Thursday, September 18, 2014

Doughnuts and big dough: Edward Jones' new TV ad whets varied appetites


It's magic: You eat it up (so trustingly!) and Edward Jones gets fatter.
    Financial services firm Edward Jones is at it again, cultivating its "neighbors helping neighbors"  persona in a new TV ad that is being aggressively aired across the country. In it, a tenderhearted financial advisor accommodates a young couple's schedule by venturing out into the darkness to meet with them at his modest storefront office in a neighborhood strip mall. He is a lonely, noble figure as he earnestly heads along deserted streets toward his destination. As if he isn't adorable enough already, he stops first at a doughnut shop, to sweeten the dealings he'll be proposing to ensure that his wide-eyed clients' financial future is secure and prosperous. (http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7fBb/edward-jones-early-meeting.) 
    His own future certainly is, if he follows the script handed down from headquarters. And Edward Jones itself is still thriving, despite having been censured by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to disclose kickbacks from selected mutual funds. Several class-action suits involved hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for angry clients. The firm became notorious for hidden fees and exorbitant commissions. For a couple of years, it backed off , using simple, generic advertising. Now it's reclaimed its former mythology, once again projecting that "It's a Wonderful Life" image. Maybe the Johnny Appleseed ambiance will warm hearts and forge trust once again.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

You're full of it, lady

Are you a woman, or a luscious, silken, fragrant heap of toxic chemicals?


Scientists say women use hundreds of chemicals on their bodies daily.

    Blueberry fingers and cantaloupe toes. How could I have lived so long without longing for, and demanding,  such sweet treats?
    I was flushed with anticipation as I explored a large display of beautifully bottled liquid soaps at Big Lots last month. They were on sale for a dollar. (I later learned that they cost $10 at Kohl's and $5 on Ebay.) Their labels were artful depictions of  Lavender, Peach Mango, Lemon Citrus, Cherry Vanilla and Grapefruit Daisy, among others. The BlueBerry Blossom would look so pretty in my upstairs kitchenette, and the Cucumber Melon was perfect for the color scheme in our main-floor kitchen. I bought one for every sink in our house, and several for my shower stall. I would have a Honeydew Mint bosom and a Lime Banana bum. My days would be a succession of delectable sudsings. 
    Little treats can breathe new life into a routine existence. What a delight to embody the lusciousness of Nature. Kiss me, you fool. Or actually, never mind. I'll kiss myself!
     It wasn't until I'd been using these exquisite products for several days that I idly turned the bottle around, and read the ingredients.
    Oops, I did it again. I got taken in by hype and imagery, which readily shut down the part of my brain that knew the truth. These products were a shocking brew of creepy chemicals, which can zoom straight through your pores into your bloodstream. It wasn't a "simple pleasure" -- it was a complex poison.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

SHOCK TREATMENTS: Can off-the-shelf brain zappers improve your life?

    More to the point, could they enhance your gaming awesomeness?
 
Your brain is not a plaything, you crazy, reckless young lady!
     Oh great: Cool, clever marketers are using data about transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) -- which passes small electrical currents directly onto the scalp and theoretically stimulates the nerve cells in the brain -- to entice gamers, and whomever else they can think of, to buy their cute, futuristic-looking gadgets ((http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27343047).
    Since they are not making medical claims (in their opinion, anyway), the are not subject to regulatory oversight. One of their ads exclaims:  "Can you learn 20-40 percent quicker, reduce pain, feel better, increase energy or reduce stress with tDCS? Research studies say, YES!" (Don't these sound like medical claims to you?) Studies also indicate you could mess up your precious, incredibly complex and beautiful minds, you fools!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Thrift Shop: It's not just a song -- it's a scandal

SAVERS STORES: Tricking donors, treating themselves, screwing charities
Cloaked in fuzzy deception, and leaping all the way to the bank.
    Being a cynic is a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. Otherwise, we'd never find out the truth about anything.
    I was cynical the moment I heard a public service announcement about the new Savers thrift shop in our area. "Dedicated to supporting our community's nonprofit organizations," our local NPR affiliate declared.
    "Go shopping, and help others at the same time!" another ad said enticingly.
    "Proceeds go to Big Brothers Big Sisters!" a new TV commercial claims, tugging at those proverbial heartstrings. What a wonderful rationale for a buying spree!
    My first question was: Is Savers itself a nonprofit? The answer is NO. It is "a U.S.-based multinational profit-making conglomerate" with more than 350 stores in three countries.
     My second question was: How much of its $1.5 billion annual revenue goes to the charities it claims to benefit? The answer is: None of your business.  Savers has always refused to  disclose its outlays to the nonprofits whose names it uses to attract both donors and shoppers (and the charities flatly refuse to discuss the matter as well). I found estimates ranging from three percent to 10 percent. Savers earns more in one year than it donates every 10 years, according to documents regarding its second recapitalization.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Warhol never gave me my 15 minutes, but I got a story to last a lifetime

How my first college newspaper article opened the door to a world of
"rampant drug use, orgiastic sex and unchecked egotism." Everyone should be so lucky!

Andy Warhol with Ultra Violet, in 1968 -- the year I met her.
This 2013 photo did nothing to alter my misperception that she was a man in drag.

