2030: A novel by Albert Brooks.


2030:  A novel by Albert Brooks.


Easily one of the most interesting satires on social order of the USA I have seen.  From the pen of Albert Brooks, American actor, writer, comedian and director. He received an Academy Award nomination in 1987 for his role in Broadcast News (Of note- Brooks attended Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh for a year).

There are a multiplicity of characters and interlocking plots, but of most interest to us is his conception of health care in 2031. I will summarize and paraphrase the way I understand them his most interesting vision below.


At some point in the year 2030 the big one, Richter 9.1, hits Los Angeles and completely destroys it. There are no government funds to rebuild, or even care for the 50,000 citizens out in the cold. The national debt, such as it is, in 2030 has reached the point where all the revenue collected by the government only pays off the interest on the payments to the Chinese. So there is little else in the way of government services that haven’t been privatized.  So citizens pay taxes and fees for services.

So the President approaches China for a 20 trillion dollar loan to rebuild the city and deal with the expenses of its citizens. The Chinese politely but firmly say no. The USA has outstripped its ability to even pay the interest in current loans, much less absorb another one. However, always desiring to be helpful, the Chinese premier floats another proposition.

The Chinese will come to Southern California and totally rebuild the city on their dime, using the amazing technology they created. For that service, they will be equal partners in the resulting Los Angeles economy, splitting the profits thereof 50-50% indefinitely. They will own 50% of Los Angeles in perpetuity. And Chinese immigrants moving to that city will get automatic American citizenship.

At some point during these negotiations a sub plot emerges.  A working takes a second job as a security guard to maintain his meager lifestyle, which has become unaffordable. One night he gets shot in the chest by armed punks and is taken to an emergency room followed by a trip to an operating room and a convalescence in an ICU for a while.

Unfortunately, he had not been able to afford his government health insurance premiums for over a year.  Wasn’t much use to him anyway as it only allowed one doctor visit a year and one ED visit every four.  So after he is discharged, he receives a bill for $350,000 and notices of dire collections techniques to get it if not paid quickly.  His adult daughter arrives to pick him up and she’s told their only option is to take out another loan to pay the bill at the usual exorbitant interest rates, which the daughter will be responsible for.

She consults a “never a fee unless we get money for you” lawyer who tells them they are out of luck. The Health Insurance game is bullet proof. No Tickee-No laundry. The lawyer then presented them with a bill for $1000 consultation fee. (The “no fee” only counts if they take the case).

Several days later, the man unexpectedly drops dead in his kitchen and the daughter phones for an ambulance. She is requested to hold the phone over her father’s head and chest for 5 seconds, following which a scan is performed that shows no heartbeat. She’s then advised to cover the body and someone would be around in time to pick up the body.

By 2030, end-of life-care has been directly affected by the religious right wing of a conservative political party perpetually in office. They have successfully lobbied to define “life” at end-of-life as the presence of any form of electrical brain wave. They successfully convinced the Supreme Court that any such brain wave might constitute a “dream”, and no one had the right to disturb it. (The Court disagreed with the opposition who said such a wave might be a nightmare).

So, in 2030, any attempt by any means to terminate a brain wave is defined as murder. Indolent patients pile up in specifically designed warehouses where they are stored until relatives come to visit, whereupon makeup is applied and canned homilies are rendered to families “we think he smiled yesterday”, and “he’s doing a little better today”. Then the rise of Kevorkian clones quietly sneaking in and terminating these hominids at the behest of their longsuffering families much in the likeness of Archibald “Harry” Tuttle (Robert DeNiro) in Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”. “I came into this game for the action, the excitement. Go anywhere, travel light, get in, get out, wherever there’s trouble, a man alone”.

That should be enough to pique your interest if you have any. The book is fascinating, as is the incredibly multi-talented Albert Brooks.

Highly recommended by me.  I give it four and a half of five Borscht Belt Kurt Vonneguts.

Available in Kindle:





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“Frozen”. By Larry Johnson.


Frozen. By Larry Johnson. (Ghostwriter Scott Baldyga) Vanguard Press. 2009.

This is a “tell-all” book about the alleged practices of ALCOR (see http://www.alcor.org), one of several cryopreservation organizations dedicated to preserving personhood awaiting a time when technology is available to reverse an obligatory dying process. It is written by a former employee of ALCOR who allegedly became disillusioned with the organization’s policies and procedures, ultimately implementing a plan to expose them to the media. He then surreptitiously collected data, photos and taped conversations toward that end.

