Old men reading the news

old men yelling

CBS is the network of the elderly, especially on Sunday mornings. All of the correspondents on “CBS Sunday Morning” speak slowly and carefully, so we old codgers can understand them as we gradually awaken. The host of the show is the charming (but elderly) Charles Osgood, who’s eighty years old as of this moment.

And the show is followed by CBS’s “Face the Nation,” hosted by Bob Schieffer, who’s a comparatively youthful seventy-six years old.

One Sunday morning last spring, Schieffer opened the show with something like this: “Flooding! Snow in the Northeast! What’s with the weather?”

It’s a perfectly valid question, with a plethora of answers, all of them interesting. But it was his tone – his shrill old-man querulous tone – that made it almost funny. He seemed to be saying: What’s this? And why haven’t we heard about this before?


Well, we’ve heard about it approximately a thousand times. I first heard about it in the 1970s in high school, when the first Earth Day was celebrated. I even spent a few pennies then to buy an Earth Day decal, the money for which was supposed to go to some good ecological cause.

But here we are. The atmospheric CO2 level has gone to 400 parts per million, the highest level in three million years. This will have definite consequences on the climate.

And yet Bob Schieffer, who’s possible more than three million years old, wants to know what’s going on!

I’m on the verge of being an old man myself. But even I know more than Bob Schieffer seems to know.

The climate is changing.

Grab your hats and head for the exits, ladies and gentlemen. The future isn’t going to be very nice.

I’m only sorry that the old men on the Sunday-morning television programs aren’t preparing you for this.

Pizza and cheese sandwiches

niceties of food

A few Sunday mornings ago, the beloved Bill Geist did a story on “CBS Sunday Morning” about a grilled-cheese sandwich festival/competition in Los Angeles. (Americans have fetishized cheese sandwiches, just as they fetishize everything.) There’s a category in the competition for sandwiches with bread and cheese only; there’s a category for “exotic” sandwiches, with ingredients like pork ribs and pesto; and there’s a dessert category, which is a cheese sandwich incorporating something sweet.



Partner sniffed at the second category. “Those aren’t cheese sandwiches,” he said haughtily. “Those are rib sandwiches with cheese.”



“Why aren’t they cheese sandwiches with ribs?” I asked innocently.



He glared at me. “Obviously the ribs are going to overpower the cheese.”



I don’t get this. It’s a sandwich with cheese, so it’s a cheese sandwich. Who cares what else it has on it?



Evidently I am not a food purist.



This reminded me of something from Elizabeth David’s “Is There a Nutmeg in the House?”, but I couldn’t find my copy to give you an exact quote. Here’s a general paraphrase:



“I was looking at the menu of a local pizza restaurant, and noted that there were pizzas with bacon, and ham, and even pineapple. I am sure these are very interesting, but they are not pizza. I am not sure what they are.”



I worship the immortal soul of Elizabeth David, and would never disagree with her. But I have to disagree with her here.



“Pizza,” for me, is a thing that looks like pizza: sauce and cheese on a round flat bread-like crust. One of the original “pizzas” was the Neapolitan pizza margherita, which is red / white / green like the Italian flag: tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil. Another “authentic” Neapolitan pizza has an egg baked on top. (I love this, by the way, because I encountered it often in Tunisia, which is about six inches below Italy on the world map. Most of my American friends are either hilarified or disgusted by the thought.)



Sorry, kids: food is food. Pizza is pizza, whatever you put on top. Cheese sandwiches are cheese sandwiches, whatever you cram into them.



I just made myself hungry.


Growing old with CBS

All the reporters and correspondents on “CBS Sunday Morning” speak with the ponderous gravity of Captain Kangaroo reading “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” aloud. Why? I ask myself. Well, maybe:



  • It’s early, and they assume we’re not quite awake yet, so they have to speak distinctly.

  • Their viewership is, hmm, a little on the elderly side, and we older folks don’t hear so well anymore, so they have to speak distinctly.

  • They think we’re a bunch of idiots, so they have to speak distinctly.


I lean toward a combination of explanation #2 and explanation #3.


This is interesting, because CBS poses as Hipsterville during the week. You have funny-young-people sitcoms like “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory,” and shoot-shoot law-enforcement stuff like the various incarnations of “CSI” and “NCIS,” and weepy dramas like “The Good Wife.” (I do not speak of “Two and a Half Men,” for obvious reasons; we used to think it was a family sitcom, and now we’ve discovered it was reality television all along.)



But it’s mostly toothless, isn’t it? The sitcoms are harmless, like cartoons. The cop shows are all good guy / bad guy stuff, like old Westerns. “Good Wife” is tough-working-girl stuff, like “Kitty Foyle.”


Put them all together, and what have I just described?


A day at the movies in 1940.



The geriatric hesitancy of “CBS Sunday Morning” is mirrored by “60 Minutes.” Their stories are narrated with strange intensity, and difficult concepts like “Internet” and “Facebook” and “cellphone” are carefully explained to us, so that we won’t be frightened and spit our dentures across the room.



Let us not even speak of Andy Rooney, the last surviving cave dweller. (“I like soup. Soup comes in cans now. I don’t understand the cans. Cans are hard to open.”)



So: CBS has become the geezer network.



But guess what?  I’m a geezer myself.  Why do you think I was watching “CBS Sunday Morning” in the first place?




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