Monthly Archives: November 2009

Reform School

While the politicians are bashing each other in Washington, D.C. over healthcare reform, a little known incident occurred at UC San Diego’s School of Medicine that underscores the inequities of our healthcare system. I know this because I found online a colored photo of a gold-masked Egyptian mummy being rolled into a six-slice CT scanner.

A team of cardiologists and Egyptologists had carefully scanned 22 mummies from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. Each mummy was at least 3200 years old. The doctors and researchers found that more than half of the mummies had cardiovascular disease. The co-investigator of the study, cardiologist Dr. Michael Miyamoto said, “Our findings remind us of the value of preventative medicine.”

The mummy study demonstrated that healthcare is already available to every American man and woman if they only wait long enough.

I can hear your protests now: why should Egyptian mummies have better healthcare than the American public? Our Congressional leaders have discussed that issue as I discovered in my recent review of the news.

John Boehner, the current Republican house minority leader, interviewed in Mother Jones Magazine: “The Republican healthcare plan, when we have time to knock one out, focuses on innovative wellness programs to help avoid serious and costly illnesses. All that’s required for those Egyptian mummies is end-of-life care. That’s it. Just a little hand-holding and some Tylenol. Under our planned plan, this means great savings for the typical American taxpayer who, by contrast, has a shitload of pre-existing conditions.”

He added “Imagine how long those mummies would’ve waited for their CT scans if there’d been a public option. They would’ve been dead by now. Those mummies show what we mean by death panels.”

Harry Reid, interviewed on FOX news, angrily stated “Look who funded the mummies’ CT Scans. Siemens Healthcare and the National Bank of Egypt. Once again an international mega-corporation and financial institution control who gets good healthcare: Mummies– the wealthiest old patients. Do you know how much those mummies are worth, individually? Of course they could afford the best American healthcare. Talk about rationing of care!”

Boehner, quoted in Ms. Magazine: “Harry, there you go again. The mummies’ CT scans were actually done in Egypt. By outsourcing our healthcare in this way, costs are substantially lowered. What difference does it make if your prostate exam is performed in Pakistan rather than Peoria?”

“What you’re saying is nonsense, Mr. Minority Leader,” Harry Reid stated, speaking before the World Clown Association. “You claim there shouldn’t be unnecessary medical tests. So why did those mummies undergo prostate exams?”

“I’d like to interject something here,” said Senator Joe Lieberman, addressing the International UFO Congress. “I was in favor of the mummies receiving the CT Scans. Then I was opposed to the mummies receiving the CT Scans. Now I’m inclined to favor a motion to proceed to oppose a motion to favor a filibuster to oppose a motion to favor or proceed to permit the mummies continuing to be part of our healthcare system, but I expect to vote against my vote.”

“Joe, it’s time to take your pills,” Hadassah Lieberman said to her husband, during an interview with Vanity Fair’s reporter Leslie Bennetts in the November issue.

“Harry Reid can’t get beyond the liberal pressures from his party,” House Minority Leader John Boehner stated to attendees at the National Association of Cat Therapists. “While it’s true we’re against paying for healthcare for foreign people, these Egyptian mummies will not be emigrating to the United States. No sir. For humanitarian and research purposes, America examined and treated them in Egypt. We’ll give them palliative, end-of-life care. And if they ever die again, we’ll make sure they’re given another proper burial in some cave.”

“As Senate Minority Leader, I want to thank John, the House Minority Leader, for his wise words,” said Mitch McConnell, as reported by Brian Ross of ABC news, covering the annual convention of the Goldfish Society of America. “Because I’m Senate Minority Leader, it’s my job to see that healthcare reform is possible by not passing healthcare reform. I know John’s been saying the same thing. And I know he’ll keep speaking out about this in the other House, where he belongs. As the Senate Minority Leader, I urge you to remember the most important thing about healthcare reform: I’m the Senate Minority Leader.

Harry Reid, in a recent article in Glamour Magazine: “I’d like to see how John Boehner would like it if he didn’t have our Congressional health insurance plan, and finally developed skin cancer from all his tanning booth sessions.”

Interviewed by Beauty Editor Alyssa K. Hertzig of Allure Magazine, John Boehner stated “Harry Reid just doesn’t get it, when it comes to healthcare. Just like he doesn’t get that my skin tone is my natural color. When I was born November 17, 1949, that day there was a high level of geomagnetic storms and solar activity—you can look it up—so my skin tone is a result of that exposure. I am permanently bronzed. What right does Harry Reid have to bring my skin color into this discussion on healthcare? He looks like he posed for Grant Woods’ American Gothic. All he needs is a pitchfork.”

“Whatever.” (Harry Reid, quoted in Playboy Magazine, November 2009.)

Itsy Bitsy Spider

            “You wouldn’t believe what walked into the kitchen a few days ago.”

             My friends Susan, Ruth, and Caryn lean forward expectantly over their mocha almond fudge sundaes waiting for my answer, their eyes wide, mouths slightly agape which explains in Susan’s case the dark trickle of hot fudge, like a night crawler emerging from its hole, dribbling down her chin.

