Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Poster Child for Morton's Salt



I woke up early this morning after minimal and restless sleep with a bit of a hangover, or at least a headache. The headache may have been from lack of sleep rather than from having imbibed excessive alcohol. I wouldn't know the difference.

The reason I woke up early was that I had set my alarm for 7:15 a.m. because I had committed to play piano, organ, and violin for a wedding scheduled for 2:00 at the chapel in Yosemite Valley. In theory, if one believes any of the internet driving direction services, the trip could have been made in three hours and fifteen minutes. It simply does not do, however,  for a musician to walk into a wedding chapel fifteen minutes after the scheduled start of the wedding because traffic was bad. I always allow extra time to the extreme  for traffic problems.

Because I was to provide background music when the band was not playing  at the reception as well, part of the compensation was a room Saturday night (tonight) at the Tenaya Lodge.  My total compensation was to be higher than it normally would both because of travel time and because I was not acquainted with the bride or groom or anyone in their respective families. it was a business deal brokered by the mother of the bride, whose older son is an upcoming fourth-year medical student at my school. I was to be paid a total of one-thousand dollars in cash prior to the start of the ceremony in addition to my hotel room. I don't typically require written contracts for such engagements because i usually know some major member of the wedding party well enough to trust him or her, and I'm usually not traveling hundreds of miles to the venue. In this case, I drew up a quick contract (relying on internet forms but running it by my attorney aunt in order to be prudent; she said it appeared iron-clad except that she would have required a 50% deposit). The contract was signed by the bride's mother. A provision of the contract was that cancellation made in writing (certified delivery)two weeks in advance of the event would result in nullification of the contract. A cancellation of less than two weeks but equal to or in excess of a week would require 50% payment. Cancellation with less than a week's notice would require full payment.

Two days ago I received and automated confirmation of the engagement from the wedding coordinator. This morning, headache-y though I may have been, I made myself look as presentable as possible and made the nearly-four-hour-one-way drive to "The Little Brown Church in the Vale" in the heart of Yosemite Valley. i was early, so it didn't cause me undue concern to see no one from my particular wedding party anywhere near the premises. Another wedding was in full swing. as that wedding party exited and moved on to its reception site, I began to grow apprehensive about the lack of presence of the bride, groom, the bride's mother, or anyone else I'd met who was slated to participate in these nuptials. 

Twenty minutes before the wedding was slated to begin, I looked for someone who appeared to be in charge of the facility, but I found no such person. I called the first of my two contact numbers, which went immediately to voice mail. I called the second number, which connected me directly to the bride's mother. 
"The wedding was called off three weeks ago!" she exclaimed.

i let her know as politely as I could that no one had informed me of the change in pns. "It was the wedding coordinator's job to do that!" she insisted.

I reminded her that my contract had been with her and not with the wedding coordinator, and if there was some sort of arrangement between the two of them that made it the wedding coordinator's responsibility to inform me, she would be free to seek reimbursement from the wedding coordinator, but that I expected to be paid by her, the bride's mother, and expected prompt payment.

"That's not going to happen!" she declared.  

"Then I'll see you in court," I countered.

"We'll see about that!" she huffed. My brother is a lawyer."

"Ma'am, this will be small claims court," I told her. "I don't think legal representation is even allowed there."

"We'll see about that!" she huffed again. 

"Or you can just pay me the one-thousand-dollars you owe me, " I countered,  - "and I'm not even asking for free lodging, to which I'm entitled. You make the call."

She hung up on me.

As if I don't have enough to do with the USMLE coming up (it appears I'm going ahead with it though I'm not optimistic), I have to file the documents to sue someone in small claims court. It's probably not even worth the thousand bucks to me, but I hate the idea of being stiffed. How  I wish Judge Alex were still on the air.

I'm still feeling flashbacks. It sucks.




where the wedding that did not happen should have taken place

So Very Alone



Have you ever had a time when you really needed someone -- anyone -- and you sent out messages but mostly didn't call because it was too late to call the people you were comfortable calling, and NONE of the people to whom you sent SOS messages responded? One person said she sent a number, but it wasn't in my PMs or emails, so I have no idea who she might have sent it to. The rest didn't even respond. I don't think even God gives a rip what I'm feeling right now.

Did you ever call a suicide hotline? This was my second time of calling one. The lady manning the hotline told me in so many words that I was wasting her time and that while she was wasting time talking to me, a person with a REAL problem might be trying to get through. She hung up on me.

My mom is in Catalonia. My dad is in Argentina. They're no help.

Some would say, and some do say, that my problem isn't a big deal and that I'm making much ado about nothing. That may be true, but when the guy from the exmormon site said that while he wouldn't have personally assaulted me in high school, he totally sympathized with the people who did hurt me - with the girl who stepped on my not-quite healed fractured leg, with the other girl who burned me with a cigarette, with both girls who banged my head on the bathroom floor, with the guy who had apparent intentions of raping and/or orally sodomizing me but since he was unable to complete the act, kicked me hard in a very private place and caused both a hairline fracture and soft tissue damage, and who also kicked my ribs hard enough to break two of them and lacerate my left kidney. It hurt me to the core of my existence to read this supposedly mature man's comments that his sympathy was with my attackers. I don't know what he's doing in an exmormon forum. His "blame the victim" mentality belongs more in the mainstream Mormon church. Does that man really think that just because he finds my writings obnoxious(which no one ever forced him to read) , that I deserve to be on the receiving end of such a vicious attack?

This is dredging up memories like it just happened yesterday. I can feel the places where I was kicked. My head hurts where it was pounded into the tile bathroom floor by the two girls who assisted the thug. I feel the cigarette burn on my thigh. I know it's not rational to feel the pain, or even the terror that accompanied it, but I do feel it all again just like it happened all over again tonight.

My brother is out with friends and apparently thinks it's a good night to stay out all night or at least until the wee hours of the morning. I am hidden in the closet of the master bedroom (I may be lying about where I am hiding just in case the attacker, who is no longer incarcerated, chooses to show up and attack me again tonight); we have an alarm, but sometimes alarms don't work.

I thought I had friends who would be here for me. I know I would have  been there for them. If Claire were here, she would at least call me. Claire is gone now, though, and there won't be another Claire. I even called Claire's parents and left a message, but no one bothered to call back. I guess I don't matter to them much anymore. They've moved on. I gave up a an entire day of studying to provide music for Meredith's parents' wedding. Neither they nor Meredith could be bothered with returning my call. I may need to rethink the status of my real-life friends. It is probably better to have no friends at all  than to have friends who are only your friends when they need something from you. And it's not as though I call on them frequently with crises. The last real crisis with which I bothered them was the attack six years ago.  I cannot blame those whose acquaintances exist through online communications and phone calls. While I may call them friends, they have their own real-life families and friends and problems of their own. 

Chances are that I will still be here in the morning. I'll then decide if I'm in any condition to take the USMLE or even if I ever want to take it. I could just become a busker playing violin or cello on the street.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Is anything worth it?

