Thursday, February 27, 2003

"Meow, meow, Rogers, meow *sniff*, meow, meow..."

That was the word today from Henrietta Kitty; all the way from the land of make believe. The translation: Mister Rogers has died. I did not know, nor did I particularly care for Mr. Rogers, but I feel it necessary to thank him for his life's work on behalf of my Mother. If it weren't for him, his thorizine-like effect on children, and his timeslot, I would have never have been able to calm down enough to sit at the dinner table.

Thanks Mister Rogers.
The Terrorist's plan to make us sniffle to death

I'm sick. Again. This sickness is my fourth of the season and I'm just, well, sick of it. I had the sniffly, stuffy, sore-throaty, coughing thing first, then the damn Norwalk or it's look-alike -- the one that makes you project things from both ends for two days -- then back to the sniffly-coughing thing, and after a little over a week's relief, back to something just like it once again. I made a joke to my friend Rebecca a few weeks ago about how it's all a terrorist plot, how they wouldn't do anything big and obvious in New York City this time, like put anthrax in the subways or plan another kamikaze plane ride into a building...nah, this time they'd send a cranky little virus out into the water supply, nothing that'd kill you right away, nothing that would raise a red flag at the CDC, but something that would make your immune system decay slowly...until some point where you were too weak to recover at all.

This seems less like a joke to me today. I shuffle my sniffly self about the apartment in the same damn jammies I've been sporting for two days, high on Thera-Flu and Zinc and megavitamins and Matte...and it's not so funny anymore.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

So I ditched the corrupt annotation, got a new one (yea!), but now all past posts have no capitalization.
Will the trauma never end?

It's time to clear out the gaper's block file, so say good-bye to Michael. Good luck, man. I hope you find the pre-teen hottie of your dreams.

You'll find a whole new horror (or delight) at the right.
Email from Mom:

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person which almost went unnoticed last week.

Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at age 93.

The most traumatic part for his family however, was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in... and, well, then the trouble started.

A short complaint:

My comment program sucks. The link appears, disappears, reappears. Likewise for the actual comments. I answer 'em, it eats 'em.

I'm using Enetation, and am less than impressed. Actually, I'm ready to toss them out like a tacky chandelier, (what, do you feel soorrrry for the little lamp)?

So what do the you that are you use? Suggestions?

Monday, February 24, 2003

Hey, let's all get our war on... (thanks chicklet).
It's all (still) good, right guys? Or is it my bad?


Okay, okay, I know I second-guess myself more than sharpshooters pull pistols in Sam Peckinpah films (and usually with more deadly aim) but I think I just took my neurosis to a new, most-pathetic-even-for-me level.

I had just left home for the mid-laundry shuffle. Wait, I'll back up. The laundromat is about a half block from the apartment, which is great for me. I can dump the stuff in the washer, go walk the dog or do whatever for a half hour, go back, throw it in the dryer, come home, relax, and go back in a half hour to pick it all up. It is so convenient in that city-life, multi-tasking kind of way, It's almost like someone else does my laundry for me.

And today someone almost did. Sort of. When I arrived for the washer/dryer transfer I spied a man pulling my clothes out of the machine and placing them in a basket. My brain clicked; an internal "What the...?" then the pico-second assessment you do when you're trying to decide if something is a threat or benign. There were about ten free washers so my clothes weren't taking up valuable real-estate, yet they were nestled between two washers that were also finished with their cycles, and full of clothes. And the guy wasn't pulling them out in any kind of hurry (like he intended to steal them or something) so I guessed it was just a mistake.

I walked up to him and said, "Hey, I think those are my clothes." He looked at me, then down at the wet pile, then he did the pico-second thing trying to decide what my damage was...followed shortly by realization.

"Oh, God, I'm so sorry," he said, "I didn't even look. My clothes are in that washer right next to yours." It was obvious by the way he held his hands he didn't know what to do at that point...pull the rest out? Put them back?

"Don't worry about it..." I smiled, "It's all good." His face lit too, we were in agreement. Crisis averted, and who knows, perhaps friends made. Either way, nice warm fuzzies all around.

Except for the teenagers a few inches behind him, who were mocking me. One of them started with "It's all good? It's all GOOD?" then a loud HA HA HA doubled up, gut holdin' reaction from his crew. Another answered him in Spanish, but all I could make out of his retort was another, incredulous, "It's all good?" They just couldn't believe I was, am, so unfashionable. (I am the Antigeist, after all).

