Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Golden Age of Beer

You’ve got to hand it to our Neolithic ancestors. They emerged from their trees and caves around 10,000 B.C. and set about farming, forming villages, crafting tools and domesticating animals.

In their spare time, they invented beer which we can assume was responsible for their remarkable uptick in sophistication.  Or perhaps after a couple of brews, they just thought they were smarter.

Whatever. We’ve not only been drinking it ever since (it ranks behind water and tea as the  most popular beverages on the planet) but our fascination with the product has led to more research and study than we’ve devoted to the solar system.

Just this past week, a group of Swiss researchers pulled their heads out of their beakers long enough to notice that people who drink beer generally seem to be long on laughter and short on inhibitions.

So they designed a study to see if they could shed some light on the situation. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, they recruited 30 men and 30 women, offered them beer and subjected them to a series of psychological tests.

They discovered that people were quicker to recognize happy faces when there was alcohol in their system; that they had a greater desire to be in a “positive” social environment — such as a party — after consuming beer.

In addition, people were somewhat turned off by sexually explicit images after drinking non-alcoholic beer — they rated the pictures “less pleasant than neutral pictures” — but not after drinking regular beer.

When people had an alcoholic buzz, they found sexually explicit images “more pleasant” than they did when the buzz was absent. This effect was particularly strong among women.

The researchers concluded that alcohol’s role as a social lubricant can be traced to its ability to facilitate “sexual disinhibition.” 

So if I understand this correctly, in the Year of Our Lord 2016, the Swiss have just discovered that people get frisky after a couple of brews.  Maybe they just yodel when they imbibe.

Of course, these are the same people who released a highly scientific study several years ago that concluded an empty beer bottle makes a better weapon than a full beer bottle in a fight.

In a related development, researchers asked people at bars to rate their own attractiveness. They found that the higher the blood alcohol content of people, the higher they rated themselves on attractiveness. Which I guess is why they put mirrors behind bars.

But we digress.

Aside from flirting and fighting, there are a lot of reasons to enjoy beer.

After more than 20 years of research and scores of studies on the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on health, beer is being understood as a beverage that not only lifts spirits but delivers protection against major ailments such as heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and dementia.

Norman D. Kaplan, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, has studied alcohol's impact on health as part of his 40 years of research into the causes and treatment of hypertension. He told the Wall Street Journal that he has found that "the benefits of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is well beyond contention."

As for beer's specific virtues, Dr. Kaplan cites two recent large-scale studies: in one, a look at 70,000 female nurses showed that those who drank moderate amounts of beer had less hypertension than did nurses who drank either wine or spirits. He also points to a survey of 128,934 adults in the Kaiser Permanente managed-care system. It showed that male beer drinkers among the group were at a statistically significant lower risk of coronary-artery disease than were men who drank red wine, white wine or spirits.

In a declaration that exposes him as nobody’s sommelier, Dr. Kaplan says, "beer drinking has equal or perhaps more benefit" than wine or spirits. As for the wine claims: "The wine people have done a major snow job" in peddling the notion that wine is superior to beer or spirits, he says.

Without question, we are living in the Golden Age of Beer.

As of Dec. 1, 2015, the Brewers Association had counted 4,144 breweries in the United States, the most ever operating simultaneously in the history of the country. According to historians, the previous high-water mark of 4,131 was set in 1873.

So how to you tell which brew is best?  Sampling some 4,000 different brands seems like a risky plan.  So use my method:  order the brew with the cleverest name.
There’s Deep Ellum's Dallas Blonde ("goes down easy," says the can) or AleSmith's Java the Nut or Ruckus' Hoptimus Prime or For Richer or Porter.

You might try Peter Cotton Ale (“Now With More Hops”), Audrey Hopburn, Monty Python’s Holy Ale, Muscles from Brussels , Old Lawnmower, or AlimonyAle.