I'm considering quitting medical school. What is he point of it? What if a person I'm charged with patching up is one of the ones who believes my attackers had every right to have their way with me and to injure me both inside and out? Do I want to help such a person? Do I want to go to so much effort, give up so much sleep, work ridiculous shifts, study, and generally give up any semblance of a normal life so that I can help many people who do not deserve my help?

I have more money in the bank than I'm comfortable disclosing. I could live a very hedonistic life for a few years.  It won't last a lifetime, but my parents probably won't let me starve afterword. I can probably stain slides in one of my dad's labs or teach piano or violin or do weddings and funerals once I no longer have enough money to support myself. Perhaps that is the way to go. Being a doctor is a noble pursuit. I don't feel all that noble anymore. I also feel drunk.

One cannot please everyone, but sometimes the way a person expresses his displeasure is so hurtful that it makes a person want to give up.

This is actually Lawrence Singleton, who raped a young woman and cut off her arms, leaving her for dead. He is one mental image I have when I think of Elder Old Dog. After all, he condones violence.



My Uncle Scott alluded to my most recent blog at http://exmormon.org/phorum/list.php?2 . It was through no action of mine that he referenced my blog. The blog was not linked. He can't link my blog on that site apparently, which is fine with me, as I never, ever, wish to have any association with that site for as long as I live.

A regular poster there, who calls himself "elderolddog," opened his remarks by stating to my uncle, "I don't like your niece." I can live with this. Not everyone will like me, nor will they like everything I write. It's real life and how things work. The guy went on to say that what I had posted was essentially much ado about nothing, which is his prerogative. Then he crossed the line by saying that while he personally would not have assaulted me, he had sympathy with my attackers and understood why they would have done such a thing. Other than my uncle, not one person to this point has written a word in support of m)e. I suppose at RFM, if you are an established poster who is generally well-liked, you can say just about anything about anyone. (NOTE: my uncle reported the comment, and a moderator had the decency to take it down.) 

In that attack od six years ago, about which I do not like to give details, I suffered, a re-fractured leg when one of the assailants deliberately stepped on a healing broken tibia and fibula. I was not orally sodomized or raped only because the attacker failed to maintain his erection when I vomited at the sight of his exposed male organ. I suffered a cracked pubic bone from being kicked there. My kidney was lacerated and two ribs were cracked from a kick directed at my ribs and kidney. I was all of fifteen when this happened. And Elder Old Dog sympathizes with my attackers.

I have been a regular reader but only a very infrequent poster at RFM, otherwise known as http://exmormon.org/phorum/list.php?2,.  I plan to have nothing whatsoever to do with the site again. If Elder Old Dog's opinion of me is shared by many other posters there, I surely won't be missed.

Right now I am in a mode in which I somewhat hate the entire world.


This is Charles Manson. His image, too, comes to mind when i think of Elder Old Dog. I don't plan on thinking about him much in the future because I have more important things on which to allow my mind to dwell. Still, at the moment I am hurt by his vile words.


Cliques, Outsiders, and Ways of Excluding the "Undesirbles" Even After High School; BYU Implications

This isn't Jillian, but it might have been for all her social interaction at BYU.


I doubt that any of us completely dodged the cliquish behavior that existed as early as kindergarten but sprang into full bloom in middle school, and by high school took on a life of its own.  From what I could tell, it existed in the boys' world as well, though it was more of a jock or wealth or "bad boys" empire, and except for the relative minority who were truly picked on.  (Bless those who truly were victimized,  and may their tormentors one day discover just how is is to be on the other end of it.) I'm not referring for the most part to true bullying here. We know bullying existed from before the time of Jesus and continues to thrive in some arenas, but I feel that we cheapen or otherwise inflate the meaning of the word if we describe it as bullying each time a person looks in an unkind way at another or spouts the most benign of insults. There was and still is bullying, but, more commonly, the caste system is alive and well in virtually every high school in the U.S., despite what teachers and administrators may choose to believe.

i was among the lucky few. I attended a high school where academics were considered important by most of the student body. This in itself caused me more than a few headaches when I took  senior AP classes as a freshmen; the seniors were less than thrilled about the idea of competing for grades with a freshman who looked more like a sixth-grader. Still, no one in the classes poked fun at me for achieving high scores on tests and papers. They simply would have preferred that I take my high scores back to the freshman classes they felt I should have been enrolled in the first place.

My high school had a bit of the reverse of the typical high school caste system. Good looks will be smiled upon in most settings, but the classic beautiful but brainless male or female was derided at my school much as the classic geek might have been at a more typical school. Excluding the intellectually impaired probably wasn't any more right than picking on a kid who dressed funny, but there was at least the rationale that in a student body with a mean IQ of 130, it was difficult for the average student to find sufficient common ground with the beautiful dimwits, sometimes more lacking in common sense than in actual gray matter, though among those I knew falling under the description, there seemed to be a dearth both of  academic prowess and of the native variety of intelligence that allows most of us to find our respective ways out of paper bags without the necessity of anyone guiding us.

My high school had its cliques, but each clique probably considered itself the most important clique, so there wasn't  a great deal of clamoring for inclusion into any one group or heartache when exclusion occurred.  I loath to dwell on this topic because it does not define who I was at the time it happened or who I am now, but I was assaulted once at school. That wasn't the action of a clique, though. It was a very poor collective choice on the part of three individuals and of a fourth who chose to involve himself in a act intended to intimidate me and/or my family after the fact. I suppose I could even call it bullying, but it wasn't; it was assault. I'll leave it at that.

Most people in high schools across the country experienced more of the tiers of cliques, with many students secretly wishing to ascend to the mutually-agreed-upon upper echelon clique, and others being unceremoniously toppled from their tops spots. Meanness was a bit more rampant under such settings. I hesitate to use the term "mean girls" (while I loved Tina Fey's movie of the same title) because my understanding is that some of those for whom it fits wear it as a badge of honor. I'd rather refer to them as sociopaths-in-training and hope that most of them miraculously snap out of it before bona fide adulthood hits them.

One thing I found funny about cliques beyond high school is that the queen bees and big men on campus moved on to universities expecting their status to continue. What many of them learned, usually the hard way, was that no one really cared much about that sort of thing at the university level. A few like-minded snobs found each other and joined fraternities and sororities, but for every un-pledged university student  derided by a frat or sorority member, there were probably two Greek system people mocked for their perceived senses of self-importance by the general population.

I wrote in an earlier blog of my experience in an undergrad class where I was told by a sorority member on the first day a class met that I could not sis in a particular seat because it was reserved for a Delta Gamma.  When the professor entered, a male student unaffiliated with the Greek system asked the professor if it was correct that certain seats were reserved for members of fraternities or sororities. The professor's face turned red. He then announced that we would sit in assigned seats, designated alphabetically, for the entire quarter. Universities are great places to find one's own community of like-minded individuals, or at least those with enough in common to socialize. For the most part, those who reigned in the cliques of high school soon found their former social systems to be obsolete. Note: this was my experience at a liberal University of California campus. Had I attended Amherst, I might have found the clique systems of high school to be thriving at the university level. I've heard the same spoken of BYU, although the criteria on which clique inclusion is based would probably be considered very different than at  a more upper-crust east coast or even southern school.

