I still find it hard to believe I received a cancer diagnosis almost a year ago. The tumor that was discovered in the stomach was surgically removed last May and there are no signs of any return of the disease though I suppose you’re never really certain enough to declare victory over such a thing, pretty much ever.
One of the courses of treatment you take to prevent the return of cancer via the bloodstream is chemo therapy in pill form- a much more civilized, seriously less horrible alternative than the kind of chemo you get intravenously. It’s called Xeloda and it’s a rather amazing drug. When used to actually attack tumors, it has an excellent track record of shrinking if not annihilating them. And for preventive purposes, as I used them, there is strong statistical evidence they do the job as well.
They are no picnic. Extreme fatigue is one of the effects, along with nausea and uncomfortable things that can happen to your hands and feet. I started taking them July 1st and they gave me weekends off to recover.
I take the last of the pills tonight and I’m done which is worth celebrating- but also kind of scary. As long as you take them, you feel like you’re doing something proactively to keep cancer from coming back. When you’re done with them, it is apparently quite normal to feel like you’re operating without a safety net.
Except you‘re not. My doctors at Georgetown tell me there is new research that indicates that minimal, regular exercise, to the tune of 45 minutes a day of even casual walking, has just as strong a statistical correlation for cancer prevention as chemo-therapy. About a week after they told me this, there it was in the Washington Post- same research-same conclusion.
This is good news for me as I don’t own a car and I actually already walk 36 minutes a day back and forth to the subway. Hopefully, the weekends I was using to physically recover from the effects of the chemo drugs will now be filled with more energy and a little less couch potato action.
This is the last time I intend to blog about this whole thing. It was, honestly, very helpful to me to write about this journey from fear to good health. It’s been a long path, but one that need not be revisited. I continue to be incredibly grateful to my friends, family and colleagues for the tremendous support, love and prayers, all of which worked remarkably well. Thank you all.
And now on to the business of living.
There’s a piece in Politico today (a publication that exhibits all that is wrong and twisted about political coverage with its superficial and cynical repackaging of what is pretended to not be conventional wisdom), that says it’s time to do away with the annual State of the Union speech. I could not disagree more.
I will admit that in the hours leading up to the event last night, I was kind of dreading the tediousness of it all; the 75 interruptions for applause with the one side clapping while the other sits on its hands, the requisite heroes in the audience sitting with the First Lady, the tiresome glad-handing and back-slapping that occurs as the cabinet and the Joint Chiefs and the Supremes and, finally, the President, enter the chamber.
But sometimes the event- the speech and its reactions- surprise you.
There were several moments that made it all worth it to me. In every case, it was when unity unexpectedly filled the chamber. Hope for the future of the Republic!
Unity Incident #1: When the President spoke about America as a place that offers unending possibility and opportunity.
It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.
The line about Speaker John Boehner was classy and it was greeted in the chamber by a standing ovation by both parties. And when the President delivered the line about himself being the son of a single mom, Boehner, in turn, graciously stood and clapped for him.
Unity Incident #2: Ok, granted it was kind of minor, but when the President riffed on the importance of equal pay for equal work he offered this great line:
It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.
Boehner’s reaction was a genuine smile. Clearly the Speaker has taken in a few episodes of Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell, and company. It was kind of like an athlete tipping his cap to an opponent; a “well-played, sir” kind of thing.
Unity Incident #3
The amazing moment that involved one of the heroes sitting with the First Lady, Army Ranger, Cory Remsburg. It just could not get more poignant:
I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program – a strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp as a tack. We joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.
A few months later, on his tenth deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.
For months, he lay in a coma. The next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day.
Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again – and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again.
“My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”
Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.
The applause in the chamber was deafening. And lasted for at least five full minutes. Forgive me for abandoning my usual snarky cynicism, but that, was a deeply moving experience.
And it’s moments like those- the ones that belie the divisions and anger and hatred, that are good for the country to see. Yes, it’s mostly predictable and the ritual, for some, gets annoying. But there’s a, perhaps, naïve side of me that gets damn near misty-eyed when I see Americans standing together united by…anything. We need to see more, not less of that.
If ever there was a no-brainer for Time magazine’s selection of Person of the Year, it is this amazing Pope. There’s an interesting new survey that explains how he is resonating with Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
The Washington Post/ABC News poll finds an amazing 92% have a positive view of Francis and 95% of the Catholic Church in general. Pope Benedict was at 73% after the announcement of his retirement last February.
There is a slight political divide. His ratings are highest among Catholics who describe themselves as moderate or liberal. But even “conservative” Catholics give him a 91% approval rating. Non-Catholics give him a 62-18 favorable/unfavorable, compared to 48/31 for Benedict.
The reasons for the amazing appeal of this Pope seem fairly obvious to me. His humility, his call for economic justice and equality, his warnings about the excesses of capitalism all echo the words and philosophies credited to Christ himself. Those who know Francis say his own experiences as a Cardinal in Argentina inform these views, especially on economic issues. Through Argentina’s rough, depression-like economic downswings he saw first-hand the massively wide gulf between the poor and the rich. At a time when this disparity has never been greater in the United States and throughout the world, his message resonates powerfully.
