Tuesday, March 3, 2015

We like big butts, and we cannot lie


"When a girl walks in with an itty-bitty waist
and a big thing in your face, you get sprung!"
Jennifer Lopez hit rock bottom, and then she rocked it some more.
    Bounteous butts have become the cool new thing in physical attributes in the 23 years since Sir Mix-a-Lot's irresistibly funny, vulgar song -- "Baby Got Back" -- was released. It is quite a turnaround. As recently as a few years ago, a great big ass was viewed as an embarrassment, a sign of low class & laziness, a trigger for snickering and ridicule. Whole exercise programs were dedicated to flattening your posterior into a cute, modest little derriere. Today's exercise programs are devoted to building up that behind into a vast mound of fertile sexuality. If you don't want to work out, just get butt implants, or buy undergarments with soft, proudly protruding, built-in buttocks. There are even "magic creams" that do the job.
    It seems that J Lo started this mass stampede toward robust rumps, although they have been highly prized in the black community pretty much forever.
    J Lo was getting so much attention for her bum that Beyonce recently got jealous and had some nice blossomy implants inserted. That pissed off J Lo, who promptly got even bigger ones for herself.
    And thus began the "arms race" for butts. To what lengths will people go? I guess I shouldn't even use the word "length." That's a whole different subject, and one of my least-favorite.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The head scarf is back "on top" as a global issue

Are U.S. outcries about the hijab legitimate moral outrage, or just our usual hypocritical meddling?
    As radical Islamic violence and incredible barbarism heat up in vast regions of the world, the perennial issue of the head scarf has been reignited. Even in the U.S., the Supreme Court is currently considering whether an employer -- in this case Abercrombie & Fitch -- can refuse to hire a woman who wears a headscarf (www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/us/in-a-case-of-religious-dress-justices-explore-the-obligations-of-employers.html).
    Hundreds of millions of Muslim women do not leave home without wearing a hijab. The West's intolerance of head scarves fails to recognize that while they can embody male dominance and "ownership" of women, they more often serve other purposes, which women freely embrace. We should take a stand against all forms of oppression, whether it be based on gender, religion, race or anything else, and we should oppose it whether it affects men, women or children.  But there are also times when we should mind our own business, and focus on the oppression, inequality and scandalous corruption in our own country. We lack the moral standing to dictate righteousness to others.
    The focus on headscarves has been an unfortunate distraction from the much larger tragedy of human subjugation. It has, to some degree, trivialized the issue. And it has ignored the fact that headscarves, for many, are sensual, glamorous fashion statements.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Is every man a potential pedophile?

Pedophiles R Us   
   
    I'm surprised that everyone keeps being so darn surprised about child sex-abuse convictions against men such as billionaire pedophile and Clinton pal Jerry Epstein, former youth basketball coach Richard Dinizio (sentenced yesterday to 50 years in prison) and all those other "upstanding citizens" in the mold of Jerry Sandusky. It seems that most of these guys, whose crimes are covered in the media practically every day, are widely admired for their decency and effectiveness. They are so devoted, so trusted, so compassionate. They even fund boys' clubs and take disadvantaged kids on overnight camping trips! It's so heartwarming!
    When are we going to stop being "surprised" and learn that pedophiles are not creepy, defective members of a hideous subculture (at least not most of them)? Pedophiles are us. They are our fathers, coaches and neighbors. And that "us" is growing at an alarming rate.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

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

SAVERS STORES: Tricking donors, treating themselves, screwing charities
Cloaked in fuzzy deception, and leaping all the way to the bank, the multimillion-dollar
Savers operation claims to benefit Big Brothers. It does: with a $1,500 donation.
   (7/4/14)

     PRELUDE: When you telephone any of the eight vast, bustling Savers stores in Utah, the phone is answered with a cheery, "Savers Thrift Stores: Supporting our local Big Brothers/Big Sisters!"
    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 have learned that of the millions of dollars these eight stores take in each year, ONLY $1,000 TO $1,500 GOES TO THE HIGHLY REGARDED CHARITY. THE REST IS PROFIT.  Savers is at the bottom of Big Brothers' long list of donors on its web site, many of which gave more than $20,000.
    Big Brothers/Big Sisters (and various other charities in other states) allow themselves to be used as lures to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in donations in exchange for a shockingly paltry return.
    I was skeptical the moment I heard a public service announcement in early 2014 about the new Savers thrift shop in our area, which described itself as a "compassionate" operation, "dedicated to helping one of the most deserving charities in the state."
    "Go shopping, and help underprivileged children at the same time!" a radio ad said enticingly.
    "Give your gently used items to Savers and help those in desperate need," another commercial implored. 
    "Proceeds go to Big Brothers Big Sisters!" a jaunty TV commercial claimed, tugging at those proverbial heartstrings. What a wonderful rationale for a buying spree!
    But it is pure hype, and blatantly misleading.
    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 net 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 one percent to 10 percent. Savers earns more in one year than it donates every 10 years, according to documents regarding its second recapitalization.
 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Transgendering: The Halfback's High Heels