Where does this leave us now, with most of us being beyond undergraduate education, and many of us being well past the strictures of academia in general? Did everyone miraculously grow past the need for a caste system in which we would attempt to climb or claw our way to the top? My observations have led me to believe otherwise.

Note: If religion bores you, skip the next three paragraphs.

For many, the need for social upward mobility is found in the very last place it should be found, which is in church.  In my own Catholic parish, most of us show up to mass, greet a few people, and then leave. Most of us are not impacted by cliques. This becomes less true if one's children attend a parish's local school, where social hierarchy rears its ugly head in such a way as to make high school cliquism seem friendly by comparison. There are also the various Catholic societies in which members vie for leadership positions. It really comes to a head when the Catholic parish sponsors queens and their courts for particular festivals -- usually ethnic in nature. The politicking that goes on to have one's daughter named Queen of the Festa makes anything Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has said or done appear civilized by comparison.

I highlighted Catholicism because that is what I know. Similarly, i understand the LDS structure. In the LDS system, there is a clear line of ecclesiastical authority. A man who used to be just your annoying next door neighbor who habitually left his trash cans in your driveway not just on trash pick-up day but for the following two days may suddenly become your bishop -- the man who holds the keys to your temple recommend and right to attend your offspring's temple marriage ceremony, who assigns "callings" or jobs, and who wields entirely too much power over you. The positive side of this is that what goes around often comes around. You or one of your best buds may become HIS bishop five years later. This is Karma in its purest form. The women of Mormondom have their cliques as well. High family income combined with outward appearance of adherence to church doctrine usually elevates a woman and her cronies to the upper echelons of Mormon cliquedom.  There are official positions denoting power and prestige as well. Auxiliary leaders (Primary, Young Women's, and Relief Society Presidents) are granted high status just by virtue of the positions they hold; by osmosis, their close friends, who are usually their official "counselors," also fall into these esteemed cliques. If a woman's position rises beyond the local ward or congregation level to the stake [similar to diocesan] level, her stature goes up like stock with insider-trading value  An unofficial but very real leader of LDS Female Cliquedom is the wife of the bishop. Depending upon the dynamics of her relationship with her husband and the forcefulness of her personality, she may be merely an adjunct clique leader, or she very well may be running the entire ward from behind the carefully tatted curtain. Whatever you do, do not underestimate her power.

I don't mean to leave the Presbyterians, Baptists, Jews, or anyone else out of this discussion,  but I know so little about them that it would seem futile for me to comment. Suffice it to say that most likely they operate in cliques in their churches as well.

But what of the more than 50% of the U.S. who no longer actively participate in organized religion, not all of whom, if statistics are to be believe, have grown beyond the need to assert their superiority through the pervasiveness of cliques? Some hold leadership positions in the PTA or the Garden Club. Some join Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary clubs under the guise of serving their communities, but really just engage in puffed-chest versions of jousting for power.  Some sign on with PETA. A few are even in the Flat Earth Society. 

I'm convinced, however, that the single greatest source of displace cliquish aggression, particularly among young females who haven't totally outgrown their sociopath-in-training ways, can be found in the blogs around us. If you doubt the veracity of my words, pick a random blog - particularly one authored by a mommy (I shall refrain from singling out Mormon mothers here, though if the shoe fits, wear it,  Betty BYU!) Look at the adorable pictures of her offspring that the author has posted. Read the words of the blog, which may range from sincere desire for self-improvement to "see just how wonderful my perfect family is." Leave a comment. Word your comment carefully to let the blog author know that you are an admirer from a distance who has no desire whatsoever to look the author or her family up in real life and stalk them. Compliment her, share common ground. do all of this in just a few short sentences.

Then watch the troops rally 'round the wagons. Do not expect your comment to be acknowledged even to the extent of being asked not to read or respond there again. If the blogger herself does not go private, chances are that some of her friends and regular commenters will do so with their blogs even if you've said nothing that alluded to them in any way.  Keep in mind that you did not suggest that you knew this person in a past life. You didn't make personal comments about her body parts. You didn't offer unsolicited advice. Still, you've become a pariah. You have invaded the invisible boundaries of a clique without a proper invitation.

My Aunt Jillian, who was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, attended BYU for her undergrad years on a student-athlete scholarship, then attended the affiliated law school because she  had remaining scholarship money that could be used only at a BYU-affiliated institution. Her undergrad majors were combined English and mathematics, but she picked up a multiple subject teaching credential along the way. Because of the number of Advanced Placement classes she completed in high school, she had space to complete a double major along with an unrelated credential prior to graduating.  She had a few friends with whom to socialize among her teammates, and even in the math department, where being a Molly Mormon was not quite the norm. Once she met her future husband, she had a ready-made social life, so being an outcaste in the English and elementary education departments wasn't as painful as it otherwise might have been. In the elementary education department, she felt that she stood out like a gangrenous thumb. She was Cuban-American, raven-haired, and olive-skinned . Nearly everyone else was some shade of blonde even if not naturally so, and those who weren't blonde sported fair skin. She found herself frequently slurred as a  "Lamanite" -- a reference she didn't understand until her first semester of Book of Mormon class. (What was meant was that she supposedly descended from the evil brothers in the Book of Mormon -- who were cursed with dark skin through their own iniquity.  She was Catholic, and while she didn't wear her religious medals to class or carry around her rosary, her Catholicism served to further distance her from the predominantly LDS student body. She said she never felt that she had anything resembling a friend in the entire elementary education department, though there was a particular young woman who spoke kindly to her at those times when she would be sitting alone while others chatted before classes or seminars began.

Aunt Jillian randomly came across this woman's blog not too long ago. My aunt reintroduced herself, expressed appreciation for the kindness the other woman had extended back at BYU, and shared a bit of commonality in the current lives as experienced by the two of them. The other lady had twins. My aunt was just about to give birth to her second baby who would be less than nine months younger than her first-- not proper twins, but sometimes referred to as "Irish twins."  The other lady never responded. It's conceivable that the blogger had no memory of my aunt. If such were the case, a polite, "I'm sorry that I don't remember you, but I thank you for your kind words" would have more than sufficed. I of all people understand the importance of not leading on a potential stalker, but my aunt seemed hardly to fit the stalker prototype.

A year later, my aunt left another comment, thinking perhaps she had caught the lady on a bad day before, this time on Instagram. Her response validated something the woman had complained about, and the comment highlighted how adorable the lady's twins were. This was the comment that caused the lady's "friends," some of whom are "friends" on the Internet only and had never met the woman, to surround her with comments to her and each other, clearly blocking my aunt out of the conversation. My ant is a shy person. One wouldn't think an attorney would be reticent, but sometimes people are very good at compartmentalizing their lives. She says and does what is needed in the courtroom (or did, at least, before she was home with her babies),but in her personal life, she doesn't stand up for herself and seldom makes an issue of anything. 

