Friday, July 31, 2009
But, fortunately, if you want to read electronic books there’s another way to go. Here’s what you do. Buy an iPod Touch (it costs seventy dollars less than the Kindle 2, even after the Kindle’s price was recently cut), or buy an iPhone, and load the free “Kindle for iPod” application onto it. Then, when you wake up at 3 A.M. and you need big, sad, well-placed words to tumble slowly into the basin of your mind, and you don’t want to wake up the person who’s in bed with you, you can reach under the pillow and find Apple’s smooth machine and click it on. It’s completely silent. Hold it a few inches from your face, with the words enlarged and the screen’s brightness slider bar slid to its lowest setting, and read for ten or fifteen minutes. Each time you need to turn the page, just move your thumb over it, as if you were getting ready to deal a card; when you do, the page will slide out of the way, and a new one will appear. After a while, your thoughts will drift off to the unused siding where the old tall weeds are, and the string of curving words will toot a mournful toot and pull ahead. You will roll to a stop. A moment later, you’ll wake and discover that you’re still holding the machine but it has turned itself off. Slide it back under the pillow. Sleep.
It's true, starting something new is awful, but it's way better than dealing with my health insurance company. And it's way better than letting Bill Krystol win.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
My point is that I liked today's column about cooking for Nora. It made me want to read Julia Child's memoir and it reminded me that I like meatloaf, something that I tend to forget, not only in the summertime but because I didn't used to like meatloaf. I grew up loathing it and only started to like it a little bit when I got married and my husband told me he made really good meatloaf. He did, once a year. Then, after about eight years of marriage I got a cookbook called Kitchen Playdates by Lauren Deen (which I recommend) and in it there's a recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf. Yes. That's right. Meatloaf wrapped in bacon. I really wanted to make it. A lot. The only problem was when we'd moved from Philadelphia to New York I'd decided that while my new house wouldn't be kosher, we wouldn't have any pork. No pork means no bacon and no bacon means no bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and I really wanted bacon-wrapped meatloaf. I thought about this. I started to wonder if a house that allowed cheese and turkey sandwiches was really all that different than a house that allowed cheese and ham sandwiches. I mean, once you mixed milk and meat did it really matter what kind of meat did the mixing? And so why not make ham and cheese at home.... or, say, beef and ground pork and smoked pork belly? Would allowing pork in my house that already wasn't kosher send me from the level of hell where I just had to chat with Paris Hilton and Katherine Heigl on regular basis down much deeper to the one where I had to go to a multi-course dinner party every night where Hugh Jackman would be my dinner partner and he would break into show tunes between courses? At first it might sound fun, and Hugh seems so nice and down to earth, not to mention cute. But night after night of anyone singing show tunes between the amuse and the soup? Even Hugh? I mean, that's hell.
But then, thanks G-d, I remembered that (most) Jews don't believe in the afterlife and if I made the meatloaf with the bacon I wouldn't have to worry about dinner with Hugh, night after night. So I made it and it was totally worth it. But, truth be told, sometimes when I'm stuck on the subway, I start singing show tunes to myself, you know, to practice, just in case I have to sing along.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
"It turns out that the apartment is the same 18th- and 19th-floor duplex that was rumored to have been on the market in a so-called whisper listing with another broker for $75 million this spring. The place is owned by Richard O. Ullman, who made a fortune managing pharmacy benefits for unions and governments."
Can you guess to whom the emphasis should be attributed?
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
"They plan to send 5-10 representatives who will stand on our sidewalk for 45 minutes displaying disturbing signs and provoking those entering our building. They try to create enough confrontation to incite others to provocation. It is their constitutional right to picket."
I googled Westboro Baptist Church and, swear to God, their homepage URL, their official URL is www.godhatesfags.com. At first I thought it must be a joke, some kind of mock-Borat kind of thing, but no, it's real. God hates. It's their whole message. According to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, the group regularly travels around the country, often to sites of controversy where they can generate press and attention with their provocative signs and antagonistic behavior. The report, which I urge you to read (it's not long), reads:
"Other WBC targets include schools the group deems to be accepting of homosexuality; Catholic, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations that WBC feels are heretical; and funerals for people murdered or killed in accidents like plane crashes and for American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a tactic the group started in 2005. Though the group's specific focus may shift over time, they believe that nearly all Americans and American institutions are “sinful,” so nearly any individual or organization can be targeted."
And as much as the WBC has a constitutional right to protest, their actions are in some fundamental way, un-American. In reviewing Bruno in the July 20th issue of The New Yorker, Anthony Lane writes:
"I realized, watching "Borat" again, that what it exposed was not a vacuity in Americans manners but, more often than not, a tolerance unimaginable elsewhere."
