Further reporting from the Los Angeles Times today confirms my previous impression that Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista shooter, chose to sustain his own feelings of inferiority. And more than ever I’m convinced that the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Department is incompetent to connect even paint-by-number dots.

“Elliot Rodger reportedly became increasingly isolated, sometimes by his own design. He complained that he couldn’t make friends, but acquaintances said in interviews that he rebuffed their attempts to be friendly….

One night last summer, officials said, he went to a party and tried to shove women who were sitting on a ledge. Several men intervened and pushed Rodger off the ledge instead, and he injured his ankle.

He was treated at a clinic for his injuries, and police showed up to interview him. In theory, this was an opening for an official intervention. But the officers determined that Rodger was “not a victim,” a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman said Sunday, and that he had instigated the altercation.

In sum, Rodger rejected those who wanted to be friends, which suggests that he chose his own hell of isolation. Whether he did this unconsciously or because stepping out of that prison where he’d lived so long would have been too scary may never be known.

As for the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Department, it’s reasonable to say that its investigators demonstrated the perspicacity of Inspector Clouseau and the foresight of Mr. Magoo. When a young man at a party tried to injure some women and was himself injured, they ignored the ankle injury’s precipitating action and focused only on whether to press charges against the male defenders.

If the SBSD had been in charge of the Boston Marathon bombings investigation and found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in that boat, wounded by gunfire, they’d have let him walk after determining he was “not a victim.”

{ 1 comment }

There is something terribly off to me about Elliot Rodger’s video and literary cris de coeur about not being able to get any from young women in Isla Vista, the town that’s adjacent to the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus.

“I’ve been alone for a very long time. I’ve been attending college in Santa Barbara for 2 and half years now. And in those 2.5 years I’ve experienced nothing but loneliness and misery,” he said in a YouTube video.

“It doesn’t make sense. I do everything I can to appear attractive to you,” Rodger said in a message to women in general. “I dress nice. I’m sophisticated. I’m magnificent. I have a nice car… I’m the ultimate gentleman. And yet, you girls you never give me a chance. I don’t know why.”

The why, I suspect, was that the young man (unconsciously, I assume) went out of his way to not hook up with a young woman as a way of validating his feelings of inferiority. To have sex with women would entail belonging to a club who would have him as a member and thereby blow apart his worldview in which he’s not good enough.

I offer these armchair psychiatric opinions because Isla Vista is renowned—infamous, actually—for its easy sexual action for anyone not Quasimodo, and Rodger wasn’t. On Thursday-Saturday nights, the streets, particularly Del Playa Drive, which runs from the campus west along a bluff above the beach, are a moveable Bacchanalia.

In fact, according to Princeton Review’s annual ranking of party schools, UCSB is currently ranked number two in the nation. The only surprise is that it’s not number one.

A few years ago I spent a lot of time in Isla Vista, investigating the wrongful conviction of a young man for rape. The subtext of the whole sorry, tragic mess was the area’s party atmosphere, where almost anything goes at any time, all of it fueled by copious amounts of alcohol as the sheriffs and university officials look the other way.

One city worker told me that the morning crews in charge of cleaning the sidewalks and small corner parks regularly find used condoms and discarded panties. It seems that not getting laid in Isla Vista is significantly harder than getting laid.

That Rodger so clearly needed psychiatric help which he wasn’t getting is obvious. I wonder why his family, who knew enough to alert the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Department to his ravings, didn’t intervene personally by, say, taking him home.

For that matter, I wonder why the sheriffs didn’t bother connecting the dots between his ravings, his previous contacts with them, and the state’s gun registry, which would have noted three rather recent legal purchases.

Actually, I don’t wonder. And for good reason. Owing to my experience with the department regarding that wrongful rape conviction, which was abominably botched (criminally so, in my opinion), I have just above zero respect for the Santa Barbara sheriffs. So their not connecting the dots is, to me, just S.O.P.

It’s Isla Vista, Jake.

{ 0 comments }

President Obama promised to “fundamentally transform” America. Mission accomplished, sir.

Unfortunately, transformation is a qualitatively neutral word. Knives can transform a Rembrandt into rags the way fire transforms a house to ashes.

That’s about what ObamaCare has done to my healthcare.

As a freelancer, for most of 30 years I bought health insurance directly from providers on individual policies, and it worked perfectly well. Pretty much every doctor I ever visited or wanted to visit was on whatever plan I happened to be covered by at the time. This came in particularly helpful late last year, when I had a bad bicycle accident that required (a) a trip in an ambulance, and (b) surgery on my left leg.

While recovering, I learned that my wife’s and my policy would be canceled as not being ACA compliant. Apparently it didn’t have pediatric dental or maternity coverage. Since we’re both past the age of both and had no dependents at home, this seemed ridiculous but not terrible after we were informed that we could go right back to Anthem Blue Cross and buy an ACA-approved policy.

