Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Friday, November 28, 2008

We don' need no steenkin' humour

Not long ago, elsewhere, I bailed out of one of those pointless "debates" about abortion. The interloping anti-abortion type claimed to know someone "who had had an abortion for the fun of it."

Even if you don't have a vagina, a bit of sensitivity and elementary medical knowledge will inform you that abortions may be many things, but fun isn't one of them. This outre remark interested me enough to google it in search of its ultimate origins.

It began, evidently, on The Onion. Riffs on the idea have spread around the Web since, but we have once again evidence that the one thing that escapes ideologues (especially religious ideologues) is humour at the expense of their pet belief.

Taking a Web rumour and passing it off as one's personal knowledge used to be called lying. Now it's called faith.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Regarding moderation

In this case, I mean the practice of moderating blog postings.

I began doing it, oddly enough, over a progressive issue. In that case I was reminded, yet again, that certain issues attract ideologues like spilt food attracts pests. When it happened to me a second time it became clear that first, I would stay largely off political topics and second, that I would moderate everyone. That seems to be the only way to keep a non-ideological blog from being hijacked by the ideological frenzy of one lot or another. Since my experiences here, I have stayed away from all blogs that seem endangered by ideology. The lost art of casual conversation strikes me as a better medium for the exchange of ideas than most of what passes for discourse on the Web.

Thinking about thanks

I'm thankful that my depression has lifted, just for now. Thankful that the Beast has been and gone today, just for now. Thankful that Spike, thick as he is, rubs my leg and looks hopeful at mealtimes (nice to be appreciated sometimes). I'm thankful that beds under duvets get warm quickly.

There are many other things, but I mention those because its hard to muster thanks for the first three sometimes, and the fourth is growing on my mind at the moment.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Yeah, looks like the majority of my recent comments have tended to be more grumpy and morose than usual. Yes, it's a sure sign that my winter companion has arrived, hitting full stride last night after a couple of weeks warming up.

So it's back. Fuck it. Let's move on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


There is this irritating sort of person who has decided that no wartime experience except combat merits the least bit of attention. Psychologists call it invalidation, I believe, and it's usually some sort of control thing

I was watching Ken Burns' The War yesterday and found myself reflecting on the sorts of invalidation I have heard served up by these people, who have spent their entire lives in safety. One of the people interviewed for this series spent three years, as a child, in a Japanese internment camp in Manila. She and her family came back to discover a form of invalidation. People, even those who asked, weren't interested. "We just clammed up," she said.

Those of us who experienced the chaotic job of patching up Vietnam War wounded stateside long ago learned to clam up, because the invalidators would tell you it couldn't have been as bad as combat. It wasn't, of course, but I find this business of parsing degrees of bad rather revolting. The most outrageous example I ever heard came from someone to whom I mentioned my father's apparent involvement in liberating a Nazi death camp.

Oh that was horrible, of course, but naturally it wasn't combat.

My father came in at the very tail end of the Battle of the Bulge. He was involved in the battles for the Ruhr. He was frequently shot at and once missed being mined only because he could speak German. A nearby officer could not, ignored a German farmer, and led his truck convoy into a mine field. He talked freely about all that. He even talked in an abstract way about the surreal horror of nighttime attacks by Hitler Youth. I think he experienced that more immediately than he let on, but as a kid I accepted what he said. He alluded just once to the death camp, then never spoke of it again.

I watched the combat veterans speaking on The War break down when discussing the camps, or speak of them with palpable rage that 60 years hadn't dimmed. I wonder, then, which was the greater horror.

The interviewees on The War included a survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.
Sent unescorted into waters known to harbour Japanese submarines, the Indianapolis was torpedoed, sank in minutes, leaving almost 900 survivors in the water. They waited more than four days for rescue, dying one at a time of thirst but also of endless shark attacks. Just over 300 survived.

It was horrible, of course, but it wasn't combat.

Maybe the invalidators should just shut the fuck up and be grateful they haven't had to experience even the collateral horrors of war.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Straight lines to avoid

You really, really, don't want to tempt me with a setup like a riff on Special K water (that's you, Ms Malevolent). As a registered user of special K of another kind, I jumped immediately to a conclusion that the marketers of said beverage might find disturbing.

But that sort of special K water would surely require a prescription.
Going away now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More proof

All of us who have not made a career out of spending vast amounts of money to conclude the obvious have clearly wasted our lives.

What...there's a link between chronic pain and suicide? No, really? How much did it cost to figure that out? And, having figured it out, why is it that these Einsteins can't figure out why chronically ill people kill themselves?

