Sunday, January 25, 2009

Roads? Where we're going we don't need....roads.

I realize I haven't updated this thing in a while. With our new president firmly in the buttery leather seat of the Oval Office, I guess I've just been too damn upbeat to rant lately. Either that, or I've been sick and whiny. Whichever one makes me sound more butch.

Anyway, this one is going to be a two-topic post, both of which relate to the title, as always. Topic number one: History is the best damn soap opera you'll ever come across.

I've always been fascinated by where we've been as a species. Seriously, how did we get from monkeys: hyper-active, angry, furry, hilarious critters flinging crap at each other from tree to tree, to 21st century humans: lethargic, angry, slightly less furry, hilarious (in that sad sort of way) critters flinging crap at each other in...I don't know...boardrooms and...well, internet blogs? Though that last sentence may seem a little on the glass-is-half-empty side of things, I am honestly pro-humanity. In a localized sense, individual humans are crazy, weird, awesome, despicable, beautiful, hideous, wacky fuckers that can simultaneously uplift and destroy my faith in the universe. We are ALWAYS entertaining.

Lately, I've been kind of poking around in the seedier parts of American history. If history in general is, say, Montel Williams, American history is TOTALLY Jerry Springer. Europeans have their share of dirty secrets and then some, so let's not give them a complete pass, but they've had thousands of years ; to continue my talk show analogy, Europe is the "Who's My Baby's Daddy?" episode of Maury Povich (a lot of screwed up stuff happening in the span of a half hour) while America is the "My Uncle is My Baby's Daddy!" episode of Springer (a lot of REALLY screwed up stuff happening, say, during the opening credits).

There are a lot of great books on the more colorful bits of American history, but I'll recommend three that I've been reading recently just for flavor:

Lies My Teacher Told Me examines the many and varied inconsistencies, simplifications and downright falsehoods perpetrated by American history textbooks from Columbus on down. It's fascinating, funny, and enlightening; and its no-holds-barred portrayal of the history of America is as bloody and porn-filled as anything on Cinemax at 2 A.M.

Lies Across America; similar to the above tome, and by the same author, this one looks at our beloved historical landmarks and how we cartoonize the history of our American heroes to fit on the little plaques attached to museum exhibits. Here's a bit of trivia: Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, the famous log-cabin, was built after he'd been dead a good while. Lies are fun!

Our Bastard Tongue, a history of the English language that focuses on its uniqueness. English, though a Germanic language, has more in common grammatically with the Celtic languages of Gaelic and Welsh. The author examines this peculiarity and in turn paints a picture of the early English-speaking world that is both intelectually fulfilling, and somehow kind of sexy.

Anyway, just a little something for when you're bored on a rainy day. You'll learn more than you did in high school History class, and pick up some awesome nuggets of filth to amaze your friends at parties. Knowing where we've been gives one a new fascination for where the hell it is we're going.

Like an episode of Springer, we're at times funny, sad, disturbing and/or incomprehensible, and we can sure as hell take a chair to the head and keep on swinging. Hell, we're so drunk, we didn't even feel it! Jerry, Jerry Jerry! I mean, U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Topic number two: Michael J. Fox is my hero. That's it. That dude is a fucking hoss, and I wouldn't be surprised if he PERSONALLY cured Parkinson's and then kicked it in the balls, Alex P. Keaton style. You rock, McFly.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

We are all precancerous...

I watch a lot of night time TV. When you live in the suburbs, they roll up the sidewalks at 9:30 every night, so there's really little else to do on a day-by-day basis. Organizing those box socials you're all so damn fond of takes a lot of work and being a lazy kind of guy by nature, I can really only be expected to pull them off on a semi-annual basis. The bills for the ice sculptures alone are GHASTLY. That being the case, most nights after work the missus (she doesn't blog on as regular a basis as I do, but if you listen really closely, you can hear her ranting in "out loud" words most of the time. It doesn't give one the opportunity to savor every letter like my awesome "written down" words do, but it's way more violent. And I'm always pro-violence. ALWAYS. Anyway, go back up and read the beginning of the sentence again, because by now you've forgotten it.) and I usually mellow out with a movie or, failing anything interesting, the three to four hours of Friends they run every night on the CW. (Ed Note: I hate Friends. Once the monkey left, it was all downhill. You should feel bad for liking it.)

