Thursday, June 4, 2015

Going Down, Please

Part One of a Two-Part Memoir

     (7/13) "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!

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 quietly replaced its short-lived (three months) female announcer, Sabrina Farhi, 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 427 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.

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.)
         (11/14/13) 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. 

What was I thinking? Christmas Eve with a Statue

    (Dec. 23, 2011) 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.

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.
(10/5/12) 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.

"Non-Scents!" Elderly Girl Declares

Our Seductively Scented World Commits a Fragrant Foul
     (8/18/11) Every morning, whether it’s hot and muggy or blizzarding snow, Elderly Girl goes jogging in the dark, while the whole world, it seems, is still sleeping.
    Once in awhile, as she is running blind along a residential street, she suddenly smells the odor of men’s cologne. Immediately, her blood runs cold. Any guy who’s skulking around out there is a little bit scary, but the ones who have perfumed themselves for the occasion seem particularly sinister.
    That is how Elderly Girl has come to view the chemical-fragrance industry: It’s hidden in the shadows, plotting its next assault on our bodies.

The 'Godfather of Bull' Whips Up a Fairy Godmother

     (4/10/11) It wasn’t until we were at 51,000 feet in the Lear jet that I realized there had been a terrible misunderstanding.
     I thought Tiao Maia -- the 52-year-old Brazilian cattle baron sitting next to me -- was taking me directly to Salt Lake City, to spend the holidays with my family. But after we reached our cruising altitude, the billionaire produced a map and pointed out all the places we would be going first -- a two-week adventure that included a stay at a luxury resort in Acapulco. My stomach convulsed. The word “parachute” entered my mind. I didn't know this man at all!
    How did I keep getting into these uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous, situations? I was saying “Oops, I Did it Again” ten years before Britney Spears was even born.

"Thanks, Miss Bleeding Heart"

(the movie option expired, but another is in the works)
  (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.

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.

Our future: Everything in modulation

 Don't worry. Be happy.

   (9/13/2013) 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. 

GRAVE ROBBERS: How online obituary firms steal and monetize your family story, with or without your knowledge, leaving you with no rights or recourse

                                                                                                   by Matthew Frey
This is the follow-up to Dead Man's Party, which explored the funeral industry.
    There is a quiet war going on in America, with hundreds of millions of dollars per year at stake. Nobody is being killed, thank goodness. They're already dead.
    The battle is over which online company will get fabulously wealthy exploiting the anguish of those left behind, by selling them colorful, compelling interactive obituaries that portray the grand and beautiful lives that their loved ones lived. If you don't buy one for your family member, they put one online anyway. They feature it prominently in search engines, and urge "visitors" to buy tokens of sympathy in your honor.
    These are cynical, profiteering schemes -- yet another aspect of our notoriously predatory “death industry,” which takes such ghoulish advantage of people‘s grief. They underhandedly wrest ownership of our loved ones' lives and legacies, claiming rights to use their stories to make money, in any manner whatsoever, forever. How can we allow this IDENTITY THEFT to go on without a legal challenge?

Holy Sheet! Elderly Girl Could Lie Here Forever

    (8/2/11) Each morning, when Elderly Girl awakes, there is a smile on her lips and a flush on her cheeks.  How could there not be -- she is lying lavishly in a Wildflower Meadow, with undertones of Summer Rain.
    Her sheets smell like the 1960s. Does anybody out there remember those days? There were vacant lots everywhere that we called “meadows.” You could slip deep inside, beneath a tree with your teenage boyfriend, and kiss for hours amid flowery, grassy dewyness.
    And now some genius has immersed Elderly Girl once again in that ecstatic era. Thank you, sir! Her wrinkled loins are tingling poignantly.

Your crime: dementia. Your sentence: solitary confinement

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 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!"

Lupus: A Rash Quest for the Truth

An Andy Warhol-inspired depiction of my Fiery Flare.
      (7/21/11) In spite of all the dire warnings I’ve received, I am still refusing to take the medications that have been prescribed for my condition. My decision to do the best I can to take care of myself has been quite liberating, and I am 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 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 blog post,  I have no idea how sick I am or how sick I may become.

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, 2013) 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?