So there I was, walking home, totally horrified that I had made such a passe, out of date, out of touch comment. How stupid I must have looked, some silly white girl using 15 year old hip-hop vernacular. What a dork, what an ultra-maroon, how Gay.

But, I happen to be a big fan of "It's all good". I've seen 'It's all good' do the work of poets and saints. I've witnessed potentially deadly exchanges between fellow Americans completely diffuse due to 'It's all good'. If you were given the wrong change for a twenty in the 80's, during the "Life Sucks And Then You Die" era, the apologetic clerk would be greeted with "You're goddam right your sorry, you thievin' sorry-ass motherfucker". But today? "No problem, man, it's all good." I ask you, what can possibly be wrong with that? I firmly believe that what you say becomes who you are, and if given the choice between 'this stinks' and 'that sucks' and 'don't go there', or the more accepting and loving 'It's all good', is there really any choice?

I'm fully aware that by the time your white, male, goatee wearing cubicle-mate is using a phrase, its not a part of underground culture anymore....but why should something so simple and perfect be kept underground? What, are you the kind of person who stops buying your favorite indie band's CD's as soon as they get airplay? I'm sorry, but I have to go with folks like Ivy Supersonic on this one.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

I bought myself a nice hand-basket in Jersey...

If, by some act of grace, past misdeeds had not already earned me a spot in Hell, I have with all certainty secured a first-class ticket now...seeing as I spent last week helping The Devil make Training Films for his Sales Reps.

Like all things related to Evil, none of us knew what we had gotten ourselves into until it was too late to back out. I certainly had no inkling my conscience would be jeopardized when I took the job, nor did the production company I freelance for. As a matter of fact, I've had nothing but wonderful experiences with them on each shoot. Yes, the subject matter is a bit boring, but never evil. They're just stupid industrials after all... films intended to show new employees the finer points of their 401k plans, or their choices of health benefit packages, or about workplace safety... bland, helpful, Satan-free information. So I didn't even ask who the client was. Factor in that I haven't had a regular jobby-job* for nearly a year and half, and their company (with random exception) is my only means of income... I don't ask questions whenever they call and ask "Can you do a shoot this week?" I just hold my grumbling tummy and say yes.

It turns out that their client, The Devil, is a major pharmaceutical company who's name I cannot utter since I am small and poor and they are big and rich, and as you'd expect, have several hundred corporate lawyers on the payroll. But you know them, trust me. You know them as the manufacturer of a '#1 Doctor Recommended Pain Reliever', the one which needs a prescription when the words 'with codeine' follow the brand name... or from their birth control pills, the three cycle kind (white then green then blue) that come in a little pink, circular compact... the one now being advertised as the only pill proven to clear up pimples? Okay! Are we on the same page? Well... them.

So we entered the building totally naive, just another industrial, right?... we didn't really notice we had been photographed and metal-detected at the door, or that our IDs, film equipment, license plate numbers, and personal belongings had been double checked before we could be granted a laminated pass to the "Training Facility" (solely). I don't remember seeing the armed, plain-clothed security guards that first morning, or the video cameras everywhere, or the odd way people exchanged only the most benign pleasantries in the halls. It never occurred to me they insisted we film on location for reasons of security and confidentiality, not even when I was signing papers to that effect. Truthfully, everything about the corporate world is foreign and weird to me. I don't know why they do what they do. I just know it all gives me the creeps. I figured my creep-sensors were going off like they normally would whenever I'm in the company of a bunch of white guys wearing ties.

It wasn't until we wrapped up the first scene that I began to suspect anything . The scenes were written in the "Wrong Way, Right Way" format, evidently still popular among those who utilize propaganda. (Think: those hygiene films from the 50's, or more currently, a training or sexual harassment film you might have had to watch at work.) But the content, unlike something helpful --such as how NOT to get your hand caught in a large hand-mangling machine-- was instead filled with greasy double talk designed to get doctors to prescribe potentially harmful, and in some cases deadly, drugs to their patients.

