“Please Don’t Weigh Me” Cards

I happened to see a news article about these “please don’t weigh me” cards that some people apparently are using with their doctors. One of the cards is pictured above.

The cards are being offered by a group called more-love.org. Its website indicates that it has sent out thousands of the cards. The website explains the cards as follows:

“Because we live in a fatphobic society, being weighed and talking about weight causes feelings of stress and shame for many people. Many people feel anxious about seeing the doctor, and will avoid going to the doctor in order to avoid the scale.

We want to support you in requesting healthcare that is free of weight bias. Getting weighed is an informed choice that we get to make with our doctor. We don’t have to automatically step on the scale just because someone asks us to.

Our “Don’t Weigh Me” cards are a polite and respectful way to assert your preference at the doctor’s office and seek informed consent if weight is deemed necessary for care and treatment. It’s OK to not automatically step on the scale when asked.”

Perhaps I’m insensitive and “fatphobic,” but this concept seems strange to me. First, there’s a passive-aggressive element to it that doesn’t seem particularly well-suited to a positive doctor-patient relationship. Why do you need pre-printed cards, rather than having an honest conversation with your doctor, and his staff, about your feelings? If you can’t have candid communications with your doctor about your issues, you’re probably not going to get the best health care.

Second, what is this about “healthcare that is free of weight bias”? Numerous studies have shown that weight is directly related to health care, in that obesity increases the risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, respiratory problems, and other significant health issues. Even if you don’t currently have one of these conditions, excessive weight is likely to cause you to develop such problems in the future–which means weight logically is a focus of any doctor who is interested in preventive health care. Asking your doctor not to weigh you is like asking him to not take your pulse, conduct a blood test, or perform a physical examination. You are depriving him of information that he can use in prescribing appropriate medication, treatment, or other activities that can produce better health and avoid future problems.

Third, isn’t it odd that people are concerned about living in a “fatphobic” society, and what really worries them is getting a metric from a scale, rather than how they look, or how they feel, or how their clothes fit? What is it about the act of getting on a scale that makes it, specifically, the focus of a pre-printed card?

These cards seem to be a new development, and it isn’t clearly how common their use is. It would be interesting to know how doctors are reacting to being handed one of these cards.

Cutting The (Linguistic) Mustard

Recently I mentioned, with some asperity, that a particular effort didn’t “cut the mustard.” Two of my colleagues looked at me in bewilderment. They’d apparently never heard the phrase before, and had no idea that “cutting the mustard” meant meeting a desired standard of performance. To them, it was just another inexplicable saying that would have to be added to their growing list of quaint “Bobisms.”

Where does “cut the mustard” come from? Like many idioms, its lineage is disputed. Some sources contend it is British in origin and refers to the physical act of cutting down mustard plants, which requires sufficiently sharp tools; dull tools therefore would not “cut the mustard.” Others believe that it is an Americanism, perhaps originating in Texas, where a use of the phrase was found in a Galveston newspaper in the 1890s. O. Henry also used “cut the mustard” in some of his popular short stories in the early 1900s, which may have helped to spread the saying to the United States at large. One source argues that mustard has long been associated with being strong or sharp, and “cutting the mustard” relates to that notion.

I have a related, but slightly different, theory: I think that because mustard can be so powerfully flavored, the other ingredients of your sandwich or dinner must be sufficiently tasty to hold their own and make their presence known. I’m guessing that, out on the dusty plains of Texas, a cowboy took a bite into a sandwich and realized that the meat and other sandwich makings were so insubstantial and bland that they were overwhelmed by the pungent mustard. He then packed his saddlebags, spurred his horse, and ruefully concluded that the unsatisfying sandwich wouldn’t cut the mustard.

Can it really be that “cut the mustard” has passed totally out of usage by anyone under, say, 60? If so, that’s too bad. It’s one of those idioms that adds flavor — pun intended — to our language.

In Dangerous Times

Earlier this week Dave Chappelle was ending a show at the Hollywood Bowl when he was assaulted by a man who came up on stage and tried to tackle the comedian. The attacker, who was armed with a fake gun that contained a knife blade, was subdued by security as Chappelle finished his show. Ironically, during the show Chappelle had apparently just been joking about having increased security in the wake of the Will Smith-Chris Rock-Oscars incident, and Chris Rock–who was at Chappelle’s performance–came on stage and jokingly asked Chappelle whether the assailant was Will Smith.