With the Beast knocking on the door again, this topic gets to be a staple of my daily introspection. Medicine does not want to fix many forms of chronic pain, but it does want to prevent people with chronic pain from fixing it for themselves. Medicine offers medication that turns them into marionettish travesties of the human beings they were. This supposedly makes them better, and adds another half dozen pills to the daily regimen. I take 18 a day, which seems like quite enough.

For people with intractable chronic pain, suicide is just a treatment option. If you want to think of suicide as something to prevent, more pills don't help: only taking away the pain helps.

Giving the chronically ill their lives back seems like a solution to me...but I don't make my living off grants, so what do I know?

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just me, I guess

Maybe it is just me, but I am so utterly, totally bored by Sarah Palin. A makeover that turns oneself from political babe of the world into a whiny brat in less than three months takes talent. It just isn't political talent.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My favourite veteran

E was past 70 when I first met him. He lived across the hall and was our landlord's father-in-law. He was a friendly, talkative old gentleman, fond of fishing off the pier at the end of the street. He was always good for a story: what stories they were and, as it happened, true.

Born in a poor seaport in the Canadian Maritimes, he first went to sea at age nine, and scratched a living first as a fisherman, then as a Great Lakes mariner, until the First World War began. He then joined the Black Watch Regiment of Canada, went to the Western Front and was one of the first to be gassed in 1915. The gassing ironically gave him his future career. The British army made E a Rolls Royce driver, and when recovered he went with Allenby's army to the Middle East. When E got back to North America, being able to drive a Rolls made him a chauffeur for many years, then a cabby until he retired.

His stories used to combine a sense of detached wonder with an elusive bitterness--something I understand better now that I'm nearer his age. A couple of years later, an accident left him with irreparable hip damage and confined him to a wheelchair and walker. Our neighbourhood was, on occasion, something tough, and I wondered aloud to him once whether that bothered him. By way of reply, he flicked at his trouser leg, drew a blade and effortlessly threw it into the woodwork across the room. He explained that he had worn the sgean dubh since he had served in the Black Watch and that no, he wasn't especially frightened of young hoodlums (The feat didn't earn him any points with his wife, though.)

He never smoked--the gas saw to that--but it was the gas that gave him emphysema. He died of his war-poisoned lungs nearly 70 years after those first heinous attacks. I still miss him. It's been a reminder of sorts that one of my daughter's best friends, through school and beyond, is a great-granddaughter of his who is too young to remember him. That's a pity, because he was one hell of a great-grandpa to have.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Well, everyone has to make a buck, and I suppose swindling the body politic with political predictions is not more ore less dishonest than many.

As I recall, four years ago this week the odds-on favourites to be the 2008 nominees were Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. I suppose that those pundits predicting a bright future for Sarah Palin are earnestly hoping that very few people remember that.

As I write, I find it amusing to note that the Alaska governor's moment of fame didn't last long enough for her to make it into the spell check dictionary.

OK, 98% pleased

After many poverty-stricken years as an historian, I know that there are--to use the pundits' newly-discovered phrase--"transformational moments" in American history. Usually they happen because a critical mass of a frequently thick electorate arrive at a moment of unconscious gestalt, then drag the leadership after them.

The gestalt isn't uniform. We have the moving sight on one hand of some of the most powerful black people in America weeping to see a sight none of their ancestors dared dream of...a moment some of them must have often doubted. I don't think it is quite possible to be white and to fully comprehend an Obama victory.

Yet we still have the march of bigotry drumming on in a new theatre...still have the tired dogma of omniphobes denying civil rights to people based not upon their race, but upon who they love. These people are running out of targets for their rage. They may at last have to turn their attention to the mirror.

Proposition 8 is a fly in my soup. Like flies, homophobic bigotry is germy and hard to swat.

Once again, I wish life were like baseball. Massachusetts could trade its anti-gay and anti-tax cliques to California for an equal number of talented, energetic GLBT people, to take up some of the slack in our declining population. We'd come out ahead, and it wouldn't do more than delay the inevitable outcome in California.

Monday, November 03, 2008

inventory control

I had to go to my local CVS this morning to pick up a fresh lot of Klonopin. Which of course means breakthrough episodes, but never mind that.

Thanks to the wonders of inventory control, the only half-price Halloween candy left in the place was M&Ms. Having absolutely no will power, I bought a bag along with the special K.

The drugs are untouched. The M&Ms are gone. Which one is more addictive?