Tuesday, June 21, 2016

An American Way of Death

Healthcare is not really heath care, is it? It is actually sickness maintenance. It’s theoretically about providing resources for sickness: Drugs, medical devices, doctors and nurses. You only need those things when you’re sick. If you actually wanted to ensure people’s health you would make sure they did healthy things, like breathe fresh unpolluted air, drink fresh unpolluted water, eat organic carcinogen free foods. You’d ensure that people got exercise, took yoga classes, or that they maintained a stress free life as in doing meditation every morning and evening. You’d keep them out of stressful polluted traffic every day. You’d have them walk daily. You’d make sure they had respirators or masks in air polluted areas. If insurance did those things, it would be health insurance. It would be sickness prevention.

In America sickness is a profit center. Cancer alone is a multi-trillion dollar industry. Consider all the money required to maintain a person through cancer treatments. It easily averages over a million dollars (about the same amount required to support each troop in Afghanistan for a year). Industries profit on that. The insurance industry, the medical device industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the nursing home industry (and of course the war profiteers), all profit from Americans’ pain, suffering, and death. Call it PSD.

We have a lot of people who complain about the sick industries and the expense of PSD. People pay a lot for insurance. Even if a claim is honored, people have co-payments. They fight daily to get hospital bills paid by their so-called insurance. There is a profit incentive for the insurance industry to deny care. Their business model is to find ways to avoid paying claims and to take in as much in premiums as possible. They know that Americans willingly pay for insurance. Even when they raise their rates by double digit percentages, Americans pay. Even if insurance companies deny claims and people suffer and die for lack of care, they will still pay. Tens of thousands of Americas continue to die annually but they still pay for insurance. It’s an incredibly profitable industry that easily takes in a 30% margin over its costs, and makes huge profits. Very few industries do that.

Americans are conditioned like lab rats to pay hundreds every month, thousands every year, for questionable and often worthless insurance. Obamacare got more people to buy insurance. Authored mainly by Elizabeth Fowler, a prior insurance company executive, either Obamacare is a genius piece of legislation or it’s taking Americans for a ride (depending on if you’re an investor or not). Now millions more Americans pay for questionable sickness insurance. When they get sick, you can bet the first order of business for their insurers is to find ways to deny their claims. And now the government requires by law that all people pay for sickness insurance or they will be fined. So if you have insurance you pay to be denied sickness coverage, and if you don’t have insurance, you pay government fines.

The theory is that if people don’t have insurance, they will be taken care of anyway and everyone else will have to pay for it. That’s only true for legislators, government officials, and the active military who are all 100% covered by government funds at no cost whatsoever. For everyone else this would be true if insurance companies actually paid to help people through sickness. But they don’t. The reality is the opposite, which is to say insurance companies don’t pay. People with insurance suffer and die for lack of care because insurance is not care. It is a business. People without insurance also suffer and die, but at least they don’t pay premiums. They pay government penalties.

And what do we do to insure health? Nothing. Healthy Americans are a liability for the American PSD industries and their stockholders. Those industries depend on pain, suffering and death for their livelihood and profits. In fact PSD enterprises comprise about one sixth of the national economy. Without PSD our country would suffer a great monetary impact. Entire industries could go out of business. Do you work for the insurance industry? Do you willingly work for blood money? Those who have pain, who suffer, or die for lack of sick care, do so for our protected PSD industries to maintain high profits. It’s a uniquely American way of death.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Big Problem with the Universal Healthcare Movement or WTF is Single Payer?

"Single Payer" is some anonymously coined term (as far as I know) that supposedly describes the concept of a single government entity, such as a national government healthcare agency (not unlike the Veterans Administration), which would replace all commercial healthcare insurance companies. More accurately it has been called Medicare for All, which, in fact, is the title of a piece of legislation that has been kicked around for years in Congress, yet never killed. And why? Because the government in its infinite wisdom must appease any growing outcry from all the little people out there so they can continue to receive "campaign contributions" from the sickness industries. It is my considered opinion that the term was coined, probably well thought out in advance, by our paranoid little government in its never ending fear of losing control over all its people, as if it ever owned all its people.

