Entry 848: Stop Poisoning My Food

Restaurants in New York City are getting dangerous.

This was demonstrated to me when my wife took me on an overnight excursion for my birthday. We drove into the city from our home in the suburbs, had dinner, saw a show, and stayed in one of those boutique-style hotels. The following morning, we went for breakfast to a place called Lexington Brass. The eatery is on Lexington Avenue so that part of its name makes sense, but I don’t know where the “Brass” comes in, unless it refers to the balls it has to charge $19 for an omelet. But that’s not my complaint.

My gripe is with menu items like the “Fresh Fruit Bowl,” described as a “seasonal assortment + banana, pomegranate, hemp, goji, acai, flax, toasted almonds or shaved coconut.” Why would anyone want a bowl of fruit with two ingredients–hemp and flax– that you can make shirts out of? If they served me something like that, I might try to use the hemp to make a rope with which I could hang myself when I saw all the healthy stuff they were trying to poison me with.

As I’ve said often in this blog, I do not like eating food that was not around during my formative years. The last time I lived in Manhattan, in the 80s, I may have had to deal with streetwalkers and squeegee men, but I did not have to live with gojis and acais. I think those are berries of some sort, and that they are supposed to be beneficial in some way. But I’ll have the last laugh when somebody does a study and discovers that they cause cancer in rats . . . if scientists can get the rats to eat the things.

My favorite part of eating breakfast out is usually hashed brown potatoes, but not at Lexington Brass, with its Sweet Potato-Quinoa Hash Browns. What the hell kind of abomination is that? And the other “Sides” are no better. How can two eggs be “for the table?” (“Oh, yes, just put those sunny-side up eggs in the middle. Dig in, everyone!”) And who the heck is Neuske, and why should I want to eat his or her bacon?

Jeez, even if you just want an order of toast, you have to choose between gluten-free toast or “Smashed Organic Avo Toast.” I know some people have allergies, but I personally think the glutens are the best part of toast. And I wanted to tell them where they could stick their avos instead of in their toast and in their “Spinach Power Bowl,” with toasted white quinoa, spinach pureé, avocado, pine nuts, soft boiled egg, sesame & hemp seeds.” That might be appropriate if breakfast was supposed to be the most disgusting meal of the day.

Anyway, I was sitting there eating the most normal thing I could find on the Lexington Brass menu and I happened to glance through the window to the storefront across the street. “Ole & Steen” was the name of it, but there was a word underneath that I couldn’t make out. It looked like “Lagkagehuset” which made no sense. So I asked my wife if she could read it.

“Lag-kag-e-hu-set,” she replied.

Okay, so there was nothing wrong with my eyes. There was just something wrong with the proprietors of the store.

“What the hell is that?” I asked my wife while pushing around the salad that had been misguidedly placed on the plate with my $19 omelet. “Is it a thing? A person? A place? An Indian tribe?”

Out came her phone, because in today’s world, answers to stupid questions are instantaneously available 24/7. “It means ‘layer cake house,’” Barb replied after a moment.

Of course it does. Why didn’t I know that? Still, if that meant it was an alternative to a gingerbread house, it sounded like a great idea, because layer cakes are yummier than gingerbread.

“It’s Danish,” Barbara added, and then continued reading from her screen. “‘Ole & Steen is a pioneer in the resurgence of artisanal and handcrafted baking practices in Denmark.’”

I’ve written recently about my dislike of the word “artisanal.” I wondered what kind of baking practices Denmark had before the resurgence. I mean, I’ve always thought the Danes made a nice cheese Danish.

But Barbara was still busy swiping. “‘Enjoy colorful, creative salads, soups, and sandwiches,’” she read, “‘like our heirloom carrot steak sandwich with artichoke, harissa, cured olive, rocket, and soft Danish cheese.’”

I was so discombobulated over the concept of a carrot steak sandwich, I didn’t even ask what rocket was. Or harissa.

“Did you say ‘carrot steak sandwich?’” I said. “Please tell me that’s a steak between two slices of carrot . . . ?”

She was holding up her finger for me to wait a second. Then she handed me her phone so I could see the picture she had found of a carrot steak.

“You can’t be serious. Is it a vegan place?”

She took back her phone. “Nope. You can get a roasted chicken sandwich with bacon, kale pesto, butternut squash and Gouda cheese.” We both gagged at that. Neither one of us likes kale and believe it is a horrible joke played on the public by the cabbage industry.