    It was ironic that the imposing, glossy-lipped Ultra Violet appraised me coolly and then dubbed me "Missy Mormon." Almost everyone in New York asked me if I was a Mormon, since I grew up in Salt Lake City, but no one had ever assigned me to be one. During my surrealistic afternoon at Andy Warhol's Factory in the summer of '68, several of the flamboyant characters I met gave me nicknames (and fashion advice), but I was the antithesis -- deliberately -- of a Mormon girl. The real irony, though, (which I just learned when Ultra Violet died a couple of weeks ago at age 78) is that she herself became a Mormon just 12 years after she teased me about my rosy-cheeked, Goody-Two Shoes image. According to the New York Times obit, she ultimately rejected "the rampant drug use, orgiastic sex and unchecked egotism" at the Factory.
   When I was there, The Gang was still shakily recovering from the drugs and sex the night before, so I remained reasonably pure, but I got to see lots of egotism, and it was quite entertaining.
    Another irony is that I assumed Ultra Violet was a drag queen until I read her death notice. I was completely taken aback to learn that she was a woman, through and through. I am so confused. I guess you could say she was a woman dressed like a man who is impersonating a woman. What other bizarro world shenanigans did I fail to detect?  Were there other women I mistook for men in drag? I'll get to that later. It was a mishmash, to say the least. Maybe the whole scene was performance art, designed to mess with my head. But it didn't -- I just had fun.

Friday, May 16, 2014

This Magic Moment


It took me by surprise.
      I am coming to realize that I am in the midst of a Magic Moment: A tipping point between youth and old age. I am still young in so many ways -- in how I feel and behave, and in my tastes, energies and attitudes. By most measures, though, I will soon be a senior citizen. I am stunned by this. Every time I think about it, I am stunned all over again.
    In a couple of weeks, I will be 65 years old. This moment is magic because I have all the considerable benefits of age, but I am not yet impaired by it. I am enjoying a "sweet spot" -- an interlude in which I have the best of both worlds. I am ever-mindful that it can't last. My sense of triumph, and even joy, will probably seem like naive hubris before long.  Most of us go downhill as elderliness creeps in and takes over, and I can already sense that I will not be one of those lucky ones who remains vigorous, sharp and competent into my later years. I'm getting arthritis everywhere, although so far I'm able brazenly to ignore the pain, push right through it, and do everything I always have. Ha, ha, you bastard! I do seem to be falling down for no reason, but I just laugh (after lying there for a while) and theorize that my bruises and sore muscles will upstage the arthritis. Ha, ha, again, you bastard! I can sense the specter of Alzheimer's leering inside my head. I leer back. Because right now, in many respects, I am the best I've ever been.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Big Data: Is it Artificial Intelligence or Authentic Stupidity?

I didn't like a State Fair oil painting, so I became an enemy of Big Oil. Wow! That's astute!

  
    It's chilling, and quite entertaining, to see firsthand how the Big Data process is manifested. Just for fun, maybe you should Google yourself and find out if a grandiloquent, power-mad computer mastermind named Kalev Leetaru has created detailed profiles about you yet. If not, just wait awhile.
    He has posted several delightfully inaccurate web pages ABOUT ME, and the extent to which I pose a threat to Big Oil (and other energy giants) even though all I ever do is sit here quietly, hating Big Oil and other murderers of the environment. He claims I am "associated" with the Dalai Lama, Anderson Cooper, and Beyonce. I love that!
    He swears his analysis of more than 10 billion people, places, things, and activities -- connected by over 100 trillion relationships -- enabled him to predict the "Arab Spring," as well as where Osama bin Laden would be found. So I bet he knows where you are! Like hundreds of profit-crazed data-collectors, he intends to learn everything about everybody, so he can forecast the future for his clients. But it only took me two days to reverse-engineer his algorithm and find the fatal flaw in his surreptitious machinations.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Diary of a Mad Vaper


A colorful, sometimes slightly grotesque, new cultural phenomenon.
    I dove into the delicious waters of the e-cigarette tsunami as a journalistic endeavor, and unexpectedly became a participant, not merely a detached,  note-taking observer. Oh, those tasty treats!
    Like everything I do, I did it to death -- and now I'm through. But it was a great ride. I briefly became a breakout starlet on Spinfuel magazine's news blog, as my stories reached number ten, seven, four and one, out of hundreds of fine articles. I kind of felt like a spokesmodel  -- quite a thrill at my age -- although I wish I could have been spotlighting animal rights, class warfare or ongoing racial discrimination, rather than the charming but relatively trivial "art of vaping." In any case, it was an excellent adventure. It remains for me a provocative topic on many levels: cultural, political, scientific, technological and entrepreneurial.
    The media will be covering the e-cigarette issue relentlessly for the foreseeable future. Lots of people have opinions, some of them reasonable.
    I have removed all but two of my posts from this page and collected them in the tab above: http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/p/the-e.html.
   

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Beggar Wears Prada (or Why I Stopped Giving to National Public Radio)

Get ready to change the channel -- it's almost time for NPR's Spring Pledge Drive!
(Be sure to get the "officially sanctioned" Carl Kasell doll as a thank-you gift!)
The Devil is in the details.