The first scene, (again, I cannot mention the drug or it's use, I signed in blood, remember?) showed a rep mentioning the mountains of clinical research indicating their product causes severe side effects in a large percentage of patients, leaps and bounds above placebo... or as they called it, the 'wrong way'. The 'right way' with this product was to direct the doctor's attention away from the research, and highlight how the drug is less expensive (four cents less a pill), is smaller and easier to swallow, and has a higher, and therefore more effective dose.
Now me being me, I asked questions, like..."So this pill is the same medicine as your competitor, just a different shape and higher dose, right?"
Them: "Right."
Me: "And it's more effective because..."
Them: "Because patients are more likely to take the whole prescription when there are less pills to take."
Me: "But the current brand's dose has very few documented side-effects, right? About equal to placebo?"
Them: "Yeah."
Me: "And this pill has several side-effects..."
Them: "Well, for some. Remember, even Aspirin and vitamin C can kill some people..." And then he launched into some glassy-eyed wrote that included AMA approved dose/risk ratios, and rates of patient return, and insurance costs and employee absences and taxpayer dollars. Now mind you, this was not a drug that would normally incur great risk on the part of the patient, like radical chemotherapy treatments for instance, it was something you might take if you had a cold that hung on too long, or would sometimes be prescribed as a precaution for people with suppressed immune systems, diabetes or hypo-thyroid disease.
Me: "So essentially what you're saying is that in the opinion of AMA and (his company) the increased risk of side-effects is less important than missed work, insurance charges, or medicaid costs. That side-effects are worth it if it keeps people away from the doctors office."
Them: "Yes." And he smiled. He fucking smiled a little sideways gash that said he wasn't kidding. He wasn't.

Revelations brought on by the following training scenes were even more frightening. One of the drugs manufactured by (the Devil) was designed to treat a symptom description found only in women; pelvic pain, incontinence, and painful intercourse that persists after the obvious diagnoses have been ruled out. What do they recommend? Essentially a pain-pill and intra-uterine coater (the script said, "like Pepto-Bismol for the uterus") with horrific side-effects, a AMA approved last-ditch you give someone when you don't know what's wrong, and don't really care to investigate further. That particular scene was directing the sales staff to suggest this pill for men with pelvic pain as well, the logic being that, hey....if it works for a woman...oh, and don't peek at that damming clinical research. I can't even mention the way in which the anti-spasmatics, anti-psychotics, and mood-elevators were spun. Suffice it to say you should pray to GOD you, or anyone you love, never ends up with a debilitating mental illness. They can pretty much do whatever they want to you then. The cure is considered worth any risk to your life (since, well, your life is worthless at that point, right?)

But my horror solidified during the last shoot on the last day. This sales pitch targeted ER doctors only. The product, a strong, Percacet-type pain-reliever (the Devil) specifically designed for a classification of patients they called SMPP's. After reading the script I could guess contextually what the acronym stood for, but it was never said aloud. This was really the most diabolical of all. This, very expensive drug, was designed for patients who return to the ER complaining of chronic pain and seeking pain medication. The sales staff were instructed to pitch this drug to doctors for patients in two categories:

First; there are the patients who do not have medical benefits and often receive no preventative or diagnostic medical care, and therefore, rarely seek medical attention until they are experiencing acute pain. This little film showed salespeople how to push this drug as a replacement for diagnostic services which are not the primary concern of an ER unit. In other words, hey doc, this pill will kill all pain, although it won't address the cause, it'll get them the hell out of your ER and back into the ghetto where they belong.

Second; those are self-medicating pain patients...a catch all category of drug-addicts, recreational drug users, those who take larger than average doses of over the counter medication (like antacids, or aspirin), and the category of the under-insured described above. This pill was recommended for this group as well, even though the side effects associated with the drug became SEVERE when combined with several, common, over the counter remedies (even vitamins and homeopathics), and became DEADLY when combined with street drugs like crack. The rationale? It is not within the ER's ability or responsibility to get a full patient profile in an emergency setting. They can prescribe this drug after simply asking the patient if he or she uses any other drugs. If they say no, and as we all know drug addicts rarely lie about their drug use, the doctor is legally and medically in the clear. Either way, they emptied another bed in the ER.

Do you want to know who is in charge of your health, your life? Car salesmen. When I was touching up the make-up of one of the participants in that last scene, I asked him what he did before working for (the Devil). "I was a car salesmen." he said. "I sold cars in Virginia."

Perhaps it's naïveté, or just the way we all plug our ears so we don't have to hear the scream of capitalism, I guess I don't know why I'm so shocked. All their high-fives and "you 'da man's" and little fucking plastic plaques that say they won "Top Five blah blah of the Year" which translates, to them, to another ten thousand a year. The women dressing and acting like men, the African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans talking like they grew up in New England on camera or to the boss, and then adopting their natural accent off...it was disgusting. Salesmen run our world. Fucking salesmen control your life, your health, your happiness.

Somewhere in New Jersey a car salesmen just decided how to treat your Grandmother's Alzheimer's.

And I showed him how.