Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rant: I hate a movie that doesn't exist, then flip-flop

If you know me closely, you have heard me speak these exact words many times:

"I am not prone to hyperbole in my regular speech. I endeavor to use very accurate descriptions and qualifying terms when I speak. Even words as basic as "like" and "hate" are given their fair measure. When I share my opinions, I try to be judicious as possible in my choice of words, and though it can turn a simple response into a long-winded run-down detailing my opinions, I think it's important to be as accurate as possible. Why do I take such a lengthy and no doubt annoying tack when I speak? So that when I DO use powerful language to describe something I'm passionate about, you know I mean business."

So, A song that "fucks my ears" isn't just a bad song, it's a song that well and truly violats my aural sensation in a profound way.
"A whirlwind of puke and pain" is not me belly-aching about a cold, it truly is an epic event involving bodily functions and severe pain. I can deal with mild headaches.
"The Princess Bride is the best film of all time" doesn't just mean I enjoy the film a lot, it means I believe - and am prepared to argue in defense of - the fact that The Princess Bride is a film above all others past and present.

And when I say that the new Mortal Kombat movie looks like a godawful train-wreck of ass and fuck, you can take that straight to the bank!

Which is why I'm so upset that, when I feel this passionate about something, that everyone I talk to disagrees with me. Why the hell is everyone so into this? Maybe if I give my first impressions people will see what I've got my panties in a knot.

I will admit, the whole thing seems kind of bad-ass at the outset. Dramatic camera angles, quiet-yet-strong protagonists, a gratuitous action sequence. And they threw in a bunch of names of characters from the game, that's enough to sell it, right? NO! For fuck's sake, have some standards. I know the Mortal Kombat game series isn't the best, story-wise, but even the original movie was more in tune, and believable, than this.

Yes, I said believable. The particular Youtube link I put up out of the dozens who have it was not by accident. This guy holds that the new movie is a "realistic take on the MK games." No. No sir. You don't just give Reptile Harlequin Ichthyosis and make Baraka a clinical whackjob and call it reality. A portal to hell and a soul-sucking wizard I can believe, or at least I can suspend my disbelief to coincide with the original video game. But even if you really think any law organization is going to tell a guy to go murder a bunch of freaks in a tournament, why are they bothering? It sounds like said freaks are going to do a fine job killing themselves, what's one more dude going to do, Even a dude with a kind of cool fatality. Besides, this is "reality," no fire-breathing skeletons allowed. And since when does Scorpion get to be the protagonist? Everyone knows it's either Liu Kang, Sub-Zero (if you're counting that god-awful adventure game they made), or someone you got through a cheat code.

Speaking of Fatalities, I'm not so sure I appreciate the lip-service the movie's tossing in from the games. Reptile goes from some other-worldly assassin to a dude with a disease he has no business living through. the tie-in? He eats heads. His fatality has become his character. All he needs is a guy yelling "Toasty!" when he uppercuts someone. Baraka's no longer a creature from another dimension, he's a psychopath doctor who loves piercings. But it's okay, because those sweet arm-blades and razor-point teeth? He's got em! Gave them to himself surgically! And true to the game, he never fucking uses them until he's ready to murder someone!

And Johnny Cage? Well, okay, he gets decapitated in the 5 minutes we see him, which is how I always remembered it. He doesn't have a ball-punch moment, so somebody must've dropped the... pretense there. But again, what self-respecting law organization hires an out of work martial arts actor to infiltrate the dangerous world of mutant super-killers?

Michael Jai White, the strong-jawed black actor playing Jackson Briggs because Samuel L. Jackson was presumably busy that day, that's who. A brief overview of his CV reminds me that he played Gambol, the "tell me why I shouldn't have my boy rip your head off" thug from The Dark Knight. He also voiced Bushido Brown in my favorite episode of The Boondocks, and has voiced the Green Lantern, so I like the guy well enough.

Oh. Right. Spawn. He was Spawn in the movie Spawn. Jesus this guy like comics.

The trailer opens with him coming in slow motion out of his office with the determined look of a guy who wishes he was in a better film. And if you didn't realize he's Jax from the game (because he's the only black dude in the entire universe), they have helpfully scratched off the "O-N" on his door so it spells "Jacks," which is close enough.

