Friday, July 11th, 2014

To Karl Ove Knausgård, Re: Your Tortured Feelings for the Gays

karloveDear Karl Ove,

I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you, but as curious as I've been about your work, I had to overcome my suspicion and jealousy resulting from the onslaught of critical praise and (though I wish I could ignore such things) rock-star photographs of your L'Oreal hair and heavy smoking habit. In any case, with the understanding that the third volume of My Struggle (Boyhood Island) was recently published in the U.S., I just finally finished the first one (A Death in the Family). I have to admit, I was impressed by the opening section. Your meditation on the decay of a human body and the ensuing memory of the narrator (also "Karl Ove") as a young, sensitive boy, who in the course of watching a news report sees a mysterious face emerge above a choppy sea, were mesmerizing. When, in the next scene, your father mockingly asks if you had seen Jesus, before telling you to forget about it, his aloof disregard of your excitement seems monstrous; in just a few pages, you had established the conflict of a lifetime, and I looked forward to being immersed in its slow resolution.

Granted, the next few hundred pages were not quite as exciting as you meandered between episodes of teen partying, heterosexual groping, and playing in bad cover bands, but the strategy is understandable: A 450-page book cannot always be on fire. Thankfully, you returned to form when, as an adult character, you took us to your grandmother's house, where your father, having divorced and fallen on hard times, had been living in squalor before dying of a heart attack. Your unresolved anger toward him, along with your growing ambivalence for your older brother—whom you once revered—and your grandmother, an alcoholic who wavers in and out of sanity, was rendered with insight and, at moments, harrowing detail.

Karl Ove, in the spirit of honesty, I must tell you that, despite my genuine admiration for the above, I also had some real problems with this book that I would like to address with you now, with the hope that you (or perhaps one of the many reviewers who failed to bring this same concern to light) can respond to me. To put my objections in plain terms, your book made you seem like a bigoted, macho asshole—someone who on one hand purports to revere an entire roster of great homosexual artists and writers of the past century (but without ever mentioning their homosexuality), while on the other castigates homosexuality in a winking, assumed manner that has long been the bane of the worst kind of Hollywood movies. No surprise (since homophobia and misogyny are so often conjoined): Your understanding of gender seems equally rigid, and made me wonder if you are aware that not everyone falls into the same Tarzan/Jane dichotomy with which you view the world, and are all that much happier as a result.

Let's take a look at a few of the offending passages I marked in the course of reading your book.

• "I could control myself. She had a nice body, but there was something boyish about her humor and manner that seemed to cancel out her breasts and hips."

• "Nor could I ask [my friend] to open the bottle for me, that was too homo."

• "I could open bottles with my teeth, perhaps it wouldn't seem so homo."

• "We never hugged. We weren't the sort of guys who would hug."

• "What was more important was that the embroidered blouse and the Sami shoes were not [my father]. And that he had slipped into this, entered this formless, uncertain, almost feminine world."

• "He twisted his neck and patted some hair into place. He had always had that mannerism, but there was something about his shirt and those trousers, which were so profoundly alien to him, that suddenly made it seem effeminate."

• "[Going to an adult video store] was incompatible with everything a normal life entailed, and most of those who went there were normal men…[but] I had no idea, this was foreign territory for me…"

•Even though the suitcase was heavy I carried it by the handle as I walked into the departure hall. I detested the tiny wheels, first of all because they were feminine, thus not worthy of a man, a man should carry, not roll. [Something I can't find about the fear of sleeping in the same bed as your brother—as if you might wake up and find yourself fucking him—but at least having a separate duvet; this fear is similar to what we call "gay panic" in the United States, which still crops up now and again as a murder defense. "Your honor, that faggot winked at me and I had to kill him!"]



New York City, July 9, 2014

weather review sky 070914★★★ Morning was sweaty without being hot. Across what had earlier been blue sky, a solid strip of gray had formed, seeming to match the width and position of Manhattan. It stayed there for quite a while. By afternoon, it was gone, and the air was less damp and more pleasant–too pleasant, in fact, to help bake off the effects of the air conditioning when one fled to the fire escape. The gentle breezes were the answer to some unrelated problem. The clouds came back, to gather into dramatic late-day compositions of slate and ivory and rose. One ray of light broke through to light up one street corner, in golden isolation.


