Category Archives: Health

Some ‘no’ states reconsider expanding Medicaid

The BAD news is, Sam Brownback's likely to veto expansion in Kansas./2007 file photo

The BAD news is, Sam Brownback’s likely to veto expansion in Kansas. /2007 file photo

This is fascinating:

Paul Ryan promised his donors yesterday that he will keep pushing to overhaul the health care system this year, despite his failure last week. But in the 19 states that never expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the calculus has quickly changed.

A lot of state legislators, including Republicans, are putting more stock in what the Speaker said Friday, that Obamacare will be the law of the land for the foreseeable future….

With Obamacare repeal less likely, opponents of expansion in the states have just lost their best argument….

Consequently, the Kansas Senate has now joined the House in voting to expand Medicaid.

In Georgia, GOP Gov. Nathan Deal wants to reopen the issue.

In Virginia, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe sees a chance to try again on expansion.

The issue could also be in play, according to different sources, in North Carolina, Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, Maine (where a referendum is scheduled) and Arkansas.

Can South Carolina be far behind?

Well, yes, it can. But Dum Spiro Spero

‘Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repea… oh, never mind…’

pulled it

One thing was for sure — fer danged sure — once Republicans were in charge, Obamacare was going to be toast, immediately if not sooner.

That’s before the GOP became the dog that caught the car.

So now it’s… um, never mind…

GOP health-care bill: House Republican leaders abruptly pull their rewrite of the nation’s health-care law

House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a rewrite of the nation’s health-care system from consideration on Friday, a dramatic acknowledgment that they are so far unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We just pulled it,” President Trump told The Washington Post in a telephone interview.

In a news conference shortly after the decision, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) conceded that his party “came up short.”

The decision came a day after Trump delivered an ultimatum to lawmakers — and represented multiple failures for the new president and Ryan.

“I don’t blame Paul,” Trump said, referring to Ryan….

I especially liked this quote from Ryan: “Doing big things is hard.”

Awww… It’s just not like when the frat boys planned slashing Medicaid around the keg, is it? (I know he’s way younger than I am, but it’s like this guy went to college in a whole other universe…)

House GOP just came up with an ACA replacement NOW?

Think about this for a moment. On Jan. 19, 2011, more than six years ago, the U.S. House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the first time.

On Groundhog Day last year (which was fitting), the House stormed that rampart again (in one form or another) for the 62nd time! I don’t know what the grand total was during the Obama years, since that’s the most recent story I find with a number. But 62 is far more than enough to make my point.

Now hold onto that thought, as you consider that yesterday, just yesterday — Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 — House Republicans finally offered a plan for replacing Obamacare. One that apparently has a bit of an uphill climb ahead of it.

We don' need no estinking CBO score?

We don’ need no estinking CBO score?

Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin was particularly brutal, in a piece headlined “ACA repeal: House Republicans’ breathtaking recklessness.”

She has her reasons, and some are fairly persuasive. Some have to do with all the unanswered questions about the proposal. Republicans love to quote Nancy Pelosi’s observation that “We have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it….” Surely, surely, they’re not asking anyone to buy a pig in a poke themselves, right? She notes that Speaker Paul Ryan’s office says it can’t answer basic questions about the proposal’s potential impact because it doesn’t have a score from the Congressional Budget Office (which she doubts).

All that aside, here’s my reaction to the headline on Ms. Rubin’s piece: The real, breathtaking recklessness was voting to repeal the law all those times without even this imperfect replacement to offer. In other words, saying they had to repeal the ACA in order to find out what would replace it.

It’s pretty amazing…

Walk for Life is Saturday!

The champion bradwarthen.com team of 2013 -- moi, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

The champion bradwarthen.com team of 2013 — moi, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

And… I fell down on the job this year, and didn’t set up a blog team.

However, if you’d like to come walk with me Saturday, today is the last day to sign up. Come donate to the family team, which is named for my wife, the miraculous breast cancer survivor, for whom I thank God every day.

