Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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

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

    (12/28/14) 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 14, 2011

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS: Helping a friend escape its brutal clutches....

...and soar into the sky, freed from his ravaged body. 

    When I learned that my middle-aged, former high-school friend and debate partner was dying of multiple sclerosis -- alone in a dismal "disabled living" facility, after being bankrupted by the unconscionable cost of his medications -- I was grief-stricken. We all thought he had been essentially cured when we were in college. I called him and begged him to let me do something for him. His response was surprising and intriguing. I could help him, he said,  to "soar peacefully" into The Great Beyond, by giving him a massage, three times a week -- but not the conventional kind. He had been a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation since his late teens, and he wanted our sessions to incorporate an ancient spiritual dimension, as reflected in Ayurvedic medicine. He aspired, contrary to Dylan Thomas's advice, to "go gentle into that good night." I didn't think my emotions or skills were up to the challenge, but he persuaded me to try.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do you really want to donate to the Alzheimer's Association?

Actually it starts with a $2.7 million CEO.
   (Dec 12, 2014) This year as part of the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Sunrise Senior Living ( raised more than $500,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, providing less than 1/538th of its the "charity's" income (but it already has plenty, including a $20 million slush fund).
    The CEO of the Chicago-based "nonprofit" Association pays himself more than $2.7 million annually, according to IRS Form 990 for fiscal year 2013, and there are 70 local chapters which also have generous pay packages. The "nonprofit" spends one fifth of its income on fund-raising.
    In the past 32 years, the Alzheimer's Association has contributed only $335 million to research -- less than 18 months worth of its revenue over that time period

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Our Good Will turned "That" Goodwill into a "Nonprofit" Billionaire

Goodwill is generally regarded as the epitome of brotherly love and generosity.

       (12/11/2014) If you feel a warm-and-fuzzy good will toward Goodwill, it's probably because you don't know the facts. Until recently, when I was investigating Savers Thrift Stores' fraudulent modus operandi (,  I thought of Goodwill as being an honorable, charitable shopping venue where I could have a blast, buying great stuff for great prices, which I've been doing since the late 1970s. Its own website characterizes it as one of the nation’s top five most valuable and recognized nonprofit brands.  In 2012 and 2013, Forbes named it as one of America’s Top 25 Most Inspiring Companies.
    In 2012, Goodwill Industries International, Inc., the national parent corporation for all of the nation's secondhand clothing franchises, paid its president and CEO James Gibbons $729,000.  Dozens of state and local chapters copied the national headquarters' executive extravagance. IRS form 990s indicate their salaries were hundreds of thousands of dollars each (17 of them exceeded a million dollars), essentially for being store managers. It is they, not the umbrella organization headquarters, who determine their pay.
    That's where the profit from your donations goes. The government pays the disabled employees, costing taxpayers about $90 million a year..This is yet another "beloved" charity, such as the Red Cross and United Way, that has shown itself to be fundamentally corrupt and contemptuous of its good-hearted donors. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Bicycle Thief's Anaconda

Now, 70 years later, Mr. Walker was riding the same bike, in the same uniform.

    (Dec 8, 2014) Mr. Walker was 94 years old, and he spent most of every morning, afternoon and evening whizzing around our beautiful neighborhood -- with its 19th century homes and huge trees -- on a beat-up olive-green bicycle and wearing his World War II uniform. When I was out jogging, in the predawn darkness, he was already racing up and down the streets, tossing the Salt Lake Tribune onto people's lawns. Before long, the news would become a soggy mess (having formerly been a scandal- and catastrophe-filled mess) when the sprinklers burst into action.
    "It ain't my fault, baby girl," he told me. "They should be up and eating their eggs and bacon by now. The news waits for no man."
    I loved being called "baby girl," for some perverse reason. Black guys referred to me as "baby" and "sugar" and "mama" when I lived in New York, and it made me feel special, even though they called everybody that (the ladies, anyway). In Utah nobody called you anything. Then I turned fifty, and cool young dudes started calling me "ma'am," even when I was wearing my MegaDeth T-shirt, cargo pants and combat boots. Bummer. I didn't feel "mammy" at all.
    Mr. Walker took a leisurely breakfast break after finishing his paper route, and then he escorted his two little yapping dogs for a brief walk. They yapped even louder, and with a bit of joyfulness thrown in, after they'd "done their business," which I totally related to. "You can't beat a good shit," Mr. Walker told me. "Nothing makes sense until that deed is done." So true.
    But as soon as the pups' evacuatory needs had been met, he was back out there on that bike again, as if he were a patrolman, careening through the neighborhood . His very sweet face was red and splotchy from all that sun exposure. He was a tall, lanky, handsome man.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sex and the Singular Girl