There's no way to stop the WBC from saying what they will, but what they say has nothing to do with reality, nothing to do with how life should be lived, and nothing to do with God. And so I hope their little teeny tiny protest goes off without incident. I hope they go home after visitng Times Square and the Statute of Liberty and write off their trip to New York City as a work-related tax deduction and then denounce the payment of taxes. And I hope they realize that in the end, hatred will not stand.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
"I think that if women gain the ability to bear children in their later years (thus truly retaining youth and vitality), society in general will find it much harder to brush older women off as irrelevant and unneeded. Older males will have fewer excuses for sniffing around skirts of women half their age, and will no longer be seen as logical opportunities, but rather selfish perverts. If women can still have babies in their 50s and 60s as men do, we'll have taken a giant step toward closing one of the most significant gender gaps that exists. True equality is the real fear."
Now, why isn't anyone saying the painfully obvious? Women gain the ability to give birth when they're older only through eggs from younger women AKA "donor eggs." I don't want to comment on anyone's decision to pursue donor eggs, I want to note Jezebel's refusal to mention the apparently unmentionable fact of them. The magic of science can extend a woman's fertility past menopause only through a third party. And let's be clear: Third party eggs, donor eggs, they are not "donated." They are cultivated and collected through an involved, expensive and uncomfortable sequence of medication and surgery, each stage accompanied by its own potentially significant risks. For all the shots and the surgery women go through to produce a batch of donated eggs they're not just given a pat on the back, they're given money. Sometimes quite a lot of it. Which means there's room for exploitation.
There's a lot to consider when it comes to deciding to become an older parent--no matter how you do it. (I'd note that studies have shown the sperm of men over 53 carries it own risks as well.) But allowing yourself to ignore the fundamental elements of fertility -- egg and sperm make baby -- in favor of a theory of potential equality between men and women that involves the payment of women for their bodily products is not a good use of anyone's time. Unless, maybe, you're Margaret Atwood.
Deep in the story there's a quote in response to the House plan to raise the income tax threshold Obama suggested to raise money to pay for the plan from $280,000 and over for single earners and $350,000 for couples to $500,000 for single people and $1,000,000 for couples. Eric Toder a tax economist at the Urban Institute is quoted as saying, "I really do not understand the politics of trying to sell health care reform, which is supposed to be for the benefit of the vast majority of Americans, and saying it should be paid for only by people making over $1 million....If it's worth doing, and I think it is, more people should be willing to pay for it."
Now, I would agree that more people than just the rich as defined here should be willing to pay for health care reform. I'm fine with the original income levels, quite frankly. But I'd point out that more people would pay for health care reform simply by paying their taxes. And I'd ask what is the relative percentage of income those making over $500K and $1 million currently pay in taxes to those making less than that? I'd ask that for the lower threshold, too. And I'd bet that couples making over $1 million pay relatively less in taxes, proportionally speaking, than those making significantly lower incomes. Just a guess. A wild guess from a blogger without the time to look up the answer. I'm just guessing.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Oh yes, and there's also this responding to Buchanan's anti-affirmative action tirade which really doesn't even need to be responded to is't so bananas, but it's there and reasonable.
(Brownie link updated 7/19)
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
But maybe I shouldn't be shocked. In Sunday's Times there's a piece by an economist named Robert Frank that argues Darwin's theories are more important than Adam Smith's when it comes to understanding how markets operate. Smith famously posits that markets left to their own devices will operate with an "invisible hand" for the greater good while Darwin thought that individuals will act for their own good and sometimes that's for the good of the species, but mostly not and it's not their primary concern anyway. Survival and reproduction are what matter most.
So now I'm thinking if the health care market didn't prove Frank is right in his assesment of Darwin and Smith, if the unregulated sub-prime mortgage crisis didn't prove him right again, then the evidence of the Euphrates should show how nice an idea the invisible hand is, but it's got nothing on the drive to compete and husband resources. Cooperation might spring up when parties compete - game theory shows it will more often than not -- but it's not guaranteed. Meanwhile, the Euphrates is dying and I can only hope that if it's where western civilization once began it will not become the place where we learn to save ourselves by deciding to cooperate.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Then there's this from the interview:
ESQ: But isn't that a threat to the insurance companies? Especially at a time when we want to keep businesses healthy and people employed?
HD: This is one of the many problems the Senate is now having. They are focused on anything but the American people. But the insurance companies will be fine. It won't happen overnight, and they'll make plenty of money. But this is not a matter of making the insurance companies happy. This is a matter of making the 72 percent of the people who want a public option happy, including the 50 percent of Republicans who want a public option.
Can I just say? I'm SO TIRED of insurance companies.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
I thought about these narratives yesterday after I read the compelling story of Will Allen in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Allen, a former athlete and wildly successful salesman, grows a lot of food on relatively little land in Milwaukee. He's committed to bringing good food people of color. He's not interested in fetishizing the perfect tomato and he loves his donuts, although he appreciates one. He's interested in equitable and sustainable agriculture.
