I might be out of the woods with this dread disease - some sort of viral bronchitis with many other joyous side-symptoms. It's going on three weeks for both my daughter and me. We're still hacking like 92-year-old tobacco junkies, with revisitations of earaches, sore throats, and runny noses. My wife just came down with it today. Gad what a plague. Half of the school, teachers and students, are still out. A friend's kids have all developed pneumonia from it, the baby landing in the hospital. The local children's hospital is so full of kids with this, they are forwarding new cases to a hospital out of town. This is Denver, folks, so think about that: A major metropolitan hospital is FULL and sending kids to the burbs for beds. Why is this not on the news? It makes me wonder if the avian flu or Capt. Trips did sweep the nation, would it be missed because the media was still enamored with political scandals? (Can't you just envision that meeting? "Why are the ratings down so drastically? Go investigate!" ...some time passes... "What? Half the population is DEAD? How did we miss that? Oh, look! Bush is signing a bill that will make all doctors liable for murder if they fail to resuscitate emergency room victims! Especially if they're Republicans! Get the liberal reaction to THAT!")
Of course, the medical story in the news is the woman whose feeding tube was pulled, according to her wishes. My take is this kind of thing is exclusively a private family issue. It's too bad the parents and the husband didn't agree, but they didn't, and now this mess. My family is all on the side of living wills and have signed, sealed, and submitted documents that all scream "KICK THE PLUG OUT OF THE WALL, DAMNIT ANYWAY," so this is just a circus as far as we're concerned. We're all Christians by the way. We don't agree with the fundie and Catholic take on this issue (well, to be fair, there are fundies and Catholics on the other side of the issue, but they aren't making the news). They scream about saving her life. If the brain or the body is damaged to where it can't live on its own without life support (which includes a feeding tube), is that truly life? I would expect atheists to chime in on the side of never giving up since they think this is all there is, but for those of us who believe the soul never dies, why would anyone want that soul trapped in a mindless shell for decades? Especially if we don't know if they are suffering or not inside that shell? For some, this goes back to the question of following God's will. The fundies and Catholics chanting outside of the hospice have decided that any human intervention that causes death is de facto thwarting of the will of God. I dunno. Is keeping a body alive through breathing machines and feeding tubes thwarting the will of God? Because if we weren't there to provide such support in the first place, it would die. These issues are complex, and so I feel this should have remained a family issue. But you can't undo what's done. May she rest in peace.
TLD: By the way, one of the real tragedies in the end-of-life hospice world is that the management of pain, say from cancer or inability to eat or sepsis, is a hit-or-miss deal due to the drug war. Because all drugs that do a great job of managing pain are controlled substances, and so are monitored by the DEA, someone's comfort level will be directly affected by their doctor's views of and fears of the DEA. Doctors have to let the DEA know when and how much of any narcotic they prescribe for any reason, thanks to the drug war. The DEA doesn't really pay attention to what the reasons are, but if a doc suddenly throws a yellow or red light from prescribing close to or above set limits, they get a nastygram, a visit, or even have their license yanked if the DEA is taken with a whim to do so. Some doctors are courageous and will prescribe what the patient needs; others have a reasonable fear of the DEA and choose to be safe, but the patient then usually suffers pain that is unnecessary. If you find a loved one or yourself on the long slide down, probe the doctor on their opinion of this issue and find out whether there will be adequate pain management or not. Get specifics on how they intend to manage it and don't accept vague generalities like "we will do our best to make you comfortable." Also, don't wait until hospice care has started to find this out. America is behind both the first and third worlds in this issue because other developed countries have figured out that if someone is terminal, it doesn't matter if they're on heroin or cocaine (both supposedly superior to morphine for pain control - did you know that our military generals cruise into the void on cocaine rather than morphine, for instance), and hospitals in third world countries use whatever works.
I've had little peace myself in the last week or so, staying up all hours, hacking away on the couch downstairs so as to not wake the rest of the family. From the run of Sat through Tues, I had approx 2 hours of sleep per night, incessantly surfing through the dregs of nightowl TV. It's always been a wasteland, but any more it's just, well, sick. Porn is openly advertised, with barely pixilated blurs pretending to hide the naughty bits. All the condom and lube commercials tout a new "warming sensation" chemical, which just makes me wonder two things simultaneously: 1) Are there really people out there whose genitals aren't warm enough whilst in the act, and if so, shouldn't they be seeing a doctor about it rather than applying heat rub on their pink parts?; and 2) who thinks it's healthy to have a chemical that makes perhaps some of the most sensitive tissue on the body experience burning sensations? Aren't burning sensations in our pee pees something most of us actively strive to avoid? Dave Chappelle, though funny, gets old upon the 5th rerun of "I'm Rick James, bitch!" MTV and VH1 are back to playing about an hour or so of videos in the wee hours, but it's mostly (c)rap and hiphop, with rock getting maybe one slot per hour, which makes the ratio of rockin' time to commercial time 1 to 5; how sad is that? To my dismay I've seen NO movies during this sick vacation because my wife wants to see all the movies we have rented (meaning I can't watch them alone), and since the child is home sick, too, we can't watch them during the day. I am in serious withdrawal. I almost watched a Hallmark/Lifetime Special movie the other day, it's that bad.
