Some snaps.

The American Health Care Act isn’t even seven days old. If they’d done their homework, it could be seven years old by now, more or less, but let’s not quibble. Not when it appears to be a dumpster fire, and the best Paul Ryan can say about it? Insurance can’t work if the young and healthy have to subsidize the old and sick.

I’ve actually heard others say the same thing. If you live long enough, you’ll hear people say all sorts of stupid things, but that one takes at least a big slice of the cake. Over the years, I’ve spent thousands in insurance premiums, protecting houses that never caught fire or flooded, cars that left my ownership with no more dents than they arrived with, etc. As Charles Pierce points out, that is the literal definition of insurance.

Oh, well. It’s nearly the weekend. How’s about some pictures?

Look who I saw in my back yard on Sunday:

He was back today, although I didn’t get a picture. This makes me think he might be roosting somewhere in the neighborhood, which makes me happy, even though my vet once told me not to be. They crow at first light, and not the cock-a-doodle-doo crowing of roosters, but sort of a harsh, hacking sound. So be it. Pheasants. They’re beautiful birds, and cool to have around. My own little wild chicken.

(Please, no cracks about the state of the yard. Alan doesn’t believe in the traditional, Grosse Pointe “fall cleanup,” in which every single leaf is bagged and toted away the first week of December. He thinks old leaves should lay on the flower beds. So far, the spring bloom hasn’t contradicted him. So it’s an ugly yard for us in the cold months.)

A gift from Basset, found in some old files:

Of course it was the Day Of, because the N-S was an afternoon paper, and in those days, there would have been plenty of time — and reason — to rip up Page One for such catastrophic news. I’m more struck that no other story above the fold was local. Back when your evening paper carried the news from everywhere, dammit.

Finally, a sign I see from time to time at the end of an exit ramp:

Not just any cans and pails, but metal ones. And plastic ones. Sold by the Canbys. In a bold, sans-serif font, too. None of this IniTech-type bullshit. I miss businesses like this. I should stop in and buy one of each.

This is it for me for the week. A good weekend to all.

Posted at 5:36 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments

To your health.

Tuesdays are usually work-at-home days for me, and Monday night I had an exceptional sleep. (They usually follow terrible ones, which Sunday’s was.) Woke up, worked out, felt strong, came home, breakfasted, showered, dressed and worked all day in lipstick. Didn’t eat any junk food, either. To say rest and fuel have an effect on one’s mood is hardly deep-dive science, but man is it ever true.

The older I get, the less I drink. The less I drink, the better I feel. Goddamnit.

But now we’ve established a theme for the day: One’s good health. And with that…

This is an abstract for an academic paper, and I haven’t read beyond it, but I found it interesting, as I did some reporting on telemedicine a couple years ago (helped by our own Dexter, who was receiving weight loss and nutrition counseling via telemedicine at the time). Here’s the gist of the paper:

The use of direct-to-consumer telehealth, in which a patient has access to a physician via telephone or videoconferencing, is growing rapidly. A key attraction of this type of telehealth for health plans and employers is the potential savings involved in replacing physician office and emergency department visits with less expensive virtual visits. However, increased convenience may tap into unmet demand for health care, and new utilization may increase overall health care spending. …We estimated that 12 percent of direct-to-consumer telehealth visits replaced visits to other providers, and 88 percent represented new utilization. …Direct-to-consumer telehealth may increase access by making care more convenient for certain patients, but it may also increase utilization and health care spending.

This is disappointing. I like telemedicine for a number of reasons — it can allow people who live far from excellent doctors and hospitals to enjoy some of their benefits; it can facilitate one-on-one coaching like that enjoyed by Dexter; it makes sense as an efficiency measure at a time when, as we’re told more or less constantly, we all have to find ways to save. And yet, as this study shows, it doesn’t save. Because people need to see doctors, a lot. The more you see doctors, the more doctors you see.

And we’re going to fix this with health savings accounts! Also, tax credits!

