Inhuman Swill : August 2009

Hey, Laura and I are in a book! A whole bunch of our friends too, not to mention Buzz Aldrin. Not our writings but our smiling mugs:

What a fun project that was to be a part of.

Squeak! squeak! So Laura got home this morning from walking Ella to report to me, as I drank my unmagical coffee-n-cream, that they'd had a fantastic time. All except for one little incident.

There's a big preserve of prairie grass at the park in which the dogs like to romp. Ella herself enjoys tearing first one way then the other along the narrow paths through the tall grass. This morning Laura was nearby while a dog we know named Digger was playing in the preserve. She heard happy squeaks coming from Digger's direction. I'll let Laura report the rest in her own words:

I looked at Mike and I said, "Digger has a toy? A squeaky toy? I've never seen him with a toy at the park before! Fun!" Mike replied, "He just caught a bunny. They sound like squeaky toys before they die." Me: "Well, I guess that makes sense, but I have to go now."
Our own little carnivore is lying flat on her side on the floor next to me, her eyes fluttering as she fights sleep. I sure have a different view now of the delight she takes in running around the house with her rabbit toy squeaking in her mouth.

I just saw the Dairy Fairy.

I know! Can you believe it?

The Dairy Fairy is the name Laura coined for the mythical figure who comes in the night and leaves milk, cream, eggs, and other assorted breakfasty goodies on our front porch. Every Friday morning, I rise at 5:00 am, dress, and descend to the porch to discover what bounty the Dairy Fairy has left for us this time, and to haul it back up to the kitchen. Most weeks I remember to leave a white cooler out for the Dairy Fairy's use, but on those rare occasions when I forget, a magical light Styrofoam container springs up mushroomlike from the concrete to safeguard our precious dairy treasures.

For the more than two years this has been happening, never once have I caught the Dairy Fairy at his/her/its nocturnal labors. I wasn't even sure the Dairy Fairy took corporeal form. For all I knew, a milky mist floated numinous through the night to make its weekly deposit on our stoop. Until this morning, that is.

As usual, I dressed and descended the back stairs, but instead of the usual birdcalls, a rumbling truck engine broke the morning stillness. Palms perspiring, I peeked around the corner of the house. The Dairy Fairy! There before my disbelieving, sorely disabused eyes! Our preternatural benefactor took the form of a stocky man in brown knee-length shorts and a V-neck pullover shirt the color of wet sand. His body was broad and rounded, like a muscular armature shrouded in layers of wet plaster. His head was shaved but not recently. The black stubble was like a wheat field after burning season.

In his hands he carried a carton of eggs and three vials of half-and-half. He bent to place them in our cooler on the porch at the side of the house. Beyond him an idling truck awaited in the street. The legend Oberweis Dairy had been painted on the side by true artisans in a careful hand.

But as he squatted, he seemed to cock his head slightly in my direction, to where I stood in the shadows behind the gate at the back of the house. I shrank back, but again as he returned to his metal carriage he seemed to incline an ear toward my hiding place. I knew he'd caught my scent. He knew I knew, and I knew he knew I knew.

No matter. With a graceful bound, he sprang onto the buckboard of his mechanical wagon and growled off into the incipient dawn.

When I judged it safe, I scampered out from the shadows and collected the Dairy Fairy's semifortnightly gifts. I climbed the stairs with the heaviness of despondency weighting my footfalls more and more at each step. I could have dealt with the Dairy Fairy's prosaic appearance. Such disappointments are part and parcel of adulthood.

But a mechanical wagon? Not so much as a creamy white sledge pulled by flying cows?

The cream in my coffee just doesn't taste as ambrosial this morning.

Hey, Chicagoans! I have a reading coming up just under a week from now, Tuesday, September 1, 2009, as part of Chicago's Tuesday Funk Reading Series.

The reading starts at 7:00 pm sharp at:

Flourish Bakery Cafe 1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Chicago, IL 60660
That's just east of Broadway, just west of the Bryn Mawr stop on the Red Line.

I'll be appearing with Robyn Detterline, Billy Lombardo, and Dancing Girl Press poets Stephanie Anderson, Kristen Orser, and Susan Slaviero. I'll be reading from my memoir The Accidental Terrorist. Copies of my chapbook An Alternate History of the 21st Century will be available for purchase for a paltry $4.

Please come out! I hope to see you there.

Tuesday Funk Reading, September 1, 2009

Dear correspondent who just forwarded me the same email he sent two days ago:

I understand that you are impatient for a response. However, I receive more email about format questions than I can deal with quickly, and just because I haven't responded immediately does not mean I am ignoring your questions. I will get to yours after I've answered earlier messages.

In the meantime, please refrain from getting so impatient that you repeatedly forward the same message to me. If you can't wait more than two days for a response from me, how on earth are you going to deal with the slow wait for a response from a publisher?

The Formatting Grump

I love Google for its geeky in-jokes. If you haven't noticed this one before, search for "recursion" and see what the result page offers as a suggestion under Did you mean.

I'm also reminded of Inglourious Basterds, which I saw yesterday morning, in which one instance of the word "Merci" was translated in the subtitles as "Merci."

I can't help myself. I have to share a couple more tidbits on the topic of health care. First is Johann Hari of The Independent, who takes the American right wing to damning task in yesterday's "Republicans, Religion and the Triumph of Unreason." Here are two of the almost amusing bits from a not-really-very-amusing article:

These increasingly frenzied claims have become so detached from reality that they often seem like black comedy. The right-wing magazine US Investors' Daily claimed that if Stephen Hawking had been British, he would have been allowed to die at birth by its "socialist" healthcare system. Hawking responded with a polite cough that he is British, and "I wouldn't be here without the NHS"...

For many of the people at the top of the party, this is merely cynical manipulation. One of Bush's former advisers, David Kuo, has said the President and Karl Rove would mock evangelicals as "nuts" as soon as they left the Oval Office. But the ordinary Republican base believe this stuff. They are being tricked into opposing their own interests through false fears and invented demons. Last week, one of the Republicans sent to disrupt a healthcare town hall started a fight and was injured—and then complained he had no health insurance. I didn't laugh; I wanted to weep.  [full article]

And Diane Francis at The Huffington Post makes the case that "LBJ Created Canada's Superior Health Care System":

As the health care establishment appears to be once again able to block any reasonable changes to America's sick health care system, it's important to note that, ironically, the "father" of Canada's universal, single-payer health care system was late President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1964, his plan caused Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson to rush the same health care scheme into existence so that Ottawa was not beaten by the Americans, as was the case in 1934 with Social Security. As things turned out, LBJ compromised with the Republicans and scaled back his plan to a co-payer insurance for senior citizens, or Medicare. So it's hardly surprising that, again, a popular President cannot win out against the nasty tactics and enormous wealth of the medical vested interests.

And yet, today Canada's system is not only as good as America's, but better medically speaking, according to the World Health Organization. Even more dramatic, it is between 30 and 60% cheaper for procedures, medications and hospital stays. Despite compelling evidence, the status quo remains south of the border and American voters/media appear to be unaware of the need for change. There are billions in profits being made at the expense of Americans and the country's economy.  [full article]

Sleep well, kiddies!

Every time I hear someone on the radio going on about how there's nothing wrong with the American health care system, I get so mad I can't see straight. I always wonder out loud what that person would say if he lost his job and his health insurance, or if she suddenly couldn't get coverage for a life-threatening disease because of some innocuous "pre-existing condition."

I have pretty good health coverage, but that's only because my wife has a good job. I don't want to think about what would happen if she lost her job. COBRA coverage would be available for 18 months, of course, but it's as expensive as half a month's rent. And even with our coverage, it's a tremendous pain in the ass to negotiate the thicket of requirements you have to go through in order to consult a specialist, which both Laura and I are currently doing.

In fact, yesterday I had to cancel a long-standing appointment I was supposed to have this afternoon with the urologist I've been seeing (in a professional sense, not the sense of having an affair with, although he's cute in a reassuring-older-guy kinda way) this year. Why? Because Laura's insurance just changed to a new company, and my procedure would not be covered unless I could get a referral form from my primary-care physician, but that office wouldn't cough up the form because we haven't received our new insurance cards yet....

Fortunately it's not an urgent procedure, but if it had been I would be, to put it crudely, fucked. I can reschedule for a couple of months from now, but how much easier and more sensible would this all have been under a single-payer system? I don't know how anyone with serious health problems manages.

With all the hysteria out there about socialism from people who would prefer shooting themselves in the foot and bleeding to death over guaranteeing their own unbroken access to good medical care, it's a good time to compare our American health-care system with that of our big, scary, freedom-hating neighbor to the north. Those dangerously deluded Canadians, who just don't realize that the road to hell or at least totalitarianism is paved with ideas like the desirability of keeping everyone in the country healthy. Aaaagh!

Back in early 2008, Sara Robinson of the Campaign for America's Future, an American living in Canada, very handily debunked some of the top myths about the Canadian health-care system (starting with the myth that their medicine is "socialized"), but without skipping over some of the drawbacks of that system. Her two blog entries on the topic are well worth your time to read:

The fascinating thing is how, even a year and a half later, these tired old myths are still common currency in the health-care debate. Thanks for pointing me toward these articles goes to the fine Canadian writer Michael Libling, who says: "We watch the debate in your country with a mixture of horror and incredulity. The fear and ignorance is mind-boggling, as is the assorted bullshit we hear in reference to our health care system. I know of not a single Canadian who would trade our system for yours."

Straight up. But I would trade ours for theirs in a heartbeat.

Barney, frank

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Barney Frank is one of my favorite American politicians. He sounds like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character but says things in that goofy voice that are more forthright than any other congressman I can think of. Who else would tell off a constituent like this with such obvious disgust?

Yes, the following message is canned, but I hope you'll read it anyway...


Bill here. I just entered Ella in the Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest

Now I need your vote to help me raise critical funds for the Canine Cancer Campaign.

Benediction To enter the photo contest, I submitted this picture and wrote a few nice words about Ella. The Orvis panel of judges will decide which lucky dog will appear on their catalog cover, but you can vote for this photo online to help raise funds for the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) Canine Cancer Campaign. Orvis and Eukanuba Dog Food have teamed up with MAF to help save countless dogs from suffering and premature death. Votes only cost $1, and Orvis and Eukanuba, together, will match your contribution to the Canine Cancer Campaign up to a total of $30,000. So, every dollar you donate becomes $2 for the Canine Cancer Campaign.

Please go here to vote for Ella's photo to help fund life-saving cancer research.

I'd appreciate your vote and donation today, but if you'd like to enter your own dog in the contest, then please do - we can handle some friendly comPETition! And if you want to stay on top of how Ella is doing in the contest, visit the Search Dogs page and search for Ella by name.

Enter your dog in the contest and donate to vote today. You may enter the contest until January 24, 2010.


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This page is an archive of entries from August 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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