As compelling as the story is, it's also as predictable as the infancy narratives. As an American over fifty, he had to have a period in Europe to awaken a certain Je ne sais quoi about food. For Alice Waters it was seasonal produce in Provence and for Will Allen it was compost in Antwerp where he lived and played basketball. He has his gaggle of admirers hovering at the door. And he has his -- you know what's coming -- MscArthur genius grant!
Now, I don't want to take away one thing from Will Allen. I put down that magazine yesterday and I thought: "I want to be an urban gardener! I want to teach children in gardens and grow my own food and actively reject the food-industrial complex! Will Allen says it's OK if I don't like to garden, I can shop at a farm market. But I don't just want to shop, I want to garden! Why don't I like to garden at all?" It was so comforting, the story, and frankly I'm really glad to be inspired by someone other than Michael Pollan. But my response to it was so predictable, almost, oh no, ritualized. I think that's the problem....unless it's the solution to easy food. Make the getting and cooking of good food something of a ritual with weight and meaning and purpose and then it might be easier to resist the easy packages. I don't know. I do know, though, that I have got to get to the market!
Friday, July 3, 2009
"What is new is the notion of fake casualness. Now we’re supposed to be relaxed and real, but this unstudied-ness is, in fact, carefully studied. “Authenticity” is the operative buzzword. One trend in weddings is for low-key-seeming family-style fetes that actually cost as much as a more formal event. Clothing trends are bohemian and punk-influenced rather than overtly luxe, but they still come at price points that would make a real hippie have a seizure. Fashion mags talk about how much men love women who eat, and urge women to have dessert, but we’re still supposed to be a size two.
In other words, the standards women are held to are as high as ever. Now we’re not supposed to be self-negatingly child-centered, but our kids still have to come out brilliant, accomplished, and adorable. No wonder it’s easier to throw up your hands and call yourself “bad” than engage in debate about the impossibility of perfect goodness."The new fake standards for moms don't anybody readjust the fundamentals of motherhood or, more importantly, re-evaluating our woeful infrastructure for new families in need. (This reminds me of the "breastfeeding sucks" kerfluffle Hanna Rosin and Judith Warner stoked a few months back.) The bottom line is you can bitch all you want about how bad a mom you are but what about the moms who struggle day in and day out to make sure there's food on the table and a roof over their heads? All that show-offy bitching not only doesn't help anyone, but it's still about being the coolest mommy of them all. Smells like teen spirit to me.....
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Here's a piece on confessional journalism and the women who write it. It's a little insider-ish, meaning to really get it all you have to read the articles it links to (which I did not), but it's definitely worth reading and thinking about.
Jezebel has a former (or current, I can't tell) model writing for it and she has a piece on Karen Mulder who was a super model and has been arrested in France for attacking her plastic surgeon. It's fairly awful, the business of beauty and its exploitation, but there it is. Mulder may not be the most reliable narrator of what goes on in that business, but no doubt awful things are done every day to women with little power and men with lots of it.
Madonna's adopting another child from Africa and Vogue had someone write about it (I haven't read that piece yet, either) and Jezebel discusses. Well.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
"Insurers like Aetna generally defend limited-benefit policies as a byproduct of the nation’s flawed health care system, which they say makes it too expensive to adequately insure someone like Mr. Yurdin."
So Aetna sells health insurance but they can't make enough money to insure people if they're going to get sick and it's just not their fault. Riiiight.
I once had Aetna insurance through a Cobra plan. While covered by Aetna, I had to have a diagnostic procedure, a surgry that was the only way to figure out if I had a specific condition. When I didn't have the condition the surgery was assessing, Aetna refused to cover it. The procedure's cost for a regular person (that is the uninsured) was $15,000. Aetna would have -- and eventually did -- pay significantly less. That whole thing sucked. Then, when our Cobra coverage was running out, my husband and I went looking for other insurance. At the time I was trying to get pregnant. Desperately. Frantically. Impatiently trying to get pregnant. But most inurance plans available to us wouldn't provide coverage for maternity care. "Oh you just pay the OB, five thousand and that takes care of it." Right. And if I had had any complications? Required any special testing? What about a hospital stay? My relatively uneventful pregnancy involved all three. If I had had the non-maternity coverage, who would have paid for all of it? Moreover, if I had actually become pregnant before switching coverage new insurance wouldn't have covered my pregnancy because it would have been considered a "pre-existing condition."
Now we have insurance through my husband's job and I can't even get started on how bad they suck. I can't. Its so boring and everyone has heard the stories before. The evasions, the delays, the out and out lies. It's just gross. These are the gatekeepers to our health care system. These are the people who've argued against coverage and who now claim (according to the Times) that if everyone were covered they could do a better job insuring. All I can say is these insurance executives and lobbyists better not be involved in the new health care plan. That'd be kind of like having veteran Wall Streeters figuring out how to fix our broken financial system. I mean, that would be nuts, right?