An ironic aspect to this is that the blogger had recently posted about a message from a member of her high school graduating class who was reluctant to attend the class's ten-year reunion because he had felt ostracized and bullied while a high school student. The woman expressed a great deal of remorse for not have noticed that this young man had been bullied and for not in some way standing up for him. She wondered how she could raise her own children to do the right thing and to stand up for the one who was being mistreated. I would suggest to her that a good start would be not to treat my aunt as though she is a non-person even if she doesn't have the all-important LDS asterisk after her name.

My aunt will probably never again donate cent to any of BYU's annual fundraising drives. She'll likely never contact another person she knew at BYU.
I may have been assaulted, but I was actually the more fortunate of the two of us. I sustained bruises and a re-fractured bone, among other injuries too delicate to mention in this forum. I have a a scar or two to remind, me, but I can and have moved on. It's a bit harder to move on from being ostracized when one is thousands of miles from home and family, and the cliquishness continues even years after the fact when one makes an overture toward very casual friendship.


Right. We totally swallow this.




Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Brief Notice/Housekeeping Chores

I only wish spam comments were the greatest of my concerns.


Some time ago it became apparent through comments left by readers and 
through a direct email to me by a particularly concerned reader that some readers were uncomfortable with the content of comments left by a single reader. I understood their discomfiture, as I was, myself, a bit taken aback by some of what was being left here. My solution was to switch my comments to "moderated." This seemed to alleviate most of the issues surrounding inappropriate comments. 

On the other hand, while the number of hits the blog receives seems from the statistical analysis provided by blogspot to be relatively constant, I find that I'm not receiving nearly so many comments as I was before. Is this a mere coincidence, or does having one's comments go through a moderation process serve as some sort of a deterrent to leaving comments?

I read blogs to which I seldom if ever leave comments. In some cases, I've stopped leaving comments on particular blogs because doing so is just like being in high school again. If one is not part of the "in" crowd, one is not truly welcome to leave comments, and both the blog author and the other more favored commenters have ways of letting one know that he or she (usually it's a she; girls are much meaner in this regard) is not welcome there. This can be true even if (especially if in most cases) one knows the blogger and many of the responders in person. I've been through high school once and am not in any hurry to re-live the experience. In those cases, I usually stop reading the blogs. In other blogs that have cauggt my fascination, I read anonymously. It's the inalienable right of a reader NOT to leave a comment if he or she so desires. Still, I liked reading the comments I received in earlier times.

I'd really like to know the answer to this. I LIKE receiving feedback from readers.  If I need to manually moderate comments , as in to monitor regularly and delete anything that would seem to cause concern to anyone, I'm certainly willing to do so. If, on the other hand, people are simply too busy to leave comments, and the dearth of responses has nothing to do with the "moderated" status, that, too would be good for me to know. 

Please, if you have time, leave feedback for me in regard to this matter. I'm very interested in what people think bout this.

Monday, May 23, 2016

From Half Dome to Pinkeye in Just Over 24 Hours

the majestic Half Dome


I had a positively delightful excursion yesterday, when I ascended Half Dome along with four cohort mates and the older brother of one of the guys in the cohort. As a native Californian -- and a very California-centric one at that -- I operate under the assumption that everyone in the United States with even three-quarters of a functioning brain knows where Half Dome is. Without naming any names, I learned today I was wrong on that count.

Half Dome is a rock formation creating a part of the eastern border of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. Its name comes from one side of it being somewhat rounded, with the other side a sheer vertical drop-off, making it appear as a dome that has been sliced in half. This description is not geologically precise, but I'll dispense with the technicalities about which neither you nor I care.

As late as maybe 1870, Half Dome was considered un-ascendable. The someone climbed it. Now it's easier to climb because a set of wire cables have been set up. Because of the steepness of the final ascent, the cables are needed for climbers to propel themselves up the final distance. People who are rope climbers or people with death wishes (I would consider them to be one and the same) like to ascend Half Dome via the vertical portion. Some people also like to go over Niagara Falls in barrels. Whatever.  Why not handle poisonous snakes or drink arsenic while one is at it?

At times when it is dangerous for weather reasons, the cables leading to the final summit of Half Dome are usually taken down. Some fools attempt to climb it without the cables, often with tragic results. Additionally, sometimes thunderstorms appear before it is safe for the park ranger staff to remove the cables. Despite the signs warning of the danger, thrill seekers attempt the climb in spite of lightning strikes. I don't know how many hikers have been killed under such circumstances, but I know it has happened enough that it's not an unusual occurrence.

On our excursion yesterday, we had no hurdles by way of weather or removed cables. We were the second group to reach the cables, so we didn't have to wait around for long to begin that final and most treacherous portion of the ascent. My friend Raoul's older brother insisted on following me because he didn't want to have to explain to my dad how it was that I had fallen to my death. My dad was an adjunct professor at his medical school. (Kal Penn said that Raoul's brother wanted to follow me just so that he could stare at my butt.  As it was, it didn't  matter whether or why Raoul's brother followed me.. There were no close calls.

For reasons I would rather not share, I cannot post pictures of myself ascending or standing atop Half Dome. Just use your imagination.

Every silver lining has its cloud, though. Somewhere along the climb, presumably on one of the iron railings along some of the granite steps winding along the trail (before reaching the cables, as I used gloves for the cables) I rather unfortunately came into contact with pathogens that cause bacterial conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pinkeye. It feels as though I need to remove my eyeballs from their sockets, scratch the insides of the sockets with a brand-new toothbrush, and then replace my eyes into their sockets, only to repeat the procedure every five minutes. (Remind me someday to tell you about my mom's orbital decompression surgery in which her eyeballs were removed from their sockets. The procedure is fascinating to those who are not squeamish squeamish.) i wrote once before at some point in this blog that I'd rather have pneumonia any day than pinkeye. My conviction remains firm.

If you have not yet been to Yosemite National Park, you really should go there. Yosemite National Park makes people who have visited both it and the Everglades National Park wonder how in hell the Everglades were ever granted national park status. And if you visit Yosemite National Park, get a good look at Half Dome. If you decide to brave the climb, wear gloves for the entire ascent and not just on the cable section so you won't contract a nasty case of pinkeye.

This is not MY pink eye (mine is actually a bit worse) but you get the drift.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Professional Mourners, Gwendolyn, and Prince

These are professional mourners. I don't know through what service they were contracted, but I'll include a link for another mourning service in the event that anyone is interested. http://connectingdirectors.com/articles/38328-bring-on-the-professional-mourners-or-rent-one


The only time I've taken off from studying for the infamous USMLE, other than the two days when I recuperated from a tonsillectomy (and even then I put in study hours once I came out from under the effects of anaesthesia) was a grand total of  1.5 days. The days I did study, I consistently exceeded the recommended hours. It seems that even as the USMLE date looms near, I'm due for a bit of respite. My mom says I cannot stay in any home owned by her (which includes the condo in which I reside while at school) if I don't take time off from studying. She's convinced all relatives living within 800 miles of her (except for the aunt and uncle who almost let me die of smoke inhalation when I was immobilized due to multiple fractures, and I wouldn't stay at their place if the only other choices were the Central California Prison for Women in Chowchilla or some spot under a bridge in east Los Angeles) to refuse to allow me to bunk in their homes, either, unless I agree to a moratorium on studying. If I really wanted to continue my USMLE studies, I could use my own money to rent a room at the Marriott or some similar accommodation. 

