Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

We don't give medical care to people because they deserve it

We don’t give medical care to people because they deserve it. We don’t give it to them because they earn it. This is a simple–and important–concept that I’ve yet to hear clearly expressed in the ongoing medical care debate.

This isn’t merely my ideal; this is how the United States actually behaves. Proving the point is simple enough: we provide medical care–free of charge–to everyone in prison. To robbers, murderers, serial killers. Even people on death row that we’re going to kill anyway.

Prisoners don’t just get medical care for life-threatening illnesses. I personally know a psychiatrist who works in an Indiana maximum security prison. If prisoners require psychological treatment, including medication, they get it. We manage to provide health care to convicted criminals–yet somehow we can’t do the same for ordinary hard-working people. A travesty.

The wingnuts currently opposing health care don’t understand what a complete joke this situation makes the US seem to the rest of the industrialized world. Then again, they most likely don’t care. These are the people, who, completely ignorant of France, make fun of France. These are the people willfully wallowing in Sarah Palin-style ignorance. These are the people whose very identity is based on a childish and anachronistic right wing brand. Like our high imprisonment rate and use of the death penalty, the lack of access to medical care is another factor that separates us from the modern states we should like to consider our equals, if not our inferiors.

If we fail to implement health care at this juncture, the United States will continue its downward slide toward pariah-statehood. More and more, it will be a country that brays of freedom and equality while failing to assure the basic necessities that make these ideals possible.

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Movie review: "Observe and Report" shows us how hard it is to love ourselves


Observe and Report on IMDb
Observe and Report on Metacritic
Observe and Report on Rotten Tomatoes

Matt Rouge’s score: 4.5/5.0

Pros. Very strong performances by all. Engaging story. Dead-on satire of many familiar things. Interesting characters.

Cons. At 88 minutes, the movie feels a little short. The characters are interesting enough to support several more scenes adding to the story and laugh count. Some of the dialog and character behaviors are over the top even for the movie’s wild, farcical style.

Observe and Report is the story of Ronnie Barnhardt, a bipolar mall cop who is trying to catch a flasher and creating a considerable mess in the process. It’s a dark comedy full of expletives, nudity, and material that may shock and offend. The reviews among both pro and amateur critics are definitely mixed, but I found it to be a hilarious movie with an important message for our times. I highly recommend it.

I think this message is striking a deep chord in people, whether their view of the film is positive or negative, but I have yet to see it articulated in any review. It may be possible that even the film’s creators were not cognizant of it but instead worked with it on a gut level. Once one sees the message, however, it is striking and obvious. Here it is:

In today’s society, we feel miserable and invalidated until one of our dreams comes true in a way that everyone must recognize.

Ronnie craves validation; one of his chief characteristics is insecurity. He wants to become a real cop and dreams, most nights, of saving the world from a black cloud of evil and earning the approbation of the masses.

In some dimensions, Ronnie is hyper-competent. He defeats six crackheads single-handedly. He takes on a troop of cops, losing but doing palpable damage. Ronnie passes every test to get into the police academy save one: the psych evaluation. At the same time, Ronnie is a complete, unhinged idiot. He fails to detect who has been burglarizing the mall at night, instead suggesting suspects on the basis of race. When it comes to relationships of any type, Ronnie is completely clueless.

Ronnie is a complex character, combining both admirable traits and despicable. Persons’ reactions to him are likewise complex: his boss, despite misgivings, supports him, and the cute girl working at the cinnamon bun shop finds him admirable and attractive.

Now we come to our own discomfort in watching Ronnie. We are in the same boat. We don’t know what to think of ourselves.

In our own minds, we are fighting the good fight, but we see others on the opposite side who are equally confident. Or perhaps equally in doubt. We waver. We worry that we are like Ronnie, clueless and not aware of our own cluelessness. We consider how other people think about us, hoping to find validation in their opinions, but we sense–we know–that opinions are divided. Some people love us; others hate us. Some people at work admire us; others mock us. Some praise; others trash. Our friends and family love us, mostly, but we are aware of their bias. (In Observe and Report there is a wonderful scene in which Ronnie’s mom deconstructs the very notion of a parent’s validation, observing that her affirmation of her son’s dreams is merely what a parent is expected to say.)