Elderly Girl transforms getting old into a sexy new fad

Thank god, bladder incontinence has become trendy. It's about time!
    Elderly Girl inspired billions of people to regard elderliness as alluring, sassy and brilliant. Now, hundreds of profit-mad companies have succumbed to her voluptuous wisdom by creating products that have turned 80-year-olds into the new hip-hop generation.

Saving Face: Dr. Oz escorts us into a wrinkle-free world

 UPDATE: Dec. 20, 2014:Researchers find most of Oz's claims to be bogus (:

     (April 14, 2012) The stupidest remark I've ever heard Dr. Mehmet Oz make was this:
     "Nothing is more embarrassing  than looking older than you should. Let's all get busy and prevent embarrassing wrinkles!"
      Did you really mean to make such an asinine statement, Dr. Oz? What is wrong with you? You're the one who should be embarrassed.
   Oz knows that his 25-54 age demographic is freakishly obsessed with wrinkles, and his show targets their anxieties with one miraculous, magical, surefire, exotic, secret pill or potion after another. Day after day, he hauls out "the ultimate discovery" that will "keep you beautiful forever." There'll be a new one tomorrow. And how's your face doing? Any miracles yet?

The Delilah Paradox: Elderly Girl Takes It All Off

    (1/4/12) "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.

Pedophilia: My desire to understand it was shattered by horror

    I wanted to understand pedophilia. It took about two days of studying it in a "rational" way before I could tell it was MESSING ME UP. Although it is an 'orientation'-- a sexual preference -- it resembles a disease in many ways, and I can see why its mindset is contagious.
    I have always tried to confront my prejudices -- to inform myself, to see things from the other person's perspective, and thereby to feel compassion rather than revulsion or hatred. This nonjudgmental approach has helped me to become more empathetic.
    So when I decided to do a blog post about the phenomenon of pedophilia, I didn't expect to emerge from my investigation more disturbed and sickened than ever.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


If your pacemaker or defibrillator attacks you, that's too bad!
    (July 19, 2012) 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. 

I Hope You Blow Your Head Off

    Well, OK I'm sorry, that is a bit too harsh.
    But I wish we'd all blow off the Legislature, at the very least, for being such a ridiculous pack of fools and sellouts on the issue of fireworks.

Present at the Creation: Opening Day at a New Cafe

     (10/14/2011) When Raphael Frattini smoked, it was a thing of beauty in spite of itself. Like some Roman demigod reclining in the sky, he lifted his chin and artfully blew, as if sculpting distant clouds or giving invisible doves a momentary joy ride. It seemed to be his way of kissing life.
    One would be unlikely to guess that he had been a cop -- and a damn good one,  it was said -- for the past 30 years, but he had, and there were plenty of people who would attest to it.
    Now that his two boys had their degrees, Liana had been awarded a nursing scholarship and his beloved Sophia was dead and buried back in Sicily, he would do what he had always wanted to do: cook. In just a few hours, Pasta La Vista would open its doors for the first time. And he would feed people: What a heartwarming occupation.

Jogging Jubilation: Don't give up your 2012 resolution

     (2012) 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.

The Welfare Princess of Liberty Park

Alana had turned the inside of the shack into a place of sparkly wonderment for her children.
    (sept. 19, 2011) The “For Rent” sign remained in front of the shack three doors west of my house for a long time after Heroin Chick and Harley Dude moved out. Neighbors continued to grumble about its “disgraceful condition” and its effect on the property values of our tidy, charmingly landscaped Liberty Park-area street.
    On one memorable day, a few months after the former tenants and their cuddly parrot moved  out, I was invited inside by the new tenant. This spirited, brave woman, who was being torn apart by her past, had transformed a filthy, chaotic dump into a place of magic and beauty.

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!

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."

Is every man a potential pedophile?

Pedophiles R Us   
   (2/8/21)  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.

On tour for Penthouse: fully clothed, but overexposed

    From the Green Room inside a television station in Detroit, I could see on the monitor that the dynamic black host of a local morning talk show was doing the intro about me. An associate producer scurried in and said, "Let's go -- you're on."
    So when the interviewer said, "Let's give a warm welcome to this dedicated young writer and activist," I was ready to walk right out. The audience appeared to be entirely black, which I thought would be great. The article I was here to discuss was in part about  the mistreatment of prison inmates, most of whom were black. But my expression of compassion for these men would, to my surprise, elicit a vociferously hostile response. 
    It hadn't occurred to me that although most of the prisoners were black, so were most of their victims. These folks didn't want the bastards coddled by clueless fools like me.