He's also going to double as the disembodied announcer from the games, if his dialogue is any clue. He sneaks in the words "fatality," Finish Him," and the character names with the same inflection and deep rumbling bass that made the games popular. I'll bet dollars to donuts that if this script gets any more work Briggs is going to demand a "flawless victory" from newly re-designed assassin Scorpion.

Okay, after writing it all down and looking it over, I realize I may be over-reacting. Especially after a quick bit of research shows me what I had been sort of suspecting from the outset; the film doesn't exist, and may not in fact ever be made. The trailer was a two-day "run and gun project" by Kevin Tancharoen, director of the 2009 remake of Fame, the movie where teenagers dance a lot but don't kill anyone (I think, I haven't seen it). Tancharoen's purpose in making this trailer was basically to show everyone he could. By that he means he can make a gritty action film that isn't dance-heavy and pop-y, but also that he has decent special effects chops.

Crap. Okay, the trailer does have hokey moments and a bunch of overused action tropes, from the helicopter and fake news anchor intro to the sudden reveals of who's who. But 2 days of filming and a month of editing, using donated time from actors and your own budget to produce what amounts to a really well-polished video demonstration/resume? I'm afraid I can't talk shit anymore. I want to keep my hate. As a movie trailer, it sets up a pretty generic action flick with a thin "MK skin". But as a 7 minute fan-fiction it's pretty sweet. As a demonstration of directorial prowess it's pretty good. Fine, no hyperbole; this isn't a godawful train-wreck of ass and fuck. But it's not bad-ass.

If you know me personally, and we get into a discussion on this, expect a long-winded run-down of my opinions. Try not to bring it up. ;)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Life Experiences: Roller Derby pt. 2

Stage Match

The opening bout was an exhibition between two Boston teams; the Cosmonaughties and the Wicked Pissahs. The team names were perhaps the least silly thing about the event.

My girlfriend and I arrived late, to a standing room only situation and a circus-like vibe, but instead of circus animals a guy in a rat mask and diaper tried futilely to get a wave going, while a lady in hot pants shattered a clipboard on the concrete floor. The announcers gave their all to try and excite the crowd, though they would have had a better chance if they didn't pronounce the team The "Pissers." It's a sport that thrives on puns, you'd think the color commentators could get it right.

The Pissahs took an early lead, but found them selves trailing late in the second half. In fact, the Cosmos took command in a very odd way, dominating like they hadn't been for the entire game. The jam before last, they had a 20 point lead.

To put that in perspective, a skater managing to lap an entire group, and the other skater going all out to do the same, scores you 5. Each jam is a max of 2 minutes. To overcome a 20 point deficit in one jam, the jammer would need to lap the entire group 4 times, once every 30 seconds, and then score an additional point. And the other team is allowed to slam into you.

And the Pissahs pulled it off.

Well Holy suspicious ending Batman, looks like we've just taken for a ride!

At this point you're all probably thinking, "hey, Rahhal, there's a guy in a gorilla suit priming the t-shirt cannon while the team managers are dressed in everything from 3-piece suits to leather chaps. The audience is a mix of Nascar enthusiasts and teenagers who obviously don't have anything better to do. And the whole damn thing looks like the depressing scenes from Academy Award nominated film The Wrestler. You're watching a staged game!"

Well I had higher hopes, okay? I allowed myself the naivety of believing that roller derby was all hard hits and competitive play. If someone told me I was going to see a choreographed series of events I would have adjusted my expectations accordingly. Well, P.T. Barnum wasn't there, but announcer Kevin-Up gave it his best.

Besides, the second bout, one between Boston's traveling team the Boston Massacre and Olympia WA's Oly Rollers was a bona-fide match. Because how entertaining is a beat-down in your own city, really?

Boston: Massacred
By now you see where I'm going with this. Boston got its ass KICKED. Feel free to read the lengthy recap of both these matches, but the long and short of it is, Boston got dominated. And honestly, I didn't mind. At least I knew I was watching a real bout. And to their credit, the Oly Rollers aren't 2009 defending champions for nothing. Their jammers can move, man!

All in all, I had a great time. I'm also fairly certain I won't attend another game, unless I'm A) with a large group of friends and B) boozed up something fierce. Because that's how it's meant to be seen.

Whip It: good?
Sure, if you liked Juno. Seriously. It was Juno on skates, complete with Indy soundtrack.