  (Oct. 8, 2013) The twice yearly public radio pledge drive is finally over. Thank god. If you listen to those fools pleading, cajoling, making "rational" appeals and glorifying their role in your life long enough, it can make you physically ill. Switch to a rock station and listen to Eminem's "Berzerk." It'll drive you less crazy.
    But if craziness is your thing, consider this: Just weeks before NPR's nationwide panhandling fest began, its seventh CEO in seven years announced that he was leaving his $700,000 a year job for one that pays $2 million. The staff was "stunned." They feel OK about making only several hundred thousand dollars a year.
    I don't feel OK about bankrolling these vain, elitist, self-important people, who have ensconced themselves squarely in the top One Percent. They expect the rest of us, who earn far less and don't likely have  rewarding, prestigious jobs, to pay for their fancy-pants lifestyles. That's not my kind of charity.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Your crime: dementia. Your sentence: solitary confinement

This should be our next civil-rights battleground
Don't feel bad. He doesn't even know he exists.
    Do you ever envision yourself as old and alone? Can you imagine that you -- that active, attractive, sociable you -- might someday essentially be a prisoner in an institution that runs your life? And that nobody will care -- you will be forgotten?
    Maybe your memory and your volition will have deteriorated, but you will still be you. No one seems to realize that. Each day at the nursing home, you get washed off, spoon fed, strapped into a wheelchair, and abandoned in your darkened room. Deeper and deeper you sink, into inconsequentiality.
    You grow pale and gaunt. Your eyes are increasingly haunted. You will be here until you die. Someone needs to be shouting: "WAIT A MINUTE ! THERE'S A PERSON HERE!"

Monday, March 3, 2014

The rambunctiously rich rewards of the "Thrift Shop" lifestyle


The thrill of the hunt is part of the Thrift Shop experience.
Macklemore bagged a luxurious beauty, if you don't mind animal slaughter.
    Watching the video for the Grammy-winning "Thrift Shop" was like viewing a rousing, witty tribute to my 95-year-old mother, and to the values she instilled in me in the 1950s. I have been plowing through stuff that others have discarded all my life. I have found countless treasures amid the trash. I left plenty for you.
    In today's frantic, acquisitive consumer culture, my Mama's motto is more relevant than ever: Living well, on almost no money, is the best revenge. Looking hip and strikingly original in an outfit that you "curated," using items that cost you between 49 cents and five dollars, is very rewarding.
    Just as the Grammys were being handed out, New York was gearing up for Fashion Week. Did anyone else notice how many of those designer geniuses flagrantly plagiarized Thrift Shop chic in their collections?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Great White Hoax: E-cigarettes are delicious, but they don't deliver nicotine

Puff the "Magic" Draggin'
The power of blissful, wishful thinking.
   I love e-cigarettes. They're fun. They're beautiful. They're tasty! They offer comfort and relaxation.
   Opponents argue that they perpetuate addiction to nicotine -- even though they are vastly safer than tobacco cigarettes -- and that their exuberant, stylish marketing campaigns will create a whole new generation of nicotine addicts.
    But they -- and those who see e-cigs as a smoking-cessation aid -- have been the victims of a Great, Billowing White Hoax. That fragrant vapor -- from cartridges which can contain nicotine levels as high as 24 mg -- actually transmits virtually no nicotine to the bloodstream. Yet they are helping millions to quit. Cool!
    E-cigarettes, my review of the scientific literature suggests, are, generally speaking, a placebo. Users believe they are getting their "drug," but in fact they are engaging in an habitual behavior, and enjoying its sensual rewards. These hip, colorful, good-enough-to-eat products deliver "minimal or no nicotine."
    Is this a scandal, a killer blow to a dynamic new industry, or delightful news about our "need" for a "fix"?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Nursing-Home Netherworld: Putrefaction, pain and poop

Disturbing news: Medicare's 5-star rating system, used to help the public find the best-quality nursing homes, has been ruthlessly and effectively "gamed" by the institutions since it was introduced in 2009, a New York Times investigation finds. The Medicare ratings, which have become the gold standard across the industry, are based in large part on self-reported data by the nursing homes that the government does not verify. Nursing homes with appalling safety records, abuse complaints, sanitation violations and understaffing have been given top ratings. Even so, Medicare plans to introduce similar five-star rating systems for hospitals, dialysis centers and home-health-care agencies this year (www.nytimes.com/2014/08/25/business/medicare-star-ratings-allow-nursing-homes-to-game-the-system.html).
Let's face it: Most of us will wind up here, for weeks, months or forever.

      I wretched. I couldn't help it. I wretched again. David, I'm sorry! He had asked me to remove his diaper and clean up the mess in his nursing-home bed. Feces extended from his mid-back, down his buttocks, to his knees. It was still  pouring out and piling up, surge after steaming surge of porridge-textured poop. It was a nightmare, like "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."
     "Don't call anyone," David said. "I think they're mad that I keep doing this."
    I was up to my wrists in it, but it was all so slippery, and he is so massive, that I couldn't get the soiled diaper or drenched mattress protector moved, in order to wash him.
      I said, "David, I'll be right back."
      Then I went into the bathroom and vomited. I puked my brains out, but I did it quietly. I felt ashamed, but there was no holding it back. Five-star nursing homes can do that to you.

