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July 2021

Maybe You Had Too Much Too Fast (Maybe You Had Too Much Too Fast)

Remember when you first saw an ad on TV for drugs?

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“Ask you doctor about Spazapram.”

Drug advertising seems wrong. Drug companies persuade us to ask our doctors to sell us the drugs that the drug companies cannot otherwise legally sell us. Perverse, really.

The drug companies also want us asking our veterinarians about drugs.

Canine pharmaceutical ads have arrived.  Drugs for dogs.

“Ask your veterinarian about Rovercil.”

Saw the ad last week on cable.

“Is Fido depressed, feeling blue, out of sorts?’

“Do you yearn for younger days when Scout bounded through meadows and jumped into ponds?”

“Is Max no longer interested in licking peanut butter off your skin?”

“Rovercil rejuvenates your dog’s youth and demeanor, leaving him feeling less enslaved.”

And, like any pharmaceutical ad, the Rovercil ad includes the side effects.

“Rovercil may cause shortness of breath, panting, slobbering, gruff noises, and incontinence. Do not dig for rodents while on Rovercil. Stop taking Rovercil and see your veterinarian if you spend four continuous hours chewing one squeaking toy.”

Reminds me when my broke former brother-in-law tried to borrow $1000 for surgery on his cat. Some of that $1000 must go toward Felinebarbitol or some other cat drug.

I told him: “Don’t be an idiot. New cats are free.” I don’t own a pet, and he, borrowing the money, scoffed: “You don’t understand, man.” Indeed, I did not understand.

If you’re buying Rovercil for your depressed dog, what is the real problem?

Drugs can be miraculous, but drug advertising seems wrong.

Consider Morgan Spurlock, famous for Supersize Me.

Supersize Me is a wet-your-pants-funny documentary where Spurlock only consumed McDonald's for 30 days. Breakfast lunch and dinner. Every item on the menu at least once.

Supersize Me shows Spurlock eating the McDonald's, planning for the McDonald's, working, and seeing the doctor. At every doctor visit, Spurlok gains weight, his vitals decline, and his look deteriorates, like he has been fully glazed by the insides of french fry bags. At every visit, the doctor insists Spurlock quit his McDonald’s challenge. But quitting does not a documentary make.

Spurlock has never had another hit as big as Supersize Me, but McDonald's did stop using the term “supersize” after his movie.

Spurlock had a TV show where he tried other grand stunts, like spending 30 days with the camera crew in jail. He passed on the challenge idea I sent him.

My wife watches the network news, among her myriad news sources. The network news seems antiquated, but the announcer voices remain reassuring.

Perhaps given the demographic, nearly every network news commercial is for a pharmaceutical. “Ask your doctor about Heavamine.”

My wife’s special muting skills spare her the side effects, but I cannot stop listening. I’m worried I need the drug, with all my doctor appointment-skipping. My weak quips are cries of denial: “Pullzac helps you ice skate with your grandkids” or “Kringlopomed helps you pick out sweaters and throw bread at birds.

Drug side effects have evolved. Olestra’s “loose stools” side effect was once the champion. But now, with Yafganitrol, there’s risk of eye socket bleeding, fingernail discoloration, and sudden death. I thought sudden death was a golf thing.

The side effect recital includes warnings not to take the drug if you are taking other drugs. I know people who take multiple drugs. Warning people who take multiple drugs not to take multiple drugs is not effective to get those people not to take multiple drugs.

My idea for Spurlock was to take each of the network news advertised drugs each night for 30 nights. Then cut to him live at the end of the news. Lots of people would tune-in to see how it all goes down for Morgan, taking all of the network news drugs, and then being presented with fun challenges.

You can imagine the promos:

“It’s Day 3: Check in on Morgan Spurlock as he experiences Abilify, Humira, Lyrica, and a Fentanyl Patch while alone in a corn maze….”

“It’s Day 17: Morgan Spurlock starts in a padded room hopped-up on a combination of Xarelto, Oxycodone, Slidenafil, and Robitussin, and then is set loose, unarmed, into a paintball field….”

“Tonight, on the finale of ‘Heart Assault’, Morgan Spurlock gulps a mixed bowl of Adderall, Valparate and Zostavax; drinks a smoothie of Ritalin, Fingolimo, and Andro Gel; mainlines Testosterone and Lidocaine; has his eyeballs doused in liquified Omalizumab, and is encouraged to climb the tram line at Jackson Hole….”

My dad was in insurance, so I know why Morgan Spurlock is no longer on television. It’s a shame, because Spurlock's teaching style is excellent. Re-watch Supersize Me. Why isn’t Morgan Spurlock a national hero?

The point of Supersize Me is the societal effect of McDonald's taking full advantage of addiction in driving the business model. The pharmaceutical ads are the same: taking full advantage of addiction in driving the business model.

I am physician phobic (but in no means an anti-vaxxer). The entire doctor experience is unpleasant. I dislike making the appointment, the waiting and unveiling room dances, the scale, the blood pressure cuff, sitting on paper. Even the receptionist clipboard is no fun, and I love tests.

So, if given a chance, I’ll skip the doctor. Couldn’t find the vein the first time? I’m out of here. Ruptured quad muscle? It will get better. Start telling me to come back for a dye injection, and I’ll be gone before you get to what happens next.

