Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Experience Gift

The Experience Gift

by George Sampras

Jeanie loved Christmas. The tree, especially, with its foresty smell and twinkly lights , magically conjuring beauty and life out of winter gloom. And the children: round eyes, round mouths, round cheeks so kissable in their little round faces mad with excitement and desire and hope. Every year, the same tradition: the selection of the tree, the layering of the decorations (garlands, then lights, then crystal birds and horses and snowflakes, then the shiniest gold and silver ornaments, then, to top it all off, the Christmas angel), the acquisition, wrapping and installation of the presents, the hanging of the green and red embroidered socks (“Sam”, “Trish”, “Mom”, “Dad”), the night of little sleep, as a succession of Santas tiptoed in, to secretly contribute a small wrapped trinket or two to each sock, then the morning, first long and slow then short and fast, with a mad jumble of sweet and salty foods, flying wrapping papers, and instances of joy and disappointment, more or less well concealed according to the maturity and blood sugar levels of the recipient. It was something they had done together, without fail, every year since entering the world, as miraculous as Jesus, one starlit night.

Jeanie hated Christmas. The rawness of the emotions. The vulnerability of so much desire. Expectations, high in childhood, had risen even higher. Of course they were still a family, but it was at Christmas, that they came together, atoms touching, in the same physical space. Here they crowded, like expectant concert goers, in a preordered spot at a preordained time, their hearts tremblingly exposed, exit doors unmarked and too small in case of attack. Where to take cover? There was no cover. It was an act of faith, this communion, an invocation of the spirit of childhood, of family, of love. But such powerful forces, once stirred, never come alone.

Jeanie picked a torn piece of shiny silver wrapping paper off the carpet and placed it in the Hefty bag. Three armchairs had been pushed awkwardly together to make space for the tree, leaving the room off kilter.  We are sitting ducks here, she thought.
If lucky she had – what - maybe twenty Christmases left on her celestial time clock? Time, she resolved, to make them count.

George Sampras lives in California. His, novel, The Experience Gift, will be published in 2018. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hope for heath care from Amazon

Amazon Disrupt: Has Jeff Bezos only just begun?

Can one of the world’s most innovative companies actually do good? Amazon’s announcement that it was turning its attention to healthcare caused panic in the bloated, inefficient, and vicously greedy market that is American health care. In other words, a market ripe for total disruption.

Books, clothes, household items, groceries, films, TV, music and cloud services - the logistics and IT geniuses at Amazon have nothing more to prove.  They could just sit back and let the profits roll in. Perhaps even pay out dividends to shareholders.

But what if, what if, all this innovation was just prelude? What if the real, ground-breaking innovation is only begining now, in 2018, with Amazon’s foray into the debacle that is American health care?

As a multinational with offices in all kinds of countries, Amazon management has experienced first hand the nearly unbelievable disparity in health care access, quality and cost throughout DEVELOPPED countries.

Presumably its employees in France can give birth and navigate accidents with excellent care and no cost, like everyone else in France. Multinationals like Amazon know that their French employees do not worry about losing their homes because of a health crisis. They are not innondated with dozens if not hundreds of separate, terrifying bills from an inexplicable array of doctors, labs, suppliers, catering services, and God knows what else itemizing blood tests, cotton swabs and pots of yoghurt consumed, all at prices that defy commmon sense. They do not stress because some life-saving procedure turns out to have been performed by an expert « out of network » and so will cost the equivalent of three years salary....

Amazon, like other global firms, knows well how perfectly awful the American health care system is, combining the unjustifiable administration cost of the most bloated bureaucracy with monopoly-style price gauging and airline level abuse of customers.

How can a system in which vultures like Shkreli make fortunes jacking up drug prices out of pure, unbridled greed not be ripe for disruption?An industry so exaggeratedly evil that Pixar studios created a superhero whose first act of defiance was to whisper to an elderly lady the secret for getting an insurance company to pay out on a justified claim?

Charles Dickens would find a worthly subject in the American health care system, so filled with corruption, greed and cruelty it is.

Enter Amazon.

Amazon knows a thing or two about innovation. About customer care. About logistics. About value for money.
Amazon knows how to streamline a process. Meetings to coordinate, Bezos knows, are a sign that the process is flawed. In a truly well designed process, coordination should not be necessary; communication should flow naturally.

We at Mature Women welcome Amazon to the health care industry. Disrupt has never been more needed.

Let Amazon succeed, not with gadgetry and picking just a few obviously low hanging fruit, but by a complete revolution. Why not, for that matter, a French revolution?

France does a pretty good job of delivering on the promise of free universal health care. Let that be a starting point. The French system, though not perfect, serves 60 million people, and has the merit of existing.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Does this tax plan make me look fat?

One of life's great mysteries is why perfectly intelligent people fall again and again for the same cons. Say the words "tax cut" and it works like a magic incantation. Sounds great! Let's buy it! Like that saleslady who exclaims how beautiful you look when you can't even get the zipper up. ("Madonna never zips it up all the way either!") the Republicans pushing the tax bill don't really care what happens to you when you go out on the street. It's all in the commission.
Pity the poor guys at the Washington Post who took the trouble to try to analyze Trump's tax cut to see what it means for middle class taxpayers.

"it is hard to find a tax plan that has done less for the middle class"

 All the facts and numbers and charts and graphs in the world have an uphill battle against the perfectly understandable desire to believe the nice saleslady. If you're on a fixed income, prepare to go naked into winter.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What We Talk About When We Don't Talk About Trump

Sea rolling in as the sun rises above the waters

Love, longing, loss.
The joys of children, the terrors of children.
Hopes for the future, fond memories of the past.
The desire To. Be. Better;
Food. Sex. Exercise Regimes.
Fidelity. Cheating. Secret fantasies.
The beauty of a fresh sprung rose before sunrise.
The sweetness of a baby's breath.
Love. Death. Grief.
Growing Stronger.
Dignity. Grace. Faith. Reason.
And love....

Friday, August 4, 2017

Is Marijuana Tourism The Next Big Thing?

Winning Poster "My School Loo" Citywide Contest (5803712104)
Flipping through my iphone the other day I came across a news item that stopped me dead in my tracks:
A marijuana company purchased an entire town in order to turn it into a "marijuana-friendly" destination.
Dial back the speedometer forty years and imagine all the jumping up and down and shrieking with joy. Cool! No more sneaking around and wearing sunglasses at night (red eyes) or worrying that your Mom might accidentally scarf down all the special brownies before a board meeting. An entire destination! Stoner heaven, right?
But then, with another swipe I was immersed in a very depressing analysis of the impact of all that screentime on kids. They don't go out anymore, the author explained. Don't drink. Don't drive. Don't party. Don't have sex. Don't sneak around at all hours doing God knows what. They don't even leave their bedrooms. An entire generation whose social life takes place on their phones, posting photos and clicking on "like".
For God's sake, one exasperated teen replied, decide what you want! You spend all your time warning us we're going to get kidnapped, or paralyzed in a car accident, or riddled with disease if we so much as open a window, and now you're worried about us because we're staying in our beds under the covers with nothing more lethal than a phone?
I could see her point. And yet, I remember (fade into sepia) hanging with my friends, physical bodies bursting with adolescent imperfections which had not yet developed into adult imperfections or, even better, old people imperfections, talking about this or that, laughing, sneaking a beer or a joint, roaming aimlessly, going swimming in rivers with no supervision, camping in forests, in deserts, in friends' guesthouses, spending days at the beach, the ice skating rink, walking the city, the canal, the roads at night, stepping onto the soft shoulder of the road to avoid an oncoming car, cruising, going to stupid sports events and laughing and cheering, and hanging out, on a living room sofa, in a kitchen, in a bedroom, in a backyard, on a porch, in a pool, just hanging out, talking or saying nothing, joking or arguing, just passing the time in the warmth of each other's company like kittens, and taking some undefinable pleasure in it, and I felt sorry for the girl, that she would, it is true, know none of that.
How is it possible, I wonder, that anyone believes in progress anymore? There used to be such a thing, sure. Dying in childbirth at 16 is, in the USA, a thing of the past, thanks to advances in all kinds of areas. Or, to be more exact, it used to be a thing of the past, all bets being off for the future, given that current focus seems to be more on engineering more "likes" than actual physical health. The depressing study concludes that the more time teens spent on screens the less happy they were, that kids were sleeping with their phones, harassed, in a never ending marketing effort of their own selves.
Remember the tamagotchi?  It was a "handheld digital pet" that idiot parents gave to their small children because it was heavily marketed and everyone had to have one, the attraction of which was that it enslaved the recipient by demanding to be fed, or changed or read to or some such nonsense (nonsense because it was not a live thing but an electronic toy) and if the child failed at some point to take care of it, the little tamagotchi declared that it had died.
That, my friends, was the thin edge of the wedge.
Now these tiny electronic death happen millions of times a day: each time a photo posted on social media is not "liked". I'm amazed Disney hasn't made a classic animated film about this yet (the tweet, lifeless in the rain).
I swipe back to the marijuana resort story and wonder: was this our dream? Will the new generation appreciate it? Will they allow cell phones?

- by Jim Carnes August 4, 2017 Los Angeles

(photo credit:  SuSanA Secretariat [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

see also:
A marijuana company has bought a California ghost town to turn it into a pot-tourism destination by Melia Robinson 3 Aug 2017 Tech Insider from Business Insider

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? by  Jean M Twenge The Atlantic Monthly Sep 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lost in South Beach, Miami

To not know where we are, as children, is a nightmare.
To not know where we are, as adults, is a perfect dream.

- Ray Bradbury, Yestermorrow 

To wander around Miami's South Beach is not really to risk getting lost. The ocean, as vast and unmistakable a landmark as ever was created, sees to that. Thanks to its discipline there is a kind of grid, not overly perfect in its geometry, by which the confused visitor can orient herself. It goes like this: 

Forming the vertical lines are sky, horizon, water, sand, scrub bushes and a low wall followed by more sand, dotted with volleyball nets and jungle gyms for adult males, a comfortably wide boardwalk, set against thick, oddly rubbery grass lined with coconut palms, a concrete sidewalk set against the asphalt of Ocean Drive with its unbroken line of restaurants offering $8 breakfasts, then on to the serious avenues of Collins, Washington and other roads until you get to the big Alton road and, beyond that, more water, this time with boats, and another horizon, this one filled with immense bridges and the skyscrapers of Miami.

You could follow any one of those lines down to South Point or up to, say 22nd street or beyond, on foot. 

South Beach is a walking town, and that is one of its greatest pleasures.
You can stroll nearly anywhere, at nearly any time. Get lost, get found, stumble around into parts you haven't seen before. Landmarks are plentiful. There is Joe's Stone Crabs at one end, Espanola Way and Lincoln Drive in the middle,  and, if you're a bookish short, a regional library at the other.

What about crime on South Beach? It exists - how could it not? - , but there are even more police. They glide around like sharks in their wonderful black and white sedans straight out of a 1960s cop show, lights occasionally flashing but sirens rare. Those who love the early morning when all is dark and quiet and the sun has not yet begun to glow red on the horizon will be comforted by the stealthy presence of Miami's police. The many homeless, drawn to the place by the soft weather and communal beauty, seem to coexist peacefully with the representatives of the law. At least that's what I've seen in my early morning wanderings. A few beach strollers and joggers appear before dawn, so even the earliest birds are never entirely, dangerously alone.

And if one gets lost and tired, there are buses. The South Beach local costs $0.25, city buses $2.25. Exact change is required but bus drivers tend to be kind. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

You too can grow up to be a trophy wife!

We've all seen those incredible aerial shots: massive crowds of women in American cities and around the world, marching to protest what they see as Trump's anti-women thoughts, behavior, policies and cabinet appointments.

Mature Women's Guide to Happiness Name

But despite all this there's one real fact that no one can deny. Melania Trump's a knock-out!

Yes, girls! In Trump's America you may not control your bodies or join the cabinet (unless you have a sex and age change to become an old white man), but there is still one great achievement you can dream of.  Trophy Wife. 

The beautiful and very sexy Melania should inspire us all. 

Not since Justinian's wife, the energetic former dancer Theodora, who inspired Procopius' hilariously mean-spirited Secret History, has the world witnessed such a rise of fortunes.

So throw off your glasses, girls! Drop those boring books! Anyone with a pair of eyes can see what counts in today's America!