Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! Sowrd Class Coming Up!

Hello everyone, and farewell to 2014! As you countdown the last minutes of the year with your loved ones, your favorite TV personalities, and those guys who somehow got into the party but you are not sure who invited them, I hope you take a moment to reflect on your successes and how to build upon them, your losses and what you learned from them, and how there is usually a third thing you can add to just about anything that appears to have only two options, if you just think outside the box and accept the possibility that it may be so crazy it JUST...MIGHT...WORK!

Just a reminder to those of you who may be curious about what sort of skills and conditioning you may need to compete in the full-contact medieval armored combat that I do, there will be a seminar in exactly that this Saturday from 3-5 PM at C1 MMA and Crossfit in Brooklyn. Fee is $15. you can pay at the door or in advance, and you can get more details at

So happy New Year everyone! And may it be the best and brightest so far!

Captain Z

Monday, December 22, 2014

A small bit of family history...

In WWII, my uncle, Carl R. Berrier, served as a US Army engineer in the 1st Army, building bridges across France to the border of Germany. He was wounded by one of the first fighter jets. My father, Claude Jean Pierre LaCoudre, was a boy growing up in Brittany at the same time. I don't think they ever met until my mom took my father to visit the family in Florida when I was a baby.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A few thoughts about 9-11

Just a few thoughts about 9-11

For those who don't know yet, I took a bunch of pictures from my windo and rooftop of the Twin Towers burning and collapsing on september 11, 2001. You can see them in my Facebook albums.

First off, it was a terrible, horrible day. More died than at Pearl Harbor, and far fewer people committed the act. Even more people suffered, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and financially.

And every day that the incident gets further away, memories of it fade, and more and more mistakes, misinformation, and crackpot ideas find it capable to gain traction. People who were not there, are too young to have been there, who only see what the Interwebs have to show us, are finding it easy to accept things that fit clever conspiracy theories that support agendas.

Here are a few things I think are true, based on what I saw that day and what I have read and seen from reliable sources. I am dispensing with weblinks and things because I only have so much time in my life to dedicate to this.

Those were commercial airliners that crashed at all four sites. They were hijacked by terrorists, and the people on them all died.

The burning airplane fuel was hot enough to weaken the steel, and the weight of the buildings above the weak points made them break. That's why one building tilted the way it did, and the building that was struck higher up collapsed later.

The front of 7 WTC at ground level was taken out by debris fro the other towers. There were fuel oil tanks to power the generators for the police command bunker in the building (which wound up never being used). Those tanks caught fire, weakening the structure, and it collapsed. The reason the front of the building went down first was that the front of the structure was taken out, as I already said.

There was not the time in any security lapse for anyone to plant as many explosives as would have been needed for a “controlled demolition” of that magnitude.

He “squibs” in the collapse of the towers are the air, furniture, and debris being blown out the windows as the ceilings collapse, one by one, and the top of the building falls on them.

Those little squibs further down? The whole freakin' building is collapsing. You don;t thing that maybe the ceiling in an office somewhere collapses and blows out the window as a result?

The reason steel beams and other debris fell slower than the building is physics. The building was going straight down, and there was nothing strong enough to stop all that mass. The building was collapsing from the overall destruction. As steel beams snapped and other, less massive things bounced off other things, they went flying wherever there was room to fly, which was away from the building. The force projecting them outwards combined with air to slow their trajectory downwards.

The “vibrations” you see in the building in that new video? That is the shadow of the smoke from the fires.

The hole in the side of the Pentagon was where the fuselage went through. The slits where the wings went through are hidden behind the pile of debris. There are pieces of the airplane even in a photo on the cover of a French book claiming that there was no plane.

That was not a bomb on the underside of the second plane's fuselage. That is a bump that is part of the plane's design.

That little bulge that comes out of the other side of the tower in that video shot from the helicopter is debris blowing through the building and out the other side. It is absurd to think that the half-dozen pixels that are roughly the same shape as the nose of a plane could be the nose of a plane slipping past the “masking” line in the video. There are plenty of pictures and video of the plane hitting the tower from other angles that show the explosion out the other side.

And you don't see the plane earlier in that video because it was too damn small.

To say that the grainy, low-res video still shows something other than the plane just before it hits the building it is supposed to be because a row of pixels looks like the sun is hitting it at a different angle is ridiculous. Those few pixels of an object in motion can easily look like something they are not.