Beauty and Ruin in Pigeon Forge

dolllyyyyIn May, Dolly Parton returned from promoting her new album, Blue Smoke, to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the celebration she hosts every year: the Dollywood Homecoming Parade. Thousands gathered along the stretch of U.S. Route 441 known as Dolly Parton Parkway, from stoplight number six to stoplight number three. The devoted sat in strategically placed lawn chairs; the less eager watched from roadside hotel balconies. My boyfriend and I stood in the median of the parkway, opposite a spiraling bumper-car attraction, and watched as the first few floats passed: veterans, students, and an official contingent from the City of Pigeon Forge. A marching band played “9 to 5” and then “Islands in the Stream.”

Then, there she was: a bright yellow flare in the distance, her arrival prefigured by ranks of superfans moving up the side of the road, wearing matching T-shirts. Dolly, in a button-up yellow minidress, braided blonde wig, and long red claws, advanced into the foreground atop a float advertising the FireChaser Express, a firetruck-themed roller coaster at her amusement park, Dollywood, a few miles up the road. “Hi, Dolly!” people called up at her. Cops and bodyguards walked alongside. She waved and passed. The parade went on. The next float was a giant horse’s head rising from an American flag—another ad, for Dixie Stampede, Dolly's four-course dinner theater.

The Dollywood parade is the centerpiece of a new book, Pilgrimage to Dollywood: A Country Music Road Trip through Tennessee, by Helen Morales, a classics professor at the University of California–Santa Barbara and a lifelong Dolly Parton superfan. Morales’s father was a Greek Cypriot immigrant to the U.K., where he ran a restaurant; he told her when she was a child that Parton’s music, much of it rooted in an experience of poverty and a determination to overcome obstacle, was “our music.” Because she felt then like an outsider, Morales took solace from the Parton oeuvre:

I would often feel, to quote the lyrics of Dolly Parton’s song “Fish out of Water,” like “they’re caviar and you’re fish sticks.” (It was a while before someone explained to me that “fish sticks” is American for “fish fingers.”)

Morales isn’t a critic, just an effervescent observer, and a delightful, slightly goofy narrator. She writes more to satisfy herself than with any particular thesis. In Pilgrimage, a sort of travelogue, Morales flies her family to Memphis before they sweep eastward to Pigeon Forge, with Morales offering various observations along the way, ranging from the deeply banal (“To think about Elvis is to think about America: its history and its values”) to the totally interesting, like when she locates roots of the phrase “white trash” in a series of old pseudoscientific research called Eugenic Family Studies, which sought to prove that poor white people were inferior due to mixed-race ancestry.

Morales is moved by a general dissatisfaction with Santa Barbara, which she finds too sunny, too shiny—“where quinoa is considered a food group, and camping a moral imperative.” Funny, then, that she would latch onto Dolly Parton, who projects an undimmed sunniness—although Parton is distinct from California insofar as in California, the sun is real. But Morales believes that there is something meaningful beneath the facade, or perhaps because of it. Parton’s visual aesthetic isn’t separate from her music, her lyrics, or her various business concerns—an early practitioner in the fine art of image management, she’s constructed the whole package work to her favor, while still maintaining an aura of relatability. “My image get in my way?” Parton once said in response to an interviewer’s question. “Ya gotta be crazy. It’s my image that gets me most everything I want. I created the whole thing.”



Introducing… Shirterate

People often ask us what's next for our company. We've spent a lot of time surveying the Internet landscape, and, while the land rush into the content arena has been gratifying to watch for those of us who've worked in the "space" since long before there was a venture capital invasion, we really feel that the future of the Internet is in serving individuals. One by one. Artisanally. Particularly high net worth individuals. So we'd like to invite you to visit our new project, Shirterate.


A Poem by Maureen Miller

Voices from the Field

He reigns over me like a meadowlark in the meadowlands.
Underground wiretap. They buried my heart under the stadium stands.
Some of us have to work for a living. Saviour, my sin, my paisan!
Pobody,not even the nerfect,has a fetish for his peeling calloused hands.

He sticks it in me with his workman's hands.
I want a man with a ruddy tinted hand.
I want a man with a slowhand.

Do you venerate your dad?
Who watches Watchung Avenue?
My prayer hands fuss Holstein Manti mantilla.
Squawkbox mezzo soprano while I kneel at altar rail bands.

