In 1995 I photocopied this ad from a 1966 issue of Time magazine. I was in grad school doing some research on the Vietnam war, and couldn’t help but notice it. It’s almost as over the top as the old Saturday Night Live fake ad for speed. I thought I lost the photocopy years ago, but found it in a box in my basement the other day.
If you can’t make out the “Note to Mothers” at the bottom, it says:
Note to Mothers: Exhaustion may be dangerous – especially to children who haven’t learned to avoid it by pacing themselves. Exhaustion opens the door a little wider to the bugs and ailments that are always lying in wait. Sugar puts back energy fast – offsets exhaustion. Synthetic sweeteners put back nothing. Energy is the first requirement of life. Play safe with your young ones – make sure they get sugar every day.
Of course, it’s the exact opposite of the truth:
Studies have shown that downing 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution (about 20 teaspoons of sugar, or the amount that is contained in two average 12-ounce sodas) can suppress the body’s immune responses. Simple sugars, including glucose, table sugar, fructose, and honey caused a fifty- percent drop in the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria…[and] can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by 40 percent. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours…[and]…Sugar sours behavior, attention, and learning…
This got me wondering if these unhealthy effects of sugar were known at the time, so I did some looking around online. It seems like they weren’t, but of course, there was no scientific basis for all the claims in the ad, either. In 1972, Prof. John Yudkin published “Pure, White, and Deadly,” about the dangers of sugar, which promptly led to unjustified attacks on him and his work that ultimately led to the end of his career. At the time, the food industry was promoting a low-fat, high-sugar diet, so his research stood in the way of that. He wrote:
“Can you wonder that one sometimes becomes quite despondent about whether it is worthwhile trying to do scientific research in matters of health?” he wrote. “The results may be of great importance in helping people to avoid disease, but you then find they are being misled by propaganda designed to support commercial interests in a way you thought only existed in bad B films.”
I can think of some other areas where this is still the case today…
If you might like a movie that is equal parts…
…then you will enjoy Fish Story. There’s also a doomsday cult, a bitter old man, a brilliant mathematician, a hostage situation, and a love story, but I ran out of movie analogies. I encourage you to not read any plot summaries before watching it – a lot of the fun is watching the story unfold, as it definitely does not follow a predictable plot line. But I will share with you a bit of the review from Lost Turntable, which explains what makes it a good movie:
Although the idea of Fish Story is more than a little silly, its conceit is not. At its heart, Fish Story is about how music can connect with people and change their lives in unexpected and amazing ways. It shows how music can give us courage and hope, and challenge us to make ourselves and those around us better. It shows how a song, a stupid little song that almost no one in the world knows about, can drastically affect and change for the better the lives of people who have never even heard it. And when you think of it like that, it’s not hard to imagine that a song could, somehow, actually save the world someday.
Unlike modern American movie trailers that summarize the whole movie for you, the Japanese trailer for it gives you a sense of the movie without giving away the story (with subtitles).
Unfortunately, it’s currently not available on Netflix streaming, but it used to be, and may come back in the future (here’s the Fish Story streaming page on Netflix if you want to check). Netflix does have it on DVD. It may be on other streaming services – there are several movies with this name, so definitely make sure you’re looking for the Japanese one.
Originally published March 1, 2012
Stuart Adamson was the singer, lead guitarist, and primary song writer for Big Country, my favorite band. I’ve always been dazzled by his guitar work, but not being a musician myself, I was never really able to find the right words to describe what I was hearing. When I meet folks who play guitar, I always have to recommend they give a listen to Big Country, as most are not familiar with Adamson’s work, but I’ve never been able to explain exactly why he’s so good. The other day I came across Tom Kercheval’s blog – he’s an independent musician – and not only is he a Big Country fan, he listed Adamson as his primary influence, and unlike me, he’s able to explain Adamson’s talent:
…the thing that always struck me about Stuart’s playing was not so much his lead playing (although it was great) but his rhythm guitar playing, particularly the odd chord structures he came up with. To this day, he’s one of the few guitar players that gives me fits when trying to figure out what he’s playing. His use of droning, open strings when playing chords was so appealling to me, and the Scottish/Celtic sound of the playing as well. He is so underrated. Beyond belief underrated. I still think the album Steeltown is a guitar masterpiece. Listen to that one with headphones and just hear the guitar symphony that is going on on most of those songs – tons of parts interweaving with each other, creating a huge, totally unique sound. Just brilliant. Like no one else.
In regard to Steeltown, I would add that it is also a masterpiece lyrically. Unfortunately, despite a 4-star review from Rolling Stone when it came out, it went nowhere in the pop charts. I think the album was musically too intricate, and lyrically too dense, to stand a chance on pop radio. But those are the qualities that have given it staying power – more than 20 years after it’s release, the opening track Flame of the West can still send chills down my spine.
This bio piece provides a good explanation for what inspired his songwriting, and what gives it the rare quality of being deeply personal yet political at the same time:
My mum and dad also had some great friends who played folk and country music (my mum does a mean Patsy Cline) and they would come to our house after the bars were closed and people would sing through the night. This made me aware of the power of the song and how music was interwoven with the lives of the working class Scots I grew up amongst. I would watch these big rough, hard men declare their love of family and the land — emotions they would be embarrassed to admit to in conversation — in songs old and new. I realised a lot of my schooling was solely aimed at my learning to accept my place in the British class system and railed against it. I believe the measure of a man is in his actions and not his social background (maybe this is why I like the US…another disenfranchised Celt)… A lot of the darkness of the Steeltown album comes from remembering my first experiences of the prejudice of class and nationality and the obvious truths that little had changed in my adulthood. The desire to write initially grew out of just wanting to be a “real” band and then I found I was driven to communicate some of the joy and frustration of the human experience…
Those are the people I grew up amongst and I could see the beauty in such simplicity as well as the anger and beaten acceptance. I think that frustration and learned apathy is the daily bread of the great majority of people in the world and as such represents the greater part of life experience, certainly in the western world and is to me a fertile source of inspiration.
Here’s the opening track from Steeltown, Flame of the West:
Originally published April 12, 2006