The “moving bridge” and other background elements are because the cameraperson is trying to keep focused on the towers as the camera moves, not because it is a composite image.

The slightly out-of-synch timing of the explosions from second plane strikes from the various networks is because the network feed to one network might simply be a second slower than the video feed to another network.

The plane did not disintegrate before it hit the building because 1) the plane had not been going that fast that long, it was accelerating to that speed, and 2) just because industry standards say you should not fly it that fast does not mean that it will not hold together long enough to crash into a building.

Those were people jumping out of the towers. I have friends who were there and saw them.

Those silhouette sculptures were public art.

There are plenty of pictures of plan wreckage at the Twin Towers.

There is someone who says that certain pictures of certain victims used other pictures of those same people and faked the backgrounds, showing side-by-side comparisons. First off, why would anyone do that? Secondly, look closer, there are little differences in the lighting or the angle. Do you think it is impossible for someone to have more than one picture of themselves taken under similar lighting conditions at similar angles?

No, there was no message sent out to all the Jews who worked in the WTC to stay home that day.

No, no one “surfed” down as the building collapsed.

The picture of the man on the roof as the plane is about to hit is a fake. The roof wasn't open, the observation deck was on the other tower, the plan is in much too sharp focus, and the guy is wearing a winter coat and hat on a very warm sunny day.

There are no secret camps holding the passengers, the victims' families were not paid off. Nobody recruited nearly 3,000 families to pretend that they had relatives that died.

There is plenty wrong with this country, the administration of George W. Bush, and everything else that led up to the circumstances that inspired and allowed the events of that day to happen, and plenty wrong with the reactions to it and the events that followed it, and there are far more Afghans and Iraqis dead, military, civilian, and “terrorist,” and American military personnel that have died since, than Americans who died that day, for what it's worth.

Those of us who were there saw the planes, saw the live footage, saw the damage, lost friends and relatives. To claim that there were no planes, that there was a government conspiracy, etc, not only cheapens the tragedy, but gets in the way of finding out why the tragedy really happened, and taking a sober and responsible look at what has happened in response since then.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Journal of Frankenstein's Brother, Part 2

as transcribed by Zorikh Lequidre
(part 2 of 2, continued from yesterday)

When I reached the creatures, I was able to see them in greater detail, as if they now allowed themselves to be revealed to me. I was now within their reach and had no chance of getting away, even if I turned and ran with all my speed (a course of action, that, upon reflection, a reasonable man should not have considered unreasonable, but which, for reasons beyond my ken, was completely outside my realm of consideration). I saw that they were not quite human, but their eyes revealed an intelligence and depth of feeling as deep as any man, perhaps even beyond.

My first thought was to introduce them to my creature. I tried to speak, but found myself incapable of aught but the hoarsest of whispers. With only such a meager attempt at verbal communication available to me, I decided to forgo words altogether and gestured to them to follow me, and they did.

When we approached the creature's cabin, I found him standing in the doorway, as if he was expecting visitors. My mind now swims with the implications of this. Were my creature and these beings of the North American woods communicating on a level of which man was incapable? If so, how long had these creatures been standing in the clearing, and what had they said to each other? My mind boggles with the possibilities, but I must get on with my report of what happened.

Unlike the human inhabitants of this region, these beings met my creature with solemnity and restraint. They touched each other on the shoulders. My creature hummed softly, as if attempting to vocally reflect the sensation that had woken me up. I started to feel small and insignificant beneath them, as if this was a moment of great import and significance. To think that such a small, frail, temporary creature as I, a member of a species only but recently occupying this land, this planet, this universe could ever accomplish anything as momentous as this would be an act of great hubris on my part. I was merely an incidental part of the environment, no more relevant than a small mammal in the trees, whose only concern for the creatures now communing was whether they would interfere with his gathering of nuts for the winter.

But still, beneath all this, I felt a swelling of pride, for I had created this creature. With my own mind I interpreted the work of my brother. With my own hands I constructed the being that now stood before me. With my own initiative I had brought him to this place. Without me none of this would have happened, and we humans would have gone on living, concerning ourselves with our petty squabbles, fighting over our metaphorical nuts for the winter, never knowing that the secrets of life and nature lie there before us for discovery, if only we could look past our confounded prejudices and selfish desires to find them.

