Personal

ObamaCare Blowback


I received a certified letter from my physician yesterday.

It read:

This letter will serve as notification to you that (clinic name) is withdrawing you from further treatment as of the date of this letter. You are hereby discharged from care by all of our physicians and treatment locations. … We suggest that you place yourself under the care of another physician and medical facility immediately.

My doctor was firing me as a patient? What was up? Was I dying from some disease they had failed to properly diagnose, and they were hoping I was dead before I discovered their malpractice and sued? Did the nurse who couldn’t draw blood from my arm file a grievance against me as a preemptive move? Had I failed to pay a bill?

None of the above.

Star of Life

I phoned the doctor’s office today. They are no longer accepting any patient who doesn’t sign up for their “Concierge Service” — a yearly fee in four figures for unlimited clinic visits.

Cash only.

No medical insurance accepted, no Medicare, total opting out from any part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — ObamaCare.

Welcome to the future of private medical practice in the United States.



Now in post-production: Alongside Night. Look for it later this year!

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Fifty-Nine

Two years ago today I wrote:

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday!

I’m now available in all the Heinz varieties. I’m 57 today.

No, this isn’t an applause sign going on. Don’t feel you have to start wishing me a happy birthday. Hey, I’m not dead yet, my senses still pretty much work, I’m not missing limbs or in a wheelchair, I can still think and write, and my memory doesn’t suck yet. My Mom’s still with me and my daughter just wants me to finish reading the first Harry Potter book she gave me last year so I can start on the second she gave me for this birthday. That’s making me damned happy as it is.

The most important thing about this birthday is that I reach it with exactly the same sense of purpose and enthusiasm about my future as I had for my 18th and 21st birthdays. Maybe more, because I’ve developed new skill sets I didn’t have when I was younger.

If I went back in time and told my younger self that later in life I could look back on having written a dozen books — with praise for them from some of my favorite authors and other people I respect — and that I’d write for The Twilight Zone, and that I’d write, produce, direct, act in, and write songs for a movie starring one of the original Bridge Crew from Star Trek, well, assuming I didn’t think I was a damned liar, my younger self would have thought this an unbelievably fantastic future. So it’s that wet-behind-the-ears former me who has to be wishing me the best on a birthday in which I can look back at dreams fulfilled … and to look forward to making more of them come true.

Five years ago today I said:


Author J. Neil Schulman responds to Virginia Tech shootings

And today I have this to say:

I celebrate my 59th year on this planet feeling that I don’t need a bucket list. All the rest of how to evaluate how I’ve spent my time here is the judgment of others.

Hope I’m still worth the carbon dioxide I’m exhaling.

#

This article is Copyright © 2012 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.


Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Why the Customer is Always Right


I live in Pahrump, Nevada. I wrote, produced, and directed my movie Lady Magdalene’s here in Pahrump. I’m writing this from Pahrump.

Most people know of Pahrump for only one of two things. The first is that Pahrump has the two legal brothels closest to Las Vegas. The second is that Art Bell broadcast his immensely popular and spooky late-night radio show from Pahrump — what he charmingly called “the Kingdom of Nye” — just a hop, skip, and a jump from Area 51.

Pahrump is a town of about 40,000. It has a 24-hour Walmart, recently got its first Carl’s, Jr., but does not have a single movie theater.

It has two major casino hotels in what passes for “downtown” Pahrump. The first, the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Gambling Hall, can be seen as a shooting location in Lady Magdalene’s. About half my cast and crew stayed there during the principal photography of Lady Magdalene’s in May-June 2006.

The other, the Saddle West Hotel, Casino, and RV Resort, was not on screen in Lady Magdalene’s, but the other half of my cast and crew — including my line producer — stayed there during principal photography. I also held our cast and crew wrap party there.


The Saddle West, 1220 South Highway 160 in Pahrump, NV 89048
1-800-433-3987
[email protected]

I was writing a lot of checks during the production of Lady Magdalene’s. I’m pretty sure the checks for rooms and food written to the Saddle West from my production added up to more than $25,000.

You’ll find the Saddle West thanked in the end credits of Lady Magdalene’s.