But those on the moderate/liberal side of the equation should not misconstrue the Pope’s populist positions as a change in Church doctrine on a host of controversial issues. What has changed is the emphasis.
Agree or disagree with aspects of these doctrines, for example, there is a basic consistency to them. On abortion, it is completely consistent to be anti-abortion and anti-death penalty. Conversely, in my opinion, there is a dissonance in espousing pro-choice/anti-death penalty views or anti-abortion/pro death penalty positions. I mean sanctity of life is sanctity of life. And while I admit I am still in the “dissonant” camp, I can still step outside my views and see the inconsistencies of my own political beliefs.
The point in regard to the Pope’s emphasis on certain issues is that the Church often lands on both sides of the political ledger, with positions on economic equality and against the death penalty, for example, falling on the liberal side and policies on abortion and homosexuality on the conservative side. The most recent Popes have dwelt exclusively on the conservative side of things and in the process have alienated moderates and progressives. Francis, meanwhile, is emphasizing things like economic equality and brings his great sense of humility to bear on topics like homosexuality in which he states, in his own words- “Who am I to judge?”
Ultimately, I think it is his disarming humility that is the foundation of his appeal. He walks the walk. He lives in a modest apartment. You won’t ever see him wearing Benedict’s famous red Prada slippers. He has literally washed the feet of convicts and beggars. Vatican security confirms he regularly sneaks out at night to mingle with normal people. He classifies himself first and foremost, not as Pope, but as a sinner.
I know there remains a very deep well of anger against the Catholic Church for its past actions; from sexual abuse and attendant cover-ups to economic hypocrisy in building wealth- quite literally through the contributions from the poor and dispossessed.
But in this miracle of a Pope, there is hope. Hope that humility, enlightenment and the philosophies of Christ himself, will lead the Church, and the rest of us, to a much, much better place.
The last 300 company-owned Blockbuster stores are closing and I, for one, am laughing really hard. And no, it’s not because I forgot to return a 15 year-old video and now my $400 thousand late fee won’t be collected. It’s because in the annals of corporate history, the schmucks who ran Blockbuster were greedy morons who will go down in history as a case study in total strategic cluelessness.
I am not laughing really hard that 2,800 people will be out of work- that’s sad. Though I must say, I find it hard to believe those poor folks thought there was still much of a future in brick and mortar video rental businesses in 2013, A.D. I urge them all right now to avoid sending their resumes to the last Barnes and Noble left in town.
But back to the corporate idiots. First and foremost among them is Viacom which bought Blockbuster for $8.4 billion back in 1994. Dish Network would shell out $320 million a couple of years ago to buy the bankruptcy-riddled company. Let’s put those numbers in relief. $8.4 billion versus $.3 billion. That puts the idiots at Viacom right up there with Rupert Murdoch’s trendy acquisition of My Space for $580 million which he would end up selling six years later for $30 million.
So what were the major mistakes? Oh, not much- other than failing to anticipate the major consumer and technological trends of the 21st century. Like digital streaming. Like the concept of on-demand viewing. In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, offered to merge with Blockbuster and the video rental store executives basically laughed him out of their offices. In 2002, Blockbuster executives were still unsure of the veracity of this thing called the Internet. A “niche” market, they called it.
Viacom’s idea of remaining competitive against new-fangled competitors like Netflix was to create- and this is really original- a video rental business that would ship directly to consumers! Oops, day late and a dollar short. By the way, showing they now understand the new trends of the past 20 years, Dish network just announced they are also killing off the Blockbuster video-by-mail service, which most people also did not know still existed.
But mostly, Blockbuster sucked because they put really cool, independent, often family-owned video rental stores, out of business. They replaced neat, eclectic movie titles at the indie’s with mass-marketed crap. They also sucked because whatever family fun was to be had hitting the neighborhood Blockbuster on a Friday night, was a huge and expensive pain-in-the-ass by Tuesday morning, when you realized you’d forgotten to return the videos on Monday and now ended up owing pretty much the price of the original rentals in late fees. And then you had to, like, drive an actual car through snow storms and monsoons to return said late videos.
At least the nice Blockbuster employees knew their cinema! Oh, that’s right. Most had no clue about the motion picture industry. Well, as you were checking out paying last week’s late fees and about to incur the following week’s penalties, you could also pick up overpriced bags of popcorn, Twizzlers and Raisinets. That was something.
But we really do have a debt of gratitude to pay to Blockbuster. Turns out, Netflix founder, Hastings, forgot to return his copy of Apollo 13 to Blockbuster way back when and owed some $40. It was his fault but he felt so stupid about it that he purposely avoided telling his wife about the late charge. He started thinking about that and found it insane he was willing to compromise the integrity of his marriage over a video store late fee. That same day he went to the gym and realized he was paying about $30 a month for unlimited use of the workout facilities.
Hey, now there’s an idea, he thought- what if somebody rented videos by mail with unlimited due dates and no late fees?
