Philadelphia’s Politically Correct Thanksgiving Day Parade

Several years ago, I wrote about seeing live (almost) Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while my wife was visiting her sister in St. Louis. I say “almost” because the parade started way earlier than I expected, and all I saw was the tail end.

But that was years ago, and today, I tuned into the TV coverage to see if anything had changed.

It hadn’t, and was just more of the same: professional entertainers performing in front of the Art Museum for a TV audience. The live audience in the bleachers saw the backs of the entertainers; those lining the parade route saw the backstage preparations. Even on TV, we only saw a lot of lip-syncing and barely-disguised ads for theater shows and resorts by has-been and not-yet-famous entertainers.

Giving thanks and reflecting on the joys of life got a lot of lip-service, but was not supported by the “look at me!” entertainment.

There were several high school bands brought in from almost-bankrupt states that could not afford to show them in their own areas. I suspect the band member’s families were asked to pay the freight with lots of fund-raisers all summer long.

One balloon was a giant mouse named “Fiddlesticks.” They claimed he represents the mice who help Santa fill the stockings (what happened to the Elves?)  If my wife saw mice scampering over the stockings on Christmas Eve, that would end any celebrations at our house.  She finds nothing cute about mice.

But the change I immediately noticed was that the parade is now politically correct. The opening marchers, all dressed up as Pilgrims, gave no hint that the Pilgrims were a religious group—they were only shown as people who dressed funny and wore funny hats. But the parade did show black Pilgrims and even a mobility-challenged lady Pilgrim in a modern wheelchair. No Asians or Hispanics that I could see, but maybe next year.

Mrs. Claus got equal billing with Santa, himself. No Native Americans were shown, I assume because Philadelphia has none, and heaven forbid anyone else would masquerade as one. The parade was sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts, who, of course, strove to be politically correct, but not necessarily historically correct.

“Christmas” was frequently mentioned (surprisingly), as was “Seasons” and “Holiday,” but I heard no reference to “Kwanzaa” or “Chanukah.” Just sayn’.  Maybe I missed the float.

This is the trend I expect to continue: a parade more commercial and more reflective of contemporary values than historical correctness.  Many of the Pilgrims in this year’s parade appeared far from starving.  Must be from eating all of those donuts.

Unfortunately, maintaining the seasonal traditions into the future will be bucking two overwhelming trends:

The first is that food is cheap and getting cheaper.  Celebrating with a feast made sense centuries ago, but obesity is the universal problem, today, not hunger.  Want turkey and stuffing? Pick up a dinner anytime at Boston Market for under $10, better than you could cook at home.

(Asians are generally unfamiliar with turkey and don’t like it, so serving them a full turkey dinner may not be appreciated.  Ask them first.  Ask an Indian if they like beef.  Ask an Arab if they like pork ribs.  Ask me if I like fried jellyfish.  The answer will often be “No.”)

The second trend is a revolt of consumption as a means of fulfillment.  This is already recognized by a jaded public.  The surprise gift of a car sitting in the driveway with a giant bow on the roof is being ridiculed more and more each year. We are learning that accumulating  stuff is not the answer to our problems and is only destroying the environment.

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Making Money on Restasis

“Patently Odd,” by Adam Davidson. The New Yorker, 11/20/2017.

I had written a posting on the woman ophthalmologist in the Restasis commercials, so this article on Restasis caught my eye.

Who holds the patents on Restasis?  Answer: The St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in upstate New York (I bet you didn’t see that coming), even though no tribal member had anything to do with the drug’s discovery or development. The drug company that did all of the work, Allergan, gave them the patents and now pays them $15 million per year to lease them back.  They did not do this out of charity.  They did it to save money in this topsy-tervy world.

In 2012, Congress passed the America Invents Act which streamlined the adjudication of patent challenges. All well and good. Everyone is in favor of streamlining government bureaucracy, except the act was written to exclude sovereign entities, such as foreign countries, states, and Native American nations (which are sovereign and currently hard up for cash because business at their gamboling casinos is down).

A streamlined system would increase patent challenges, which is not what a corporate patent owner wants. They, of course, want any challenge to their patents to drag on as long as possible while they continue to make, and sell, and make money, from the product. With that simple law, a patent held by a sovereign nation (whose patents remain adjudicated under the old, slow process) became four to ten times more valuable than one held by an American corporation.