My turnpike binoculars see the ancestral homeland tenements. Semper sperans.
Montclair as Mont Blanc (poem), but with Parker pens.

But listen to your side stitch. Don’t write poetry.
The hand that rocked me slapped me out that sleep.
The money’s in spec screenplays. You can’t eat your spikes, sweets.
You steeplechase with bench-pressed Princetons who thought they hit a triple jump heat.
Born meters in, methinks I hit a puddle for the entrance fee.


Death of a Mr. Dream

ultimateinlolThe first Mr. Dream show was on Halloween night, 2008 in a New York City apartment.
Adam Moerder, Matt Morello, and Nick Sylvester dressed up as Dhalsim from Street Fighter, Daniel Day-Lewis and “the Karate Kid [after] letting himself go (concept costume),” respectively, and played to a room that included “two furious girls who kept trying to dance and failing, since you can't really dance to a band that sounds like Nirvana, or the Wipers.” Over the next five years the band would go on to release a few EPs and an LP; tour with Archers of Loaf, Sleigh Bells, CSS, and Cloud Nothings; and sing in the chorus at LCD Soundsystem’s final show.

On Monday, the band released its final, posthumous album, “Ultimate In Luxury,” which you can stream here. Sylvester and Moerder are both friends, so I reached out to do a little postmortem for Mr. Dream and the handful of scorched-earth punk records they left behind.

So tell me about the birth of Mr. Dream. You two have known each other since college, right? What led to starting the band?

Nick Sylvester: Five years ago I would have said something like “pure and utter disgust for chillwave.” The truth is more banal. I knew Adam from the Lampoon, and I knew Matt through a mutual friend named Win Ruml. The three of us were all looking to make music at around the same time in 2008. We went to a Jay Reatard show together at Europa and knew that was the kind of music we needed to be making: something loud and fast and stripped down. It looked like a lot of fun to play that kind of music.

I would describe Mr. Dream's music as sort of hyperkinetic lit-punk, or like, the sound of pissed-off New Yorkers playing music that sounds like F-18s. Please improve on this description.

NS: That was always the blessing and the curse of this band. People heard we went to Harvard or wrote for Pitchfork and assumed the music was much more deliberate than it actually was. I don’t recall any literary references in any of our songs.

AM: I like to think that Mr. Dream’s sound predicted the pummeling rage and anguish one finds on every day. READ MORE


National Geographic Is Calling All Modern Day Explorers

Brought to you by National Geographic

Whether you prefer to explore in the outback or under a microscope, National Geographic is looking for the next generation of explorers in any field to submit their dream project for "Expedition Granted," where one person’s proposed expedition will be fueled by $50,000. 

Check out this video featuring Brain Games host Jason Silva, who shows you how to submit your big idea at Whether your goal is to secure a future for captive wildlife or bring music lessons to those who can't afford them, National Geographic and their incredible advisory council want to see your vision. 

To see other innovative project ideas that have already been submitted, head over to, where you can vote for your favorite finalist from September 16-29 to help them win the $50,000! This nationwide competition was developed in partnership with National Geographic, 21st Century FOX and sponsors the Jeep brand and Dos Equis.


What $2000 Gets You in Brownstone Brooklyn

Charming and unique large one bedroom in landmarked brownstone – extremely bright, 10 high sloped ceilings, SKYLIGHT in each room – no side windows, original hardwood floors*, renovated kitchen and bathroom, no side windows. Located on a prime block in Brooklyn Heights, no side windows, Blocks from all major MTA subway lines, no side windows.


Short distance to the Promenade and the Brooklyn Bridge, Restaurant Row on Smith Street, shopping on Court Street, no side windows, Atlantic Street and Montague Street, no side windows. Minutes to Manhattan, Wall Street and Midtown, NO SIDE WINDOWS.

*no side windows


OK, Cupid?

< 3In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Cupid is notorious not for his successful matches but for his catastrophic ones. Pluto and Proserpina, Apollo and Daphne, Paris and Helen: none of these unions ended well. Instead of churning out soft children and sunshine, these matches produced winter, the bay leaf, and the Trojan War.