I won't get into a lengthy movie review here, because I've taken enough of your time. But I will say, when I left the Shriners Auditorium with plans to see the movie, I told my girlfriend, "I bet you $5 we hear at least 3 of the songs we heard tonight on this movie. At least one will be Thunderstruck by AC/DC.

I wasn't even close.

Jimmy Fallon filled the announcer role perfectly though.

I went into this expecting something wholly different from what I got. I've been self-sabotaged by my own high expectations before, and I'm not saying the whole thing was bad, but it was, among other things, a stark realization that my child-like perception of this once-distant and taboo activity is, in fact, just another excuse to get out of the house.

I wonder if curling is going to have the same feel?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Life Experiences: Roller Derby

The Ones With the Hats

"The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, commonly known as Shriners and abbreviated A.A.O.N.M.S., established in 1870 is an appendant body to Freemasonry, based in the United States. The organization is best-known for the Shriners Hospitals for Children they administer and the red fezzes that members wear. The organization is headquartered in Tampa Florida."(Wiki Intro)

For what it's worth, I only saw one gentleman wearing a fez. It was very brief, and when I looked again he was gone. He could've been a ghost; he certainly seemed old and regal enough to play the part.

The Shriners Auditorium is a large pavilion in the middle of nowhere in Wilmington, MA (if Bumblefuck was a town, it would have a Shriners Pavilion). It is staffed by the oldest people imaginable, and exudes a county fair vibe at all times. I have to assume the only reason I didn't see cotton candy or corn dogs is because they're out of season. Carnies, it would seem, are never out of season.

Rules of the Road

For all things Roller Derby, click here. For a not-so-brief rules explanation, stay here.

The game is played on an oval track. Sometimes it's an angled wooden track (like a NASCAR track, only wood), and sometimes it's a flat smooth concrete slab (like a street brawl, only on wheels).

Two teams of 5 are on the track together. The front 8, 4 on each team, comprise the "pack." They skate at a constant pace, and must keep together under guidelines defined by the pack referee. Two players behind them, 1 from each team, are the "jammers." They skate at their own pace, usually much faster than the pack.

The game is broken into 2-minute sessions called "jams." At the start of a jam, the pack begins to skate. A few seconds later the jammers start, and attempt to pass the pack. Whichever one gets through first is the "lead jammer." They are allowed to end the jam at any time before the two minutes. The other jammer can score points, but cannot end the jam prematurely. Generally the lead jammer will end before allowing the other team to score.

Jammers score points by racing around the track and passing opposing players in the pack. They can make 4 points for passing every opponent in the pack, and another point if they lap the other jammer. These 5 points are known as a "grand slam." A jammer can race around and pass the pack as many times as time and their endurance allows. The game goes for 2 halves of roughly 30 minutes each. Most points wins.

Skate Expectations

When I first thought of going to a roller derby game I had a certain vision of the whole thing: A grand arena with hundreds of screaming fans; chicken wings and beer flowing freely; trash-talking and brutal hits between whom could only loosely be called "ladies"; a grand celebration of a growing sport that everyone in the room was adamantly supporting.

It was in fact, to put it succinctly, not.

The bleachers that were there were in fact full. My best guess would put it around 200-300 people, plus standing room. A good turnout certainly, but the vibe was not that of a 300 person crowd. It was a hard to describe feeling that I feel I can only do through analogy:

Say you and a bunch of your friends hear about a great new board game. It's expensive, in fact pricier than any game you've ever bought. But you've heard such great things you all decide to pool your cash to get it. You plan the day, read the thick rulebook, set up the massive board, and settle in to play, all the while talking about how much fun it will be. The game starts slow, and in fact has a few tedious sticking points, but you all agree that the game really picks up after the first few rounds, even though none of you have actually played. So you play, and sit, and occasionally talk about how neat this or that thing is, when in reality you find that the whole experience is something of a let-down. Now, you dropped some serious coin into this, as did the others sitting around you. And they're all talking about how great the game is, though not with the same exuberance they did that morning. So you play along, and feign excitement so as not to be the downer of the party. Eventually it dawns on you that everyone else is feeling the same thing; they're underwhelmed, but unwilling to voice their concerns. So collectively, silently, you agree to maintain the fabrication that this over-hyped monstrosity is totally worth the significant time and money you sank into it.

Multiply that by 300 people, and you have the initial feel of this outing.