Who came up with the ridiculous phrase? Some secret think tank or New England university choir boys group who decided that mommy and daddy's never ending money supply might be in danger of deflating by a few percent due to a few undesirables who have a problem with being considered dispensable for the sake of the multi-trillion dollar sickness industries in America, that's who. Tens of thousands die annually in America due to the lack of real heath care. They suffer and die for corporate profits. And insurance proves time and again that it is not health care. It is the denial of care. It is a profit center. 

Cancer alone is a multi-trillion dollar annual industry. But you won't hear "Single Payer" advocates or activists (as they think of themselves); you will rarely ever hear them refer to an American sickness conglomerate of industries or the fact than even just one arm of it profits in the trillions on the sickness, suffering, and deaths of their so precious free American co-citizens. No, you will never hear that. Why? Because the US government ultimately controls activist groups and has notoriously infiltrated each and every activist group in this country. This is a known fact regardless of whether you call it conspiracy theory or not. American agencies place infiltrators at the highest levels of activists groups. That is why there are ridiculously misunderstood terms like "single payer" used to describe the crux of activists' concern. No. That is not their concern. Their concern is human life, the forsaking of human life for profit. Greed rules America. People die. Insurance is not healthcare. Those are the concerns.

Now if so called activists really wanted to end this criminality, this forsaking of life, this outrage that flies in the face of American freedom, this dispensing of people for profit; if indeed they wanted to be true activists, they would drop all their insurance polices. They wine and moan about how the insurance industry denies care, costs so much overhead, allows people to die and what do they do? They willing buy insurance from the criminals they fight.  Ludicrous. And then when they need insurance they get denied. They too suffer. Wake up! You are educated people. Think for yourself. Your money is your control.

If you want to go up against big insurance, you drop your insurance. You don't pay. You don't pay outrageous bills. You vote with your feet and your wallet. You allow yourself to get bad credit ratings because that's what true activists do. Going to a sit-in at the local insurance tower and getting arrested is not a sacrifice. That's a show with minimal effect. Forsake your credit ratings. Show your true power and commitment. Until you do that you will never have respect. Because money is all they understand. Nothing else matters. Not life. Not politics. Not freedom. Not this country or its ideals. No way in hell does any of that matter to American industry. All that matters is money. And the people have the power to cut off the money. You have that power. It's your money! You are funding your own doom. Are you freaking nuts? Or are you an investor in suffering and death? My mistake then.

How many activists out there still have insurance policies. Raise your hands. Yes. 99% of you. You aren't really activists are you.? You're spineless! Yes you work hard and I respect that, but your energy is misplaced and misspent. Work smart. Do something that matters. If a real movement were afoot to drop insurance you can bet it would change things in an instant.

News flash! Change does not happen in government. You will not find a champion to elect in government that gives enough of a flying fart about your life over their own. Would they risk embarrassment? Would they risk making waves? Would they risk their own credit ratings? Their reelection? Their job? Being ostracized? No! You think peoples' lives matter to anyone in government compared to the millions of dollars in donations they can get from industry? You are whacked out of your mind if you do.

Change happens when Martin Luther King marches, or when Rosa Parks gets on a bus, or when Bruce Springsteen drops a concert. It never happens when government signs a bill, because government will never sign a bill until someone forces their hand. Force their hand! Do not pay for insurance. Do not pay ludicrous health costs. Don't do it! It's criminal. 

Two Cents.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Imporatnce of Theme, and other stuff

Steven Pressfield wrote an incredibly inspirational blog (I Can't Squeeze my Theme In) about theme. At least for writers, it's inspirational. You don't add the theme. It's already there, he says.

My wife tells me I can't see ghosts like she does because I can't let go and just relax. Apparently she experiences dead relatives alternately consoling or annoying her. She watches a lot of ghost realty TV too.