The Saddle West has a restaurant and buffet. Like most Nevada casinos, the purpose of the buffet is to draw people in to gamble. So the quality of the food at Nevada casinos tends to be what we used to call when I lived in California “better than a Denny’s.” You’ll tend to get good salad bars, Italian food about at Olive Garden quality, and generally food at hotel quality level — good enough to be served at a wedding, if you’re not too fussy. And, it’s cheaper than Denny’s or IHOP. If one lives in Pahrump and gambles at the Saddle West enough to average 800 “points” on one’s player’s club card, one qualifies for a “two-for-one” buffet Sunday through Thursday. That means dinner for two is $8.95 — and the money you would have spent on the other dinner as often as not ends up in one of the slot machines … and then some.

I’ve eaten at the Saddle West frequently enough for all the waitresses to know my mother and myself by name — and they know my mother and my drink orders by heart. The ladies at the Players Club desk also know me by name.

I was 86′ed from the Saddle West tonight. My God, what did I do? Did they catch me running a magnet on one of the slot machines to try and get it to pay off? Nope. Was I counting cards at the 21 table? Yeah, like I have a good enough memory for that.

Uh-uh.

My mom — who is 85, has no gall bladder, is Type II diabetic, is half blind, and has memory problems these days — was recently diagnosed with a hiatal hernia. That means her stomach tends to crowd her esophagus, which before we got that sorted out caused her to be hospitalized twice with extreme gastritis, nausea, and dehydration. I kept her at home for a couple of weeks following the latter hospitalization getting her digestive system calmed down, and we eventually reached a point where I was willing to take her out to eat again. I chose the Saddle West because its buffet tends to have a lot of bland food on it — pasta with white sauce, mashed potatoes, unseasoned rice.

Because of my mom’s hiatal hernia, she can barely eat even a quarter of a meal at a time. If I make her a sandwich, half needs to be put away for later.

So tonight, I took my mom to the Saddle West for dinner (a friend accompanied us) and I put a small portion of lasagna and manicotti on my mom’s plate. She was able to eat only a few bites of each and was full. So she asked me to wrap it up and put it in her bag for later.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I know every buffet has rules against taking food home. But I also know that any food left on the table is going to be thrown out — has to be thrown out — by health code rules. So by my way of thinking — in a world in which many people are starving — there’s something sinful about throwing away food in the first place; and if the food which I’m wrapping up for my mother is already garbage by the restaurant’s rules — and is food that my mother’s medical condition prevents her from eating at one sitting — I figured it’s a rule a casino buffet can and should overlook for a regular.

By the living standards of a small town — a town too small even for its own movie theater — I thought there was a reasonable expectation that good business, decent treatment of the elderly, and small town manners could overlook such a petty infraction of the house rules.

Nope. Tonight, two burly security guards came to our table and turned not to me — who had wrapped up my mom’s food in a napkin and put it in her purse — nor my mom — who asked me to do this for her — but instead went to my friend and asked him to accompany them.

I figured out what was going on in short order, told the security guards that I was the one who had wrapped up the food, and asked my friend to go back to the table to stay with my mom.

The guards treated me like I was caught trying to rob the till. I offered to pay an additional buffet price for the take-out food and one of the guards told me — and this is a direct quote, “You can’t buy your way out of this one.”

Huh!

The amount of food — excuse me, garbage — I wrapped up on my mom’s plate probably had a street value of zero. I doubt a homeless person would have taken it as a hand-out.

Yet, for this the floor manager of the Saddle West was willing to treat a regular customer as a thief, embarrass him in front of his mother, harass his friend merely for sitting at a table with him.

She told me the “86″ would be only for a month, then I could come back. I told her that I was 86′ing myself, permanently, that she had lost a customer who regularly took friends there to eat and gamble.

Every business has the right to set the rules under which they make customers welcome or unwelcome.

But it works both ways. Every customer has the right to put a business on his 86 list … and the Saddle West in Pahrump, Nevada is now permanently on mine.

It’s a good thing for them I’m a libertarian and not inclined to be litigious, because I’m pretty sure I could cause the Saddle West a lot of grief by making this a federal case under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I won’t. I’ll just wait for them to understand that this is an economic climate where the cost of treating customers rudely is to lose customers … and the friends they would have taken there. Do that enough and word spreads.

Hey, I’m a writer, with words to spread.

