March 18th, 2004

The Inspector General

is a play by Gogol, actually the Russian title may be closer to "The Government Inspector." I finished it today, as part of my project of understand Gogol a bit more after reading his Taras Bulba, which I didn't care for much.

But I enjoyed this play just fine. I chuckled aloud on the train, which is where I mostly did my reading.

The play is set in a crooked provincial town. The leading figures in the play are the crooked mayor, and a minor government clerk who is passing through the town but who gets mistaken as the dreaded inspector general.

There's a Hollywood movie adaptation, from 1949, with Danny Kaye. I remember it from long ago as funny, but it takes liberties with the story, and shifts the focus to Danny Kaye's clowning.

There are no heroes in the original play; the entire town appears to be conniving in one way or another. The chief focus is on government corruption, but a couple of the town merchants also come in for criticism for "shortchanging" and other dishonest practices. It's a good town to get out of

Rhyme of the day:

The mayor and his friends
Reach a bad, but funny, end.

Legal Drugs Pose Greatest Health Threat, WHO Says

Now THERE is a wacky headline, from Reuters on the web, Mar. 18.

First I like the "WHO says" at the end.

Q: Who says that?
A: WHO says that!

Sounds like the "Who's on first, what's on second" baseball routine.

The big mystery is why do legal drugs pose a health threat? Has aspirin suddenly turned deadly?

No. Actually, when they say "drug" they do not mean medicine. Nor do they mean something we usually call a "drug." They mean tobacco and alcohol.

Is it fair to call tobacco and alcohol drugs? Sure. Does it make for a misleading headline? Absolutely.

What they really mean to say is that alcohol and tobacco are more of a threat than marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, meth, etc.

By what standard do they measure the threat? The article says that alcohol and tobacco create "a greater cost to society." We're not even talking about individual health. We're talking about an aggregate social impact.

But it's just logical that the use of legal drugs has greater social impact. That's because legal drugs are more widely used... because they are legal!

Anyway, I'm breathing a sigh of relief. I was afraid that I was going to have to stop using my asthma inhaler.

Relevant Rhyme:

Some get a kick from cocaine.
I'm sure that if
I took even one sniff
It would bore me terrifically too.
But I get a kick out of you.

-Cole Porter