All exposition aside, I've been noticing a commercial lately for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I don't know if these commercials are a nationwide thing, but a quick perusal of their website shows facilities all over America, so chances are they run on your TV, too. The next time one comes on, pay close attention to it. If you're like me (read: filled with white-hot hatred the texture and flavor of delicious marshmallow Fluff on, like, a 24/7 basis), you'll vomit with rage.

"But K-Dawg," you might say (if you were one of the many people who refers to me as such in both conversation and thought), "Surely you're not going to shank a new one into the soft belly of a cancer hospital! They treat sick and dying people, and give families with no hope some glimmer of brightness in an otherwise bleak and unforgiving universe..."

Oh hell yes I am, Chester. Oh hell yes I am.

Let me clarify that: I have nothing but respect for the doctors, nurses, physician's assistans, hospice care workers, orderlies, accountants, janitors, gift shop employees and whoever else makes up the staff of a hospital or otherwise gives care to those of us who are in our most needy hour. People who work everyday fighting disease, treating injuries, and generally tapping Death on the shoulder and saying "Hey, look over there, what the hell is that?!" so that we might have an improved quality of life; so that a child will spend another Christmas with his grandma, so that Uncle Walt can walk on his own these days, and so any of us get to spend just a little while longer in this crazy-ass funhouse called life, are fucking heroes. Hands down.

And I don't have anything against the buildings themselves. Some of the architecture is very nice, quite modern and tasteful.

That being said: Fuck that commercial and whatever self-indulgent fuck decided that that's how they wanted all the people (and buildings) above represented to the people they're trying to reach.

Basically, said commercial is just a long string of testimonials from various patients (or actors, I really don't know): "When I was diagnosed with cancer of the (body part), I thought 'Damn, Gina. I'm wicked screwed.' I went to the hospital and the doctors told me 'You're totally gonna die in, like, a week. Seriously, you should probably start giving your shit away now. Here's some morphine. Drink it all, it'll be easier that way. Peace out, dead guy.' And then they threw some gang signs at me. But then I went to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and in less than a week, not only did they cure the fuck out of my cancer, but now I can fly and have heat vision!"

Ok, so that's a little hyperbole for you. But once the actualy commercial spun around in my brain for awhile and I'd seen it a few more times, that's the impression I got: "Your doctors don't give a shit, they're dumber than hell and they don't care if you die. We've got some magic potion that not one single other doctor in modern medicine has ever heard of. Call us, and we'll cure you. That's right: WE CAN CURE CANCER!" Seriously, watch this commercial and tell me different.

Now, I can only imagine a doctor in an oncology ward having to watch this. Or being someone fighting cancer having to watch this. These people deal with the gravity of these diseases every day. Every little positive step is a miracle, and every setback is crushing. And then you hear about these guys at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and your hopes get lifted, and you spend a shitload of money to get there and you find out that they're just plugging along hoping to get lucky and find an effective treatment for each of their patients the same as every other oncologist in the world. That's what really bothered me about this thing: the smugness. The sense that "All other oncologists are dumber than us. Fuck those guys."

I'm sure that the doctors and everyone else at Cancer Treatment Centers are working their asses off to help their patients. Or researching the hell out of any thread that might pan out to something useful. Or holding their patient's hand while giving them bad news, or good news, or telling them jokes, or whatever. They're probably awesome doctors. My only point is there are a lot of awesome doctors in the world, doing the same thing at hospitals all over the place. They're all trying like hell to make their patients' lives better. It's their job. And they know that THEY CANT CURE CANCER. And they don't claim to. But they keep trying. Watch a St. Jude's commercial to see how it ought to be done. They tell you, "Listen, cancer sucks. It sucks hard. And we can't cure it. But we're trying, and we're getting there. And little Jimmy here is probably gonna live long enough to get laid after the prom because of it." AND they'll get Robin Williams to say it.

Patch Adams out, fuckers.