The bottom line here, however, is that my mother is once again overreacting. I'm more than ready for a break from the drudgery of USMLE prep. I need to visit my namesake heifer for only the second time in her brief life at some point late next week. I also have other plans of a more recreational nature which I shall share at some point in the near future. 

I'm changing the topic drastically, as in a most non sequitur manner, but who gives a rip? I shall now write about Prince's death. Speaking of Prince and his death, when did he become "Prince" again? Didn't he develop some sort of symbol to which he didn't attach any pronunciation, and then insist that he be known as "the artist formerly known as 'Prince' "? At some point later in his life, did he rescind all of that weirdness and once again start calling himself "Prince," or did the press and the public just decide to call him Prince again in his death since it was so much simpler than saying or writing "the artist formerly known as 'Prince' " every time a reference to him was needed?

Gwendolyn, a girl in one of my study groups, who will not remain strictly in my cohort for much longer as she's going to follow the five-year plan through medical school (the five-year plan is actually recommended for all of us, though I assume it's so that those who are later given  either the option to follow the five-year-plan or are given their walking papers, will not feel quite so much as though they were forced to settle for the consolation prize) broke into hysterical wailing during a post-final pre-USMLE lecture we were required to sit through when she read on her cell phone (which she shouldn't have been consulting for news at the time, which in part explains why she was invited to join the five-year plan) that Prince had succumbed to whatever it was that had done him in. She was sitting catty-corner in front of me. She turned to me as Larry Bakman was lecturing about something not terribly relevant  to explain just how important Prince had been in her life. I asked her what songs Prince had done that meant the most to her. "Little Red Corvette" was the only Prince song (at least I think it's a Prince song) that she even knew. Gwendolyn said that her most compelling connection to Prince was that she had briefly considered converting from her Christian Science faith to become a Jehovah's Witness, as Prince was. I have no clue as to how Gwendolyn plans to reconcile her Christian Science beliefs with the practice of medicine, for which the obligation will begin very soon. Sometimes I'm guilty of thinking too much, though. Either Gwendolyn will practice medicine as taught or she will be unceremoniously tossed from the program. Let us all hope and pray that she does not maim or kill too many patients in the process. Perhaps Gwendolyn should be required  to wear  huge boldly emblazoned "C S"  letters  on the front of her white lab coat. much as Hester Prynne wore the scarlet "A" on her chest, for the purpose of giving patients fair warning that the medical care they are about to receive might be ever so slightly on the sub-standard side. Oh, well. We've been told as medical school students that we'll all kill at least one patient before all has been said and done. It's just that "at least one patient" may very well be a conservative estimate where Gwendolyn and her Christian Science form of medical practice are concerned.

Gwedolyn routinely shares intimate details -- both of her in-the-flesh life and her virtual and imaginary lives -- with everyone who sits around her and with everyone who has the misfortune of being in a study group with her.  I know, for example, that she was forced on Wednesday to purchase Q-tips brand cotton swabs because her preferred brand -- Johnson & Johnson's Safety swabs -- was out of stock at the Walgreen's at which she shops. I know about her recent yeast infection. I know that her DVR malfunctioned on Tuesday and that she missed entire episodes of Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless. (Speaking of  The  Young and the Restless, did you know that the character of Victor Newman, played by the original actor, is still on the show? He's got to be approximately as old as Mt. Rushmore by now. I wonder if they have paramedics standing by for his eventual "I've fallen and I can't get up" moment, or if he has a DNR order in place on the set. But that's neither here nor there.)

I know every essential detail of Gwendolyn's life, as well as a whole lot of details that wouldn't be considered by most of us to be all that essential. I know that her aunt's hot flashes are even worse than her mom's are, and that hot flashes run rampant in the maternal side of her family. I know that her family, who lives in a rural area not covered by municipal water and sewage systems, moved their septic tank, and within a week, their well mysteriously dried up. (That factoid was actually a bit interesting if gross.) I know that she's attending a Carly Rae Jepsen concert in Chicago at some time in July, and that she paid just over $150.00 for the ticket (to the concert; the round-trip plane ticket will cost more than twice the cost of the concert ticket.)  I know that her mother's boss has an ingrown toenail and that her sister's sister-in-law put diesel in an engine that should have had gasoline and that it caused thousands of dollars of damage. I know that Gwendolyn never misses an episode of  Keeping Up With the Kardashians unless her DVR malfunctions.  I know that she can only use white toilet paper because she had sensitivity to the dyes used in colored toilet paper. I know that she had a philosophical opposition to the business practices of In-N-Out Burger, but that her love of In-N-Out Burger's fare caused her to violate her conscience and to patronize the establishment anyway. (I have a philosophical opposition to the way In-N-Out Burger's french fries taste [like cardboard], but I know of nothing any more sinister about how they operate their business than are the practices of any other business of which I'm aware, but again, that has absolutely nothing to do with the price of tea in China.) I know that her IPOD is filled with Rebecca Black, Ted Nugent, the Spice Girls, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Kanye West, Chris Brown, and Carly Rae Jepsen.  I heard about it when one of the clownfish in her parents' aquarium attacked and killed two firefish gobies. Yet I had no idea about any affinity she felt toward Prince until, as soon as she learned of his death,  she began carrying on as though she had just been informed that she had only thirty seconds left to live. 

Incidentally, I also learned of when her grandmother, who had been a relatively healthy 58 years old, leaned against a balcony railing at an old and poorly maintained opera house. The railing gave way and her grandmother fell roughly thirty feet, breaking her neck and dying as a result of  the fall. Interestingly enough, at least at school when she learned of her grandmother's fate, Gwendolyn shed no tears. Yet ten days or so earlier when Prince passed on, Gwendolyn cried like she was one of those professional mourners who used to be (and still are in some circles, apparently) hired by funeral homes to ensure that adequate grief would be expressed at funerals. Professor Larry Bakman suggested that Gwendolyn cried so much when Prince died that ten days later she had no tears left to cry for her grandmother. Larry was being sarcastic. He was every bit as baffled by her bizarre display as were the rest of us. And it wasn't as though she had no connection with her grandmother. Her grandma used to drive to our medical school from Flagstaff, Arizona, several times each year to see Gwendolyn, and would take Gwendolyn and several of Gwendolyn's study group members out to dinner each time she came. I went to dinner with the woman on three occasions. To be perfectly honest, and even keeping in mind that we all grieve in our own unique ways, I suspect I was sadder at Gwendolyn's grandmother's passing than Gwendolyn was. I would have written it off as Gwendolyn being one of those people who simply does not cry about things except that I had witnessed her shrieking like a banshee when she read that Prince, or whatever he called himself, died.

