Category Archives: Uncategorized

Road Rules: Traveling over the holidays

My latest for Industry’s Nov/Dec issue. Road Rules: Or, how to holiday travel together without driving each other crazy.

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It’s the time of year when opportunities to travel together come up for both new and more seasoned couples. From Thanksgiving through December, Hannukkah, Ramadan, and Christmas come in fast succession. The whole yawning month of frenzied activity ramps up as the year comes to a close. For new couples this can be a trial by fire, as it can involve not just travel (a natural stressor for some) but also possibly meeting family, seeing childhood homes and friends, exes, etc. Here are a few things to think about when making your first trip as a couple.

Keep reading on Industry’s website here.

I had some real burnout this year writing about relationships, and, let’s be honest, even being involved in relationships. Is it a relief, a comfort, that we feel so perpetually renewed by the feeling of love, that we open our hearts again and again, that we build someone up, that we’re completely fascinated and want everything? I don’t know. I thought it was about time I just grew up and got over my romantic notions and got with reality. Relationships will disappoint you if you let them remain part of some watery province of melodrama. This year’s writing largely reflects my attempts to be more hard-nosed about it, but I can’t pretend I didn’t cross over into cynicism and bitterness occasionally. The more reality you let in, though, the more of a case is made for it, and the less it makes sense to cherry-pick experiences, feelings, people, moods. Suddenly it doesn’t matter what (or who) you do, but how you do it, how you respond.

See you in the new year, and thanks for everyone’s support. In 2014, I bought a house, started to feel truly autonomous and savvy, then got really busy, and now I’m back. I’m looking forward to much more content going up here, meaning more yoga, more publishing, and in general, more quirky, serious fun in 2015.

Happy holidays!

Inside Game of Thrones

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Yes I know everyone’s obsessed with Breaking Bad right now, what can I say? Print waits for no show. In my latest article for Industry, I look at the themes of Game of Thrones, which offers a case study of personal politics and the rules of cause and effect, if we are paying attention. HBO shows do not kowtow to our hero myths, and one could argue that they’ve influenced mainstream entertainment away from the old watered down, picture-postcard universe of blockbuster fantasy (we won’t talk about Sex and the City right now). That’s why we love them (Sopranos, Enlightened, GoT) and why they are better than most TV, even most really good TV.  Plus, GoT has a lot of awesome female characters (looking at you, Breaking Bad, but I love you anyway!).

It is always interesting to think of why a certain trend happens at a certain time. And as little as I want to overstretch some tenuous pop cultural connection, it does seem strange that we are lapping up HBO’s Game of Thrones series’ political intrigue, lax morality, and wanton disregard for others’ personal freedom with an almost sociopathic appetite.

Read more here.

What Man Wants

“Pleasure, success, and duty are never man’s ultimate goals; at best they are means which we assume will take us in the direction of what we really want. What we really want are things which lie on a deeper level. First, we want being. . . , Second, we want to know, to be aware. . . , The third thing men seek is joy. . . Mention any good and man can always imagine a bit more of it and in doing so wish for that more. Medical science has doubled man’s life expectancy, but is man today more ready to die once that expectancy is reached? To state the full truth, then, we must say that what man would really like is infinite being, infinite knowledge, and infinite joy. Disregarding for the moment what he might have to settle for, these are what he would really like. To gather them together in a single word, what man really wants is liberation—complete release from the countless limitations that press so closely upon his present existence.”
The Religions of Man
– Huston Smith

What Are We Telling Ourselves Through Popular Love Songs?

My latest column for Industry Nov/Dec 2010

Tuning Out: Can love songs actually teach us something of value about that elusive state, or should we be making our own music?

When the relationship becomes a normal part of life, it becomes just another proof that outer circumstances do not really determine individual happiness. Most things disappear into the background, like a note I pin up to remind myself something, and which eventually fades into the wallpaper, beyond notice.

Life itself seems to teach that love is in so many ways more colorful and complex, but also harder and more scary, than most songs ever give testimony to. It takes guts to let down your guard and care for another, put yourself in the hands of another. There’s no guarantee you’ll be handled with care.

It takes a lot of days of negotiation, bad days as well as good, and of putting in the time to learn someone’s habits, of dealing with their ghosts, and not becoming haunted yourself,
to get to a few moments of Hollywood love. Transcendant, real, sometimes sad, heartbreaking moments of deep intimacy. But wait, am I just shoring up the mythology? It’s hard to talk about love without adding to the mystery.