That’s why it was cost-effective for Allergan to give away the patents and lease them back, even for $15 million a year. (Are you following this shell game? Don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain.)

Allergan was facing challenges on Restasis from several generic drug manufacturers, and they wanted to delay these challenges as long as they could.

That was the idea. Last month, a crack appeared in the scheme. A federal judge ruled some of Allergen’s Restasis patents were invalid, and he mentioned that “sovereign immunity should not be treated as a monetizable commodity,” meaning sovereign immunity built into specific laws should not be manipulated to make money.

It remains to be seen if this is a major setback for Allergen or just a bump in the road. There are many other patents that would benefit by sovereign ownership, and all sorts of  companies could move their patent portfolios to state universities, who are also sovereign.

To straighten it out would require another act of Congress. Wait and see if that will ever happen.  Will corporate contributors to political campaigns get their money’s worth? They always do, I kid you not.

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An article in our local newspaper educated me on Friendsgiving, a new celebration by 20-somethings as an excuse to binge drink with friends at a local bar. This celebration, however, is useful for other reasons and has a chance to catch on.

Friendsgiving is celebrated on the night before Thanksgiving and is a homecoming celebration for the millennials (Generation Y, the 20 to 30-year-olds that followed Gen X) to get together with their own kind before becoming tied up with family obligations on the following day. They deserve a time to themselves (and so do the rest of us) at least because their unencumbered life is so brief. They will soon be married with families of their own and obligated to show themselves with their protesting children at both their parent’s house and their in-laws on Thanksgiving day. All of their old drinking buddies will be tied up with the same responsibilities, so Friendsgiving can be considered a celebration of independence (or the end of independence, or the end of the illusion of independence).

We did the same at their age, except we did not formalize it with a name and routine. But the first thing we did as we got home for the holidays was to get on the phone and contact our friends. We then got together somewhere, but not at a bar. We were still under the drinking age, and bars were for tired, old guys, not us.

The photo on the left was the best I could find online. Maybe only in Delaware is the celebration at a bar with only bar snacks to eat. And in Delaware, the celebration is usually mono-racial, without decorations and funny hats. (The downloaded photo is an advertisement for an entertainment-supply company hoping to cash in on a new trend. They think all Asian guys wear Kung-Fu headbands to a party.)

When the millennials reach my age, they will look back on those days with nostalgia, even throwing up on my front lawn.  Over sixty years later, I still remember each lawn where I left my DNA.

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The 1930’s Luck and Wedding Book

“Every Woman’s Luck Book; What Every Woman Needs to Know to Choose a Husband” 2002, Icon Books, Ltd.

Amazon does carry it, but only as a used copy for $1.04. It is a reprint of a book published “in the 1930s.” The original publishing date is unknown, and the author is unknown. The publishers of the reprint say they will gladly acknowledge the copyright holder if anyone can tell them who it could be. It says, “ISBN 1 84046 424 0 Printed and bound in the UK by Mackays of Chatham plc.”  I found my copy on the book-exchange shelf at my community center.

It is a hilarious book, as you can guess from the cover. I hope you can find a copy of your own. It is a textbook of all sorts of fortune-telling and character-evaluation methods: astrology, cards, tea leaves, the shape of the head, hair, eyebrows mouth, ears, neck, hands, the demeanor when sitting and walking, the shape of the hands and fingers, palmistry, stones, colors, handwriting, flowers, phrenology, lucky numbers, and fortunes for each day of birth. Theses are tied together with chapters on wedding customs and how to improve your luck. Whether you believe any of this or not, you will never again pass a mirror without taking a second look.

The book has a mixed function. On one hand, it describes all the skills and techniques of evaluating someone else’s character and fortune as a tool to select a proper mate (as if this is the way anyone would make a selection). But it is also how to improve your own luck in ending up with the right person.

The book is tacitly agreeing with the principle that who we marry is essentially a crap-shoot, a principle I have long supported. I was very lucky in ending up with my spouse, but it was pure luck, not a rational decision. Perhaps my selection (as was hers) was all subconscious, but that is the most I can say. The major factor was both of us were available at the right time, and there were no deal-breakers for either of us.