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

     (11/10/2014) 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!"

Puttin' on the Mitts

Oh my heck, is he back in the ring?
     (5/28/12) Our nation's most enlightened political commentators have, for the most part, said Mitt Romney's religion is irrelevant to his campaign for the presidency. I respect their position, but I disagree. Mormon doctrine -- a grand plan for global domination -- contains clear precepts that foretell an LDS president who would turn our nation into a theocracy.
    For nearly 50 years of my life, I have lived in Salt Lake City -- the world capital of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have been drenched in Mormonism. As a youngster, I felt that I was drowning in Mormonism. Everywhere I turned, my path was blocked or controlled by Mormonism. I was shunned by Mormons and humiliated by Mormons, but mostly -- as I grew up -- I was bored, outraged, disgusted and exasperated by Mormons -- or by their church, anyway. These days, I am enjoying a peaceful and respectful coexistence. 
(see extensive coverage of Romney's purported religious beliefs at

LABOR DAY TRIBUTE: Thank You For Your Service

I have seen their patience, gentleness and love many times. Pay: $8.00 per hour.
    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your service.
    Not our soldiers, for a change, but the other Americans who serve us -- unheralded -- every day, everywhere, in so many ways, and who never even come close to being middle class, despite their hard work and dedication. Happy Labor Day, dear laborers.

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!

    (8/27/13) 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.

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"?

Dr. Dreamy Does a Bedroom Scene

New info: More data indicating that meniscus surgery is worthless.
My doctor is dreamier: He does bedroom surgery.
     (1/3/13) 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.

It simmered so long, it was bound to be strong

" Burn, baby, burn. Burn this mother down, y'all!"
                                         from "Disco Inferno," The Trammps

    (8/24/11) Much of the world has been shocked at the violent riots that have erupted in Great Britain over the past few weeks.
    I haven’t been shocked at all.
    I spent the summer of 1969 in London, studying race relations. With the exception of two academics, every single white person I interviewed denied, quite defensively, that there was any “issue” whatsoever. All around me, though, the way black and brown people were treated in everyday interactions was disgraceful, and it has been clear all along that it was getting worse.


Patriotism Masterprint

   (12/24/11) America, we are constantly reminded, is the richest, most powerful, most industrious and inventive nation on Earth, a beacon of democracy, a model for those who aspire to lives of liberty, equal opportunity and material comfort. 
   To quote Cee Lo Green, "Ain't that some shit?"

Elderly Girl


   (4/15/11) She wears a tight white men's tank top and Bart Simpson boxer shorts as she pumps iron to the music of teen love, loss and party-time spirit. She chews gum like Britney Spears and wears cherry Chapstick -- the kind that Katy Perry kissed once, and liked it. Occasionally she glances at the phone, as if waiting for the team captain to call and ask her to the prom. She closes her eyes, taking in the tunes, while she does the military press. She's got the kind of arms you see on infomercials, but almost never in person. She is euphorically tranced-out from whatever chemicals course through your veins when your muscles are in "resistance" mode. Just when she thinks she can't do any more reps, the hit song "Grenade" fills her "workout dungeon," and  Bruno Mars' soaring love keeps her going.
   What is wrong with this picture?

It's a Dead Man's Party

   “It’s a dead man’s party. Who could ask for more?”
Lyrics from Oingo Boingo’s 1980s hit

   I could ask for more. I could ask that if you’re going to throw a party that is ABOUT ME, I should be invited, and I should be alive.
   People are dying all over the place, but funeral homes, ironically, are having trouble remaining healthy.Their new business model is to turn funerals into festive, high-tech parties. People do seem to be having an awfully good time.
   Do you feel that you ever got to experience your proverbial “15 minutes of fame”? For a lot of us, it just never happened. We’ve been waiting for the paparazzi, ready for our close-ups, all dressed up with no place to go, our sound bites memorized -- all to no avail.
    But a thrilling new business model is evolving that can guarantee you your place in the spotlight. You will have the leading role in a dazzling, dynamic extravaganza in which your virtues, talents, achievements and experiences will unfold in true Hollywood style.
    Unfortunately, step number one is: You die.
    And then -- my dear, mere mortals -- it’s show time!

