The very ceremony of debating that is problematic. What is troubling about the general way this is talked about is that it is as if nothing is out of bounds.”
Four years ago, the city of Los Angeles banned the use of bullhooks, a tool that circuses use to train and control elephants, which meant that Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey circuses no longer felt they could bring elephants to the city. Soon the state of California followed suit, which prompted a spokesman for the circus to note that the circus was not the circus without elephants. His concern was not without merit.
When Phil Chess died recently, the news received little notice here in his former hometown of Chicago, another sign of the cultural amnesia of today’s society. The record label Phil formed with his brother Leonard, Chess Records, was an absolutely crucial influence on 20th Century music, and had an important role in racial progress in America.
The iconic song is often considered America’s alternative national anthem but is currently the subject of a copyright dispute, intended to keep it out of the public domain. Familiar to virtually every schoolchild, folksinger Woody Guthrie’s famous theme, “This Land Is Your Land”, has been sung everywhere from a Jeep Super Bowl commercial to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and even by Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger at the Lincoln Memorial at a pre-inaugural concert for President Obama.
It was still dark in San Francisco on the predawn morning of April 19, 1906, when the ground began shaking. For nearly a minute, the tremors intensified, streets cracked and buildings began sliding down landfills. Deadly fires broke out, caused by toppled street lanterns and exposed gas lines. With the city’s major water mains severed, firemen were virtually helpless as they confronted a three-day conflagration larger than the 1871 Chicago Fire.
In a revealing scene from the current movie Concussion, former Pittsburgh Steeler team physician Dr. Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin) and county coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht ( Albert Brooks) examine pathology slides of the brain of a retired player who died presumably due to repeated head trauma.
Donald Trump recently received a clean bill of health from his doctor. The medical report may have lacked specifics, but the physician made up for it with typical Trumpian bombast when he tweeted, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most consequential battles in American history. Most Americans have probably never heard of the Ia Drang Valley, the site of the first major encounter between the regular armies of the United States and North Vietnam. Yet that forgotten battle at Ia Drang in mid-November 1965 probably changed world politics more than any other military engagement since World War II.
In a recent article in The New Yorker entitled “All Scientists Should be Militant Atheists”, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss penned a scathing essay disavowing any relationship between science and religion.
When it comes to villains in works of fiction, nothing beats the Mob - dapper, well-coiffed men, with colorful nicknames and powerful underworld connections, who exude a dark romanticism in movies like The Godfather, Casino, and Goodfellas.
News Item 5/5/15: At Rancho High School in Las Vegas, during an immigration roundtable, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “believe it or not, when I was growing up in the Chicago area, it was farm fields as far as the eye could see.”
The well-worn adage goes “History is written by the victors”. That is, the nation that wins a war provides the facts that compose the history books. But the Vietnam War is an exception. In this case the loser, the United States, provides posterity with most of the information about the 1964-1975 conflict that cost 56,000 American and 1.5 million Vietnamese lives.
Madonna has been dissed, and she is not happy. The 56-year-old proclaimed Queen of Pop, with more record sales than any woman in history, received a distinctly unroyal reception by the British radio station BBC Radio 1, which recently banished her latest single, “Living For Love,” from its playlist.
Leslie Gore died recently and to those unfamiliar with the name who bothered to glance at her obituary she must have seemed little more than a 1960’s cliché. For a brief moment when it was the best of times, and the worst of times, to be a teenager in America, Leslie Gore was the country’s most popular female singer, the embodiment of the wholesome all-American girl. But far from a one-off fleeting teenage idol, Leslie Gore was a multitalented performer and bold pioneer for feminism and gay rights.
It’s August of 2015 and for six months since Brian Williams was suspended, the ratings of the NBC Nightly News have been plummeting. Figuring he is their best hope, NBC execs ask Williams to return as anchorman. Excited at the prospect of regaining his position, Williams sits down in his study to craft a first draft of what he will say on his first broadcast back.
When a film director makes a movie, how much are they permitted to alter history? This recurring question came up recently in the movie Selma, about the early 1960’s Civil Rights movement and specifically the famous 1965 march led by Dr. Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery. The film, recently shown in a private White House screening by President Obama, has been criticized for portraying President Johnson as an obstructionist to voting rights, an account challenged by some historians and one of President’s Johnson’s close advisors.
Remember your personal physician? He or she may not be yours much longer. And even if they are still your doctor, the odds are they are not really working for you. Soon, most doctors will have abandoned their private practices and become employees of hospitals, multihospital affiliations, or the Government. Only 35% of doctors currently describe themselves as independent, compared with 62% in 2008. This trend will undoubtedly continue; a doctor graduating from medical school today has little or no chance of starting their own solo practice. How did this happen, and why does it threaten patients?
The recent suicide of Robin Williams shocked the world and there has been no shortage of public speculation and amateur psychology about why he took his life. The sad fact is, as with most suicides, that no one will ever know for sure. Even experienced health professionals, with a detailed understanding of mental illness, cannot reliably predict who will commit suicide or explain why someone did after the fact.
Dean Peter Richards of London’s St. Mary’s Medical School was a world-renowned expert in teaching medical students to become doctors. One of his key counsels was, “All doctors must continue to learn, and not only about new advances but to appreciate the limitations of all knowledge.”
The kids from Brooklyn were unquestionably the greatest husband and wife songwriting team in American history, and he had top billing. Yet when Gerry Goffin, first husband and lyricist for Carole King, died recently, the Washington Post noted, “King became a household name as a solo star while Mr. Goffin receded into the background.” It was part of his personal tragedy.
An important libel lawsuit in Washington D.C Superior Court, which has received little public attention, is sure to heat up soon. At issue is a contentious clash involving global warming, scientific research, and freedom of speech.
Scientific integrity is the theme of the Greek tragedies that currently involve two of America’s most prestigious physicians. Both men worked for decades to reach the pinnacle of the medical profession; now both are brought low.
When he died recently, Larry Lujack had not been a regular disc jockey on a major Chicago radio station for over quarter of a century. Yet tributes poured in not just from Chicago, but from all over the country. How was he able to evoke vivid, long-ago memories from so many people, most of whom never met him personally? It is a testimony to the medium - and to the man.