Godspeed to Bruce Jenner on his/her courageous journey


     (May 10, 2011) The platinum blonde explained the situation in hushed, urgent tones -- although the hush was unnecessary. No one else was in the ladies' room.
    Last year, she had taught undergraduate engineering as Ronald. This year, in what struck me as incredible bravery, she had returned as Rhonda.
    "I really, really, really need your help…," she whispered, "…in learning, you know, how to be feminine. I’ve been scouting around for months looking for a mentor. Won’t you please help me?“
    "I'll tell my friends I'm leaving, and then let's get out of here," I said.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oh My God: The Rip-Roaring Rise of the Mods

Guess who's coming to dinner.
Yo, man. I want to marry your daughter. You got a problem with that?
    What explains the surge in recent years of extreme body modification, or Bod Mods? Young people are scarring their skin, driving steel posts and spikes into their faces, slitting their tongues, injecting saline and/or steel balls under their flesh, slashing their ears, covering themselves in vivid, sometimes shocking, tattoos, and piercing whatever little fold of epidermis they can find. Then they attach something sparkly.
     I wish I were so brave.
    They look like crazies or psychopaths or beings from another world, but most of them are just nice young people who have taken possession of their bodies, and made them their own.
    I think it's an intriguing phenomenon, even (or especially) when it's deliberately grotesque.  The notion that your body is your playground, your canvas, your medium of self-expression, is ancient and probably hard-wired, to some extent. I admire and enjoy the color and inventiveness of these wonderfully crazy kids. Why not "play with yourself," and have some fun? Why was my generation satisfied with being so bland? What's caused this current explosion of in-your-face faces?
    We all need self-expression. If I didn't have my blog, I'd probably get some screws in my skull and a switchblade through my nose. If I did, it would be less outrageous than some of the things I've written.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Bessie Dearest: My Miss America was a Royal Pain

National media report today that Bess Meyerson is dead at 90.


It was reported last autumn that Bess had dementia and had been moved to Santa Monica.
      (8/12/11) In the 1950s, I remember reading that every little girl hopes to grow up and become Miss America. Even at the age of eight, I thought this was preposterous. There were lots of things I’d rather be!
    But an odd realization entered my mind when I was in my mid-forties: I will never have children, and I‘ll never be Miss America. Without realizing it, I guess I’d assumed I could do either one if I ever decided I really wanted to. Oh well!
    At least I had the consolation of having worked with a beloved former Miss America. It’s too bad that she was such a "let them eat cake" sort of queen.

Monday, December 29, 2014

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

     (dec. 30, 2012) 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.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

How dubious "charities" break your heart to rip you off

He, and thousands like him, are used as bait by "charities."
Ben Affleck pleads for your money to "help our nation's heroes."

    The music swells and harrowing pictures flow by as TV ads for blown-apart, disfigured, brain-injured war veterans, and trembling, abused, beaten and starved animals flood the airwaves. These are carefully calibrated to move you to tears, and into action. "Just $19 a month," they beg you, or "just 35 cents a day," to alleviate unspeakable suffering. Given how often these ads run, they must have millions of people rushing right to their phones to donate on the spot. It's hard not to -- unless you do your homework. Even knowing as I do that they are exploitative, I can't ignore them. They are profoundly, albeit cynically, poignant. It's almost impossible not to be moved by them, even if you're well-informed.
    The Wounded Warriors Project has mounted a major  campaign on TV in recent weeks to speed up the influx of your hard-earned money. The executive director of this "nonprofit" pays himself more than $600,000 a year, according to its Form 990 tax return, and his deputy about $400,000 a year. Nine other executives haul in between $150,000 and $200,000 a year, plus benefits, pensions and expense accounts. Ben Affleck appears in a new ad for Paralyzed Veterans of America, which spends twice as much money to raise funds (60 percent of its income) as it spends on helping its "heroes."
    Is that where you want your money to go? Especially since billions of your tax dollars are already being devoted to veterans?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My beautiful, so-called "eating disorder"

