Saturday, July 02, 2011

This is a beautiful sentence

I would love to have written this sentence:

Reg Rogers is aptly weasely (if typically slurry) as the sniping cynic Lucio, gleefully bad-mouthing the Duke to his face when he is disguised as the friar.
This is from a review of a new production of Measure by Measure in the New York Times, I believe part of the summer 2011 Shakespeare in the Park series. How strong and confident and fun this language feels.

This lovely sentence demonstrates the quaint belief there are still serious and educated readers. In our bad-tempered times, this is uncharacteristically optimistic. How wonderful to think there are many others who enjoy a colorful and imaginative sentence. I find reviews of books, theater, and other arts will often have at least one of these amazing high-calorie sentences. This is why I worked so hard and for so long to develop my word and communication skills.

It's possible legacy journalism can survive if there are enough "users," i.e. readers who read well and grasp meaning from within a dense grove of thought and language, who will also seek that kind of language online, and on the printed page as well, if that medium survives.

In contrast to this dizzying vocabulary and pyrotechnic presentation of ideas in the paper and online, at my place of employ I find exercising my word chops causes uneasiness. I have to dilute what I say, and I need to think specifically about to and for whom I'm writing. Multiple addresses on an email changes its meaning. I have to manage how others interpret what I write; I'm sometimes interpreted as aggressive and even a bit patronizing. Ugggh. I have to manage what I write and the way I express my opinions. I guess my best success comes from tailoring language usage to the people and the situation. It's nice to be inspiring without being off-putting.

It's interesting how a hierarchy is defined and maintained by the list of who we must "watch our language" around. I once described the corporate ladder as the list of who you can say no to. It's also important to note how this makes the serious writer-- whether a novelist, essayist, news reporter, correspondent, poet-- the highest in any hierarchy, since they can't tailor their published words for any specific person. Novelists and writers rule.

I'm inspired by the good writing in the New York Times online. There, I've said it. I'm glad there are serious readers out there, and serious writing is targeting them. I hope the newspapers' new business models work and save their papers and in the process, save the whole concept of serious journalism. And perhaps save civilization, which is not a bad thing.

Well, in being "aptly weasely (and typically slurry)" I guess I've hammered this topic to death.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Follow up on earlier post

I found an interesting conjunction of two health stories on Google News this morning (screenshot below). You're sure to remember a previous post of mine, from last June, muttering about the cost of the breast-cancer drug Avastin. It costs, at wholesale, about $90,000 for a treatment. The company isn't able to demonstrate longer life expectancy, only increased hope from taking the drug, which does, in fact, shrink tumors. There's a form to fill out, and if the patient demonstrates less than $75,000 income, they drop the price ("cap the annual spending") down to around $57,000.They were reviewed in the last year by the FDA and found to be legit, a.k.a. safe & effective. The government avoided putting a price on hope.

In the interest of balancing the gender gap here, another pharmaceutical company has come up with a spanking new drug with a very masculine name, Provenge, to treat "untreatable" prostate cancer. This baby offers probably more "hope" than Avastin, and does it for men. And amazingly, it's more expensive. Provenge costs $93,000 for a treatment. And Medicare takes care of it. One great thing about Provenge is that a higher percentage of men will acquire prostate cancer than women will suffer breast cancer. Ka-ching! And they don't have those wussy income statements, they're not discounting the drug.

screenshot of customized Google News this AM, 7/1/2011

Again we have a handy transfusion at the end of life of a nice big chunk of the stricken patient's assets. And when the government pays for it, why it's transfusing the citizen's pre-entitled future benefits right into the corporate coffers of big pharma as well.

I, for one, am relieved this gross gender disparity has been settled, finally. Hope is equally expensive for men and women. Mutter, mutter, mutter.

A Burning Question

Why are we at war with Asia and North Africa? I know it felt quite logical and justified and wise to engage in each of these conflicts. We're selling a lot of weapons, and often to both sides of a conflict, going for the win-win here. We're fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and functionally fighting separate wars within Pakistan and Yemen. We're also funding (supplying with weapons) many other insurgent groups, among them in Iran, and the Kurds, and Lebanon. And the Saudi's and Israel. And the Egyptian military. And across Africa, we're advising and funding one side against another in many trouble spots. And there are many, many private US militia active around the globe, basically anywhere there's an ATM machine, providing security services and firepower where ever there's a dollar to be made. Corporations are now hiring their own military security in some places.

But now, let's step back and observe just what's happening. We're at war with Asia and North Africa and the Middle East. WTF? Why is this happening? Is it because the only thing we know how to make profitably in this country is weapons? Is our many-fronted war basically welfare for Eisenhower's Military Industrial complex? In the name of anti-terrorism we're piloting armed, unmanned flying vehicles from an airbase in Nevada (actually from many places, and there are competing air arms of the military and the CIA who have their own separate fleets and control centers and, one assumes missions), and killing an unacceptable number of civilians-- killing goat herders in their villages with laser guided hellfire missiles fired from drones. I mean we're terrorizing them in the name of dissuading them from their violent ideology.

All of these lop-sided wars have overwhelmingly victimized the helpless and destitute. Afghanistan is now the longest war in our history. And the most expensive. And our escalation of the violence level doesn't help us move closer to resolution of the conflict. Someone needs to say the sacrifice of America's sons and daughters is unconscionable when it's done in the pursuit of a vague and hapless aggression that will not achieve the stated goal. When we leave Afghanistan over the next couple of years, the situation will be no different than it was when Mullah Omar told GWB "f**k you" when Bush demanded the Taliban turn over Osama bin Laden.

And governments all over the world, and especially here in the US, are discussing cutting medical benefits for the aged, poor, and infirm, cutting education subsidies. In order to cut farm subsidies to rich agricultural conglomerates the GOP required a cut in Food Stamps. Why are we as a nation so cruel? Can anyone think our present levels of violence and cruelty are necessary?

Happy Independence Day!