Saturday, December 25, 2010

Unwrapping a Psyche on a Dark and Stormy Christmas Eve

Happy Holidays! Or something! 
               art by Justinian Ghita
    (Dec. 25, 2012) Nathan knew that the "yuletide season" was of no interest to me, so he asked if I'd be willing to come in and work with him on Christmas Eve Day. Everyone else had a four-day weekend, and we needed to do a final edit on a presentation for a prospective client.
    I was delighted to oblige. He was the creative vice president of one of the country's top advertising agencies, and I wanted to know him better. In the month that I had worked there, he had stood out as a particularly gentle, respectful and humble man, even though it was his job to keep 200 employees -- many of them neurotic and ruthlessly competitive, as well as creative -- devising one stylish ad campaign after another. He was the great soother and smoother. I would never have guessed that he saw himself as Steppenwolf: "My face was gray, forsaken of all fancies, wearied by all vice, horribly pale."

The Ravaged Face of Delirium

Before delirium: a face of radiance, serenity and beauty.
(photo courtesy of Gina Kronstadt).

Even after four days of treatment, she remained tortured.
    (Dec/ 25. 2014) Delirium, if it's not happening to you or someone you love, is a fascinating phenomenon. It reminds me of "The Exorcist," in which the patient becomes taken over by a deranged and ominous being. My mother screamed, moaned, hallucinated, writhed, and spoke in tongues when she had delirium last month. Delirium increases mortality (about 35 to 40  percent of hospitalized patients with delirium die within 1 year), and expedites the process of dementia. It can take months to recover.
    My father had delirium twice  when he had dementia. We didn't dream that some mad thunderbolt could pierce his brain and propel him into a fury of storytelling, urgent confessions, scientific theorizing, twisted reminiscence and vivid hallucinations. If you live to be over 65, it is very likely to happen to you, whether you have dementia or not. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Enthralling' blogger unlinks herself from a 'Chain of Fools'

"You treated me mean: Oh, you treated me cruel!" Aretha Franklin
   (dec 24, 2012) My five-part, 25,000-word series on financial firm Edward Jones, which was originally published by the popular Motley Fool investment-media empire, disappeared from their site a few weeks after it was syndicated and warmly received late last summer. Various aggregator sites and message boards still provide links to my stories, but "page not found" is all you'll see if you click on any of them. 
    No, it's not because of threats from Edward Jones, I assure those who have emailed me about this strange demise. And it's not because my work was found to be biased or unreliable, although it's clear that many people are getting that impression. 
    It's because Fool editors felt rebuffed when I declined their offer to work with them on a repackaging project  that would give my "riveting and insightful" series "the broader visibility it deserves."

I'll be "Home Alone" for Christmas

Macaulay Culkin was freaked out at first. Then he had a blast.
    (dec 24,2014) I'll be home for Christmas, but it will be my  home, alone, without all the uproar of frantic cooking, shopping, gift-wrapping, Happy Holidays card-sending, and forced festivity that virtually always amounts to a big-bummer-anticlimax, and a huge mess to clean up. Plus all those leftovers. And the gifts that I didn't want, and the ones I bought that they don't want, and all those false "Just what I wanted!" exclamations.
    I am usually home alone, but it's even nicer on Christmas, when everyone else is rushing around, worried about blizzards, about familial blowups, about the turkey still being raw inside, about gaining weight, about the pressure of spending too much or too little. Credit-card debt and stress galore.. The stack of stuff that needs to be returned or exchanged. That empty feeling, and maybe even some hurt feelings, and that little dread feeling when you start counting down the days until the next Yuletide extravaganza."The most wonderful time of the year" it's not, in my opinion.
    So when I'm home alone during all of this madness, I have an enhanced feeling of pleasant detachment. My solitude seems especially precious. I'm a Christmas renunciant. I object, your honor! I'm an escapee, hiding out and feeling totally cozy. I don't have to exclaim anything, or respond to small-talk exclamations ("You look younger every year! I heard you were named Miss Blogger Universe -- what a cool compliment!) or explain for the umpteenth time why I'm eating nothing but vegetables. And no one can lure me from my fortress, not even a SWAT team dressed like Santa and his elves.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I am not a crook. Almost always never.