But you see? These restaurants are trying to poison us with their kale and their quinoa and their various weird berries and their shirt material. And in case their poisons don’t work, they’re evidently also putting rockets in our food so that we will explode.

See you soon.

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Entry 847: Chief Eccentric Officer

Recently, in a post about the overuse of the word “curate,” I mentioned a drink called LaCroix.

“LaCroix,” I wrote, “a brand of the beverage formerly known as seltzer, rather than mix flavors, has come out with a line of ‘cúrates,’ not only turning the word ‘curate’ into a noun but adding a refreshing French accent mark.”

Soon after I posted that remark, the stock of LaCroix’s parent company NBC (that’s the National Beverage Corporation, not the TV network, which is much less bubbly) tanked, dropping 20 percent in one day of trading. I can’t tell you how proud that made me, knowing that my innocent little humor blog had such influence over the financial markets. Of course, it means I really have to be careful what I say from now on, as I could inadvertently cause a major corporation to lose billions in capital and, with my luck, it would be a company buried somewhere in one of the mutual funds in my 401k. In that case . . .

Wait! I’ve just been informed that the precipitous drop in National Beverage Corporation’s stock price might not have been caused by my satiric citation as much as by its earnings per share, which came in at 53 cents instead of the predicted 76 cents. In financial circles, that’s the equivalent of a weatherman forecasting a temperature of 76 degrees and, instead, we get 53 inches of snow.

If the earnings report wasn’t enough to make investors lose faith in the company, the subsequent ravings of its CEO might. His name is Nick Caporella (shown here being attacked by one of his brands), and his screwball statements in the wake of the disappointing financials seem to indicate that he is consuming something much stronger than his company’s products.

“Negligence nor mismanagement nor woeful acts of God were not the reasons,” he said by way of explanation. “Much of this was the result of injustice!”

Nick didn’t elaborate on the injustice, but he may have been referring to a class action lawsuit against the company alleging, among other things, that rather than containing only “naturally-essenced carbonated water,” LaCroix also has several synthetic compounds in it, including a chemical used to kill cockroaches.

Another reason the company may have underperformed is increased competition in the essenced carbonated water category from the likes of Coco-Cola, Pepsi and Raid.

But this post isn’t about bug-murdering soda pop. It’s about bonkers corporate executives. So let’s see what else Nick Caporella had to say about the earnings report:

“Managing a brand is not so different from caring for someone who becomes handicapped. Brands do not see or hear, so they are at the mercy of their owners or care providers who must preserve the dignity and special character that the brand exemplifies.”

Wow. I wonder what group will be the first to boycott the company: the blind, the deaf, the care providers, or the cockroaches. The graphic at right shows some of National Beverage Corporation’s brands, none of which are exactly household names. Maybe if “Rip It Energy Fuel” could see and hear . . .

But right about now you may be hoping that there was more to Nick Caporella’s statement, in much the same way you might watch a multi-car accident to see if any additional vehicles plow into the crash site. Well, you’re in luck.

“There is no greater passion than the kind that creates the wonderful refreshment and contentment described as unique! No doubt, the sound and personality of the word LaCroix, coupled with the awesome experience of its essence and taste… is unique . . . Just ask any LaCroix consumer … Would you trade away that LaLa feeling? ‘No way, they shout – We just love our LaCroix!’ I am positive they respond this way each and every time.”

To paraphrase Rob Reiner’s mother, “I’ll have what he’s having.”

This might be a good time to remind you that we’re talking about freakin’ seltzer here. “LaLa feeling?” Nobody is that invested in the can of soda they just bought at the 7-11.

Caporella is just the latest example of lunatics being in charge of things. There’s Elon Musk, of course, who thinks that the Internet gives people superpowers.

“You have more power than the president of the United States had 20 years ago,” he said. “You can answer any question, you can video conference with anyone, anywhere. You can send messages to millions of people instantly. Just do incredible things.”

While the Internet may give you 20-year-old presidential powers like being able to convince an intern to have oral sex with you, it’s doubtful that the average person can use Facebook to start a war. At least I hope not.

And when you hear Trumpian quotes from leaders like Caporella and Musk, it’s impossible not to think of the Trumpian quotes we get on an almost daily basis from a leader whose every utterance is literally Trumpian. I think you know who I’m talking about.