The next thing I knew I was back in my own bed, the sun leaking through the trees, through the window, and into our cabin. Had I dreamed it all? But the sensation was so real! Sometimes dreams can be so real we accept them as fact until the moment of awakening, and then try to deny their ephemerality in the face of reality. But then they fade from memory like wisps of smoke or ripples in the water with nothing, literally nothing, to prove that they were ever there. In fear of this phenomena of forgetfulness, I immediately sat to write down the experience, which is the only way I can report it now, for it faded from my mind in much the same way.

I chose not to share it with my colleagues. They had come with me this far, had witnessed my success in the laboratory and were accepting of the premise of the experiment, but somehow I knew that to reveal this experience to them would cause them to doubt my sincerity as a scientist. It had been an experience that was unquantifiable, unverifiable, one that bordered on the spiritual. I sought out footprints, or any other visible sign of the incident I had experienced, and found nothing. Was I mad? Were these creatures in such harmony with nature that they could move among it without being detected or leaving a sign? Was there more to the universe than the realm of human experience allows? Are there truly more things in Heaven and Earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy?

On the evening of that day the natives came forth into the clearing by our cabins. It had been less than a month since we had arrived, and it was the first full moon we would experience there, and I supposed that this is what the natives were celebrating. As the sun went down the natives lit a bonfire and started dancing in a big circle. They played music with primitive drums and pipes. As we stood and watched we were invited to join the circle by the natives, and soon we were welcoming the full moon with all our hearts. We were fed with the most delightful of foods and drinks, presumably made from the local fruits and vegetables, nuts, roots, grains, and berries. I thought it curious that there was no meat, particularly considering the animal skins the natives had worn in our previous encounter, but I assumed that these innocent savages had found a way to live in harmony with the local fauna, and resigned to pursue the question of the origins of the hides later. In any event, certainly from the taste and volume of the food at this celebration, they had found epicurean satisfaction in a vegetarian diet.

The festival happened in such a whirlwind of activity that I did not have the opportunity to invite my creature to join, although I would have been concerned at introducing him to so much excitement so soon. But before I was able to collect my wits I had danced, dined, and drunk so much that I had to retire to our cabin to recover.

I must have dozed off, for when I awoke the full moon had risen and the sounds of celebration had died down. I ventured out the door and saw the mysterious creatures from the previous night sitting around the dying embers of the fire. The natives were nowhere to be seen. I approached the creatures with caution, wary lest any sudden movements or loud noises disturb them. They now seemed real to me, almost common place, as if this was a natural way for them to exist in a relaxed state.

I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bring forth my creature and see if he would commune with them as he had the previous night. If that had been a dream, I thought, what would happen now, in the light of reality? I tried to whisper to the nearest one, but as in the previous night, my whisper was so hoarse it could barely be said to be a sound at all. Yet the nearest creature did hear me, and turned, slowly, to look at me. I felt that the only other sound I could make than a whisper was a full-throated shout, but my respect for the mood of the moment did not allow it. These creatures seemed so large in my presence that the only way they would be able to understand me was if I shouted, but what business had I, a mere human, to do that in their presence? As a scientist, dedicated to observing natural phenomena, how could I do something so disruptive to the natural state of these strange beings?

But somehow the nearest creature, the one who had turned to me, understood what I was trying to say. He did not respond in any obvious, direct manner, but simply turned back to the fire. Was I being ignored? Thought insignificant? Allowed to leave? The meaning was inscrutable to me, but at least I was obviously not a threat. I got up and ran to my creature's cabin. The path seemed longer and more overgrown than I had thought it to be. I found myself out of breath when I arrived. I opened the door to find the plants that had been gathered to fill the cabin had nearly overgrown it, forming a jungle of almost Amazonian dimensions. The ceiling seemed higher than it had originally been built. His table was in the middle of the room, and on it was a plate with a slice of toasted bread with some form of sauce or preserve spread upon it. I looked for my creature but saw no trace of him. Perhaps he was hiding in the undergrowth, The idea that he could have left the cabin did not occur to me. I picked up the toasted bread and examined it. I noticed a smell on the spread. It was unfamiliar to me as being of any form of spread or preserve of which I'd had experience. Then my eye wandered past the bread, to the table, to the base of a large plant-pot but a few feet away. I saw an...object. A thing, sticking out from behind it. The thing was white and had the distinct shape of a bone, a thighbone, perhaps. I was intrigued by the curiosity of what sort of thing could have that shape and been brought into this cabin.