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."

      (May 2013) 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. 

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!

    (June 2014) 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.

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.

My Big, Fat Lebanese Wedding: Cold Feet Again


   ( 5/4/11)) Each morning as I walked down Broadway to reach the subway station, I stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall storefront that sold cigarettes, snacks and magazines. I had to get several packs of Doublemint gum (throw in some Juicy Fruit too, please) to satisfy my oral fixation, or I wouldn't be able to get any work done. I chew, therefore I think.
    The proprietor was a dark and handsome young man from Beirut, who had recently arrived in New York to study architecture. He always handed me a rose with my little bag of gum.  He was gallant and poetic in his flirtation. He wore Armani suits and a Cartier watch. He looked like the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, and had that same insouciant pout that one often sees in French "ladies' men."  Within a couple of months, we would be engaged.

How my ravishing friend became a goddess of global Buddhism

Chagdud Khadro, formerly Jane Dedman
    (8/1/11) In 1978, one of the most beautiful and compelling friends I’ve ever had was backpacking through Nepal, where she came upon one of the world’s pre-eminent Buddhist teachers at an “empowerment” ceremony. Jane Dedman, who had recently begun studying Buddhism, humbly made an offering of a jar of honey and a white scarf to the wizened, gray-haired eminence. She asked if she could become his assistant. Two weeks later, in her dazzlingly brazen way, she would ask to become his wife.
    Today, from her home base in a fantastically colorful  and ornate compound in Brazil, she has become one of the greatest spiritual leaders in the male-dominated global Buddhist movement.

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.

"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

(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.

Lupus Update: I surrendered

    (Jan. 14, 2012)  I have gotten a large and ongoing response to my posts on lupus, particularly the ones in which I explain  my decision not to take prescribed medications. I wrote that I intended to rely on probiotics, my vegan diet and daily exercise to keep myself as healthy as possible.
    For more than a year, I ignored the advice -- and in one case the pleas -- of four doctors, who believed I should be taking the anti-malarial drug Plaquenil.
    In November, I finally relented, when some new and distressing symptoms emerged.

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.”

 (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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Elderly Girl's Seductive Plot to Save the Republic from Romney

Move over, Monica Lewinsky.
      Sept. 2012) It appears that Mitt and Barack are in a statistical "dead heat" (who dreamed up that vulgar term -- some necrophiliac?) (although "neck and neck" isn't any better -- way too intimate -- practically gay!) (and "horse race" really should be "whore's race." They're both turning tricks for money. It's a disgrace.)
    Ann Romney, who seems scarier and more Stepford wifey than she used to, recently said in a network interview, "I believe in my heart that Mitt is going to save America."
    That was when Elderly Girl knew that she must Save America herself. Seducing Mitt  would certainly end his "run," which is really more of a skitter. She would be the Devil in a Blue Dress -- a la Monica Lewinsky -- and within minutes, it would be over. Pop Goes the Weasel for the Romney campaign.

Is Romney a True Believer, or a "jack" (not Jack Kennedy) Mormon?

"A confluence of political realities has created a genuine opening for a Romney third act,"

the New York Times surmised on Sept. 30, 2014. Given all the buzz he is generating, due to his party's disarray, 
it's not surprising that he is building a big, sumptuous home base in Salt Lake City and rounding up a new inner circle.

"Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
   (5/29/12) In the 1988 vice presidential debate, Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen famously savaged Republican Senator Dan Quayle, who had just compared himself to former President John F. Kennedy. In a tone of unmitigated disgust, Bentsen said: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
    I am inspired to make a similar remark:
    Mitt: I've studied Mormons. I'm surrounded by Mormons. Mormons are friends of mine. Mr. Romney, you're no Mormon. 

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 .
    (UPDATE June 1, 2015: The Court sweepingly denies Abercrombie's right to discriminate, against applicants, whether on religious or style grounds, and affirms women's right to wear to wear a hijab in the workplace ( 
    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.