I think the interesting part of this book and all that goes with it has little to do with the veracity of the author’s claims. I make no comment as to the truth or plausibility of the material presented. I will say that some of the allegations concerning a personal friend (not a member of ALCOR at the time Mr. Johnson was there and never having had any contact with him) are based on hearsay and speculation. Some of these accusations are contrary to my personal assessment of several persons involved. So I will leave it to anyone desiring to read the book to form his or her own opinions in this regard.

Although published by an otherwise reputable company, this book encompasses many classic features of the tabloid press. It contains little if anything other than vivid representations of alleged ghastly deeds, described to engender the most prurient interest. Most if not all of the representations cannot be proven definitively. Some of the accusations have already been investigated by the police and others and dismissed or found wanting for evidence. Many of the allegations involve “celebrities” that may have been placed in a position of abuse (the public loves it).

The author has a built in tabloid credibility hook all tabloid aficionados love. He endangered his life to get the story. From an article in the New York Daily News: “He told the Daily News then he had received death threats and was moving from safe house to safe house. Johnson plans to come out of the shadows Tuesday, with his book and an appearance on ABC’s “Nightline.” The day the book hit the streets; the author and his publicist started working the TV news magazine circuit. The NYDN also wrote: “He drew criticism at the time for an aborted attempt to sell photos online purportedly showing Williams’ corpse.”

I read this book from the vantage of someone that knows a little more about the subject matter than the average Joe on the street and so I have a little more information base to criticize it than the average guy. But that said, had I been someone only interested in looking further into the hook (weird scenes inside the gold mine – Jim Morrison), I will tell you that it comes off as fairly credible. The story they spin proceeds in a fashion that begs believe-ability. Very expertly so, and that brings up the second issue that makes it interesting.

This book is chock full of libel. Most if not all of the accusations involve fulfill the letter of libel law: “a false (to the person libeled) and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person”. Some of the accusations also involve criminal activities, all based by the author’s own admission on hear say evidence. Therefore, lawsuits against the authors and publisher were a self-fulfilling prophecy and came to fruit almost immediately.

Given that the author and the publisher knew with certainty they would spend years in court defending themselves against libel, one wonders what it was about the book that gave that inevitability some juice. Surely they planned for it. Did they plan to use it to enhance book sales by keeping them in the eye of the media? Court-TV loves stuff like that and they work it to the max.

And THAT brings up the interesting issue what anyone can say about anyone else, when they can say it and what it takes to get away with it. Tabloids are famous for getting away with blatant libel. The National Enquirer headlines on your supermarket shelf scream: Britney Spears caught in 3-way love tryst with Al Gore and an octopus”. When Britney goes to sue she finds out that doing so is like rolling a heavy ball uphill. Eventually you get tired and the ball inevitably rolls back down.

The National Enquirer doesn’t have to prove the 3-way. They heard it from reliable sources they don’t have to name. Britney must prove it didn’t happen, virtually impossible. And Britney gets to finance her own legal arrangements against the legal strategy of Enquirer, which is simply to delay forever while the clock ticks, costing Brit a bundle and costing the Enquirer nothing. In the words of some actor in a Paul Newman movie, “as long as we’re absent malice. We can say anything we want to about Mr. X”

The inability to prove anything will withers lawsuits on the vine and the protagonists get tired of throwing good money after bad. I am told that one of the accused principals is writing a book detailing all the factual errors, a maneuver much like an erratum of page 22 of the newspaper. The big splash has been made. It made Nightline and a few other minor league TV newsmagazines and is now run its course. Mr. Johnson has had his 15 minutes of fame and is about to join Heather Mills McCartney, Jessica Hahn and William Hung in blissful obscurity.

What will be the long-term outcome of this brief ripple in history? I think it has the potency to destroy ALCOR. Anything they ever did before will be remembered now under this light. They will never fully shake this and the more they try, the more the public remembers “something about ALCOR and weirdness”. Some of the individuals involved will continue to run from the media until it finally dies completely. Books detailing factual errors will be written and quickly forgotten. Tomorrow, the National Enquirer headlines will scream: “Britney Spears pregnant by Paris Hilton’s Chiwawa”.

Could Brit really be prego by Tinkerbelle? Prove it ain’t so.

Such is the nature of news in these United States.

Band Aids in the 60s: Miss Pamela De Barres.


“The only true currency in this bankrupt world…
is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool”.

Lester Bangs (1967)

Within the broad metropolis of the 60s, there were suburban ecosystems, each contributing some unique facet to the whole. Music was the glue that made substance from abstract socio-political form. Musicians were allowed much artistic freedom to explore their world, painting pyrotechnic visions from a multicolor palate, interpreted with virtually total abandon.