To bring out the animal in you try Moose Knuckle Winter Stout, Rat Tail Ale, Damn Dirty Ape or Dogfish Head.

My personal favorite:  Polygamy Porter, brewed in Utah.  Its slogan is “Why Have Just One?”

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Hillary Stumbles

Hillary stumbles, Rams fumble.  That was the week that was.

News: Hillary Clinton leaves a 9/11 memorial service because she becomes “overheated.”

Views. It turns out she had pneumonia. And pneumonia is a serious disease. For U.S. adults, it is the most common cause of hospital admissions other than women giving birth. About 1 million adults in the U.S. are hospitalized with pneumonia every year, and about 50,000 die from this disease.

So when a major presidential candidate is stricken, and has kept her condition a secret, it is big news.

Fortunately in the case of Hillary Clinton, the medical prognosis is good. Unfortunately, her illness has provided misguided credibility to rumormongers who would have us believe she is at death’s door.

The following “facts,” mostly reported by conservative media, have been making the rounds on the internet for months:

That leaked medical records document that Hillary Clinton exhibits signs of dementia and serious illness. The doctor whose name was attached to these reports said that “These documents are false, were not written by me and are not based on any medical facts.”

That she is prone to seizures (based on a photo of her making a face) and/or she is suffering from Parkinson's disease. The latter diagnosis was made by a Dr. Ted Noel who is an anesthesiologist, not a neurologist, and admits, “ I am a medical doctor with 36 years of experience, but I am not Hillary Clinton's treating physician, so I can't claim that what I'm about to tell you is a conclusive diagnosis.”

That a video reportedly showing what looked to be a tubular metallic object plopping out of her right pants leg onto the ground proves that she wears leg or hip braces or that the object in question was an ostomy bag clip, a catheter, a mind control receiver or a crack pipe.

That she has in fact died and has been replaced by a body double.

In the meantime, Mrs. Clinton’s personal physician has released a statement attesting to her good health.

But when all is said and done, her health really isn’t the major issue here.  It’s her credibility.  After all, nobody expects a 68-year-old woman to go out swimming with the Navy Seals.

She has damaged her reputation by keeping her medical condition secret until it was played out in public before a national audience. Now, to many, every goofy internet posting just might be true.

And what would have happened if she announced she had a mild case of pneumonia and was taking few days off to recover?  Oh, sure, the Trump people would have accused her of lacking stamina. But that could have been spun as misogyny, not unknown in Trump circles. And the political damage would have been minimal.

Now, her campaign is on the defensive. And while defense might win football games, it’s a lousy way to win an election.

She has not only played into the hands of her detractors but the media will be all eyes and ears every time she so much as sneezes on the campaign trail.

Every misstep or cough or crooked smile will be reported in tones usually reserved for the death of a pope.

Mrs. Clinton will survive pneumonia. But healing her broken reputation will be the biggest challenge she’ll have to overcome.

News:  Rams lose opening game, 28-0.

Views: I was a Ram fan from childhood to adulthood and was angry and frustrated when they left town.

I was delighted when I heard they were returning. But even more than that, I was amazed at their public relations acumen.

They blew into town with banners unfurled.  They announced plans for a $3 billion dollar stadium in Inglewood which would feature a venue of up to 100,240 seats (including standing room only seats) while reconfiguring the previously approved Hollywood Park plan for up to 890,000 square feet of retail, 780,000 square feet of office space, 2,500 new residential units, a 300-room hotel and 25 acres of public parks, playgrounds, open space and pedestrian and bicycle access.

Then they engineered a blockbuster trade to acquire the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft which they used to select Cal quarterback Jared Goff. 

Keeping up the momentum, they secured the starring role in “Hard Knocks,” a popular HBO series that documents NFL training camps.

Not done, they scheduled their first exhibition game at the Coliseum versus the Dallas Cowboys who like to call themselves “America’s team.” It drew an astounding 90,000 fans.

