I'd like to interrupt my unrestrained whinging about the state of the nation to make an announcement: today is my birthday. I have now officially reached the age by which I really should have accomplished something with my life. Oh, well. What are you gonna do?
Oh, and it's the blog's first birthday, too, give or take a few days. The blog hasn't accomplished much either, but it doesn't have to - I mean, it's only a blog for heaven's sake.
Over the weekend I had dinner with a charming couple, the better half of whom was an emergency room physician in the South Bronx. She entertained us by describing her treatment of a young man who had come into her E.R. the night before suffering from priapism. Now, ever since the rise of televised advertisements for erectile dysfunction we've all had a good laugh over the idea of an erection lasting four hours or more, but I had never before given any thought to what happens to those men suffering priapism who "seek immediate medical attention."
Anyway, here's what happens: first, the physician prepares a relatively wide-gage syringe (she demonstrated with a cocktail straw - hold that image in your head, it's going to be important in a minute). Next, the syringe is inserted into the base of the penis. The physician then draws blood out of the penis until the erection subsides.
You know, it's all fun and games until someone ends up with a syringe the size of a cocktail straw stuck in their johnson.
It turned out that the poor guy didn't end up with his priapism because he was taking a treatment for erectile dysfunction but rather because he had been taking ecstasy. The ONDCP and other anti-drug crusaders like to play up ecstasy's supposed danger to the cardiovascular system - me, I think they should start telling everyone that if you take too much ecstasy you can end up with a syringe stuck in your johnson. I'm pretty sure that would finally get a large percentage of ecstasy users scared, um, straight.
It just occurred to me that Einstein had four scientific papers published and laid the groundwork for the theory of relativity while he was holding down a 9 to 5 job at the Swiss patent office - basically, he altered our entire conception of the universe and its mysteries in his spare time.
More than a few things in my life these days have got me thinking about my own mortality, which reminds me of this old post from the alternative culture blog Coilhouse. Artist Nadine Jarvis will mix your cremated remains with bird seed and sculpt them into a lovely bird feeder guaranteed to add elegance, class, and a certain morbid fascination to any backyard, garden, or balcony. (I love Coilhouse - I find something there worth reading just about every day, even though as a married white male with two kids I am quite possibly the least alternative person in the universe.)
Personally, I have no desire to be sculpted into a bird feeder - but I share the post's author's horror at the thought of being lacquered up by some funeral director so my loved ones (assumung they show up - I'm kind of hard to get along with) can gather around my casket and say, "Oh, he looks great. They did such a good job with him!" Given the absurdity that surrounds "typical" funeral rites here in the United States, I can respect someone's desire to be sculpted into a bird feeder; after all, not all of us get to be shot out of a cannon by Johnny Depp.
Since I don't even know Johnny Depp, it seems to me that my best bet is something low-key that definitely does not include embalming. Pluck whatever's still useful out of me, stick it in someone who needs it and dump the rest in the Earth that has seen fit to nourish me ever since I wised up and started eating things that actually grow from it. Imagine my dismay when I was told that New York State law requires embalming. How the hell can you require that? Where do they get off denying me my right to rot?
Carboard coffin decorated by family and friends - I like that. Now, that just leaves music...Margaret Cho already has dibs on Bowie's Life on Mars so that's out...maybe Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place) by Talking Heads?
(For the record, I'm fine, I'm not even sick...it's just been a wild couple of weeks.)
Not that I think there's anyone out there still reading this - considering that it's been nearly a month since I've bothered to update this site - but I'm going to make an effort to resuscitate this place. I didn't abandon it intentionally; my life over the past few months has been, to put it as elegantly as I can, completely fucked up. If I told you half the stuff that's been going on you'd think I was making it up. I'm not the type to pour out my whole life on a web page so I'm going to leave it at that. Well, I'll add one more thing: I am never again going to let things get as screwed up and out of control as I did. The important people in my life deserve at least that much from me.
My Lovely and Talented Wife Who is Smarter Than Me™ recently brought this DVD home from the library. For those of you who don't have small children and may not be familiar with the Baby Einstein line, they are a series of DVDs designed to stimulate infants' cognitive development with classical music, colorful imagery and stock footage of real world objects. Do they work? Hell, I don't know - but they get the one-year-old to go slack-jawed and goggle-eyed long enough to get a shower in and that's good enough for me.
They used to be an independent entity but a few years ago they were bought out by Disney. Each video is hosted by an animal puppet character; these characters are named after artists, writers and scientists such as Van Gogh, Mozart, and Pavlov. The animal adventure video used to be hosted by Jane, a monkey in a pith helmet presumably named after Jane Goodall. Now that Disney's running the show, it's hosted by an elephant named Noah. He's got an ark and everything.
You read that right - Disney managed to dumb down material aimed at infants.
Anyway, I'm not writing this to rag on Disney, though heaven knows you can do that all day long; nor do I want to get into the staggering implausibility of the Noah's Ark story (another fine way to blow an afternoon.) What I'm really curious about is why fundamentalists and the people who want to sell stuff to them think the story of the Genesis flood is such great material for kids. Because they do, you know. I guess it's because the story features so many cuddly animals (and not so many dinosaurs) - but the last time I checked the drowning death of nearly every living creature on Earth was a critical plot point of the story. Maybe it's me, but the boat full of plushy fun seems to pale in comparison to that. Then again, I am the buzzkill that walks so I'm probably not the guy to ask.
More than a few things that I've read on the Internet have made me angry lately, and for me, that's not a very good thing. When I get angry, I get ridiculously angry, and it's usually accompanied by a surge in blood pressure that I can actually feel followed shortly thereafter by a slashing headache cutting across my left temple. And I'm not one of those people who can turn anger into constructive energy so don't even suggest it. Anger's like some kind of psycho groupie stalker with me - if I give it the time of day it starts popping up all over my life, usually at the worst possible moment.
But still, stories like this one bring out the worst in me. This one didn't do wonders for my serenity either, especially considering that I know the people involved. (I'm still trying to get my head around that last incident - who gets in a guy's face when the other guy is carrying a kid?) Reading these stories I find myself wishing I had been there, my absurd reveries being accompanied with all kinds of macho self-puffery: "Hey, if these fuckers want to start beating up liberals they can start with this one! Come on, bring it, assholes!"
Whatever. Whether or not I give myself an aneurysm is of no great import, but I know that I'm not alone in feeling this intense frustration. And that's really what we're seeing here: frustration. No one simply decides on the spur of the moment to follow you home and start bitching you out because you have a Kerry sticker on your car. Whenever I encounter someone like that, I try to remember that I'm simply getting the pointy end of a long line of bullshit that led to that moment. I'm don't do this in order to excuse the unhinged mouth breather in question but rather to keep myself from making the situation worse. Two pissed off people is always worse than one pissed off person. Always.
And yet, here I am, pissed off. I know exactly what's behind the pointy end of my long line of bullshit: genuine despair over the continuing gory clusterfuck in Iraq, feckless non-leadership by the people we elected with the express desire that they end the gory clusterfuck, the continuing public influence of those who would slander a brain-damaged twelve-year-old to make a vague political point, the fact that there are people in this country willing to beat strangers in the street in order to prop up our failed president, etc., etc., etc. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I've heard many liberal bloggers and some folks who actually spend time in the real world say we're heading for a replay of 1968 with its riots and suppression of political dissent. It's a tough point to argue. What bothers me is that some of us - myself included, at times - seem to look forward to this, to getting it all out in the open, to finally making the culture war a hot war. Over at The Crack Den, whenever someone (usually the never irksome Steve Simels) makes the 1968 comparison someone else usually chimes in with a sneering post that says something like, "This generation of sheeple will never spill blood."
Well, bully for the sheeple, then. I wasn't born until 1969 and I've never been in a riot, so I'm hardly an expert - but it seems to me that those riots were pretty one sided affairs with the guys carrying the tear gas and night sticks enjoying the upper hand. I can't imagine it being any better today now that they're equipped with microwave death rays and robot dragonflies of doom. Am I saying we should sit down and shut up? Of course not. And if you ever find yourself in a riot situation only you can decide how you should handle it. I'm just saying that let's not look forward to such an occurrence. Remember, someone who's expecting to get into a fight usually finds a way to get into one. Even Shakespeare's warlike mirror of all Christian kings, Henry V, would not seek a battle - of course, neither would he shun one.
Oh, and if some nutjob reading this meets me and decides he wants to get in my face for being a godless liberal, well, just don't, okay? Do me a favor. Just don't.