Monday, June 22, 2009

Letter to the Jerks

I actually sent this letter to the Harvard Vanguard Patient Billing Department:

I recently inquired my Primary Care Physician (Dr. James Roseto) about my possible deviated septum. He recommended "conservative treatment" before moving on to a ENT specialist, despite the fact that we were both fairly certain that's what it was. He suggested Sudafed, a humidifier and prescribed a nasal steroid. Six weeks later, I saw him again, and the conservative treatments had failed. I was referred to a specialist, who confirmed that it was a deviated septum and suggested a CAT scan to see if there was anything else to be concerned about. I received the scan and was given another appointment with yet another ENT "specialist," Dr. Ralph Iannuzzi. He also confirmed my deviated septum and said that there is sinus inflammation that makes me susceptible to sinus infections. None of this is news to me, of course.

This third doctor suggested more "conservative treatment," prescribing yet another nasal steroid and a Neti Pot or a sinus rinse. He also asked me to return in six weeks, which is where I am now, fairly certain that none of it was necessary.

At this point, I'm about ready to live with my condition, as I have spent considerable time and money (Sudafed, humidifier, 2 steroids and over $60 in co-payments, to be no farther along than when I started) on what is not a life-threatening procedure. It is extremely disappointing, as I honestly feel like I have been given the runaround and taken advantage of. Every visit is taking money out of my pocket for three doctors to tell me the exact same thing, and I want that money back. I have had 4 appointments at $15.00 each, adding up to $60.00, for basically nothing. I am perfectly willing to give all the documentation you need (receipts, etc.) to facilitate this refund. After all, anyone performing a service should stand behind it. If I took my car in for service, and they never fixed the problem, I would not pay for that. Why am I paying you?

Matthew Dursin

I doubt it'll work, but at least my voice has been heard.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Art? Art Who? Garfunkel?

I think I became a film major because I always wanted to be an artist, and yet, was not born with anything that could be construed as artistic ability. Creativity? Maybe, but not in abundance. I do consider writing to be a form of art, but a lot of people can do that. I mean, click on over to Amazon and see how many books there are, and then consider that I have never actually written a book, and tell me how good an artist I am.

In high school, I took some photography classes, and really enjoyed them despite the fact that my freshmen Photography teacher was a crusty, old woman who instructed me to "take pictures" as my first assignment. And she wasn't being altruistic, I don't think. Just lazy. I distinctly recall also signing up for a Photojournalism class in high school, until it was canceled because I was the only one who would dare do such a thing. Think how my life might have been different if I had teachers who actually fostered creativity instead of, y'know, not giving a shit.

I think I wish I had tried at art more as a kid because the idea of a gallery show has always appealed to me. Not going to one, because I'm not really very smart about things and often feel like an idiot (Also, my inherent need to make sarcastic comments at every moment is hampered by the fact that the artist is probably the one I'm making the comments to). But I think it would be really cool to have something I'd done on display for people to see, or even buy if it was good enough. Usually, screenplays aren't considered fine art in that way. Sure, people buy them, but they generally don't have gallery openings for them. They have those gigantic, cattle-call pitch meetings, but come on, nobody really cares about those. There are enough writers actually working in Hollywood these days. Nobody who is anybody needs to go out actually looking for scripts.

But I imagine selling a piece of art must be a very cool experience. Something that you painted or whatever being good enough that someone wants to put it in their home. Hell, I thought it was cool when eleven people wanted to buy Secret Monkey #1, but that was probably because I had sunk gobs of money into it and wanted to recoup at least a tiny bit of it. And all I did was write a few jokes for that. I didn't consider myself a working artist. Besides, modern technology has changed the standards for creativity too much. I mean, because I ramble on in this blog does that make me a writer? If I doodled something trying to figure out Photoshop, does that make me an artist?

In the end, I'm not terribly disappointed in my life path, even though it would have been interesting to experience having a gallery opening once. Truthfully, I don't think the life of a starving artist would be for me (I'd much rather be a starving Audio-Visual tech.) Also, I think to really call yourself an artist and not be a hypocrite, you have to feel. You have to feel love and desire and pain and passion for your work. You need blood and humanity. You need to have that passion in order to be a real artist, and as I've pointed out many times, I don't feel a whole lot of passion or love or desire for anything. Pain? That I got.