A group of us in our cohort discussed the idea of the display of emotion upon the death of a celebrity. If a President of the United States were to die while in office, whether or not it was one I would have chosen, I might conceivably shed a few tears over it. If a celebrity I actually knew personally, whether in the flesh or online and through phone conversations (God forbid that such a thing should EVER happen to Judge Alex) I would probably cry. On the other hand, as much as I like Josh Groban and his music, or Marco Rubio and his lack of music, and as saddened as I would be by their untimely passings, I probably would not cry. If the elderly man who lives next door to my parents fails to wake up one morning, I probably will cry. I cried when my dog died. When my cat cries, I'll cry then, too.  When George Clooney eventually moves on to the next world, however, assuming I don't beat him to it, I'll most likely manage to hold back my tears. Such was the consensus of my cohort -- not so much about George Clooney but about celebrity deaths in general.

I don't think it's inherently wrong to cry when Prince or another celebrity dies. I just think it's a bit strange, especially when the person crying over him had a connection that could at best be described as tenuous.

Because I have an adventure planned for tomorrow and because it is past 2:00 a.m. here, I must end this somewhat frivolous missive.


Gwendolyn's excessive display of grief notwithstanding, may Prince rest in peace.

Note: Edited for numerous typographical errors!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Time to Regroup



Thanks to OzDoc, Knotty, and to a couple of others off the blogsite who have offered words of encouragement. OzDoc made an especially salient point, which is that a bit of self-doubt is a healthy thing. It's the same trait that will cause me to consult someone who knows more than I rather than to handle something myself that it over my head. Overconfidence is one of the most dangerous traits a fledgling physician, or any doctor for that mattre, can possess. Knowing when to say when and to call in the experts is crucial.

I've changed plans in terms of the USMLE. While Bakersfield is lovely this time of year [sarcasm font], I will instead take the USMLE in San Diego. My family has planned a short vacation there immediately following my exam. I won't arrive in san Diago until maybe 36 hours before the test. San Diego offers a few more distractions than does Bakersfield (What city doesn't?), but I'll spend my time before the exam in my hotel room listening to Bach and Mozart and viewing a few funny movies,

As far as studying, I probably know about as much of the USMLE Step 1 content I will ever know. My 36-hour stretches of studying (and even my 23-hour studying stints) are history. I'll look over materials for an hour or two each day, and I may study for up to four hours in the final three or four days leading to the test (which happen to be  any day now),but for the most part, I'm studied out. i'm going to a concert in Lps Angeles tomorrow night and to a party the following night. Then I will attempt to re-learn to sleep the way normal people sleep,

Bottom line: I think I will survive.



                 I've posted this video once before. Once again it applies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

WHEN IT BECOMES DIFFICULT TO SEE THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Britney at the end of her rope


Let me say that I believe I have some grasp as to what might have been going through Britney Spears' mind right before she shaved her head. I'm not suggesting that I otherwise have a great deal in common with Ms. Spears, but I think I may understand what it might have been that drove her to commit the single rash act. As far as what caused her to barricade herself inside her house with her younger child and to refuse to come out when called by law enforcement, i haven't a clue, nor do I have any idea why she would have borrowed expensive clothing from exclusive boutiques and then let her dogs defecate on it. There are some acts with which my own craziness I can identify. Other strange behaviors, however, are beyond even my comprehension.


I'm still studying, though between crying abut everything and being sick, the studying isn't all that productive. At some point, after 20 straight hours I shall call it a day and go to bed. The calibre of sleep will be lousy if I sleep at all, but I have to try. I probably need pharmaceutical assistance, but I'd really like to get through this on my own without the help of drugs.

I probably should contact my gastroenterologist, but at this point, the very last thing I need in the world is either a colonoscopy a sigmoidoscopy. The colonoscopy wouldn't be so bad, as I would be at least partially anaesthetized or at least sedated,but the pre-colonospoy procedure is more than I can handle right now. I know about modified prep procedures,but I'm not sure I could tolerate even those right now, and what if they worked too well and I was still feeling the effects on the day of the USMLE? The sigmoidoscopy prep is minor (though even it it might work too well on me) but gastro-men are stingy with their sedation for sigmoidoscopies. i don't need the pain right now.

My plan is to self -medicate with immodium and ondansetron (for nausea both the night before the test and the morning of it. Immodium works too well on me, too, but I'll deal with its effects after the test.

All of these contingency procedures are in effect under the assumption I last long enough for it to matter. There are no guarantees.

how I feel at the moment

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Life is sucking right now

Life is rough at the moment. i'm beginning to experience the results of stress in ways that are not good. I can't sleep well. When i do sleep, my sleep is filled with ugly dreams. I don't feel like eating, which is just as well since ulcerative colitis is once again rearing its ugly head.  I'm biting my nails a lot. I'm having to fight the urge to pluck my hair. I still have a bit of time before the USMLE. It would be imprudent for a variety of reasons to say exactly how much. Things are not looking very good at the moment.

My Personal Hell, Otherwise known as Step 1 of the uSMLE

I can so relate to the person in this picture.

There are Part !'s of blogs that anxiously await Part 2's,   other blogs in their inception that await further development, laundry that needs to be done, meals that are uneaten, and pianos that sit idly,just waiting to be played. Meanwhile, I study, study more, and study even more. i put in a 36-hour studying marathon, followed by a four-hour snooze.  I  just arose from the 4-hour snooze, still somewhat dazed and vaguely migraine-addled.  I'm sitting in a recliner while staring across the room at my study materials.  A part of me wants to pick them up and to resume my studies. Another more compelling part of my consciousness wants to shower and then to devour half of the kitchen's contents. A  third part of me wants to vegetate until it grows dark, and then to hit every party scene within ten miles of here. Where I am right now, one doesn't necessarily have to wait until it is dark to find a party in full swing, but I'm not sure those are the parties of which I would choose to be a part.

I've taken my second and final practice  test for Part 1 of the USMLE.  On both of them I've done well, but I will not be lulled into a false sense of security by having aced a practice exam. (It's like those practice items on the yearly tests we took in elementary school, mainly to ensure that little kids no how to bubble with their no. 2 pencils inside the designated spaces; anyone who actually missed one of those practice questions was up a creek once the actual test began.) We've all been warned that the point of USMLE practice tests is to familiarize ourselves with the format and the setting of the test. The tests might just as well have been asking about the plot and characters of "The Walking Dead" as about medical content. The word on the street is that the content of questions on the practice tests is just about THAT relevant.

In a relatively short time, I'll report to a testing center somewhere in California (probably north or south) to take this test. i'll be searched almost as extensively as though I were entering a maximum security prison. I'll spend eight or so hours scouring my brain for everything i've ever learned and some things that I have not. I'll leave with a vague idea of how many questions were so foreign to me that I had little choice but to mark "C" and hope for the best, but otherwise, the scores will not arrive for at least three weeks, but probably longer. (My test may be scrutinized for longer than most because  of the number of relatives who have taken the test before me. Matthew will have taken the test three days before I do, but he will then embark on a three-day backpacking trip; I wouldn't have the opportunity to benefit from his knowledge even were I unethical enough to desire to do so.

