Monday, January 21, 2008

Shock Cure

Woe the agony of hauling this carcass out for groceries and Post Office, today. The air lay like dull concrete hovering low, infiltrating, saturating every cell and molecule into premature fossilization. The lock on the truck door got stuck, prolonging the misery with an additional 30 minutes of tinkering, spraying, jiggling, coming back inside to throw things, slam counters, curse, etc.

The Post Office box was stuffed angrily with scrunched up bills, desperate cries for donations, and unsolicited periodicals. The electricity bill alone was FIVE times what it had been in October...and I have
n't even turned on the thermostat yet. Groceries were priced for GE CEOs, but I found a bit of salmon and barley for dinner regardless. Good. Get me out of here, I'm warmed over death.

And then the Mother of All Shocks occurred. It occurred just as I wheeled my cart up to the checkout stand...I know that, because the last thing that I remember seeing was the Eclipse gum for just $1.19.

It was right then and there, that the cashier said, "HowrySheila?"

She REALLY DID say that. No, DON'T TRY TO TELL ME that I was hearing things, Bucko. I heard it. I saw it emerge from her very mouth. Okay, so maybe it was only, "HowrySheil," but what EVERH.

Stunned, I unloaded my stuff, being really careful to pretend like I hadn't noticed. That wo
uld have been totally invasive. Nosirree, it was just another dismal, grumpy, let's-say-something-chipper-about-the-weather (what weather?) grind, since we don't trust each other worth squat, I'm probably using fake ID, and we ALL really just want to get OUT OF THIS PLACE. But then the man checker who usually looks so terrified whenever I ring out, came over to my basket just then, and said, "Here, can I help you out with this?"

Driving home, serotonin dissolving calcified joints and organs, I began tallying some numbers. It's been over three years, since I began shopping at that little Thriftway. Pretty slow, for earning 'regular' status. But then I tallied back a bit further. I had shopped steadfastly at one Albertson's in my old town for SEVENTEEN years, without ONCE having been greeted by name. Oh, sometimes at Costco--that notoriously Good Company--they'll look at your name on the receipt after you've paid them, and give you that suave, smiling, "Thank you for shopping at Costco, Mrs. Wrongscience, and you have a good day now!" But that's not the same as greeting you without any teleprompters.

Okay, okay, what's shocking isn't that it happened, then. What's shocking is that it was so SHOCKING--that never once, over all of those years, had I even noticed being nameless.

When you look at how habituated we all are to maintaining our impersonal, distrustful, even hostile armor for the sake of personal survival, it's no WONDER that everybody's on dope or meds, and that Disease Marketing gets away with such murder. The LAST thing those Big Pharms want us to do is to start recognizing each other by NAME. Good for gut, ba-a-ad for big business.

Now go and burn this.

Back to the burrow in the woods.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Amish Sort of Dilemma

Ever fuddled by all of the vitriol over 'science' vs 'religion' etc., one sometimes hankers to hear voices from outside of the fray. Thus Steven Nolt's A History of the Amish (nicely published by a Pennsylvanian firm called Good Books) provided relief--and some rather surprising comparisons--this past week.

Believe it or not, there really are many, MANY decent, morally sound, educated humans walking around on this planet who are turned off by BOTH sides of the science/religion equation. And they generally find themselves in the same sort of bind that has plagued our poor Amish cohorts ever since 1693, when they broke away from the original Anabaptists of 1525 (now generally known as Mennonites), due to what they perceived as laxities. Much has happened in the interim, changes and divisions and reunions galore, but the Amish dilemma has changed little, at its core.

The dilemma is this
: To adapt or not to adapt? Most of us check the 'adapt' box because we aren't steeped in a culture based on mutual support anymore...and because it's way easier and more fun to adapt to really cool new stuff. The Amish have declined--at great cost--to adapt to anything violating their core values.

Meanwhile, whole industries (including the Amish-gaping tourist industry) have grown up around our need for just a whiff of the stoic serenity one associates with the Amish...and with good reason. If we happen to be surrounded by Fundamentalists, then Lord help us if we think Buddhists or Muslims might be rather marvelous just the
way they are. Conversely, if we are surrounded by Progressives, then GOD help us if we're discovered puking over the redefinition of words like 'marriage' to accommodate the demands of political opportunists. And if we are surrounded by both Fundamentalists and Progressives, then HEAVEN help us if we should dare to think that both sides sound like a pack of idiots.