Netflix now has over $3.5 billion in annual revenues. And though they initially botched their transition from a mostly mail-delivered service to a streaming model, they were obviously savvy and smart to see the digital writing on the wall in the first place, and now with the creation of their own content like the Emmy-nominated “House of Cards,” they show they are creative too.
And that’s the difference between those who at least try to envision the future- and those who don’t.
Clearly, the kid only has one speed and it’s no longer fun to watch. Without an offensive line to protect him, a defense that defends and a play-caller who is sane enough to know you run when you have a lead, Robert Griffin III is taking the entire team on his shoulders and taking a physical beating. It’s not his re-built knee that’s in danger – it’s his brain and his very life.
We now know those impressive hits we see in the NFL cause permanent harm. Former Cowboys running back, Tony Dorsett, is but the latest in a long line of players who have suffered permanent brain injury from the thousands of hits they‘ve absorbed through their college and NFL careers. Every time RGIII incurs a brutal blow, as he did at least a dozen times in the most recent Redskins’ debacle against the Minnesota Vikings, his brain is literally crashing against his skull and creating the scar tissue that eventually causes memory loss, suicidal thoughts and severe depression.
Someday, when he’s no longer a kid and turns, say 50, will he be able to walk? Will he remember to take his kids to school? Will he shoot himself in the chest like Junior Seau did, in order to preserve his brain for clinical study?
I know this sounds sick and extreme. But it is the reality for NFL players. It’s why watching this sport is getting to be increasingly uncomfortable. It’s why I feel very little joy and actually a great deal of sadness when I see this poor kid playing his heart out for a team that cannot protect him and a coaching staff and owner that could care less if they literally break him again and again, only to leave him to recover enough in the off-season to take next year’s beatings.
As you look back at it and understand the frighteningly consistent dysfunction of Daniel Snyder’s Washington Redskins for well over a decade, it makes you wish someone had told this intelligent, charming and supremely talented young man to RUN- far, far away from Landover and the clutches of the Snyders and the Shanahans. They’re not only using you, RG- they may very well be killing you.
True, I’m about three days late reacting to the breakthrough development over at Fox News but I thought it best to let it ferment for 72 hours or so. The reaction seems to have taken hold and it’s unanimous. What the hell are they smoking over there and can we get some?
Fox News, having just celebrated its 17th birthday, has decided that it has to modernize its news presentation so in addition to a massive revision to its primetime lineup, it has revealed its Jetsons-like view of the future of journalism.
It involves human units called “information specialists” who toil before enormous 55-inch screens which they can be seen touching and swiping as they appear to scour for news on Twitter. This all happens behind news anchor, Shepard Smith, who speaks to the camera and jauntily meanders to a large panoramic-type screen whose visual contents he can rearrange with yet more swiping. You can see the amazing new interactive-ish, information-like newsroom here.
And now a sampling of reaction to the most embarrassing news use of pseudo-technology since CNN tried holigraphically transporting its reporters to its election news set in 2008.
From The Verge:
Fox News has just unveiled a breathtakingly ridiculous newsroom, complete with novelty-sized Windows-based touchscreens, a Twitter wall, and a wannabe Minority Report-style display, which it hopes will connect it with generations of viewers who use smartphones and apps…
Smith later demonstrates a gigantic 38-foot-long video wall with a device “never been used in broadcast television before.” It’s a remote control that allows Smith to shuffle through an image carousel with no apparent journalistic purpose. “For instance, I can take this lady who’s been evacuating from a hurricane zone and move it over here,” Smith says.
Rather than regular computers sitting atop standard desks you’d find spread across any typical newsroom, Fox News has come roaring into the 21st century by replacing those desks with comically enormous touchscreens; one cartoon-sized touchscreen per person.
From New York magazine:
Fox News Has the Biggest Computers on Cable, for Facts and Stuff
In the future, Shepard Smith will control an army of news bots who work 24 hours a day to prove Obama is a Muslim. The future is now: As the new editor of the breaking-news division, Smith will lord over what he’s referring to as “information specialists” — reporters, maybe, kind of, in Fox News speak — and their comically oversize computing machines called BATs, “big area touchscreens.”
From Death and Taxes:
Fox News debuts its new, tiny journalists
Fox News revealed on Monday their attempt to build the newsroom of the future. This apparently involves implementing giant tablet computers, which make it seem like they physically shrank everyone on their staff.
Why Is the Fox News Room Full of Absurdly Giant iPads?
Over on Fox News’ website, Shepard Smith gives us a tour of the Fox News Deck’s upgraded studio which inexplicably features a team of staffers in the background working at what appear to be gigantic tablets. According to Smith, those are actually “information specialists” frantically pawing away at what Fox calls BATS—or big area touchscreens (most likely Microsoft hardware running Windows 8)—that puts 55-inches of Twitter feeds and other news sources at their fingertips. What?
Ok, so if this is the new Jetson’s version of journalism, I have to say that I prefer the Flintstones version better. A typewriter and some clanking wire machines in the background. A fedora with a piece of paper in the band that says “Press” on it. Edward R. Murrow knows what I’m talking about.