I don’t know what’s gotten into the rich and powerful. But I do know this: Nick Caporella would have sounded saner if he had said, “We blame our poor performance on a stupid humor blog with a couple of hundred followers.”

He also would have made me feel really important.

See you soon.

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Entry 846: You Are What You Tweet

Last week, I did a post called “Your Democracy in Action,” in which I covered some of the ways local governments in America–and (spoiler alert) the Federal government, too–manage to waste time doing stupid things. And then, as if to emphasize my point, Ilhan Omar sent a tweet.

Ilhan Omar is a Congresswoman from Minnesota. She is a Democratic-Muslim-Somalian-American, which is an awful lot of hyphens to carry around with you. She also may or may not be anti-Semitic, and she is solidly anti-Israel (the two aren’t necessarily the same thing).

In case you didn’t follow this meshuganah story, it began when Rep. Omar tweeted that  the American government’s support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby.”* Apparently, she wasn’t referring to Benjamin Netanyahu, the beleaguered Prime Minister of Israel but, rather, Benjamin Franklin, who did not support Israel in any way, primarily because it was about 150 years away from existing. In fact, if you had mentioned Israel to Franklin, he likely would have thought you were talking about Israel Smith, a politician from Vermont who served in the House of Representatives and the Senate way back at the beginning of our country. At right is the only known likeness of Smith (really), which explains why he’s not on any of our money.

Franklin, however, is on our money, and it was our money that Rep. Omar was talking about in her hip, tweety way.

What she was trying to say (I think) was that financial considerations (in the form of campaign donations) have too much influence over American policy, a stance that’s difficult to disagree with when you consider that cigarettes and automatic weapons are still legal, and Mitch McConnell does everything he can to block campaign finance reform legislation.

Unfortunately, Rep. Omar made two grievous errors:

  1. She used Twitter, which seems to have the power to make any politician say unbelievably silly things (in real life, President Trump is a genius).
  2. She referred to something Jewish and something financial in the same tweet, which automatically brings to mind a stereotype that Jews are competent with cash which, as stereotypes go, isn’t all that bad. I mean, you never hear people say “those lazy Jews” or “he’s Jewish; of course he works in a convenience store.” As a Semite myself, I have to say that if folks are going to think something bad about my people, “handy with a bank account” is something I can live with.

But a stereotype is a stereotype, and if you say something that associates Jews with money, even if it’s a benign statement like “Moishe loaned me twenty bucks,” you’ll be accused of anti-Semitism, particularly if you complain about Moishe’s interest rate.

Of course, even if Omar didn’t intend to invoke that stereotype, she must know that she should tread carefully, what with her being a Muslim terrorist and all. And that’s especially true if you have tweets like the one at right in your past. (For the record, I’m less troubled by her anti-Israel rant than by her pro-Allah prayer . . . not because she’s Muslim, but because I hate it when any politician invokes any god.)

Anyway, Rep. Omar’s ill-advised “Benjamin” tweet started a firestorm, and her fellow Democrats raced to issue a resolution that anti-Semitism was bad. But then they had second thoughts. Why should Jews get special treatment? they thought. Why should Jews be the only ones politicians shouldn’t say bad things about?

And so they decided that it might be a good thing to also say it’s a bad thing to exhibit prejudice toward Muslims. But then people thought they were turning Rep. Omar into a victim. So they added the LGBTQ community. Then they added Latinos and Asian Americans to the list of groups Congress should not disparage. That led Rep. Eliot Engel (J-NY) to declare he was “very disappointed” there was not a separate measure addressing anti-Semitism on its own, and Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), to note that Wiccans, Mormons and disabled people had been left out.

Say what you will about Mitt Romney, but . . . no, really–apparently you can say what you will about Romney because his group was left out of the resolution.

Obviously, the President had something to say about all this because he has something crazy to say about everything. “The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party, and that’s too bad.”

This coming from someone who once said to a Jewish audience, “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.” And the best defense of him his wife could offer was, “He’s not Hitler.”

In the end it took a seven-page resolution to basically say “don’t be mean to anybody.” And remember, this was on the heels of the legislation I covered in that previous post that banned lynchings. It’s good to know our representatives are tackling the really tough issues of our day.