The overall picture is a mess, of course. It always has been, and the Democratic Experiment is an attempt to make something good out of that jolly mess. It does succeed rather thrillingly, I think, unless the reins fall into the wrong hands. "Wrong hands", whether Fundamentalist or Progressive, would be defined as those which fuel, fan, and capitalize upon potential unrest, to satisfy selfish--usually murderous--agendas.

Today's message, then, might be this: Think a wee bit Amish, and don't fall for the bait. Humankind is BOTH emotion and intelligence... and quite a bit more. You might not care to stop schooling after 8th grade, or to wear archaic clothes while you plow, or to marry your cousin; but you CAN opt to be whole, and to build a world where lions and lambs can rest rather comfortably together.

Gray Anatomy

The color gray, as applied to local weather conditions hereabouts, has changed noticeably over the past 40 years. Today's gray, for instance, is reminiscent of The Old Way. Its mystic brooding resonates with concepts like 'dank' or perhaps 'melancholy', even 'dolorous'. It's the perfect sort of ambiance to please a frog, a poet, or possibly even a leprechaun.

Yesterday, however, featured the sort of gray that first began to appear while I was in my second year at University, back in the late '60's. At the time, I thought that I must be suffering from that mildly depressed, dullish malaise known as Sophomore Slump. The color had gone out of life. Some days, I could have sworn that everything seemed the hue of dry concrete.

Only years later, looking back from a stance of satisfied motherhood moored to Common Sense, did I realize that I hadn't been very 'slumped' at all, back then. Everything WAS the hue of dry concrete.

The cause? No, it wasn't that icky Fisheries class with the appallingly stupid professor, that I ended up taking Pass/Fail because I couldn't stand attending; nor was it the new dorm with its towering twin towers--one for males, the other for females. It was the freeway. Interstates 5, 90, 405 and a maze of smaller brethren had been under construction for the previous few years, and were just coming into their own, right when I hit sophomore year.

It's a boggler, realizing that your kids have already grown up in a climate alien to the one that you knew as a child, even though you're all living in the same old place. It's also boggling to hear people refer to global warming as a scam. One wonders if most of them mightn't be under-40ers who've never known anything BUT dry-concrete-gray, and think that Sophomore Slump is just the normal state of affairs. Either that, or they've inhaled so much pollution since birth that they've become living evidence for the latest (February 2008) 'Finding' in Harper's: That human evolution is accelerating.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowa Caucus Eve: May the Science Be Right

On this eve of the 2008 Iowa Caucus, I'd like to take just a moment to reflect on its significance. I vote religiously, but never by party--more by candidate, issue, or state of the country.

We look at the violence sparked by elections in places like Pakistan and Kenya, and we feel so lucky to be living where we do. And we are right, to feel so. Yet a horrible shadow has fallen over our wonderful land, this past couple of decades, and my prayer is that we will be able to lift it by the strength of our own belief in ourselves as humans and as Americans. Evangelicals, please be reminded that your Apocalypse was to be marked by an Antichrist who would lead great masses astray. That day has come but you are looking at the wrong place, for your Antichrist. You've been tricked. You need to rise up with all of your massive power and say 'No.'

The power that seduced you told you that you must consider all persons not of your persuasion to be The Enemy. This is not Christ. This is the Mother of All Evildoers.

Mother of All Evildoers always looks better than Christ. It dresses better, it makes more money, it banks on charm, it never admits to failings. If it's a pervert or a criminal, you'll never find out about it. And it preaches that if you repeat a thing enough times--including the most blatant lie--the thing will become reality. This is not Christ. This is Antichrist. Christ is truth, even when it hurts.

The power that tricked you banked on the 'divide and rule' maxim; and in that, it has succeeded. The only way that we will ever overcome the damage, will be by uniting.

I have no more stomach for left-wing radical ranters than I have for right-wing righteous bigots. Both spout Doomsday, insider prejudice, or hatred in various guises, and it's usually because the poor individuals spewing haven't done their deep-down personal housecleaning. Maybe it was just too hard to do. We are, in the end, only human.