For a variety of reasons, musical artists were protected from the longstanding rules of societal propriety that had percolated through the ages. As long as these artists continued to ply their art, enriching those attached to them in the process, they were allowed any endeavor they dreamt of, protected from any consequence thereof.

We understand the progress of the play by watching the players. An alternate universe of unconventional social and political mores passing through much optimistic iteration ultimately to end in a fatal mutation. In turn, we are allowed to view the aftermath of this progression as astronomers view dying galaxies from a safe distance. The consequences of “no limits”.

So emerges an interesting anthropologic question. In the absence of any constraining socialization, what would Homo sapiens evolve to? It’s said that following long periods of isolation, Antarctic explorers stopped shaving or bathing, ate with their fingers and ignored waist high refuse in their living area. Lifers in prison with no hope of parole turn into monsters; survival of the most gratuitously brutal. What then might be the social evolution of otherwise spoiled, unremitting adolescents in the presence of bottomless candy jars. If man is left to his preternatural inclinations, what are those desires and how do they proceed in real life?

A perusal of the genre of 60’s Rock artists clearly turns up four primal desires: Sex, drugs, rock & Roll and cheap thrills. (Somewhere Janis is laughing). Given that a primal need for these artists (and everyone else) is sex, we now introduce Miss Pamela Des Barres, groupie par excellence and high priestess of sexual gratification on demand for Rock artists. Now a matronly (but still very attractive) 62 years of age, Pam was there for all of it in the 60s. The Doors, Frank Zappa, Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Byrds, Iggy Pop and the heaviest of the heavy metal bands Led Zeppelin, from which came her relationship with Jimmy Page extensively chronicled in her first book: “I’m with the band: Confessions of a groupie” (1987).

Miss Pamela is an absolutely fascinating, personable woman, an excellent writer and a spellbinding witness to another era. I devoured her book and I am quite interested in putting it in some kind of perspective for you. If you really want to understand the world of sex, drugs, rock & roll and cheap thrills, Miss Pamela is an authoritative, lyrical and entertaining tour guide.

The groupie scene in the 60s pitched the limitless libido of young males stoked on a limitless supply of mind-altering substances, a limitless incentive for self-gratification and a virtually limitless supply of nubile young females right in the middle of their “girls just want to have fun” phase. Pamela surmises that the combination of the two equals the perfect rock & roll nirvana. A meeting of the irresistible force and fathomless respondent.

But although her descriptions are meticulously accurate, I take issue with Mill Pamela’s authentication of them.

Miss Pamela says in one of her books that being a groupie was much more than servicing the whims of rock stars:

“Being a real groupie is a talent on its own, and not one that can be performed by just anyone. Sex, while an important part of the groupie experience, is only one facet of the whole picture. A true groupie has a deep connection both to the music and the dimension in which musicians exist when they are performing. Rock’*’ roll is a ritual and groupies are the high priestesses.”

“We inspired the guys as much as we were inspired by them. It was very equal. They loved us because we dared to have a blast. We looked after them, picked their clothes and showed them the best restaurants to go to. I made cowboy shirts for Jimmy Page”.

“It was empowering. Any woman who gets out there, looks on stage and goes after someone who inspires her – that is the ultimate feminist act, surely? Some women like doctors, politicians, football stars – I like musicians, and I was always very focused about who I wanted to be with. I consider myself a sexual pioneer. To me great sex is like touching God, and I was lucky enough to have experienced it to the hilt and wrote about it freely, openly and joyously, when not many other women had.”

As pleasing to the ear as it might seem, I think Miss Pamela’s view is logically lopsided.

I think the recent film “Almost famous” written and previously experienced by writer/ producer Cameron Crowe brought a much more realistic perspective to the issue of groupies. Rock stars are accurately portrayed as absorbed by whatever gives them the most bang for their self-indulgent buck at the moment. Groupies are accurately depicted as currency in that transaction, but a currency traded on a capriciously alternative exchange.

In her most recent book: “Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Super-groupies [2008], Miss Pamela interviews a multiplicity of former 60’s groupies as to their job satisfaction. Without exception they had no regrets. But I perceive a logical disconnect.

In the real world we live in, the value of a female’s favors increases in proportion to its scarcity. In the world of Groupies, that value system is inverted. The former Groupies Miss Pamela interviewed related their experiences increased in value with the number of men they could service per unit time. Musicians, side-men, money-men, roadies, anyone, everyone. It was an established fact that the more they eroded into the organization, the higher in the pecking order they rose. Riding in limos, a berth in airplanes and busses, a reserved spot on the stage during concerts. These girls assumed that these actions traded with some currency invulnerable to devaluation.