She had the exotic glamor of a foreign film star.
      Stan was the sexiest girl I had ever seen in person. She seemed to belong on a European movie set -- the leading lady in a passionate, complicated, black-and-white work of directorial genius -- not in our high-school Creative Writing class, circa 1965. Another student told me he had once asked her if "Stan" were her real, given name. She just laughed and replied, "Apparently."
    She was a senior, and I was a sophomore. From my assigned seat, I could stare at her as much as I wanted, which was pretty much all the time. She sat side-saddle, just one desk up and to my right. She mesmerized me.  I had never seen such radically arched eyebrows, even in a magazine. They made her appear to be perpetually alert and fascinated.  Her posture was positively regal -- that of a full-blown woman, not a teenager. She had the warmest, most open and gently amused face I had ever seen. Even so, she had no friends.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

StoryCorps' predictable plot

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

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The lie at the core of StoryCorps

(Or is it the con of a lifetime?)
    (Dec. 3, 2013) The lie at the core of StoryCorps is that it enables you to share "profound, intimate" moments with a loved one in a recording booth, and then -- if you sign a consent form -- to have that interview archived for posterity at the Library of Congress. What a lovely, heartwarming idea!
    The truth at the core of this fundamentally dishonest and calculating operation is that the consent form has been deliberately misrepresented to tens of thousands of people, who had no idea that they were signing over the copyright to their stories and photos to StoryCorps, "permanently and irrevocably," permitting the "nonprofit" to use their "sacred" interactions in countless ways. It has already turned people -- many of them dead -- into amusing cartoons, as well as books and DVDs. It wouldn't surprise me at all if StoryCorps employs its "intellectual property rights" to develop an "Our Town"-like theatrical production, or maybe even a rock opera like "Rent," or a multimedia museum exhibit, with your face projected on the walls, and your voice wafting through the gallery. Maybe a caricature of you will appear on T-shirts, tote bags and mugs.You have no say in the matter, as StoryCorps explores new media to exploit your likeness and precious moments. You are the raw material it has dug up to dump into its self-promoting processing plant and to "create more content," as the CEO puts it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Michelangelo Dentist

     (12/1/14) 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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Forever Young: Elderly Girl Shares Her Cherished Secrets

    (11/29/2011) Elderly Girl adores elderly people. They exude a sweetness and softness that is quite special. They have a vulnerability that is touching. They have patience, bravery and wisdom.
    Elderly Girl is glad they exist.
    She just doesn’t want to be one of them.
    Instead, she has become a kick-ass person, a hell-raiser, an enigma, a renegade. Much to her surprise, she has turned back the clock, becoming stronger and more luscious than ever.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

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


The beauty was unsettling but unmistakable.
    (11/28/14) 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.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A super girl becomes a Supreme for a day

A fictionalized  version of a wonderful true story.

    (11/24/2014) 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.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"NO THANKS" Giving: Don't binge -- purge!!

    I have nothing against Thanksgiving, even though I think most of us realize that's it's just another excuse for overeating -- and another major burden on women, who are already collapsing under the weight of their responsibilities. Still, giving thanks is a nice thing to do.
    But to balance things out, I believe we need a day for giving "no thanks" -- a day that encourages people to vent the resentment, rage, irritation, exasperation, betrayal, jealousy and frustration that they are obliged to stifle in their everyday lives.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Farewell to Victor, "The Halfback" and "My Gay Fiance"

    I have just learned that three of the dearest people in my life, all of whom I have profiled in this blog, have died. Victor, the fiery black activist in "Model Intentions," passed away last week. Rhonda, the glowing and aching star of "The Halfback's High Heels," and Joseph, the big, manly gay architect who asked me to marry him, apparently died several years ago in dire circumstances.

The Few, the Proud, the Masters of Manipulation

PROTECT YOUR KIDS from the Military-Seduction Complex
Being an American soldier is like being the Daddy to all the world's adorable children!
   (Nov. 2013) The commercials are more moving and stunningly tender than any ad campaign I've ever seen. First, there's the music:  a radiant, expansive, heart-rending hymn of somber violins that sounds worthy of a beloved president's funeral. The visuals are of noble young Americans: Beautiful, brave, principled, determined, competent and strong -- an idealized profile of what this country is supposed to be about.
    The few. The proud. The Marines. I have seen this series of ads over and over again the past 18 months. Even though I despise war, and believe that our military-industrial complex is the world's biggest, most dangerous source of corruption and suffering, I never tire of watching them. They stop me in my tracks every time. They pour forth with the poignant  power of superb human beings doing what they believe is truly righteous. There is grace and magnetism in the way these clean-cut kids hurl themselves out of planes, surge through forbidding terrain and leap with awesome fortitude over one barricade after another.The ads use sophisticated psychology to lure today's peace-loving kids into our "humanitarian" military. Watch out!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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

    (11/19/14) 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.