    (6/23/11) I had just arrived in Denver last night from New York, hoping to start a wholesome new life away from all those Big City temptations and pressures -- and there I was at seven o’clock the next morning, already drunk on tequila.
    What’s funny about it is that I was hunkered down in my bedroom's huge walk-in closet,  because “The Heart of Denver Home for Christian Girls,” where I had rented a room until I could find an apartment, harshly forbade smoking, drinking and rock 'n roll (in other words: everything I held dear).
    The more I drank, the more hilarious this "Bible-centered" incarceration became. But there was a dread thing happening in my stomach at the same time.  I had vowed that when I left the career and friends I loved so much, I would get myself together, and rescue my imploding psyche. Already I seemed to be screwing up.
    Even so, I never would have predicted that by noon, I would be in jail.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Vitamin Addiction, a Delightful Affliction

    Part Two of "My beautiful so-called eating disorder"

    (12/18/2014) It started when I moved to New York during what has since been deemed the dirtiest and most crime-ridden decade of the century. I loved it anyway, but I couldn't quite get used to the fact that every surface one touched was sticky: subway straps, elevator buttons, pay phones, doorknobs, even faucets in the restrooms. Having grown up in a home where everything was disinfected CONSTANTLY with Lysol and Clorox, this was hard to tolerate. My feelings of joy at being in this grand city were punctuated by shudders of revulsion (and this was long before various TV investigations informed us that practically every surface around us is covered with fecal matter and seminal fluid).
    I launched my career of pill-taking innocently enough, ingesting a Vitamin C tablet several times a day to ward off the germs. Then I read that zinc boosts immunity and is good for your skin, so I added that. Then I read that Vitamin E maintained heart health, so I thought "why not?"
    And thus it began.

Consorting with the Consortium

After it ranked University of Utah Health Care  No. 1 in the nation, could anyone, 
anywhere, take its program seriously?

The U. essentially reverse-engineered the super-secret Consortium algorithm, so it could focus on those criteria that were going to be measured. It was a brilliant strategy, but ethically dubious, and UHC abandoned its ranking program when this article revealed the flaw in its system.
Instead of conducting its own assessments, UHC began making use of established ranking programs, such as U.S. News and World Report and the Thompson-Reuters survey. Now it has developed a "Quality and Accountability Study" that uses "scorecards" "to provide comparative ranking information for academic medical centers in each of six domain areas, an overall star rating, and a listing of the top performing organizations in rank order." 

In July 2014, the University of Utah was ranked 35th in primary care and 52nd in research by U.S. News and World Report.  It did not appear in the lists of top 10 medical school programs in primary care, internal medicine or pediatrics. As one might expect, the school did not publicize these data, unlike its exuberant advertising in 2011.
UHC is representative of the very tiresome Brave New Breed of web-based consulting firms that revels in massive quantification and dazzling jargon. These outfits, gain clients by using a sort of stun-gun approach. They portray their data-driven services in such overwhelmingly glorious, domineering, all-encompassing terms that one doesn't dare proceed in today's cutthroat world without their assistance. The Consortium promises to provide “interoperable workflow solutions“ in its “robust array of resources and tools.” Everything, it seems, is part of a “suite” that is comprehensive, exclusive, benchmarked, trademarked, high-impact and integrated. It promises a  sheen of order, ease and rationality to institutions that are “at the crest of the wave,” facing “The Threat of Incrementalism.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Online Obituary Site is Doing it to Death

He calls it capitalism. I call it identity theft.
      If one of your loved ones were to die, would you mind if an aggressive, profit-making corporation created an online obituary page for that person -- without your knowledge or consent -- which was designed to increase traffic to its site? Would it bother you that relatives and friends, who encountered  the listing in search results, would be asked to upgrade the page (for a fee, and after providing their email addresses) with memories, photos and condolences, by making an audio tribute, or by lighting a virtual candle?  Would it offend you if this site asked them, for its own financial gain, to send you food and flowers, mementos or e-cards, or to make a donation or plant a tree in your loved one's name? Does this feel a bit like grave-robbing to anyone besides me?, which "harvests" death notices from the Social Security Death Index, claims to have a listing for everyone who has died since 1936.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's a Dead Man's Party: Bring Your Body In the Door

Occasionally, the unsavory idea of embalming can become quite appealing.
    (6/23/2014) Wow, could grief get any more decorative? The latest trend in good-times funerals is to get the corpse all gussied up and displayed in a realistic and relevant tableaux, as if he or she were right there having a blast, along with everyone else. The photos below are courtesy of the New York Times, from its article yesterday, "Rite of the Sitting Dead" (
    For more about the funeral-home industry's efforts to transform memorial services into multimedia bashes, with DJs, streamers and great food, read my earlier coverage ( This manipulative transformation of sadness and loss into rip-roaring festivity is chilling. It kills me!

A New Orleans woman's body is posed at her family's request, at a funeral in May 2014.
A young boxer who was shot to death is displayed at his Puerto Rico memorial service.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Non-Scents: Why would you want text messages that smell like bananas?

An oPhone docking station.
    (May 7, 2014) Oh great: Now those callous manipulators in the laboratory of nasal domination are trying to enlist us to send "scent messages" (via text, tweet or email) and play olfactory "tunes."
    Our lives are already awash in synthetic chemical aromas and flavors, which can affect our immune, respiratory, and endocrine systems, and are intended, in some cases, to influence our moods and behavior.
    This is worse than Big Brother -- it's Big, Seductively Delicious-smelling Brother, cynically tickling your fancy and messing with your most delicate brain regions. Isn't it starting to make you sick?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oh Father, Where Art Thou?

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

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