Your purgatory awaits you, Cream of Wheat included

        Say goodbye to everything you know. If you have dementia, it's over.
 
         (June, 2012) Each day when I come to visit the nursing home, there is a massive, bloated young man in the lobby who is strapped to his semi-reclined wheelchair, and who writhes and flails constantly, his head thrown back and his eyes seeming to roll in different directions. I am told that most of his brain was destroyed in a car accident, and he has been classified as "unresponsive." As one nurse puts it, "There's nothing upstairs but drool." He has what the insiders call "blunt force dementia," she says. Even so, I don't feel right just ignoring him.
        So finally, I stop. I lean over and whisper, "Good morning. Do you mind if I touch you?" I put my hand on his shoulder. I think I sense a slight relaxation in him, but I'm not sure. I gently place my hand on his cheek. "Ahhhhhhh!" he cries loudly. "Ohhhhhh!" I take his hand, which is curved around in that cerebral-palsy way, and hold it. He is laughing.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Eve with "The Filthy Boys"

He looked pretty darned clean to me.

    I was just about to knock on the door to Apartment 1B when I heard a terrible sob.
    "Please don't -- not again!" a young man cried.
    Then I heard a whack. And another one.
    "I'm sorry I was bad! I'll do anything you say," the trembling voice pleaded.
    Then another voice -- this one harsh and cold -- shouted, "Shut up, or I'll put the gag back in, you worthless piece of shit. Give me those ropes. Hands behind your back. Now bend over."
   "Oh God, not the whip again, Daddy. I can't bear it." There was a struggling sound. "Not the whip!"
    I had forgotten to breathe. My hand was still frozen in knocking mode. What should I do? I was concerned. I was scared. And, frankly, I was curious. So I did knock, as if I were a pert and determined Avon lady.
    The two guys were flushed, breathless, smiling. One wore a diaper, the other a scanty, black leather outfit. "May I borrow a corkscrew?" Couldn't I have avoided saying "screw" somehow? "Come in!" they replied.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

StoryCorps' predictable plot



Here we go again: A charming upstart becomes an insatiable Fat Cat.
                                                             "Fat Cat" 2010 by ira upin
    (Oct. 30, 2013) During this past month, StoryCorps -- a favorite feature on NPR -- celebrated its 10th anniversary. Its founding premise was simple: Put two friends or relatives into a cozy, private booth -- along with a microphone and a box of Kleenex -- and magic will happen.
    Magic did happen, according to series creator and CEO David Avram Isay, as tens of thousands of ordinary people experienced an extraordinary emotional intimacy, thanks to this modest format.
    The real magic, though, was in the bank account. Astonishingly, StoryCorps has evolved into a $10 million a year enterprise, with 140 employees. Your tax dollars make up a third of the budget, and foundations pay most of the rest. So how does Isay manage to blow 11.4 percent of the budget on his full-time fund-raising?
    In many respects, StoryCorps -- which portrays itself as a unique medium of heartfelt Truth -- has become an elaborate fiction. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Elderly Girl's secret passageway to the role of Global Icon


(Soon to be a major motion picture? The first option expired, but they've bought another.)
         Can you imagine frolicking with your sisters through the endless rooms, secret passageways and tropical underworld of this neo-Byzantine castle? Can you imagine wearing anything you wanted from any of the cool boutiques inside? Isn't it like every little girl's dream come true? You may think it helps explain Elderly Girl's confidence, her splendor, her sense of freedom, style and beauty. But the truth is much more complicated.
    Elderly Girl was conceived, born and lived in the Kronstantinople Bazaar, the most splendid mall on Earth. It's hard to believe, but she was a rather stupid child. Her three big sisters were brilliant and brave -- true originals. So why was it she who became a Planetary Phenomenon? It's an epic tale that will captivate the human race forever. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Regarding Alzheimer's: Let's blow Big Pharma's mind, and expand our own


I can see for miles and miles.
                                                                               by Alphacoder
       (June 6) Despite billions in taxpayer dollars, pharmaceutical companies have failed spectacularly to provide any real hope to the millions among us who suffer from Alzheimer's and other dementias. Their best efforts have not only been ineffective -- they have also come, of course, with terrible side-effects and outrageous price tags. 
    Screw them! We don't need them! Remedies that enrich and enliven the brain have been out there for thousands of years. But Big Pharma isn't interested in these liberating substances, because they can't be patented.
    Among other strategies in our war on Alzheimer's, we should investigate the use of  MIND-EXPANDING DRUGS in order to defeat a MIND-SHRINKING DISEASE. Does this not make perfect sense?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A final act of love: Slamming the door on Morticia

A dignified, loving farewell, no morticians or toxic chemicals required.
    Our mothers cared for us from the moment we were born, attending to our needs in countless ways. We emerged from their bodies, and that intimacy was never eradicated by time or distance. They devoted themselves to nurturing, protecting and supporting us. They would have died to save our lives.
    So when a mother -- or any loved one -- dies, how should we feel about having his or her body briskly zipped into a plastic bag and whisked off to one of those dungeons known as mortuaries, to be stripped naked, and then (among other indignities) punctured, clamped, drained, and glutted with chemicals?
    We do have options. We can keep our loved one with us, at home, and take care of the body ourselves, in one final act of love. There are networks all over the country that can help us through this process. Not everyone would want to do it, of course, and even among those who wish they could, it might be too complex and traumatizing during a time of grief. But for those who are able to cope, it can provide the rewarding sense that you bestowed upon your beloved the warm, all-embracing farewell that was so well-deserved. -- rather than one that was sterile, lonely, cold and invasive. 
(This article also includes info on intriguing alternatives to burial and cremation.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Our future: Everything in modulation

 Don't worry. Be happy.