Saddle West: Buh-bye.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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The Heinlein-Konkin Birthday Party


Samuel Edward Konkin IIIRobert A. Heinlein

For many years my friend Samuel Edward Konkin III –SEK3, for brevity — always celebrated his July 8th birthday in conjunction with Robert A. Heinlein’s July 7th birthday. When both were alive, it was not uncommon for me to put in a phone call to Mr. Heinlein so I could put Sam on the phone with him, and they could wish each other Happy Birthday.

Sam was a nocturnal creature at best, and an alien at worst. I don’t mean in this case a Canadian living in the United States; I mean someone whose home planet had a different circadian than Earth’s 24-hour cycle. Sam’s natural circadian was for a day somewhere between 26 and 27 hours, and there is no planet in our solar system with that circadian. So if Sam’s internal circadian matched some other humanoid species, it was from another star system; or maybe we need to look more closely at some brane in the 11th Dimension.

The point is, I’m writing this at about 11:00 PM on July 7th — and often enough, that’s about when Sam would be downing his first beer for the Heinlein-Konkin Birthday Party, which would be the official start of the party.

Aside from family members, Robert A. Heinlein and Samuel Edward Konkin III were the two most influential men in my life. Heinlein shaped my childhood through his novels and short stories; and he gets this place above other authors who were influential — such as C.S. Lewis — because I eventually met and became friends with Heinlein. C.S. Lewis had passed before I’d read him.

I wrote about Heinlein when he passed:

Sooner or later we all imagine there’s a set of technical manuals our parents were supposed to give us at birth with instructions on How Life Works.

Not that thick book called The Purpose of Your Life. You get that one later. These are “How To” manuals. Each is called Getting By When You’re Up The Creek Without a Paddle, Fighting Back When You’re Sick of Getting Pushed Around, Love — What It is and How to Survive It, or How to Keep From Going Crazy When Everyone Around You Already Is.

Obviously, sometime before you were born, your parents pawned the manuals for a down payment on a Chevy. Or maybe the tomes went overboard when their parents emigrated to America. Or were they incinerated during the big library fire in Alexandria?

Anyway, people keep fudging up replacements. You’ll find them in the Philosophy section, the Psychology section, the Science section, and (Someone help you) the UFO Abduction/Tarot/Astrology/Numerology section.

Look no further: you’ll find the closest thing to the Lost Manuals in the science fiction section: the author was Robert A. Heinlein.

An engineer by trade, Heinlein knew that while machines can be duplicated, people can’t be: no set of engineering instructions could apply to several billion individuals. He gave basic working diagrams; folks would have to jury-rig things from there.

Heinlein wrote fiction because that’s what non-engineers could understand best — and he set his stories in strange lands because things were changing so fast that any land we encounter was bound to be.

Take the Lost Manual titled Getting By When You’re Up the Creek Without a Paddle. Heinlein wrote several versions, each with a different slant. In Tunnel in the Sky teenagers on a two-week survival test find themselves stranded on a virgin planet, probably for good. In Job: A Comedy of Justice a preacher on vacation finds that while God might not play dice with the universe, it’s only because He prefers other games.

In Citizen of the Galaxy a boy is sold into slavery to a crippled beggar … and eventually concludes this was the best thing that ever happened to him. And in Have Space Suit — Will Travel a high school senior is abducted by a UFO, and ultimately finds himself in a distant courtroom appointed Clarence Darrow for the entire human race; this novel comes close to combining all the Lost Manuals into one.

Love — What It Is and How to Survive It: Heinlein wrote this several times, also. In The Door Into Summer a poor inventor lives through his fiancee turning into as much fun after work as Lucrezia Borgia; cryonics and a time machine give him a second shot at love. Time travel also helps Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love find love a second time. It takes him 23 centuries to find the woman of his dreams but it turns out to be his own mother. (See previous Manual.)

As for How to Keep from Going Crazy When Everyone Around You Already Is — Heinlein considered most people “candidates for protective restraint.” Stranger in a Strange Land is Heinlein’s best attempt here. But try figuring out which characters aren’t already crazy.

Fighting Back When You’re Sick of Getting Pushed Around was Heinlein’s favorite topic. His early novel If This Goes On –, included in The Past Through Tomorrow, has a preacher combining the worst of Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, and Orel Roberts elected president; a century later a Masonic Cabal is taking on the American theocracy run by the Prophet Incarnate. Methuselah’s Children (also in TPTT) has Lazarus Long’s tribe fleeing Earth to escape genocide.