It should be noted, though, that the vote on the “don’t be mean” resolution was not unanimous. It was 427-23 in favor. All 23 naysayers were Republicans, so maybe they should have been left out of the resolution. “Don’t be mean to anybody,” it could have said, “except Wiccans, Mormons, disabled people and asshole Republicans.”

Meanwhile, our representatives wasted a tremendous amount of time arguing about this instead of doing what they usually do, which is arguing about other stuff.**

Ironically, it turns out that Ilhan Omar has something in common with Israel Smith, who you might remember from the third paragraph of this post.

Neither one of them is likely to show up on our currency.

See you soon.

*This is apparently a quote from a Puff Daddy song. He probably wasn’t talking about Netanyahu, either.
**For instance, also last week, there was a debate in the House of Representatives about the popularity of the band Nickleback. Seriously.
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Entry 845: Yes Sir, That’s My Theyby

Well, it’s time once again to visit the subject of gender fluidity, which is when people pour their gender into a glass and decide if it’s half full of male or half empty of female.

Regular readers know that I address this topic much more frequently than might be deemed normal, but it’s just that it really pisses me off (standing up) whenever I come across some new ridiculous way that our society has turned itself into a pretzel to assimilate the notion of non-fixed genders.

As I always do when I write about this, let me begin with a disclaimer: in no way do I wish to deny people the right to identify as any damn gender they want, even one that doesn’t exist on this particular planet. I simply think that there should be a limit to how far the rest of us are expected to go to accommodate you.

Especially if you’re only 11 months old.

Ari Dennis probably wouldn’t agree with me on that. Ari is either the mother or the father of a baby named Sparrow. It’s not that Ari herself or himself hasn’t chosen a gender, it’s just that the article I read didn’t identify the parental role that Ari has undertaken and, judging from his or her parenting philosophy, I suppose that Ari thinks “role” is a four-letter word, which is one thing he or she is right about.

WARNING: For the rest of this post, I will be using gender-neutral pronouns, even though it sometimes hurts my brain to do so.

Anyway, so we have Sparrow, whose name sounds as if their parents are either 1960s hippies or Gwyneth Paltrow, and who, I’m assuming, has genitals of some sort (this is Sparrow I’m talking about, not Gwyneth, although she–sorry, they–probably does, too). Sparrow’s parent does not mention whether those genitals are, shall we say, innies or outies. That’s so they can raise their baby as a “non-binary” child, a title that may have been really confusing if they’d had twins.

A child raised in this manner is evidently called a “theyby,” although I don’t know why, since “baby” is already gender-neutral. It’s not as if other parents refer to their kids as “shebies” and “hebies,” or “febies” and “mabies,” although given the topic here, “maybes” might be the most appropriate. All I know is that the whole thing gives me the heebie-jeebies.

“We did not assign a sex at birth,” says Dennis. “They had genitals, we know what they are, we just chose to acknowledge that those genitals don’t indicate anything about gender.”

What do you suppose Ari meant when they said “They had genitals?” Did they somehow make Sparrow a blank slate?

“We want them to experience all genders,” Dennis added in something resembling English. “So them going out in public and people treating them like a girl, getting treated like a boy and then getting treated like someone you can’t tell shows them what the diverse options there are.”

Well, okay then. First, let me say that if this kind of thing escalates, our language is really going to have to come up with a new set of pronouns, or else an entire generation is going to end up with multiple personality syndrome by virtue of spending heir lives being talked about using plurals.

More importantly, the quote above is a great example of taking things too far. It’s one thing to remove gender stereotypes from your kid’s childhood; even Prince Harry and Meghan are going to do that. And it’s great to be accepting if your child informs you that their genitals don’t match their sense of self. But it’s something else entirely when you march them out into the world and say, “Look at all the different kinds of people. What kind would you like to be?” I mean, what if your Swedish non-binary child with the vagina decides they want to be a Jamaican black dude?

Harry and Meghan may paint their kid’s room a neutral color, but I doubt they intend to leave it up to their child to figure out whether they are a prince or a princess.

If Ari Dennis was British royalty, Sparrow would have that option (and, I’m pretty sure, a different first name). Dennis thinks Sparrow should decide their own gender. Their older child Hazel did so when they were four years old. Note that this is the same age at which many children might decide to eat large amounts of Play-doh if it has been molded to look like food, so it’s perhaps not the right age at which one should be making life-altering choices.