But, given my personality type, I’m probably lucky I have physician phobia. The physician is the gateway to the pharmaceuticals. My reluctance to see a doctor is likely responsible for me not being a pill popper – at least not yet.

Alas, once you get to a certain stage, they just feed you the drugs, whether you saw them on TV and asked for them or not. By then, a pet will likely be a part of my life. When the drug pushers come, hopefully, Oscar will just say no.


Lovely to Look Upon, Heaven to Touch, It's a Real Shame They've Got to Cost So Much

The $6 bread is now $9 at the natural foods grocery store.

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Of course, we should value good food and pay accordingly for nutrition and fulfillment, but is $9 bread worth $9? On initial consideration, a $9 loaf of bread seems equivalent to a $27 handcrafted cocktail or a $115 rib-eye -- prices I've paid, but also questioned. Were the $27 cocktail and the $115 rib-eye "worth it" in retrospect? 

Distilling spirits is not easy. Neither is making glassware. I could not create my own cocktail (or glass) from $27 of raw ingredients. So that service might be worth $27 if the view is nice or the barstool is comfortable.

Finding, killing, and butchering a cow cannot be pleasant -- seems nightmarish. Completely detached from my food chain, I have never earned a rib-eye, regardless of price. So $115 is a fringe price to confront me with, but seems the type of penalty I should occasionally pay, given my lifetime of charred bovine consumption.

But for $9, I could buy the raw ingredients to make 100 loaves of bread, assuming I knew how to make bread, which I do not. So what gives with this $9 bread?

The distiller and the cow killer are strangers to me. But the baker of the $9 loaf of bread may be a neighbor. My $9 is staying in the community. Does that make the $9 bread tolerable?

Most $27 cocktails and $115 rib-eyes will be slightly disappointing, likely for the person paying. But at least the $27 cocktail and the $115 rib-eye will be ingestible as would be customary -- meeting basic expectations. Does $9 bread even meet basic expectations for what we consider to be bread?

For starters, $9 bread comes in an open paper bag. Mind blowing.

All my life, I've strived to close the bread, and to remember where the plastic doodad is long enough to put it back on once the toast is in the toaster. I've learned from the Internet that the color of the plastic bread-closing doodad is symbolic of the day the bread is baked (i.e. if the doodad is yellow, the bread was baked on Monday). 

But $9 bread is sold in a paper bag, stored open to the air, no plastic doodad, and maybe that’s haute. Or environmentally sound. But it seems the opposite of everything we've been taught about bread and air and freshness -- removing the plastic doodad does not make the bread immune to the environment.

Another annoyance is that $9 bread is not sliced.

We have a bread slicing board, but it does not have the proper dimensions for slicing one of these crusty footballs. Slicing $9 bread cracks and splinters the free-range crust, creating an unpredictable cascade of chunks and crumbs. Slicing $9 bread is like an old garage being demolished by a backhoe.

$9 bread is undulating -- each loaf with an elaborate, uneven surface landscape – impossible to slice to any consistent thickness.

You err on the side of thick. But, with the weird shape of $9 bread, geometry fades and your slice thins to nothing. Or you overcompensate, use the vice, and hacksaw-off a $3 slab, too fat for your toaster.

Some $9 bread is dense. But most $9 bread is light and deceptively oversized, from being injected with expensive air. Our last $9 loaf had the look as if it were formerly all puffed-up and air-pressurized, but once out of the sack, it was drooping and sagging. Crack it open and it was eroded from the inside, literally imploding. Even if you can manage to cut a uniform slice, the resulting swiss cheese boomerang is too long or for the toaster. You could try to cut the air-puffed slice in half, but then you have more crust shrapnel. This leads to the toaster moon where the butt of your toast is hanging out while the other half toasts, leading to a daring toast flop and re-toast, guaranteeing the middle will be ruined. 

We have a vacuum sealer, so I did an experiment on my next $9 loaf. I put the $9 loaf in the vacuum machine, and sucked the expensive air right out of it. The $9 loaf deflated like a Patriots football. In the end, the $9 bread with the air removed was bigger than a Triscuit, but smaller than a bagel. 

Next, I tried one of the $7 loaves of bread they hide on the bottom rack.

The $7 loaf had a small string to tie at the open end of the paper bag – quaint.

With the $7 loaf, I knew I was at least getting something of value -- the string. The loaf was harder to find -- notably smaller than the $9 loaf.

The $7 loaf was sliced, so that was convenient and less of a mess. Each slice of the $7 loaf was the size of a toddler’s hand. But those demure slices fit in the toaster, and left no shrapnel.

But eating twelve pieces of toast for breakfast is embarrassing. So I went back to the $9 bread and all of its complications.

I have some weird satisfaction-and-resentment that the $9 is contributing to the local economy -- the same weird satisfaction-and-resentment finding out my mechanic sends his children to the most expensive local private school.

Once COVID hit, many turned to baking. We tried a loaf -- not quite a doorstop, but nothing special, or worth $9. So, we probably did it wrong. We have a buddy who figured it all out -- his loaves cost $9 to make and are heavenly. His entire neighborhood is grateful for the effort.

Spokane used to smell like Wonder Bread. When was the last time you smelled Wonder Bread? 

$9 bread keeps me wondering.