I’ve been in a long relationship, so long in fact we’ve forgotten about marriage all together and we simply say we’re married. I’ve vicariously been living this millennia and its social media outlets through friends—many of whom have found love, pleasurable sex, free quality meals, and sometimes even friends through OKCupid. I decided to sign up and build a profile just because I was curious about whether or not my long-term partner, Nick, and I would be matched up by OKCupid’s (tried and true) algorithm. I wasn’t worried about the outcome: something as ridiculous as a website couldn’t taint our relationship. Right?

On a warm day in May, Nick and I sat across from each other at our kitchen table and filled out our respective profiles. We answered approximately 108 questions each, ranging from the practical “Are you a liberal?” to the hypothetical “Could nuclear war be interesting?”

An hour and a half later our profiles were as complete as we were willing for them to be. Nick finished first, and I allowed myself to ask him how he’d finished so quickly. (We weren’t discussing our process; we were trying to be as scientific as possible. It was important, we thought, not to contaminate the experiment by conferring with each other.) He asked if I was filling out the explanation part of the survey, a section at the bottom where you can individualize your responses by adding more to either clarify or further confuse your position.

I was, and it was slowing me down. When I got to the question, “If you turn a left-handed glove inside out which hand would it fit?” my instinct said the right hand, but I didn’t want to get it wrong—what kind of future spouse would that provide?—so I Googled it to be sure. I watched a Youtube video where a guy turns a black left-handed glove inside out and proceeds to put it on his right hand. Voila! It was now a right-handed glove.

The next one asked whether or not I’d be okay with someone who answered the question differently. I answered no, despite the fact that I didn’t give a shit about the glove question as a testament to personality or intellect as much as I did about the questions regarding politics and personal beliefs. But if my potential partners didn’t know the answer nor could be bothered to even Google it, then what use would they be to me? The questions continued, and I provided what I felt were honest and eloquent explanations for my answers to often stilted questions, and I wondered: would Nick’s refusal to explain his rationale and my question/answer diligence prove that we are an ill-fated match?  READ MORE


Lil Silva, "Mabel"

A breathy and beautiful track accompanied by a cool tribute to gray old England, where the Sun's light is missing like a quarter of the visible spectrum but everybody's too hardy to say anything about it. [Via]


"The survey of more than 2,500 Americans found that about 1 in 4 said they had experienced a 'great deal' of stress in the previous month. And these stressed-out people said one of the biggest contributors to their day-to-day stress was watching, reading or listening to the news."


Fear of a Rich Foreign Buyer

The most recent New York mag cover story is a fascinating and seemingly overdue look at the flood of foreign money into the New York real estate market, and in particular at "stash pads," which are, despite their prime locations, little more than apartment-shaped financial contrivances. It's got it all! High-rise towers in which the majority of tenants are simply presumed foreign, since their identities are masked by shell corporations; whispers of international crime syndicates; blind money men sending buyer-tourists to make all-cash deals that squeeze even affluent city-dwellers out of the market; a subtext (possibly the PRETEXT for the piece, also?), of course, about the loss, under the pressure of so much cash, of some sort of essential city character. The story starts:

At a time when many New Yorkers are doubtful about making any long-term investments in their city, one form of residential real estate is drawing millions of foreign and corporate dollars—the luxury condo.

The glass-walled towers with their sweeping views and six-figure price tags are proving popular with corpor—

Haha, six figures, wait, never mind, this is a 1976 New York Times article about almost the exact same thing. READ MORE


New York City, July 8, 2014

★★ Armpits. Men had given up or allowed themselves to give up and were walking around wearing tank tops. Early clouds, separated by fissures of blue, had drawn briefly together and then dispersed, leaving the sun impeded. Leaves tossed in a not at all cooling wind. A truck forced its way through a crosswalk, sending its rear wheels up over the curb for extra emphasis. A man with a butterfly of sweat darkening the back of his pale orange shirt body-checked his way off the B train, desperate to reach the A across the platform. Up on the street, a woman fanned herself with a folding fan in mid-stride, then folded it away again. BMW motorcycles, plural, were parked at the curb, and Vespas, with innumerable bicycles up on the sidewalk. The air in the shade felt hot and solid; the sun hurt. The buildings on Broadway needed to be taller. Even toward dusk, as the departing light traced the verticals on the Empire State Building, it was still stifling out. Only long after dark did a sudden rush of wind relieve it. READ MORE


Jerry Paper, “Real. Now. Love.”