Because of lack of entertainment options, I've been reading the paper a lot. The local big deal is this schmuck-on-a-stick "humanities" (Identity Politics, Minority Studies - take your pick, they're all the same animal) professor, Ward Churchill, who labeled the victims of 9-11 "little Eichmanns," which means, for those of you in the cheap seats, he called them Nazis. This guy is a prime example of how fucked up these departments have become. If you can mangle logic to the extent that innocent people blown up at work by terrorists equate to evil bastards who purposely killed fellow human beings they had downgraded to animals through massive disassociations and putrid justifications, to quote the late great Bill Hicks, "You ARE Satan." Yeah, Churchill has the freedom of speech on his side to say such idiotic and cruel things, but he has to expect some consequences for the same. Many want this bastard fired, as do I. I don't want him fired for what he said, but for what he represents. If you identify a cancer, cut it out, I say. (Maybe I should just go up to the Boulder campus, find Churchill and cough on him. With his butt habit, this nasty virus would probably take him out in a week.)
Oh, a couple more notes on Churchill just to further emboss how twisted this guy is: He pretends he's a Native American (or an American Indian if that term does not offend) even though there's damn good evidence to the contrary. His claim for being an NA is based on his grandma telling him he was 1/16th Indian once and some tribe giving him honorary membership. Even the tribe that gave him that honorary membership won't go so far as to claim he's actually a Native American, they just had fun partying with him once or twice. Many suspect that he claims to be NA because it provides him the legal protection of being a minority and because apparently some college chicks dig it. He doesn't have a degree in the field he teaches either; he has an art degree (which he employs to create Native American paintings that he sells for cigarette money, natch). His tribal drumming leaves a lot to be desired by all reports, too, as his talent for rhythm is in as short supply as his honesty. You'd think someone living such a warped, corrupt existence would eventually perish from his own asshole rising up and engulfing him out of utter shame. Apparently his first two wives, including the one who has a restraining order on him, concur with opinions approximating this one. His third wife died by wandering into traffic while intoxicated, which friends say was due to her remorse over her marriage to Churchill.
So some say fire the bastard, but I'd like to take it further: Rout the whole damn department. These Identity Politics/Humanities/Minority Studies departments are all just little bastions of hate mongering, and their profs will stand in front of a class and say shit like: "White people have no culture" or "All of white culture has been stolen from people of color." How is this different from a white supremacy rally? You tell me. (One of Churchill's more odious pronouncements of this type (and I paraphrase) is he recommends that yuppies who push their baby strollers up to him and chastise him about his chain smoking should kill themselves and their children if they really want to do the world a favor, because the resources they consume would help about 70 Chinese people. Think I'm kidding? Search down to "Using this method" and read the two following paragraphs.) A while ago these departments pulled of the coup d'etat of making their classes mandatory for graduation. These departments would shrivel like poisonous mushrooms in the bright sun if they were no longer mandatory. That's all it would take. Let's roll.
The other big deal in the news is Bush baby and his minions are continuing their purging of undesirables from public meetings. (Yes, I actually typed those words in America as an American describing the current American government.) They did this during the last campaign stating that since it was a campaign for their reelection, they were in their rights to purge hostiles, which was dubious enough. But now, these are public meetings regarding proposed policy paid for by citizen's taxes. Any and all citizens should be allowed to attend. Even Al Sharpton or Pauly Shore. (Ow, that hurt.) What we have here is bullshit people. This simply shouldn't be happening. I dare anyone to defend this behavior of our elected officials; but think twice if you do, because you have to consider that it might happen to you.
Now some may think I'm experiencing cognitive dissonance if on one hand I can state that college professors should lose their jobs for controversial stances and on the other condemn politicians for curtailing free speech and fair representation. Well, let's give postmodernism yet another heave-ho and hope it will just wander off and die, because context is everything here. On the one hand you have a group of people so rabidly fucked in the head that everyone who's not a self-proclaimed minority victim should euthanize themselves for the greater good (gosh, who's solution does that resemble?), and on the other, you've got a supposedly democratic government actively excluding from participation citizens with differing opinions. In other words, they're the same thing, the same evil: one group declaring the other group is not worthy, and therefore excluding them or (suggesting) extinguishing them. This is not what the dream of our nation is about. We are about liberty, equality, and justice. Let's try to get back to that, huh?
The high spot in all this dross was I finally got a copy of Dean Koontz's How to Write Best Selling Fiction, his long out of print and now expensive second cook book. It's pretty darn good. Stephen King's On Writing is still the best, and John Gardner's The Art of Fiction is the other standard-bearer, but this joins them as yet another must-read, if you are into cook books. ("Cook book" is my adopted term for "how to write" tracts.) Koontz's takedown of "literary fiction" and the myth of "The Great American Novel" alone is worth the read, but the highlight is the chapter on plotting. Lotsa good stuff there; good practical advice on do's and don'ts. For instance, one of main characters has to be likeable to give the reader someone to associate to, something that literary fiction authors just can't seem to understand. (I'm looking at you, DeLillo.) And this seems to be obvious with so many real-life parallels. If you're at a party, do you want to be trapped talking to a boorish asshole who cheats on his wife and suggests that yuppies kill their children or would you prefer someone who's fun, upbeat, and tells good stories? Perhaps I'll put some excerpts from it up later (if I can find a way to boil it down). One interesting note is that all three authors mentioned here have little or no patience for the dreck that academia touts as serious fiction, which alone I think proves their mettle and worth.
And, btw, for all the slamming I've done on college academia, I still think everyone should graduate from college if they can manage to. There are many good professors and classes to be had that are invaluable towards having a good and prosperous life. Just watch out for the poltroons is all.
I suggest you read the first comment to this post. Sharon straightens me out on what should have occurred for Ms. Schiavo in accordance to the wishes of the Catholic church.