I approached it cautiously, growing more certain with each step that it was a thighbone, and more trepidatious about what that might mean. I turned the corner around the small tree inside the plant-pot and found a sight that will chill me until the day that I die.

The thigh bone was connected to a hip bone. The hip bone was connected to a back bone. The back bone was connected to a skull, and the skull was resting under a pile of bones higher than my own head.

What have I done?!? What have I created!?! My blood froze. My body chilled. All the cliches of the Penny Dreadfuls came alive in that moment of realization of the abomination that had come forth from my laboratory, from my own hands!

I retched. I collapsed. I crawled to the door and ran back to my cabin. I searched for my colleagues to no avail. I ran out of the cabin and saw the giant creatures of the forest standing near the remains of the fire, facing me. Amongst their number, central among them, was my creature. They started moving towards me. I envisioned my bones on that pile in the cabin. Grotesque images of my creature's mastication of my flesh flashed before me. I turned and ran.

I ran through the woods, heedless of the million bits and pieces, twigs and branches, rocks and stones, leaves and insects in my path. As I ran I had a thought that was terrifying in its comfort to me: That as his creator, my creature wanted me to join them in their abominable, inhuman culture, to be one of them, feasting of the flesh of lesser men! To imagine that I would be comforted by being welcomed into such a fellowship! Was my attachment to humanity, to human virtue so tenuous that I would join a brotherhood that gained nourishment from consumption of my fellow human beings, beings as capable of thought, of feeling, of creation as I?

Sheer exhaustion and the denseness of the undergrowth slowed my progress, but did not diminish my ardor for exit from that nightmare, now too real to dismiss. Dawn came. As the sun climbed my flight continued. Fear and desperation overcame hunger and weariness and I continued to plunge forth through field and wood, across river and stream. Somehow I found my way back to civilization in the form of a fort by a lake manned by soldiers of the British Empire. I dared not tell them of my plight, my shame, my horror, and allowed them to believe that I had been captured by natives and struck dumb by being witness to some inhuman ritual that I now would have thought tame by comparison to my true experience. I write this journal in the desperate hope that it will somehow purge me of these feeling I have, these visions of horror, this realization of my folly.

My only endeavor now is to seek the undiscovered country from whose borders no man returns. My only hope is that I find a dreamless sleep, an eternal forgetfulness that will wipe clean all memory of what I have done. If however, I face some form of eternal damnation, I pray only that it will be my own to suffer, and that Humanity will not suffer from my hubris in thinking myself capable of achieving that which is only for nature or God to achieve. If would-be Prometheii continue to tamper with forces beyond their control they risk not only the ruination of their souls but the destruction of all we have achieved.

These were the last words of the journal of Dr. Nicholas Frankenstein. His body was never found.

On the grounds of a prestigious university in the British Empire stands a monument to learning and the pursuit of knowledge. The inscription is poetically worded, describing how only through the tireless pursuit of knowledge can man ever hope to improve himself.

Somewhere else is a small headstone on which reads the name DR. N. FRANKENSTEIN.


Here are some more versions of the original story to enjoy:

...and just for fun:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Journal of Frankenstein's Brother Part 1

A couple of nights ago I had a dream. This dream affected me so much that not only did I feel inclined to write it down (as I have several other dreams in this blog), but to write a short story based on it. This story expands some of the experiences of the dream and builds upon it. I will be posting it in two parts. Here is part one:

as transcribed by Zorikh Lequidre

I was determined not to repeat the mistakes of my brother.

I and my learned colleagues ventured into the North American wilds to find a secluded spot where we could educate my creature while gradually acclimating him to human contact. I told him that we were going to investigate the local flora, a project that seemed to interest him. With this in mind we built two cabins in the woods a reasonable distance apart. I wanted him to have his own space, to which he could retreat and have the benefit of privacy and the dignity of possession. His cabin was large, and he took to filling it with plant specimens, until it was nearly as foliated on the inside as the outside. I took this as a sign that he liked our choice of environment, and congratulated myself on what I thought was my correct instincts.

After some days a local tribe paid us a visit. They had a curious command of the language, which I attributed to their isolation and limited contact with the civilized world. They were bundled in unfamiliar skins with decorations of long hair and fur, which I took to be of the local fauna. Being as this region was so remote, I attributed my unfamiliarity with them to an assumption that the wildlife of these woods must be uniquely adapted to the environment and had not yet been collected in sufficient quantities to fill the zoologial gardens and natural history museums of my acquaintance.