IN DEFENSE OF 'ORTHOREXIA'


    I was relieved recently to be diagnosed with yet-another psychiatric disorder. It's about time! I've had the same ones for quite a few decades now, and I was beginning to get that "not quite fresh" feeling that we ladies are warned about in those squalid hygiene commercials.
    To make matters worse, I love my "disease," which the doctor called "alarming."
    I am obsessed with eating healthy foods, and only healthy foods. I care more about the virtue of what I eat than the pleasure I receive from eating it. I continue to refine and make more strict my rules for ingestion, although I think I've taken that about as far as it can go. I gladly sacrifice experiences I once enjoyed to eat the food I believe is good for me.. I feel an increased sense of (badly needed) self-esteem because of my well-conceived, conscientious diet, and I reluctantly admit that I disapprove of what most people eat. If I had a social life, my diet would "isolate" me, because I refuse to eat at restaurants anymore, or even at someone's house. If I didn't make it, I don't trust it.   When I am eating the way I am supposed to, I feel a peaceful sense of self control. I would feel guilt or self-loathing if I strayed from my diet, but I never do. I'm not even tempted anymore.
    These factors prove that I have an extreme case of orthorexia, according to "Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating," by Stephen Bratman and David Knight.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Your purgatory awaits you, Cream of Wheat included

        Say goodbye to everything you know. If you have dementia, it's over.
 
        Prelude: In yesterday's New York Times, an article describes how frail, mute, helpless elderly residents of care facilities "come alive" when they are placed in cheerful, home-like surroundings and given freedom, choice and affection. “People who were in wheelchairs are walking again. People who weren’t eating real food are eating again. People who weren’t talking are talking again. People who were losing weight no matter what we did are gaining weight.” well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/15/moving-away-from-nursing-homes/

 (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 14, 2014

Darkness at "Sunrise": The $74,000 a year dementia warehouse

A mind is a terrible thing to neglect, deprecate or manipulate.

There are no hugs from staff (that's against policy) nor are there bright-eyed, stylish, healthy residents in the dementia wards.


    When you step off the elevator onto the fourth floor of Sunrise Senior Living, and you enter the secure “Reminiscence” ward -- where dementia patients are housed -- you might well become overwhelmed with a sense of dread. The first thing you see is a large, semi-dark room – known as “the TV room” -- in which about 25 women sit virtually all day in theater-style rows, with their eyes closed and their heads either hanging down or thrown back. A couple of them gaze vacantly into the distance. There are no interactions between them, and the seating arrangement certainly isn’t conducive, even to eye contact. Is this what the website meant by "individually tailored care"?
    No one is watching “Let’s Make a Deal.” They ignored "The Price is Right" as well. It would be too bad if they were interested: The sound is turned off. These women look gray and dead. They seem unreal, as if they were in Madame Tussauds’ rendition of Zombieville.
    I am sick with grief and guilt as I confront the fact that my mother is moving into this $74,000 a year institution tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2014

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
   (2/28/2012) 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."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wasting away again in our Dementiavilles


This disease needs an extreme makeover of its image.
Dementia testing and dementia facilities need major overhauls as well.
It should be this.................
..................................not this

    I have spent several hours a day for the past six months with people confined in locked dementia wards. I realize that they have a progressive brain impairment, but I fear that we are giving up on them way too readily, which leads to their becoming exactly what we expect: dull, bored, confused, sleepy and complacent. I believe that it is the institutions -- which ignore the "real person" who is still inside that head -- as much as the disease itself, that account for the blank-faced, slack-jawed, sprawled out appearance of these dear people, who are being cruelly warehoused and neglected by multibillion-dollar conglomerates, which own hundreds of facilities in order to profit from "economies of scale."
    We are throwing our loved ones to the wolves. Every day in these dismal surroundings makes them die a little bit more. When you watch as they become helplessly institutionalized, it breaks your heart.
    When I "embedded" myself in Dementiaville, I found that beneath those masks of stupor, sullenness and indifference, there were bright, lively, charming people. Many if not most of them still have beautiful minds, if you just connect with them. In their faces, the sun rises again.
    These concentration camps must be regulated. We are losing thousands of precious human beings, who are plunging deeper and deeper into oblivion.They are prisoners. We need to hatch an escape plot.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Neon Neurochemistry of the Drama Queen


 Are you one of these babes?