We can tip our caps to Chappelle and Rock for their faithful adherence to “the show must go on” tradition in show business, but the attacks on performers obviously aren’t funny. The Hollywood Reporter has published a piece headlined “Nobody’s Safe: Dave Chappelle Attack Raises Concerns For Performers” that addresses the incidents that reflect the increasing risks involved in performing in public. The concern is that the invisible but previously respected barrier between the stage and the audience has been breached, and that performers now have to be wary of the possibility of being physically confronted by some lunatic every time they go before the public to do a show. While that is a risk for any live performer, the risk is greater for a comedian, who is up on stage, alone, and might just make a joke that some unbalanced person in the audience finds personally provoking. And the Chappelle incident, coming on the heels of the Will Smith-Chris Rock assault, raises heightened concern that copycats might be lurking out there, ready to charge the stage at any comedy venue.

Chappelle, who is a real pro, issued a statement after the attack saying that he “refuses to allow last night’s incident to overshadow the magic of this historic moment.”  I hope that turns out to be true, and that performers everywhere continue to perform before live audiences, albeit with enhanced security and greater attention to their safety. There is a certain magic in seeing a live performance that simply can’t be replicated in a Netflix special, and I would hate to see that lost. But if these kinds of incidents continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if some performers decide that live acts just aren’t worth it. In dangerous times like these, who could criticize them for being unwilling to take that risk?

A Supremely Problematic Leak

America was rocked today by the news of the leaked Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case addressing the continuing vitality of Roe v. Wade. The leaked document was a draft of an opinion written by Justice Alito that would–if ultimately issued–reverse Roe as wrongly decided, and leave abortion rights to be decided by state legislatures.

The views on both sides of the abortion debate are so heated it’s impossible to fully set them aside to focus on the fact of the leak itself. But the leak deserves attention in its own right, regardless of which side of the Roe debate you are on. Although there have been leaks at the Supreme Court, those instances are rarer than hen’s teeth. The Court is used to conducting its deliberations and opinion-writing in complete secrecy, with no indication of its decisions outside of the tiny universe of Justices and their clerks until the Court’s opinion on a matter is publicly announced to the public. There is good reason for that rule of strict confidentiality: the Supreme Court routinely handles cases of enormous importance, and any kinds of leaks could have far-reaching political, economic, and social consequences–just as the leak of the Dobbs opinion did.

The idea that someone leaked a draft Supreme Court opinion under these circumstances is horrifying to those of us in the law profession. A tweet from SCOTUSblog, a non-partisan website that carefully covers every case before the Supreme Court, aptly captured the reaction of many: “It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.” Chief Justice Roberts echoed that sentiment in the statement he issued today, which noted: “Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court. This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”

The Chief Justice has ordered the Marshal of the Supreme Court investigate the source of the leak, which is absolutely the right thing to do. We don’t know yet who leaked the opinion, but it’s clear that their intent was to manipulate the decision of the Dobbs case, the votes of Justices, the terms of the Court opinions, and the political and public reaction to a potential reversal of Roe. The Chief Justice vows that the work of the Court “will not be affected in any way” by the leak, and states: “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” But what’s troubling here is that someone–a clerk, an employee, or even a Justice on the Court–attempted to exert extrajudicial influence on the Court in the first place. That prospect is extremely unsettling, because if someone thought it was appropriate to leak the draft of the Dobbs opinion, what’s to prevent leaks in the future of opinions in cases involving redistricting, or presidential powers, or the death penalty, or any of the other hot-button issues that the Court regularly addresses?

I would make one final point: although the Court typically keeps virtually everything about its operations confidential, I think it is important for the Court to disclose any findings the Marshal makes about who did the leaking, and why. The role of the Supreme Court is essential to our constitutional system, and leaks erode the trust that is one of the Court’s most powerful attributes. The public deserves to know who–as the Chief put it–tried to “undermine the integrity” of the Court’s operations.

