A Writer Threads The Needle

As a writer, there are some impossible assignments. Where the degree of difficulty is just too great to put pen to paper.

You can’t write anything sympathetic to Republicanism in The New York Times, just as you can’t write anything sympathetic to the Left in The Washington Times.

If you identify as male, you can’t write about the “female experience”. If you are rich, you can’t write about the poor. If you’ve never had kids, you can’t write about parenting.

I mean, you can, there’s a First Amendment after all, but good luck to you.

And if you’re on “the tenure track”, or a tenured professor, you can’t complain about anything higher education-related without understandably unleashing the growing army of adjuncts who struggle to feed themselves and make rent. They. Aren’t. Having. It.

Unless you were an adjunct before you landed your tenure-track position? And you acknowledge your good fortune. More than once. Then, just maybe, you can pull off the rarest of feats.*

Cue Sarah Emanuel’s essay, “The Deflating Reality Of Life On The Tenure Track” with the provocative subtitle—”Walking dogs helps me make rent.”

Props to Emanuel for her hustle and her risk taking as a writer. And her good humor.

Historical footnote. The Good Wife and I started our journey in a one-bedroom Venice apartment.

*I haven’t read the comments yet. Kinda afraid to.

We Know the Real Cause of the Crisis in Our Hospitals.

It’s greed. That’s the headline of this powerful six and a half minute long New York Times documentary. I concede, given the Gray Lady’s size and stature, it’s important to read and/or view her with a certain skepticism, but as this short video illustrates, the “paper of record” continues to produce a lot of outstanding journalism.  

When it comes to the New York Times, I am in the habit of reading the top “reader picks” comments. At present, this video has generated 1,562 comments. Here’s a portion of the top rated one, from someone living outside the (dis)United States:

“Hey, your politicians passed and signed federal law 9 years ago to allow private equity (wall street) to buy and own healthcare systems and physician groups. Prior to that it was illegal. Now private equity is the largest employer of emergency room physicians in America and as owners of healthcare system employees many many doctors and nurses of all specialties. Private equity is buy a company reduce costs increase profit and sell it in 5-7 years. That is who owns many of your doctors and hospitals. Federal law was changed to allow that to happen and where was the objection from the people. My guess probably almost no one knew. How funny to watch your media avoid these topics when they happen and fill it with the latest on the celebrity politicians over there.”  

The nurses in the video confirm that our fetishization of corporations is the root cause of their untenable work conditions. And the reason people admitted to U.S. hospitals often receive poor care. 

It reminds me of how powerfully later seasons of “Orange Is The New Black” depicts the negative consequences of private prisons.

Because we’re complexity adverse, we don’t connect dots, like our “avoid taxes at all costs” myopia and our near religious beliefs in “free” markets. Those neoliberal pillars are as solid as they’ve ever been. To question them is to be labelled a “socialist”. 

In the end, we have the public health system we deserve. A public health system that an increasing percentage of nurses don’t want anything to do with. 

Sometimes I Can Only Muster The Strength To . . .

. . . read headlines. Recently, I’ve been diagnosed with “CEFS” or Current Events Fatigue Syndrome.

Some recent headlines are funny enough that I don’t even have to read the article. My spirit is already lifted.

I Became Extremely Hot In The Pandemic. My Husband Did Not.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t read it because I was afraid the Good Wife wrote it.

Some recent headlines are so cringe-worthy I can’t bring myself to read the article. This is CEFS in action. In increasing order of cringe:

Misinformation Is A Pandemic That Doesn’t Have A Headline

Tie for First. . .

Election Offices And School Board Meetings Could Become Weapons-free Zones In Washington

Report: World’s 10 Richest Men Doubled Their Wealth During COVID Pandemic

And sometimes since I know how the story is going to turn out, it’s unnecessary to read on.

Help! My Husband Throws Away My Things Without Asking In The Name of “Minimalism.”

Dude’s wife divorces him. He moves into an apartment a few steps below the one he lived in during college. Can’t afford any real furniture to speak of, any art, anything. Shortly thereafter, dies from loneliness in his minimalist “paradise”.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t read that because I was afraid the Gal Pal may have authored it as well.

Paragraph To Ponder

“When men encounter problems at work or elsewhere in their lives, they are much less likely than women to talk about it, in either public or private. Written accounts of male burnout are hard to find. Men are about 40 percent less likely than women to seek counseling for any reason. And the well-documented crisis in male friendship means that many men have no one aside from their spouse or partner they feel they can open up with emotionally. Single men often have no one at all; when they burn out, they may do so alone.”

From “How Men Burnout” by Jonathan Malesic.

Electronic Wolves

This receipt was made up by some electronic wolves that read my in-laws’ obituaries. Neither my mother or father-in-law were capable of ordering anything on-line on October 10th, the alleged date of sale. Nor would they have ever paid $50 for a t-shirt, let alone $150 for 3.

Their target is probably the recently widowed who may be just the right mix of senile and afraid. They read they were from Two Harbors near Duluth. Then they went on-line and found the most popular attractions in the area within seconds. Then they fabricated the receipt, dropped it in the mail, and waited to see if they got anyone on the line. No doubt they do sometimes.

I give them a “C” for the quality of the receipt. It’s exquisite except for the obvious pricing overreach for which I’m marking down two grades.

I don’t know how to catch these lowlifes, but assuming they are caught eventually, what’s an appropriate punishment? Life without any chance of parole?

Thursday Required Reading

Harvard first year becomes youngest person ever to serve in Icelandic Parliament. Extra credit if you can spell her name.

Kohler can now run a bath with just a voice command. Need.

Forget giant asteroids, the Doomsday Glacier is coming for us all.

Next up in Ethiopia. Deepest bench in the world.

Sign of the apocalypse.

Less Politics, More Sports

Politics, in the (dis)United States is similar to sports in that one of two parties wins each election, but politics is significantly different from sports because the parties’ policy differences directly impact our quality of life. When your favorite athlete or sports team loses, life goes on, the same as before. There’s far, far less at stake.

Politics is a never-ending contest to create more hopeful, opportunistic conditions in which people might thrive; while sports is about unfulfilled fantasies mixed with the delusion that you can will your team to victory and the temporal bragging rights winning accords you. The bragging rights are fleeting because after every season records are wiped clean and there’s a complete reset.

In politics, we’re at a point where each side almost instinctively questions one another’s sanity and humanity. In contrast, we don’t wonder how can a sane person be a Chicago Bears fan, a Minnesota Timberwolves fan, a Chelsea fan, a Duke fan? Well, maybe Duke isn’t the best example since any Carolina fan will tell you that Duke has a distinctively Republican vibe. But I digress. We know sports fans choose their teams based upon some mix of nostalgia and geography, not a sense of superiority.

In contemporary U.S. politics, resentments continuously build. Records are never wiped clean and there are never any resets. As the last 5-10 years so clearly illustrates, antipathy just builds and builds and builds.

It’s to the point now, where I believe many Republican opinion leaders care more about Democrats doing poorly in elections than they care about the country doing well. Undoubtedly, many Republicans suspect the same of many Democratic opinion leaders.

That myopia of only seeing electoral trees at the expense of the forest is distinct to politics. Sports fans don’t cheer when opposing players are injured. In fact, despite a minority of “boo birds”, the majority don’t root against the other team, they simply root for their “home” team.

Of course, the problem with my “less politics, more sports” plea is that political apathy enables incompetent and/or corrupt politicians to harm the common good even more. In the end, I’m advocating for being more sports-like in our politics. How about organizing and rooting for your team without demonizing the other one nearly as much. And for a change of pace, root for your country even more than your team.