  In a recent post, I documented the desperate -- even ruthless -- effort to gain acceptance of vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of depression. The medical-device industry is investing millions in order to reap billions in the burgeoning field of neuromodulation. But if you're not depressed: "Don't worry. Be happy!" Before long, they'll be peddling something that may change your life, too. Your brain is their playground.
  If you have any of these conditions (among others), just be patient. The finest minds in science are at work as we speak: Anxiety, sleep apnea, depression, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, stroke, Tourette's syndrome, addiction, "phantom pain," obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson's and other movement disorders, obesity, tinnitus, incontinence, PTSD,  fibromyalgia, hearing loss, bladder dysfunction, migraine, IBS, asthma, eating disorders, chronic pain, heart disease, systemic inflammation, and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. They will also perk up your memory and cognition. All you'll feel is a little tingle.
  But the more you know about the industry, the more uneasy you'll feel about them messing with your mind. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What happens in my Vagus stays in my Vagus

Get away from my neck, you medical-device vampires!

    A highly unpleasant spotlight, which turned me into a Vagus showgirl for five years, has finally been turned off. I just completed a Cyberonics, Inc., clinical trial of the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, to assess its effectiveness in helping those who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. It was a ridiculous, scandalous experience.
    I don't trust Big Pharma, and I don't trust the multibillion-dollar medical device industry. My cynicism was vindicated by the bizarre combination of incompetence and ruthlessness that characterized this study.
    In trial after trial, this device has shown itself to have extremely limited value. But Cyberonics (which sounds like a sci-fi cabal that unleashes evil robots), is determined to keep trying until it wears down its opponents and qualifies for reimbursement, so it can achieve its dream: a fabulous financial windfall. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The E-Cigarette Seduction: Are We Blowing It?

Coming soon: A sobering look at safety. Research findings are being suppressed.
E-cigarettes are fun and flirty, hip and tasty! They're diabolical!

    After having smoked since high school, I finally gave it up 10 years ago. I broke the habit. I was free. I was sad that I had to give up this comfort, but I was gratified that I had moved on.
    Enter e-cigarettes. The moment I first saw someone on TV exhaling a cloud of vapor, a little devil in my brain (or maybe it was an angel who felt deprived of simple pleasures) cried out, "Oh boy!"
    Was it really possible that I could smoke again? I still missed it. Not inhaling actual smoke, which I now found disgusting. But here was this substitute that would allow me once again to enjoy the languid pleasure of taking in and releasing a fragrant and tasty breeze. Smoking is so relaxing! I felt uneasy but excited.
    I bought a starter kit of a simple, generic style (Fin). They'd sneaked some vanilla into the menthol, which seemed kind of presumptuous. But when I fired up that first cartridge and took a deep draw, and blew it out my lips and nostrils, I was immediately in a billowy Heaven. It was the most enjoyable smoke of my life.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Restroom gig: A process of elimination

This is part two of a two-part series
Part One is "The black gentlewoman in the marble dungeon."
 It's "potty time" at the disco, y'all!"

    "Do you think I'd be doing this crap job if I could find anything else?" the young lady at a local dance club exclaimed. She was pretty, with magenta streaks in her glossy dark hair. The vest of her neon pink uniform had the unconvincing motto, "Flushed with Pride," embroidered in silver above her breast. She was the present-day incarnation of the "powder room" attendant. Unlike her predecessors from a more refined era, who gracefully presided over elegant accommodations and served "the upper crust," today's "loo" lieutenants must cope with drunkenness, drug use, vomit, sex in the toilet stalls, feces in the urinals, and disdainful patrons, as they attempt to eke out a living in the nation's hip, jam-packed bars, trendy eateries, and throbbing, rowdy dance clubs.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Howler breaks free, and screams into the wild


This is Part Two of "Going Down, Please"
Hiding in plain sight is a sexy art form indeed.  / by Salvador Dali
     I've been having all kinds of crazy, pointless fantasies about what I might do that would distract me from wanting to die, since I'm such a baby about suicide. ("Just say yes!" Nancy Reagan is shrieking.)
     It has occurred to me of late that if I were on the lam, I might regain my will to live. I haven't been pursued in a while. Maybe the titillation of being featured glamorously on "WANTED" posters would distract me from my morbidity. Interpol agents would be competing relentlessly to capture and subdue me. It would require all of my wits and dramatic talents to evade them. Wouldn't it be fun to leave behind taunting evidence -- a citrus-mint-scented handkerchief, an empty absinthe bottle, a note from Julian Assange offering financial support, a Deviant Art magazine -- which proved that they had just missed me? Ha, ha!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Going Down, Please