Their first regular season game was against long-time rivals, the San Francisco 49ers on the iconic Monday Night Football broadcast.  Their first home game is against the Seattle Seahawks, coached by Pete Carroll who led USC to numerous championships at the Coliseum.

Brilliantly conceived.

But in the midst of this public outreach, someone forgot to assemble a competitive team.  Goff has so far been a bust, relegated to the sidelines in civilian clothes.
Their opening game performance was so abysmal I thought Donald Sterling was running the show.

Public relations, no matter how well executed, can’t mask a poor product. And while the Rams may turn it around, they may soon find that this town only supports a winner.

Lose a few more games and their fans will be spending the day at the beach.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Out at Home

I know far too many people who live in the past. Talk to them for a while, and it becomes apparent that high school was a profoundly epic experience, one they relive day in and day out.

I enjoy dabbling in nostalgia occasionally. But I choose to enjoy my dwindling number of tomorrows instead of all those yesterdays.

There is one tomorrow I’m dreading, however. That will occur at the end of the month when Dodger announcer Vin Scully retires after 67 years on the job.

It should be a big league sendoff, befitting the best of them all.  But it probably won’t be.  More on that later.

If one’s life has a soundtrack, mine is orchestrated by Scully.

Back in the days before most games were televised, Scully was the Dodgers. His voice on the radio meant spring was here. When Scully called the Dodgers, it was time to get the lawn furniture out, fix a cool drink and listen to the drama unfold as only a master story teller could describe it. 

And when I did get to a game at the Coliseum or Dodger Stadium, it was Scully's voice that dominated the scene, broadcast over a thousand portable radios clutched by fans throughout the park. It was as though even if you saw the action with your own eyes, you needed Scully to validate it.

How good is he?  Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax once said of him, “It may sound corny, but, I enjoyed listening to Vin call a game almost more than playing in them.” 

How popular is he?  He was once asked to run for governor.

How unique is he?  He blends the objectivity of a reporter with the soul of a poet.

But it was more than that.  It was Scully’s voice that was a constant during life’s milestones.

I listened to him as a teenager. I listened to him when I married and started a career. I listened to him the weekend my wife and I moved into the house we still occupy after 43 years.  I listened to him as I held my children in my arms and later when we would play catch in the back yard. I listened as I waited for them as teenagers to return from dates. I listened when they went off to college.

Through triumphs and tragedies, Vin Scully was a reassuring presence in our lives.

Vincent Edward Scully has been named California Sportscaster of the Year 28 times, he received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, was honored with a Life Achievement Emmy Award for sportscasting and induction into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995, and was named Broadcaster of the Century by the American Sportscasters Association in 2000. In 2014, he was grand marshal of the Rose Parade, an honor he should have received about 20 years earlier.

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame. The Los Angeles City Council in a unanimous vote, renamed Elysian Park Avenue to Vin Scully Avenue, changing the address of Dodger Stadium to 1000 Vin Scully Ave.

Through the power of his voice, he has almost single handedly made the Dodgers one of the top drawing franchises in all of sport.

And how has the team rewarded him?  By making him invisible.

Seventy per cent of us don’t get Dodgers broadcasts. And haven’t for three years.
Worse, if you want to hear Scully on the radio, he only calls the first three innings. After that, he’s only heard on a cable channel you probably don’t get. Talk about twisting the knife.

All this is thanks to Time Warner, a bumbling cable company that paid way too much ($8.35 billion) for broadcast rights and now can’t sell the telecasts to other outlets, and the Dodger owners who refuse to re-do the deal.

I guess we are supposed to enthusiastically support a team that doesn’t care if they have insulted and alienated their fans, made themselves into the poster boys for corporate greed and, worse, silenced an icon.

Now we learn that the Dodgers and KTLA Channel 5 have struck a deal to bring us the last five games of the season.  

Great. If you can negotiate 5 games, why not 10?  Or the entire month?  Throwing the fans a bone is about as far as our corporate overlords are prepared to go.