I’m assuming for Sparrow’s sake that the family (pictured above) will take great care to enroll them in gender-neutral day care, and pre-school, and elementary school and, if Sparrow is commitment phobic, college.

Here’s the thing, though: It is estimated that approximately 0.4 percent of Americans think of themselves as being some degree of non-binary, or, um, in possession of the wrong equipment. In actuality, it’s probably a higher percentage, since some such folks may be reluctant to report themselves to the grad students taking the survey. So let’s say it’s really 0.6 percent. Hell, let’s say it’s a full one percent! Those are still pretty long odds. It means you’re driving your kid absolutely crazy for the one in a hundred chance that he may not be him or she might not be her.

Our granddaughter Sydney is nine months old now, and although she has a gender-neutral name (except for the spelling), we call her “she” and “baby girl,” and so forth. However, like Harry and Meghan, we’re in no way confining her to gender stereotypes, and she’ll be as welcome to play with a toy dump truck as she will with Barbie’s sports car. We’ll even let her use her dump truck to bury Barbie’s car with dirt if that’s what she wants to do.

She’ll be encouraged to be tolerant and accepting of all types of people except maybe Republicans, mass murderers and chefs who put kale in Caesar salads. And if it turns out that she’s something other than what we thought she was, we will love her just as much.

But unless informed otherwise, we’ll assume she’s going to play with the hand–and the other body parts–she’s been dealt.

See you soon.

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Entry 844: Your Democracy in Action

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who has looked on in dismay as our Federal government sinks into an abyss of partisanship and stupidity, you should remember at all times that crazy people also occupy our state and local governments.

Take, for instance, Hawai’i state representative Richard Creagan, who is a Democrat. He wants to raise the state’s legal age to buy cigarettes. To 100.

Here is a picture of Creagan (he’s on the left) trying to convince an older gentleman to buy him a pack of smokes.

Recently, when my 91-year-old mother told me she was worried about gaining weight, I said, “Who the hell cares? You’re 91. Eat a sundae every day. Take up smoking!” So I’m on board with Creagan’s proposal. In fact, I think people who are 100 years old should be required to smoke. Because, really, they’ve lived long enough.

And, as a totally unrelated aside, when the heck did Hawai’i get an apostrophe?*
Let us now hop on a 10-hour flight to New York City, where the City Council has decided to name some streets after hip hop artists, so that there are now residents of Brooklyn and Staten Island who will suddenly find themselves living on, respectively, Notorious B.I.G. Way and Wu Tang Clan District.  Just kidding . . . about Notorious B.I.G. Way. It will actually be called Christopher Wallace Way, which may be even worse, because if you live there, you’ll have to spend your life having this conversation:

  • THEM: “Christopher Wallace? Wasn’t that the boy in Winnie the Pooh?”
  • YOU: “No. That was Christopher Robin. Christopher Wallace was Notorious B.I.G.’s real name.”
  • THEM: “Who is B.I.G. and why is he or she notorious?” (Because “THEM” is your 80-year-old white father.)

I wasn’t kidding about Wu Tang District, though. And there’s also going to be Public Enemy Turnpike on Long Island. Imagine having that on your business card!
While we’re in the Big Apple, let me quickly mention the small request the government has made of the GPS app WAZE. It would very much like WAZE to stop telling drivers that “police are reported ahead” because, they say, it encourages reckless driving. Why hasn’t it occurred to the NYPD that if it’s really concerned about safety (rather than losing the revenue from tickets), it could simply report to WAZE that police are ahead even if they’re not. Then everyone would drive more carefully and the police could be more productively deployed fighting crime in the Wu Tang Clan District.
I forgot to mention that, when flying from Hawai’i to New Yor’k, we had to change planes in Oklahom’a, where a state representative named Rick West (a Republican) has come up with a great way to stop sexual violence in the Sooner State . . . by chemically castrating first time sex offenders. I have no idea how chemical castration works, but I can’t escape the image in my head that involves dissolving things in a bubbling solution.

Victims’ advocates don’t think this will solve anything. “Sexual violence is about power and control,” said one. “Not about sexual gratification.”  Nevertheless, you can understand it if R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein don’t relocate to Oklahoma any time soon.