Our new policy was far more expensive than the previous one, but it had the advantage of—well, it didn’t have an advantage. In fact, it came with the disadvantage of having to deal with Anthem at a time when everyone else was trying to, too. Sparing you all the details, I’ll just say that our saga that began on November 25—and has included more than 40 calls, three letters, four faxes, four communications with the CEO’s office, and at least 70 hours either speaking with someone or on hold—has yet to conclude.

Anthem still can’t get our billing right because the bureaucracy prevents any single employee from looking at both enrollment records and billing records. This company that used to have acceptable customer service now makes USPS look like Nordstrom.

No wonder. There’s no need anymore for accountability. With customers locked in, healthcare in the individual market is a monopoly that has zero consequences for atrocious wait times, utter incompetence, and poor performance.

Still, that’s the least of the problems ObamaCare has caused me. Worse is that, in February, after an MRI taken because of persistent excruciating pain in the injured leg, my surgeon concluded that I needed three, possibly four, maybe five surgeries in the next 12-18 months, all performed sequentially with periods in-between for healing.

“Great,” I said, “let’s do it. I’d like to walk normally again.”

“Okay,” he said, “let’s schedule them.”

“Not so fast,” said the woman who runs his office. “We’re not on the exchange”—Covered California.

“Neither am I,” I said. “I bought my policy directly from Anthem.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she explained. “All individual policies were pushed onto the exchange.”

A phone call that afternoon to Anthem’s executive offices confirmed this. I pointed out that when I’d signed up and asked about the exchange, I was told that this policy had nothing to do with it because we weren’t getting a subsidy. In response, the woman adopted the deadly voice of a civil servant and noted that all individual policies had been moved to the exchange. Period.

“Why?” I asked, “because enrollment figures were low?”

“Will there be anything else?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “a new orthopedic surgeon.” I love this guy. He’s been our orthopod for a dozen years, since miraculously repairing my wife’s arms after her biking accident turned one elbow into pixie dust.

The Anthem lady referred me to the website’s list of providers, where I learned that I’d lost not just my surgeon, but every doctor I’ve seen for 30 years, from dermatologist to internist.

It was no surprise to read in the LA Times that up to 80 percent of specialists aren’t participating in the exchange, thanks to the low reimbursement rates. Frankly, I don’t blame the doctors for saying no. And just as frankly, I wouldn’t want to be treated by a doctor who’s desperate enough to look through the sofa cushions for small change.

How about paying the out-of-network rate? Nope. In essence, there is no more out-of-network rate. According to the woman in the Anthem executive offices, policy holders must be out of pocket $5,000 before being reimbursed at 60 percent.

But even that pittance is misleading. The five grand is on what Anthem and Anthem alone determines to be reasonable and customary, so in practice it’s probably ten or fifteen grand—even more.

To put a bow on it, my wife and I now pay almost $2,000 a month for theoretically excellent coverage (hooray for pediatric dental and maternity), except for the fact that we can’t use it anywhere.

If I were younger I’d cancel the policy and tell them to stuff it. But at a certain age making an FU statement like that is unwise. True, I won’t be getting on a bicycle again soon, maybe ever (and the same may apply to walking, especially with this metal plate still in there). But accidents do happen. And if one does, I want to be able to pretend that I’m actually covered.

I was born during Eisenhower’s time in the White House, which means I’ve lived under 11 presidents—a fourth of those who’ve ever held the office—and without doubt the president who has impacted me most directly is Obama. You might even say he’s fundamentally transformed my life.

Hey, see those strips of canvas with paint on them? I promise, they’re a Rembrandt.

{ 1 comment }

Gordon Willis, the renowned cinematographer, died on Sunday. If he had shot only the two Godfather films, he’d still be mourned as a serious artist. I never met the man but I do have a personal story that says as much about him as it does the wannabe culture of Los Angeles.

It happened on a Friday morning in spring 1979. My (then) girlfriend and I left Malibu at about eight o’clock for the hour drive in heavy traffic to Westwood, where we were eager to get in line for the first showing of Woody Allen’s newest film, Manhattan. In the days before multiplexes, even A-list films played in only a few theaters located several zip codes apart.

Sure enough, the line was already formed when we got there, and would quickly grow long enough to sell out—this for a weekday 10 am showing of not the next blockbuster in the Star Wars saga but a Woody Allen film. Everyone was sure he would atone for his last film, Interiors, his stab at a Bergmanesque family drama so intentionally devoid of humor that it was unintentionally hilarious. That it had followed Annie Hall magnified our disappointment with it.

The atmosphere in the auditorium buzzed. Judging by the chatter, I doubt there was anyone among the several hundred people who didn’t know that (a) the film was shot in black and white, and (b) Allen was again working with his favorite cinematographer, Gordon Willis. This was, after all, L.A., where residency is supposed to confer company-town familiarity with everyone and everything Hollywood.

