August 31, 2009

Been A-tossin' and Turnin' All Night

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(by the way, if you’re wondering where you’ve heard these lyrics in the title before, see

I have been having a lot of trouble sleeping over the past couple of weeks. It’s mostly been a random combination of jet-lag, weather changes, Mrs.’s Nixon’s asthma acting up, some deep thinking that the holidays brought up, too much caffeine and general worried-ness concerning the job market out there. You see, I’m kind of a ‘pattern’ sleeper: if I get interrupted at approximately the same time more than 1 night in a row, I adopt that pattern. And no, drugs aren’t an option; not because of any moral quandary but because my therapist is still on holiday.

Still, some of the thoughts I’ve been having as I lie awake in bed have not been so bad. My biorhythms for creativity seem to be on a high right now (okay, maybe not in terms of writing but still) even though most of my thoughts involve either actions that would be frowned upon at 3 a.m. (darn my penchant for anything that involves hammering or smashing things) or trying to visualize certain mechanical, physical or even potentially metaphysical things that might potentially-possibly-just-maybe happen if I tried them. I mean, when you’re interested in new art types that involve melting things and you’re trying to work out three-dimensional flow coefficients and coordinates in your head, it gets a bit complex.

There have been though some basic questions that have been rattling in the vast cavernous, uh, cavern of my head and I thought I’d share one or two or a dozen or so of these with you now. And if any of these make you in fact suffer insomnia, like I said, I should be able to get my hands on the good stuff here in a few days and I promise to share:

Does It Seem to You Like More Famous People Are Dying These Days?
Or are we witnessing a peak in the natural outcome of our cultures’ fascination with famous peoples?

Recently another one of my childhood idols passed away – Walter Cronkite – who represented for me so many things that were good about the world I grew up in (I was also a pretty serious child and insisted on watching the news whenever I could). Granted he mostly reported on many things that were very bad about the world I grew up in, but he made it seem like it would somehow be okay. Walter made watching the news interesting, he made it cool to be into current events, and he looked like my Grandfather, or at least what I thought my Grandfather would look like if he grew a professional baseball player-type moustache (folks, this was the mid-70’s, bear with me). But I actually saw the announcement in a crowded restaurant and it was as if the air got sucked out of the whole building, as so many people just stopped and stared at the television screens in the bar.

The world has also seen in the last days the passing of
Kim Dae Jung, former President of South Korea as well as Ted Kennedy, essentially the last link to the powerful Kennedy trifecta of John, Bobby and now finally Ted. Think what you want of him, but the world over has been affixed to the Kennedy’s lives – and the lives of their children, wives, ex-wives, various cousins, aunts, uncles and more – for easily more than 5 decades.

But are we making a big deal out of it because it truly matters to us as individuals? Or has the media so entrenched us with this kind of celebrity voyeurism that we have to feel like we’re a part of it? I mean, seriously, how many years will the entire sordid story of Michael Jackson’s demise continue to follow us? Many of us are just now coming to terms with Elvis passing away, now this...

Speaking of which I would just like to share a brief word on the recent passing of Heinz Edelmann. Many of us are most familiar with Edelmann’s work due to his design contributions to the Beatles’ animated ‘Yellow Submarine’. But his offerings over the past decades to the world of art and design go much further than that.

I was fortunate enough recently to have the chance to learn much more about Heinz Edelmann’s work during my interview with Christoph Niemann, one of the many lucky design students that had the unique opportunity to work with this amazing and cutting edge illustrator and educator. (For more on Christoph as well, please continue to follow his NY Times blog, with the latest contribution found here).

Who Gets to Name Diseases?
Now, with the bombardment of the Pharmaceutical Industry’s constant advertising for medications (can’t breath? Take Alleeve! Want to stop smoking? Take Stopitall!), I am reminded that these companies spend millions if not billions and billions on the task of
naming their medications.

Now, I appreciate this exercise and it’s contribution to the success in the marketing of ANY product in that I was once on the periphery of a range-naming exercise for a ‘previous-employer-that-shall-not-be-named-but-it-doesn’t-matter-anyway-because-they-don’t-exist-anymore’. I respect the agencies that offer such services that are required for these tasks, including the testing for legal and copyright aspects, seeing how it sounds in various countries and so on. I know both how hard this process can be and then how hard it is to fight for acceptance within the company even before a name is released to the general public. So the naming of the medications I get (gosh, with a name like Alleve I know it will RELIEVE me!).

But the diseases themselves? I mean, for the longest time we’ve had ‘cancer’ or ‘heart attack’, honest names for terrible things that we can nevertheless still wrap our minds around. We have no problem at all going to the doctor and saying ‘I think I have an ulcer’ or ‘gosh darn, but I think my gout is acting up again and I’m all covered in icky red spots.’

Take ‘erectile dysfunction’ if you will (heck, even my spell-checker hates it). Now please stop giggling, this is a serious comment. Honestly, this just sounds absolutely horrible and I’m not just saying that just as a guy of the male persuasion.

It’s just that I truly wonder though how many people are just absolutely petrified about going to their doctor and actually admitting they have something that comes with the partial description of dysfunction. It just sounds so, I don’t know, dysfunctional – and we all know that term should be reserved for families (did I mention how frightening it sounds?). And it seems a tad confusing to me as well, there are even other parts of my body that need to be a little more erect in a kind of ‘stop slouching’ kind of way. I’m even willing to bet that if you asked 100 doctors, that at least 5 to 10 of them would say they’ve had women ask if they (the women, not the doctors) potentially had it.

Plus, are some diseases or let’s tone it down a bit and say, some maladies just being named for the cool acronyms they form? Like ADD: if you’ve ever met a kid that suffers from this, was your first thought ‘they have an attention deficit disorder’? No! I mean, who thinks like that? But it’s so convenient to talk about, quote, A D D, so why not make the name fit the acronym? There’s more sure, but I’m trying not to be too horrible at this. But while we’re at it:

Is The World Too Full of Acronyms?
Be honest: am I the only old fuddy-duddy that gets bothered by this? Is this a sign that I should get away from Facebook while I still have a chance?

This issue has bothered me ever since my little 5 ½ year old daughter got a tee-shirt that has about 50 different ‘texting’ abbreviations on it. I understood maybe 3 of them, including the little sideways smiley face = (;-) (whoa, even the winking one here, I am hipper than I thought!). But there were other ones that when I asked (again she’s not even 6 years old!) she looked at me with such a pained expression that said to me how truly embarrassed she would be for about the next 20 years or so about her father’s obvious stupidity. I even felt inclined to slink out of the room in shame.

Sure, there are acronyms that have stood the test of time in our everyday conversations : ASAP, PDQ, WTF (don’t ask, but it is what I thought when I saw this ad to the right) and more. But one that really gets to me is ‘LOL’ which in the vernacular of the permanently bent-over world of people texting on cellphones whilst ignoring what is happening around them (and for many in my neck of the woods, even while driving their cars, trucks, aircraft, etc.) means ‘Laugh Out Loud’.

Now sure, LOL is a great abbreviation for Laugh Out Loud, but again: who talks like this? Do you actually ever say ‘laugh out loud’ to anyone in normal conversation? ‘Oh golly, but that sure makes me laugh out loud!’ Anyone? Why not ‘TSF’ for ‘that’s so funny!’ We actually say the latter occasionally albeit not so often in my home (or at least not unless it’s said very sarcastically). But do we ever say it or gods forbid even do something that someone might point at and say: ‘Look Jimmy over there is laughing out loud! And TMCOHN!’ (okay that was juvenile [= there’s Milk Coming Out His Nose] but still...)

But here’s a true story (another aside): I knew someone once that I swear when they got invitations to parties, that they thought the ‘RSVP’ at the bottom of the card meant ‘really sweet, very pretty’. And she’d always think it was so kind of the inviting party to acknowledge that, yes, she had these qualities in such lovely abundance. I shudder to think what they thought of anyone who ended a note with ‘PS’...

Let’s change gears a bit:

Are The Arguments From the Far Right Even Sane?
Seriously, before we go another step I want you all to log on to , read what they have to say and then watch the little video at this link. Go ahead, I’ll wait and hum some Barry Manilow tunes to myself while you’re away. ‘Mornin', just another day, Happy people pass my way, Lookin' in their eyes, I see a memory, I never realized, How happy you made me, oh Mandy...’

Oh you’re back? Yes, friends, as you’ve just witnessed, there is an announcer on a major (+/-) channel in the USA that is actually going around saying not only is Obama a racist, but also implying that he may be (get this) THE ANTI-CHRIST. And this is what gets me: this guy is not even the HEAD OF IRAN, though I think they both use the same speech writer!!

These people just make me think of something I once said to my wife (noting the resulting two weeks of sleeping on the couch weren’t all bad, even though my back was suffering from erectile dysfunction for days afterwards): I said, ‘honey, honestly, I think if I want to win an argument in this house, I’m going to go outside and argue with a tree. At least I have a chance of arguing LOGICALLY with the tree...’ Yeah, I did indeed say that... but luckily I survived. So like I said, it was lonely downstairs for a while.

But there are a slew (‘a slew I wish they’d slay’, he thought morbidly) of people making these types of statements and ultimately arguments all over the place now. I mean, is it like saying to someone ‘I’m against war as a rule, even though I think it’s important that we help settle the situation in Afghanistan’ and they respond with ‘so you think killing innocent unborn babies is okay?’ Sorry, but say what? But it happens all the time, more and more, ad infinitum and ad nauseum! Try saying something like ‘universal health care is a good idea’ and you get ‘I will not surrender my country nor my guns to a commie like you’. Heck, forget the sanity part, is there just no civility left in terms of public debate anymore?

Don’t get me wrong: even though I believe in the premise of universal health care, I think the way the current administration is ‘selling’ it right now needs a lot of work. But you see so many people standing up and shouting ‘you cain’t (sic) have my country, you hippie bastard! Me and my people ain’t gonna stand at all fer this’!

It’s just... well, I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I saw someone stand up and say ‘I understand what you’re saying, but I’m just so afraid it will make the deficit go up beyond a level we can recover from and I just think right now the American government should be focused on other issues. So I’m sorry, but you do not have my support.’ I mean, I applauded, it was such a relief! That’s a legitimate, sanely stated counter-argument.

No, no, no – it doesn’t matter whether you agree or not, but it is a legitimate point of reasonable debate! What has happened to that, please? Is there some kind of new it-makes-you-foam-at-the-mouth transient form of rabies going around that we should all be worried about? Geez...

Does It Ever Freak You Out How ‘Recently’ Some Things Have Changed?
A few days ago – and again, keep in mind this entire diatribe is about lack of sleep – I was literally flabbergasted (a disease named in 1929 by doctors at the John Hopkins University Clinic) to read that on Aug. 26, 1920 – only 89 years ago according to my calculations – the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed. The issue? Guaranteeing women the right to vote. I mean, does it not freak you out to think that there are women alive that might remember a day that at least their older siblings or even mothers could not even vote in the USA?

Don’t get me started about civil rights even. I once worked at one of the departmental libraries in college, and one night when business was slow, I got into a conversation with some of the other, ‘professional librarians’ that worked with us who were in their early 50’s or so and all African Americans. It blew my mind to listen to them talk about riding in the back of busses, or having to drink from other water fountains or even worse. And in terms of time, it was only like yesterday! I mean, the hell with Woodstock, it’s these other anniversaries that make my mind reel.

I know I’ll get the same thing as the kids grow up, too. I just don’t WANT to think about that, because that reminds me of my own mortality. Yes, one day I, too, will suffer from dysfunctional expiring animated terminal hesitation, abbreviated to it’s better know acronym = DEATH.

What is the Big Deal About Homosexuals Getting Married?
This is one I don’t get, I just simply do not comprehend it. I guess my own beliefs never made room for the kind of xenophobic ranting that goes on to this issue.

Up front time folks: I’m not gay. Please don't hold that against me, it's just the truth is all. Heck, I don’t even like looking at my own body, let alone other men’s. But I have friends that are gay, I have family members that are gay, and I’ve met in my time a lot of really fine folks that either admitted up front or I found out later were gay. And that’s 100% perfectly fine with me. In my book, the only thing that counts – and this goes for sexual preferences, religious beliefs, and the whole spectrum of ‘stuff’ that is supposed to define us – if you’re cool with it, and you’re not hurting anyone, then fine. All I insist on is that no one – again see the short list – try to push their own beliefs on me, and I won’t do that either, even in the cases where I know that I’m right and almost everyone else in the world is wrong about at least something. Everyone cool with that?

But I mean, honestly, are you trying to tell me that all the nice conservative folks out there raising heck about this issue don’t stand to benefit at all from letting anyone and everyone marry? That there’s no right-leaning providers of wedding dresses, or flowers, or wedding jewellery, or catering services or – and this is the big one – even divorce lawyers waiting for their client base to increase by a factor of whatever it might be? Well, the Brits have a good word for this = bollocks. I’d bet my bottom dysfunctional dollar that the entire group of ‘em can’t wait to get their hands on the kind of disposable income that’s just waiting on them out there if we’d just say, ‘heck, you two guys or girls want to spend thousands on a one day bash like the rest of us? Be my guest (PS: that’ll be 30’000 dollars for the festival hall rental and the band, thank you so much)’.

And here’s another true story: if you follow these kinds of stories at all, India is in a bit of an uproar about legalizing homosexuality in any form. There are laws permitting it that apparently get passed, then rescinded and so on. But even though they won’t let gays be, well, gay, THEY WILL MARRY FROGS FOR LUCK (in this case, I mean, they marry the frogs to each other, though other on-line inputs talked of people marrying frogs as well)! I kid you not, just take a look at this picture, where the frogs even received gifts of gold jewellery!

(Is it just me, or are some of you wondering if those are two boy frogs? Wouldn’t that be just the most fantastically ironic thing ever?)

Here’s something that didn’t make me lose sleep, I just thought it was appalling, disgusting and more:
Did the Scenes of Celebration for the Freed Lockerbie Bomber in Libya Make You Sick?
Sorry, compassion was shown even though there was a lot of – well-grounded mind you – uproar and emotive discussion on the issue. I really felt for the Scottish judge who really must have gone through hell (and is no doubt not finished) over his decision.

Then that was thrown back in the face of everyone affected by this heinous act and really the rest of the world as well by the appalling display once this monster landed in Libya. There should be no more tolerance for a regime that has snubbed its nose at the civilized world for far too long now. The scenes of jubilation and celebration just go to show that not all ‘humans’ should be counted as such and if you want to add other worn out statements to same, well, obviously a leopard never changes it’s spots.

‘Nuff said.

And finally, because I should probably right this up (and our 50 minutes of solo therapy are about done), I leave you with this thought:

Is The Abundance of On-Line Reporting Leading to Irresponsible Headlines?
Now just read this head-line and think for a few minutes before reading on:

What Britney Spears Can Reveal About Alzheimer's Disease

What did I tell you? It’s actually from a very interesting article about mapping brain activity depending on how we recognize given famous persons and the relation of the wave patterns in terms of our proclivity to Alzheimer’s, which as you can see here once had a rather interesting title as well. It seems indeed to be a very strong study on a disease – a well-named disease we would add – that needs to be cured and now, particularly as the means to do so are indeed available (oops, now I know what will keep me up tonight).

But did the article mention, say, Fidel Castro, Walter Cronkite or even Ted Kennedy? No, it was Britney Spears. Personally, I would think that someone NOT suffering from the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s shouldn’t even have to remember Britney, that would be healthy to me.

I just think these Internet dudes and dudesses are having way too much fun with their headlines these days. Seriously : ‘Suicidal Planets’? Whoa, scared you didn’t we? It’s really just an astronomy article about a planet they found that is too close to it’s sun to survive! Ha, got you (and besides we know that what’s really happening ‘out there’ is that planets are looking to attack us, not commit suicide!!)! ‘Landslide in Japan’? Okay, that’s pretty normal but instead of a horrible natural disaster, it’s more of a political thing it seems ‘(we’ll see how horrible it winds up being apparently in the next months).

Even my favorite in the past days, read it and tell me what you think it means:

Pack your trunk and leave the beach!
(the small print summary actually states : ‘A French town has banned circus elephants from bathing at its beaches over concerns the animals' excrement could pollute the water and pose a health hazard to other swimmers.’ Well, that’s nice but I’m still not going back to any French beaches any time soon... I mean, the heck with sharks, can you imagine suddenly catching a wave of elephant poop in your face?)

Okay folks, sleep well. Me? I’m gonna go take a nap, I just re-read this and now I think I can make it.

I knew I wrote these darn things for good reasonzzzzzzzz....

1 comment:

Anne-Marie said...

Well, now I am ready for a good night of sleep! I just hope I don't wake up with one of these disturbing issues weighing on my subconscious! Or a dream featuring Walter Cronkite...