Root Causes Can’t Be Ignored

All big cities have some kind of homelessness problem. San Francisco’s is worse than most. To address it, San Francisco adopted a “housing first” policy and dedicated millions of dollars of the city’s $1.1 billion budget for the homeless to implementing it. The concept was to tackle the issue by getting homeless people off the streets and putting them into “single room occupancy” (SRO) hotels purchased by the city for that purpose.

A recent San Francisco Chronicle investigative report took a look at the program and concluded that the results have been “disastrous”–as the headline above indicates. The Chronicle article is behind a pay wall, but an article in the City Journal summarized the gist of the Chronicle article as follows:

“The horrors of SROs were put on display to the public in a recent San Francisco Chronicle feature. The story tells of people living in buildings with collapsing ceilings, toxic mold, vermin, noxious odors, constant noise, broken appliances, and unchecked violence. It also notes that at least 166 people fatally overdosed in these hotels in 2020 and 2021. This official number, however, is suspicious for being so low. San Francisco’s medical examiner reported at least 1,300 overdose deaths citywide in the last two years, most commonly for illicit fentanyl combined with other drugs.”

The City Journal article indicates that life in San Francisco’s SRO hotels is a nightmare. The article quotes one former resident:

“’There needs to be a better vetting process,’ says 25-year-old Darren Mark Stallcup, who until recently lived in an SRO. ‘The city was moving everyone in; people who were sketchy, violent. They were fentanyl addicts, just out of jail, or in gangs. People were breaking my door down. I would wake up having to throw punches.’”

The “housing first” policy may be good hearted, but it evidently isn’t working because housing is only part of the problem. Mentally ill people need special care; drug addicts need treatment to kick the habit. And putting violent people, mentally ill people, current users, and recovering addicts into the same facilities is only going to create a toxic stew and dangerous environment that won’t help anyone. The City Journal article quotes another “long-time SRO resident,” who explains: “If you’re a woman, your life will be a living hell. No one cares. High functioning people regress. Some want to stay sober, but they can’t. Eventually they pick up a pipe again because almost everyone around them is using.”

Homelessness is probably the most complicated social problem we face in America these days, encompassing a host of challenging issues like drug use, mental illness, spousal abuse, education, affordable housing, and employment, among others. San Francisco’s experiment with its “housing first” policy indicates that providing housing, by itself, isn’t going to solve the problem. If you don’t tackle the root causes, you’re not going to make any progress.

Those Empty Theater Blues

As America works to recover from the various social, cultural, and economic impacts of the COVID pandemic, it’s becoming increasingly clear that one segment of the economy is facing a particularly difficult challenge: movie theaters.

The data on movie theater ticket sales tell a very sad tale for the industry. Ticket sales hit a high point in 2018, when 1,311,300,934 admission tickets were sold, producing revenues of $11,945,954,034. Sales dipped a bit in 2019, the last full pre-pandemic year, when 1,228,763,382 tickets were purchased–and then the bottom fell out. In 2020, when theaters were closed for most of the year in most of the country, only 221,762,724 tickets were sold, and I would guess most of those sales came in January and February, before shutdowns occurred in earnest in March. From that low point, sales rebounded slightly in 2021, to just under 500 million tickets, and if current trends continue, ticket sales in 2022 are on pace to hit just over 725 million–which is slightly better than half the industry’s best year.

In short, if you go to the local movie multiplex right now, you’re likely to find a lot of empty theaters, and you’ll get pretty good seats.

Interestingly, Gallup has periodically asked Americans about their movie attendance, and the recent data is dismal. In January of this year, Gallup announced that its polling data showed that Americans watched an average of 1.4 movies in a movie theater in the prior 12 months. The more compelling story, though, is told by individual movie attendance: 61 percent of respondents didn’t go to a theater at all during that 12-month period, 31 percent went out to watch between 1 and 4 movies, and 9 percent (figures are rounded for the math mafia out there) watched 5 or more movies. In 2007, by comparison, 39 percent of respondents attended between 1 and 4 movies in theaters, and 29 percent saw five or more movies. The Gallup data shows that movie attendance is particularly depressed among older Americans.