The book has a chapter on an “amusing parlor game” to evaluate another person, although they warn it is only for amusement, and not a serious method of evaluation. The game is called “Confessions” because each player is asked to confess their preference.

To be useful today, the confessions would have to be brought up-to-date. For example, we are to ask a female who they would most want to be. Their choices are:

Lady Oxford
Miss Ishbel MacDonald
Miss Ethyl M. Dell
Dame Laura Knight
Dame Clara Butt
Miss Dorothy Round
Miss Gladys Cooper
Mrs. Amy Mollison
Lady Diana Manners
Greta Garbo (the only name I recognize, although Dame Clara Butt sounds interesting)

Then there is a chapter on selecting the month for the wedding:

Married in January’s hoar and rime,
Widowed you’ll be before your prime;

Married in February’s sleepy weather,
Life you’ll tread in tune together;

Married when March winds shrill and roar,
Your home will lie on a distant shore;

Married ‘neith April’s changeful skies,
A checkered path before you lies;

Married when bees o’er May blossoms flit,
Strangers around your board will sit;

Married in month of roses—June,
Life will be one long honeymoon;

Married in July, with flowers ablaze,
Bitter-sweet memories in after-days;

Married in August’s heat and drowse,
Lover and friend in your chosen spouse;

Married in September’s golden glow,
Smooth and serene your life will go;

Married when leaves in October thin,
Toil and hardship for you begin;

Married in veils of November mist,
Fortune your wedding ring has kissed;

Married in days of December cheer,
Love’s star shines brighter from year to year.

And, the correct day of the week:

Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday the best day of all.
Thursday for crosses,
Friday for losses,
Saturday no luck at all.

The old saying that the bride should wear Something borrowed and something blue/ Something old and something new, is explained: The “something old” ensures that her previous friends will stay with her, “something new” is for success in her new life, the “something borrowed” is that she may take with her the love of her family, and “something blue” is the emblem of consistency.

There are many gems in this book, but you will have to discover them yourself. My gems may not be your gems.

One I found, is that the wedding veil originated with a square of linen over the heads of both bride and bridegroom. Later, the veil was only for the bride. Today’s custom of the groom folding back the bride’s veil signifies she is now a wedded wife with no need of maiden blushes.

It is lucky for the bride if a cat sneezes on her wedding day (no reason why). Rain on her wedding day signifies all of her tears will have been shed before her marriage, none after.

(A sneaky hint: if a bride wishes to be the one in control in the marriage, she should place her right foot farther forward than the groom’s while standing at the alter.)

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Shopping Principles

A financial column in our local newspaper, lifted from the Washington Post, gives these two shopping principles worth noting:

When we see a sale, we shouldn’t consider what the price used to be or how much we are spending. Rather we should consider what we’re actually going to spend. [I don’t quite understand this. –RW] Buying a $60 shirt marked down from $100 isn’t saving $40; it is spending $60. [That I do understand. –RW]


Discounts are a potion for stupidity. They simply dumb down our decision-making process. When an item is “on sale,” we act more quickly and with even less thought than if the product costs the same but is marked at a regular price. [I often tell my wife the pre-sale price is only an asking price no one would pay. –RW]

The original article in the Washington Post was “Spending should be painful, not painless,” by Michelle Singletary.  I did not read the original article, but I agree with its title.

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Sleep On

“The Secret Of Sleep,” by Jerome Groopman. The New Yorker, 10/23/2017. Book review of The Mystery Of Sleep, by Meir Kryger.

Jerome Groopman is a physician and Meir Kryger is a professor at Yale Medical School, which gives their article a lot of credibility.

Sleep medicine has become a recognized specialty, and an entire industry has evolved to provide all sorts of mechanical and medicinal sleep aids. Still, sleep remains one of the most enigmatic phenomena in our daily lives, one that continues to elude many people.

“Why do all forms of life, from plants, insects, sea creatures, amphibians and birds to mammals need rest or sleep?” Kryger asks rhetorically.  He then adds, “No one has been able to declare with certainty why all life forms need sleep.”

Kryger boils down the myriads of neural pathways and chemical mediators to two basic mechanisms: a wake gauge and a body clock.