Up next: finger guillotines for pickpockets.
Now let’s move on to California, where chemical castration is already available as a punishment (really). There we will find the town of Dixon, which is located about 23 miles from Sacramento and, evidently, a few light years away from anything resembling political correctness. The town’s Vice Mayor, Ted Hickman, a real estate agent, has declared that, henceforth, July should be “Straight Pride American Month.” This is obviously a ludicrous notion (hey–“Ludacris–great name for a New York City street!) since, if such a thing were to exist, it would be Straight American Pride Month.  Or American Straight Pride Month.  Or American Overcompensation Month.

“We are different from them,” Hickman proudly wrote in the local paper, referring to the LGBTQ community. “We don’t flaunt our differences dressing up like fairies and prancing by the thousands in a parade.” Hickman, who identifies with pride as a “healthy heterosexual,” has not provided a description of what his parade would look like. I’m picturing a few people dressed as if they’re from the Eisenhower administration marching down Dixon’s main street.

Meanwhile I’m guessing Hickman’s real estate business may be experiencing a decline among a certain demographic.
Finally, we must end our American tour of pointless politics by dropping in on our nation’s non-functioning capital, where the Senate recently approved a rare piece of bi-partisan legislation, making lynching a Federal crime. I guess until now you could have been lynching people with total impunity. Hell, if you were in California, you could have caught yourself a sex offender, dissolved his genitals, and then lynched him.

But we have to take our victories where we can, and it’s good to know that our representatives on both sides of the aisle can come together on a matter so important to the lives of everyday Americans and reach an agreement on something as controversial as lynching being a bad thing.

As an aside, though, it should be noted that seven different presidents have asked Congress to ban lynchings in the past to no avail.

I guess the time had come.

See you soon.

*Technically, it’s not an apostrophe, it’s something called an okina, and it’s actually one of the 13 letters in the Hawai’ian alphabet. Locals say we’ve been spelling it wrong all this time. Click here if you want to know how to pronounce it.
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Entry 843: In It for the Curation

I’ve noticed that curating has become a common activity these days.

Once, not too long ago, you had to work in a museum in order to curate stuff. But now everybody’s doing it!

  • The musician Morrissey, for instance, instead of releasing an album of Ramones covers, has “curated” the Ramones which, I believe, makes the Ramones sound classier than they ever aspired to be.
  • As I mentioned in a recent post, Tyra Banks’ new amusement park, Modelland, is slated to have “interactive entertainment, curated retail goods and user-generated content.“ Don’t all stores “curate” their merchandise? I mean, it’s not like anyone can walk into a Gap and stick their flannel shirts on a shelf.
  • La Croix, a brand of the beverage formerly known as seltzer, rather than mix flavors, has come out with a line of “cúrates,” not only turning the word “curate” into a noun but adding a refreshing French accent mark.
  • Alexandra, my “personal stylist” at the clothing subscription site my wife and daughter signed me up for, curates clothing she thinks I will like. She is mostly wrong, although, in fairness, curating clothing that might look decent on me is a thankless task, one for which I don’t thank her.
  • At right is an ad for a cruise line that says it has curated a bunch of Caribbean islands just for your enjoyment. I sure hope the natives in those places were okay with becoming part of Silversea’s collection.

Websites curate content. Cookbooks curate recipes. In the January 13 issue of The Sunday Times Magazine, a reference to the mating habits of the bowerbird, which involves elaborately decorated structures, accused the male of the species of trying to attract a mate by spending “hours meticulously curating a cabinet of wonders.” So even birds do it (but I don’t know about bees or educated fleas*).

Search “curated” on Amazon, and you’ll find curated place settings, curated socks, curated cocktail sets, curated party decor, and books to help you curate your wardrobe, your closet and your entire house. There’s even “Curated Naturals Amazing Adhesive Water Proof Lip Balm Label Stickers” so you can label all your Chapsticks. (And please leave a comment if you know why someone would need to label their Chapsticks.)

There’s also an item called “BloemBagz Strawberry Planter, 9 Gallon, Curated” which I don’t understand because it’s just one thing. How can you curate one thing?

My point is that “curate” is one of those words, like “artisanal,” that implies a personal touch which, most of the time, isn’t really involved in the product or service. If you think those Chapstick labels have been selected with the utmost care after hours of study and serious consideration, you probably also believed that Dunkin’ Donuts “artisan bagels” were authentically hand-crafted.

While I might grant that this “Curated Birthday Box” on Etsy may be “made to order” to the extent that somebody throws stuff into a box when you place your order, I do not believe that any special care was taken in selecting the items, or that the “lavender salve” was cooked up fresh by salve artisans.

Advertisers can attach adjectives like “curated” and “artisanal” to just about anything because they know you infer something from those words even though they’re basically meaningless and don’t have to be substantiated in any way, just like when Donald Trump adds “crooked” to “Hillary” or “fake” to “news” or “emergency” to “border wall.”

Keep this in mind, shoppers: when something is curated or artisanal, it’s probably not more desirable than something that’s not, but you’ll be paying more for the adjective.

See you soon.

*Cole Porter reference, for you uncultured people who didn’t get it.
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Entry 842: Prescription for Happiness

The most exciting thing in years happened to me a couple of weeks ago: I got a prescription filled.

My degree of enthusiasm about this event is a condemnation both of the healthcare system in America and the adrenaline level of my life in general.

But let’s talk about the former.

The prescription was for a 90-day supply of 10mg Atorvastatin which, for you people with normal cholesterol, is the generic version of Lipitor which, also for you people with normal cholesterol, is a non-addictive drug that you nevertheless get hooked on for life for fear that, if you stop taking it, you will immediately keel over from some sort of heart condition.

Last year, those Atorvastatin prescriptions cost me $31.73, or about 35¢ a day, which sounds like a good deal for something that, along with the Bayer aspirin I also take daily, might save my life, or, at the very least, reduce my build up of “waxy, fatlike substances.” But I was only getting that bargain basement price because I was also paying about $1,100 a month for health insurance with a deductible that was so high it made me want to get really sick just so I could reach my out-of-pocket target goal.

However, if I didn’t have that $1,100-a-month health insurance, those 90 Atorvastatin pills could have cost over $350. Which is more than enough to make a lot of people say, “I’ll take my chances, pass me the potato chips.”

I’ll tell you this: if I had been paying $350 for those pills, I would have been even more excited when I filled that prescription a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I would have been so ecstatic that I might have had heart palpitations and died. Because that very same Atorvastatin prescription cost me . . .


Welcome, Mr. Hallen, to Medicare!

Yes, Medicare: possibly the only reason to bother reaching the age of 65. Now, to be honest, while that Rx cost me “zero dollars” (as they say in Medicare ads), it wasn’t free. That’s because I pay $135.50 a month for Medicare Part B, and $15.76 a month for a Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP), and $171.03 a month for a Medicare Supplement, which is like a vitamin supplement, only without making you feel particularly energetic. Still, that’s about 30% of what I was paying for health insurance just a month ago, and for much better coverage.

And FREE Lipitor!

And that brings me to the healthcare system in America which, now that I’m on Medicare, I think is absolutely terrific.

On the other hand, because I always have the welfare of my fellow humans at heart (especially now that it doesn’t cost me anything to keep the cholesterol out of it), I can’t help but wonder why my cost for Atorvastatin took such a precipitous drop. Or note that Humira (the best selling prescription drug in the world) costs five times more in the U.S. than it does in Europe because of the corporation-friendly patent laws we have in this country.

I understand that Medicare has negotiated a super-low price for my Atorvastatin, and that some combination of my PDP and my supplement is covering the rest of it, but why couldn’t the government negotiate on behalf of all Americans, even the 64-year-old kids who aren’t on Medicare? I mean, I have enough faith in the free market system to be confident the companies that make Atorvastatin are not selling it at a loss. So why does some poor schmoe have to choose between spending $3.88 a day for a single pill or $3.88 for a KFC Famous Bowl which is “creamy mashed potatoes, sweet corn and bite-sized chunks of crispy chicken layered together then drizzled with home-style gravy and topped with a perfect blend of three shredded cheeses” and has 45 mg of cholesterol?

Why can’t he have both? Other countries get to have both, so why can’t we? In Canada, for instance, not only does that 90-day supply of Atorvastatin cost everybody less than a quarter a day, but they can walk into a KFC and get a side order of poutine (golden fries combined with rich gravy and cheese curds) to go with their Famous Bowl.

In conclusion, though, I must say that the whole matter of health care in America has taken on a lot less urgency now that I’m 65. And it will become a non-issue entirely in October.

That’s when my wife goes on Medicare.

See you soon.

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