The excitement did pick up, and next post I'll describe the games themselves.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Life Experiences: Roller Derby Prelude

Back In the Day
I have vivid memories of watching Roller Derby on television many years ago. The teams had funny names, themes, and a great deal of trash-talking and hitting was going on. The show was on TNT, or whatever Spike was before it became Spike, and was on a late hour on an unfavorable day.
I've always had a love of the off-kilter sports. I'd love cricket if it wasn't so quintessentially British and impenetrable to the average Uh-Mericun mind. So I wanted this new exciting thing to succeed.
Then I paid attention to the game. I noticed how some runs were crazily improbable. A team gaining a 10 point lead, only to lose 10 points in a single run? And that elaborate bit of skating-gymnastics seems so improbable! How did it work? Then it dawned on me; the bouts were staged. Maybe not all of them, but enough to taint the experience. Like WWF years ago, and dodge-ball years later, off-kilter sports in their early iterations must go through a deal of pomp and circumstance before they come into their own. To pull viewers, high drama must replace solid fundamentals. American Gladiators did the same thing.
This sort of betrayal of gamesmanship breaks my heart. Professional wrestling is one thing (and I'm not condemning it; it's a fine bit of theatrics and athletic demonstration, but not what I'd call a sport), but you can't present something you're calling a legitimate sport and a dramatic piece with a known outcome in the same gesture. Give me one or the other, don't tart up one to look like something it's not.

Where The Wind Comes Sweepin'
I'm from Oklahoma. Roller Derby is pretty popular in Oklahoma, as popular as it is anywhere I think. And yet, 24 years living there, I never did go to a match. My friends went a couple times, but I never did go with them. It was a time of my life where sitting in and moping seemed more reasonable than drinking cheap beer and watching ladies hit other ladies at high speed. Christ, to be young again!

Cut To the Chase

I'm 27, I'm living on my own in Boston, I have a car, a job, and the power to make my own decisions. And Roller Derby is "The fastest growing sport around," and even though "Around" technically means the 50 ft. circle around the Shriners Auditorium, it is still accessible to a guy like me. So finally, after a long time coming, I went to see a 2 bout lineup of Roller Derby. And it was absolutely nothing like I envisioned all those years ago.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Behind the !@#$^%!

Okay, let's be honest.

If you're reading this blog, you're either REALLY REALLY bored or you know someone in MOSAIC REALLY well. Or, most likely, you are in MOSAIC.

That being said, we can further the honesty.

Things have not been going well in MOSAIC town. We've had a bunch of canceled shows and just as many with 3 - 6 people in attendance. We've lost a member to a well-deserved do-another-show-hiatus and another is part-timing it for the same reason. And last week, a shelf almost killed Lynne. We've got our country's 500th anniversary to plan, our wedding to arrange, our wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I, for one, am swamped.

Which is why I am posting this post for the 3 people who may read it and spread the word.

Ten Years of !@#$^%! is not going to be just another show. Ask anyone in the group. We've been making our lives out of putting up quality theatre -- some shows more quality than others depending on how drunk we were that week -- but quality shows that are genuinely unlike anything else happening in Boston. And we've done it with very little audience and I am proud to say that we've carried on and pleased the audiences we have had within inches of their lives. Well, usually. Again, we do our best, and generally we succeed.

I'm not saying this to toot our own horn, because we certainly make our share of crap from time to time. But this show -- THIS SHOW -- will make up for any crap we might have thrown on stage in the last 3, 4, 7 years at any point. And frankly, it might be the last show we ever do as an ensemble. And we want to go out -- if we are going out -- with a bang.

And if we're not going out, we just want to, as always, delight you. As best we can.

I shouldn't speak for everyone. Okay, but I will say this: everyone seems really excited about this show. About the material. About the concept. About the way it's coming together. We have so much to offer.

You will not be disappointed. Even if you are regularly disappointed by theater . . . film . . . circuses . . . you will not be disappointed by Ten Years of !@#$^%!.

Put that in your piggy bank and go right now to your email, facebook, blog, twitter, wtf you do with your online time . . . and make plans to come. Now.

You will be glad.

And if you aren't, I'll still be proud. Because your bad taste is not my problem.

*sardonic wink*

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Letter of Warning to the Middle Class from a Massachusetts Taxpayer: Demand the Public Option

A Letter of Warning to the Middle Class from a Massachusetts Taxpayer:

Demand the Public Option

The following is a letter I wrote two years ago, when Massachusetts' earliest health care reform measures were starting to take effect. Where possible and reasonable, I have updated the information to reflect the current state of the commonwealth and the nation.

The eyes of the United States are on Massachusetts. Nationwide, analysts eye our health care initiative as a model for broader reform. They want to know if this plan will work for the nation as a whole. Shuffling through overwhelming data, they examine the complications of this new system, its strengths and weaknesses.

Let me keep it simple for them. It isn't working. And the reason why it isn't working should serve as a sharp warning to anyone making between $33,000 and $50,000 a year: Demand real health care reform, including a public option, or you will have to settle for more of the same.

If Massachusetts is the microcosm, the testing ground, for United States health care reform, then I am its everyman. I'm single; I'm 28; I'm generally healthy.

In fact, I have advantages. I'm well-educated. I have a college degree from a prestigious private school. I work. A lot. I work as many as 5 different seasonal, part-time and contract jobs a year to piece together an income. I even enjoy those jobs, and I've worked hard to create opportunity for myself. I'm an active citizen; I believe in contributing and making one's voice heard. And I'm not alone. There are hundreds of thousands like me in this state, and we should be able to get by.

And yet I've spent the first few years of my adult life struggling to stay out of the welfare system when it comes to my health. I've jumped from one type of health insurance I couldn't afford (and didn't use) to another. Sometimes, I simply couldn't pay the premiums and went without. Now, I don't have a choice.

The goal of the new health care laws is simple: every citizen must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Accordingly, the state is to provide affordable options for its people, based on their income. The deal even includes an expert-created affordability chart that measures, income bracket by income bracket, what each citizen can reasonably afford to pay for health insurance.

You can imagine my excitement at the concept. After staring for years at the choice between $500 monthly premiums or inadequate coverage, sugarplum dreams of $100 per month quality health plans filled my head. I would be able to work health care into my budget. Massachusetts was a leader and an innovator, and I was ready to enroll in a health care plan I could afford.

I kept my eye on the developing plan. I watched the Commonwealth's health care web pages on a weekly basis. I was tired of struggling just to afford to stay healthy. I wanted in.

I found I was still distinctly on the out.

There is a gaping hole in the state's new health plan, and it begins at an annual individual income of $30,630*. At this point -- three times the federal poverty level for an individual -- income ceases to matter and someone who makes over $30,630 is essentially left to fend for himself.

To clarify, imagine two fictional individuals, Sue and Joe. We'll give Sue the larger income. She makes $30,631 for the year. Joe makes $30,629. For those who didn't major in math, that's a $2 difference in income. But it puts Sue over the magic $30,630 mark, and Joe under.

Joe qualifies for the program known as Commonwealth Care, which provides him high quality health care options at an affordable price. It's a program for anyone who earns up to three times the federal poverty level, which is our magic number -- $30,630 annually. Joe can pay a premium of ~$130 monthly (~$1,560 a year) for a plan with $5 co-pays when visiting his doctor, $10 co-pays when visiting a specialist, $50 emergency room visits and prescription drug coverage ($5 generic) -- and he won't have to pay more than $250 a year beyond his premium for medical services. The most Joe can possibly pay for standard health care, including his prescription drugs, his medical services, and his insurance premiums, is just over $2000 a year. That's about 6.5% of his income -- tops.

Sue is less fortunate. Because she doesn't qualify for Commonwealth Care, Sue has to find her own insurance. Luckily, the state provides what is known as Commonwealth Choice. Sue can go online and browse discounted plans to keep her healthy.

To her surprise, when Sue arrives at mahealthconnector.org (home of Commonwealth Choice), no one asks about her income. She inputs her family size (1), her zip code and her occupational code. She arrives at a series of plans. The cheapest plan is $167.40** a month ($2008.80 per year). That's already 6.5% of her income. That's already as much as Joe could possible pay all year for all health expenses.

It isn't a very desirable plan, either. It requires that she pay $25 to see her doctor, $100 to go to the emergency room, and it doesn't help her at all with any prescription drugs. It even has a $2,000 deductible that Sue will have to pay before she starts receiving benefits in most situations. And the plan's $5000 out-of-pocket maximum for the year is misleading -- it doesn't include what Sue pays for doctor visits or prescription drugs, as well as certain other services.

