Friday, December 27, 2013

Printing Presses and Susceptible Hearts

“Through printing, tender boys and gentle girls, chaste without foul stain, take in whatever mars purity of mind or body; they encourage wantonness, and swallow up the huge gain from it. …

Writing indeed, which brings in gold for us, should be respected and held to be nobler than all goods, unless she has suffered degradation in the brothel of the printing presses. She is a maiden with a pen, a harlot in print. Should you not call her a harlot who makes us excessively amorous? Governed only by avaricious gain, will not that most base woman deserve the name of prostitute, who saps the strength of the young boy by fostering wantonness? This is what the printing presses do: they corrupts susceptible hearts.”

Filippo de Strata, Polemic Against Printing, trans. Shelagh Grier and intro. By Martin Lowry. As quoted here in “ Books Have Their Own Destiny: Essays in Honor of Robert V. Schnucker” edited by Robin Bruce Barnes, Robert Kolb, Paula Presley, Robert V. Schnucker

I suspect this guy’s ok with the spoken and the written word but has a some kind of problem with the printed word. Which is wack – words being words and all. But that’s not what I’m blogging about, which – blogging – would make this guy’s eyes melt. At least this is an ad-free blog so there’s no possibility for avaricious gain for Weeping Sore – at least in writing this blog. Once I’m discovered by a big publishing house thought, all bets are off.

Filippo here seems to think that if a woman is “governed only by avaricious gain” that will foster wantonness. Imagine, if you will, what it would do to any man. Now, while fostering wantonness has long been on my bucket list, I never thought I could get that far down into the bottom of the bucket by merely writing. And don't get me started about "swallowing up the huge gain" from wantonness.

But who wouldn’t be tempted to be wanton, am I right? “Fostering” has this genteel taint of patronizing primitive forms of life - like the little ladies - but in, like, you know, a good way. And it’s a slippery slope from literary wantonness to criminal behavior, like, say pulling off a gentleman’s hat. One man’s wantonness is another man’s assault and battery:

WANTONNESS, crim. law. A licentious act by one man towards the person of another without regard to his rights; as, for example, if a man should attempt to pull off another's hat against his will in order to expose him to ridicule, the offence would be an assault, and if he touched him it would amount to a battery. (q. v.) - A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the UnitedStates. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
Whether wantonness saps the strength of tender boys is a point I do not care to dispute. But Fillipo says its effect on woman is worse. What’s worse? It makes them whores, what else? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Filippo is a dick. Filippo has whores on his brain if he thinks women who write are  “suffering in the brothel” of the printing press; while it's nobel and brings in gold for guys who write. 

I have to admit though he's inspired me. I'm thinking about adding "Maiden with a Pen; Harlot in Ink" to my calling cards. From there it's a mere leap from a roof with an umbrella to pulling off men's hats.

It all comes down to corrupting susceptible hearts. It’s like the sign on the church across the street where Patti lives: "Become the person you would want others to be". At first glance that might sound like sound advice. Upon reflection, it would be the perfect mission statement for a wanton suicide bomber.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Stress and Excuses

“I’ve had a wonderful evening. This wasn’t it.”
Grucho Marx

I don’t manage stress. I pretty much make a hash of trying to remain calm while stress increasingly bosses me around. I could turn to drugs I suppose. But reality is still there, waiting up and sitting in a chair with its arms crossed over its chest when I try to sneak back in after curfew.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, since I’ve had enough experience making excuses about being late: trust being earned and not demanded, as we all know. See, the cigarette smoke smell on my fingers is from holding the pencil used by other bowlers who smoke when we all used the same pencil to mark our bowling scores. Yeah, I was out bowling. I broke 100.

It’s the tiny detail that makes it real. Not too much embellishment, just a touch. I actually did break 100 once too, so it wasn’t so much a lie as it was a distortion of the order of events that really happened. Kinda like Grucho’s lovely evening.

Once, when I was late for work around Xmas, I said I had a flat tire. Lame, right? But no, because it turns out this guy in a Santa Clause costume stopped to change my tire. Who would make up something like that? The person who won’t just phone in a trite excuse, when they can tell an engaging lie, that’s who.

But what is bad is my stress mismanagement. What used to be little stuff has become bigger and I remain copeless in the face of simple things. Like yesterday, I was late for a sewing class which frankly who cares, right? But I was already a bit tense when I left the house. Then, Nana in the car in front of me slows down for several dozen of the 87 stop lights between me and the class while the lights are still bright green light; because, well they will eventually turn yellow; and in due course almost certainly red; and her reactions aren’t what they used to be when she was, say, 80. So better to just stop at the green ones, or at least pause long enough for me to give her substantial and detailed advice about what she might be doing instead of driving ahead of me when I’m late, like, say, knitting tea cozies for her friends at the retirement home. Or bowling with heavy smokers.

The funny part was that I was the first to arrive because everybody else thought the class began at 9:30 not 9:00. The instructor explained the website had the late time although it was really supposed to be 9:00 (which is what the employee on the phone told me). So of course I said, yup, sure, I thought it was 9:30 too, but I’m early because I wanted to have time to enjoy a cup of coffee and chat about making tea cozies.

At least I can still make good excuses. I suppose my still functioning bullshit skill balances out my diminishing skill at coping with stress. Which, when I think about, is a good trade-off because there are stress-management drugs but as far as I know science hasn’t created a medicine that can enhance one’s skill in making up entertaining excuses for being late.

Monday, December 02, 2013

These Are Chrysanthemums, not Peonies

"Flora, always tall, had grown to be very broad too, and short of breath; but that was not much. Flora, whom he had left a lily, had become a peony; but that was not much. Flora, who had seemed enchanting in all she said and thought, was diffuse and silly. That was much. Flora, who had been spoiled and artless long ago, was determined to be spoiled and artless now. That was a fatal blow."
 - Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
Chuck was on to something. As we get older, we shouldn’t be worrying about growing broad, short of breath, or like a blowsy peony – a flower that always tries to hard and wears too much makeup.  In contrast, everybody knows you don’t need to gild a lily. Poor, once enchanting Flora.

As we age and “let ourselves go” we should worry a bit more about becoming silly and diffuse, whatever the hell diffuse means. I think he means we lose focus and concentration. We let our attention span attenuate to the length of time it takes to remember what the Doormouse said. 

I partly concur with Mr. Dickens that the fatal blow, the perfectly avoidable change that age brings which is beyond the pale, is to remain as spoiled as we presumably were when we were young and more like lilies than peonies; when we were more condensed than diffuse. Age can’t afford to remain spoiled. You have to come to terms with the fact that the process of aging is the process of letting go of whatever indulgences you were allowed as a youth.

I part ways with Chuck about artless being a fatal blow. Give me a break. I was clearly artless when I was young. I am even artlesser now. And determined to remain argumentative. But again, I always was; and if you disagree with me on this final point, I will stab you with my eyes.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Spiders and Flies

"Sit up, fed up, low down, go 'round
Down at the bar at the place I'm at
Sitting, drinking, superfic'ly thinking
About the rinsed out blonde on my left
Then I said 'Hi' like a spider to a fly…"
 - The Rolling Stones, The Spider and the Fly

There is a line in the old Rolling Stones song – from back when they were a great band: The Spider and the Fly. The singer is describing a lady he met in a dive bar:  “She was common, flirty, looked about thirty” This was on their album Out of Our Heads, released in 1965. Those were the days you didn't trust anybody over 30.

Then I downloaded it a while back, I got the version of this same song from the album Stripped, recorded live from their Vodoo Lounge Tour in 1995. That line now sounds something like this:
“She was drifty grifty, she looked about fifty.” I’m not sure of the adjectives but I’m sure of the age.

So between 1965 and 1995 fifty became the new thirty. I was younger than the skank in the 1965 dive.  By the time the lyrics changed, I was barely younger than the 1995 skank. When I first heard the song, the woman described was way past her prime. By 1995 we'd come such a long way (baby) that we aren't considered rubbish until we're in our fifties. 

I shudder to think how the Stones would change that line if they played it in 2013. Thanks to Obamacare, the “ladies” that sit in bars like spiders hunting flies will continue to age. This could get very very ugly.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Miracles of Modern Chemistry

"Gimme that z o l o f t
Gimme a grip, make me love me
Suckin’ ‘em down, I’m happy man
Can feel it inside, makin’ me smile…

Gimme that z o l o f t
No longer pissed and if you don’t bother me
I’m makin’ it through, I’m givin’ my all
When bases are loaded, I’m whacking the ball"

 - Ween, Zoloft

I’ve been plowing the fields of my imagination with a flea comb and can’t find a thing to talk about without using more profanity that I have a grasp of at the moment. And believe me, I have a substantial grasp of profanity. Or would it be more accurate to say that I have a white-knuckled grasp of a substantial store of profanity? 

See? This is why I haven’t blogged in a while. To paraphrase Claude Levi-Strauss, my inability to form a coherent thought is matched by the deficiency of my imagination. And yet, I can still paraphrase Claude, so I’ve got that questionable accomplishment to reassure me.

But I’ll be back, like a case of herpes, just when you began to think I might be gone for good.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Does Kafka Work for Medi-Cal?

"Take care of your health; you have no right to neglect it, and thus become a burden to yourself and perhaps to others."
~ William Hall

Here follows another episode in my continuing adventure as unpaid fiduciary agent for a dementia patient dependent upon Medicare and Medical for her custodial care in a residential skilled nursing facility. When we last left our patient, her annual re-evaluation for eligibility for Medical was approved 3 months into the current year. The story of establishing her financial need would be a hilarious saga of plot twists and missed chances if wasn’t such a sad and pathetic tale of bureaucratic bungling and ineptitude.

But that was then. In this latest episode, we have at least two problems. If you count not knowing whether the first two problems are related, we have three problems.

The first issue is what I’ll call a question of “coverage”. Such problems are always heralded by an ominously unexplained “Notice of Action” in which some (usually bad) decision has been made but which is less enlightening about why.  In May, we received a NOA instructing us that because the patient had informed them she was moving to Riverside, her case was being transferred there. Ok, they explained why, but they were wildly wrong. The effect would have been to terminate her coverage at her local facility in September.  We called, we wrote, and we called some more to assure them nobody had ever told them she was moving, that she could not move from bed to toilet, and accordingly that moving from San Diego to Riverside was out of the question. We assumed that the matter would be resolved. Foolishly as it turns out.

When the skilled nursing facility notified us in July the service was still going to terminate in September we called, and after about 20 minutes on hold we explained to James what had happened. He found the file. He found the notice and no information about the patient saying she was moving. He also found our written explanation that no move was contemplated. We believed James when he explained that while he couldn’t personal and directly fix this matter of the move to Riverside, he would e-mail the authority that would. He couldn’t copy us on the e-mail for reasons I can only conclude to be that then I’d have a genuine contact to a real person with real authority and well, we can’t have that can we? But James assured us we would receive a call in a few days assuring us that the case would remain in San Diego. All this was, of course, complete rubbish.

Fool me twice etc. I blame my own naïve faith, coupled with my exhaustion from trying to deal with these people for my failure to follow up when the call never came. That, plus a slight degree of bitterness that this shouldn't be my problem to begin with, but I'm the only adult in the room.

So, on September 11 we received a Notice of Medicare Non-Coverage (NOMNC) from the facility saying the 95-year-old patient’s coverage would end on September 12. Coincidently, this was the same day the patient had returned to the facility from the hospital for her latest bout with COPD, Congestive Heart Failure and an unidentified infection which later proved to be UTI. No reason was given for this action. I have however, formed two theories. One is that the case has been moved to Riverside. The other is that Medical is trying to loosen my already tenuous grasp on sanity in the hopes that I’ll drink myself to death, not appeal their non-coverage decision, and the facility can move the patient’s hospital bed out into the back alley and forget about her. I believe that’s what Medicare would call a win-win since they'd be down two Social Security checks.

This “timely” 24-hour notice included information that if we wanted to appeal we should do so “promptly” by calling our “Quality Improvement Organization (also known as a QIO)”. Needless to say, I quickly made a shaker of vodka martinis with rosewater and lemon syrup before promptly calling the QIO about appealing the NOMNC. Was told by Maria that we’d be contacted by a case manager “in a few days”.  It’s too soon to say whether the QIO measures a few days by Medical time or by actual calendar time.

The next issue is one  of “eligibility” i.e. of proving poverty. Related? Perhaps. Perhaps not.  Although the patient’s financial eligibility for Medical coverage was approved on 2/23/13 for the calendar year 2013, it turns out there is no reason why this issue shouldn't be raised, say every 15 minutes. Here’s how that went down.

We received not one, but two separately mailed notices both dated 9/5/13, both from the same local office of the county Health and Human Services Agency that administers Medical. One was a health insurance questionnaire I’ve seen, completed and returned not less than three times, detailing the patient’s Medicare and Medi-gap insurance coverage. (This matter was fake-resolved last February but because since then Medicare first deducts the monthly premium from her Social Security check then promptly refunds it to her, it clearly wasn't real-resolved.) The other was the equally familiar Verification Checklist  saying we need to “establish/re-establish” eligibility for Medical. Apparently there is no form letter to re-re-re-establish such coverage. We dutifully completed the forms, attached the required bank statements documenting the patient’s poverty. We returned each form in each separate postage-prepaid envelope to the same place.

Let me conclude by saying that I know the social services safety net is pretty tattered. Workers are underfunded and agencies are understaffed. Times are tough and the bureaucrats are more likely to be too busy to read correspondence and forms than they are to be illiterate morons: although the results are the same. I expect that the rate of staff turnover exceeds that of the staff turnover beneath that shade tree outside the Home Depot parking lot. I expect that idealistic workers with a Bachelor’s Degree in some social services major and a desire to do some good for their fellow men experience burnout at rates exceeding that of a cheap cigar. That said, I spent my entire career as a professional bureaucrat and saw some seriously bad shit. But never, not even when contracting with CalTrans, have I experienced such a deficiency of coherent consistent practices combined with such pervasive incompetence.