THE MIRACLE CURE?
Kite Pharmaceuticals — the immunotherapy company we profiled — is being acquired by Gilead for $11.8 billion, with shares nearly tripling since our recommendation two years ago. More importantly, the science is revolutionary. Read our interview with its CEO here.
And they say America is falling apart nowadays! Philip Roth’s acclaimed American Pastoral presents a bright reminder that behind each new layer of pastoral bliss in America usually lies a fresh cultural crisis. This is “the indigenous American Beserk” which Roth famously describes in his novel and seeks to unravel. Our narrator Nathan Zuckerman imagines Seymour Levov — known as the “Swede” throughout the text for his unnaturally Nordic features — in much the same way he remembers him from high school in Newark: successful, charming, and beloved. Levov’s father is a successful Jewish-American business owner fulfilling the prototypical American dream; from the Swede’s birth in 1927 to the moment he receives the keys to the family business, isn’t this what America ought to look like?
”Swede Levov’s life, for all I knew, had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore just great, right in the American grain” says Zuckerman. He subsequently adds that he was “never more mistaken about anyone in my life:” The 1960s hit with a vengeance, Vietnam turns ugly, American customs upend, and the Swede’s native Newark is torn apart by social unrest while his family life heads into similarly violent waters. In short, America suddenly goes berserk. Sounds familiar.
A note lighter than the threads of a nation coming loose, we’re also going to pitch for your consumption a story of two old feuding men turned showbiz partners anew for the sake of a last hurrah. It’s The Sunshine Boys! George Burns and Walter Matthaw star as a broken-up comedy duo — Al Lewis and Willy Clark — that, once upon a time, ruled the world of entertainment with their vaudeville act. A real shame that they hate each other’s guts; eh, maybe “hate” is not exactly right the right word. In one of the movie’s most endearing lines, Lewis insists that he doesn’t actually hate Clark…he just can’t stand him.
Besides naturally getting on each other’s nerves, much of the pair’s central resentment stems from Lewis’ decision to retire, according to Clark, just as his partner’s career was truly taking off. 11 years after parting ways, Lewis is living comfortably with his daughter and grandchildren while Clark putters around New York looking for a new big break. Humor abounds when the two are brought together by Clark’s nephew in the hopes that the bygone duo can put their differences aside and participate in an ABC special about the history of comedy. This involves a recreation of Smith and Dale’s classic Dr. Kronkheit sketch, an object of Homeric stature within the canon of American comedy and the cherry on top of an already stellar film about 20 century gagsters.
It would take until the 21 century, however, for a different saga to end: that of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the official United States policy on LGBTQ members of the armed forces implemented in 1994 by Bill Clinton and lifted on this day in history, September 20, 2011. As many remember and as the name implies, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was a directive that prohibited harassment or discrimination against closeted homosexuals serving in the military so long as they remained closeted: if you were openly gay, continued military service was unfortunately not an option. The law, of course, was by no means headed in a permanent direction as social mores in America shifted alongside a tide of increasingly compelling evidence presented in research papers and case studies of foreign militaries that there are no disadvantages to integrating open homosexuals into the military.
Barack Obama made the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” one of his campaign planks in 2008, though he waited until 2010 to present the requisite legislation to congress. Ultimately it took a few months of wheeling and dealing at the end of 2010 to sign the repeal act into law. Not that this was it for the wheelers and dealers: after seven more months of haggling over the certification process, the Pentagon received notice that they would have 60 days to prepare for a full implementation of the repeal. Come September 20, exactly this happened. The repeal certainly went down Washington DC style with filibusters and nitpicking galore, but progress was progress: we’re certainly the better for it.