Crowe’s film more accurately depicts the value of sexual favor as a commodity that trades in an alternate universe of vaporous values. A commodity that rapidly and dramatically varies in value with time-in-grade, the potential for accelerated boredom and the presence of emerging younger, more nubile stock. In “Almost Famous”, a very attractive, personable and otherwise desirable Groupie was swapped in a poker game for fifty bucks and a case of beer.

The fundamental disconnect is the nature of the beasts. Women use sex to get love and males use love to get sex. There is virtually nothing a female in the throes of estrogen storm is incapable of. There is nothing in the universe more capable of sexual self-interest than a young male on a roll. Diamond Dave Lee Roth (Van Halen) was not known for staring into limpid female eyes over intimate dinners. Gene Simmons (KISS) is said to have had over a thousand women, most a couple of minutes at a time. Women were there for the moment and when that moment was over, they simply became irrelevant and were replaced by the next in line.

Females, by genetic imperative, tend to believe there is a difference between “love” and “in-love”, an amazing facility to perceive some variety of endearment from the shallowest of evidence. Miss Pamela suggests that the melding of these factions was an “equal terms” situation but that reality is highly unlikely. The benefit was mostly male, and it was at the expense of the female who fantasized whatever they desired. Not one of the former Groupies Miss Pamela interviewed ended up in a long-term relationship with any of their former rock star paramours.

The next reality is that these artists never found much personal satisfaction in their explorative freedom.

The undisputed ultimate in human de-evolution, the upper ionosphere of malevolent mischievousness: John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Keith Moon (The Who). Both of these guys embody the pure essence of unfettered adolescence empowered to explore the limitless reaches of human desire. Comprehensive books have been written about their exploits in the glory days. Both died in bed incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, not even in the throes of having fun.

Jim Morrison very publicly searched for his soul by bolting through the Doors of Perception, immersing his persona in cathartic rock music masquerading as social profundity. A quest for fulfillment in the face of insanity. In the end, Jim could not, himself, find the values of freedom and self-expression his performance stood for and it shows in his life (and death).

Janis Joplin made love to thousands of adoring zealots at the Fillmore, then went home alone and ultimately died alone. Insomniac Jimi Hendrix died in a mixed alcoholic and sleeping pill haze having misjudging the potency of each. Said to have creatively died sometime in the late 60s, the hoary, morbidly obese doppelganger of Elvis belatedly succumbed to a poly-drug overdose in 1977.

In the end, the 60s remains a vision of the consequences of a world with no limits. My friend Shoshana, who was there in the middle of all of it, starkly clarifies the issue very accurately in a letter to me a while back (marginally edited by me):

“The Summer of Love was a lie. The real story isn’t about the ones with money and homes and a steady supply of dope and food and clothing. It’s an ugly, filthy story about middle American kids, living lives of privilege and quiet desperation, who heard the siren of a modern pied piper, and followed him to the streets of San Francisco”.

“I am a victim of the Summer of Love, one of the damaged, nearly destroyed. I bought into the tune in, turn on, drop out lie in a big way. I was ripe for the plucking: emotionally starved, lonely, damaged in spirit, searching for meaning and utterly abandoned. The icons of transcendence in the Summer of Love were so disconnected from those they affected. They took no responsibility for the havoc they wreaked. I never saw them on the streets of the Haight, bandaging the feet of the children, feeding the drug-soaked pregnant teenagers. They may have affected the hair and the speech of Jesus, but they never washed a sole or healed a bruise. Their hands were clean; their souls unaffected”.

“I was and am a victim of all the lies of the Summer of Love. I still struggle with the nightmares of lost children, near rapes, nights spent searching without knowing for what because the drugs had robbed my mind of all sanity. I had dreams. I was supposed to finish grad school, teach college, marry and have children, and spend a quiet and illuminated old age reading, writing, and teaching until my voice grew silent. Instead, I wrestle with demons and nightmares and illness. I have always feared growing old, alone and impoverished.”

I hope she writes the book someday.

One of the fundamental myths that the sixties articulated was that some benefit could come from testing these bounds of reality. A large number of very talented people found out those consequences the hard way in the late 60s. Perhaps prior lessons learned from the existential philosophers, most of whom went mad or suffered violent deaths, should have been heeded. In the end, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix remain examples of the fate that awaits those who reach too far for answers unobtainable.

It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end

Jim Morrison (1969)


Dave Crippen
Feb 2, 2010


* Lester Bangs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lester_Bangs

* Des Barres website: http://www.pameladesbarres.com/

* Almost famous: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181875/

* Pamela Des Barres: I’m with the Band (1987)


* Pamela Des Barres: Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up (1993),


* Pamela Des Barres: Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies [2008]