Meanwhile, I’m sure this guy is headed for a bright future in politics:

A long-running battle to establish a database to monitor for prescription drug abuse in Missouri — the only state without one — is about to hit a boiling point.

On one side is Republican state Senator Rob Schaaf, who once said that when people die of overdoses that “just removes them from the gene pool.”

This was something else I did some reporting on this year — prescription drug monitoring programs, or PDMPs. They’re computer databases, with monitors in every doctor’s office and pharmacy, that allows staff to check the prescribing history of individuals seeking opiates. Makes sense, when doctor-shopping is a prime driver of the opiate crisis, don’t you think? Every single state, except for Missouri, has one. Most of the Missouri legislature wants to establish one. One guy doesn’t. So far he’s managed to block every attempt to enact one. His latest gambit is to set up a PDMP-like system, but one that wouldn’t talk to other states’. And why does he feel this way, despite the charming gene-pool comment?

“They don’t work. And it’s an infringement upon people’s privacy,” Schaaf said in an October 2016 interview with local television station KSHB. “Most people don’t want the government to have that information and have it on a database in which many people can get it.”

They don’t work, said the one guy in the one state that doesn’t have a PDMP. This reminds me of a story I did a few years ago, about a bill to allow health-care workers to opt out of private employers’ policies requiring vaccines. The sponsor wasn’t interested in considering what might happen when a nurse in a pediatrician’s office opts out of a flu shot; he was interested in the idea that a person could be required to do anything.

No matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up.

Maybe I should go yell at a TV for a while, and see who’s listening.

Happy hump day, all.

Posted at 8:47 pm in Current events | 61 Comments

Practicing avoidance.

Let’s see if we can do this, OK? Let’s see if we can go one day, just one day, without mentioning The Thing That’s Happening. Come on, let’s try. It’ll be good for our mental health. And I’ll start:

One of the things I did in my midwinter madness this year was re-watch “Mad Men” in its entirety, which of course gave me a powerful hankering for all things mid-century, but certainly the TV of my youth – the commercials, anyway.

So I was delighted to find this Terry Teachout roundup of some of the most memorable spots of the ’60s and early ’70s, including, yes, the flying couple whom Hertz somehow installs in the driver’s seat.

First realization: They’re mostly a minute long. Second realization: You need that long to set up the punch line for the Volkswagen ad, and it would be a crime against a rather lavish production budget to limit Ann Miller to 30 seconds.

Also, while I don’t often look to the Tablet for pop-music criticism, this takedown of Billy Joel is well worth your time. I always appreciate a writer who goes for broke, even when it doesn’t succeed; it’s like watching a waiter run behind a teetering pile of plates:

“From the very beginning,” Alana Newhouse wrote recently in Tablet, “there was a tacit agreement made between this country and its Jews: You, America, give us liberty and freedom from the extreme degradation and oppression we experienced everywhere else and, in turn, we Jews, will gift you with our … Jewishness. With Jewish thinking, and Jewish reflexes. With the ideas and impulses, honed over thousands of years, that could help a country create an unmatched economy, unparalleled creative industries and artistic and literary cultures, social and civic organizations, and more. America, at least so far, has kept its side of the bargain. But we have not.” Instead, we’ve practiced passing, an insidious art few have mastered more than Joel himself. When asked—in Germany, of course—about his Judaism, this is what the lyricist had to say: “I had the snip and I had nothing to say about it. I’m still a little pissed off about that.”

Finally, let’s just confine our commentary on this photo to the fashion it depicts — a prosperous middle-age couple coming back from vacation, relaxed and ready:

Don’t compare it to any recent photos out of Palm Beach or D.C. You’ll jump out a window.

Posted at 8:11 pm in Popculch | 71 Comments

A constant roar.

Had lunch with my boss on Friday, and marveled that for the first time in a while, I have no deadlines approaching and can actually have a weekend entirely free of work. He said, “Good.” I said, “Good.”

