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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Brain surgery, and Richard Simmons

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Some random observations rattling around in my brain:

* The more Olympics coverage you watched, the sicker you got of some of the commercials. I was born at the old Saint Thomas Hospital and have nothing but respect for Saint Thomas as an institution, but if I heard about their revolutionary new brain surgery technique one more time I might have needed brain surgery.

* Fitness guru Richard Simmons was a guest last week on "Sklarbro Country," the hilarious podcast hosted by twin comedians Jason and Randy Sklar. After Simmons calmed down a bit, it turned out to be a surprisingly-thoughtful interview. At one point, the brothers asked if Simmons had ever been approached to appear on competitive weight loss shows like "The Biggest Loser." He said he had, but that he turns down all such requests. He said such shows trivialize and distort the process of making meaningful lifestyle changes, and that most contestants later regain the weight once they no longer have a cash prize dangling in front of them.

I think that's true of a lot of so-called "reality" shows. They distort and trivialize, and often bear little relation to reality, Of course, fiction does that as well -- but fiction doesn't claim to be real.

* In the past few weeks, the Times-Gazette has been condemned by some as an unthinking puppet of the walking horse industry, and accused by others of trying to kill the industry by daring to publish content that might be viewed as negative to the industry. I didn't have much to do with the various stories in question, but as a journalist I've learned that when you're taking heat from both sides, you're usually someplace close to the truth.

The whole key to the walking horse dispute is the question of whether bad actions by trainers are the exception or the rule. Earlier this summer, I spoke to a long-time acquaintance whose daughter shows. He talked about having had his daughter's horse with a trainer who uses unsound training tactics, who got into some trouble, and then moving the horse to a another trainer. He said his daughter could immediately tell a difference in the horse's demeanor.

I don't claim to be any sort of expert on the horse industry, but I think there are good trainers out there. The key to the survival of the industry is in finding fair and effective ways to stop as many of the trainers using inhumane training tactics as possible, without needlessly penalizing the good guys. Then the task becomes overcoming some of the bad PR and convincing the public that the trainers who remain are humane and responsible. Critics are trying to equate the big lick itself with cruelty, to say that cruelty is the only way of achieving the gait. The industry needs to unify if it hopes to challenge that message in the media and draw a clear distinction between unsound trainers and the rest.

But whatever happens with the industry, good or bad, it has to be reported -- because the industry is so important to our community. If my doctor tells me I have a disease, I don't accuse him of trying to make me sick -- I thank him for giving me the information necessary for me to take action.

* Wednesday marked two years since my mother's death. In some ways, it seems like yesterday, and in others it seems like a million years ago. I think of her all the time. I'm on the committee for the local American Cancer Society Relay For Life, and I wore a button with Mom's photo on it to our Relay event this year. Next month, I'll attend the Mid-South Relay For Life Summit in Nashville, a gathering of Relay volunteers from throughout the southeast. I like to think that my work for the American Cancer Society is a small but constructive way of responding to the pancreatic cancer that caused Mom so much pain and that ultimately took her life.

--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.

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John I. Carney
Loose Talk / Charge Complete
John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.