Then there's the thing about finding when you don't seek, and not finding when you do. Let it go. Use the force.

Ten there's the thing about, you don't find your passion, it finds you; you don't place your theme, it's already there. But you can't see it because you won't let go. That's how we met. Neither of us looking.

I'm convinced our frustration is due to our rat raced societal structure that imposes routine on our lives. What if we didn't all follow a circadian rhythm? Are we circadians? What if we didn't all go to work at dawn and return hone at dusk? What if we dared to sleep-in everyday? What if we refused to be pawns to the evil of money? Yeah, I know the conditioned answer is that without these things we would die or become homeless. Not true. But it's hard isn't it? To ignore our environment and peers? No it's not. Ignorance is easy. Just be selective about it.

And a few days after Pressfield's post, his editor, Shawn, writes Designated Driver to impress upon us how important his Theme post is. Yes it is. It makes me think. Actually. How daring. It's like the time I grabbed a rope, hung from a tree by a river bank, and swung right out and dropped into the water. The kids with me were shocked. I was always the reserved one. I didn't even know I could swim. That's one way to learn.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dr. Peter Whybrow in conversation with David Milch

Published on Jul 1, 2015

Dr. Peter Peter Whybrow in conversation with David Milch at Live Talks Los Angeles discussing his book, "The Well Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived." For more about Live Talks Los Angeles, visit: www.livetalksla.org

Peter C. Whybrow, MD, is director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of, among other books, A Mood Apart and the award-winning American Mania: When More Is Not Enough. David Milch is an Emmy-Award-winning writer and producer (Deadwood, NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues). Milch, who won the Tinker Prize for highest achievement in English at Yale University and earned an M.F.A.from the Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, left a teaching career at Yale to write for Hill Street Blues.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

American Psycho - Analysis

American Psycho (2000), screenplay by Mary Harron & Guinevere Turner, novel by Bret Easton Ellis
OWEN: Call me. (Hands him a business card)
PRICE: How about Friday?
OWEN: No can do. Got a res at eight-thirty at Dorsia. Great sea urchin ceviche.
There is a stunned silence as he walks away and sits in a corner of the room, ostentatiously studying papers.
CLOSE-UP on Bateman’s face, cold with hatred.
PRICE: (Whispering) Jesus. Dorsia? On a Friday night? How’d he swing that?
McDERMOTT: (Whispering) I think he’s lying.
Bateman takes out his wallet and pulls out a card.
PRICE: (Suddenly enthused) What’s that, a gram?
BATEMAN: New card. What do you think?
McDermott lifts it up and examines the lettering carefully.
McDERMOTT: Whoa. Very nice. Take a look.
He hands it to Van Patten.
BATEMAN: Picked them up from the printers yesterday
VAN PATTEN: Good coloring.
BATEMAN: That’s bone. And the lettering is something called Silian Rail.
McDERMOTT: (Envious) Silian Rail?
VAN PATTEN: It is very cool, Bateman. But that’s nothing.
He pulls a card out of his wallet and slaps it on the table.
VAN PATTEN: Look at this.
They all lean forward to inspect it.
PRICE: That’s really nice.
Bateman clenches his fists beneath the table, trying to control his anxiety.
VAN PATTEN: Eggshell with Romalian type. (Turning to Bateman) What do you think?
BATEMAN: (Barely able to breath, his voice a croak) Nice.
PRICE: (Holding the card up to the light) Jesus. This is really super. How’d a nitwit like you get so tasteful?
Bateman stares at his own card and then enviously at McDermott’s.
BATEMAN: (V.O.) I can’t believe that Price prefers McDermott’s card to mine.
PRICE: But wait. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
He holds up his own card.
PRICE: Raised lettering, pale nimbus white…
BATEMAN: (Choking with anxiety) Impressive. Very nice. Let’s see Paul Owen’s card.
Price pulls a card from an inside coat pocket and holds it up for their inspection: “PAUL OWEN, PIERCE & PIERCE, MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS.” Bateman swallows, speechless. The sound in the room dies down and all we hear is a faint heartbeat as Bateman stares at the magnificent card.
BATEMAN: (V.O.) Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark…
His hand shaking, Bateman lifts up the card and stares at it until it fills the screen.
He lets it fall. The SOUND RETURNS TO NORMAL.
CARRUTHERS: Is something wrong? Patrick…you’re sweating.
Bateman (Christian Bale) has a hateful rivalry with Paul Owen (Jared Leto), who outplays him at every turn, even though it’s only ever about appearances (He’s not too fond of anyone else who outplays him as well). The rivalry is prevalent among all these guys. But none can touch Owen with his reservation at Dorsia or his unrivaled business card, especially not Bateman who had to lie about a Dorsia reservation, and whose card is second rate to at least a few others.
This is a classic pivotal scene and inciting incident, which reveals Bateman’s deep inner conflict, torment, personal anxiety, and hatred toward Owen, and serves as the premise of the story (Bateman’s psychosis). This incident sets Bateman off on a killing spree, starting later with taking an axe to Owen to Huey Lewis’ ‘Hip to be Square'”.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Happy Endings are Depressing

