Archive for the ‘Random thoughts’ 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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The miraculous story of the Christmas cookie (true!)

I have been interpreting at St. Vincent’s hospital a lot lately. Each time I interpret at the 86th St. location, I go to an administrative office on the fourth floor and sign in, receiving my badge (I forgot to return it last time–oops!).

There are some nice women that work there, and one of them had a plate of cookies on her desk this last time. “Help yourself,” she said. I was not that hungry, and besides–these were those ordinary white Christmas cookies–shaped like bells, tress, etc.–with boring white and pastel-colored frosting on top.

I did my interpreting–actually, the patient never showed up–and I forgot to return my badge–and I came back, and of course the cookies were still there on the desk. “Help yourself,” said the woman.

“Okay,” I thought. “I will indulge in the boring cookie. The calories will do nothing for me! Instead of being five pounds over my ideal weight, I will end up 5.01 pounds above my ideal weight. But I’ll eat it. It’s free food. It’s a free cookie.”

I bit into the white cookie tree with pastel frosting. And the cookie was incredibly delicious! It had just the right thickness, it had ultimate freshness, it had a philo-esque flakiness to it, and the frosting had just the right flavor and sweetness.

It was the best cookie of its type that I had ever had. It was a mini Christmas miracle! And I really do try, and sometimes succeed, in being thankful for all the wonderful little things that people and life have to offer.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Munchies or just one munchie?

For my many international readers, allow me to explain (hello, Buenos Aires!). Getting the munchies is when suddenly the hunger just overcomes you. Now it’s not like major hunger you get when you haven’t eaten for a few days (or, Heaven forbid, a few months!). No, it’s a craving in the tum-tum you get (for my international readers, let me explain: your tum-tum is your belly, the stomachy part), usually for “junk food,” that starts a-bugging you. Your eyes shift from side to side: where is food? Is there a bag of junk food in the house?

You see, it wouldn’t be the munchies if the craving weren’t for crunchies: salty snacks like potato chips, Fritos, or good ol’ American pork rinds (in LA they are called chicharrones, which sounds to me like cucarachas, but whatever). Your eyes shift from side to side like the dissatisfied peepers of the cicada, searching like an insect for sustenance! Suddenly you rip open a bag of Fritos in front of the TV and douse your mouth with the chips, as if to put out a fire.

I think it’s of greater than theoretical importance to ask whether you can get just one munchie instead of a whole pack, and I think the answer is… yes! In such a case, your tum-tum fillips your awareness just once, one of your eyes shifts just once, and you eat just one chip. It’s a small need, easily satisfied. Can you imagine, then, a bag labeled “Frito” with just one Frito in it? Go eat some snacks!

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Do you have brawn?

I need to know if you have brawn. Brawn? Muscles in place, strapping man-muscles or woman-muscles? Do you have true brawn? Do you have a brawny car? I need your brawn level communicated to me. Do you have brawn? True guns, mag pecs? Is there brawn on you, around you? Do you have brawn?

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What they say about it is not what they know about it

You heard me right. They are saying all kinds of things that are not the kinds of things you want them to say. Does that upset your worldview? They and they? You heard me right. Ignorance! Not on your part, but theirs.

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