I hope to see you Saturday, despite my miserable failure as a team captain this year.

Wow, this really snuck up on me…

A restrained, disciplined Trump is scary

On a previous post, Bud was complaining about Hillary’s “fainting spell” continuing to be a story three days later.

Well, first, it’s not a fainting spell. It’s pneumonia. She was warned by a doctor to rest, but she ignored it, went to an event sick and said stupid stuff about the opposition (“basket of deplorables”), then was seen collapsing leaving a big-deal public event.

All while trying to tough it out and keep the pneumonia a secret. Which is just too like her.

All of which made it more of a story than it might have been otherwise.

As for it continuing to be a story for days afterward — well, of course it is. Because now she IS resting, and not making new news to compete with it. What else is there to say about her right now?

You know what concerns me in this situation? That Trump is acting like a grownup and not talking about her health problem right now. He’s following the playbook and letting his opponent’s illness work against her without pulling the attention to himself. Instead, he’s sticking to complaining about the “deplorables” comment.

That shows discipline. Trump showing discipline worries me. Normally we could depend on him to blow the advantage of having his opponent out of action by saying stupid, horrible things about it.

He may still have supporters punching out 69-year-old women up in Asheville, but the loosest cannon on his ship — the captain himself — is restraining himself.

He’s playing to win now. And he could win now. And that’s just unthinkable…

Oh, and to the helpful citizen who provided video of the grandma-punching incident (screenshot below): Turn your phone sideways!

Sheesh…

sideways

Here we go with Hillary’s ‘health issue’

falls-ill

In the last couple of days, we’ve seen two things happen that illustrate just how fragile Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump is — a fact that leaves our nation suspended by a hair over disaster.

First, there was her “basket of deplorables” remark. Remember Mitt Romney’s “47 percent?” This could be worse, for the simple fact that it’s more quotable, more vivid. The “47 percent” needed at least a brief footnote of explanation. “Basket of deplorables” travels on its own.

And today, we have this:

Hillary Clinton left a New York memorial service marking the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks early after feeling “overheated,” according to a campaign spokesman.

“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen,” spokesman Nick Merrill said. “During the ceremony, she felt overheated, so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment and is feeling much better.”

Clinton arrived at the memorial at 8:18 am and greeted Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and his wife as she exited her van, according to the pool.

Reporters traveling with Clinton became aware about 9:36 a.m that she was no longer in the place where she had been standing. By 9:48 a.m., her campaign confirmed that Clinton left the viewing area as early as 9:30 a.m.

Clinton’s daughter lives on East 26th Street, in the Gramercy neighborhood of lower Manhattan — about a 15-minute drive from Ground Zero….

The headline of that snippet, which will become a full-fleshed news story over the next hour or so, begins “Clinton falls ill…”

Here we go. Granny’s had a spell, and we will all stop remembering 9/11 and start talking about the fact that she’s a granny — and do we want Granny running the country?

Never mind that the woman has way more stamina than most of us. She wouldn’t be where she is otherwise.

While I may go on about nagging health problems here on the blog from time to time, I’m actually in pretty good shape. My blood pressure and pulse always draw remarks of approval from health care professionals. I have zero signs of heart disease, my cholesterol is OK, all major organ functions are nominal, in the astronaut sense of the word.

But I’m not perfect. For the past week, I’ve been getting these sinus headaches that I think are related to a minor cold that my grandson brought home to my wife from 4K. They start in the late morning, and by the end of the day, all I want to do is lie down and make it go away. On Friday, while everyone else at ADCO was at lunch, I lay down on the carpet of my office with my head resting on a rolled-up sweater for about 10 minutes, and got up feeling renewed for the rest of the day.

If I were a presidential candidate, and someone had seen me do that, the headlines would be “Warthen collapses on campaign trail” or some such. Everyone would be going on about my “spell” and what it said about my fitness for office.

And maybe I wouldn’t have the stamina for such a job. Most of us wouldn’t. Look at how it’s aged Obama.

But Hillary Clinton? The woman’s been running full-tilt for president for a quarter-century now. After this, the presidency itself should be breeze. She can take naps, like Reagan.

I’m not terribly concerned about Hillary Clinton’s health one way or the other. What I am concerned about is that she’s running against the least-qualified, most appalling man ever to win a major party’s nomination, and it’s so close that something like this could lose it for her.

That’s what worries me.

A couple of days back, I meant to write something about this story, which was written, I should note, before both the “basket of deplorables” remark and the “overheating” spell: “Democrats wonder and worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?

As well they might. For my part, I don’t wonder. I can see the things Democrats are blind to.

But I do worry. A lot.

‘Think light’ if you want to wrestle Shute

Yes, another “Vision Quest” reference.

Blame my elder son this time. He brought the above weigh-in video clip to my attention because he knew it would remind me, as it did him, of the big weigh-in scene in the movie. (Oh, and to you adolescent boys out there — don’t bother watching the above clip; you never get to see anything. For an ultimate fighter, who you might think would be about as bashful as a Viking shieldmaiden, she’s very demure.)

“Think light,” said Kooch (a great secondary character, by the way). And Loudon did.

Speaking of which…

I’m nowhere nearer to being able to wrestle Shute than I was the last time I mentioned it.

But I learned this week that I shouldn’t worry, because my weight, at 180-something, remains way under the national average now:

Americans aren’t growing taller, but their waistlines are growing wider. A new federal report reveals that U.S. men and women weigh about 15 lb. more than they did 20 years ago.

In the report, published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, researchers looked at data from 2011 to 2014. They found that the average man, who’s about 5 ft. 9 in., weighs 195.7 lb., and the average woman, almost 5 ft. 4 lb., weighs 168.5 lb. For men, that’s about 15 lb. more than average in 1988–94; women are now more than 16 lb. heavier. Men and women’s heights were about the same two decades ago….

This is a puzzle, though, because 75 percent of us reporting eating healthy

I gave platelets yesterday. So should you…

red cross

Or maybe you could just give whole blood, which instead of taking a couple of hours can take as little as five minutes.

YOU could do that. It’s too late for me. Sometime during the first hour of my platelet donation last night, I mentioned that maybe next time, I would do whole blood instead of platelets.

“No, no, no, no, no!” said the nice lady attending me. “We need people to convert from whole blood to platelets, not from platelets to whole blood.”

Sigh. But maybe you can get away with it. Make an appointment, and give. If you can’t figure out how from this website, let me know and I’ll get you set up.

By the way, I don’t know about my donation last night, but I got this advisory concerning my last donation a few weeks back:

Thank you for being an American Red Cross platelet donor. Your platelets may be a lifesaving gift to patients in need, including cancer and trauma patients, individuals undergoing major surgeries, patients with blood disorders and premature babies.

After first ensuring local needs were met, your donation on 6/28/2016 was sent to University Of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC and Hospital de Veteranos in San Juan, PR to help patients in need. Your donations are on their way to change lives!…

Cool, huh?

Y’all, now would be a good time to go give some platelets

I just got this from the Red Cross:

Greetings,

I hope all is well.  We are currently under an appeal for platelets and could use your help right away.  If you can help us with a donation, please fill free to call, email or schedule via app.

I look forward to speaking to you and we certainly “Thank you” for being a Life Savor.

Respectfully,

Tracy B. Vaughn

Apheresis Donor Recruitment, Biomedical Services
American Red Cross
South Carolina Blood Services Region
2751 Bull Street, Columbia SC 29201
(803) 251-6082
Tracy.Vaughn@redcross.org

You may ask, “Why don’t you go give platelets, Brad?”

To which I say, I do. All the time. I did it last week, and the week before. And I will again, soon.download (7)

As I told the lady who wrote the above message, I still have a slight amount of bruising around where one of the needles went in last time, and I’m thinking it would be better to wait until that’s faded before I go.

Maybe that’s not important. And if she writes back and tell me that, I’ll go ahead and set the appointment.

But it sure would be great if some of y’all would pitch in, too. Not everyone can give, so those who can, should.

For instance, Kathryn Fenner can’t because she spent too much time in England at a bad time. (Mad Cow Disease or something there was rampant then.) I have a gay friend who says they won’t take his blood not no way, not nohow. (I wish they’d change that, if only so he wouldn’t have that excuse any more.)

I myself had to take a year-long hiatus after visiting Kanchanaburi, Thailand, last year. But that ended in March. I’ve given several times since then.

So as I say, those of us who can, should…

Y’all, the Walk for Life team will be cranking up before long

Walk1

Last week, I attended a kickoff meeting for team captains for Palmetto Health Foundation’s 2016 Walk for Life. Or, to be more formal, the “Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon, 5K and 10K.”

The kickoff was held at the Fireflies’ new ballpark, which will be the departure point for the Walk this year. It was my first time there. Nice.

Anyway, I’m going to start getting the team organized soon, so make your plans to participate and help beat breast cancer.

It all happens on Oct. 22, so mark your calendars…

ballpark

HOW many guys are passing the new Marine fitness test?

'The fitness test? You can't HANDLE the fitness test!'

‘The fitness test? You can’t HANDLE the fitness test!’

I don’t intend to get into the underlying issue of women in the infantry — I’ve intended to ever since that mandate came down from civilian leadership, but I just haven’t felt up to the huge and predictable argument that would lead to — but in reading this I felt motivated to make some remarks on general fitness in the Marines:

New physical standards established so women can compete for combat posts in the Marine Corps have weeded out many of the female hopefuls. But they’re also disqualifying some men, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

In the last five months, 6 out of 7 female recruits – and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits – failed to pass the new regimen of pull-ups, ammunition-can lifts, a 3-mile run and combat maneuvers required to move on in training for combat jobs, according to the data.USMC-logo2

The tests, taken about 45 days into basic training, force recruits who fail into other, less physically demanding Marine jobs. And that, the Marine commandant says, is making the Corps stronger.

The high failure rate for women, however, raises questions about how well integration can work, including in Marine infantry units where troops routinely slog for miles carrying packs weighed down with artillery shells and ammunition, and at any moment must be able to scale walls, dig in and fight in close combat.

The new standards are a product of the Pentagon’s decision to allow women to compete for frontline jobs, including infantry, artillery and other combat posts. But Marine leaders say they are having a broader impact by screening out less physically powerful Marines – both men and women.

“I think that’s made everybody better,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the AP in his first in-depth interview on the subject. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”…

I have a series of reactions to this:

  • These new standards are only eliminating 40 out of 1,500 male recruits? That doesn’t sound like the Marines to me. They’re supposed to be the few, not the 1,460 out of 1,500. Were the ratios always like this? If so, that sort of tarnishes the image I have in my head of the Marines as an elite force. Even the Army, at the very height of WWII, was rejecting a third of draftees. I really that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but still — wouldn’t you think more Marine recruits than that would wash out, if standards were what they should be?
  • Assuming for a moment that we’re all in agreement that women should be in foxholes, I don’t think we have any reason to look at 6 out of 7 women washing out of an elite light infantry unit as bad news. Seems to me that the best argument always advanced for letting women in is that we should treat people like individuals — that we shouldn’t say, just because most women lack, say, the upper body strength to keep up with male Marines, that all women should categorically be barred. Shouldn’t we make exceptions for, say, the Lady Briennes of Tarth among us? That always seemed a good argument to me. (I,for one, would not want to be the officer deputed to tell Lady Brienne she was out, especially since Ser Jaime let her keep that Valyrian steel sword). Besides, if six women don’t make it, the more honor to the seventh.
  • What happened to the notion of “every Marine a rifleman?” Should Marines keep the feathermerchants who can’t pass a test that 97 percent of male recruits can pass? What’s this about “other, less physically demanding Marine jobs?” When did the Marines start offering such jobs? I’ve always known the Army had places for the less fit — or at least they did in the days of the draft, when things like food service weren’t outsourced to civilian contractors and you could always put a sad sack to work peeling spuds or policing the area for butts — but since when is that an aspect of the Marines? They’re the point of the spear, are they not? Let the swabbies do the paperwork, right? Every marine is a rifleman.

I should probably stop there before I offend the Air Force, too.

But when I hear that almost all male recruits can pass the new physical requirements, it makes me think that even I, at my age, might have a shot. And I really like to think of the Marines as having higher standards than that…

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

OK, it’s time to start the ‘Vision Quest’ regimen

I experienced a shock yesterday. I stepped on my bathroom scale, and it read 187.0.

Yeah, I was fully dressed, including a sport coat, wallet, keys, iPhone and very heavy shoes. But still. Almost 190 pounds? I’ve never come close to that before, and I’ve been weighed at doctor’s offices while similarly burdened many times.

That weight will seem like nothing to you if you’re built for it — saying if you’re a tall, big-boned guy like Doug.

But I’m not. Look at me. I’m a skinny guy. I’ve always been a skinny guy.

This is unfair. I did not earn these additional pounds, most of which are gathered around my middle, making it very difficult for me to perform such everyday tasks as, say, wearing pants.

I put on about 10 of them when I took two courses of prednisone trying to get rid of poison ivy earlier in the spring. Then, for the first time in years (and I suspect there’s a connection here), I started having trouble with my asthma. I’ve had to switch medications, and haven’t fully stabilized yet — which means I haven’t been working out.

If the added weight IS contributing to my breathing trouble, that’s a vicious cycle. I really need the exercise to drop the pounds; changing diet alone won’t do it.

Shute, the undefeated state champ at 168.

Shute, the undefeated state champ at 168.

But I’ve been doing better with my breathing the last couple of days, and so it may be time to begin the push toward a normal weight. Full paleo, of course, and at least 40 minutes a day on the elliptical — that should do it.

The goal, as always with me, will be to get under 168 so I can wrestle Shute, should the opportunity arise. “Vision Quest” speaks to me, as a former (undistinguished) high school wrestler.

If you see someone sprinting across the Gervais Street bridge in a rubber suit with Red Ryder’s “Lunatic Fringe” playing in the background, that will be me. (Actually, I think it was John Waite’s “Change” in that scene — see 1:22 on the clip — but people remember the other song better, so…)

1-lAHHlTuhDZVm5fhGhvmCYg

STILL suffering from poison ivy, almost 6 weeks on

The above video gives you an idea of just how infested the wild area at the back of my yard is with poison ivy. Or was. It was shot on May 3, 2014. I have used herbicide on it a couple of times since then, and last year it didn’t look quite this bad. But it’s still there.

(By the way, using herbicide is against my principles. But I have compromised them in the face of this threat.)

On Saturday, March 12 of this year, my wife and I did extensive work clearing brush, fallen limbs and vines out of this area. We did not see a single poison ivy leaf during this operation. But we did pull up a few things by the roots, and the plants must have the poisonous oil on them even when there are no leaves.

My wife’s arms broke out the next day. I thought maybe I had escaped, but by Tuesday my forearms were practically covered with the rash. After several days trying unsuccessfully to fight it with conventional, over-the-counter weapons, I went nuclear — I called my allergist to get a prescription of prednisone.

He prescribed a someone more prolonged course than if we were treating, say, asthma. And I got better. But as soon as the prednisone ran out, I started breaking out again — this time, weirdly, on my legs. (My wife, without using prednisone, was pretty much all better by this time.)

So after a few days of that, I went to see my allergist and got another course of prednisone, this time even more spread out, over 13 days — starting with three days at 60 mg.

After that, I felt a lot better, for a week or so. Then this week, the maddening itch on my legs was back — not so much with a rash, but with dark discoloration under the skin in the affected area.

The only thing I can figure is that last weekend, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I wore my favorite weekend pants, the same pair of khaki cargo pants I had been wearing the day I was exposed.

I’ve washed these pants in HOT water (I usually set the washer on “cool”) a couple of times since the incident. Can the oils really survive that? Apparently so.

Anyone have any advice? I’m sick of this…

Beth Bernstein celebrates passage of HPV bill

79cd74ca-52fe-4954-8360-84c1ab68d658

Since I missed this in the news last week –which means maybe you did, too — I thought I’d share Rep. Beth Bernstein‘s newsletter with you. She also makes passing reference to the Richland County Recreation Commission scandal:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This week at the State House, we were back in full force after our two week furlough.  One piece of news that I am particularly excited to share is the passage of my bill, H.3204, the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act.  The bill, with minor amendments, overwhelmingly passed in the Senate last week, and the House concurred with a vote of 107-1!  It will now be sent to the Governor for her signature, after a 7 year-long effort!  The bill will allow DHEC to provide a brochure about the human papillomavirus (HPV) to all parents of students entering into 6th grade and allows DHEC to administer the HPV vaccine. This is a monumental step for educating the public about the virus and stopping this preventable form of cancer.  Other notable bills discussed this week include a “Safe Harbor for Exploited Minors” bill, a requirement for literacy coaches to be trained for students with dyslexia, and a lengthy debate about our infrastructure and finance reform in South Carolina — the “Roads Bill.” 

In response to the most recent revelations concerning the Richland County Recreation Commission, Senator Joel Lourie, Representative James Smith and Ihave called on Sheriff Leon Lott to coordinate a special investigation of the Recreation Commission, its director and members of the governing commission.  We have had concerns for some time now over allegations of misconduct at the Commission, and we trust Sheriff Lott and the Richland County Sheriff’s department will give this case their full attention.

As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts and concerns on the issues.

Thank you for electing me to serve you and our community at the State House.

Best,

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So THAT’S where my platelets went

platelets

I thought this was kind of cool.

The Red Cross sent me an email telling me where my last platelets donation went. I mean, I guess they can’t tell me who got it on account of HIPAA and all, but at least I know where.

Which reminds me. I’d better go eat a big lunch because I’m scheduled to give today, at 5:15. I was supposed to give last Wednesday, but they were backed up that day, so I rescheduled.

I’d better go do my RapidPass — it’s another innovation that saves time after I get to the Red Cross on Bull St. I can answer all those embarrassing questions online. Which is less fun than answering a real person — you can’t ask, “What was that date again?” when they ask whether you’ve accepted money for sex since 1977 — but probably more efficient…

money for sex

I’m giving platelets again tomorrow. I urge y’all to join me

How is the Red Cross like the late Alan Rickman?

This way: They keep calling me and saying, “You. Our place. 5:30. And bring a friend!” (See above video.)

OK, I’ll admit, they’re a LOT more polite about it than that, but if you boil it down, that’s the gist. They call and ask me to give again, and to schedule it at the earliest possible time (because the need is great). And at some point in the conversation, they say, “And bring a friend!”

So, this is me inviting my friends.

I’m scheduled to give platelets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. And just in case I’m inclined to put it off in any way, they sent me an email yesterday that includes this image:

urgent

So I plan to be there, because the guilt trip thing works on me.

But why should it just be me? Nobility loves company.

I’ve been honest with y’all about the fact that giving platelets is a bit of a hassle — it takes at least a couple of hours. So it would be especially awesome if more of y’all would agree to do it, and take some of the pressure off of me.

That said, if you haven’t given blood at all before, I urge you to go and at least give whole blood, the easiest process of all (I’ve given whole blood in just over five minutes).

And now they’ve got a new thing where you can answer all those prying questions (like whether you’ve been paid for sex, even once…) online ahead of time, meaning less time spent at the Red Cross facility on Bull Street.

So… consider it. The need is always there…

Once more, I manage to pass as an earthling…

Just got a call from my internist’s office. After my annual physical in January, he said he wanted me to come back in a few weeks and get blood drawn again. I forget why. Last year he did the same, and then it had something to do with creatinine. I think it was that again.

So I went and had it drawn last week.

Moments ago, someone called to say my blood was “normal.” That was the extent of the information provided.

So there. You’ll have to take back all those things you were thinking about me…

14_1

Giving platelets today. Want to come with?

Bridge-1024x699

Y’all may recall that the Red Cross banned my blood for a year because I had visited Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Danger of malaria or some such.

That’s me in front of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai (not exactly the one in the movie, which was after all fictional, but this is the point where the Death Railway crosses the river — and you can see Colin Firth crossing it in “The Railway Man”), which is located in Kanchanaburi. I’m pretty grubby because I had been engaged in various unsanitary activities — such as feeding, washing and riding on elephants, and floating several miles down the swift-moving Kwai without a boat. I was riding back from all that in the back of a pickup truck with some Germans who were remarking on how dirty I had contrived to become (you know how ze Germans are), and had rapped on the back of the cab to get the driver to drop me off because we were near the bridge.

On the whole, a more interesting day than today. The most exotic thing I did today was eat lunch at Al-Amir.

So if I was going to pick up any communicable diseases in Thailand, that was probably where I would have gotten them.

But I didn’t. I’m fine.

And this afternoon at 5, I’ll be at the Red Cross facility on Bull Street to give platelets.

And the Red Cross asked me, as usual, to bring a friend.

So join me if you’re so inclined. Not to lay a guilt trip on you, but the need is great

The connection between genius and madness, pop version

Time for another of my way-late, long-after-it-was-in-theaters, movie reviews.

This morning, in response to an earlier post, our regular Bill quotes Albert Ayler:

Music is the healing force of the universe.

This takes me to the film we watched last night on DVD, “Love and Mercy,” starring Paul Dano and John Cusack as Brian Wilson at different stages of his life — in the ’60s, when his mental illness first interfered with his career with the Beach Boys, and in the ’80s, when he began the process of recovery.

I definitely recommend it.

A few points I came away with:

It had never occurred to me before that Cusack and Dano were so much alike. But when Cusack first appeared after several scenes with Dano, I immediately knew he was supposed to be Wilson, only older. I can’t put my finger exactly on what the commonality was — I said to my wife “I never realized before how much they look alike.” But that’s not it. They don’t really look alike. It was something else. Maybe the voice — the lost-child voice Cusack affected for the role. In any case, deftly done.

If you are, like me, fairly ambivalent about the Beach Boys — enjoy their music, but not a huge fan — this film will help you enjoy their work more deeply, especially the “Pet Sounds”-era music. Watching Dano struggle to translate what he was hearing in his head into something others could hear as well, and gradually recognizing the sounds he was picking out on a piano or through some other means, will connect you to his vision on a whole new level. The best pop-music biopics do that, and this one does it better than most. That’s because the music is so central to the character’s central conflicts.

The sounds only he could hear...

The sounds only he could hear…

This was probably the best depiction I’ve ever seen of the fabled connection between creative genius and madness. At one point in the film, Wilson says he started hearing “voices” in 1963. In late ’64, he experienced a terrifying panic attack on an airliner while traveling home from a gig, and persuades the band to tour without him while he stays home and works in the studio. That eventually led to “Pet Sounds,” which was all about getting the sounds in his head out onto tape. Well, that’s not all it was about — he thought the band needed to grow to keep from being left behind by the Beatles. The problem was that he was the only one who thought this — the others, especially Mike Love, wanted to stick to the surf and sand and cars and girls formula. But because he was the only one pushing in a new creative direction, the sound became much more about what only he could hear, as his bandmates and studio musicians looked on in bewilderment and tried to follow along, when they weren’t resisting with all their might.

For a time, this tension led to some great work — before Wilson pulled away from everyone and everything, fell further into drug abuse, lost his wife and family, spent three years in bed and ballooned to 300 pounds — all of which happens off-screen, between the Dano and Cusack periods. That brought therapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) into Wilson’s life, which led to Landy taking over his life, overmedicating him and ruling him in a fashion reminiscent of Wilson’s abusive father. Which is where Cusack takes up the story.

To a great extent, the film is about how Melinda Ledbetter, who become’s Wilson’s second wife, manages to involve his family in freeing him from Landy.

Best — and possibly most painful — scene: Dano is tentatively, his voice cracking, playing a demo version of what would become “God Only Knows,” just sitting alone at a piano. At least, you think he’s alone until the camera shows his father seated on a sofa in pajamas and bathrobe. Wilson is seeking his father’s approval for his new direction. The father’s brutal, knife-twisting rejection of the song tells you almost everything you need to know about Brian Wilson’s problems. Later, you learn that his Dad slapped him upside the head so often as a kid that he is 96 percent deaf in his right ear.

Here’s the first part of that scene. If it doesn’t make you appreciate the song more than ever, don’t bother watching the film:

Q-tips, that most surreal of products

Hold stick near centre of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion.

Those instructions, found on a box of toothpicks, convinced the fictional Wonko the Sane that the world had gone mad — how else to explain the need for instructions on how to use a toothpick? So, in Douglas Adams’ So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Wonko built an inside-out house. When he was in it, he said he was “outside the asylum.” The rest of the world was “inside the asylum.”

I think Adams would have made his point better had he used the warning that appears on packages of Q-tips, in bold letters: “Do not insert swab into ear canal.” In other words, don’t do what people buy Q-tips to do.

So I was pleased to see this item in The Washington Post this morning: “The strange life of Q-tips, the most bizarre thing people buy.” Indeed.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that Q-tips were not initially designed or marketed specifically for the thing they are best suited to do — go into your ear canal. But no one, except apparently the manufacturer, pretends that they are not used for that.

The piece included dire warnings from physicians about never, ever sticking cotton swabs into your ears — not only to avoid injury to the eardrum, but because apparently earwax is a good and healthful thing.

I wouldn’t know. I’ve never, at any point in my life that I can recall, had earwax. I use cotton swabs every morning to dry out my ears after my shower — I can’t bear hearing and feeling water in my ears. In between those daily uses, I use them to deal with itching, also in my ears. They provide blessed relief. Sometimes at night, I can’t sleep for the itching, and have to go fetch a swab (we seldom buy the brand name, so it’s not technically a Q-tip) and give it a brief workout before I can go back to sleep.

The Post story says that’s a self-defeating cycle:

Using Q-tips leads to what dermatologists refer to as the itch-scratch cycle, a self-perpetuating addiction of sorts. The more you use them, the more your ears itch; and the more your ears itch, the more you use them….

Maybe. I think it has more to do with my allergies. The more they are acting up, the more my ears (and eyes, but you’ll be glad to know I don’t stick Q-tips into them) itch.

One of my earliest memories has to do with that problem. I was 3 or 4 years old. We were visiting my grandparents in Due West. My ears were driving me nuts. I couldn’t find where my grandparents kept their Q-tips, and I didn’t ask because I wasn’t allowed to use them on my own. I found a bobby pin on a dresser, and used that to address the itch. My ear started bleeding. I was a little scared, but my main concern was that I was really going to get in trouble. Even at that age, I didn’t want anyone to know that I’d done something that stupid. So I hid behind a door. This did not work. I was found, with blood coming out my ear, and yes, there were recriminations and a good deal of embarrassment.

But that’s never happened to me with Q-tips…