Gallup suggests that the movie theater business was grappling with challenges posed by competition from streaming services when the pandemic hit. With theaters then closed during the early days of the pandemic, and many people avoiding reopened theaters as new COVID variants emerged, the question now is whether people’s habits have changed to the point where going to a theater to watch a movie is even considered. And some of us would question whether the offerings being served up by Hollywood, where superhero movies and special effects rule the day, are going to entice broad groups of Americans to buy a ticket and a box of popcorn and settle into a theater seat to watch a film again.

Elon Musk’s Twitter Play

The media is reporting that Elon Musk–the driving force behind Tesla, and SpaceX, cultural and political gadfly, former Saturday Night Live host, and reportedly the world’s richest person–has been successful in his bid to buy Twitter. CNBC says that Twitter’s Board of Directors has accepted Musk’s tender offer in a deal that will provide $44 billion for Twitter shareholders and result in Twitter being converted from a public to a private company.

This story is an intersection of two things that are beyond my ken: the unimaginable world of the hyper-rich, and the curious universe of Twitter users and followers. Musk’s net worth reportedly exceeds $250 billion, which gives him plenty of resources to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. In this instance, Musk says he wants to buy Twitter to further free speech interests. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a prepared statement. Promoting free speech is a highly laudable goal, of course, and Musk’s track record in moving things like electric cars and space travel from dream to reality has been impressive.

But I think Musk is wrong to see Twitter as a “digital town square” where meaningful debate occurs. The next sentence of his prepared statement–where Musk says “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans”–illustrates why. For those people, like me, who don’t use it, Twitter seems like some weird, dystopian technoworld, haunted by bots and fake followers, where the 280-character limit for tweets requires turning complicated issues into simplified mush and encourages a kind of mean snarkiness not seen since high school. The tweeting record of President Trump bears witness to this fact, but his tweeting record is not alone. Twitter seems to bring out the worst in people, and most of us just don’t want to go there.

If Elon Musk really wants to promote free speech through his acquisition of Twitter, I wish him well, but I don’t think he can do anything that will lure me into that alternate reality, much less cause me to view Twitter as a “digital town square.” If Twitter is a kind of town square, it’s located in the darkest, creepiest part of town that most people would prefer to avoid.

Parents Behaving Badly

Across the country, America is experiencing a shortage of youth sports officials. In Ohio, the roster of Ohio High School Athletic Association officials is down by more than 1,000 officials from only two years ago. The OHSAA, which is the governing body for 817 Ohio high schools, reports 13,369 officials this year, versus 14,651 in 2019-2020. And Ohio is not alone–everywhere, states are reporting declining numbers of umpires and referees, to the point where it is actually affecting the ability to schedule games.

Why are fewer people signing up to referee kid sports? Officials cite a variety of reasons, including the intervening COVID pandemic, but one significant cause seems to be the bad behavior of parents of the kids who are playing. Some parents have become increasingly verbally abusive of officials, and in some cases the abuse has become physical. The Associated Press has a troubling article about this phenomenon that tells the tale of Kristi Moore, who supervises fast-pitch softball umpires in Mississippi. Moore was working a girls’ softball game, called a runner safe at second base, was berated by an irate parent, and had to throw the parent out of the game. When Moore left the field, the woman was waiting and slugged Moore in the eye. The woman was arrested and charged with assault, and now Moore is trying to decide whether she ever wants to work a game again. And who can blame her if she decides that the abuse and the risks just aren’t worth it?

What would cause a parent to become so verbally abusive that they would be tossed from a sports event, and then wait to punch out an official, without calming down in the interim? It’s not an issue for the vast majority of parents, who root for their kids and might express disapproval at a disappointing call but would never dream of such appalling misbehavior. Anyone who has watched their kids play on a sports team knows that there are a handful of parents, however, who just don’t respect those boundaries. Maybe they are convinced their kid will be the next Mickey Mantle, maybe they’re hoping their kid gets a college scholarship, maybe they’ve invested so much time and money in travel teams that they feel entitled, or maybe they have troubled lives and can’t resist venting. But it may only take one bad experience with one enraged parent to cause a youth sports official to hang up their gear–and the shortage gets worse.