We long to accomplish one great thing (e.g., becoming a police officer, nabbing a sex offender) that once and for all will prove that we deserve the respect of others and ourselves, but satisfaction is elusive.

I remember job hunting in Chicago in 1994, and I sat next to a guy on the South Shore, and we had a very good conversation. “The thing about Americans,” he said, “is that no one’s satisfied until they become a doctor or a lawyer–something like that.” He was right then, and he’s even more right now. In 2009, as in 1994, it’s hard to love ourselves as we are, and Observe and Report invites us to face that difficulty as few movies ever have.

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Not nostalgic

Not for any time period. Not for any relationship. Not for any past self. Career, friends, location–all great. The future looks brighter than the past, not only for myself but for the world.

My nostalgic period was between 1985 (when a bunch of family problems started) and 1992 (the year I graduated college). I looked back wistfully at the 1970s: the music, the style, the vibe, and Indianapolis–our beloved city we had left in 1978 only because my dad had needed to take a job in the Chicago burbs.

In 1992 I graduated college and went to Japan. I had a mission. In 1996 the Internet entered my life. Today, I can’t imagine living without it; in fact, it’s a big part of my career. Since 2002 I have been working in advertising and PR, which had been my longtime goal.  In 2005 my daughter was born–the world’s greatest child. Since 1992 new and good things have come my way, as well as many big struggles, so I have taken and loved the good and fought and overcome the bad and am happy where I am right now (with a healthy list of caveats to that, but such always is life).

In 2004 I moved back to Indy, and it’s exceeded all my expectations. I don’t long for the Indy of the 1970s, since the city is even better now than it was then.

I am thankful for all of my blessings. My fingers are crossed, but I looking forward to the future and, in many ways, feel that life has just begun.

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Walking in Broad Ripple

Photo by Matt Rouge: Squashed mulberry pattern on the street in Broad Ripple

Click on the photo for a larger image.

Broad Ripple is an area of Indianapolis less than 10 minutes from my house. One of my meditations these days is walking there, and for this purpose it is a most interesting environment. In a fairly condensed area, I receive the following:

  • The Indianapolis Art Center. A big part of my ritual, something I’ve done since 2006, is to walk up the Monon, visit the garden of the Center with all its sculptures, and then look at the White River from one of the two platforms that lie on the grounds. Often I also walk through the Center and see what art is on display. I really ought to take some sort of art class there soon.
  • The Monon Trail, full of walkers, bicyclists, roller bladers, etc. Life, people, happiness!
  • The woods and paths that lie off the Monon Trail.
  • The quaint shops that cater to the hippies, as well as Bohemians like myself (health food, coffee, etc.).
  • The quaint restaurants that cater to, well, the hippies and the Bohemians.
  • The bar scene. One of the biggest bar scenes in the city. Life, drunks, happiness! This is not my scene at all (except for the Broad Ripple Brew Pub on occasion), but many of the bars have outdoor seating or are open to the street, so one may enjoy the verve of drunken youth without partaking.
  • Starbucks. The people there are nice and friendly, and I often go there for my free Starbucks coffee (but I do leave a dollar tip, m’kay?). Then I do some more walking around with the coffee.
  • Streets. Bridges. Houses. Little offices. I have posted here a photo of squashed mulberries, which formed a pattern on the street.

There is a lot to take in there. I walked around there a bit tonight, around 8:30. On Sunday night the bars are quieter; there is a different feeling in the air that allows for a different form of meditation.

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Sick baby update for June 11, 2009

In my last post about the sick baby with biliary atresia, I felt that things were getting better. And the good news is that, since then, things for our little friend have only continued to improve.