I've done just about everything that I reasonably could have done.. I've taken two prep courses. I've taken advantage of online tutorials. I've studied with groups. I've been quizzed ad nauseum by MDs in the family. God knows that I've studied independently as much as is humanly possible, taking into account that sleep, eating, and hygiene practices must happen at least on occasion. If i'm not adequately prepared by the time the test comes around, I probably was not meant for this field.

Th evening following the test, I plan to attend a party hosted by one of my cohort mates.  i have a designated driver, so I may drink more than my customary half-bottle of Guinness.  I'll celebrate having passed through this milestone even if I didn't technically receive notification of having "passed."  I expect to pass in a technical sense. The big question is whether or not my scores will be sufficiently high to grant me choice internship and residency placement opportunities. The joke, though, may be on me. Time alone will tell.





Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Career as a Candy Striper, Part 1

I didn't look much like this in my candy striper uniform.


I was a candy striper for almost two hours once. I never blogged about it --  not because I was embarrassed or ashamed or wanted to hide this aspect of my past, but rather because I hadn't thought about it for years it until tonight. My medical school friend Wendy asked if I blocked the experience out. I don't think so. It's a lot more likely that the experience was not even a blip on the radar screen of my life. To be perfectly honest, i'm not entirely sure why I remembered tonight about having been a candy striper. 

I might have listed my stint on my medical school application under the heading of experience. I wouldn't have been outed as having padded my resume, as if one were going to embellish one's qualifications, most people would come up with something just a bit loftier than having worked as a candy striper. I could have simply listed the year [ 2006] in which I worked my solitary one-hundred-fourteen-minute (I'm guessing at the exact number of minutes) shift, and could have left it to the reader to determine precisely how many shifts I worked in that year. Positively no one other than Meredith, who would never betray me, could contradict anything I said on my resume or application about my candy striper gig. The building where the convalescent hospital was located is now a combination bail bond company and tattoo parlor.  Neither Joe the bail bondsman nor Artie the tattoo artist likely held onto the volunteer files. (On second thought, Artie may very well be hanging onto the files. My friend Meredith said he always looked at her funny and set off her pervometer in a big way whenever she was around him when he used to  collect the used grease from her grandmother's Greek restaurant. [No one ever knew what Artie did with the grease, by the way, once he collected it. I can't think of any sinister purpose for collecting grease from a restaurant, but if  there is a sinister purpose for recycled grease, it's probably what motivates Artie to cart away sludge from various eateries in the greater Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta area.] Anyway, Artie might easily have hung onto the candy striper files to use as a ready-made phone list for obscene calls. Status of the files or of Artie notwithstanding, he probably isn't in close enough contact with the head honchos of the admissions panels of the medical schools at which I applied to have ratted me out as a candy striper imposter. The secret presumably died with most of the patients. (You are aware, I'm sure,  that no one ever actually convalesces at convalescent hospitals, I hope. it's a misnomer if ever there was one.) 

Moreover, I miraculously managed to gain admission to medical school even without boasting of my vast experience as an esteemed candy striper, so it's probably just as well that I didn't pad my resume. What if someone in human resources somewhere down the line in my career decided to give a polygraph to every employee in relation to claims made on resumes? It would be positively a shame to lose a position over having claimed to be a bona fide candy striper when, in reality, I poured pureed mystery meat paste down vegetative patients' throats (Doesn't this make a person look forward to growing old?) for just a portion of a single afternoon. It's just as well that the memory of this semi-event in my life has eluded my consciousness until now.

There's not a whole lot to tell since my candy-striping career lasted just under two hours, but i'll tell you all about it anyway since I have nothing else of importance to write this evening. A candy striper, if you're not familiar with the term, is a junior volunteer at a hospital or other residential medical facility. Our local hospital required that volunteers be at least sixteen years of age, but the convalescent hospital was so very desperate for free labor that they were willing to accept any volunteer who was old and/or sufficiently literate to fill out the application without assistance. they didn't even require background checks or references. We didn't even have to present ID (not that we were in possession of valid IDs in the first place), though our town was  small enough that the social director, who screened candy striper applicants, probably knew who we were when we first walked through the door of her office.  In retrospect, I'm appalled that just anyone odd the street was allowed to come into contact with such vulnerable patients. Meredith and I were not about to pilfer wedding rings from the senior citizens we tended -- and if we had been, the employees probably beat us to the really valuable stuff already, anyway -- but there have to be people who would have taken on the gig for that very purpose.

Our high school required forty hours of volunteer community service. (Really, how can it be volunteer community service if it's a requirement for graduation?) I wasn't concerned about coming up with the hours because anytime I played the piano for any person or function when I was not paid, I could round up to the next hour and claim the time. Meredith, however,  did not play the piano, and did not want to procrastinate and end up pressed for time and having to miss out on fun as a senior because she had neglected to complete her volunteer hours. So on a chilly November afternoon following the completion of our tennis season, Meredith asked me to accompany her to the local convalescent hospital to submit an application to serve as a candy striper.

Meredith and I were directed to the office of the facility's social director, who handed each of us clipboards to which application forms were attached. As I tried to explain to Violet Bixley, the social director, that  was just there to provide moral support to Meredith, she cut me off with "Now you do not need to be afraid of the aged, dear . . . They're just like you and me, only they're in a different stage of development."

I thought it would be easier just to fill out the form and then never to venture within 100 yards of the place again. The application was not a binding contract.
I even put down bogus contact information so that Violet would not reach my mother if she tried to call me at home. I could see my mother saying i had to go back because I had made a commitment.  I don't remember what address I wrote down, but I distinctly remember writing that my telephone number was 867-5309. Meredith look over at my application and saw the number, and could stop herself from giggling throughout the rest of the interview.

Since that time, I've been in numerous facilities for the elderly. Some are so well-maintained that the common areas have aromas similar to those of upscale restaurants. Others are so poorly maintained that the stench of urine and other body emissions nearly knocks you out before you even make it all the way through the front door of the place. Please understand that I'm making and objective observation in commenting on the smells found in convalescent homes. I'm certainly not poking fun at the patients. How a facility smells is of course not in any way the fault of those who receive care there. Any residential care facility would smell bad if it were not cleaned regularly and thoroughly whether because employees were lazy or because they were overworked by management who tried to pad the bottom line by under-staffing the place. Regardless, the reality is that some convalescent homes smell better than others do. The facility at which we were applying, unfortunately, was on the more odoriforous end of the spectrum.

I've always been sensitive to strong smells. I was one of the students in my cohort to barf on the first day of anatomy lab. I'm still somewhat squeamish where scents are concerned, but at that point in my life, I had no tolerance whatsoever. I tried in vain not to gag. Meredith handed me a scented tissue from her purse. As Meredith sat giggling in her chair in Violet Bixley's office, I held the purple scented tissue over my nose and mouth and tried in vain not to gag. We must have been quite a pair, although our lack of decorum was apparently not enough to dissuade Violet from accepting our applications. 

Violet look as over from head to toe, then excused herself. She came back two minutes or so later carrying two pink-and-white-striped jumpers and white blouses, one of which she handed to each of us. She pointed out a public restroom room where we could change into our candy striper uniforms. I was wearing jeans and tennis shoes that day.  For the record, I don't think anyone wears those pink-and-white-striped uniforms any longer except in fake kiddie porn shoots --  the look is right up there with "girls" wearing Catholic school uniforms -- and porno flicks. Google "candy striper" and see that it's the gospel truth if you don't believe me.