I think youth sports are important. They are supposed to be fun, they get kids exercise, and they can teach kids important lessons about qualities like teamwork, sacrifice, the value of practice, and sportsmanship. Kids who see their parents act like jerks aren’t learning good lessons, however. All parents need to take a deep breath and recognize that kid sports events aren’t the end of the world. And if one parent of a kid on a team is behaving badly, it’s up to the other parents to try to help out the officials and defuse the situation. Otherwise, we’re going to reach a point where no one will be able to play a game.

The ’60s Play On

As I was reflecting on what a great year 1972 was for albums, I realized that all of the albums I wrote about are still an active part of American popular culture, 50 years later. If you go to any large American city, rent a car, and then try to find a radio station, you’ll scroll past multiple options that play “classic rock,” where you’re likely to hear a song from one of those 1972 albums–and for that matter any rock ‘n roll songs that have been recorded since the British invasion in 1964. People of all ages listen to those stations, advertisers pay money to advertise on them, and the musicians who recorded the songs, in many cases, are still touring and playing those same songs, decades later.

That’s odd, when you think about it. Fifty years is an incredibly long time for a musical genre to remain at the forefront of American culture. If you went back to the ’20s, fifty years before that magical year of 1972, the dominant form of music featured crooners like Rudy Vallee, shown above, and people danced the Charleston to early forms of jazz. By 1972, however, you couldn’t find a radio station anywhere that played Rudy Vallee tunes, or ragtime, and Rudy Vallee wasn’t touring and playing to packed venues, either. The music of the ’20s had been relegated to the dustbin of history, having given way to “big band” music in the ’30s and ’40s, and lounge singing and early rock ‘n roll in the ’50s. You’re not going to hear those forms of music played on any on-air American radio stations, either (although Sirius XM has ’40s and ’50s stations, if you’d like to hear that music). But once you hit 1964, the ever-changing musical tastes of a considerable portion of the American public stopped changing and became locked in place.

To be sure, punk, rap, and hip-hop have come into being since the ’60s, and “urban” stations provide stiff competition for “classic rock” stations on the radio dial–but the fact that music that is 50 years old is still findable and regularly played on the radio is pretty remarkable. Does that mean that the rock era reached a kind of musical pinnacle and just hasn’t been knocked off the peak–or does it mean that the Baby Boomers and successive generations stubbornly refused to open themselves up to newer forms of music, as their parents and grandparents were willing to do? Perhaps many of us just lack the musical flexibility of earlier generations, who didn’t hold on to Rudy Vallee when Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington came along.

To Appeal, Or Not To Appeal

The Biden Administration is weighing a tough decision: whether to appeal the federal court decision striking down the mask mandate the federal government imposed on air and train travelers during the COVID pandemic. It’s a very tough decision on both legal and political grounds.

According to news reports, the Justice Department will appeal the court ruling if the CDC decides that the mask mandate is still necessary to protect public health. That’s a bit strange, in a way, because the CDC decided only last week, just before the court ruling, that the mask mandate should be extended for an additional 15 days, until May 3, to allow the CDC to assess the impact of yet another COVID subvariant. It seems as though the DOJ is punting the decision to the CDC and, perhaps, hoping that the CDC will change course, decide that public health now doesn’t require an extension, and allow the DOJ to cite that determination in electing not to appeal. In the meantime, the DOJ won’t pursue an immediate stay of the federal court’s decision, which means that the mask mandate won’t be enforced unless and until an appeal occurs and the appellate court rules to the contrary.

The legal and political stakes in the decision on a potential appeal are high. Legally, the issue is whether the federal government wants to take the risk that a higher court will agree with the district court judge and establish a firmer precedent that the CDC doesn’t have the kind of sweeping power it has exercised over the past two years. Some people describe the district court decision as a poorly reasoned “legal disaster,” while others contend it is a reasonable interpretation of statutory text that simply was not intended to authorize an administrative agency to unilaterally impose nationwide mask mandates. Regardless of how you come out on that issue, for now the decision is simply the opinion of a single district court judge. If an appeal occurs, the federal government runs the risk of an adverse decision by a federal court of appeals and, potentially, the Supreme Court–raising the possibility that, if the nation’s highest court agrees with the federal district court judge in this case, the CDC’s ability to issue future public health mandates could be eliminated, unless and until Congress decides to amend the statute to clarify what is permitted.