A FAREWELL FANTASY FROM A TIRED, SAD IMPOSTOR
Part One of a Two-Part Memoir

      "You will make a wonderful secretary," my junior high school guidance counselor told me, after we all took standardized vocational aptitude tests in the mid-1960s. "Your clerical speed and accuracy are the best we've ever recorded. Plus: You're a smart dresser."
     I was incredulous. My plan had been to become the Paris-based correspondent for NBC's  Huntley-Brinkley newscast.  I was both furious and hurt. Oddly enough, the thought that maybe I could become an elevator operator at a local department store called "The Paris" lifted my spirits. Up and down, in and out, back and forth -- it seemed suited to my psychic swings, which had already become a foreboding aspect of my character. "Going down, please," I practiced, aiming at a modulated resonance. I'd have to be a real Renaissance elevator operator though -- I was raised  that way. I could unsettle my captive audience by reciting disturbing literary passages --  from Poe, for example. Pits, you guys! Pendulums!
    I always thought that if Poe were alive, maybe the two of us could shack up. In a menage, with Salvador Dali. We'd live in a spooky mansion, and we'd play out our bizarenesses together like it was jazz improvisation. Cool! And we'd love each other for what we were, ain't that right Edgar? Evermore!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lupus: A Rash Quest for the Truth


An Andy Warhol-inspired depiction of my Fiery Flare.
       In spite of all the dire warnings I received from doctors, I refused  to take the medications that were prescribed for me after my diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. My decision to do the best I could to take care of myself was quite liberating, and I was at peace with it (most of the time).
    I have become more convinced that probiotics are helping me, and I have found medical evidence that supports my inadvertent discovery. I will elaborate below. I believe I am also benefiting from the supplements black currant oil, oil of oregano and Omega-3s, for which there are persuasive scientific explanations.
    I endured a florid, unsightly and uncomfortable rash under my eyes for nine months, starting in May 2010. Like so many of you who have responded to my original post, "A Lupus Mystery" (which I've reprinted at the bottom of this one), I have no idea how sick I am or how sick I may become.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Elderly Girl's lusty Dad conquered everything, until he met the fiery Islamina

 Daddy was from a swashbuckling, hard-fighting, hard-drinking breed of Cossacks.
His story will be part of the planned movie based on "Elderly Girl's Secret Passageway."

      The genesis of the Kronstantinople Bazaar is unquestionably one of the great mysteries of American history. Actually, it is one of the very few authentic mysteries that even exists in this coarse, materialistic,  literal country, which has such a short and stupid memory. There is no magic here! SUVs and greasy bags of "fast food," dumbed-down TV and sports. There is no wonderment, no nuance. There is no soulfulness, except among our beautiful black people.  
     You go to other countries, you will find depth and passion, conviction and pride, even among the simplest peasants. Each of them actually has a philosophy! They know their place in this throbbing universe, and it gives their lives a humble majesty that few Americans can even comprehend. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

IMPATIENT: Just give me the stethoscope, and get out of here

Since you're all so busy
I'll take care of MYSELF!

  Under today's greed-driven, production-line health-care system, doctors apparently don't have time to take care of patients properly. I have the time, and I have the Internet. I want to be the Doctor In Charge of Me. If I screw up, that's my problem. But I really think things are already about as screwed up as they can get.    
    Medical care has become a numbingly impersonal, sloppily organized, hugely bureaucratized, scarily negligent, and thoroughly exhausting process.
    I understand that most people are too busy to take charge of their own care, and the majority wouldn't want to, anyway. But I am tired of feeling like a slab of diseased meat on a factory-farm conveyor belt. I want to be cured --  at least as cured as cured meat! -- and I want the right to do it my way.

Friday, March 15, 2013

An Appointment with Disappointment


Part Three of "Impatient"
    (april 14, 2013) How do people who are really sick -- who hurt, who are weak and dizzy, who are feverish and nauseated -- manage to survive the arduous process of getting help in today's vast, dread-inducing health-care monstrosity?
      It is a test of endurance that really ought to be reserved for those of us who are flushed with robust vitality. We need to march in there, and confront a doctor, and say: This system is terminally ill!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Doctor Who? Doctor You!

This is Part Two of "Impatient," above.
  
It's not a stretch to assert that your body is YOUR wonderland.
     It's time we had a "patient liberation movement." Become your own #1 best doctor! Those who are well informed should be granted greater latitude in taking charge of their own health care. But even now, there is much you can do to avoid or minimize your entanglement in the bloated, exasperating, often pointless Dictatorship of the Medical Elite. You can save time and money, but more importantly, you won't feel so helpless, angry and confused, if you become the Boss of Your Own Body. It's exhilarating!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dr. Dreamy Does a Bedroom Scene

New info: More data indicating that meniscus surgery is worthless.
My doctor is dreamier: He does bedroom surgery.
     When I told the secretary on the phone that I wished the orthopedist could come to my house and do my knee operation while I was in my own bed, she didn't react. She just said, "We'll see you at the surgical center first thing in the morning."
     I went to sleep with a knot in my stomach. Going out into the world overwhelms me. Going out into the medical world is worst of all. Heaps of forms to fill out, interminable waiting. And the legitimate fear that my knee will never be the same.
    I was awakened when all of my bedroom lights came on. Standing around me were the surgeon, smiling broadly, his PA, an anesthesiologist and two nurses. My dear Joe stood there shaking his head, as usual, at what I am able to get away with.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Boy's Club: How Men Ruin Everything


    (7/6/11) Back in those golden days of yesteryear, universities had this very quaint and charming notion that their purpose was to fill the minds of young people with knowledge. They provided a brief refuge from the tumult of the everyday world, so students could acquire an intellectual foundation that would enlighten the rest of their lives.
    Somebody has really, REALLY messed things up, and I think you know who you are, gentlemen.
    My solution is draconian -- even perverse -- but drastic measures are justified.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Global Panel Selects Elderly Girl to be "The First Immortal"

"Fountain of Eternal Life" by Marshall Fredericks.
    Every couple of years, Elderly Girl is awakened from her luxuriant slumber by a 3:30 a.m. phone call. Her wavy hair gleams, her cheeks are adorably rosy, but in her eyes there is exasperation. It must be Stockholm ringing again to announce that she's won the Nobel Peace Prize. Please, people! Elderly Girl has been rousted by these annoying intrusions about 40 times in the past 85 years. Every time, she has politely declined. She doesn't like prizes. She resents them. She rejects them! They're trinkets that cheapen one's accomplishments and taint one's motivations. Her wish is to solve problems, not to be celebrated. She was preparing to say "NO THANK YOU!"  yet again, until a gentleman with an East European accent told her she had been selected to be "The First Immortal."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Model Intentions: I Got Duped, You Got Screwed


I don't have a photo of Punky, but this looks
 very much as she did in 1968 -- sweet and beautiful.
Dear Punky Fortune:
    I have wondered for so many years how things turned out for you, and even if you’re still alive. Long after I’d moved to New York, I heard that your pimp almost beat you to death. I heard about the heroin. I heard that you’d had two kids before you were 20.
    I think you must know that whatever role I played in what happened to you was unwitting. I hope you realized that I was there with the purest of intentions. Decades later, the betrayal that affected all of us, but which victimized you and your girlfriends in unspeakable ways, still makes me ill. I am so sorry.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

HEARTLESS

If your pacemaker or defibrillator attacks you, that's too bad!
     Her beloved husband of more than 50 years had a defibrillator implanted in his chest to save his life if his heart stopped beating. Instead, the ultra-sophisticated device killed him. He was feeling pretty good until it malfunctioned, zapping him with 1,400 volts through the right ventricle. He cried out, falling onto the couch. As his wife ran toward him, it surged through him again. She took him in her arms. A third massive jolt slammed him.
   The defibrillator-gone-mad tore into his heart 30 more times, until both he and the battery were dead. The device had gotten so hot, it burned a hole through his chest.
     The multibillion-dollar corporation that made the defibrillator wasn't liable. Firms that make life-sustaining medical devices are exempt from prosecution, thanks to their lobbying finesse. Thousands of people every year are injured, permanently disabled or killed by their products. Sorry about that, but you're on your own. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oh Father, Where Art Thou?


My Dad donated his body to science 28 months ago. I was notified yesterday that that they
 have finally finished with him, and whatever was left  has been cremated. I am glad it's over. My
 "share" is next to my recliner in a handsome box, which I can embrace whenever I wish.


    March, 2010: The part that hurts and haunts me the most is when they tore back his face. I am crying even as I write about it. What did they do with my father's face?
   Daddy!
   He sounded so matter-of-fact when he mentioned several years ago that he would be donating his body to the medical school upon his death. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because it seemed so consistent with his scientific rationality -- he was a chemist -- and his ethical imperative to do the right thing.
    I also paid it little mind because I couldn’t imagine that anything could hurt me more than his death itself. I was wrong.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Teenager Flowers, Plath-style, in the Bell Jar of New York



       The Barbizon Hotel for Women in New York City plays a prominent role in Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar." Her protagonist spends the summer of 1953 in the legendary old monstrosity while struggling through a fashion-magazine internship, just as Plath did. Three years before her iconic, semi-autobiographical novel was published in the U.S., I came to New York for a summer job with a Madison Avenue advertising agency, and I stayed at the 23-story, 700-room Barbizon as well.  I was 18 years old.
    Each night, I hauled my bedspread and pillow up 15 flights of stairs to the roof. I did it for the magic -- for the sheer joy and beauty of lying there, surrounded by glittering skyscrapers and that pulsing urban dynamism that floated up from the street. Imagine having this place you'd always dreamed of, soaring majestically all around you as you slept.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Thanks, Miss Bleeding Heart"



A movie option on this story is pending.
  I had boozed my way through much of the very Deep South -- which truly was a jungle, another country, a bygone era -- conducting interviews of extraordinary young black professionals for the Rockefeller Foundation Journal. It was priceless material, very moving and colorful. I had seen and heard things I knew would surprise and dismay our readers.
    I was exhausted, but I had one last stop, to spend time with a "rising star" of the civil-rights movement. If I had known what my visit would do to his life, much to the delight of the white establishment, I would have headed straight back to New York City.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mad Men, Bad Women: A Summer in the '60s New York Ad World



I Dreamed I Got Some Great Pointers in my Maidenform Bra
     During my freshman year in college, in 1968, I sent a letter to Jane Trahey, who had gained fame as the first woman in the country to own a major advertising agency. I  brashly told her that I was a "goldmine of potential," and requested a summer job.
    I had become intrigued by Jane, an eye-rolling wise-cracker and a cynical curmudgeon.  I felt that I could glean priceless insights about the ad world from her, and that in return, I could cheer her up with my oh-my-gosh enthusiasm. I got the job, and the most memorable summer of my life. But I never did cheer her up. She remained totally exasperated.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Elderly Girl's Hidden Garden of Red Orchids

In your tummy, there is a lush shrine to the bittersweetness of life.