And believe it:  If it wasn’t Scully’s swan song, we wouldn’t have gotten that.

But in the meantime, I’ll be able to enjoy one more time the guy who brought joy to Mudville, the voice whose popularity has crossed generational, economic and racial lines.

And it will bring back a lot of memories.

After all, it was Vin who once said, “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old-timer’s game.”

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Fat Chance

Labor Day was established as a public holiday to honor the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country. 

A noble gesture indeed.

Here in our neck of the woods, it also marks the opening of the L.A. County Fair which, instead of celebrating working stiffs, has become a showcase for some of the most waist-expanding, heart attack-inducing, imagination-defying, deep-fried-and-dipped-in-sugar culinary monstrosities known to the human race.

One wonders if the fair is an attempt to kill off the working class.

And it’s not just the L.A. event.  Fairs across the country are turning into a celebration of gluttony that would make Henry VIII proud. In Arizona they’ll feed you Deep-Fried Scorpion on a Stick, in Minnesota a plate of Spam Curds and in Texas, Fried Frito pie washed down with Deep-Fried Beer.

The L.A. fair reportedly offers unique dishes, such as Deep Fried Guacamole (served with a tub of ranch dressing) and a burger lathered with a hefty spread of grape jam, peanut butter, and a squirt of Sriracha hot sauce. A flame grilled patty is then topped with a handful of bacon.

And since Chicken and Waffles is a popular dish in L.A., one vendor takes it a step farther by wrapping his chicken in bacon before frying it, setting it atop a waffle, and dousing it in maple syrup.

You might want to have your cardiologist on speed dial.

Not to be outdone, the Orange County Fair offers the Pepsi Donut Bacon Dog: a quarter-pound bacon-wrapped beef hot dog on a doughnut bun topped with Pepsi glaze; the Bacon Nutella Pickle: dill pickle wrapped in bacon and filled with the popular hazelnut cocoa spread; French Toast Bacon Bombs: sweet dough stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, deep fried, sprinkled with sugar and topped with maple syrup; and the S'moreo Doughnut: a 10-inch glazed doughnut topped with chocolate, Oreo cookie crumbles, graham crackers and marshmallow cream.

While you’re digesting that, you may wonder: How did fairs become the incubators of junk food?

According to noted food writer Robert Moss, “If you believe the popular tales, more new American foods were invented at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, than during any other single event in history.

“The list includes the hamburger, the hot dog, peanut butter, iced tea, the club sandwich, cotton candy, and the ice cream cone, to name just a few. If all the pop histories and internet stories have it right, American foodways would be almost unrecognizable if the 1904 fair had not been held.”

Alas, some of this is good old American hyperbole.  Hamburger had been around since Civil War days and iced tea was a drink of choice in the 1880s.

It won’t be the first time legends trumped truth and it would appear that the spirit of St. Louis continues to this day in fairgrounds throughout our land.

How else could we explain Deep Fried Kool Aid, Deep Fried Butter, Chicken Fried Bacon, a Deep Fried Spaghetti-Stuffed Meatball, Chocolate Bacon on a Stick or Deep-Fried Tequila Shots.  All available at a fair near you.

But wait, there’s more: a Hot Beef Sundae, layered with mashed potatoes, marinated beef, gravy, cheese, corn "sprinkles" and a cherry (tomato); Grilled python kebabs seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, Old Bay and lemon-pepper (let me guess, it tastes like chicken); Elvis on a Stick: a deep fried banana-battered peanut butter cup with bacon; and deep fried mashed potatoes on a stick.

It’s enough to make Paula Deen look like Jenny Craig.

So why do we eat this stuff?  Leave it to the New York Times to delve deeply into the subject and come up with an explanation only a psychiatrist would love:

It’s all about “decision fatigue.”

According to a Times article, no matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue —you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy.

The more choices you make throughout the day, the article says, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences.

