Archive for the ‘The Way We Live Now’ category

The Way We Live Now

March 25, 2014

Via friend/great science writer Steve Silberman, this very funny, hurts-too-much-to-laugh insight into the tools with which our corporate overlords wrest control of our brains:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YBtspm8j8M

Oh brave new world that has such creativity in’t

Yup. This Happened

February 14, 2014

I was unaware until recently of the creeping musical imperialism of the Bluegrass hordes.

Viz, this:

Apparently it’s become a thing now, in a very subcultural kind of way, to test the proposition that one can mountainize any piece of music whatever. So, while I know that the tune involved is as hoary as last week’s cod, I’ve got one more for you. I guaran-damn-tee y’all have never seen a horse dance like this:

Got my Valentine’s Day musical choice coming up later. I bet you can guess where it’ll land.

Enjoy your elevenses.

A Lesson In Compassion (From Within A “Family Values” State)

January 30, 2014

Nothing says the dignity of humanity; nothing says kindness; nothing says how a high level of public religiosity makes for a better society than literally ripping  food out of hungry kids hands, and, in front of them, throwing it away:

Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.

Max_Liebermann_Kindervolksküche

“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, 1571 E. 1300 South.

Eleven years old!

I’m a dad, as y’all probably know.  My kid is 13 now.  He’s a total pain in the ass about food right now — won’t touch most stuff, including his school’s cafeteria fare.  He takes food from home and we top him up when he gets home.  But he used to get some stuff there.  I remember topping up his account once or twice when I dropped him off — we’d either crossed over into the red or come too close to it.  No one at his school would have dreamed of grabbing his bagel; we’d get a note asking for another five bucks for the system.  That’s how you do it.

If anyone had stopped my son in the middle of the cafeteria line, grabbed his tray and dumped his lunch?

I can’t imagine what I’d have done and said.  I can imagine what that experience would do to my child — to any kid.  Public poor-shaming –turning some little kid, with no power, no agency, no ability to defend or deflect or do anything, into nothing more than your prop in some twisted morality play about the undeserving proles.  I’m sorry about the run-on there. The rage and refracted sorrow/sympathy for the chidren some asshole(s) decided it was OK to hurt just overwhelms my ability to calm down my syntax.  But you get the point:  this  is no way to teach an 11 year old anything.  Or rather it’s just the right way to learn both that child and all her or his peers how to be the worst we can be.

One more thing:  I’m slamming on Utah in the headline, because I’m sick of sitting here in godless Massachusetts listening to folks from the religiousist corners of our country tell us how we all need to emulate the values in which such places are alledgedly rich.

But I take this personally too.  This isn’t just Utah.  An action like this is the logical endpoint of a culture that frames all things as the battle of the individual against society.  I like living in a social setting.  I think the genius of American democracy in the abstract is that it provides a once-novel way of mediating between levels of association from village on up and the individual.  So when  I hear the words “American exceptionalism,  I’d like them to have some other meaning than that we are exceptional in our capacity to be cruel to hungry children.

Image: Max Liebermann, Kindervolksküche, 1915

Your Morning Awesome

January 16, 2014

Thanks to increasingly indispensable blogger Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who pops up every week or so over at Charlie Pierce’s joint, I just watched this:

Because I am a kind and generous soul, now you can too.

Because Grinch, That’s Why

December 23, 2013

I don’t mind Christmas so much as these last two-days-prior. All my own fault, of course. I still have some gifts to get; there’s a bunch of stuff to shove off my desk and I’m inefficiently workaholic enough that the enforced leisure of a Christmas afternoon (aka the long dark pre-hangover of the soul) makes me mental and all that.

And so, because I am a generous man, I am more than happy to share the Christmas song that most captures the gestalt (though happily, not the actual details) of my pre-holiday feh:

“I could have been someone”

“Well, so could anyone…”

(Cue Glendower:   I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur: Why so can I and so can any man./But will they come when you do call for them? (Henry IV Part I, Act 3, Sc. 1)

Yeah, I know.  Grump, grump, grump.  If I can’t say anything nice…

Just to show that I’m not wholly hostile to y’all and everyone else this time of year, here’s a fun little gift.  Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Christ Thile and Stuart Duncan doing some modern bluegrass inflected stuff — fast fingers all.  These are the things that remind me that for all the shite we may daily encounter, we do live in bizarrely wonderful times:

Top of the season, y’all. May your friends be kind to you and fail to offer you any a cocktail that floats red liquor on top of green.

Monty Python’s Holy Grail…

November 26, 2013

…was a documentary:

ku-xlarge-3

And hell, you think that’s bad, check this out:

ku-xlarge-7

Holiday brain sploosh has already begun chez Levenson (first relatives show up in minutes), so killer rabbits somehow seem…

Appropriate.

BTW: there are a bunch more medieval psychoses on display at Tom Kane’s site, who, it seems, has come up with a socially useful application of writer’s procrastination syndrome.  My awareness of all this comes via @PZMyers, who got it from @SirWilliamD.

And with the honors thus done, you may consider this a “how weird will your holiday get” post.  Add your own notions in the comments.