Listen to this song from the other room, and over the sound of your fan, and you might hear a young Stephin Merritt fiddling around with a Casiotone. It's small and loose, and not to be turned up too loud. [Via]


What Did Your First Job Pay Then and What Does It Pay Now?

FlairWhat did your first job pay? What does it pay now? Here are some of the many fascinating answers we've received, with more to come.  

I graduated USC school of journalism in 1963 and got a job on a daily paper called the San Gabriel Valley Daily Tribune. It is still in existence in L.A. county. I was fully trained to write about everything from fires to sports. However it was the olden days and my job was on the Women's Page. I earned $60 a week gross and lived at home to pay off my car. I spent an entire summer writing about brides and their veils of illusion. That was enough.

I took the civil service exam for L.A. county and became a social worker visiting seniors who received old age assistance. At least it was equal pay for equal work and I started at $369 per month, advancing to $389 per month by June 1964 when I got married. We were able to live on that salary as my husband was a medical student. I have no idea what these salaries might be today but I am sure journalists still don't earn much. [Editor's note: The inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says $389 in 1974 money is $1,877 today.] I eventually used my journalism at a social worker three salary to recruit foster homes for child welfare services until I quit when Joey was born in 1968.


My first temporary non-babysitting job was while I was an undergraduate at McGill. In 1963, through the university employment office, I got a job putting an eyebrow pencil and a clear plastic eyebrow template into cellophane bags, placing a foldover label at the top, and stapling them shut. I was paid by the piece, and I don't remember how much, but given the times, it could not have been more than a couple of cents per bag. I performed my duties in the empty basement of my employer's brother's shoe store. It was in the days before iPods or even Walkmen, so it was BORING. When the entire job was finished, I went into tutoring, which was a distinct improvement.

My first full-time job was in 1967 at the IBM Datacenter in Montreal, as a junior programmer.  Even though I had had a full summer of training (by IBM), I was singularly mediocre. Nonetheless, I persisted, as the pay (beginning at $3,900 and reaching $4,100 per annum by the time I left a year later), and the benefits were far better than for other jobs I could have gotten at the time. As I recall, a job at a major bank as a management trainee paid probably $500-600 less, and a job with the Canadian government–probably in the frozen wastelands of Northern Quebec–paid about the same as the banks. I don't know what my IBM job would pay nowadays, but I would think it would be at least 10 times what I was getting in 1967-68. BTW, as a woman, I was paid less than my equally feckless male counterparts.


Ask Polly: My Boyfriend Thinks I'm Clingy and This Terrifies Me

champsDear Polly,

I’m writing with a deceptively simple question. How can I be vulnerable? Some pertinent background: I’m an academic, working in a field that requires me to live in very remote places for extended periods of time. I find my work incredibly engaging and rewarding, and I know I’m lucky in this regard. Still, the life of an academic (particularly a traveling academic) is often isolating. I don’t have a place to call home. My family is deeply dysfunctional; although I love my parents and siblings, our relationships are fraught and I have never felt unconditionally loved by my parents. I was diagnosed as a child with OCD, and spent a great deal of my youth feeling broken and inadequate (a feeling my parents intensified by approaching my disorder punitively). From a young age, I learned that I couldn’t count on anyone to take care of me except myself. This stubborn independence has served me well in my chosen field, but it has complicated my relationships. I have wonderful friends scattered across the world, but the distance adds to the wall I have built around myself; I have a hard time truly letting people in.

My romantic relationships have also been complicated–sometimes I settle for men who aren’t a good fit, just because I know I can rely on them. Other times, I ruin relationships because of my raw neediness for love, which leads my partners to take me for granted and belittle me. My current boyfriend is in many ways a great fit—fiercely intelligent, bitingly funny, supportive of the demands of my career—but he thinks of me as "clingy," and this terrifies me. I don’t know if I’m happy in our relationship.
Recently, I underwent a medical crisis that required me to return to the States for treatment. Alone and incapacitated in a city where I knew no one, I had to confront the ways in which I have isolated myself. It’s a paradox: I never hesitate to be there for friends when they’re in crisis, but I can’t be honest about my own insecurities. I feel so grotesquely needy, but I can’t ask for help. I recognize that my desire to be selfless and untouchable is actually selfish—I would be a better friend, a better partner, a better person, if I could be more vulnerable. But how do I do that without morphing into the whiny, broken person I’m so afraid of becoming? How do I balance the demands of my career with my desire for a permanent home and a lifelong relationship? If I give up my work, I fear I’ll let go of my sense of purpose in life.