OK, that works for me. Now pass me that Deep Fried Butter. And add a dash of Lipitor.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Looking Back in Anger

Once upon a time, there was a publication called the Weekly World News that occupied a special niche in American journalism.

It was a supermarket tabloid but unique in that tawdry genre. It went places no other publication dared to go.

Where else could you read stories like  "Satan Captured by GIs in Iraq” or "Termites Eat the Eifel Tower," or "Hard Up Sheik Sheds His Wives, 200 Woman Harem to be Sold on eBay." or "Alien Bible Found, They Worship Oprah” or “I Was Bigfoot’s Love Slave.”

Its philosophy was best explained by Sal Ivon, a former managing editor, who said, "If someone calls me up and says their toaster is talking to them, I don't refer them to professional help, I say, 'Put the toaster on the phone'."

Perhaps its most popular feature was a column written by the fictitious Ed Anger,  a perpetually angry conservative (a typical column began "I'm pig-biting mad!"), who railed against illegal immigrants, women and speed limits among many other perceived ills.

Not to mention Democrats, wild animals that somehow need protection even though they have claws, complicated foods, and most television programming.

Anger also hated foreigners, yoga, whales and pineapple on pizza; he liked flogging, electrocutions and beer.

He even authored a book entitled “Let's Pave the Stupid Rainforests & Give School Teachers Stun Guns and Other Ways to Save America.”

Here’s Ed on Obamacare: “Their plan was to bore half the country to death and give the other half heart attacks, so we’d all be dead anyhow and wouldn’t need doctors!”

On China: “if I were President Obama, I’d make the Chinese buy only American  for five years, just to make up for robbing us blind – or we’ll bomb ’em back to the Stone Age where they came from.”

On legalized marijuana: “All my life I heard smoking that stuff made you a shiftless degenerate – and now the government wants to hand it out free to everybody! It won’t really be “free,” of course – you and I are the ones paying for it. We have to work two or three jobs and cough up half our dough, so these lazy dope fiends can have their wild crazy parties and eat corn chips all day in their underpants!”

The Weekly World News disappeared somewhere into cyberspace a few years back and Ed Anger along with it.  But if you noticed a certain similarity between Anger’s vitriol and the rhetoric of this year’s Republican Party, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Could it be that Donald Trump’s politics were shaped by a ghost-written satirical column in a supermarket tabloid?  Or, to borrow from a WWN staple, is Elvis alive and directing his campaign?

We’ll never know. But Trump clearly has a lot of Anger in him.

Here are a few of the candidate’s positions which could be straight out of the pages of Weekly World News:

His political background: “What do I know about it? All I know is what's on the internet." 

The military:  “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?" –Trump, reportedly asking a foreign policy adviser three times during a meeting why the U.S. couldn’t use its nuclear weapons stockpile, according to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.

Foreign policy:  “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 (Hillary Clinton) emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." –Trump, calling on Russian espionage services to intervene in the U.S. election.

Leadership: "I alone can fix it." –Trump in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, July 21, 2016.

Race relations: "I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall." –Trump, accusing U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the fraud case against Trump University, of being biased against him because of his Mexican heritage, despite the fact that he is a U.S. citizen who was born in Indiana.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists."

"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." 

“I have a great relationship with the blacks.”

“Happy Cinco De Mayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!”

Women’s issues: “I think the only card she has is the women's card. She has got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she would get 5% of the vote. And the beautiful thing is women don't like her, OK?"

"There has to be some form of punishment…you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places, but we have to ban it." –Trump on women who have abortions.

"Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" – Trump on primary opponent Carly Fiona.

 "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?"

His constituents: "We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated." –Trump on his performance with voters who helped him win the Nevada Caucus.

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's, like, incredible."

Ed Anger would cheer. He couldn't have said it better himself.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Don't Go There

Summer is winding down but there is still a few weeks left to squeeze in some vacation time.

