Saturday, March 8, 2008


The degree to which increasingly sophisticated and even brilliant merchandising is influencing popular culture is a little chilling. I wonder how many people end up identifying with a brand so strongly that it becomes a part of their self-image. A nation of youthful Frank Booths, shouting out about Mountain Dew and Red Bull instead of Pabst Blue Ribbon. But not "Don't look at me," rather, "Look at meeeeeeeeeee!!!"


And one of my favorite topics has been getting a little more attention recently:

Dr. Daniel Carlat sank into a choice seat at Lincoln Center, surrounded by other psychiatrists, all staying at the same four-star hotel in Manhattan and attending the same show for free. His deal with a pharmaceutical company to provide testimonials to other doctors had paid off well.

"It just kind of gave me a feeling of euphoria," said Carlat, a practicing psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University in Boston. "Sort of like you've made it into the upper crust of society."

The practice of using doctors to pitch products to other doctors is legal, though several states — including New York — are trying to curb it. They are opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, which argues the practice is a kind of professional consultation.

Carlat was on the "speakers' bureau" for the pharmaceutical companies, speaking to large groups of doctors, or holding intimate, expenses-paid meals with a pharmaceutical representative and one or two doctors. In one year, he earned $30,000 — about one-fifth of his salary. Ultimately, his conscience started nagging him and he quit.

It baffles me that more people don't pay attention to this stuff. It's not as if their health and the health of their families and loved ones is at stake.


Could be good, could be disappointing. There's a lot of room for character exploration in the Iron Man series, and Robert Downey has the chops to do it. But it takes a very deft touch from the writer/director team to make a good action film that also has some depth. The guy who's directing this has only directed one other feature film, and I'd never heard of it before. So far, the track record for these comic book films is fair, with Daredevil and Hulk being the only plain misfires (the FF series hasn't been great, but neither was it intended to be). Daredevil and the Hulk were my favorite Marvel characters as a kid. Iron Man was my third favorite. :-/