Maybe I would make a decent artist, after all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Prodigal Idiot

This isn't another big anti-religion rant, but I never liked the story of the Prodigal Son. I never got the lesson there. In fairness, if you asked my brother, I would be the one who would "waste his substance with riotous living" while he would tend to the crops, or whatever, so maybe I'm bias.

For those unfamiliar, the story goes like this; A guy has two sons. The younger, petulant one demands his inheritance, even though his father isn't dead yet, and goes off and parties like a rock star, blowing every penny. He hits a low point while he's looking after the pigs and decides to return home and beg for his father's forgiveness. Even if his dad says, "Screw you! You're my slave forever now, punk," at least it's better than smelling like pigs. So, he goes back and his Dad welcomes him with open arms, even slaying the good, ol' fatted calf, (that older brother has been looking after all this time) to celebrate the homecoming. All is well.

EXCEPT - older brother gets a little peeved. "What's up, Dad?" he asks. "I've been hanging out here helping you out for years, and then you roll out the red carpet for this deadbeat." And Dad says, "yeah, but this guy was dead to us, and now he's back. Lost, but now he's found. Like that song."

Well, I don't buy it. I know the idea is repentance and all that, but where was the incentive to be the good guy who stayed home to help out? Where's the benefit to doing the right thing, rather than living like an idiot? The end result is that the idiot gets the fatted calf, anyway.

Apply this logic to modern society. People who have spent unwisely for years and racked up enormous debt, or bought homes they couldn't afford, or whatever, or companies who spend $20,000 so their employees could fly somewhere for lunch, are getting helped out and bailed out. the government is cooking up that fatted calf for them and everyone is happy. Meanwhile, some ordinary Joe, who has tried to work hard to pay his debt and pay his school loans, is getting no help at all. Where's his bail-out? Where's his fatted calf?

In the belly of the Prodigal Idiot, that's where.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Before I get to the good stuff, my friend Melissa sent me this awesome website, that featured this clever cartoon, among others:

Anyway, there may not be a God, but maybe Hell has frozen over. No, I'm kidding, but I do feel weird. See, one of my oldest, youngest friends, whom we nicknamed Yo (come to think of it, maybe I nicknamed him that), is now a father. I remember him running around our neighborhood in diapers (I was six, but I still remember it), and soon, his son will be running around the same neighborhood, although probably in new diapers.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Aw crap. Another rant about how old this guy is or the passage of time or some such shit." No, gentle reader, although time has surely passed, and probably passed me by. But I don't feel old on this one. I should, but maybe it's because I am happy for the little guy. He grew up the youngest child in his family, with three older sisters. he was also the youngest kid on the block, and was sort of adopted by my friends and I, probably because none of us had actual little brothers. His family dynamic being what it was (his eldest sister is a lot elder. I think his oldest nephew is around 10 years younger than he is, and his youngest sister is my age, so about five years older), in a lot of ways, I feel he was almost raised by us neighborhood kids, which may be the modern suburban equivalent of being raised by wolves. When I look at him, I think we we did a good job. Maybe this is how parents feel when their kids grow up.

Now, my version of "doing good" may differ from others. This young man is not yet married, although this was a planned pregnancy (so he says). I don't know if marriage is in their future, but he certainly told his Dad it was. And someone like my father would look at Yo, with his long hair and scruffy beard and his job as a dog-walker, and scoff. And, yeah, he never finished college, preferring to take his band on the road and get educated that way.

So, maybe his road is the one less-traveled, but it's still a road and it ended up in the same spot as most people. And when I talk to him, even though it's only once in awhile, it's like we talk every day, and I can see that he is a smart, funny, well-rounded guy, and okay, I admit, he has more going for him now than I do.

Which brings us back to my favorite yarn about the ol' Dursy, the Last Man Standing. Is it official? Am I the Last Man, since now the boy has become a man and has surpassed me? If so, where's my prize? The other day, one of my married friends said he sometimes envied when I told him my big problem of the day was whether or not to buy Combos or Doritos at CVS. Yeah, there's a prize for you. A life that consists of not much more than Combos vs. Doritos.

And at that pace, probably not a long one.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Impassioned Atheist?

A few days after writing my post about kinda being an atheist, I ended up in a conversation with a girl at a bar that yielded this lovely chestnut:

"You should come to my Atheist Luncheon."

Uh, yeah. Sweetheart, you seemed to have missed the point. The reason I'm an atheist has very little to do with whether or not there is a divine higher-power guy and everything to do with the fact that I don't like doing crap like that. I don't know why people subject themselves to church every week. Why would I want to sit in a room and talk about NOT believing in something?