    I can hear Gigi's shrill laughter all the way down a long hospital corridor. "You are such a cute doctor!" she cries. "A cute doctor for a cute patient -- that's only fair!"
    I don't want to visit this exhibitionistic, narcissistic drama queen, but I promised her father I would make an appearance every few days while he's out of town.
    "I refuse to eat the food here -- it's like being in Auchwitz or something," she is telling a group of nurses as I approach. "I have my meals delivered from 'The Good Earth.' Beautiful food on the inside makes you beautiful on the outside. Look at me!"
    That's Gigi's implied motto: Look at me.
    I have known a few drama queens over the years, but she is like a caricature of a caricature. As I approach her, I see that she has rejected the hospital gown and is instead wearing a sheer, shocking-pink peignoir set, trimmed with a feather boa, and a pair of pink stilettoes.
    "Sylvia, where have you been?" she cries irritably as I approach. "Did you bring me the brie and pears?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

If a tree falls in the forest: Rape vs. dementia



    If a tiny, 96-year-old woman with dementia -- who has lost the ability to form new memories -- tells a nighttime  aide that she has been raped, but has no recollection of it the next morning, should any "sound" be made about it? Should we care? She is eating her eggs and bacon and talking about her love of "smooth jazz." What's the problem, Sylvia? Why don't you back off, instead of making a big deal out of nothing?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Malpractice and Malfeasance: Mama was delirious. I was furious.



    As I walked down the hall of the dementia ward to have breakfast with my mother on Sunday, Nov. 9, I heard screams, sobs and moans. When I entered her room, she was pointing at the ceiling crying, "No! No!" When I bent over to hold her, she began yelling in an indistinguishable language, grasping my blouse and pulling me close to her face. "AHHHHH, AHHHH," she shrieked. She clutched her distended abdomen and grimaced, She was crying, but then she suddenly stopped, looked startled for a moment, and then began laughing in a shrill, Wicked Witch of the West fashion. "You," she said. "Oh honey!" She pulled me down onto the bed with her, and I held her while she jerked and trembled.
    Here we go again. I had seen delirium before, and I had no doubt that my mother was in the acute phase of this disturbing condition. If it's treated early enough, it can be resolved within 8-12 hours.
    But thanks to the apathy, cynicism and incompetence of the staff at this $74,000 a year facility, that's not what happened. Now, 11 days later, she is in the hospital, pouring gargantuan blood clots out of her rectum. "End of life" options are on the table. There may well be charges of negligent homicide if she isn't saved.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Just Shoot Me": My personalized health-care directive




    I have never heard anyone say he wished to become a burden to his spouse or children. Yet many, if not most, of us do become a burden as we decline. People can't help the fact that they become frail, disabled, sick or addled, and their loved ones do in fact feel burdened by this, financially or emotionally or both. Many people's lives are ruined by the demands of caring for incapacitated loved ones. Other lives are ruined by the guilt of failing to do so.
    I am drafting a health-care directive that I hope will prevent this from happening. Since it is a sincere document, reflecting my honest desires, I expect it to be implemented. I want to let everyone off the hook, and I think many of my peers would consider doing the same.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Elderly Girl discovers that dressing as a man is tinglingly transformative