Europe?  Hawaii?  Legoland? There are lots of choices but, like a friendly old uncle,  I’m here today to put my arm around your shoulder and advise you on a couple of places to avoid:
Pittsburgh.  OK, it wasn’t on your bucket list anyway but I’ve been there dozens of times (I have in-laws nearby) and it is a beautiful and lively city with great food and the best sports fans in the world. Some locals call it the Paris of Appalachia.
So why stay away? Here’s why. Uber customers in Pittsburgh  later this month can begin hopping into vehicles that can drive themselves to their destination.
And hilarity or carnage could ensue. You don’t want to be the victim of either.
Uber has been quietly testing a handful of tech-laden Volvo cars in Pittsburgh which is headquarters for the tech company's autonomous car research facility. Many of its staffers are former robotics experts from nearby Carnegie Mellon University, a self-driving car technology hotbed.
Volvo has so far delivered a "handful of vehicles" to Uber, but expects to have 100 SUVs ready by the end of the year, according to a Bloomberg report. The cars will be staffed with safety drivers, per current transportation laws.
Just so you understand this, you’ll be jumping into a car that will be navigating a city that was laid out for horse carts in a vehicle imagined by an industry that recalled 56 million cars last year.
And, of course, Pittsburgh is dissected by three large rivers:  The Allegheny, the Monongahela which meet up to form the Ohio.
Do robotic cars float?  Stay tuned.
The other destination is North Korea. 
It was probably much farther down your bucket list than Pittsburgh but maybe your inner explorer is urging you onward to more adventuresome locales.
After all, the North Korean national anthem declares, “Let morning shine on the silver and gold of this land/ Three thousand leagues packed with natural wealth.

“My beautiful fatherland/ The glory of a wise people/Brought up in a culture brilliant/With a history five millennia long.”
How bad can it be?
Plenty, as it turns out. We all know Kim Jong Un and his cohorts as iron-fisted rulers of a rogue nation that hates Americans and leads the world in human rights violations.
And if you’re a visitor, utter a bad word about Dear Leader and you could do 50 years at hard labor.
Still want to go?  There’s even more bad news.
It seems that for the fourth year in a row, North Korea’s Air Koryo has claimed the dubious honor of being ranked the worst carrier in the world.
Meaning it may be more dangerous getting there than being there.
Among the gripes: the onboard meal of hamburgers made of a “mystery meat,” safety demonstrations that often were skipped, entertainment that consisted of propaganda films played in a loop and overhead luggage racks with no doors to keep bags from falling down on fliers during turbulence, according to travel writer extraordinaire Hugo Martin.
You’ll also be traveling on aging Russian aircraft.  Think getting a 1973 Plymouth for a rental car.
Chinese authorities just announced they will limit the operations of Air Koryo, after a Beijing-bound flight made an emergency landing last month.
The flight from Pyongyang had to land in the North-eastern Chinese city of Shenyang because of smoke in the cabin. No one was injured in the incident.
China's Civil Aviation Administration announced "relevant measures to limit operations" without giving any details.
As for me, I take these ratings with a grain of salt.
 Malaysia Airlines, struck by two incidents that left all passengers on board dead or missing in 2014, was given five stars out of a possible seven in one recent rating.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Not So Golden Moments

I have watched the Olympics since they were broadcast in black and white.

Let me clarify that. 

I have had the TV tuned to the Olympics since they were broadcast in black and white.

Nobody watches the entire menu of Olympic events, not even in 1960 when CBS first offered American viewers 20 hours of highlights from Rome.

It was pre-satellite days so they had to fly the tapes from Rome to New York to put them on the air.  Talk about delay of game. Talk about anti-climactic.

Certainly not now when NBC is bombarding us with 6755 hours of coverage on multiple channels.

Nobody in their right mind would watch the entire thing.  But I almost did.

It seems I was required to have hip surgery recently, an act that required me to rehabilitate at home for what seemed like forever plus.

So what do you do to pass the time?  You read a book.  Or you watch TV.

