Tuesday, August 25, 2009

7 (x1) Samurai by David Gaines

Tonight I was downtown to throng with the theatre folks and promote Indyprov's Welcome to Blanksville. That accomplished, I set out to see my one Must See show for IndyFringe (besides my own :) ) - a show about Samurai, by a mime trained in commedia del arte and improvisation. It was as though they had brought A Show Specifically for Eva to IndyFringe!

Seven (x1) Samurai by David Grimes features a cast of 1 and 30+ characters... maybe more, it was hard to keep count. I was riveted by Grime's expressive features and amused mightily by his comedic timing. I loved the way that improvisation and lack of props was such an asset for him; he did some completely insensible things with his imaginary devices, such as sharpening his hand on a whetstone, which would have been stupidly inefficient to stage with props and massively stupid to do in real life. All the set items - doors, a ditch, a horse - were drawn or otherwise indicated. In improvisation these elements shone out like gems on jeweler's velvet. Grimes made a point at times to act in profile, back presented to the audience; although violating a cardinal rule of actors to never turn back on an audience, this worked mightily as doing so presented a different costume effect for some characters. Grimes physical control was such that he could pull it of, even with his neck contorted at a mighty steep angle.

I was seated next to a deaf man (or at least severely hearing impaired man); he clearly enjoyed the show mightily, and the dialogue was so sparse that I'm sure he could get the plot and relationship develpment just from the gestures and interactions. I suspect even those with limited English would get 90% of the show. My son, aged 9, saw the plot with me and was in complete awe of Grimes near-adolescent mastery of the art of making bodily noises using his mouth. Note also that I found the content completely appropriate for him to see and I would recommend it for kids; the violence was far less than what might be shown on a Three Stooges reel. The sexual humor was limited to one leering brigand chasing a peasant woman, which I've even seen on a Schoolhouse Rock episode. Of course, I have a rather broad minded approach to kids and art, so your mileage may vary with your own kids.

The show concluded, the audience stood to applaud, and my son begged to come back and see it again. What higher praise could I give than that of a child?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why I support a public option for healthcare

Please, please bring on a public option for heathcare. Cover the gaps due to employment change, don't make people chose between avoiding poverty and illness, and stop denying coverage to people who need it.

I know people personally today who are facing serious illness and gaps and not having as much luck as I did when I faced similar issues (and frankly I didn't feel lucky at the time). Check out my blog pal David's thoughts on healthcare; and I know he's ill, but that isn't what his blog is about. He's facing his illness without letting it define him and I admire that. There's my friend Tom, he of the scintillating wit and the Spanglish Soap Opera fame, who is recovering from an unexpected stroke. I'll be helping raise funds later to cover the medical costs through a fundraiser for him at his church. It seems terrible that we're counting on the equivalent of a bake sale to help save someone from medical debt, but there you are. There's my dear friend Tracy, who would have many eloquent things to say on the topic of healthcare reform but she isn't here to say them. And I can't try without tearing up, and I seem to be out of tissue right now.

I don't want to give up my current employer-sponsored plan. I would probably prefer a private insurance option if I faced a gap in employment again. But if neither of those were available, shouldn't there be an alternative that would cover me and people like me and my friends?

IHere's my story: in the past 10 years, I've held 12 jobs. 13 if you count the theater work I do, which I don't because it feels more like a hobby and fun and 13 is unlucky. But my best jobs have been fun, so perhaps I should count it. I'm not a transient worker, I'm not undependable, I've got portable skills and I've never left a job for cause - but RIFs and reorganizations are common nowadays, and I've not been immune. I've had three gaps in employment. Two times I lost employer-provided insurance. My choices were: 1) go without insurance 2) find a private policy or 3) pay for Cobra.

The first time, I opted for Cobra, expecting it would be a short gap. Cobra only offers employers the thin veneer of psuedo-responsibility to make them feel better after they release someone. But in fairness to the company, they aren't enhancing shareholder value by insuring people who don't work there, so I can't blame them for the approach. I ended up unemployed for 9 months. I took a part-time job at Border's when the gap was stretching out. Even with unemployment benefits and part-time work, I never made as much in a month as I was paying for heathcare. Eventually, we ended up uninsured, with 2 kids under 2 years old. I tried to get private insurance, but since I'd had pre-existing back pain issues the costs were exorbitant. Then my son had an emergency room visit, which was very, very expensive to be faced with in my situation. I remember he was bleeding on me and I started wondering if I could afford treatment in the ER or maybe he didn't really need to go. When I hit that point mentally, I realized I couldn't make an unbiased decision about his healthcare because money was getting in the way of health. I decided then that whatever debt there would be I could deal with later, so we went. I could always earn more money later, but you can't buy back health.

After his stitches were in I tried to get the kids enrolled on the State of Illinois plan for Children's health insurance, which was a joke. The paperwork burden was immense, and intrusive. No one who knew anything about the program was available to help by phone or in person. I called, phone calls were not returned. I went to offices, waited half a day, and couldn't get any answers. The system wasn't set up to understand that my tax returns and last job's pay stubs didn't reflect the then-current reality of negative cash flow. I still don't think that my kids small college funds were moot to the evaluation, but they wanted those statement balances, as an example, and tracking down every nit and gnat they wanted was a fool's errand. I've got a graduate degree and had the time to figure this out since I was unemployed, and still couldn't get the kids enrolled.

I was trying at that point to be a stay at home mom, something which I'll never know whether I'd be good at or not. I suspect not, but would have liked the chance to try. I gave up on the effort, figured I could better use my time in other ways to get out of the situation. I buckled down on my job search and took a job for 1/4 of my previous salary but it had benefits and was enough for me to pay for daycare. So I accepted gratefully.

The other time I had a gap, I opted for private insurance and that worked far better for us. But it wouldn't have worked at all, except that my back issues were far enough ago that they didn't count as a pre-existing condition anymore. I felt very, very grateful that my back hadn't troubled me much in the previous 5 years.
If I couldn't figure out how to use the supposedly-available programs, then how would someone fare who had less education than I had? If I was mentally anguished trying to figure out if I could afford an ER visit for my son, how would someone in more dire straights be able to handle that? What if my pre-existing conditions had occurred more recently? What if I wasn't able plan on earning more money in the future?

If you disagree, I can respect that. But please keep the dialog to the facts of what's actually in the proposed plan - you can leave out the death panels.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Google still loves me

The past few days I've been feeling hurt by conflicting loyalties. Apple, I love you but why are you not letting Google Voice apps on the App Store?

Google showed me love with an upgrade in March to Google Voice (has it really been that short a time?) and now a small token of affection, some sparkly new contact cards featuring my Google Voice number. Perhaps I was selected because I'd been a grand central customer before, but I don't really know.

The gift was free and offered a selection of calling cards, personal cards or business cards. Registration was easy - if this is how easy iprint.com is to work with generally, kudos to them.

Now I'm just waiting for an iphone app that will let me use Google Voice. Hey, is that a shiny new Android phone over there?