The "extreme makeover" emboldened our tender sweetheart to
civilize the "giant hole of putrefaction" that was 1890s Paris.
"Do join us in Paris, for a life of glittering ease and colorful divertissement!"
    Have you ladies ever considered dressing as a man, just to see how it feels? Elderly Girl cannot overstate the magic that will flood through you. Please ransack some guy's closet, and disappear into your boudoir to give it a try.
    During the Civil War, Elderly Girl -- who has been alive practically forever (but remains luscious) -- had bound her breasts, chopped off her wild, wavy tresses, and donned a Union uniform so she could fight heroically to free her beloved black people from slavery. Until she had this experience of wearing pants (what a vulgar word), she would never have imagined the exhilaration of striding about as the male of the species. She expected that she would have to "play a role," but it wasn't necessary: Once she was "in disguise," she instantly felt more comfortable and confident than she ever had in her whole life. She felt like a cattle rustler. She felt like Da Bomb. She felt like a Swat Team of one. She was cruisin' for a bruisin'. She was ready to rumble, baby! Everything changed. She stood erect! She breathed more deeply and felt a glorious competence in her hands and mind. She was engorged with a sense of possibility. It's so much more interesting to be formidable than beautiful, ladies -- we've been kept in the dark! The world was her oyster! Or -- puke -- let's try that again: She felt like "He-Man, Master of the Universe."  Elderly Girl became aggressive, rash, restless, and terribly sexy. This is a shameful thing to say, but she felt like fucking. She felt like hauling some young farm girl into a barn and just doing it! 
    It was confusing, to say the least. Please don't judge her too harshly. dear friends. She was more appalled than you must be. And no farm girls were harmed in the making of this blog post.
    She was so exhausted by the war and its aftermath, and so disgusted by the bestial horniness of all those rednecks down South, that she succumbed to the promise of a refined life in Paris. But she was shocked beyond measure when she got there. It was, as she would soon discover, 'a giant hole of putrefaction." Her work was cut out for her: Civilize Paris.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"I did it my way": Mama's graceful, cleverly defiant, dance with dementia



     The tiny woman kneels among the greens in her vast, tiered garden, which is still sparkling with dew. The luxuriance and graceful beauty of this place -- which is her greatest joy and most profound refuge -- stun her every day. She is in her mid-90s, but her classically beautiful face is unlined and radiant as she tends the neat rows, and cuts a handful of Tuscan kale for her lunchtime frittata.
    All around the garden is her larger Eden -- a landscape of massive trees, boulders, blossoming ground covers and robust flowers -- which slopes sharply down toward the stream, whose surging and cascading waters fill the air with an invigorating energy. It has taken her 50 years to create this secluded paradise, which was an expanse of hard, barren dirt when she bought it. She closes her eyes and inhales the scent of Moroccan mint and rosemary as the sun rises, and a breeze ripples through the aspen.
     "Mama," I say softly, touching her shoulder. Her head is slumped forward as she sits in the hallway of the secure dementia ward.
    "My dear daughter!" she exclaims, rubbing her eyes and smiling drowsily. "Is it time for lunch yet? I have had such a busy morning out in the yard  -- I'm quite hungry!"

Friday, November 7, 2014

Turkish Coffee and Rosewater Custard with a "Gay Mantilist"


Don't you just love these crazy kids of today?
     I had an hour to kill before my appointment, so I decided to take a walk, instead of waiting in the orthopedic surgeon's office. I did my best not to limp, as I ambled along Third South, because people give you looks of distress and compassion if they think you're in pain. It makes me feel guilty.
    The fragrance of Turkish coffee hit me like a full-fledged flashback to my 1970s afternoons at Uncle Toonoose restaurant in New York. The owner had always stopped by my table to "read" my coffee grounds (the ancient art of tasseography). He predicted fabulous events in my life, most of which came true.
    I followed the scent down a side street to "Mists of Persia," a tiny cafe that had four tables. Just one patron was there, a young man with a mohawk haircut, plinking away at his laptop. He grinned at me as I made my way to the counter, and said, "You should sit with me. Let's not be lonely." What a charming comment, from this tattooed dude with his bod mods and e-cig.
    "Are you writing the Great American novel?" I asked in passing.
    "I wish! It's a Power Point presentation," he sighed. "I'm a Gay Mantilist. I thought this gig would be pure fun, but the 'suits' are turning it into a drag. They are relentlessly 'data-driven'."
     Gay Mantilism? Oh my god, that sounded cool. My blood and brain began at once to sparkle. I love being exposed to new ideas and theories and fields of study. It almost makes me wish I were still young.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Stayin' Alive: Hospice feasts on a terminally stupid Medicare fee system

Please, for god's sake, don't die! Hospice needs all the clients it can get!
The stockholders set some almost impossible 'benchmarks' at the last meeting! "