Ryuichi Sakamoto at the Vic

I went to see Ryuichi in Chicago recently and wrote a review for Radio Free Chicago. His unobtrusive yet challenging melodic experiments sat alongside the more accessible, climactic soundtrack themes he has composed over the years. The highlights: zen-like glacial melt; the chunky chords and ballast of The Last Emperor; gentle loops.

Werner Herzog as Plastic Bag

Link: Werner Herzog as Plastic Bag

a 20-minute short featuring Werner Herzog’s poignant narration…

“They told me its out there, the Pacific Vortex, Paradise. You may be thinking, ‘Hey shut up and enjoy the sunset you idiot,’ well i don’t care what you think, no one needs me anymore—not even my maker. Do you know her, by chance? Have you seen her?”

and just gets better from there.

Health insurance sucks

This is a guest post I did about my befuddled search for health insurance, reprinted below in its entirety. Don’t tell me it’s not interesting. I know health insurance is “not interesting.” Kafka’s bureaucracies are also, in a quantitative way, not interesting. And no I’m not comparing myself to Kafka.

***

Health Care is a Drag

It was an hour into the conversation with the insurance agent when I realized that the policy I was about to buy didn’t really cover very much. I would have a high deductible*, coinsurance* and for an additional $40/month I could buy an “accident benefit” that covers the deductible if I “fall off the roof,” as Sue the agent put it. Why not get a plan with no deductible, then? But I didn’t get into it. I was afraid to ask the question, it seemed like one question would only open the floodgates on a dozen more, and I knew the answers would be as slippery as the carefully written language of the policy itself, and would be calculated not to give me the basic information.

How many thousands of people had had similar conversations with clueless agents, 24-year-olds, aspiring to have interesting jobs (Sue wants to be a music manager) but had graduated at the worst time ever, forced to pay her dues instead as a professional obfuscator.

Poor Sue, she didn’t even know. The confusion was built-in, showing wear, like an apartment in a pre-war building that has ten coats of paint. The newest coat is easy to pick at and magnifies bumps and irregularities instead of covering them over.

The real question I kept at bay was why buy health insurance if it’s so bad to begin with….

I’m one of the (lucky) few who literally has no medical needs. When I did go to the doctor regularly—the physical therapist for back pain—it felt slightly wrong, like getting massages on the company dime, and didn’t cure the problem. The only other regular med I have taken, birth control, I went off years ago. So I’m in a position to wait.

I looked at Sue and felt lost for words, thinking of how to ask the questions in the right way to force a simple answer. I thought about how much my “one annual wellness visit” or “four regular doctor visits” was worth to me. One moment a very basic question occurred to me. “Well, how much does it cost to just go to the doctor without insurance?” She had no idea.

The answer is that it depends. Seeing a doctor is like going to a car mechanic. It’s the diagnosis that will cost you.

The answer I finally uncovered was that the policy didn’t cover critical care. That means I was buying a high-deductible accident policy, what I like to call a Hail Mary policy. If I get pregnant, get cervical cancer or have a stroke, I am still SOL (shit out of luck).

So I answered the big question. Why have health insurance? It lacks the security it’s supposed to give. It doesn’t really cover the scary potentialities. And as for the basics, I don’t strictly need it. I’m healthy and fairly young still, so I’m coveted by insurance agencies. I should be one of those people subsidizing care for the sick folks. I’d love to, I can’t wait for mandatory health care, because I know I’d be better off with insurance anyway. I hope it will be more affordable and comprehensive, and several degrees less complicated. I know my solution is a stop-gap measure at best. But until then, I’ll keep my money, and my fingers crossed.

A few defined terms:

Deductible: Your expenses before insurance kicks in. Many low cost plans have high deductibles, around $5000-$10000. Doesn’t apply to annual checkups, usually.

Copay: What you pay at the doctor. Usually $15-$35.

Coinsurance: You pay a percentage of most medical costs. 80/20 is common, meaning you pay 20% and the insurance company pays 80%. Not so good plans will make you pay all costs upfront and reimburse you the 80% they owe you, rather than the other way around aka the sane and helpful way.

Wellness visit: Annual physical/check-up.