When the lights dimmed, several voices actually ssshed the crowd, something I’d never heard. Once it was dark, the opening notes of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue brought sighs of contentment—except for one thing. The images that had faded in onscreen were blurred. What?

After 20 or 30 seconds of this, I began shouting, “Focus!” Maybe because I’d already done it, no one else yelled. Or maybe it was because, well—

“Hey, man,” the guy behind me said, tapping me on the shoulder, “it’s Gordon Willis.”

I looked at him like the idiot he was, turned back around, and shouted “Focus, focus, focus, focus…” Some people actually ssshed me, including the guy behind me.

A few moments later the film stopped and the house lights came on. A young man ran down in front of the screen and apologetically explained that the film had arrived just minutes before the showing, so they hadn’t had time to correct the throw, which apparently was different because of the black and white photography.  He said they were already rewinding and would start the film again in mere seconds.

The lights went down, the music came up, and onscreen appeared gorgeous tableaux of New York City, one shot after another composed like paintings.

After several of them, I turned around to the guy behind me and, with barely suppressed glee, said, “Now that’s Gordon Willis.”

R.I.P.

{ 2 comments }

The Los Angeles Times—which intentionally ignored allegations that presidential candidate John Edwards was having an extramarital affair; which has all but ignored the IRS’s targeting of tea-part groups since Lois Lerner invoked the Fifth in front of Congress; which has refused to investigate the death of four Americans, including an ambassador, in Benghazi last fall—finally has a scandal worth devoting 2,200 words to:

Adult film actress Sarah Shevon drove up the Pacific Coast Highway one spring evening last year to a job she said her talent agent had booked for her at a gated Malibu estate on Dume Drive.

Shevon said she came dressed as instructed in a plaid “schoolgirl” skirt and a white blouse knotted up at her midriff, expecting to make $300 to act in a sex scene on camera.

After parking her green 1997 Toyota Tercel in front of the five-bedroom Mediterranean villa, Shevon said, she walked in and met her costar, a well-dressed man who asked to be called “Mr. Rich.”

The performer also acted as camera operator, she said, but he was no pro.

“Mr. Rich,” the 29-year-old actress believes, was Richard Nanula, who until last month was chairman of the Miramax film company and a principal at the private equity firm Colony Capital.

Nanula, 53, resigned from those positions July 7 after two websites published video images of a man they identified as Nanula having sex with adult film actress Samantha Saint.

And this is a scandal worthy of the front business page why?

Indeed, the story is full of breathlessly stupid observations designed to somehow make us think that this is genuinely in the public interest.

In the adult entertainment industry, it’s known as a “private”: an intimate, off-camera encounter between a porn actress and a paying customer.

Two years ago, Sarah Shevon said, fellow actress Trinity St. Clair asked her to perform a private with a man at a Malibu home. Oral sex would be expected for a $1,500 fee. Shevon said she saw it as an act of prostitution and declined. …

Shevon says she acted in a film that included a sex scene with a man she believes was Hollywood executive Richard Nanula.

“I don’t like how there are these guys who have a lot of money and power and they feel like they can just take advantage of girls or get whatever they want out of them by throwing money at them,” she said.

Right. A porn actress who has sex for money, but only if the cameras are rolling, complains that rich guys feel like they can buy what they want.  Who knew?!

Here’s a reminder of what the LA Times said two weeks ago about Roman Polanski: that he was

convicted of having sex with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977…

Got that? A middle-age man drugs and forces himself on a 13-year-old, and to the Times it’s just sex.

Now let’s recall what Times reviewer Kenneth Turan had to say in 1995 about Miramax‘s Kids, a truly disturbing film that begins with a 16-year-old boy deflowering a 12-year-old girl, a scene that Turan described thusly:

Directed in neo-documentary style by photographer Larry Clark in his feature debut, “Kids” follows the exploits, such as they are, of teen-age Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick), known to intimates as “the virgin surgeon.” The film opens with him operating on his next victim, and then, in the most explicit language screenwriter Harmony Korine could dream up, sharing all the details with his drooling pal Caspar (Justin Pierce).

And yet a divorced man whose sexual life ought to be between himself and his partners finds himself taken down by a newspaper that has no consistent standards.  It would not be unreasonable to suspect that the Times was asked by someone—an enemy of Nanula—to devise what can only be termed a shameless hit piece.

When the Koch brothers were said to be interested in purchasing the Times, the newsroom threatened mass resignations.  How ironic.  Under the Kochs ownership, it’s a good bet that this story would never have been assigned.

If sexual propriety is the new standard for covering film executives, will we soon see in the Times a piece on the prominent exec who is also the author of gay-porn books?  I hope not.

{ 1 comment }

Thought For the Days

July 16, 2013

Let’s say you’re the author of the greatest mystery story ever told. Do you give away the big secret before the end, knowing that a lot of people won’t bother with the rest?  Or do you ignore the constant carping and let everyone get to the ending on their own?

Just asking.

{ 6 comments }