Images:  Axe-rabbit comes from the Gorleston Psalter, England, 14th century.

Rabbit murderers lurk in the Smithfield Decretals, c. 1300

Because I Love You

November 10, 2013

The Red Army Chorus singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”

Top that.

ETA:
Via the Drug Monkey Blog with a h/t to Janet D. Stemwedel, I just found my way to this:

As Janet says — two earworms in one!

American Exceptionalism, Healthcare Division

September 18, 2013

With a h/t to my spouse, this piece from a couple of days ago offers a beautiful (not really the mot juste) window onto the multiple levels of fail of US medical business and (or rather, hence) practice.  The action gets going as a young physicians assistant named Andrew T. Gray describes waking up an upset stomach, which over the course of the day blossoms into really nasty pain.  Then comes the twist:

Crawling into bed, however, I realized that my pain had coalesced in the right lower quadrant of my abdomen. Could it be appendicitis?

Panic flooded me. After six weeks at my new job, I now qualified for health insurance, but I’d neglected to fill out the necessary paperwork.

Only an hour after leaving the clinic, I returned. Almost hysterically, I completed and faxed in the insurance forms.

“Go to the emergency room right now,” urged one of my supervising physicians.

Instead, Gray waited overnight so as to reduce the odds of insurance company shenanigans.  The next morning, though he can’t wait anymore:

Waiting for the ER doctor, I recalled that, at some point in my schooling, I’d read a Swedish study about treating appendicitis with antibiotics. Googling the study on my smartphone, I found it.

By the time the ER resident approached, I was ready.

“I don’t have health insurance,” I said calmly. “Can I be treated with antibiotics instead of surgery?”

“I doubt they’re going to let you do that here,” he said. “But keep expressing interest.”

When the ER attending physician came in, I repeated the question.

“Absolutely not,” he replied flatly. “This is America, not Sweden. If you have appendicitis, we operate.”

The story gets better — which is to say from a policy and medical care point of view, worse.  Go read the whole thing.

As to it’s relevance beyond itself. Well, Gray’s telling an anecdote, of course, a single encounter in a system that touches millions every day.  Even so, there are at least two key points I draw from it:  (a)  there are structural problems with the culture of medical practice in the US that both drive up costs and affect (not for the better) patient outcomes.  “This is America…we operate.”

Hans_Holbein_d._J._-_Henry_VIII_and_the_Barber_Surgeons_-_WGA11566

And (b):  there are lots of reasons medical costs in the US seem both arbitrary and excessive. But (a) they are and (b) it actually matters to know what happens elsewhere, because from such knowledge it finally becomes much easier to see that US health care is exceptional alright — but not how the foaming hordes raving against tyranny in the form of Obamacare would have it.  We sure do lead the world in what we pay. Just not in getting what (we think) we’re paying for.*

*This is not to say that for particular conditions in particular cities there is no better place in the world to receive care than, say, my current dwelling place, Boston.  But brilliant tertiary care available  to those clued in and covered in just the right ways doth not a system make.

Image:  Hans Holbein, Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons, 1543.

Least Surprising News Ever

September 9, 2013

Guns are to George Zimmerman as land wars in Asia are to superpowers.  Never, ever, ever a good idea:

George Zimmerman’s estranged wife called police officers to her father’s house in Florida Monday, saying the former neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted of murder threatened her with a gun.

Shellie Zimmerman called police shortly after 2 p.m. Monday, said Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell.

Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested and officers were at the house trying to determine what happened, Bracknell said.

Arthur_Devis_-_John_Orde,_His_Wife_Anne,_and_His_Eldest_Son_William_-_Google_Art_Project

Early days, could be a misunderstanding, have to hear both sides, she probably had him down on the linoleum in fear for what little frontal lobe capacity he may have, yadda, yadda.

I don’t have words left for how utterly stupid American gun policy is.  But on this one?  The only surprise here is that Zimmerman beat my internal over/under on how long it would take for him to go back down this road.

Oh — and if I’m Shellie Zimmerman, I’m looking long and hard at research like this. [PDF]  No snark here; this kind of thing is (literally) deadly serious.

Image:  Arthur Devis, John Orde, His Wife Anne, and His Eldest Son William, between 1754 and 1756.

Because It’s The First Friday Of The We Must All Gay Marry Now Epoch

June 28, 2013

Waaaay down at the near-death end of the man-on-grasshopper thread cross-posted at Balloon Juice, someone asked where all the Sesame Street love might be.

Answer:  Onto the cover of The New Yorker.

Someone else in that thread (Different Church Lady, I believe) noted that the art in that post was not exactly the kind of old-mastery stuff y’all have come to expect from round here, so here’s are a couple of possibly appropriately themed pic for those of you hooked on oil paints:

Paul_Cézanne_-_Baigneuses_(St.Petersburg,_Hermitage)

and

Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_025

 

Last, a lagniappe:

Just in case you haven’t exhausted your fowl jokes, here’s perhaps the definitive celebration of duck (and drake!) love:

 

Yup.  It’s Friday.  And did I mention that it is my son’s last day of school (finally!).  Hence these posts.

You’re welcome.


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