Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Pinch is On

For a while in this downturn I tried to publish a piece I wrote in 1980-something called "Getting Through the Winter." It was a witty, comic-panicky mock diary of plunging through unemployment. Our TV broke and our neighbor gave us their old one, we asked the kids to stop charging things at the drugstore, and so forth.

But now I can take notes from me and my friends at the dog park. A paralegal woman can't find a job for six months. The writer who owns a big lab named Norman (and wants to write the "Book of Norman") was waited on by the manager at Steak & Shake. She only went because she had a coupon by the way. It's happening all over again.

Let's see, how does it work. There comes a day when you just stop spending money. No new shoes, no clothes, no movies, no restaurants, and finally no cable TV. The man who came to remove the cable boxes was a management type; they must have downsized the young cable installers. I freak out when the toaster breaks, and as for getting a new printer--Goodwill here I come. I can't believe I once had the windows washed and the carpets cleaned and installed security lights in the backyard and had the walls painted. That was then. Now I spread out my gold class rings and charm bracelets and think, hmmmmn.

There's a select audience for words like these because people who don't know hear you as self-pitying. Well, I'm not, just factual. I know people have houses in foreclosure et cetera and that I'm fortunate to still have a gold bracelet. Blah blah blah. It's just that the pinch is on!

Plus, even in good times I'm always planning for the time world currency collapses and the day I trade my wedding ring for six eggs and the rejoicing this will cause back at the house.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Writing about Writing and Writing about Selling Writing

Uh oh time to write can't put it off any longer guess what you've been on facebook checked mail read the Times looked at your money done the wash and nothing else remains.

We are so lucky so lucky to have something to write with. People used to dread the blank page the white screen but other people wish for this time and this blankness. You know Dame Julian who had the showings as she called them, Jesus telling her of his love and how all will be well. She wrote a short version and then much later in life had herself walled up in a cell (with meals served to her it is true). She took extreme measures to get to that blank page.

Because It's a bit hard when "angel in the house" c'est moi! Who is the one who gives rides and nurtures? Who takes the dog to the vet and knows we don't have cumin? A variation on an old theme of mine.

Meanwhile friend and reader, it is time when you don't want to write, to start promoting your other writing.

It's time to start thinking about Christmas. Buy my "Santa Book" at Also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I believe.

If there's anything I dread more than writing it's selling writing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Authentic Weirdness of those times.

Do you ever watch the show "Mad Men"? It's about men in advertising in the late 60s I think, and the women who have to put up with them. Last night I saw an episode where a woman asked for equal pay and got brushed off. "My secretary can't respect me if I make only $71.00 a week more than she." "Get a cheaper secretary then." A woman has a baby boy while the husband drinks in the waiting room. At work the next day he gets chided for absence, "Your wife had the baby, not you!" No concept that his life is altered in any way.

How would Mad Men be viewed in 1969, if it could be made at all? What we did view that year was "How to Make a Woman," an experimental play in Cambridge. The wife has a baby and says to the husband, "It's a girl!" He cries, "Shit!" Soon afterwards I joined the local NOW chapter and the rest is, well, still has the power to shock.

But after the shocks and transitions, time goes on and you go on and the whole thing kind or blurs and you tell the story of the sex-segregated want-ads and the restaurants where women couldn't go (Locke-Ober's anyone?); but it gets a patina of nostalgia. Then watching "Mad Men" you see how strange that culture was, how artificial. How deadening how infuriating and how in retrospect so downright weird.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Health Care Reform: Trying to Think

Remember those essays on the SAT exam that you had to read and then answer questions about? Well this is why:

I got the link from a very good David Brooks column on health care reform (that also talks about the Goldhill article I mentioned), and I read "Bending the Curve." It's easy to understand why many people would prefer to deal in slogans rather than information because the bureacratese combines with one's own imagination to make one feel strange-lovey.

The general ideas set out in "Bending the Curve" are
a) restructure reimbursements--especially in the public sector;
b) link outcomes to provider reimbursement;
c) some form of tort reform; and
d) somehow reward improvements in health by individual and *community* incentives.

On a) and b), couldn't some reforms be done through policy changes in Medicare and Medicaid? Do improvements in IT and reimbursement policies really require an act of Congress?

On b) and c), the proposals involve adding more committees and bureaucracy, boards and oversight. I have no idea how an Accountable Care Organization would work in the real Medicare system. And couldn't quite figure out what a "CMS" really is, never mind how to streamline and expand it at the same time.

On d) it seems I might get a refund if I lose weight. But what if I gain! Will national annual weigh-ins be mandated? Who will turn me in if I take up smoking? On the *community* incentives, will cameras in school record corn syrup intake?

Reader, you know I'm a liberal but I can see how the right wing gets set off by stuff like this.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Too Sane??

What do the big columnists do when they can't think of anything to write about? They write about something they read the other day that is excellent:

That is, "How American Health Care Killed My Father," by David Goldhill. Even if the above doesn't result in a usable link, take a minute to copy it into your browser because it's the sanest thing you'll read about health care.

Goldhill is a businessman, and his convincing analysis is a mind-opener. The fault, Horatio, is in the comprehensive health care model itself. If consumers paid for non-catastrophic medical care themselves, Goldhill convincingly demonstrates, American health care could come into balance. For example, Wal-Mart is already offering a month's prescription for generic drugs for $4.00 (which I'm glad to know!!). You can also find free or nearly free flu shots at a local pharmacy.

Goldhill proposes more creative approaches that would end up covering everyone for less money than today. A combination of specialized clinics, Health Savings, government subsidies, and capitalism could provide something both workable and American. Or, his analysis just might fall into the category of too sane to be taken seriously.