Friday, November 18, 2011

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

    (11/18/2014) 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.

Thousands Left Homeless

It's news to you, but to a copy editor, it's just the same old story
I was a part-time newspaper copy editor for 17 years, beginning
in 1980. This is a fictionalized account of that experience.
           (2011)  The newspaper’s “metro room” seemed designed expressly to spare reporters the sights, sounds and smells of real life. It used to be that if you were writing the weather story, you could look out a window to ensure that your account had some relationship to the actual out-of-doors. But all the windows had been covered for better "climate control,'' so you relied on the telephone “weather line”  and wire service forecasts that might well say ``cloudy, windy and cold today,'' when in fact it was clear and sunny.
    Where reporters had once scrambled out at the sound of sirens, crashes, booms and screams, they now reposed in a surreally quiet suite that insulated them from anything short of a major earthquake or direct nuclear attack.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Livin' La Vida Lupus: How I've adapted to a "vida loca" disease

Get out, you bastard!
Sometimes it helps to fight Lupus ferociously. Sometimes it doesn't.
   (March 7, 2014) I began having symptoms of Lupus four years ago. Extensive blood work indicated that I had an active and rapidly progressing autoimmune process occurring in my body. I was scared when I read about what Lupus can do to you. Actually, it seems that it can do pretty much whatever it wants, from rotting your teeth, to devastating your cognitive function. You are made to feel helpless as this beast rages through you, striking one organ system after another, without warning, and often without symptoms. "Your kidneys could fail at any moment," I was told. So could my heart or liver. This was a nightmarish state of chronic inflammation.
    Like most women who have responded to my previous posts on Lupus, I have gotten no help from the medical establishment. I really don't believe they have any idea what this disease is, how it works, or how to mitigate it. But I've come up with a few strategies that have helped me. Perhaps they'll help you as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In a burst of inexplicable candor, Obama declares war on everyone

Isn't it fair to say that war has its own special beauty? Some find it exhilarating.
     (Nov. 15, 2014) President Obama today declared war on every country in the world, and upon his own citizens as well. He's just tellin' it like it is, bro. Deal with it.
    In so doing, he merely acknowledged what many savvy observers have known or suspected for decades. American troops, private contractors, Homeland Security operatives, so-called "diplomats,"  and intelligence agents -- foreign and domestic -- are conducting overt and/or covert operations wherever there are people to monitor, infiltrate, bribe, manipulate, seduce, torture, rape, sabotage or assassinate.

She has been a true Mother Superior

Part Two of "I Did it My Way."

   The doctor who came over to deliver one of Mama's four younger siblings referred to the Baird house as "the sorriest shack I've ever seen." It was the first time my mother -- who was just a little girl -- had ever experienced shame. And shock as well: She loved home, as most of us instinctively do. She recalls running, with tears in her eyes, to her grandmother's house across the field, and asking her for some flower seeds. A few months later, the hardscrabble yard had blossomed into a pastel wonderland of sweet peas, blue flax, bachelor buttons, larkspur, zinnias, asters, poppies and daisies that captivated passersby (and hid the shack). That was the opening act in a life devoted to the transformative power of beauty.

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

"Fountain of Eternal Life" by Marshall Fredericks.
    (11/14/12) Every couple of years, Elderly Girl is awakened from her luxuriant slumber by a 3:30 a.m. phone call. Her wavy hair gleams, her cheeks are adorably rosy, but in her eyes there is exasperation. It must be Stockholm ringing again to announce that she's won the Nobel Peace Prize. Please, people! Elderly Girl has been rousted by these annoying intrusions about 40 times in the past 85 years. Every time, she has politely declined. She doesn't like prizes. She resents them. She rejects them! They're trinkets that cheapen one's accomplishments and taint one's motivations. Her wish is to solve problems, not to be celebrated. She was preparing to say "NO THANK YOU!"  yet again, until a gentleman with an East European accent told her she had been selected to be "The First Immortal."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Heady, Naked Guile of Medical Style