I informed the natives that I had a friend who wished to met them. Using the broadest of gestures and the simplest of words, I brought forth my creature from his cabin and introduced him to the natives. They smiled at each other, touched hands, and made eye contact with genuine delight. They were quite welcoming to the creature, a far cry from the ironically uncivilized treatment given to my brother's tragic creature by civilized man. I felt this was a very good sign, and again felt confirmed in my belief that I was doing the right thing.

I kept the meeting brief, as I did not want to push my luck, and escorted my creature back to his cabin. His face revealed an amazement, as if he had not expected such an encounter. He seemed almost a little confused as to what to make of it all. I attributed this to the differences between the natives and my colleagues and myself. I expected that he had not realized that humans came in such varieties.

Again I congratulated myself. The species of man comes in a wonderful variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and we must learn to recognize and appreciate the unique values of each of them, or we are doomed to destroy ourselves. The xenophobia of the unenlightened masses comes from lack of contact with the varieties of the world, and plays to the fear of what is different. This is a logical fear, as our simian ancestors justifiably feared the unknown. Therefore we must raise our children in an environment of diversity and understanding. That is the hope of mankind.

With this revelation warming my heart, I settled in for the night's sleep. This confirmation of my natural inclination was an unexpected result of this experiment. I drifted off to sleep wondering what other discoveries I would make, to what new visions into the human psyche the creature would introduce me.

I failed to sleep through the night, however. Some sensation, like a premonition, or perhaps an intuition, awoke me. There was something present, not quite stirring but definitely present, outside our cabin. I rose from my bed and cautiously peered out the window. The night was brightly lit by the nearly-full moon, and in the clearing I saw about eight or nine creatures, each one a height that rivaled that of my creature, standing perfectly still.

Had I never seen the clearing before I would have assumed they were some sort of stunted trees, or other natural formation, standing, loosely grouped at the edge of the ground, their stillness being so perfect. But there was a sensation emanating from them. It was not quite a sound, but more of a wave, a vibration, that affected me in a most curious manner. One might think that this was merely the natural feelings of fear, uncertainty, and trepidation, but no, I was quite familiar with those feelings already. This was rather more a feeling of comfort, as if I was drawn to them. I approached them and found myself before them faster than I thought I could traverse the distance. I wondered if they were capable of moving without my noticing, or if perhaps my perception of time and distance were being somehow affected.


Here are some versions of the original story to enjoy:

...and just for fun...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What should I do about my knee?

OK, here is the story with my right knee, and I will need some pros and cons: The ACL is completely torn, disconnected. There is a little tear in the rear meniscus, and some arthritis beginning to kick in. I am a perfect candidate for ACL repair, which would take one day, outpatient, have me on crutches for a couple of weeks, and then therapy, and I would be back to full strength in about 9-12 months. I have insurance that will cover it, with Dr. David Pereira, one of the best-reviewed doctors specializing in ACL repair at NYU-Langone, doing the work.

Here is the video that shows the original injury:
If I don't get this work done, I could spend the rest of my life simply doing things that do not require any twisting or pivoting at the knee, like elliptical machines and bicycles, and I could wear a knee brace at any time that I feel risk. So no more swing dancing, basketball, soccer, BJJ, sword fighting, armored combat, and even stage combat would be limited.

I am currently unemployed, and will start receiving benefits this week. I have some part-time work opportunities that will help me extend the benefits (performing at birthday parties, working for a comic convention, etc). I have a plan to use my unemployment period to train for work in film production that (if all goes will) will start early next year. If that falls through, my back-up plan is to go back to work in an office job in the insurance industry when the open enrollment season begins.

Of course no surgery is without risk, so I have to consider these risks before jumping into the surgery.

Some options being presented to me are:
1. Get the surgery done right away. This would limit my birthday party work for a few months, so I would be living mostly on Unemployment, but the work would be done sooner.
2. Wait until I get a "real" job, so I can take sick leave to get the surgery and recover (at one hour of sick leave earned for 30 hours of work, it would take me 1200 hours of work to earn one week off. That's 30 weeks of full time work).
3. Never get the surgery and live a careful life, using a knee brace for anything risky, and changing my physical activity to those that don't twist or pivot at the knee.