Basically, this is the problem with the atheist movement in America (and there is a movement.) It's tough to get the passion-less, apathetic, or disillusioned to do anything. That's why they are who they are. However, just as there are jumbo shrimp, there are impassioned atheists, and I assume they will be at that luncheon, eating sandwiches and talking about how they came to be an unbeliever. I, however, question their non-faith. I suspect that not being religious is their religion. If you don't believe in God, and someone else does, why should you care? And isn't trying to convince someone to not believe in God as bad (or worse) than someone trying to convince you that there is a God? Religious nuts certainly turn me off. So, I imagine, would non-religious nuts. I guess I don't know because I don't think I'll be attending the atheist luncheon, although I bet it's a good story.

There's good and bad everywhere. A few years ago, I went with some lesbian friends to the steps of the State House to yell at people about same-sex marriage (I was for it, natch.) While it was very cool to be there in that moment and actually stand up for something (a new thing for me), my most vivid memory was the Bible-thumpers on both sides of the argument. I remember two radicals viciously quoting the Bible at each other, trying to prove that gay people are or aren't an abomination. And even though I obviously agreed with the person who was saying that they were not an abomination, she still scared the beejesus out of me.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Enlighten Up - Yoga Doc Fraught with Boo-boos

The other night I saw the Yoga documentary "Enlighten Up," written, produced directed, and everything else'd by local Kate Churchill. As someone who likes to dissect films and someone who has dabbled in the healing arts, I thought it would be interesting. It certainly was, but for reasons maybe that the filmmakers wouldn't think (or even want.)

The premise is that Churchill was taken aback by all the "Baskin-Robbins yoga" we have here in the West, and was determined to get to the heart of the whole Yoga matter. Her idea was to take a layman from New York and try and see if six months of immersion in the Yoga culture could transform him physically and spiritually. Now, the film would have you believe that they chose this guy (Nick Rosen) out-of-the-blue, but the post-film Q & A Churchill conducted at my screening revealed that she had prior knowledge of him and she selected him for a reason. Nick is a journalist who was writing nothing really very interesting, but had just the right amount of skepticism that it would make for a great story when he finally converted at the end.

Well, as 29 year-old Nick started doing his Yoga thing, visiting different trainers and schools, throughout the world (even, most hilariously, ex-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page's "modern" take on it in his "Yoga for Regular Guy's" class, where DDP encourages the camera man to scope out his ex-wife's cleavage during one of the poses.), he definitely feels physically stronger and better, but the spiritual awakening eludes him. Much to Kate's chagrin. At several moments, we are privy to their conversations, and she seems to be antagonizing him, trying desperately to steer him the way she wants him (and her film) to go. This struck me as kind of horrible. At no point during this process did she think, "Well, I guess you can lead a horse to water..."? There were even times when he said he kinda, sorta thought he was feeling something, but I'm wondering if he was feeling it because she wanted him to, or he wanted her to leave him alone. There was even a segment when he said she didn't speak to him for days.

Now, documentaries are supposed to report the facts, by definition. However, make no mistake, they have a story just like any movie. Clearly, Kate had this plan, and it wasn't going the way she wanted. Nick was not finding any inner peace through Yoga. After months of pushing him to try and force it, Kate finally had to punt, I guess. This is where the film fails, because I think it was evident in the final product that her "arc" wasn't there. In fact, the final conclusion of the film, as illustrated by "Ultimate Yogi" Saran Ananda, is that enlightenment is different for everyone, and how you get there makes no difference. And if Nick wants to do all his poses and still go home a heathen, then that's his business. As those crazies I see daily outside the abortion clinic prove, you can't force spirituality/beliefs/religion on anyone. And in fact, the more people try, probably the less successful they will be.

That's my main problem with the doc. Technically, there are a few mistakes. She has a few head-on shots, with people talking directly into the camera, and it's jarring and distracting (You should always kind of have your subject off to the side a bit. That way they're not talking at the audience.) She also would cut people off in mid-thought and jump to the next scene, and I'm not sure if she was making a point or was just being sloppy, but it wasn't good.

In the end, it's a pretty good film, but I doubt anyone other than Yoga enthusiasts will be terribly entertained or enlightened, so she's pretty much preaching to the choir. Hell, the guy in the movie wasn't terribly enlightened. Why should I be?