I thought we were just trying on the uniforms, but when we emerged from the restroom, Violet led us to a row of cubby-type shelving and told us to stow away our civilian clothing in any unused cubby. Violet grimaced as she looked down at my legs, which were covered from the knee down by  a giraffe from head to foot down the length of each knee-high stocking. She gave us each covered rubber bands for tying back our hair. "Even clean hair is very germy," she intoned, insinuating that the hair on our heads was anything but clean. It wasn't until I had the rubber band tripled around my hair that I realized my candy striping sentence was for real and that it was starting right then and there. I briefly considered making a run for it but lost the nerve.

I'll conclude the story tomorrow night.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Flash Mob: Let It Die Already and Put It Out of Its Misery

the typical obnoxious flash mob


Before I proceed to the main topic of this post, I should announce that Jared (not the former subway spokesperson Jared  but the guy who had my name tattooed to his bicep in order to avoid serving an LDS mission) and I are officially once and for all kaput. We've both dated other people for the past year, so it's not as though this new development is any great blow to me. What clenched the deal, so to speak, is that he is now engaged to one of my closest friends, Megan (the girl whose family owned the lesbian hen). I think they're far more suited for each other than Jared and I ever were for each other. I couldn't be any happier for them than I am. They've tentatively set their wedding date for August of 2017. I've been asked to be a bridesmaid, and I very happily accepted the invitation.

Now I shall address a topic that is the diametric opposite of being near and dear to my heart. The subject of discussion here is the semi-passe-but-still-happening-just-often-enough-to-annoy-me phenomena known as flash mobs. I concede that flash mobs are essentially harmless. Moreover, they seem to make a lot of people happy.  If people genuinely derive pleasure from participating in them,and if others enjoy watching viewing them, by all means they should continue, though preferably in venues where the audience is not captive and can walk away if they are perturbed by them as I am.

The subject of flash mobs came up recently because it has become almost expected that someone in the graduating class will organize a flash mob to perform during their medical school's Match Day ceremony. Match Day, which happens on the third Friday each March, is when 4th-year medical school students learn if and/or where they will serve internships or residencies. Fourth-year med school students travel to be interviewed by various programs. Skype interviewing isn't really recommended because students tend to be happier if they rank their preferences for internship or residency programs based on having actually traveled to the places. The residency programs simultaneously rank their preferences in candidates, and a computer program sorts the data and spits out matches. (I hate to think of what some amoral mastermind like Karl Rove might do to manipulate the system, but so far he's been more fixated upon presidential election outcomes than Match Day results. Furthermore, at least as far as I know, no one has received a "match" with an institution not even ranked on their list.)

Cutting to the chase, the Match Day ceremony at each med school has its own long-standing traditions, but one tradition that seems to be creeping its way past many of the more established customs is the dreaded flash mob. the expectation that a group is to produce a flash mob is, in my humble opinion, all the more reason not to do one. a flash mob is only successful -- and only in the rarest of instances, in my view, are they EVER successful  -- if there is an element of surprise in the performance. If all the attendees at  a Match Day ceremony are sitting around waiting for the inevitable flash mob to start, where is the element of surprise. Not there; I guarantee it.

Flash mobs have pervaded our societal functions to the point that a newly-wedded couple sometimes questions both the sanctity and the legality of their union if a flash mob did not take place at some point int their proceedings. The wedding reception flash mob has grown into a cliche of sorts.  I haven't seen a single wedding reception flash mob, either in real life or on YouTube, that I considered even remotely clever or well-done. A few actual wedding ceremony flash mobs -- while I wouldn't necessarily have wanted either to participate in them or to have them performed at my own wedding -- were both undeniably well-executed and sufficiently unexpected as to contain an element of surprise. I'm not big on people performing circus-style acrobatics right in the middle of a church service, but still, the level of skill and preparation was admirable.

I must admit that a large measure of my disinclination for flash mobs stems from my critical nature. While I don't consider myself a singer (for good reason), as a musician I nevertheless have a strong sense of both absolute and relative pitch. People who sing in flash mobs are, as often as not, at least a bit pitchy. Listening to them disregard each others' tones hurts my ears. 

Dance flash mobs are probably more common than singing flash mobs. I have less problem with them, though I usually find the cheerleader-style dance moves often seen in flash mobs to be rather tiresome. (I no longer hate either cheerleaders or cheerleading per se; I'm just not terribly fond of the style of dance employed by most cheerleading squads and wish it would have both its beginning and its end in actual cheerleading performances and competitions and would cease with its attempts at infusion into other dance genres. [I was a cheerleader very briefly, and dancing in that choppy and forced manner very nearly did me in.])

All of that being said, there are a few places I would kill to see flash mob performances.

        1. A flash mob in an LDS temple ceremony would be classic.  The
            geriatric temple workers might very well succumb to the shock 
            of the unexpected, but even (or especially) if it were my own grand-
            father, I'd say the flash mob was easily worth the price.

        2. A flash mob at a funeral might be nice. this should never happen 
            at the funeral of an infant who died of SIDS or of a high school 
            student who was killed by a drunk driver or at the funeral of a 
            serviceman who gave his life in service of his country. Performing
            a flash mob under such circumstances would be disrespectful and 
            basically wrong in every way. Under other circumstances,  however,                   a flash mob might serve to give an otherwise grim ceremony a bit 
            of ambience. I nominate my own grandfather, for that time when he                   ultimately meets up with The Grim Reaper, to be the recipient of
            a colossal flash mob sendoff. I'll even organize it. We'll use an appro-
            priate ditty: "If You Don't Know Me by Now" by Harold  Melvin and
            the Blue Notes. click on the link and scan the lyrics if you're unfamiliar               with the song. I'm sure you'll agree that the song is fitting funeral fare.
http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/h/harold_melvin/if_you_dont_know_me_by_now.html
 
         3. A flash mob in Judge Alex's courtroom would be a hoot. I would never
             participate in it, but I would get a charge out of seeing how many 
             people he threw in jail for contempt of court.

Even with this post being essentially a vilification of the flash mob phenomenon, two flash mobs stand out as having been especially nicely executed. One is the performance of Ode to Joy by the symphony in Catalonia. The other is too good to pass up.  I will include a video of the flash mob that is the absolute quintessence of all flash mobs. I'm thoroughly jealous and may never get over the fact that I was not an engineering student at the University of Toronto in 2013 and didn't get to participate in this flash mob. The singing isn't perfect, but considering that these people are engineering students and not music or theater majors, and that they're singing while walking on narrow and slippery tables between rows in an auditorium-style lecture hall, it's both respectable and commendable. This is one reason I think no more flash mobs really need to happen (except for the one at my grandfather's funeral): no one else will ever do it better. 

NOTE: I don't own this video. I'm including it as a sign of my sheer admiration and respect, and I sincerely hope no one who has any rights to it is offended by its inclusion here.