News Quiz

No. 496: “3 1/2”

The Bush campaign has been asked to excise a 3 1/2 second sequence from a new TV commercial. What does that sequence show? Why should it be cut? 

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Wednesday’s Question (No. 495)—”And the Portions Are So Small”:

“The hours are no good, waits are too long, and the people are rude.” Who said this about what?

“The late Vincent Canby reviews the afterlife and finds it wanting.”—Tim Carvell

” ’… and before you can complain, they kill you,’ said the spokesperson from the Society for the Protection of Texas Death Row Inmates.”—Hanneke Festen

“Hundreds of senior citizens, getting off the bus at the first pharmacy across the Canadian border.”—Will Vehrs

“Donna Hanover said this about continuing to live in Gracie Mansion.”—David Finkle

“Dick Cheney, about the campaign trail. ‘You couldn’t pay me enough to do this again,’ he didn’t add. Then, not pausing, he also didn’t add, ‘Well, maybe you could.’ “—Chip Brantley

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Randy’s Wrap-Up

Many responses referred to the Zagat Restaurant Survey (and by “many,” I mean “enough to allow me to employ it as a premise”). Among its many virtues is its ability to quantify sheer opinion, which somehow gives whim the weight of fact. (I believe it reflects the kind of standards G.W. hopes to require in America’s schools, or—because he hates Washington control—to require local schools to require.) Such is the moral force of the decimal point. The most lamentable thing about the Zagat family enterprise is that they tally too few aspects of life, limiting themselves to food, drink, and shopping. Where is the Zagat’s of the human heart?

Surely there should be a Zagat New York Humanity Survey that brings its calibrating acumen to every person in town. Across the top of each entry would be a row of little boxes charting looks, intelligence, charm, character, and income. Each would be graded and the results averaged into an overall score. The raw data would be provided by anyone who cared to volunteer: If you’d ever met a person, you could fill out a Zagat’s questionnaire on them. While the results might be distorted by cruel revenge seekers or overly affectionate paramours, these things have a way of canceling each other out.

How delightful it would be to see the ratings of other people; how dreadful to read one’s own. At last we could know who is the best person in New York. Perhaps each year, that No. 1 person would be given the freedom of the city: He or she need pay no bills or obey any laws. There might be some kind of identifying hat. And the worst person would have to leave town. Here’s where the New Jersey joke would go if I were inclined to make one, or the Giuliani joke. But as my days among you are few, I’m taking the high road (in hope of a higher rating).

Take a Number and Wait and Wait and Wait for the Answer

John Billings of the Commonwealth Fund said this about emergency rooms used for primary care medicine.

Billings, one of the authors of a recent study of the problem, also noted that those using the emergency room in this way tended not to be those with the worst insurance coverage but those who lived in the poorest neighborhoods, those with few doctors.

A goal of managed care has been to provide alternatives to emergency rooms for primary care medicine, a goal that has not been met: This use continues to grow. In New York City, for example, 75 percent of emergency room visits are for primary care medicine.

Some E.R.s have shifted their efforts away from discouraging such use and toward improving service to the actual patients by providing services akin to those of a clinic. In many cases, unsurprisingly, insurers have been slow to provide adequate compensation for such services.

Common Denominator

Twilight of the News Quiz, France, Zagat’s.