Heinlein wrote four other novels of revolution. In Sixth Column super-science drives out the Pan-Asian conquerors of America. In Red Planet colonial rebels on Mars seek Martian help against absentee rulers on Earth. In Between Planets the rebellion stretches from Venus to Mars: this is my nomination for Robert A. Heinlein’s best-written novel.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is Heinlein’s libertarian classic — the Atlas Shrugged of science fiction. The revolution is on the moon; its leaders have read Ayn Rand; and one of them, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, is based on Heinlein’s old buddy, Robert LeFevre of Rampart College.

Robert A. Heinlein, in his half-century career, wrote over 45 books selling forty million copies worldwide. A mindful history will place him alongside Dickens and Twain.

We must cry that his pen has been set down for the last time: we can rejoice at the immense lost legacy he has regained for us.

When SEK3 passed I wrote the following:

I first met Sam in 1971 in New York City, at the first libertarian meeting I ever attended, the New York Libertarian Association, in libertarian attorney Gary Greenberg’s living room. I’d already started a campus libertarian group at the branch of City University of New York I was attending. Sam, a believer in the “libertarian alliance” concept of stringing together libertarian groups, immediately found this naive 18-year-old worth talking to.

We found out almost immediately that we shared an interest in science fiction (particularly Robert A. Heinlein) and the works of C.S. Lewis, whose Narnian chronicles I’d read as a child. Sam was only the second other person in my life I’d met who had read Heinlein, and the first other person I’d met who’d read Lewis. It was Sam who told me that Lewis had written more than the Narnian children’s books, introduced me to Lewis’s nonfiction and adult fiction, and took me to my first meeting of the C.S. Lewis Society of New York, which we attended together regularly. Sam also took me to my first science-fiction convention, 1971′s Lunacon, in New York City, to my first world science-fiction convention, Torcon, in Toronto, ON, in 1973, and to my first meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS). We joined the just-formed Southern California C.S. Lewis Society together in 1975, and Sam and I each served on its governing council for a number of terms.

In New York, Sam took me to lectures where I met Murray Rothbard, introduced me to the writings of Ludwig von Mises, took me to my first libertarian conference at Hunter College in New York City, where I first met Robert LeFevre, and we audited recorded playings of the Brandens’ Basic Principles of Objectivism lectures together, also at Hunter College.

And, Sam and I tooled around New York City, searching out “underground gourmet” restaurants, and always (on the first day when possible) catching the latest Woody Allen movie or the latest James Bond movie.

Sam was a speaker at both of the libertarian CounterCon conferences on countereconomics I organized in 1974 and 1975.

We left New York together to come out to the promised land, Southern California, where he lived the rest of his life, except for two years in Las Vegas. Our automobile journey west with two other libertarians (Bob “Kedar” Cohen and Andy Thornton), in July and August 1975, took us to the Rivercon science fiction convention in Louisville,KY, and to the home of science-fiction magazine publisher Richard E. Geis in Portland, before we arrived in Los Angeles on August 10, 1975, where we spent our first night sleeping on the apartment floor of Dana Rohrabacher, Sam’s libertarian mentor, and now U.S. Congressman from Orange County, CA. Even today Congressman Rohrabacher still speaks fondly of Sam’s genius and imagination.

Dana introduced us to independent filmmaker Chris Schaefer, who managed an apartment complex in Long Beach. This became the AnarchoVillage (named after Sam’s recent six-floor walk-up apartment on East 11th Street in NYC which he’d dubbed the AnarchoSlum) and we lived two apartments away from each other until 1984. Many, many days were spent collating, folding, stapling, and mailing out magazines (many with articles of mine) with eating and drinking afterwards. When I was broke in those days, Sam was always happy to pick up the check and lay a “meal ob” on me, a concept we got from Eric Frank Russell’s libertarian SF novel, The Great Explosion.

A few years later I returned the favor when I set Sam up in an apartment he dubbed the AnarchoVilla, on Overland Avenue in Culver City. That apartment was production central for my book publishing. Sam was the production backbone and book designer for every book that came out from Pulpless.Com, and a talented graphic artist for many of the covers.

So, continue the tradition. Heinlein probably wouldn’t care what’s in your glass if you’re making a toast to them; but Sam had a firm belief that any beer you could see through wasn’t worth drinking.

Unless, of course that’s all that’s left in the bathtub.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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