Friday, January 16, 2015

Oh My God: The 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.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I shaved my head. It gave me a buzz


    I finally did the deed: I shaved my head. My boyfriend has the pleasure of doing it every day, so why shouldn't I be able to do it at least once? That's the excuse I gave him, anyway. He was concerned about my psychological well-being, but that's nothing new, the poor guy. He says I'm having a midlife crisis. If 65 is midlife, I've got a problem. I'm pretty bored with everything already.
    The truth is, I'm in a protracted manic phase (part of my bipolar illness), and I've been doing quite a few rash, crazy, obsessive, self-destructive things (like stuffing myself with nuts night after night, despite the 1,800 calories). I'm going to get a tiny rhinestone in my nose, even though everyone -- except for girls who have them -- thinks I'm being ridiculous. I long to be in a sauna, where I could sweat myself nearly to death.
    I've been wanting to do the bald thing for decades. I was cured of the impulse for a long time after writing a short story about Elderly Girl buzzing off her own glorious tresses (http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/2012/01/delilah-paradox-elderly-girl-takes-it.html). I got such a vicarious thrill out of her adventure that I immediately lost interest in doing it myself.
    But the impulse returned. Like Elderly Girl, I feel exhilarated. Light-headed! Enjoyably weird! 

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

Giveth not, unless thou wisheth to be screwed

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?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

AMERICAN IDOLATRY


Patriotism Masterprint

   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?"

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.

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?

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Michelangelo Dentist




     In the waiting room of dentist Saaren Van Wyck is a startling sculpture. which made me wonder if I should have selected a different dentist. It is a four-foot tall bronze, depicting a headless artist with a palette in one hand. The other hand is reaching out with a brush toward an unsettlingly real set of teeth. It is from the "world-famous" Ronadro collection, and it looks as if it defies gravity. The sculpture seems to convey both derangement and vanity. It is grandiose yet tacky. Dr Van Wyck, who I insisted on calling Van, because I'm lazy, told me proudly that he'd bought it in Las Vegas for "only" $5,000.
    As he settled me into the chair of his very attractive, high-tech office, he took my hand.
    "Sylvia, we are embarking on a journey together: The journey of your beautiful smile. It will be a long journey, and we will become very good friends. When I am  through with you, you will be a reborn. I am an artist, and you are a new canvas for me. I am champing at your bit, so to speak."
    Get me out of here: I just came in with a chipped tooth! Van looked into my mouth hungrily, obviously seeing a wide-open realm of terrible imperfections and  imminent catastrophe. Even so, over the next few months, I would come to regard him as one of the most complex and charming characters I have ever met.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Seeing Red: The first and only reported case of Blood-Spatter Psychosis

'MURDER,' IT WROTE

The beauty was unsettling but unmistakable.
    On the day when Mitch Vasile lost his outward vision, his "inner eye" saw nothing but an infinite expanse of red. It seemed to be breathing or undulating. After a few days, the vastness began to differentiate into patterns: forceful sprays of red, glistening dribbles of red, smeared arcs of red, Rorschach patterns of red that resembled uteruses, poppies, crabs, galloping camels, emaciated refugees, a trellis of roses. He was in a universe in which there was no center, no foothold, no respite. It wasn't a silent universe, though. There were muffled sound effects: nonstop explosions, moans and screams. He blinked and blinked to blink it all away. He washed his eyes. He closed them,  but the images seemed to move in on him all the more. He trembled at the thought that this might never end.
    As I walked with the doctor through Bellevue, to the psychiatric ward, he warned me to set aside my investigative instincts and merely act as a friend to Mitch. "Don't ply him with questions. Don't press him for details. We're taking care of that," he said. "Just comfort him, if you can. He's devastated."
    The tentative diagnosis, he added, was "hysterical blindness," also known as conversion disorder. Patients experiencing some type of emotional or psychological trauma can lose some or all of their sight. Hysterical blindness is thus "a neurological abnormality with apparently psychogenic cause," he elaborated. Recovery is often very slow and uncertain.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A super girl becomes a Supreme for a day

A fictionalized  version of a wonderful true story.

    Candi was a sort of magical girl at William Penn Elementary School. She smelled of April Violets by Yardley, and she chewed grape-flavored gum. This seemed like such an inspired "calling card" that it left us feeling we couldn't possibly compete for male attention. We just gave up from the git go. She was obliviously beautiful, with her wild, curly black hair, full lips and cafe-au-lait skin. She managed to be smart and very creative (Crayola masterpieces) without evoking jealousy -- not an easy feat in our youthful hotbed of gossip and pecking orders. I think most of us had at least a little crush on her -- boys and girls alike. Candi had fabulously white teeth, which I noticed and envied even way back then, before "whitening" was an issue, and she had the longest eyelashes I'd ever seen. Her ballerina posture and unflappable nonchalance added to her "above it all" air, although we realized she wasn't arrogant -- she was a loner. She was a mystery. We watched her, quietly musing about what made her tick, and adored her from afar.    
    Her twin sister Carla was her greatest fan. She was a sensitive, tenderhearted  girl, but she had a broad, plain face, and she lumbered around the schoolyard while Candi glided, apparently immersed in a world of her own. Carla had bought the April Violets as a gift for Candi. She herself smelled like bacon.  I loved the smell of bacon before I "went vegan," but Carla  got nicknamed "Porky" because of her unmistakable aroma. I was truly relieved when I was nicknamed "Saliva," which I hoped would make Carla feel better.  
  As is so often the case in the unfolding of lives, there would be unexpected and startling reversals of fortune as the twins grew up.

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.

  (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.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Big Data: Is it Artificial Intelligence or Authentic Stupidity?

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

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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Diary of a Mad Vaper


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

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.

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

What happens in my Vagus stays in my Vagus

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

   (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.
    In trial after trial, this device has shown itself to have extremely limited value. But Cyberonics (which sounds like a sci-fi cabal that unleashes evil robots), is determined to keep trying until it wears down its opponents and qualifies for CMS reimbursement, so it can achieve its dream: a fabulous financial windfall. 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"
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!

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!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dr. Dreamy Does a Bedroom Scene

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

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.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Model Intentions: I Got Duped, You Got Screwed


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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

HEARTLESS

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

Friday, June 8, 2012

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



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

Monday, May 28, 2012

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 http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/2012/05/mr-romney-youre-no-mormon.html)

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Thanks, Miss Bleeding Heart"



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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Elderly Girl's Hidden Garden of Red Orchids

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

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

Monday, February 20, 2012

"The Absolute Rulers of Society's Garbage Can"

U.S. Plans to Sue New York Over Prison Conditions/ Dec. 2014

THE WARDENS of RIKERS ISLAND
Warden Theodore West, in his crisp beige summer suit, strides through the noisy clusters of black and brown bodies like a British gentleman appraising his safari staff. He knows well that the natives are dangerous, perpetually angry, but it would only inflame them to show concern. So he glides through them, pointedly defenseless, eyes straight ahead—aloof, casual, immaculate—amid their defiant and rumpled chaos. He and his fellow wardens, he tells me, are "the absolute rulers of society's garbage can." That was 40 years ago. It's not a garbage can any more. It is utter hell.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Delilah Paradox: Elderly Girl Takes It All Off


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