That's the cheapest plan available to old two-dollar Sue. It means that if Sue got sick, her state-sponsored insurance plan would still require that she pay $5000 out of pocket, plus $2008.80 in premiums. That's over $7,000 -- a whopping 19% of her annual income -- and it doesn't include prescription drug coverage.

Sue is confused. She only made $2 more than Joe did. And yet, because she has bypassed the $30,630 mark, she is in health care hell. She still can't afford health insurance, but now she is supposed to buy it. She should have bought some cigarettes under the table instead -- and gotten her annual income below the magic number.

But what about the affordability schedule? Remember that? That was the magic chart that tells us what the experts determined we could afford -- the very experts who helped put together this initiative. It can help Sue avoid penalties -- it could be Sue's saving grace. She scrolls back and looks at the chart. How much do the experts tell Sue she can afford per month in health insurance premiums?

Here's the surprising news. According to that chart, the most that a person of Sue's income can afford to pay a month is a $150 premium.

Sue's eyes bug out. What? She's only deemed able to afford $150 a month in premiums?

Then why is the cheapest plan available to her on the same web site $167.40 per month?

She should be baffled, because it's not just her. The Commonwealth Choice plans are rated in four categories: bronze without prescription, bronze, silver and gold. Only 3 of the 14 silver- and gold-rated plans (the plans with reasonable coverage) available from Commonwealth Choice are affordable to someone with an income under $50,000***. How do I come to that conclusion? By using the commonwealth's own affordability schedule. That's right: the commonwealth is offering plans it says itself you can't afford.

The good news for Sue (and others) is lukewarm. Because the commonwealth has determined that she can't reasonably afford Commonwealth Choice, she won't be penalized on her taxes. She's free, instead, to look about on her own for more health insurance she can't afford, or simply to go without. Sue's back where she started.

But Sue and Joe are fictional characters. What about a real life example? Let's use, oh, say . . . me.

Last year, I turned my back on my workplace health insurance. It was available for around $235 a month. At the time, that was 14% of my paycheck at that job. I couldn't afford it, and neither could others with whom I worked. Besides, health care reform was coming, and I just knew something cheaper would be available to me.

This summer, I reluctantly enrolled in one of those Commonwealth Choice plans the state admits I can't afford. I paid $224.26 a month in premiums alone ($2,691.12 a year, or 8% of my total income). I had to pay an additional $25 to see my doctor or $40 to see a specialist. I paid over $100 if I had to go to the emergency room and 30% of any outpatient surgeries. It didn't include prescription drug coverage.

Luckily, my out-of-pocket maximum was $3000 for the year and there was no deductible. Still, if I got sick, I could pay as much as $5,700 this year for health costs. That's 17% of my total income. Like Sue, I'd be out of luck.

In fact, I've already felt the squeeze. This summer, trying to be preventative in my health habits, I had a mole examined and, upon recommendation, removed. It cost me, even with insurance: $25 to see my doctor, $40 to see a specialist (upon my doctor's recommendation), $25 to see a surgeon (upon the specialist's recommendation), and a total of $246.50 to have the surgery. In addition to the $1121.30 I've spent on five months of premiums, my health has cost me $1,457.80 in the last five months. That's 13.5% of my income during that time period -- and I haven't even been sick. For comparison, I also spent 13.5% on food.

The commonwealth affordability chart was right. I can't afford Commonwealth Choice. A year after turning my back on $235 a month for decent health coverage, I'm returning to the fold and enrolling with my workplace. I still can't afford it, but at least for $10 more a month, I get decent coverage.

In a very real sense, I am right back where I was before all of this reform took place.

Maybe I sound familiar: a single individual who makes between $30,630 and $50,000 a year; someone who wants to work and contribute to the culture he lives in; someone who, unable to afford this new initiative, is still without a solution to his health care needs.

Do you want to know if this plan can work for America, or even Massachusetts? Look at the thousands upon thousands of middle-income individuals here trying to do the right thing.

The nation's eyes are on Massachusetts. The nation's eyes are on me. And without a real public option, I will still be on the out.

We will all still be on the out.

*The number is now $32,496.00.

**The cheapest plan is now $220.88 a month, or $2650.56 per year. It is exactly the same as the plan described in the text of the letter (except $600 more expensive), but includes prescription drug coverage -- at 50% cost after a $100 deductible.

***There are now no options for "bronze without prescription." More importantly, only one silver plan, and none of the gold plans, are now affordable as measured by the commonwealth's 2007 affordability schedule.