This blog's tongue-in-cheek title, 'They Got the Science WRONG', is more a lampoon of human judgement than it is of Science itself. We could no sooner stop this insatiably curious, miraculously creative species from tinkering with Nature, from inventing things, than we could stop it from breathing. The problem is in what we DO with the Science. Take electricity, for instance. We can use it for pure profit at humankind's expense, a la Enron, or we can use it to help humankind first and reap the profits that we earn from it, a la Google. It's a question not of intelligence, but of wisdom.

The last election is an example of what can go wrong when 'the Science' falls into weak hands. My sister is now dead, largely due to the depression that comes of outrage turned inward. Her county was a nearly-pure 'blue' county. Technologically more ahead-of-the-game than many, it used the newest electronic voting machines for the election. The vote count for her county came up, rather fantastically, solid 'red.' There was no paper trail, and she could do nothing. She was a federal inspector, an extremely effectual, admired, and peaceloving lady; and rather than assassinate people or commit violence, she took her own life, in the end.

Is this really Christ? I don't think so, folks. 'Winning at all costs' is not a Christlike goal. Remember...Christ chose to lose, on Earth.

However the Election 2008 turns out, may all of Creation bless America; and may America become a blessed star to all of Creation.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Healing News

Early evening newscasts are painful to watch anymore, unless you enjoy holding out the remote and flipping channel-to-channel for 90 minutes, trying to glean morsels of information between the incessant ads. If you try turning the thing off when all stations are blaring ads at once, you'll find those ads still blaring, right where you left them, when you turn the thing back on five minutes later. You just missed your 60-second sound bite of News.

On to the computer, then...

But now...before lobbing any grenades at the TV, let's just look at those ads for a second. They're saying something, simply by their content. For instance, all of the dinnertime ads shout, "You are OLD, bucko. PANIC!!"

If it isn't Dr. Robert Jarvik with his d---d Lipitor (he even turned up full-page in The New Yorker last week...guy's loaded and annoying as the dickens), then it's Plavix, Vytorin or Centrum Cardio for that messed up cardiovascular system of yours. Then we've got the run of relief for bones that are disintegrating by the minute: Actonel, Boniva, even ThermaCare; and when in doubt just remember, while you crumble into rubble, that Bristol Myers-Squibb is there battling to save you 24/7.

We have AmbienCR for guilt and sleeplessness, Byetta and a host of others for the diabetes plague (if you don't have it, you'd better check to be SURE, because you probably DO have it), and Chantix for smokers who might enjoy hallucinating and shooting neighbors while they quit.

Amitiza's at your service for jammed plumbing, and PreparationH now includes cleansing wipes to be used before application, so relax, plug your nose, and enjoy. Nasal sprays and allergy meds come back-to-back in 30-second slots, so you'll never get bored with the same old sniff.

Most of all, if you've had only a routine breast exam...GET SCARED RIGHT NOW! There's a new, state-of-the-art screening that you have to have, pronto. Just look at all of those reallyreallysmart, sophisticated women in organic white flowing things, terrified not to have known! I mean, they usually know everything!

I'm old, sure...old enough to remember when drugs were taken seriously, not as fodder for The Market or even as Consumer Commodities. Your doctor didn't generally tell you something was wrong with you, unless it was. Now he's got a lot more at stake in your ill health than he once did, and the picture's changed a whole lot. So has TV, unfortunately.

Think I'll stick to Jim Lehrer and the BBC for healing, thanks anyway.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Creation vs. Evolution: Bunk

For any who missed it, NOVA's documentary last week--Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial--has been reviled by Christians of many flavors for its evident bias toward Darwin's theory of evolution. (I thought that PBS was simply illustrating the reasons for Republican, Bush-appointed Judge John E. Jones III's difficult verdict, but I'm pretty gullible, that way.) Conversely, the Darwinists were furious with PBS in 2006, after it had aired a documentary on a book called The Privileged Planet, a book too supportive of Intelligent Design. The debate is both violent and ongoing, kind of like the species in question is. Poor PBS. You can't win, gentlemen.

It's quite a quandary, actually. Scientific sympathizers proselytizing that we're hairless, gentrified apes tend to be so insufferably passive-aggressive, despite the humility intrinsic to their theories. One resists an urge to punch their lights out just for the pleasure of it, from time to time. And they can be so depressing! Mercy! There are even some Darwinists on ethyl who have gone on to say that Extraterrestials aren't "extras" at all, but are actually "us" in an advanced form and dimension. They expound upon their findings in those terse, monotoned utterances that sound all sciency...

Yet those who insist that we magically appeared As Is, with the wave of a celestial wand, obviously have serious reality-check issues (not that we blame them). One yearns to coddle
the Faithful on a couch with a cozy book of Grimm's, offering comfort to those unfulfilled childhood cravings for magical, faraway wonders, where Good still glistens and Evil still looms darkly. Most of all, it has to be far away. Of course, Faithful schnozzes invite a bit of bashing too, once their eyes light up with that zealous fire of brittle, lecturn-thundering righteousness that inspires masses to commit acts both fine and--more often--unconscionable. We are an emotional species, needing sustenance and a sense of purpose. And we're often so famished that we'll ingest most anything that gratifies that hunger (and prevents us from committing suicide, as the Scientists would prefer).

Now, I realize that I am at risk of arousing not only the wrath of both constituents, but the enthusiasm of a few less-than-desirable animal-cultists as well, here. But allow me to offer an alternative to this very silly war.

I discovered it quite inadvertently the other day. It's right here, on p. 157 of Bodo W. Jaxtheimer's How to Paint and Draw (Thame
s & Hudson 1962), which has been sitting in my library ever since I plucked it from a sale table at B.Dalton's, back in 1975. Mr. Jaxtheimer is ostensibly just illustrating how to conceptualize the anatomies of various animals, of course, but the implications are entirely obvious. Only an artist could get to the bottom of things, in the end. But there it is. Our insatiable appetite for More & Bigger identifies us beyond refutation as immediate relatives of the creature that now runs around in such Lilliputian form, chastened once and forever by its glorious, gluttonous past.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Morrie Ferkel was a Genius

I know that the Science is all wrong because Morrie Ferkel said it was. Morrie Ferkel was one of the Five Geniuses who ruled over Honors Algebra the year that Kennedy was assassinated. It was a wretched class. It gave me nightmares. I was lucky to 'C' the thing. (I learned 25 years later that our Algebra teacher had 'D'd' math himself, all through college. His degree was in something else.)

But Morrie and the Five Geniuses had a leg up on everybody else. They'd been privileged to special summer courses in advanced math...therefore they ruled the roost. Morrie, whose dad was a physician, is now a successful doctor of internal medicine, himself. We had lunch together some years ago, and one tale that he told me has stuck in my craw ever since.

Morrie and his wife had two daughters in junior high, at the time. But as of fifth grade, the girls had been yanked from school by their father, and Mom had been homeschooling them ever since. The reason: The schools were teaching them math that was, in Morrie's words, "just WRONG. Its BASIS is wrong."

It was scary. It was scary because Morrie Ferkel the Math Genius is also the reverse of a rebel. If there had been any way for him to remain within the conventions of respectability without harming his daughters, Morrie Ferkel would have found it before anybody else could.

My own daughter Amy is another case in point. The child throve on the sciences in high school; and she opted to major in Anatomy once she got to college. Yet after her first year at university level, she switched to Psych. Why? Whenever I asked what was wrong with the Science program, she
would invariably retort, "Oh Momm, they're just so...atheist!" She didn't mean it in a religious sense. What she meant was that her profs and fellow science majors were about as warm and wonderful as cold spaghetti for breakfast. CLAMMY terrain for a vibrant human with red blood running through its very healthy veins.

And so the American science community lost yet another bright star because that community was too emotionally underdeveloped to support full-blown human specimens. (It was the larger community's g
ain in the end, as the little brat's degree got her a post doing what she loves most, as Director of Dance Programs for a large urban non-profit.)

There are too many bloodless little noodles steering what we call 'modern science,' folks. This is NOT a comforting prospect for the fate of Life on Earth. Therefore I shall commence today with a most excellent weblog, one whose sole purpose is to heal all persons struggling to cope with a world ruled by Wrong Science.