The Sticky Slope
Hands off my soda, Mayor Bloomberg


The best way to give somebody bad news is, first, give him a doughnut. This is basically the idea behind what we in Hollywood call “craft services.”

Craft services — also known as “Holy cow! Look at that huge table of snacks!” — is, well, a huge table of snacks, originally designed to feed, water, and otherwise satisfy the between-meal cravings of the various craft guilds that populate the business. Following the principle that hungry people are cranky people, and that cranky, hungry people are the last people you want handling six-ton pieces of equipment and million-dollar sets and wires with 18 zillion volts of electricity crackling through them inches from the neck and face of America’s beloved TV and film stars, free Snapple and unlimited Cool Ranch Doritos look like a pretty bargain way to deliver a safe and sane workplace.

But that simple calculation has morphed, over time, to include the need to placate everyone involved in a production. I had a show on the air, years ago, that involved a lot of complicated location filming. We had weather trouble and airplane-noise trouble and crowd-control trouble and all sorts of trouble that could really be solved, it turned out, only by an enterprising craft-service guy passing out a tray of mini egg-salad sandwiches at ten o’clock in the morning.

An egg-salad sandwich doesn’t solve production problems, of course, but it’s soothing and eggy and pleasantly bland, and doesn’t take much energy to chew, so eating one — or, in my case, eating a fistful — is a little like sucking on a mayonnaise lollipop. You forget what you’re supposed to be upset about.

I know of a major television showrunner who had the craft-service person whip up, at the end of a long shoot, a mini chocolate soufflé. As they were shooting pickup shots and retakes, the showrunner would sit in a director’s chair, face and lips smeared with gooey chocolate, staring slack-jawed and glassy-eyed at the monitors. “They’re just mini soufflés,” he would say, as if that somehow made it less elaborate. But the truth was, they weren’t mini at all. They were served in one-quart ramekins with a double-big spoon. Like a big chocolate pacifier.

So when New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he was thinking about banning, within the city limits, large sugary drinks — you know what I’m talking about, right? those giant sodas people cart around? with the tapered bottoms (because the cups are too huge to fit into a normal car-seat cup-holder) and those super-wide straws? — people naturally reacted with unhappy surprise.

We like our fat cups of sugar and fizz. It’s a little lift in an otherwise stressful day to step up to the fill-’er-up dispenser and get yourself a tankard of Type 2 Diabetes. And we know that this is just the beginning. It’s a sticky slope: From sodas we’ll get to french fries, and then to pretty much every large-sized carbohydrate ever invented, until we’re all walking around in sour moods with tripwire tempers wondering how to get through the day on carrot sticks and fair-trade iced tea.

June 25, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, No. 12

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Michael Knox Beran reviews Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss.
  • Joseph Postell reviews It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein.
  • Amir Taheri reviews Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup, by Christopher de Bellaigue.
  • Claire Berlinski reviews How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), by David P. Goldman.
  • Ryan T. Anderson reviews Natural Law and the Antislavery Constitutional Tradition, by Justin Buckley Dyer.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .