WEDNESDAY | 3 JULY 2013

HEALTHCARE

IF THIS WAS A PILL, YOU’D DO ANYTHING TO GET IT

Ezra Klein | Wonkblog | The Washington Post

Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the health policy and management school at Emory University, estimates that 95 percent of spending in Medicare goes to patients with one or more chronic conditions — with enrollees suffering five or more chronic conditions accounting for 78 percent of its spending. “This is the Willie Sutton rule,” he says. “If 80 percent of the spending is going to patients with five or more conditions, that’s where our health-care system needs to go.”

Health Quality Partners is all about going there. The program enrolls Medicare patients with at least one chronic illness and one hospitalization in the past year. It then sends a trained nurse to see them every week, or every month, whether they’re healthy or sick. It sounds simple and, in a way, it is. But simple things can be revolutionary.

Most care-management systems rely on nurses sitting in call centers, checking up on patients over the phone. That model has mostly been a failure. And while many health systems send a nurse regularly in the weeks or months after a serious hospitalization, few send one regularly to even seemingly healthy patients. This a radical redefinition of the health-care system’s role in the lives of the elderly. It redefines being old and chronically ill as a condition requiring professional medical management.

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ART

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BRINGING ART AND CHANGE TO THE BRONX

Randy Kennedy | The New York Times

Last year a tall man in a dark suit with thick black-frame glasses — something like a combination of Morrissey and Samuel Beckett — began showing up at housing projects all over New York City. He attended residents’ meetings and spoke rapturously in a heavy Germanic accent about an improbable dream: finding people to help him build a monument to the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, who died in Rome in 1937.

“Believe it or not, people have come to us with stranger ideas before,” said Erik Farmer, the president of the residents’ association at Forest Houses project in the Morrisania section of the South Bronx.

Neither Mr. Farmer nor many of the people who attended these meetings had ever heard of the man, Thomas Hirschhorn, a 56-year-old Swiss artist with a huge international following. But Mr. Hirschhorn wasn’t interested in trading on his reputation.

“Some people think I am a priest or an eccentric rich man, and some people just think I’m a loser,” he said late last year in an interview, as he was making his visits. “But that is O.K. as long as they understand that I am serious.”

SLIDESHOW: AN UNLIKELY MONUMENT

Todd Heisler | The New York Times
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IDENTITY THEFT

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SHE STOLE ANOTHER’S IDENTITY AND TOOK THE SECRET TO HER GRAVE. WHO WAS SHE?

Maureen O’Hagen | The Seattle Times | via Longreads

Joe Velling arranged the clues around the big table: a birth certificate for a girl in Fife. An Idaho ID card. Pages from an Arizona phone book. And scraps of paper with scribbled notes, including the name of an attorney and the words “402 months.”

These, he explained, came from the strongbox. And the strongbox is at the center of a mystery that has vexed him for nearly two years. As an investigator for the Social Security Administration (SSA), he’s nabbed more con men than he can count. But this case with the strongbox has him at wit’s end — not so much a whodunit but a who-is-it?

The woman in question was known as Lori Ruff. A 41-year-old wife and mother, she never quite fit in. She was a vegetarian in East Texas. A pretty brunette who dressed like a matron. A grown woman who wanted a child’s Easy-Bake oven for Christmas.

The strongbox was Lori’s. For years, she kept it tucked in a bedroom closet, among a long list of items her husband, Blake Ruff, knew he was never to touch. Blake being Blake, he obeyed.

Lori died in 2010. That’s when Blake’s relatives found the box. Its contents told an astonishing story: The woman they knew as Lori was someone else entirely. She had created a new identity two decades earlier.

That brings us to our mystery. If Lori wasn’t really Lori, who was she? And why would she go so far to hide her past?

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PHOTOGRAPHY

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LUCID DREAMS

Devid Sketchbook
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BUGS

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SOCIALIZE BIG PHARMA

Leigh Phillips | Jacobin

Yet the greatest crime of the world’s major private pharmaceutical companies is not what they do, but what they don’t do. In the ongoing war against bugs and infection, these companies have abandoned their posts at the most critical time: when the enemy is mounting its most ferocious attack in generations. As these firms continue to shirk their duties — effectively abandoning antibiotic research for some 30 years now — senior public health officials are warning that the world could soon return to the pre-antibiotic era, a miserable, fearful time that few people alive now remember.

Market reports, medical journals, philanthropic organization analyses, government studies, and the pharmaceutical sector’s own assessments prefer a more delicate approach, attributing the dangerous threat to “insufficient market incentive.” My solution is a bit more elegant: socialization of the entire industry.

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ART

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WHAT MAKES A WORK OF ART SEEM DATED?

Tom Vanderbilt | Culture Desk | The New Yorker

Mad Max” certainly has its historical signifiers, like Max Rockatansky’s 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT coupe, but one secret, I think, is that the movie is not moored to any time. It opens with the vague phrase “A few years from now,” and, rather than any trappings of the fetishized future, “Mad Max” looks backward. At the end of the day, with its lone frontier rider trying to preserve order, it is a Western, with muscle cars. The costumes, the soundtrack, the peculiar mutterings of the outlaws (“Joviality is a game of children”) are at once familiar and slightly out of joint.

What makes a work of art seem dated, I would suggest, is a sort of overdetermined reliance on the tropes, whether of subject or style, of the day—a kind of historical narcissism. A director like Alfred Hitchcock seemed to go out of his way to avoid this fate, as discussed by the actress Eva Marie Saint in an interview:

Hitch had a theory about the wardrobe. He didn’t want it dated, and so he wanted everybody to wear clothes that were almost classic clothes. One day, I remember, we were doing I believe the auction scene, and I was in my black dress with the red roses. Everybody that day—especially the women—were in dresses that were without belts. That was kind of the chic look at the time. And he sent everybody home and we did some other scene.

In Hitchcock films, characters don’t use phrases like “daddy-o” or listen to Bobby Darin records, however current such details might been at the time.

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LABOR

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START THE BORDER FENCE AT NORFOLK, VA

Harold Meyerson | The Washington Post

By now, even the economics profession concedes that our openness to the developing world — call it the Global South — has played a role in depressing the incomes of U.S. workers. And depressed they are: Hourly wages fell 3.8 percent in the first quarter of 2013, the biggest drop since the government began measuring in 1947. The rising profits and falling wages that define our “recovery” don’t look to be going away.

But how much of this problem originates in the Global South and how much in the American South? The United States has long had two distinct, sectional labor systems. Each has mutated multiple times, but throughout U.S. history one has been Northern and the other Southern, and their differences have, until recently, remained clear. In the northern system, workers have more rights and higher incomes. In Dixie, they have fewer rights and lower incomes.

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BEES

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BEEKEEPERS OF THE MIND

Matthew Battles | Orion

A curiously elegant, entirely analog tool traditionally used to find honeybee hives in the wild, the bee box functions like a lobster trap in miniature. Trapped, fed, and released, with a sugary sponge to entice her, the bee returns to the bee box after disgorging herself at the hive; by noting the round-trip time and direction of travel (bees do indeed make a beeline), the beekeeper gains a fair approximation of the location of the hive.

Today, even the hobbyist beekeeper gets her bees from the internet; the bee box is largely a thing of the past, an artifact of traditional methods quite unlike today’s mechanized and commodified apiculture with its trucked-around hives. With the honeybee on the brink of commercial extinction, new attention has been thrust upon the many species of solitary bees in the world, which, while they produce no honey, pollinate with all the industry of their hypersocial cousins. Curiosity about our relations with these less-heralded bees brought me to this second video, in which a solitary bee enthusiast in Britain demonstrates the tools and methods he uses to gently husband these insects:

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BOOKS

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CARLESS PEOPLE: MURDER, MAYHEM AND THE INVENTION OF THE GREAT GATSBY • BY SARAH CHURCHWELL

Theo Tait | The Guardian | via 3 Quarks Daily

careless people - sarah churchwellNot long before his death, Fitzgerald scrawled a list of sources for each of Gatsby’s nine chapters, in the back of a book by André Malraux. Some of these notes are slightly mysterious: decades of digging by Fitzgerald scholars has not revealed who exactly “Mary” was, or what precisely the phrase “the day in New York” might mean. Others are readily comprehensible, such as “Gt Neck” – Great Neck being the real-life version of West Egg, the location of Gatsby’s Long Island mansion and the narrator Nick Carraway’s rented cottage.

Sarah Churchwell’s new book uses this list as a starting point in her attempt to “piece together the chaotic and inchoate world behind Gatsby”. It’s a sprightly, enjoyable and slightly strange book: part “biography” of the novel, part sketch of the roaring 1920s, part brief account of the second half of Fitzgerald’s life. Churchwell is perceptive and well-informed. Gatsby enthusiasts – and what person with a brain isn’t one? – will enjoy her reconstruction of the various fragments drawn from life, books and news stories that Fitzgerald combined to make his masterpiece.

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ARCHITECTURE

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SOUTH MOULTON STREET BUILDING BY DSDHA

Posted by Erin • Photos by Dennis Gilbert | Contemporist
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IDEAS

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THE INFLUENCE OF ANDREW SULLIVAN

Ross Douthat | The New York Times

But just as Keynes heard clear echoes of “academic scribblers” and “defunct economists” in the rhetoric of his era’s politicians, so I hear echoes of arguments that Andrew Sullivan, and often Andrew Sullivan alone, was making thirty years ago in almost every conversation and argument I’ve had about gay marriage in the last ten years. There’s no other issue and no other writer where the connection between things I read as a teenager and lines I hear today is as clear and direct and obvious. And if that isn’t evidence of distinctive, far-reaching influence then I don’t know what is.

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JOURNALISM

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POLITICS:SOME / POLITICS:NONE. TWO WAYS TO EXCEL IN POLITICAL JOURNALISM. NEITHER DOMINATES.

Jay Rosen | PressThink

Politics: none is what most of the editors and reporters at the Washington Post practice and preach. (But not all.) It is not the natural, inevitable or “right” way to do journalism, but rather a form of persuasion in which journalists try to get us to accept their account of the way things are by foreswearing any political commitment, avoiding overt displays of opinion, and eluding strong conclusions via quotation or summary of competing arguments.

Of course they also try to persuade us by pointing to irrefutable facts, uncovering new information, and being accurate, truthful and fair, but this does not distinguish them from…

Politics: some is what the journalists at the Guardian practice and preach. It is not the natural or inevitable way to do journalism, but a form of persuasion in which journalists try to get us to accept their account by being up front about their commitments, grounding their freely-expressed opinions in fact, and arriving at conclusions through the sound conduct of public argument

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PHYSICS

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THIS IS THE BEAD CHAIN EXPERIMENT. IT’S ABOUT TO MELT YOUR BRAIN.

Robert Gonzalez | io9

Inside this beaker is a 50-meter-long string of 8,000 beads. Watch what happens when you toss one end of the string out of the beaker. Prepare yourself – this is pretty wild.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, the result is a levitating, single-file stream of beads that buckles, loops and coils in a self-propelled bid to escape its container. It’s mesmerizing. In the video, the folks at Earth Unplugged meet up with BBC’s Steve Mould to explore the secret to these self-siphoning beads (aka “Newton’s Beads”), with the help of some super slo-mo footage.


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PSYCHOLOGY

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CLUES IN THE CYCLE OF SUICIDE

David Dobbs | Well | The New York Times

On average, about 700 Americans kill themselves each week — but in the fine-weather weeks of May and June, the toll rises closer to 800, sometimes higher. Every year, suicide peaks with the tulips and lilacs — increasing roughly 15 percent over the annual average to create one of psychiatry’s most consistent epidemiological patterns. It may seem perverse that the period of spring and early summer, as the psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison puts it in her splendid book “Night Falls Fast,” should contain “a capacity for self-murder that winter less often has.” Yet it does.

This grim spring growth confounds conventional belief that suicides peak in winter. It also confounds researchers — and fascinates them. As they discover more angles into the biology of mood and behavior, they are finding new clues about why suicides rise with the sun’s arc. They hope solving this puzzle will help us better understand why people commit suicide at all — and perhaps reduce the numbers year-round.

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DOCUMENTARY

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MASTER OF THE HOUSE

BERT Magazine | Vimeo

Meet George Peckitt, a man who, unsatisfied with his local watering holes, decided to build a pub in his backyard.

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MUSIC

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FIT: DUURT TE LANG / BEEN TOO LONG

Jobs, Joris & Marieke | Vimeo

A snowy forest. Two wild creatures. A domestic fight in slow motion. We’re delighted to share with you our latest music video for ‘Been too Long’ by Dutch hip-hop artist Fit, a song about a relationship that’s been going on far too long.

PIXIES: BAGBOY

Michael Cragg | The Guardian

Two weeks after announcing the departure of bassist Kim Deal, Pixies have taken a step closer to fulfilling the promise of releasing their first album since 1991’s patchy Trompe le Monde with the appearance of the excellent Bagboy. The song is the band’s – now featuring, on this song at least, Black Francis, David Lovering, Joey Santiago and bass from Francis associate Jeremy Dubs – first new material since 2004’s Bam Thwok, which was released to coincide with their reunion shows in 2004. According to a statement released alongside the song on the band’s website last Friday, Bagboy was written by Francis in a Starbucks “about a hundred feet from where, 25 years ago, I composed some of the lyrics to an old Pixies song called Break My Body” and was originally started a few years ago. “There are some demos I made with Joey and David a few years ago in Los Angeles, related to a film idea that still has yet to see the light of day, although work on the music continued,” he explains. Opening with an electronic drum pulse and Francis’ half-spoken, half-sung drawl, it’s a brilliantly scratchy, sporadically ferocious reminder that few bands know how to play about with a song’s dynamic quite like the Pixies. There are even reminders of their past in the Kim Dealesque backing vocals that arrive a third of the way through. There’s also a video, which features the titular boy popping off to the shops before returning home to have a bath in a load of cereal and enjoy what looks like the best solo house party ever.

PETER JEFFERIES: THE LAST GREAT CHALLENGE IN A DULL WORLD

Mike Wolf | Boomkat

Peter Jefferies’s extraordinary debut solo album, The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World, first saw life as a cassette via the Xpressway label of Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1990. As a result of some international underground acclaim in fanzines and mailorder catalogs – for both the album and a striking 7-inch, “The Fate of the Human Carbine,” released around the same time – it soon appeared on LP and CD as well, through the Ajax label of Chicago. Within a handful of years it slipped out of print and out of sight. Roughly 20 years later that situation is being amended by De Stijl with a vinyl reissue that includes the songs from the attendant single and no amount of remastering whatsoever. Though no one’s gotten around to writing a book on it yet, The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World nonetheless stands as one of the singular singer-songwriter albums of all time, existing on a sparsely populated plane with Pink Moon, I Often Dream of Trains, Blues Run the Game, Our Mother the Mountain and not many others.



peter jefferies - the last great challenge in a dull world

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