Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm going off the rails on a crazy train

I knew the bus ride would be eventful when I heard, as I tossed my quarters into the coin bucket, the turbaned black lady argue, to no one in particular, that "this ain't no thirty-fo'th street, y'hear? This ain't no thirty-fo'th!" Bear in mind, we were stopped just south of 79th street and any expectations of 34th would be a little on the premature side. Always game to watch lunatics, I grabbed a seat with a decent angle on the woman, who I now noticed was sporting a plastic bag tied to each ankle (either to ineffectively keep her socks from getting dirty slush on them or to stop aliens from biting her shins) and glistening, cherry-red lipstick. I can only assume the lipstick was meant to twinkle because the corners of her mouth were moist with that special kind of spittle that only real maniacs don't realize is there. Needless to say, she continued to squirm in her seat and talk to the air until she got off at 59th street (which I should point out to the reader is still nowhere near 34th Street. It doesn't even have a fucking 3 or 4 in it). As we pulled away, I realized I could still hear her voice because, sadly, she was walking along side of the bus and screaming at it as it rolled out of sight.

At the next stop, what appeared to be Rainbow Brite's grandmother got on, in that she was a seventy-something light skinned black lady wearing a giant blue hat (really. GIANT) and matching vest (with a bizarro-world red, black, and green American flag sewn into it, like, I don't know, she was a citizen of negative-space America) and a fire engine red shirt. She looked like the mayor of Nutsville as she bopped along to her iPod that I would bet good money wasn't even switched on.

Trying to not laugh out loud, I glanced over at this other woman who looked awfully familiar. While I was trying to figure out who she was, I read that the title of the book she had in her hands was "Booty Call" and figured that meant I probably didn't know her after all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Guess the Nazi!

"Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship...but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

-Hermann Goring

The Nazis sure were evil people. Imagine instilling fear and hatred in a people in order to control them! Hey...wait a second...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


If this idea of being buried with your Blackberry appeals to you, I would be happy to help expedite your journey to the hereafter. With a ball-peen hammer.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blogging Bank Shot

I saw a link to this blog on ol' Johnny Ness's virtual periodical defending journalist Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. In it, Yglesias cites one of the leading points of detraction:

"I’ve seen a few people express the notion that Gladwell’s conclusion — that success is determined largely by luck rather than one’s powers of awesomeness — is somehow too banal to waste one’s time with."

This conclusion has apparently caused a flap. Now, I haven't read the book yet (haven't even opened the fucking front cover), but I'm certain I agree with Gladwell. And, of course, the notion that most "great" people simply happen upon their success is by no means banal. And I'm sure it's unsettling. To successful people. You see, successful individuals like to think that their hard work and personal worth somehow managed to get them where they are today. When, in reality, they are simply lucky. Lucky to have gone to certain schools, attended certain churches, met certain helpful others, and been present when certain cosmic machinations allowed them to step into whatever position of power they now hold. Don't talk to me about drive, ambition, intelligence, and elbow grease. None of that means shit when you don't have opportunity and opportunity comes down to luck. Sure, you can increase your luck by making yourself more available, but that's the end of the road for the human potential movement. For every Bill Gates, there are a thousand folks of equal intelligence, drive, and "worth" who currently work at Radio Shack wishing they were Bill Gates.

Just think about yourself for a moment. You. The reader. Can you do your boss's job? Chances are, you can. Just as well, if not better. The only thing that separates you is chance.

Friday, December 05, 2008


I was going to write a self-pitying post about my sad financial demise and the injustices of the American employment rat race. But, the lurking, playful dread in this song is probably more attuned to my real feelings:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I like those odds!

An excerpt from Joe Bageant's excellent "Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War":

A 2005 Harvard University study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were wholly or partly the result of medical expenses, a 2,200 percent increase since 1981. The average out-of-pocket medical debt of individuals who filed for bankruptcy was $12,000. In the United States someone files for bankruptcy every thirty seconds in the aftermath of a serious health problem.

All of that is tragic enough, but here's the real irony: Sixty-eight percent of those filing for bankruptcy have health insurance. Premiums, deductibles, and uncovered expenses are so high now that the insurance that working people get through their employers does not necessarily save them from financial ruin...

I'd hate to kick the ol' dead horse, but the health care system we have is simply not working. Bear in mind that this book was written in 2006, well before the massive economic meltdown, although it certainly predicts it with a quote from social critic James Howard Kunstler:

The mortgage industry, a mutant monster organism of lapsed lending standards and arrant grift on the grand scale, is going to implode like a death star under the weight of these nonperforming loans and drag every tradable instrument known to man into the quantum vacuum of finance that it creates.

And, of course, the housing crisis is delicately interwoven with health care. When heart failure or cancer rear there ugly heads and you either don't have adequate health care or, in a lot of cases, any health care at all, chances are you're losing your house. Now, I don't know if national health care is really the way to go, but would someone please describe to me a plan involving privatized health care where American citizens won't get cheated out of the medical attention they need? From where I stand, it seems that the chips are stacked against us when the medical industry is run by insurance companies whose job it is to do everything in their power to find ways to deny coverage in order to make a profit. When the word "profit" is anywhere NEAR the health care system, how can you really, truly believe that any doctor, hospital, or insurance company gives a shit about you? "Oh, my doctor cares about me." Does he, when he's cooking the numbers or only treating certain, non-risk patients in order to keep his insurance payments low? Get real. He's only good if you're not really sick.

But this is not the fault of doctors or even hospitals, really (although Bageant's book does point out that these regional "wellness centers" that keep popping up label themselves "non-profit" so that they can, ironically, make more money because they don't have to pay tax. Of course, they can't show that as profit, so they keep pumping it back into their own system without doing things like, I don't know, lowering medical costs for patients). This is, unfortunately, the climate that our system has produced and unless we change things (and I'm not talking about "reform," I'm talking about ripping this system out like a national cancer) there are going to be riots in the streets.