Perhaps having no clothes on is the real key to avoiding migraines.
    (3/17/14) Doesn't the sexy ecstasy of this promotional photo make you wish you had migraines? If only you did, your insurance or Medicare would buy you this silvery, "tiara-like" fashion accessory, which is essentially a glorified TENS unit that is designed (elegantly) to reduce the incidence of "cluster headaches." It obtained FDA approval last Friday, after a "fast track" process that required no independent scrutiny or verification.
    Why would the FDA be so cavalier about a device that transmits electricity into patients' skulls? Why would it accept two limited, unimpressive studies as adequate proof of "safety and effectiveness"? How can we assume that such a device can target one specific nerve --the trigeminal -- leaving adjacent nerves and brain tissues unaffected? What might be the long-term effects of using such a device on the central nervous system?
    The Cefaly product is available by prescription only, the FDA said. Yet, astonishingly, this "newly approved" device has been available without a prescription at many retailers -- including -- for more than three years, which I learned inadvertently by doing a simple Google search. It gets 2.7 stars.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lupus -- the Blushing Terrorist -- bulges with cruel surprises

Lupus filled my flat abs with fluid.
       (Oct. 26, 2012) Lupus has become my own personal terrorist. He hides out  in the remotest regions of my body, coldly masterminding his next crippling, disfiguring, painful or humiliating assault. He relishes with a jihadist's fervor his fantasies about the secret havoc he can wreak on my internal organs. But I bet he gets the biggest kick out of  what he is doing to my appearance. Until recently, I had a well-toned, skinny body. Today, my abdomen is a disgusting, big bag of  fluid.  I was once told that I looked like "a young Lauren Bacall." But now, a better comparison would be to W.C. Fields.

FLAVORAMA: E-cigarette lovers are eating it up, and they have good taste

From "nicotine replacement" to gourmet indulgence
Vaping has become a foodie's dream: luscious, calorie-free confections.

    (October 2013) If you want to put your lips together and blow something delicious, you have so many choices, it will take your breath away: More than 7,000 flavors are now available and, by one estimate, nearly 250 more are being introduced every month, according to a recent article in the New York Times.  
    I am craving cotton candy so much right now. But the butterscotch, creme brulee and fudge brownies are calling my name, too. On days like this, it's best to just close up shop, kick back in your La-Z-Boy recliner (preferably with a view of the clouds outside), and devote yourself to creating sweet clouds of your own.
    For decades now, smoking has generally been regarded  as a "vice," and a "dirty habit,." even by smokers themselves. Then, e-cigarettes stampeded into the market, with the head-tossing ebullience of wild horses. They offered a "clean," stylish, infinitely safer alternative to smoking. A passionate, activist vaping community has sprung up almost overnight, throughout the U.S. and Europe.
   The whole thrust of this energetic, creative entrepreneurial adventure has gradually shifted from nicotine delivery to creating a "smoking-like" experience that provides pleasure and relaxation. The best products envelop the the user in flavor, "throat hit," and aromatic vapor. Vaping has become a banquet, with an ever-changing array of luscious flavors. We aren't in Marlboro Country anymore. Today's men have learned that blowing banana-creme doesn't compromise your masculinity. Neither does kiwi or gummy bear.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Burn in Hell

    It's understandable that people enjoy having fires in their fireplaces. Those flickering flames are beautiful, hypnotic, comforting and cozy, not to mention toasty warm.
    All I ask is that those who indulge in this age-old pleasure observe one little act of conscience: VENT YOUR EMISSIONS INTO YOUR OWN LIVING SPACE. You should be the ones who have to inhale all that smoke, rather than inflicting it on the rest of us. It seems only fair to me.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An all-out assault on Alzheimer's: A 'brainstormy' battle plan

    In several upcoming posts, Elderly Girl will offer a detailed proposal for waging war on Alzheimer's disease, since it seems that no one who is actually qualified to take charge has done so. We need one of those "czars," without the stupid title, who would coordinate everything. Would "Brainiac" work?
    This needs to be a mass assault, a top national priority (like the moon landing), using a multi-pronged approach. It needs to be a bit crazy and loose and collaborative and all brainstormy, making use of crowdsourcing, which we have seen to be so effective at solving so many other, very diverse, problems. Let's get as many intellects -- and as many disciplines -- involved as we can.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nazis But Nice -- A Strudel Iced with Mormonism

Mormons do as they're told -- whether it's Hitler or the local bishop.
if it were legal i would marry pastry.
fo serious.

    I always decline desserts, especially those made with white flour, white sugar and butter. But when a fragile, adorable old lady appeared at my front door, proffering a huge, warm strudel drenched with vanilla icing, cinnamon and walnuts, what could I do?
   “We want to welcome you to the neighborhood,” she said, introducing herself as Lotte Krause. “And this is my husband, Helmut,” she added.
    “We think you will be a good girl, not like the one, Julia, who was here before,” Mr. Krause said. “She had her black and Jewish friends coming around all the time."
    I realize this doesn't sound believable, but I swear he said it.
    I had been told that some Nazi Mormons lived nearby, but I never expected them to manifest themselves as a touchingly frail and tender couple, if at all.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Doctor Cell Phone" will get nursed along by the FDA

Could your phone cut the umbilical cord as well? That seems easy enough.
    (Sept. 25, 2013) Oh great: Today, the Food and Drug Administration will officially begin approving some cell phone apps as medical devices without requiring authentication. This would be welcome news, if the FDA hadn't shown itself to be totally incompetent. And these are apps, the federal agency admits, that pose "moderate" or "high" risks to users. WTF? Could the woman pictured above, who just pounded her baby with sonar, have caused some harm? Who knows?
    In three previous blog posts, we have documented the appalling failure of the FDA's approval process for  medical devices that multibillion-dollar multinational corporations spent years developing. Time after time, despite a protocol that requires extensive clinical trials and "documentation" by these profit-crazy firms, the devices that the FDA has enshrined as "safe and effective" have proven to be unsafe and ineffective. Its "overworked and overextended" staff has a similarly dismal record in its drug-approval charade.That's why we have all those warning letters, recalls and class-action lawsuits: The FDA is a big-time bungler.
   Now they're going to "clear" cell phone apps, with no studies or authentication? Fasten your seatbelts.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Obama's Brewing While America's Stewing

"This stuff makes your feel like you could totally change the world!"

    (sept. 24, 2012) Do you know what's really special if you are unemployed, homeless, hungry, despondent, uneducated, bankrupt, or chronically ill?
    A cold, frosty beer, you clueless dude!
    And President Obama, having utterly failed at every other "solution" to our rapidly imploding country, is busy in his own little White House brewery, concocting an elixir that will make us feel happy and carefree, despite the fact that we are unemployed, homeless, hungry, despondent, uneducated, bankrupt, and chronically ill.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

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

It's magic: You eat it up (so trustingly!) and Edward Jones gets fatter.
   (Sept. 18, 2014)  Financial services firm Edward Jones is at it again, cultivating its "neighbors helping neighbors"  persona in a new TV ad that is being aggressively aired across the country. In it, a tenderhearted financial advisor accommodates a young couple's schedule by venturing out into the darkness to meet with them at his modest storefront office in a neighborhood strip mall. He is a lonely, noble figure as he earnestly heads along deserted streets toward his destination. As if he isn't adorable enough already, he stops first at a doughnut shop, to sweeten the dealings he'll be proposing to ensure that his wide-eyed clients' financial future is secure and prosperous. ( 
    His own future certainly is, if he follows the script handed down from headquarters. And Edward Jones itself is still thriving, despite having been censured by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to disclose kickbacks from selected mutual funds. Several class-action suits involved hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for angry clients. The firm became notorious for hidden fees and exorbitant commissions. For a couple of years, it backed off , using simple, generic advertising. Now it's reclaimed its former mythology, once again projecting that "It's a Wonderful Life" image. Maybe the Johnny Appleseed ambiance will warm hearts and forge trust once again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is There a Dr. Oz in the House? Millions of 'large ladies' eat up his "miracles"

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

UPDATE June 17, 2014: Oz was assailed in a Congressional hearing today for his "fraudulent" and "deceptive" claims about weight-loss scams, such as his recent show on "3 Ways to get your fat to eat itself." He defended himself by saying merely that he tends to use "passionate and flowery language." He was warned to tone down his "huckster" approach and to show more respect both for his audience and his medical credentials. He was referred to as a "buffoon" and a "charlatan." The same could be said for members of Congress, but the proof about Oz's disrespect for the truth can be found in Oz1, Oz2 and Oz3, behind the tabs at the top of the page.

Oz says being fat is "the kiss of death." So what is he doing to his wife?
    (Jan 18, 2013) Lisa Oz is smart, beautiful, successful, charming and spiritual. 
    Fans of the "Dr.Oz Show" share many of these qualities, but the Good Doctor says they're not enough. 
    "You need to get rid of all those extra pounds you're hauling around," he says.
    Being overweight doesn't just decimate your self-esteem and limit your lifestyle choices, according to him. "It's a death sentence," he warns.
    Since his debut in September, 2009, he has promoted one "astonishing," "game-changing," "effortless" weight-loss miracle after another. Pills, potions, teas, lotions and exotic remedies from around the globe will bust your belly fat and blast your butt fat even as you "don't lift a finger" and "eat what you want." Be lazy AND skinny, he grins.
    He implores his viewers to lose weight and save their lives. Does he implore his wife?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Elderly Girl's Ravishing Secrets to High-Spirited Longevity

     Elderly Girl is not even 100 years old yet, but for years, the media have been showing up every time she has a birthday to ask, “What is the secret of your longevity?” 
    Have you ever had some TV reporter, drowning in perfume and made up like a porn star, enter your living quarters and ply you with patronizing, intrusive questions while a gang of technical gorillas blinds you with lights and zooms in like you were some newly discovered virus? Elderly Girl is serving notice that this annual ritual is over. 
    She will share her secrets right now, for all to print out and tape to their boudoir doors, and then she will disappear, forevermore, from the tawdry spotlight of celebrity. One can only tolerate so much curiosity, envy and love.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

You're full of it, lady

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

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

    (sept. 2014) Blueberry fingers and cantaloupe toes. How could I have lived so long without longing for, and demanding,  such sweet treats?
    I was flushed with anticipation as I explored a large display of beautifully bottled liquid soaps at Big Lots last month. They were on sale for a dollar. (I later learned that they cost $10 at Kohl's and $5 on Ebay.) Their labels were artful depictions of  Lavender, Peach Mango, Lemon Citrus, Cherry Vanilla and Grapefruit Daisy, among others. The BlueBerry Blossom would look so pretty in my upstairs kitchenette, and the Cucumber Melon was perfect for the color scheme in our main-floor kitchen. I bought one for every sink in our house, and several for my shower stall. I would have a Honeydew Mint bosom and a Lime Banana bum. My days would be a succession of delectable sudsings. 
    Little treats can breathe new life into a routine existence. What a delight to embody the lusciousness of Nature. Kiss me, you fool. Or actually, never mind. I'll kiss myself!
     It wasn't until I'd been using these exquisite products for several days that I idly turned the bottle around, and read the ingredients.
    Oops, I did it again. I got taken in by hype and imagery, which readily shut down the part of my brain that knew the truth. These products were a shocking brew of creepy chemicals, which can zoom straight through your pores into your bloodstream. It wasn't a "simple pleasure" -- it was a complex poison.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Heroic" pilot takes a nice, long ego trip, and gets rich while he's at it

Sullenberger sullied his name with his shameless opportunism

Dear Sully Sullenberger:
    It was sweet of you to "carefully select" me to receive your leadership DVD  for only $595, plus shipping and handling. Thanks but no thanks. I wouldn't pay $5.95 for it. And anyway, I'm not leadership material.
    I'd rather be a follower, if I could only find a principled, heroic leader. You, sir, don't meet my criteria.
    When you accomplished your "Miracle on the Hudson" in 2009, skillfully landing your crippled aircraft in the river, you didn't risk your life to save others. You saved your own life, and incidentally saved those of your passengers and crew, by being poised, experienced and focused. That's admirable, but it's not heroic. 
    Even though all you did was fulfill your duty -- in an unforgettable setting and with undeniable dignity -- you eagerly embraced the title of Hero, and milked it for all it was worth. You acknowledged that the nation needed a stalwart protagonist. The news media are always falling all over each other trying to find some heretofore unknown person who will touch our hearts, elicit our tears and boost their ratings. You graciously served as a vessel for our collective emotional hunger.
    You didn't stop there, though. You weren't about to let us use you as an inspirational figure for free. You've turned your soft landing into hard cash. You've made yourself a millionaire by exploiting our respect for you. You charge as much as $40,000-plus to give a speech! That's not heroic -- it's just plain tacky.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

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.
    Beware of becoming part of a clinical trial. Your privacy, as well as your time and well-being, may be seriously jeopardized.
    In trial after trial, the VNS device that was being tested in the study that involved me, has shown itself to have extremely limited value (up to a 90 percent failure rate). But Cyberonics (which sounds like a sci-fi cabal that unleashes evil robots), is determined to keep trying until it wears down its opponents and qualifies for CMS (Medicare and Medicaid) reimbursement, so it can achieve its dream: a fabulous financial windfall. (UPDATE: On Dec. 1, 2014, it was rejected again, as being "unproven and unnecessary," even though the ever-sloppy FDA approved it 10 years ago.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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

    More to the point, could they enhance your gaming awesomeness?
Your brain is not a plaything, you crazy, reckless young lady!
     (august 2014) Oh great: Cool, clever marketers are using data about transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) -- which passes small electrical currents directly onto the scalp and theoretically stimulates the nerve cells in the brain -- to entice gamers, and whomever else they can think of, to buy their cute, futuristic-looking gadgets ((
    Since they are not making medical claims (in their opinion, anyway), the are not subject to regulatory oversight. One of their ads exclaims:  "Can you learn 20-40 percent quicker, reduce pain, feel better, increase energy or reduce stress with tDCS? Research studies say, YES!" (Don't these sound like medical claims to you?) Studies also indicate you could mess up your precious, incredibly complex and beautiful minds, you fools!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bless her heart: A gal from up north is here to write about us!