People sometimes complain about movies with sad or depressed endings. They want upbeat, feel good, inspiring. They want the fairy tales. But do happy endings actually make you happy? Do down endings make you sad? I don't think so.

When you've seen a a movie with a happy ending and then have to face reality, you inevitably come to the realization that you don't have a happy ending. You don't have any kind of ending. Even when you die, you won't experience the ending of your life, because it will be over before you can experience it.

When you've seen a movie with a sad ending, you may think about how the characters went wrong. You may think about how lucky you are not to have experienced something so depressing. Even if you had experienced it, you can feel consolation with characters that share your experience.  The outcome of a sad ending is to make you feel better.

When I got out of college times were tough, as they probably are for most kids just out of college. I could barely find enough work to survive. It was depressing as hell. So what did I do to feel better? No. I didn't go watch movies with happy endings. I couldn't afford movies with any kind of ending. I simply went out for walks in the city. And what did I see? Homeless people of course. People living depressing lives, too poor to have a car, taking buses. Waiting at bus stops like zombies. I would walk down the street and see all the lonely people, just like the Beatles song. Then I'd feel better. I'd feel sorry for them. But I'd feel better about myself, because even though I didn't have much, I had enough to feel like I had more than a lot of other people had.

You might have expected me to say that I least I had friends. But I didn't really. They'd all left college. They weren't around. My parents were staunch conservatives. They didn't want me around the house. So I can't say I had family either. I had nothing but myself. But I was comfortable with that. I had my films that I was working on. I had ideas. There was always the future. If there's a future there's hope. You have the opportunity to continue to live and make something happen.

Happy endings will depress you. But sad endings give you hope in what you have. Now try explaining that to the genius Hollywood MBA studio heads.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Leaving Las Vegas: Analysis

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
John O’Brien (novel)
Mike Figgis (screenplay and director)
with Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth Shue


Ben and Sera are eating. He plays with his food, eating very little of it. Finally he pushes it away and orders another drink.

SERA: I’m from the East. I went to college, did an arts course. I now live in Vegas. I think of it as home. I came here deliberately to carve out a life. I was in LA before, but I’ll come back to that later. (pause) The tough times are behind me now. I can deal with the bad things that happen. There will always be dark characters. But my life is good. It is as I would want it to be. So, why are you a drunk?

BEN: Is that really what you want to ask me?

SERA: Yes.

BEN: (worried) Well, then I guess this is our first date… or our last. Until now, I wasn’t sure it was either.

SERA: Very clever.

Sera thinks for a while and decides to give in to him on this.

SERA: First. It’s our first. I’m just concerned. So… why are you killing yourself?

BEN: Interesting choice of words. I don’t remember. I just know that I want to.