Politically, the stakes are equally high because there are strong feelings on both sides of the masking issue. News reports in the wake of the federal court decision reported pro and con comments from travelers about the decision, while videos of cheering passengers removing their masks mid-flight appeared on social media. Whatever decision the federal government makes is likely to upset one faction or the other, leaving the Biden Administration at risk of being labeled irresponsible in its stewardship of public health, or a lily-livered adherent to pointless governmental paternalism. No politician would be happy about either of those outcomes. On the other hand, if the CDC suddenly decides that, under the current circumstances, the mask mandate is no longer needed to protect public health, it has provided the Biden Administration with some political cover–and those who want to wear masks will of course be permitted to do so.

It would be interesting to know whether, behind the scenes, the Biden Administration is encouraging the CDC to move in one direction or another. It’s hard for politicians to restrain themselves from politicking. We’ll never know for sure, because if that information came out it would undercut the depiction of the CDC as the neutral, objective, apolitical entity that is focused solely on scientific and medical evidence and the public health.

The No-Sock Look

Has anyone else noticed that, more and more, male executives of start-up companies are being photographed wearing suits and shoes, but no socks?

No executive these days gets their picture taken without careful forethought to their attire, their pose, and their setting. I get the suit-and-no-tie ensemble, to convey professionalism but not rigidity. But what message is supposed to be communicated by the no-sock look? Cutting edge interaction with evolving social mores? A salary that is so reasonable in the era of nine-figure CEO compensation that it doesn’t even allow you to afford an essential article of clothing? Supreme confidence in the positive impact of odor eaters and the appeal of exposed ankle bones? What am I missing here?

I can’t imagine the no-sock look would be very comfortable, with your bare foot sticking to the lining of the shoe by the end of the day. And with all of the fashion statements that can be made by socks these days, can’t you display your cutting-edge chops by making deft sock selections instead?

My grandmother used to say that whenever she met a man she looked first at his feet, believing that the appearance of his shoes communicated something important about his hygiene, his manners, his attention to detail, and other character elements. It’s probably a good thing that she’s not around to see the no-sock look.

Getting Down To The Last KMart

The New York Post reports that the KMart store in Avenel, New Jersey is closing. By itself, the closure of a discount store wouldn’t be news, of course–unless the closing of the store means that the countdown to the very last KMart in America is getting close to completion. With the closure of the Avenel store, there are only three KMarts left. Given the fact that KMarts have been closing regularly–here’s a report of the last Buffalo KMart closing, for example–we’ll soon be down to the last KMart, just as we are down to the last Blockbuster.

In a way, it’s hard to imagine that there are only three KMarts left, but in a way it’s hard to imagine that any KMarts are still around. It’s hard to imagine there are only three left because KMarts were once ubiquitous in America, with more than 2,000 stores that were found just about everywhere. KMart was a dominant low-cost retailer, and the KMart “blue light special”–a flashing blue light that alerted shoppers to especially cut-rate deals, along with an accompanying announcement that began “attention, KMart shoppers”–was the stuff of retail legend and the butt of countless jokes. Everybody laughed at those jokes, because everyone had been in a KMart. It was a kind of shared national experience, like the three television networks or McDonald’s french fries. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, no one could have predicted that KMart wouldn’t continue to be a blue light leader forever.

But viewed from today’s perspective, it’s hard to think that KMarts still exist. The store’s business model seems like a relic of a bygone era. It’s not that Americans aren’t still bargain hunters, of course, but now no one wants to think that they are buying something cheap, and the whole KMart linoleum-tiled experience screamed “cheap.” Now Americans do their bargain-hunting online, and not in the glare of a blue-light special.

The demise of KMart shows, once again, that the American economy is a constantly changing, ever-challenging interaction of consumer preferences, cultural trends, socio-economic movements, fads, and countless other factors all combined into one complex, roiling mass. If you lose the golden thread–as happened with KMart, and with Blockbuster and other forgotten retailers before it–the fall to failure and oblivion can be swift.

The Cross-Species Lure Of A Good Doughnut

Everyone knows that doughnuts are an irresistible food for human beings. Now there is evidence that the appeal of those ever-tempting, soft, sinfully sugary pastries isn’t limited to homo sapiens.

In LaBelle, Florida, a man and his horse have become regulars at the local Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru line. Once a week, David Bosselait and his mount, Jackson, make a 12-mile round trip from their home to the doughnut emporium so Bosselait can get his cup of coffee and Jackson can enjoy his standard order: a plain doughnut hole. Jackson also gets a lot of love and attention from the Dunkin’ Donuts employees when he visits.

Bosselait says the weekly visits to the doughnut shop have had a positive impact on the horse, who is getting used to being around cars and staying “focused.” I’m not sure that introducing anyone–or any horse–to the wonders of doughnuts can really be described as a positive thing, because once you’ve enjoyed a doughnut you can never go back. Jackson may be getting better in traffic because his real “focus” is on getting that scrumptious doughnut hole every week.

A Return To Masking Up In Philadelphia

I’ve very enjoyed the month or so of relatively mask-free life since Columbus lifted its mask mandate in early March. Other than masking up for air travel, things were starting to feel like they were returning to the pre-pandemic “normal”–or at least, a reasonable resemblance of it. That’s why I experienced a chill when I read last night that Philadelphia has decided to return to a mask mandate and become the first major U.S. city to do so.

Philadelphia is going back to masks because a rise in COVID-19 cases in the City of Brotherly Love has hit the metric that triggers masking requirements. Starting April 18–a week-long delay was established to allow businesses to adjust–Philadelphia will again require masks in indoor public spaces, like restaurants, offices, and shops. Businesses have the option of requiring proof of vaccination in lieu of masks. In explaining the cause for the new mask regime, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

“Philadelphia established a benchmark system in March that uses case counts, hospitalizations, and the rate of case increase to determine which safety strategies are needed. The seven-day daily average of cases, 142 as of April 8, and a 60% increase in case counts over the past 10 days met the standards to reintroduce the indoor mask mandate. There were 44 people hospitalized in the city Monday, a slight decrease from last week.”

The Philadelphia system of establishing triggers raises an interesting question: should raw numbers control policy, or should public officials exercise their judgment and weigh other issues? Are 142 cases a day and 44 hospitalizations in a city of about 1.5 million sufficient to cause reimposition of a mask mandate, and should other considerations–like obvious mask fatigue on the part of the population, and questions about how a general public that keenly wants to be done with COVID will react to a return to masking–come into play? Will reimposition of mask mandates result in protests and general civil disobedience and noncompliance with the order?

I hope public officials in Columbus and elsewhere are seriously thinking about the possible consequences of a return to masking, because there will be pressure from some quarters to follow Philadelphia’s lead. CNN reports that COVID cases are rising in the U.S., although the numbers are low compared to what we experienced in 2020 and 2021. And, curiously, Philadelphia’s reimposition of its mandate is coming on the same day that the current federal mask mandate for the transportation sector is set to expire. It will be an odd juxtaposition indeed if cities are reinstituting mask requirements at the same time the federal government is lifting them.

When Girth Is A Virtue

New York City is now home to the world’s skinniest skyscraper. The Steinway Tower has finished construction and is open for occupants. The building comes in at 84 stories in height, is 1,428 feet tall, and has a height to width ratio of 24:1. It is taller, and therefore skinnier, than the other slender skyscrapers that are found on what is being called “Billionaire’s Row” on West 57th Street.

There are 60 apartments in the Steinway Tower’s 84 stories, and as the photo above indicates, the Tower offers a commanding view of Central Park, the east side and west side of Manhattan, and the rivers beyond. According to the CNN article linked above, the prices are extraordinary, even by Manhattan standards: studio apartments are $7.75 million, and the penthouse goes for $66 million. (Seriously, who would want to pay $7.75 million for a studio apartment?)

Photographs of the building make it look like a gigantic, freshly sharpened pencil, and in addition to it’s super-thin appearance, it’s got other architectural flourishes. The facade includes blocks of terracotta, which appears to change color when seen at different times of day with different light and from different angles.

Separate and apart from the cost, and the height, it would take a special person, willing to put a lot of trust into architects, contractors, building materials, and super-height construction techniques, to live in this building. Super-skinny might be fashionable, but in my view when it comes to buildings a little more girth is welcome.