"Them nigras does such stupid-ass things, sometimes you just got to laugh."
      "We've alerted people to keep an eye out for you, but you’ll need to exercise caution,” my editor at the Rockefeller Foundation Journal told me. "It's like time stood still in these little backwoods Southern towns. The black poverty is stupefying. The Klan is king. And the whites will see you as a ‘bleeding-heart liberal’ who is there to stir up trouble. They’ll probably try to scare you, at the very least.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Restroom gig: A process of elimination

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

    (8/23/13) "Do you think I'd be doing this crap job if I could find anything else?" the young lady at a local dance club exclaimed. She was pretty, with magenta streaks in her glossy dark hair. The vest of her neon pink uniform had the unconvincing motto, "Flushed with Pride," embroidered in silver above her breast. She was the present-day incarnation of the "powder room" attendant. Unlike her predecessors from a more refined era, who gracefully presided over elegant accommodations and served "the upper crust," today's "loo" lieutenants must cope with drunkenness, drug use, vomit, sex in the toilet stalls, feces in the urinals, and disdainful patrons, as they attempt to eke out a living in the nation's hip, jam-packed bars, trendy eateries, and throbbing, rowdy dance clubs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This has gotten old, says Elderly Girl

"I want to be alone."
    (feb. 14, 2013) Elderly Girl has flown the coop. She needed space. She wanted her own place. Frankly, we're surprised she hung out in this gaudy, clamorous venue for as long as she did, surrounded by ordinary people, slapstick theorizing, chronic diseases and confounding issues.
    She has ensconced herself in a new domain, "The Elderly Girl Experience" (,where her autonomy and solitude can be protected.

The Excess Baggage of Dr. Mehmet Oz

See the sags and bags, the wrinkles (no twinkles) for yourself!
Dr. Mehmet Oz shares his eye bags and beauty tips in a visit to Salt Lake City on December 9.
    (Dec. 15, 2013) Do you ladies remember all those astonishing, miraculous, effortless, surefire cures for under-eye bags, dark circles and wrinkles that Dr. Oz has bestowed upon us all these years? The spritz of rosewater, the sprigs of parsley, the teabags and cucumber, the yogurt and sea urchin, and even the Preparation H? Don't forget the tart cherry juice, the chard, the astaxathtin, and the brandy/milk concoction. It goes on.
    As I noted in an earlier post, a reporter who met him in New York noted that Oz has quite the bags and wrinkles himself. "He more than looks his age, and he has very dark circles," the writer added. 
    Even so, I was taken aback to see Oz when he was in town last week for a ski getaway. He is painfully scrawny -- virtually frail. His skin is pale and not glowing. His hair is dyed a terrible shoe-polish brown, and it was held up by some sort of super-strength mousse. He has apparently not managed to use his "3 easy steps" to achieve "perfectly restorative and restful" sleep. He seemed totally pooped.
    But then there were the eyes. I have never seen baggier bags. I have never seen darker circles. I have rarely seen more wrinkles, even under the eyes of men decades older. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hey Jude: You made it bad

Another charity that cynically manipulates the tender-heartedness of its donors.
Marlo Thomas and some of St. Jude's young cancer patients.
        (Jan. 1, 2014) Maybe you've noticed the recent flood of heart-tugging (and very costly) national TV ads seeking your "desperately needed" funds for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. These slick appeals have buttressed  the "nonprofit's" constant campaign to enrich its nearly $3 billion nest egg.
    I always liked the late Danny Thomas, who undoubtedly founded this organization with the purest of intents. His daughter, Marlo, has fought aggressively to "keep the dream" (and her dad's memory) alive.  
     But donors who have done their homework about how this "charity" raises money, and how it spends those hard-earned dollars of yours, are scathing in their assessment of St. Jude's priorities and integrity.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The black gentlewoman in the marble dungeon

     This is part one of a two-part package on the difficult, 
often demeaning job of restroom attendant, then and now.

    (8/14/13) The candlelight, the rose bouquets, the champagne, the maroon brocade walls and the quiet lilt of chamber music in the air ensconced  me in a world I had only seen in the movies. My escort and I were having dinner in a lavish hotel restaurant shortly after I moved to New York City. The tuxedo-clad waiters moved about, carrying large silver trays aloft, as debonair as Astaire. Everything was muted, yet sparkly.
    As we finished our entrees, I told Mitchell, a Park Avenue lawyer, that I needed to use the restroom. "I'll order the chocolate souffles while you're gone," he said. Then he handed me a five-dollar bill.
    Ever since I had arrived in this crazy, beautiful city, men had been buying me things, taking me places, putting me into cabs and slipping me twenties. But getting paid to pee? Could things possibly get any better?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is there a Lupus Doctor in the House? We need answers.