And that’s the way it pretty much worked out, although I did about 20 minutes’ worth this afternoon.

The rest of the time, I watched Twitter with the sense of dawning horror and WTF-ness that was the order of the weekend. It made me think of that “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” movie, and wondered if, when this whole ghastly period comes to an end, if we can’t all visit the Lacuna Corp. offices and have everything erased. I simply can’t imagine working in the White House; I recall, during the early honeymoon of the Obama administration, some journalist commenting that it was easy for the president to be a good father, because he essentially has a home office. And then Rahm Emanuel saying, “He’s the only one,” because the White House takes every hour of your day and then some. So far, this Chaos Good administration has big-footed every news cycle since the election. No wonder Kellyanne Conway looks like a zombie. No wonder Sean Spicer is so angry all the time. No wonder Steve Bannon resembles – oh, never mind. We know what he resembles, and why.

Maybe the leakers are the people who just want a fucking weekend off.

We’d all like a weekend off, don’t we? Alas, not yet.

A good weekend, all around. Work on Saturday, schvitz on Sunday. Waiting for a good week, with rain and warmer temperatures.

In the meantime, I’m glad I don’t live in Oklahoma.

Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 8:54 pm in Current events | 50 Comments

The collapse.

Another grueling week, lemme tell you. This Sunday is ladies schvitz, and I’m going to sweat until I’m just an desiccated husk. And tonight is a night to watch old boxing matches on HBO and cuddle up with the dog. It’s cold again, I drove a million miles and car repairs will cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars. So yeah: Boxing.

I thought Andre Ward was a goner after that second-round knockdown, but now I think he’s going to go the distance. This fight was last November in Vegas, but I must have let my subscription to Ring lapse, because I never saw it.


So, now we have an attorney general who met with the Russians and lied about it? Is the cognitive dissonance in the room a low hum for you, or more like a TV between channels, turned up to 11? (Hands go up.) So we now have leak after bombshell after stink bomb with this administration and their hanky-panky with the Russians, and the GOP continues to stick their hands in their pockets, look at the sky and whistle. I can’t stand it. I can’t even look at the blogs and the columns and the usual suspects anymore.

Except Roy, of course.

I don’t even have any bloggage, but I do have a headline:

She’s 42. And there were three football players. Because of course there were.

Folks, I’m beat. New thread for new outrages, and have a nice weekend.

Posted at 9:38 pm in Current events | 75 Comments

Voices from another room.

Last night I was all set to write something, but had what was, for me, a highly unusual set of physical symptoms, which boiled down to: Tummyache.

I never get nauseous. I never get heartburn. I wish, just once, I could have a “nervous stomach,” just to see if I could lose a few pounds. So I made dinner, served and ate it and went upstairs to read and avoid the presidential address. Alan watched it downstairs, at a volume high enough to only get a sense of it. I couldn’t hear the words, but that distinctive cadence, Trump-at-a-Teleprompter, was unmistakable: Blah-de-blah. De-blah. Blah-de-blah-de-blah. I could see him swinging between the three prompter screens like I was there. Sighed. Checked Twitter. Sighed a lot more.

You guys can talk about it today. I just heard a podcast on my way in (NYT’s “The Daily,” a good way to start your day), and need to allow my blood pressure to drop a little.

So just a few links, some of which were posted yesterday in comments.

Charles Pierce on why he doesn’t feel sorry for regretful Trump voters:

Holy mother of god, I’m tired of reading quotes from people who live in places where the local economy went to hell or Mexico in 1979, and who have spent the intervening years swallowing whatever Jesus Juice was offered up by theocratic bunco artists of the Christocentric Right, and gulping down great flagons of barely disguised hatemongering against the targets of the day, all the while voting against their own best interests, now claiming that empowering Donald Trump as the man who will “shake things up” on their behalf was the only choice they had left. You had plenty of choices left.

In Kansas, you could have declined to re-elect Sam Brownback, who’d already turned your state into a dismal Randian basket case. In Wisconsin, you had three chances to turn out Scott Walker, and several chances to get the state legislature out of his clammy hands. And, now that the teeth of this new administration are becoming plain to see, it’s a good time to remind all of you that you didn’t have to hand the entire federal government over to Republican vandalism, and the presidency over to an abject loon on whom Russia may well hold the paper.

Some hate criminals go to prison for lengthy stretches, after terrorizing a child’s birthday party. And cry like little bitches all the way there. A deeply satisfying read.

How Medicaid block grants will screw over rural America. See Pierce, above.

Finally, a beautifully told story of Tiger Woods, still a young man but old in athlete years, childlike in many ways, and deeply sad. But lots of new stuff here, too — did you know he at one time thought he could become a Navy SEAL? Like, recently?

Lots to read there. I need to do my day job. Enjoy.

Posted at 9:36 am in Current events | 64 Comments

The other envelope. Please.

So what would you have done if you were in their shoes? If you were Warren Beatty, looking into that envelope, knowing it was the wrong one? If you were the stagehand in the wings, suddenly realizing he was holding the wrong envelope?

Of course we all want to think we’d be heroes, that (if we were Beatty) we’d have looked into the wings, waved the envelope in some way that indicated someone needed to double check, then vamped for time with a few jokes. If we were the stagehand, we’d have bolted onstage for a moment of Oscar glory, waving the senior-citizen Bonnie and Clyde off like a plane about to land in a minefield.

But that didn’t happen. Sometimes actors who are brilliant at delivering lines are terrible at improv, and just default to the default: Read what’s on the card. Stagehands are trained to stay out of sight, and anyway, maybe s/he didn’t have the correct card. What then? “Something’s wrong, but we’re not sure what!” just wouldn’t have worked under the circumstances.

And so we at least got a memorable moment to talk about Monday. I actually read a few takes about the “injustice” done to the film made by black folks, which put me in mind of a bride who has a truly memorable mishap at her wedding, the kind that will make people talk about it for years afterward, and can only feel sorry that her special day wasn’t perfect. Right now, people are going to remember how “Moonlight” won a lot longer than they’ll remember “Moonlight.” Which isn’t exactly immortality, but it’s the next best thing.

Anyway, two people had one job, and screwed it up. (Not Beatty and Dunaway.)

So, a little bloggage:

Who knew? Really, who knew health care was so complicated?

Seriously, WHO KNEW?

Answer: Everybody.

Posted at 8:02 pm in Current events | 66 Comments

The shortest, longest month.

Man, for the shortest month, February is sure taking its sweet time clearing out, isn’t it? I started Friday with good intentions to see at least one movie in a theater, do some food prep for the week ahead, the whole nine. Ended up watching the Sunday HBO lineup, which dropped early because of the Oscar conflict, and wishing I was anywhere but here, where the temperatures dropped, the wind picked up, and life became generally sorta gray and boring.

Made significant progress on “The Underground Railroad,” though. Which I am loving. “Lincoln in the Bardo” is next. “I Am Not Your Negro” and/or “Get Out” will have to wait for next weekend. When it’s cold and the wind is howling, it’s more of an otter eating lettuce sort of Saturday night.

Also, “Piper,” which you should watch, because not only is this short film too stinkin’ cute for words, it is kind of a documentary of me learning to surf.

Whatever happened to going out during the week? We used to do that, back when we both were reliably off work by 5 p.m., which simply doesn’t happen anymore. Plus: February. Chill winds. Et to the cetera.

Just one word before we get to the bloggage, after watching the third episode in the final season of “Girls,” I’m crossing my heart and making a promise that I will pay attention to Lena Dunham throughout her just-getting-started career, and you probably should, too. I thought “American Bitch,” the so-called “bottle episode” airing this week, was a real piece of work, smart and nuanced and funny and not-funny, and sort of amazing coming from the pen of a writer as young as Dunham.

Like lots of people, I have found Dunham hard to take at times, but the more I see of her acting but mostly her writing, the more impressed I am. “American Bitch” is about the gray areas where power imbalance, gender, age and consent all meet, a place lots of women have found themselves, both today and when we were all young. It’s not an easy topic to tackle in 30 minutes, but she managed it, with a great deal of help from Matthew Rhys as the famous dick novelist whose behavior is at issue.

We spend a lot of time here feeling sorry for ourselves because great old artists and entertainers are dying. I think the best cure for that is to find some young ones worth watching. Dunham is.

Plus, she drives conservatives insane, because she’s something of an exhibitionist with her nude body, which is pudgy and has cellulite and is generally the sort they think ought to never be seen unclothed. Fuck those guys, I say.

So. Bloggage? I guess there’s some: Thanks to Sherri for finding this piece on the “brilliant jerk,” a well-known type, especially in Silicon Valley:

This term, “the brilliant jerk,” has been around for a while in corporate lingo. I remember first reading about in a New York Times blog post (R.I.P. blogs) in 2012. (PLEASE DON’T ACTUALLY ME ABOUT REED HASTINGS, YOU JERKOFF, HE’S TWO GRAFS DOWN.) I guess there was a series about Being The Boss and the URL was 🙁 What a world! Anyway it was a sort of advicey column about what to do about that one archetype, the Brilliant Jerk, in your workplace. It was fun to read when it came out because everyone got to speculate about who their brilliant jerk was.

But everyone already knows who the brilliant jerk at their workplace is because it’s the raging asshole!! It’s not hard to tell. And yet somehow as long as we’ve had a word for it, and probably even longer, we’ve wrung our hands over whether or not to cope with this fucktard over here because—wait for it—HE’S BRILLIANT!

Another Jewish-cemetery incident, this one in Philadelphia. The official word of 2017 is “emboldened.” Repeat after me.

My favorite Twitter chuckle of the weekend:

And on to Monday. But first, some chicken.

Posted at 6:09 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 41 Comments


Remember “10,” the charming romantic comedy from 1979 that made a zillion dollars, inspired way too many white girls to try cornrows and introduced the world to both Ravel’s “Bolero” and Bo Derek? Seriously, that’s her opening credit: “Introducing Bo Derek.” You don’t see that so often these days.

I just turned it on, to see if it holds up. I remember seeing it more than once in the theater, and loving it irrationally, although I never tried cornrows.

It opens with Dudley Moore being led into a dark house, which turns out to be a surprise birthday party for him. After the gaiety and the cake, he’s enjoying a quiet moment with his girlfriend (Julie Andrews) by the fire. He laments his advancing age, and the birthday party, which only reminds him he’s old, old, old.

He’s 42. Julie, we learn a beat later, is 38.

Suddenly, my perspective is radically shifted. I was 21 for most of 1979. Forty-two must have seemed ancient.

Don’t think I’ll watch it all the way through. As I certainly know by now, life is short, and I have books to read.

Oh, here’s a singing scene, with Julia. God, what a voice. And face. A true gamine, clear until…38. Just realized, when she made this movie, she was 44. I wasn’t really buying her as 38, but not because of her looks. She’s one of those women from an earlier generation who simply seemed more mature.

Speaking of more modern entertainments, pro tip: If you’re a podcast fan, go find “Missing Richard Simmons” and subscribe, pronto. It’s based on the mystery of where Simmons has been for the last three years; early in 2014, Simmons essentially “ghosted the world,” i.e. went into his house and hasn’t come out. All of which would be one thing, but Simmons had many close friends and associates, and none of them know where he is, either. Please don’t Google; I did this morning and suspect I know what happened, but I’m still listening, because it’s very well-done, not too long and, as you might expect, about a lot more than just Richard Simmons.

Sherri posted this in comments yesterday, but I don’t want anyone to miss it — it’s very good. Laurie Penny’s account of traveling on the Milo bus, and what she saw there.

Otherwise, this is a midweek slump, and anyway — I’m older than 42.

Posted at 9:28 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 98 Comments


I mentioned, in what I hope was a certain woe-is-me tone yesterday, how I overcooked my New York strip night before last. It was still very good, because I did what I do from time to time and splurged on the really good USDA Prime that my meat market has on offer, most weeks. They display the Choice and Prime steaks right next to each other, and the difference is apparent to all but the fat-phobic yoga moms in their XS Lululemons — notable marbling in the Prime, little in the Choice. The flareups that overdid the steak would have reduced the Choice to leather.

The Choice steaks were $14.99 a pound, the Prime $19.99. Alan and I split one, for the standard deck-of-cards-size serving. I don’t feel guilty, because eating is something you have to do at least twice a day, and beef is something I might eat twice a week, so no biggie.

Sometimes I wish I’d gone into food journalism. Although by now I’d probably be a vegetarian. Feedlots are not nice places.

Can you see how hard I am trying not to talk about current events? I have to go back to reading novels instead of Twitter. “The Underground Railroad” is on the coffee table, “Lincoln in the Bardo” is on its way via Amazon (thanks, users of the Kickback Lounge!). I have to take more breaks from this insanity. Think about steak and cooking and the prose of George Sauders.

But we have to get to it sometime. I guess the story of the day is Milo. You only need to read two pieces, Roy’s

Milo tried to do that with his pedo-tapes (in “a note for idiots” — ha, that Milo!) — but found that he was suddenly no longer the Right’s sassy gay friend. Not because he had sex with children himself — there’s no evidence he did; interestingly, it seems he was the one exploited as a child — but because, from the conservatives’ perspective, he did something worse: He embarrassed them. It was fine when he was whooping up those wanton cruelties and bigotries a normal American can get away with. But pedophilia is a Hard Limit, at least socially.

Conservatives could have done a love-the-sinner, hate-the-sin thing, but that would have required charity, and bitter experience has taught us all that in America this is not a Christian precept. They could have said that though Yiannopoulos had put himself beyond the pale, his principles were still sound, and they could put aside his failings the way intellectuals put aside the anti-Semitism of Mencken or the racism of Larkin, and cleave instead to his aesthetic legacy; but when his book deal and CPAC spot evaporated, it became obvious that there was nothing like a principle or an aesthetic legacy at all left to defend — just a savage clown show that no one wanted to see anymore. (Even Soave is edging away from him. Did I say “even”? Ha, I meant “of course.”)

…and this one, from Slate:

You can thank Steve Bannon, now a central figure in Donald Trump’s administration, for making the clownish hustler Milo Yiannopoulos a star. As the editor of Breitbart, Bannon recruited Yiannopoulos to the site, where he published columns like “No, J.C. Penney, Fat People Should Absolutely Hate Themselves” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” If Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person, Yiannopoulos is a Trump voter’s fantasy of a decadent gay sophisticate. His shtick is to wrap various shades of reaction – anti-feminism, racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims – in camp, to sell bigotry as cheeky provocation. He and co-author Allum Bokhari put it this way, in a Breitbart ode to the alt-right: “Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish ‘Shlomo Shekelburg’ to ‘Remove Kebab,’ an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide.”

Yiannopoulos uses his gayness to grant absolution to his mostly straight right-wing audiences, telling them that by reveling in prejudice they are bravely flouting taboos. During the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, an at event billed as an America First Unity Rally, Yiannopoulos told a crowd full of bikers and Alex Jones acolytes: “I might be a dick-sucking faggot, but I fucking hate the left…the left in this country is a cancer that you need to eradicate.” As a gay man, he added, he aims to be “transgressive, to be naughty, to be mischievous. And today in America that means being right-wing.”

And that’s about all the Milo I can handle at the moment. Time to start “The Underground Railroad.” Good Wednesday, all.

Posted at 9:34 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments