Thursday, April 21, 2022

CNN Plus, we hardly knew ye. And didn't want to.

CNN today pulled the plug on its three-week-old streaming service, CNN Plus, which was supposed to deliver on-demand news.

The idea that CNN executives thought anyone in their right mind would pay money to subscribe to a CNN-branded product as a source for "news" proves how arrogant and out of touch media executives are. So-called news organizations like CNN, Fox and MSNBC, which spend most of the day running opinion shows that deliver wacky, sensational, vitrolic attacks on the political parties they hate, can't be relied upon to deliver usable, trustworthy news during the few hours each day they devote to reporting the news rather than opining about it. Cable networks should either run opinion shows or news shows, but not both and certainly not with the same "reporters." CNN Plus might have succeeded under another brand name but even my dachshund would have known better than to link it to the CNN brand.

From the git-go, Fox News, directed by Republican operative Roger Ailes, made no pretense of being objective but formerly reliable media including CNN, The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC and CBS are no longer trustworthy news sources either. Although America's media is supposed to be objective, it has never been but, until Trump, did a fairly credible job of presenting multiple sides of key stories and issues. The Amazon-owned Washington Post, which was completely off-the-rails at the thought of Trump in charge, added "Democracy Dies in Darkness" under its masthead shortly after his election, implying what? Trump wants to destroy Democracy but the Post will prevent it by reporting objectively? The dark aspects of Trump's childish, narcissistic personality may have threatened America and the Post certainly reported about those, but democracy also dies when a leading news organization refuses to report unbecoming stories about Biden as the Post is doing.

If the Post and New York Times would actually report critical, balanced news about the current administration, I wouldn't have to go to the UK Daily News web site to find out what's really going on. Yes, it's annoying to have to wade through endless stories about the Kardashians, Meghan Markel and Beckhams, but the Mail's reporting about major news is more honest than the leading American news organizations. This journalism major doesn't know of a single online source that does a better job. (Note: I never worked as a reporter but do recall having to study the Journalist's Creed that called upon budding journalists to report the news fairly. And for the record, I wrote a column in March 2016 predicting that American journalists' obsession with discrediting Trump, whose campaign was starting to pick up steam, would result in their loss of credibility and I was right. To read it, click here.

The news media has failed Americans even more so than our elected representatives. Politicians should want to do what's best for their constituents, but they don't because, to get elected, they have to swear allegiance to one of the two major parties and compromise their integrity. A credible news organization has no obligation to any party or cause other than reporting all sides of issues but most don't even try any more.

And so, I'm glad -- more than glad, ecstatic -- that CNN Plus is going down the toilet. The public's rejection of it will hopefully give a much-needed push in the right direction -- toward the center -- for American journalism and the elite, out-of-touch fat cats who control it and are doing more damage to our country than any politician or political party ever could or will.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

A custard story

I dropped my daughter-in-law and grandkids off at the airport this morning. They have been visiting all week and were supposed to fly home yesterday but JetBlue canceled their flight, giving us an extra day to enjoy our extremely energetic grandsons, 8 and 6. 

Yesterday we took them to our local Culver’s, the Wisconsin-based fast food chain, known for hamburgers served on buttered buns, deep-fried cheese curds (one of my least favorite words), and frozen custard. As we were sitting in our booth,  a message flashed on the closed-circuit TV screen Culver’s uses to promote its menu: “Share your custard story.”

I have a custard story but it's a story Culver’s will never share on its Facebook page or anywhere else. My mother used to tell this story, and it involves one of my four sets of great-grandparents, who were married in the 1870s. I’m not going to identify which set. They’ve been gone more than 100 years, and I don’t want to speak ill of the dead though I’m not above sharing this uber-embarrassing tale if I omit their names. 

My mother heard the story from her mother, who lived in Mineola, a tiny Missouri town where everybody knew everything about everyone. Grandma shouldn’t even have known the details but they were told to her by a gossipy friend, the wife of the town’s only doctor. It wasn’t ethical for the doctor’s wife to reveal intimate details about an unfortunate incident her husband shouldn’t have told her about in the first place but that’s how small towns work.

Culver's patrons may think of custard as a frozen dessert that comes out of a machine and is served in a cone or cup, but that’s not the only way custard is made. My custard story is about an altogether different type of custard, a liquid concoction America’s pioneers, including my great-grandparents’ parents, made for special occasions like their daughter’s wedding. It is made with heavy cream, egg yolks and sugar that is boiled together and served warm, in cups, on cold days. It is thick, meant to be sipped slowly, and tastes a bit like egg nog, but it’s richer, creamier and there’s no nutmeg. Mom always made a pot or two every winter and buried the pressure cooker in which she made it in a snowbank, to keep it fresh so she could warm it up and enjoy it a few cups at a time. I didn’t like mom’s custard as a boy and, once I heard this story, never touched the stuff again. 

At my great-grandparents’ wedding reception that wintry night long ago, guests enjoyed fiddling, dancing, cake and punchbowls filled with warm custard. The reception was, without doubt, one of the highlights of that year’s Mineola social calendar.  

The groom, who was having a particularly good time, downed cup after cup of custard before he and his bride left for the new house he had built on his farm a few miles south of town.

In the middle of the night the doctor and his wife were awakened by a pounding on the door. It was the bride who had fled the farm on horseback and was terribly upset. “Doctor, come quick. My husband is dying.”

When the doctor arrived, he discovered — there’s no delicate way to say it so if you’re eating as you read this, you might want to spit it out now — that the groom, who was so ill he couldn’t raise his head, had lost control of his bowels and squirted custard all over himself and the bed. Whether the marriage had been consummated at this point I have no clue, but it’s a safe bet to say that if it hadn’t been, the groom couldn't have talked his new wife into it even if he felt like getting it on, which he surely didn’t. 


The best part of the story was the punchline my mother delivered which, no matter how many times they had heard it, invariably sent her listeners into uncontrollable laughter. Mom delivered the line in complete seriousness, intent on giving the impression she was concerned, but you just knew she was having trouble not bursting out into a raucous laugh herself: “Grandma always said that her mother (the bride) was depressed her entire life.”

If your spouse had done diarrhea all over the bed on your wedding night, you’d be depressed too.

Luckily for me and their other descendants, the bride wasn’t so grossed out that she refused to allow her husband into their marriage bed ever again, because, over the next 10 years, and despite her melancholia, they had four children. 


When we returned from Culver’s, I called my sister and told her the restaurant chain was inviting customers to share their custard stories. “Do you think I should share our family’s?”

“Uh, I don’t think they’d publish it,” she said. 

“Grandma always said  …“ I said slowly, the way mom used to draw it out for effect. She finished the sentence: “The bride was depressed all her life!” We laughed and laughed until we couldn’t laugh any more although it really wasn't funny that our great-grandmother went through life under a melancholic cloud. 

"What a shitty way to start your married life," my sister said. We laughed some more, and agreed that nobody — nobody — could tell a story better than our mother. 

So that’s my custard story, which I’d like to end with a word of warning. If, by chance you decide to make custard — included below is a link to a recipe that basically replicates mom’s — for God’s sake, pace yourself.