I watched the political conventions while taking powerful prescription pain medicine which led to numerous surreal experiences, very strange and difficult to understand. I’m sure if I had not been medicated, it would have all made perfect sense.

 I did get my head cleared in time to watch Donald Trump’s acceptance speech.  Then I quickly reached for more pain pills.

Hillary Clinton’s address was about as exciting as a PTA treasurer’s report.  I needed no medicinal help.  I fell asleep after 15 minutes.

So much for the future of our country.

I quickly devoured the books I had set aside and was faced with the vast wasteland that is daytime TV: “Dr. Phil,” Dr. Drew,” “Judge Judy,” “Naked and Afraid,” “My 600-lb Life,” every “Law and Order” ever made and lots of shows about UFOs and Nostradamus, sometimes combined into one blockbuster.

My salvation was the Olympics and because of my circumstances I was ready to embrace every minute.

That didn’t last long. NBC broadcast the opening ceremony on a one-hour delay on the East Coast. The West Coast was delayed by an additional three hours. While the rest of the world was watching, we were waiting.

And while we were waiting, we were subjected to endless commercials, mindless happy talk and constant promotional reminders that we have a really good women’s gymnastics team.

The Brazilians, not surprisingly, put on a heck of an opening show. Then came the parade of athletes, always interesting, but this time so disorganized it looked like commuters being disgorged from a subway station.

If was after 9 p.m. when the parade began. It ran so long I was off to bed before Lichtenstein strolled into the stadium.

But I’m all about second chances so I tuned in again and again.  Again and again I was awash in commercials wrapped around profiles of people and places.

It also seemed that every time I decided to watch, somebody was doing something in a swimming pool. What did they have, about 10,000 events? Or maybe NBC focused on swimming because the U.S. had a superior team. Nothing like a winner to boost ratings.

I also became increasingly irritated by the way NBC bounced around between events that gave little time for the viewer to get interested.

If you’re going to get me hooked on the canoe slalom or taekwondo, I need time to understand what I’m seeing.

Of course, we could have anticipated this.

NBC’s chief marketing officer John Miller explained the network’s approach this way:
“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” he told recently. “More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

That brought this response from Sally Jenkins writing in the Washington Post:

“The Olympics is the most prominent competition in the world and 53 percent of Team USA is female, which means American women likely will bring in more medals than American men. Yet they will be presented in packaging aimed at a Ladies’ Home Journal crowd.”

Maybe that's why we heard commentators like NBC broadcaster Dan Hicks, who after Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won gold and set a world record in the 400-meter individual medley, immediately started talking about her husband and coach, calling him “the guy responsible.”

Or the Chicago Tribune, which referred to two-time trapshooting medalist Corey Cogdell as “wife of a Bears’ lineman” in a headline, rather than using her name.

We lagged badly in the sexism competition, however. The winner was a German equestrian commentator for ARD TV, Carsten Sostmeier, who opened an interview with rider Julia Krajewski with, “Let's see what the blondie has to say.”

He went on to call her a “scaredy-cat" and said she was so afraid of the course that "there was a brown stripe in her panties."  

Or maybe this is what passes for German humor.

I’m walking unaided now and getting out and about. That means my Olympics viewing will occur in fits and starts.

I’m sure in the future I’ll watch but, baring medical complications, it will be selectively.

If there is a future.

 In 2015 the US nominated Boston for the 2024 Summer Games, until Boston withdrew because of low public support. Germany nominated Hamburg but it pulled out after the local government lost another referendum. Toronto’s mooted bid was scrapped when its economic development committee voted against it.

Right now, the four candidate cities are Rome, Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris. In Hungary, the supreme court has just blocked a proposed referendum. And in Italy, Rome’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, has repeatedly said she opposes the bid.

It looks like Our Fair City may win by default, maybe permanently. And if it does, I’m betting NBC will still try selling us the journey rather than the results.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.