I last saw (and interpreted in the hospital for) the family on May 15, at which time the news from the doctors was more or less positive. There was an extensive discussion of the genetic disorder that the child may have, as well as its nature and cause (there are no definite answers yet). But his bilirubin was lower, indicating improved liver function.

The family returned to Japan at the end of May, and they’ve stayed in contact with me. The little one’s bilirubin has dropped even further, and photos of him show him smiling just as brightly as when I last saw him in person. My intuition tells me that things will continue to go well!

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Sick baby update for April 28, 2009

For those new to my personal blog, by profession I’m a writer and translator/interpreter. Doing medical interpretation does not bring in big dough, but it does give me the opportunity to help people, something I think I need to do more of in my life.

In my last post, I was somewhat despondent about the baby with born with a birth defect of the liver (biliary atresia). The doctors (who have a tough role to play here; I’m not complaining about them) were delivering bad news at variable timing and in a variety of forms. It seemed the child had a rare genetic disorder that could quite possibly be fatal.

Today, I was called into the hospital again. A very good doctor packaged the information differently, and the situation became much more clear. The baby has poor muscle tone (caused by a developmental problem in the brain) yet good muscle strength. Despite his having a probable brain issue, his cognitive development seems good, as does his development overall. Perhaps the disease will be fatal–perhaps not. Perhaps there is no disease. Perhaps it will get better over time. Who knows?

We went from negativity to ambiguity–a marked improvement in information health.

The baby has a lot of light. He smiled at me, laughing with joy at my smile. He is pulling the world toward him, into his being. I can’t believe that he will give up or leave anytime soon. It just doesn’t feel like his fate.

The baby was discharged from the hospital today. The family intends to go back to Japan in May. Thanks for any prayers you can offer; I do think they have helped immensely thus far!

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Sick baby update for April 24, 2009

In my last post on this topic, I said,

To me the child’s life force seemed strong, almost as if the whole liver deal is just an annoyance, an inconvenience to him.

Maybe I was a wishful thinker. Maybe I was right.

I was back in the hospital with the family yesterday. The doctors now believe that, unrelated to his biliary atresia, the baby has a rare inherited metabolic disorder. They said that there is only a 50% chance of ever learning what disease it is. The disease could be fatal in its own right or be fatal by preventing the baby from getting a liver transplant, which he will eventually need. The doctors have begun a series of tests, and it may take up to six months to identify the disease or run out of diagnostic options.

For the baby’s sake, I am still hoping that I was right the first time. I refuse to give up hope.

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Showing of a baby who died of SIDS

My job of doing Japanese-English interpretation in the hospitals of Indy often brings me into the lives of sick children and their worried parents. Today I went with a friend to the showing of a baby who died of SIDS.

As a parent, I understood that this was a parent’s greatest nightmare come true: the death of the person one was supposed to protect, for no discernible cause or reason. When our child was a baby, we feared SIDS and such things every day, checking on her frequently to make sure that the life force was still present and doing its work. Ellie would sometimes pull her blanket over her face and sleep that way, and the first time we saw that our hearts were in our throats, and we approached the crib in vocal terror, startling her awake.

I can only imagine the sheer horror of not receiving any response. Actually, I do not completely need to imagine such a situation. My maternal grandmother, who had heart problems, was living with us in 1977, and I found her dead in our guest room the day after Christmas of that year. Six years old, I knew what death was but hoped that she was paralyzed or going through something not quite so final. I was not filled with terror but did rush to my parents’ room, shouting, “Something’s wrong with grandma!”

But grandma’s health was not my responsibility, and, in any case, she had at least made it to her late 60s. Her passing was sad, my sister and I cried a lot, but we both understood that grandparents don’t stay forever (my paternal grandmother had died the previous year, and both our grandfathers had died before we were born.)

When a child dies, however, there is not much to console one other than the existence of the afterlife (in which I firmly believe). People today were grieving deeply.