    (Nov 1, 2014) The young lady in the Hospice for Utah shirt was giddy and shameless. She and her fellow employees were in the process of buying the "death with dignity" hospice business from the charismatic and energetic founder, Cathryn "Kit" Jackson, for $10 million. Pretty soon this lucrative operation would be all theirs, and the sky would be the limit, she told me two months ago.
    I was having breakfast with a friend at an Assisted Living facility. The hospice aide was there to bathe and dress a client and escort her to the dining room. This in itself was absurd, since the client was already paying to be bathed and dressed by facility employees. But when hospice moves into your end-of-life drama, they take center stage,  and Medicare pays for it.
     "Where are you getting the funds to buy the company?" I asked the pleasant-faced Hospice girl.
    "That's what's so great," she said. "Every quarter, we get to split up the left-over money. You know: the allotment that Medicare sends us to take care of each client. We get that, plus our salaries! If we didn't keep the leftovers for ourselves, we'd have to send it all back to the government.  Kit's already rich, and now we've got a shot too." Kit, who is an admirable, enlightened person in many ways, is now content to bake cookies with her grandkids or ski the Alps, her website says.
    Even though I knew from my previous investigations that the vast majority of hospice firms are for-profit, it had never occurred to me that the profit they make consists of money disbursed  for patient care that is not spent for patient care. That should have been obvious, but I still find it shocking. The incentive to spend as little as possible on patient care is built into the system. More stupidity! Can't the government get anything right? 
    This is the story of how a compassionate, progressive concept morphed into one of the most fraudulent  (and painfully disappointing) (and profitable) enterprises in our economy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

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

Can you believe it? We're already being dragged through another NPR pledge drive.
(Be sure to get the "officially sanctioned" Carl Kasell doll as a thank-you gift!)
The Devil is in the details.
   UPDATE Feb. 10, 2014: NPR has replaced its short-lived female announcer, Sabrina Fahri, after relentless complaints about her "vocal fry." I didn't mind the fry so much as the baby tone, drawl, and clumsy inflections. Would you believe she beat out 129 applicants? How did that happen? See details below.
   
    (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.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Thanks, Miss Bleeding Heart"


  (5/7/12) 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.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Big Data: Is it Artificial Intelligence or Authentic Stupidity?

The backlash has begun against all that 'hype,' PC World declares (Feb. 14, 2015)



 
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.

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?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Nursing-Home Netherworld: Putrefaction, pain and poop


Let's face it: Most of us will wind up here, for weeks, months or forever.

     (12/15/11) 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.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"The Absolute Rulers of Society's Garbage Can"

Justice Dept. Plans to Sue New York Over Rikers Violence/ Dec. 2014
The Horrors Keep Coming at Rikers/ February 2015

THE WARDENS of RIKERS ISLAND
(2/20/12) 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." That was 40 years ago. It's not a garbage can any more. It is utter hell.

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.

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

Patient beware: Being part of a clinical trial is a trial indeed

What happens in my Vagus stays in my Vagus

   (September 2013)  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.
    Beware of becoming part of a clinical trial. Your privacy, as well as your time and well-being, may be seriously jeopardized.
    In trial after trial, the VNS device that was being tested in the study that involved me, has shown itself to have extremely limited value (up to a 90 percent failure rate). 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 CMS (Medicare and Medicaid) reimbursement, so it can achieve its dream: a fabulous financial windfall. (UPDATE: On Dec. 1, 2014, it was rejected again, as being "unproven and unnecessary," even though the ever-sloppy FDA approved it 10 years ago.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The E-Cigarette Seduction: Are We Blowing It?

Oxford English dictionary has named "vape" the "word of the year for 2014."
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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Howler breaks free, and screams into the wild


This is Part Two of "Going Down, Please"
It is being used as the "voiceover" for a British film.
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 23, 2013

Butt out, you buttinsky! My accidental remedies for sciatica

    (July 2013) Does anyone else find the thought of sciatica kind of embarrassing? Do you think of funny old folks in the 1950s, griping about their rheumatism, their bunions, their corns and carbuncles, warts and bursitis, their impacted bowels and ill-fitting dentures?
    I got hit with sciatica on my left side when I was in my thirties. I was a weight-lifter, and a jogger, who was outside before dawn, stomping along to "Pretty Fly for a White Guy." I was very fly for a white girl! Way too fly for sciatica! I was pissed off, and determined to rid myself of this stupid, unfair affliction. 
    Thirty years later, after having tried every remedy I could find, I still had it, only now it was on both sides.
    About six months ago, I stumbled upon a remedy that has worked magic for me -- and it's free. I have devised other complementary strategies since that have almost put me in remission. It feels like a miracle.

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!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

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



       (6/8/12) 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.

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.

Friday, March 1, 2013

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

Puff the "Magic" Draggin'
The power of blissful, wishful thinking.
   (March 2014) 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 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"?

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!