(or is it?)
     Why is it so hard to get answers to basic questions about autoimmunity? I have raised the issues below with several highly regarded experts, and I have gotten virtually no useful information.  I spoke to a professor of immunology who said, "The questions you pose are the very questions we are trying to answer. You have actually painted quite a clear picture of this complex, baffling disorder just by framing it as you have."
    I don't buy this. I am starting to wonder if they have any idea what they're doing when they "treat" us. How can we trust either their diagnosis or their "medical advice" if these fundamental issues remain a "mystery"?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I "Went Postal," and there were casualties

USPS serves you.png      (Jan. 22, 2013) I “went postal,” but it was the United States Postal Service that created the casualties.
     For six months in 2010, my 89-year-old aunt had been confined against her will, and without legal representation, in a locked dementia facility in South Carolina. She was desperate to get out. After doing some research about her case, I was thrilled to locate a document that all she had to do was sign to regain her freedom and autonomy. I sent it to her by certified mail -- since we knew her regular mail was being confiscated (she was also denied phone access).
    The care facility's front desk refused twice to accept delivery. I was livid. I contacted the office of the United States Postmaster General, and asked that my aunt's right to receive mail be enforced. After "intense negotiations" with care-facility executives, the postmaster general's chief counsel declined to press the matter. The document was returned to me, and the postal service said, “the case is closed.” My aunt remained essentially a prisoner, illegally isolated from the outside world, and the declaration that could have saved her remains on my desk to this day, unopened.
    We have just learned that she died weeks ago, having never again been allowed any contact whatsoever with her beloved "big sister," my 94-year-old mother.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I could have danced all night with the Prophet of Polygamy

I felt as if I were twirling ecstatically with Arthur Murray.
     I have found myself in numerous unusual situations over the years (oops, I did it again), but one of the most memorable was the time I spent in the arms of Rulon C. Allred, the prophet and spiritual leader of an  estimated 10,000 Mormon polygamists in the U.S. and Mexico.
    No, we were not in the throes of “replenishing the Earth,” as Dr. Allred, a homeopathic physician, regularly reminded his flock to do “with vigor, pleasure and the love of God.”
    We were dancing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Heroin Chick, Harley Dude and Feathered Keith

He didn't speak English -- he spoke a caregiver language of acceptance and hope.
        (8/1/2011) I could see the needle tracks on her bony arms as she stood on the porch, smoking, in her chartreuse tank top and skinny jeans. There were no boobs that I could discern. Instead, she had a rack of prominent ribs.

    Her hair was a wild, bleached-to-death mess. She was the most scrawny, caved in and wrecked person I had ever seen. On the shoulder of this shell-shocked stick figure always sat a gorgeous green parrot, who seemed to be murmuring something into her ear, in comforting tones. 
    She and her hugely muscled, Harley-riding boyfriend lived in a dilapidated shack that people in our tidy neighborhood sorely resented.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Breathing Free: How I rid myself of chronic sinus inflammation

Sinuses may have benefits, but I'd rather live without them.
Aren't they rather poorly designed? Someone messed up.

    (11/29/14) For my entire adult life, my sinuses have been inflamed. This is not infection: just a feeling of congestion, pain and pressure that affected my appearance, my red-eyed vision, and even my ability to think clearly. I had a headache every morning. It made me feel kind of sick and dizzy all over. I tried using my own personalized, macho form of neti potting: Filling my sinuses with warm salt water using a turkey baster. Where are the paparazzi when you need them? I blew so hard, my eardrums screamed and then seemed to deflate. It helped, but not enough.
    Now I have a new regimen, and for the past nine months, I have been transformed. I can't believe what a difference it has made.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Harder They Fall

   (7/23/14) In 2011, the University of Utah Medical Center was named best in the nation by the morally dubious, cabalistic University HealthSystems Consortium. This simply was not believable. Our investigation discovered that a U. of U. executive essentially reverse-engineered the "top secret" algorithms that were going to be used by UHC in its ranking process, and focused intensively of those particular criteria. It was sort of like doping: It was cheating. The University blanketed the Intermountain West with ads and media coverage about its Number One status, until our blog post article appeared ( UHC abandoned its ranking program and reallocated its considerable resources.
    Now that the new U.S. News and World Report rankings have been released, we can see how far from Number One the U. really is. Naturally, no one is trumpeting this dismal news.