SERA: Want to kill yourself? Are you saying that you’re drinking as a way to kill yourself?

And she leans across the table to be close to him, listening intently. Ben becomes uncomfortable and tries to joke it off.

BEN: Or killing myself as a way to drink.

Sera continues to stare at him, wanting to know the real answer. He takes a slug from his drink. She sits back.

BEN: We’ll talk about it some other time maybe. OK?

Sera relaxes and continues with her food. We hear her thoughts for a moment.

SERA (v.o): It wasn’t so important to me. I mean, he never asked me why I was a hooker, and that was impressive. I really liked him. So I decided to just play my part. I mean… it’s good to help someone once in a while., it’s a bonus to being alive, and that was my plan… to stay alive. I suddenly came to a decision.


I love this movie. Cage got an Oscar. Shue was nominated, along with Figgis for screenplay and direction. It’s a classic great with a wonderful bluesy jazz track. It’s one of those rare films where everything comes together.

This scene sticks in my mind, especially the line about how killing himself is a way to drink. That line is very representative of his character. He is always jovial and light about everything, with a few exceptions of rage. But this indicates how he rationalizes and accepts his depression. He’s OK with killing himself. And it seems he doesn’t even know he’s depressed. Or doesn’t admit it. That way he can carry on life as if it’s all very acceptable.

In fact numerous great writers seem to fall into depression and even suicide. And the novel is semi-autobiographical. In writing, if you put your soul into it, it can be reflective and can bring up certain thoughts such as the general futility of life (everything ends). In Hollywood this kind of demise seems even more a rule than an exception. Success is usually short lived. It’s wonderful to face these things through this character.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (analysis)

**** SPOILERS ****
Here is my take on “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”. It is explained and owned by Dickinson (the theatre reviewer character). It’s the title of her review that was so feared by Riggan before she ever wrote it. And it explains Riggan’s dichotomy.

Dickinson defines Riggan as a personification of Hollywood:

….I hate you. And everyone you represent. Entitled. Spoiled. Selfish. Children. Blissfully untrained, unversed and unprepared to even attempt real art. Handing each other awards for cartoons and pornography. Measuring your worth in weekends. Well, this is the theater, and you don’t get to come in here and pretend you can write, direct and act in your own propaganda piece without going through me first.
She’s telling him he is ignorant and she’s thinking he doesn’t even know it (he’s an untrained child). Ignorance becomes a “virtue of ignorance”, but it’s only virtuous when she sees he is actually honest in his performance and direction of the play.

Honesty is a virtue in acting. I think it is the thing that most divides Hollywood/film from theatre. The simplest thing can be honesty. It is possible to transcend both film and theatre as some great actors do. You might not expect that of an untrained, Hollywood comic book character player with no theatre background.

Riggin’s ‘virtue of ignorance’ is his ‘innocence’ (as a beginner on the stage), an unexpected innocence. I would add that the dichotomy between film and theatre is another strong recurring theme and mirrors Riggin’s own inner conflict of Divided Self and Disunity.

As Mike also eludes to it:

Do you have any idea who walked these boards before you? Geraldine Page, Marlon Brando, Helen Hayes, Jason Robards… And now you. Riggan Thomson.
And again later:

….Your stage? This stage belonged to a lot of great actor’s, pal. But you are not one of them.
Perhaps it is the explicit reflection of the implicit film/theatre disunity subtext that we also see personified in Riggan’s conversations with the Hollywood Birdman. If Riggin were to embrace and understand Dickinson’s meanings, he might come to terms with, and conquer his internal disunity. Perhaps her review was a letter to him.

As an aside, the film/theatre theme is carried out in the execution of the film itself. We watch Birdman, a movie shot in the style of theatre, where actors play out scenes in one uncut take as they would on the stage. This is the greatest advantage of the fluid Steadicam, no-cut, no-coverage, continuous take style. I think it should be the norm and not the exception when actors are involved.

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