Thanks a lot, Dr. Welby!

By David Grima | Jun 07, 2018

I had no idea that Indiana Jones lived on Vinalhaven for all those years. Not a clue.

However, the evidence presented by the mighty media cannot be denied, and countless stories have reported bits about his recent passing, so it must be true.

His picture in the papers proves that in reality he looked nothing like the way he looked in those movies, but I think that is always true. It’s all that makeup they have to wear.

Incidentally, Uncle Ed tells me that his mother, who also lived on Vinalhaven, used to play Cutthroat Scrabble with Indy every week and that she used to let him win. They would also drink gin martinis.

Just not entirely sure what Cutthroat Scrabble might be, but it sounds dangerous.

* * * * *

I have been warning the Greater Rockland public for some weeks that they should place no trust whatsoever in the recent so-called improvements in the weather, as I am convinced it could still snow.

Then on May 24, according to the online Daily Mail, which is an unimpeachable British news source, they got a foot of snow in Newfoundland. The headline ran thus, and displays a typical bit of British schizophrenia in connection with the measurements quoted:

“Never-ending winter: Newfoundland is hit by more than a foot of snow late in May, getting up to 40 centimeters as winds blow up to 50 mph.”

Only a British headline could cheerfully mix metric and Imperial measurements together so effectively. The Brits have tried at least twice to go completely metric with their measurements, but have failed both times. For example, they do buy their gasoline in liters but they still drive in miles per hour.

* * * * *

I apologize sincerely for the lack of a column in last week’s paper. It was entirely the fault of the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse, those greasy feathered monsters that trouble me so much in the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live.

One of them ate my column just after I had finished writing it, which so discouraged me that I just gave up and threw rocks at the offending bird.

* * * * *

Beware, for the tent moths are everywhere again! On our annual Tour of Seven Cemeteries on Memorial Sunday, they were all over the place.

* * * * *

It is distressing to see that a gentleman in the South End had been hearing voices, urging him to shoot up one of our local schools the other week. Mercifully, someone who knew what he was saying called the police, which naturally caused the school superintendent to order the schools locked while the situation was investigated.

Given the current situation, in which gun murders actually happen at an American school every couple of months, the news quickly leaked out of Knox County and spread across the nation. For example, I saw it reported in the Seattle Times.

Not reported yet, so far as I know, is the traumatic effect this lockdown had on some of the younger students in our school district. I heard a truly horrifying tale on the grapevine about how one child reacted inside South School. Apparently, the poor youngster was so terrified that it freaked out several teachers, too.

It’s impossible in a community like ours to keep that sort of detail quiet.

This situation raises the old question about the extent to which reports in the media of terrible things like actual murders in schools provoke people, who might already be unbalanced in their own minds, to identify too much with what they see and read. (I presume people are still reading…? Lordy, Lordy, I do hope so.)

Here is a story I have told before that helps illustrate what I mean.

"Marcus Welby, MD," was a popular drama on ABC television from 1969 to 1976, starring Robert Young and James Brolin. A friend who worked in the field of mental health counseling in those far-off days says staff at the clinic where she was employed started to be suspicious about a weird phenomenon that seemed to be associated with the show and their clients.

Whatever illness or disease was the main plot theme of the show, the day after the broadcast the phones would start ringing with calls from nervous clients convinced they were suffering from this disease in real life. The staff eventually assigned someone to watch the show each week, so they could figure out in advance what the calls would be about next day.

They handled it by giving appointments to the fearful callers, but the dates given were several weeks out. By the time their appointments came around, many of the clients had got over the whole thing and did not show up. This seems a pretty humane and respectful way to have handled it.

I can testify to the effectiveness of the depiction of illness in this show. As a simple-minded 13-year-old, I once spent two weeks in late 1971 convinced I was dying of leukemia and wondering if I should mention it to my parents, all thanks to "Marcus Welby, MD."

If the impact of a weekly drama in the early 1970s could have that kind of effect on people undergoing mental health counseling, as well as on highly strung teenage boys, then surely we should not be surprised that people living under the modern 21st-century jackhammer of continuous news feeds might also be affected by ideas implanted in us by the almost Orwellian broadcast media.

Naturally, I am ambivalent about the meaning of this anecdote. Deep down in the depths of my grubby little soul, I am still really a newspaperman, no matter what else I am now forced to do to earn my daily bread, and I care a lot about how the news is done, and its impact, especially on the more sensitive among us.

However, I am able to report that, so far, I have been untouched by leukemia in the 47 years since I watched that show.

Thanks a lot, Dr. Welby!

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jun 07, 2018 16:24

I wonder how many of us left in this glorious world remember Marcus Welby, MD ?

Another good food for thought column David!

Mary "Mickey" (Brown) McKeever



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