                                                             Painting by Danuta Kania
   As Elderly Girl has informed you dear women before, she insists on having her "time of the month," even though she has been post-menopausal for eons.To be honest, it is pretty much always her time of the month, and, to quote the great soul songstress Ella Fitzgerald, "It Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own."
    She believes it is her biological prerogative to burst into tears, punch holes in walls, lay up all day with the covers over her head, and walk out on an irritating man, slamming the door behind her (preferably after throwing a drink in his face). Then she screeches off in her yellow convertible Miata. To quote the great blues songstress Billie Holiday, "Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do."

Monday, February 20, 2012

"The Absolute Rulers of Society's Garbage Can"


THE WARDENS of RIKERS ISLAND
Warden Theodore West, in his crisp beige summer suit, strides through the noisy clusters of black and brown bodies like a British gentleman appraising his safari staff. He knows well that the natives are dangerous, perpetually angry, but it would only inflame them to show concern. So he glides through them, pointedly defenseless, eyes straight ahead—aloof, casual, immaculate—amid their defiant and rumpled chaos. He and his fellow wardens, he tells me, are "the absolute rulers of society's garbage can."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jogging Jubilation: Don't give up your 2012 resolution

     I jog through the decades of my life as I move from one radio station to another, and I know so many lyrics -- along with every lilt, moan, growl and scream -- that I wonder how my brain has room in it for anything else. I get a special thrill when I jog to music from my high school and college years, because I know I lacked the physical strength and endurance back then to do this for five minutes, and now -- at the age of 62 -- I hurtle through the air for 90 minutes every morning. If you give exercise a chance, it will truly change you and how you regard yourself. You will feel like the gorgeous, fearless Queen of the Jungle!
    It's beautiful. It's life on a different plane. But every new person who appeared on my running route at the start of 2012, obviously having made a New Year's resolution, has given up already. Don't do that -- try again! Start out easy. You can do it. Before long, it will be a joy, not a chore.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Delilah Paradox: Elderly Girl Takes It All Off


    "Don't cry, Mama, it will grow back in no time," Elderly Girl says, holding her ever-tinier old mother in her arms. God, that woman's tears can rip you to shreds. Elderly Girl does not enjoy having to be maternal. It gets in the way of her lust for drama.
   As most of you are are aware, Elderly Girl had perhaps the most beautiful and celebrated hair on Earth. Even so, the urge to liberate herself from it has stalked her for decades. It was a complex impulse -- Elderly Girl's favorite kind. Now that she has succumbed, she has been Born Again. Her radiance is positively blinding.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's with the Generalissimo: on the rocks, with a twist

     Harris called me "flat ass." I took it as a compliment, even though it was intended as a playful insult. I was glad he didn't flirt with me. I wanted a father figure, and that's what he became.
    He was also a mystery. What, exactly, did he do in our office, anyway? He strode around in full military regalia, covered with ribbons and medals.What was up with that? Our young staff  regarded this middle-aged black man as a lovable, blustery eccentric who lived in a dream world. On New Year's Eve, I would discover just how neurotically grandiose he apparently was. And when he died, I would finally learn the real truth.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What was I thinking? Christmas Eve with a Statue

    When I moved to New York City, people were friendly, garrulous and charmingly meddlesome on the street or in the neighborhood shops. Subway protocol, I quickly intuited, was entirely different: If you didn't want to be accosted, humiliated, assaulted or propositioned, you kept your head down and your eyes to yourself.
    But when I stumbled and sort of crashed my way into a train headed uptown on Christmas Eve day -- carrying a five-by-nine foot cardboard-backed photo of The Thinker -- a consensus seemed to materialize pretty fast among the other passengers: The rules should be temporarily suspended.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Penthouse Life: I was ambivalent about the view 'down below'

Publisher Bob Guccione died one year ago today.
For some real stimulation, try reading the articles.

    (11/26/11) New York was a place where magic happened all around me. One day, I was walking along Madison Avenue, when I passed an idling city bus. On its side was a huge ad, citing all of the writers for Penthouse Magazine who had won Pulitzer prizes, Nobel prizes and National Book Awards. It was a stunning list.
    I walked right over to a pay phone (remember pay phones?) and called the magazine, asking to speak with the editor (remember when you -- a young nobody -- could call out of the blue and get to speak with an editor?). When I told him I had written an article I thought might interest him, he said, "Meet me at the Oak Room bar in fifteen minutes." 
    Thus began an excellent adventure.