Thank you so much for any insight you have to this dilemma. I know my question is nebulous and hard to answer, but I always value your insight.

Hard Shell, Soft Chewy Center


I'm so glad you wrote to me, because I've been pondering the paradox of survival vs. vulnerability a lot lately. I look at my two young daughters, twirling in their dresses and giggling and making friends and just generally frolicking with the bubbly rainbow unicorns (when they're not threatening to kill each other with their bare hands), and part of me wants them to be tough, tough, TOUGH more than anything else. I want them to be strong enough and resilient enough to tell all naysayers and girl-haters to fuck themselves. I want them to do exactly what they love with their lives without questioning themselves and wondering what everyone thinks of them every step of the way.

I was tough, thanks to the fact that my parents were pretty focused on toughness. I was extremely sensitive underneath the toughness, of course, but no one needed to know that. I had bluster, swagger and a devil-may-care attitude. I knew I was unique and funny and full of ideas—or at least I knew how to pretend that I was confident in these things.

But the coping methods that get us through a rocky childhood among unyielding parents and critical siblings, the tools that help us survive those Lord of the Flies teen years, the strategies we use to secure graduate degrees and good jobs, the tricks we employ to attract funny, confident, successful men are not always the same things that bring us true happiness and satisfaction in life. They might help up to age 30, but after that, toughness and bluster and overconfidence can seriously hamper hopes for intimacy and stability and long-term satisfaction.



The Prom King on Instagram, 10 Years After the Party

in the jungleWhen I was a junior in high school, I decided that I wanted to become popular. Fortuitously, my scientist parents were about to make the one wanton decision that they would ever make in their lives: leaving me home alone for a weekend, along with my little brother.

Normally ones to frown upon any vacation not spent in a tent, my parents made this special exception for Maine, a place where they could remain on their rigorous work schedule. They’d planned a quintessential rise-at-dawn, sleep-by-dusk experience: stilted breakfast conversations with strangers at inns, jaunts to folksy outlet stores, and long walks along punishing rocky coasts. Lost in their excitement, neither my mother or father seemed to realize that leaving an ungrateful teenager home alone with a car, a finished basement, and over $3,000.00 in personal savings was a formula for total disaster.

I was a barista at my town’s only coffee shop, hence my fortune. Every weekend from 7am to 1pm I served drinks and snacks alongside Leila Rodriguez, the most popular girl in our entire high school. To my complete surprise, Leila and I had become some version of friends: we had been bonded together by our new manager, Mean Carl, who one Saturday had made it abundantly clear that he did not understand Leila’s teenage-royalty status by sternly admonishing her for not saving the leftover cooked bacon.

“We can resell that meat tomorrow,” he said. I responded to the incident by stealthily carving my initials into every crispy strip of pig that I could find, which I told Leila was research for my phone call to the Department of Health. Leila decided that I was hilarious and invited me over for brunch. I toured her bedroom and hung out with her stepmother, who wore a track suit and drank glamorous pink wine to mark the passing of the morning. “It’s five o’clock somewhere!” Mrs. Rodriguez said to me, and I laughed wildly, like someone who’d just seen a monkey in a business suit fall down an entire flight of stairs. READ MORE


Rejects of the Golden Age of Advertising



A Whale of a Safe Space

When Twitter becomes too much, or a particularly noxious tab crosses your browser window, or you simply decide you can't take the Internet anymore, just breathe deeply, and return to this extremely soothing video of the American Museum of Natural History's forty-five-year-old, ten-and-a-half-ton fiberglass blue whale being cleaned. There. There. (via)


Reminder: Still Never Get Sick

Even the generic pills aren't cheap anymore:

There was no drug shortage, according to the Food and Drug Administration, that might explain the [price] increase. There was no new patent or new formulation. Digoxin is not hard to make. What had changed most were the financial rewards of selling an ancient, lifesaving drug and company strategies intended to reap the benefits.

A fun and poetic quality of the American healthcare story is how, even as it gets better, it keeps getting worse: Every sideways step around treatable sickness is nonetheless a forward step closer to death.