The wake gauge is like a fuel gauge that tells us when we need sleep. It begins to signal after we have been awake for about 14 hours and continues to increase. After about 18 hours, we have real difficulty staying awake. It operates from the accumulation of adenosine. Caffeine works by counteracting the effects of adenosine.

The body clock synchronizes our need for sleep with the rhythms of the world around us, primarily from signals of daylight from our retinas. People who are blind from damage to their eyes often have sleep problems, while those who are blind from brain damage do not.

The four main stages of sleep have been widely publicized. The first two, both slow-wave (brain waves) sleep, are thought to be responsible for our feeling of refreshment on waking. Then we normally go into rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, a lighter sleep where we dream. All humans dream, usually 3–5 times a night, meaning our sleep pattern cycles that often.

Every time we dream, we become sexually aroused, no matter what the topic, Kryger claims. Men get erections and women become engorged. (He must mean people younger than me.)

As we cycle through the four stages of sleep, we frequently wake for a few brief seconds, about 5 times per hour (that’s 40 times per night!), but we do not remember them, which would explain why the blankets are frequently tangled when we finally wake in the morning. Some think this frequent periodic wakening was to protect ourselves from predators in ancient times.

Twitching and cramping is a form of restless-leg syndrome that frequently disturbs our sleep as we age. (I find a hot shower relaxing, and there I will often be at 3 A.M. My father called it “the heebie-jeebies.” I am often affected even while awake after an hour or two of evening TV, but that is a sign I need to move on to something else.)

Another author is quoted as saying:

Sleep is both a universal need and a freely available resource for all societies and even species. So why is it the source of frustration for so many people today? Why do we spend so much time trying to manage and medicate it, and training ourselves and our children how to do it correctly? And why do so many of us feel that, despite all our efforts to tame our sleep, it’s fundamentally beyond our control?

The fault, this author believes, is our fixation on sleeping in one straight shot through the night, despite all of the recent data on sleep cycles. In line with what I reported here, the standard pattern of sleep for most humans throughout our existence was segmented into two equal periods with an hour or two of wakefulness in between. This is our natural pattern, not one solid 8-hour block. Perhaps because of this, many people still experience insomnia in the middle of the night after a few hours of sleep. I have seen medications claiming not only to help you go to sleep, but to stay asleep.  But even when we feel we slept solidly all through the night, data would show a very different picture.

I have always thought we sleep more than we realize because even a few minutes awake seems like an hour, while hours of sleep can pass without our awareness.  This comes from my own experience with a bedside clock.

Henry David Thoreau suffered from insomnia, and some claim his retreat to Walden Pond was, in part, driven by a need for rest. He thought his insomnia was caused by the railroads and other modern disturbances to the natural environment around Concord. Meanwhile, in France, Balzac was furiously writing fueled with 20–50 cups of coffee per day. He claimed with caffeine “sparks shoot all the way to the brain. . . . Forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink.” Thoreau avoided coffee and was saying things like, “Who does not prefer to be intoxicated by the air he breaths?”

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Kevin Spacey Aftershocks

Former television news anchor Heather Unruh told a press conference in Boston that her son had been sexually assaulted by Mr. Spacey, at the age of 18, in a bar in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in July, 2016.

She said Mr. Spacey had bought her son alcohol—the drinking age in Massachusetts is 21. After getting him drunk, Mr. Spacey had “stuck his hand inside my son’s pants and grabbed his genitals,” she said.

(BBC Internet news item.)

Lady, . . . Ms. Unruh . . . I think you are in denial. I think you will have more problems with your son, unless you change.

First, Spacey did not get your son drunk. Your 18-year-old son got himself drunk. I know. I’ve been there when I was 18, as mixed up as your son. What was he doing in a bar, anyway? Are you saying Spacey held him down and poured alcohol down his throat?  I didn’t think so.

Then, you say, Spacey stuck his hand inside your son’s pants. It takes several seconds to get a zipper down and coax the one-eyed worm from his lair among the shirttails and underpants (unless he marches out, tall and strong, on his own, singing “Hail To the Chief”).  Anyone knows what’s happening on themselves down there, drunk or not. This, too, I know. I have fended off several assaults under similar circumstances. It is not difficult. Attackers are quick to back off when confronted.

I think you were too quick to believe your son’s story.  I think it only was what you wanted to hear. It was all somebody else’s fault.

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