Thursday, October 14, 2010
Weird Wedding Stuff
Wedding planning seems to bring out any pathologic personality traits people possess. Have you ever noticed that? I can understand that people want their wedding to be personal, but I really think there is a case to be made for standardized wedding ceremonies. (When I run the universe, the standard will be the Book of Common Prayer.) Engaged couples want their ceremony to be "unique," whatever that means. Truth is that all weddings merge together into one hazy, pastel colored, church/beach/garden-at-sunsetty memory within a couple of months...
Unless some horrible disaster takes place during said ceremony. Or unless the couple's plans are outstandingly strange. Like a wedding at McDonald's. Or a Hello Kitty themed wedding. You think I'm joking? Click on the links.
Perhaps you'd like this Super Mario-themed wedding cake?
I have no wedding on my horizon, but if I did I'd plan something more tasteful and dignified. Like getting married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator. (My mother would pitch a fit. This is sounding better and better!)
h/t Instapundit for the McDonald's link
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Sutton's Law Strikes Again
"Go where the money is," said Willie Sutton, famous bank robber. So they did:
A vast network of Armenian gangsters and their associates used phantom health care clinics and other means to try to cheat Medicare out of $163 million, the largest fraud by one criminal enterprise in the program's history, U.S. authorities said Wednesday.Now tell me again why single payer health programs are a good idea. We're talking about what, a seventh of the U.S. economy? That's a hell of a lot of money. And where there is money there will be fraud.
The defendants...had stolen the identities of doctors and set up 118 phantom clinics in 25 states, authorities said.Here's my favorite part:
Prosecutors said the phony paperwork showed eye doctors doing bladder tests; ear, nose and throat specialists performing pregnancy ultrasounds; and obstetricians testing for skin allergies.Dudes didn't even try to make it look kosher. How did they ever get this far? Blatantly phony medical bills being sent in from 25 states and 118 clinics? Why weren't they caught after five, or ten, or 25 clinics were set up? Answer: because Medicare is a gigantic operation and a great deal of its employees know virtually nothing about medicine. They don't know enough to realize that an ophthalmologist doing bladder tests is unheard of. Now if the program gets even bigger, just imagine how ripe for fraud it will be.
On second thought, don't. I don't want to be responsible for your high blood pressure.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Perry Mason: Memories of a Mystery Addict
Once upon a time there was an attorney named Erle Stanley Gardner who was based in Ventura, California. He got tired of practicing law and started writing pulp mysteries instead. His most famous creation was the crime-solving criminal attorney Perry Mason. Mason, unlike most criminal attorneys, never seems to have a client who is actually guilty; when he takes the case he takes the responsibility of finding the guilty party upon himself. Usually he unmasks the murderer in court during the preliminary hearing, though sometimes the case actually goes to a jury. I've read most of Gardner's books. Though they are pretty much alike, they are as addictive as potato chips and the plots are rather ingenious.
The same can be said for the television adaptations of Gardner's books, starring (of course) Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. The only other time I can recall seeing Mr. Burr was in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window - he turned out to be the murderer in that one. Filmed in glorious black and white, the show premiered in 1957 and ran for a decade. It is still in reruns here and there around the country and spawned multiple TV movies, also starring Burr, in the 1980's. Perry Mason became available on DVD a few years ago; I've been getting the episodes on Netflix and got hooked all over again.
These days I watch the show as a time capsule. The men all wear suits and hats and look like handsome Sherman tanks; the women wear gloves and pearls. The cars are to die for, classic 1950s Cadillacs and Fords. The phones are rotary and in some cases have actual operators plugging in the lines. Here and there we catch glimpses of the Los Angeles of fifty years ago (motel rooms for five dollars a night? Be still, my heart!). Apparently all middle-class homes of the time had overstuffed furniture and huge living rooms with oil paintings crowded together on the walls. Did I mention everyone smokes?
Perry Mason was my gateway drug, so to speak. It hooked my entire family as well: we're all TV mystery addicts. I have fond memories of watching the NBC Mystery Movie back in the 1970's. It was what's known as an "umbrella show," with rotating episodes of Columbo, McMillan and Wife, McCloud and other mysteries. Then came Murder, She Wrote. My sister and I still enjoy watching this show, though it became more and more formulaic as the years went on. (My brother-in-law refers to it as "Murder, She Dorked.") But how can you not love Angela Lansbury and the hammy, we're-supposed-to-be-in-New-England accents of the regular cast? And I really enjoyed In the Heat of the Night, with Carroll O'Connor as the chief of police. Set in a Mississippi town, it was more successful in evoking the atmosphere of the South than many other shows were, and had a great supporting cast to boot.
My dad like myself is a Perry Mason fan. He prefers mysteries with male leads and more action, like Magnum, P.I. He also likes Matlock, which is sort of a male version of Murder, She Wrote starring Andy Griffith and set in Atlanta: I was never a fan of this show. We're both hooked on Law & Order, as long as it's one of the episodes with Jerry Orbach. During a recent visit to my sister's, Dad was flipping channels on the TV and ran across an episode in mid-broadcast. Immediately we found ourselves fixated on the couch, chatting between scene changes (that "ching-ching!" sound is as essential to L&O as Perry Mason's theme song is to that show), and admiring Orbach's performance. Some things never change.
No Wonder They Call Him 'Moonbeam'
Per the website Politico, Jerry Brown doesn't believe mammograms are effective. To back up his claim he cites a study in the British science journal Lancet, which has a long and honorable history but in the last few decades, frankly, has taken a turn more in the direction of the Weekly World News. (By way of example, consider its infamous 2004 "100,000 Iraquis killed since the invasion" claim, which has been debunked.)
So what's your alternative, Jerry? MRIs, which cost five to ten times as much per study? Self exams (which women were recently instructed NOT to do)? Hands-on exams by doctors, which can only pick up tumors large enough to palpate? The whole value of mammograms lies in their being able to screen for tiny tumors which can't be felt.
I'm going to make a rare political statement here. If you live in California, please do not vote for Jerry Brown. I remember his last stint as governor and it was a disaster. Write in Mickey Mouse if you have to, just don't vote for Brown. The state will thank you.
Sunday, October 03, 2010
I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Cathy Guisewite, author of the "Cathy" comic strip for the past 35 years, ended the strip today with its main character getting pregnant.
I've had rather a fondness for "Cathy" over the years, despite its overall predictability. (I lost count of the number of strips that showed Cathy trying on swimsuits and breaking down in hysterics.) When the strip broke ground in 1975 it was in fact unique, rather resembling "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in that it dealt with the life of a single working woman. Her best friend Andrea was originally a strident feminist and was a prominent character in the early years, though she faded out later. Andrea got married years before Cathy did, promptly got pregnant and turned into an overachieving soccer mom - a piece of satire which further endeared me to the strip.
Irving was Cathy's off-again-on-again boyfriend for decades, doing all the things that women stereotypically accuse men of doing... yet somehow she hung on to him and they eventually got married. One plot I still remember with glee dealt with Irving gaining weight. One day he appeared in the strip back to his old, semisvelte self. Cathy gasped, "What did you do?"
"I skipped lunch and lost 25 pounds," Irving responded nonchalantly. Cathy responded with a shrieking, "AACK!" Women all over the country must have identified with that.
Farewell, Cathy, and may you have a stress-free pregnancy and tranquil motherhood.
...oh, who am I kidding? AACK!