I had hoped that “showing” did not really mean showing, but it did. The baby was in a small coffin and looked more like a wax replica than a real person. It is surreal to be in such a room, with some torn up by grief, some talking in what appears to be a casual manner, and some like myself not personally involved but touched by the situation nonetheless. We have our rituals for dealing with these things, no one was going against the ritual, and yet the ritual was and never can be sufficient to take us through and beyond the fact of death. Death is just there, not even asking one to recognize it or dialog with it; it is just there.

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Hair frustrations

Matt Rouge on April 13, 2009A picture of Matt Rouge sporting a fairly decent cut from Borics. Click for a spectacularly large image and enjoy the fairly surly expression even more.

I am specific about my tonsorial needs.

I am up at the folks’ pad today in Crown Point, Indiana. I could no longer tolerate what was perhaps the worst haircut of my life, and the barber shops that I know well here are all closed on Monday–so I ventured into Borics and got, as the picture here demonstrates, a “fairly decent cut.”

Whenever I get a cut these days, I am very specific about what I need: make the sides short and flat, and don’t destroy what little bangs I have, lest the highly receded hairline look even further receded.

My person today did a pretty good job: the sides could be a little more even, but otherwise I am satisfied. The cut was $12.50, not a bad price at all, and, even with a sizable tip, my ROI was excellent.

The worst cut of my life almost broke my heart.

I was just as specific about my needs when I took a chance on a salon near my house a few weeks ago. I will be kind and leave the establishment nameless.

After I explained my needs and desires clearly and precisely, my hair assassin proceeded to do the very opposite, leaving me a rounded, satanic cut with not a bang in sight. I looked like a skinhead with poor grooming practices. Moreover, this chop-up cost $25.00. I stumbled out into the parking lot, reeling from the abuse I had endured. I was nearly a defeated man, but not quite: I vowed to grow out my hair once again and give the whole haircut concept a final chance.

Bruce Kimmel taught us that pressure is the demon of space. Experience teaches us that inconsistency is the demon of haircare.

I used to go to this guy in Downtown Indy who did the best job ever–except when he didn’t. Every sixth or seventh time, I received a disaster cut that rivaled the “worst ever” described above. It made no sense to me. This was also the most expensive salon I had ever used on a consistent basis; thus, the last time this happened, I said to myself, No more shall this happen. No more!

Why is it so hard to get a consistent cut? Is an expensive place worth it if one risks catastrophe even there? No, it is not. I bet it’s even worse if you are a woman: more hair and more complex styles to mess up. Throw in color and that kind of thing, and the possibility for trouble becomes even greater.

Someone I can recommend…

Some of the best cuts I’ve ever received have been by…

Marti Doering (who is the owner of)

414 W Kirkwood Ave # 1
Bloomington, IN 47404
(812) 332-0064

Truly a great cut at a great price, and no disasters! Needless to say, Marti handles both men’s and women’s haircare and is said to do an excellent job with color, etc. I do not get down to Bloomington as often these days, but it is worth going out of my way to get the job done right.

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Sick baby update for April 11, 2009

Here is the previous post on this child, who is now back in the hospital until the 17th. The reason for the stay is cholangitis, an inflammation of the bile duct, and the baby now has a PICC line in for treatment with antibiotics. The Kasai procedure has been a moderate, but not a complete, success, and the doctors now say that the goal is to have the baby grow as much as possible so that he can have access to a bigger donor pool when the time comes to have a transplant, which is now inevitable (a bigger child can use a whole liver instead of just a piece of one).

The family is planning to move back to Japan in May for good. Even though they have “good” health insurance here, they are facing the BS that always comes with our system. For example, the insurance company wasn’t going to pay for home nursing care of the PICC line, so–like magic!–a longer stay in the hospital because “necessary,” which the insurance company will pay for. So it goes in our system: the insurance company thinks it’s saving money but ends up costing itself more. Our system is full of waste and hurts people every day. It must change, it will change soon.

To me the child’s life force seemed strong, almost as if the whole liver deal is just an annoyance, an inconvenience to him. My intuition is that he will get the liver translplant eventually but will continue to bulldoze through life and not let his liver rule his existence.

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