So what do you think I should do? My Facebook friends have never been shy about sharing opinions and I have found a wealth of new information that I would never have found on my own without you. So now I need to hear some pros and cons so I can make the best decision.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Occasionally I find things and I have no idea when I got them, what they mean, or why I kept them. Let's take, for example, bits of paper with people's names and phone numbers on them. Obviously I wanted to keep in tough with the person whose name is on the paper, but if I can;t remember the person, then obviously I did not successfully keep in touch with them.

For years there was a bit of paper knocking around whatever room I was living in with the name "Jennifer Gill" and a phone number. I have no memory of who that person was. I have tried calling the number, searching on the internet, but no luck. The number no longer belonged to her and there are far, far too many Jennifer Gills out there. I even once saw an off-off-B'way performance that had a Jennifer Gill in the cast, but it wasn't her.

Tonight I was cleaning out some boxes and I found two more curious bits of paper. The two names were Cheryl Korn and Branwynne Burns. The annoying thing is that these names do not sound completely unfamiliar to me. I suspect they were from a period of my life between my first and second attempts at college, when I was very active in the SCA, and the social circle I ran with in the SCA crossed over into the Downtown NYC scene in the pre-gentrification Lower East Side.

I did a little quick searching and found a few Cheryl Korns, but none that seemed to be anyone I should have known, and there seems to be a Branwynne Burns in the real estate field, but no pictures of her anywhere.

So there we go, another part of my past, detached and gone. I threw away the bits of paper, wrote this blog post, and moved on.

Great movie shoots today! Samurai, boxers, kung fu, and wrestlers, oh my!

One of the most challenging film shoot days today just ended. We were working on "The Duel," a short film organized through the United Filmmaker's and Actors' Meetup Group.

In the morning we shot a scene on a beach with the two lead characters in homemade samurai armor. then in the evening we were in a boxing gym with the leads, a boxing match, a king fu fight, and a pro wrestling routine.

It was bitchin' cold outside, a big snowstorm on its way. We had to make sure to allow a ballance of the cast to sit in a car to warm up. This was annoying because this was to be a very mannered, stylistic scene, in which stillness and long takes were important.

But we soldiered on...

I started writing the blog post a few years ago and jsut noticed I had not published it. So I just typed up these few words today and hit "publish." Stay tuned, pix and video from the day will be coming soon.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Comic Book Reader's Protection Act

An explanation of health insurance, in terms a comic book fan would understand.
by Zorikh Lequidre

A father and his son are in a comic book shop.

SON: Dad, my doctor says I have to read that comic book on the shelf.

DAD: Son, that is a deluxe hardcover edition of "Watchmen" with extra features and leather slipcover. It costs $125. Do you have $125?

SON: No. But the doctor says I have to read that story.

DAD: Well, here is a trade paperback reprint of the story. It doesn’t have all the extra features, but if your doctor says you can do just as well without them, it may work for you. It's only $24.95. Can you afford that?

SON: Barely. He says I may need to read comics every month for the rest of my life. What will I do?

DAD: Tell you what: If you give me $20 each month, I will buy whatever comics your doctor says you need.

SON: I can't afford $20 every month!

DAD: Then here's another idea. Give me $10 every month and just give me a little bit extra when you need a comic book.

SON: How much extra?

DAD: Well, if it's a regular newsstand comic, you don't have to give me anything. If it's a trade paperback reprint or paperback graphic novel, give me one dollar. If it's a hardcover reprint edition or hardcover graphic novel, give me three dollars, and if it's one of those big deluxe editions, give me one quarter of the cost.

SON: What if I don't need any at all?

DAD: Then I get to keep the money.

SON: That's not fair!

DAD: Consider this: I'm going to be shelling out a bunch of money for these comics when you need them, and you'll be paying close to squat. I'm taking a pretty big risk here; I'm gambling that you won't need another comic book this year. But if you do need one, I am going to have to get the money from somewhere, right?

SON: Well, if I need a lot of comics right away, where do you get the money?

DAD: There's a bunch of other kids in the neighborhood with whom I run this deal. I also make a deal with the comic book store.

SON: Then why don't I just save the money until I need it?

DAD: Sure you can, but what if you need a comic before you have the money saved for it, and by the time you do it'll be too late?

SON: Hmmm...well, why don't I just wait until I need a comic and start paying you then?

DAD: This offer is only good one month a year. If you turn it down, you will have to wait until this month next year for me to make the offer again.