            We’re sitting around my kitchen table ignoring the drone of CNN from the nearby television.     

            “A wind scorpion.” I announce, “crawling right across the floor here.”  They gasp.

            “Well, you’ll never guess what showed up in our yard,” Caryn counters. “A disgusting snake. Orange and red and brown. I’m sure it was a coral snake.”

            We murmur our horror, aware there are no coral snakes in California, and privately convinced that because it’s Caryn, who refuses to wear her glasses and possesses an unlimited supply of costume jewelry, the “snake” was probably a coral bracelet dropped in her yard.

            “That’s nothing,” Ruth says. “When I was outside watering the plants, I almost brushed up against a black widow spider.”

            I’m conjuring up an even more disgusting insect or snake story when the television suddenly blares an ad about erectile dysfunction. I fume.

            I don’t want to know if Bud can get it on with Sally, if the mood is right or if, after four hours, Bud has to call his doctor because even soaking his erection in liquid fabric softener isn’t working.  The clamor from the television has drummed out of my head a great bug story of how poor Patrick Swayze, staying at Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley while we vacationed there years ago, was bitten on the behind by a scorpion concealed in his bath towel.

            In disgust I switch channels and there’s bearded Billy Mays, apparently on leave from his grave, thunderously hawking “Jupiter Jack!” a device that turns your car radio into a handsfree phone.

            I pick up the remote, pretending to heave it at the television.

            “Go ahead,” somebody says.

             Instead, I mutely mute the set.

            Every few years or so, commercials reach the point of maximum volume as advertisers figure out how to get around existing regulations of volume. California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has, in fact, introduced a bill to once again regulate the volume of commercial interruptions.

            The aggravation caused by blaring commercials is exceeded only by deafening movie trailers. It’s bad enough movie trailers are effectively Cliff Notes of each film, showing in a succession of scenes the entire movie plot and denouement.* But the dunnn dunnnn dunnn dunnn of orchestra drums, earsplitting whooshes, slams and explosions punctuating the rapid edits of flickering scenes lead me to question whether I want to see the film at all, or if it’s simpler and cheaper to sit alone in my darkened car at night lighting a series of cherry bombs.  

*denouement– French for “to untie,” meaning that part of a film where all the tied up and gagged characters get untied, which occurs always after the hideous-looking villain has returned with a chainsaw that, when the chain is pulled, doesn’t work, and has motivated him to go looking for WD-40 which allows the heroes to finally realize that if they rub against each others’ ropes, a small fire will start, singeing their bonds as well as stocks, and permitting them, despite being tied up and immobile for three days, to scramble and sauté their way out of the villain’s basement.

             Why do humans get such a kick out of shattering noises disguised as “entertainment,” whether movies, television, ads or music? Compare, if you will, the typical modern-day explosion-packed trailer with the original trailer of, say, Universal’s 1955 science fiction classic film, Tarantula, about a spider given radioactive flu shots and although growing to 100 feet, doesn’t succumb to influenza. Instead of an annoying narrated film clip, Tarantula’s black and white trailer displays startling white headlines: “Bullets Can’t Stop It!” “Dynamite Can’t Kill It!” “Crawling Terror 100 Feet High!” “Exclamation Marks!”

            Granted, the film has multiple explosions, two instances of gun violence, a jet dropping napalm, and a tarantula hissing or growling loudly as it attacks and eats several people, cows and horses. But minus a Dolby Sound System, the blasts of the weapons are tolerable, and Tarantula gnawing bones is concealed by shadows and camera angles. An effective way, in fact, to enhance scenes of the 100 foot spider chewing up a human is to watch and simultaneously crunch on M and M Peanuts.

            I have to admit a special fondness for Tarantula. After viewing  it as a child, I had screaming nightmares for several months that awakened the entire household. This was well-deserved retribution for my parents’ allowing me, at my insistence, to see the film.

            The movie is effective, not due to explosions and jarring sounds, but because Universal used a real tarantula to simulate the sky-high arachnid. Even the film’s town sheriff remarks after his first glimpse, “Jumpin’ Jupiter!” Unfortunately this line dates the film, since no one talks that way any more. Except Billy Mays when he’s alive, hawking the Jupiter Jack. 

            One of the most spectacular parts (literally) of Tarantula occurs when the gigantic arachnid is napalmed by a jet pilot. The movie, incidentally, is also notable because it is the first film with Clint Eastwood, who is listed in the credits as Tarantula’s stand-in.

            At the end of Tarantula, the audience is moved by the horror on the faces of the townspeople silently watching the incinerated spider, all eight 100 foot legs upright and sizzling. We know the stunned townsfolk are thinking one thing: what now?

            In a modern version of Tarantula, this scene would be deleted, and reluctantly I admit, its elimination is for the better. Townspeople who’ve barely missed being appetizers shouldn’t be standing around silently pondering the spider’s charred skeleton. This is not the time for 1950s film quietude and inaction. In the re-made Tarantula, townspeople would leap up to detonate additional explosives and blow the spider’s remains to hell. Then they’d recycle that mother.