SON: Well, how about if I only pay you on the months that I need comics?

DAD: It doesn’t work that way. If you miss a month, you will have to catch up the months you owe before I will pay for your comics. Basically, when you start paying me, you will owe me for a whole year.

SON: So how do I get out of this if I change my mind?

DAD: Just wait until the 12 months end. Or you can move out of the area.

SON: Then who is going to buy my comics for me if I do move out?

DAD: I have friends all over the country. One of them can offer a similar deal.

SON: OK, let me see if I understand: I and other kids give you money every month and you get deals from the store. You shell out the cash when we need comics, and depending on how much I pay you, and the cost of the comics, I may have to pay a little bit as well. What happens if so many kids need so many comics that you run out of money?

DAD: Well, if the total cost of your comics adds up to a certain amount, you will have to pay a bigger share of the cost.

SON: But then I might go bankrupt!

DAD: Don't worry, after what you pay adds up to another, higher amount, I'll cover most of it, you'll wind up paying even less than you did to start. I figured out the likelihood of this happening to minimize my risk.

SON: Wait, is this legal?

DAD: Actually, by law it’s mandatory.

SON: What!?!

DAD: That’s right. In 2005 they passed a law called the “Comic Book Reader’s Protection Act.” It went into effect in 2006.

SON: What does that law mean?

DAD: It means that from the time you become eligible to read comic books you have to join a plan like mine or pay a penalty.

SON: A penalty!?! How does that work?

DAD: It’s real simple. All children become eligible to read comic books when they turn 5, or if they have been able to read for at least two years, whichever comes first. When you first became eligible you had a few months in which to join. If you don't join, the government is going to count up all the months you should have had have coverage but didn’t. They will figure what 1% of the average monthly cost of the plans like mine all over the country is for each month you didn’t have coverage, then add the total to the monthly amount you pay me when you do join.

SON: Wow! That doesn’t sound fair!

DAD: It pays to pay attention, kid. The government doesn’t want you dying for lack of comics, and some people need a stick more than a carrot.

SON: Well, what if I never need any comics? What’s the cheapest plan you got?

DAD: Just give me five bucks a month, but you gotta pay for the first $35 worth of comics yourself, then you gotta pay for additional comics at the rate I told you earlier for the $10-month plan.

SON: What if I decide to shop at a different comic store in the area?

DAD: Sorry, I only work with this comic store here. You’d be on your own if you went to another comic shop in this town.

SON: And what about in other towns?

DAD: You remember those guys in other towns I talked about earlier? If they work with me, you are covered at the shops they work with. If the shops don’t want to work with us, we can’t help you.

SON: But what if the comic I absolutely need is at a shop you don’t cover?

DAD: Tell you what, my friends and I will start a new kind of plan. In this plan we would prefer that you go to a store that works with us, but we will still cover you if you want to go to a different shop. Your contribution when you buy a comic will just have to be a little bigger.

SON: Well, that’s better than nothing, I guess.

DAD: So there you have it. Pay a lot up front and don’t worry about the cost when you need a comic. Pay less on the front end and you pay a little on the back end. Pay a little more if you want to go where you want to go.

SON: Thanks for explaining it all to me. I think I’m going to go get a job so I can afford all this!

DAD: Hmmm…the boy has learned a valuable lesson and has taken his first step into a larger world. I guess my job here is done!

Study questions:
  1. Can you identify the points in the conversation that represent:
    1. Premiums
    2. Annual election period
    3. Co-pays
    4. HMO
    5. Brand-name drugs
    6. Co-insurance
    7. Special election period
    8. PPO
    9. Generic drugs
    10. Coverage gap
    11. In-network and out-of-network
    12. Late enrollment penalty
    13. Tiers
    14. Specialty drugs
    15. Catastrophic coverage
    16. Shared risk
    17. Individual mandate
  2. Which plan would you be best for you?
  3. Which plan would be best for someone who has very little need to read comics?
  4. Which plan would be best for someone who had to read a lot of deluxe-edition comics?
  5. Which plan would be best for someone who expects to read just one or two newsstand comics per month?
  6. Why would someone get a deluxe edition instead of a paperback reprint?
  7. How would someone avoid falling into the “coverage gap?”
  8. Why would the government pass a law making comic book insurance mandatory?
  9. Who would benefit most from having insurance?
  10. Who has the least need for insurance?

    For those who need more details, here are some weighty tomes for you to peruse: