Sunday, April 30, 2017

Clarification

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I need to clarify a point. I am not a sickly person. I become ill a bit more frequently than is optimal, in part because of a sometimes recurring intestinal condition, in part because I have no spleen, and in part because i am sometimes forced to work insane hours. When I'm not sick, however, I am 100% fine. Sickly people are never totally well. I am well a far greater percentage of the time than I am sick.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

More Mood Swings

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I am experiencing mood swings, and I believe Ellen DeGeneris is responsible for them. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Vegans, Vegetarians, and Related Matters

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    I've been absent for a time. I mostly didn't have computer access. I did post a few tweets and comments, as well as answer a few emails, using my phone, and I very briefly had access to the computer of the kid who lives in this house, but this is the first time in almost two weeks that I've touched my own computer. I developed an illness  My medical care has been excellent, and I am recovering rapidly. The condition has been painful, but my greatest source of discomfort once progressing past the acute phase of the illness has been the almost terminal case of boredom I have experienced.

     I will very likely be allowed to return to work on an at least part-time basis next week. The medical school personnel are doing everything in their power to ensure that I will have the knowledge I need to pass the shelf exam in psychiatry even though the hours I will have spent in the department are laughable. To date, I have not yet been under the direction of anyone in any way connected to the psychiatry department for as much as an isolated nanosecond. I could not point even one of them out if I were required to do so in a police lineup. The medical school has some degree of obligation to work with me and to ensure that, at least on paper, my time here hasn't been entirely wasted, though, and they are doing so most honorably.  Canadians, I have discovered, are mostly good people (I'll talk a bit more about some of the Canadians I have gotten to know in a later blog), though I had to all but make the no-return float down the Ganges River to discover this.

     I was in the process of writing a response to a recent post of Knotty's concerning vegetarians. It became unwieldy and morphed into its own blog. It is somewhat presumptuous to post a response to a blog that is almost as long as the original blog. The blog (my blog, not Knotty's original blog) is  pointless, but so are many of my blogs. I'm almost ready to give up on it because my finger strength is so nonexistent that I'm hitting the keys and no letters are appearing on my monitor. Nevertheless, I shall persist. If anything I type makes even less sense than what I normally type, I shall blame it on medical causes even though we all know I'm merely making excuses for my normally abysmal typing.

     The university at which I did my undergraduate studies is considered the second-most liberal university in the liberal state of California. Predictably, the enrollment included a relatively large number of vegetarians. This was my introduction to the idea that a person could be simultaneously vegetarian and sane.  In the small university town in which I spent the bulk of my childhood and youth, there must have lived vegetarians, but I didn't know any of them, or at least I didn't know they were vegetarians. The only vegetarian of of whom I had ever heard was a relative of a relative.

     My uncle-by-marriage has a vegetarian sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not sister who occasionally appears at family functions at which members of my immediate family are also present. Actually, this should have been stated in the past tense. My family no longer attends because my aunt for some reason feels that everyone in attendance at the gatherings must maintain a vegetarian diet whenever her sister's husband is present. My aunt is a terrible vegetarian cook. She's not all that great at preparing non-vegetarian cuisine either, for that matter, but thus far she hasn't royally screwed up many take-out orders. I don't know if my aunt is trying to delude her sister-in-law into thinking that she, her husband, and their twin young adult children are also sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not vegetarians or if she simply feels that asking a vegetarian to witness carnivores doing what most of them do best is asking too much, but eating my aunt's failed attempts at vegetarian epicure is something my dad is no longer willing to tolerate. My mom isn't all that thrilled with it, either, but if she has the option of blaming my dad for anything, she does.

     One year we had Christmas dinner there.  My mom found out on our way that the Christmas dinner entree was to be eggplant lasagna, as in faux lasagna in which the noodles have been replaced by thin slices of eggplant. (Why the fuck did it need to be eggplant lasagna, for that matter? My aunt could have made perfectly acceptable meat-free traditional lasagna since it wasn't in the middle of one of her sister-in-law's vegan binges, but that might not have been more vegetarian than thou or whatever it was my aunt was hoping to accomplish.) On our way to their home, which was at the time about three or four hours from our house depending upon who was driving, my mom had my dad stop at a grocery store (it was a three-hour trip that day) to pick up a Tombstone frozen pizza for the kids to eat since my mom knew that my aunt's two children weren't any more likely to eat the eggplant lasagna than Matthew and I were. 

     My mom should have gotten a whole lot more than one of the semi-edible frisbees, though. My parents tell me that frozen pizzas are much better now than they were back in the day. I wonder how such a thing could even be possible. My cousin once baked one without first removing the cardboard on which it was packaged. It didn't taste any different than frozen pizzas normally taste; if anything, it might have been better with the cardboard than without. If there is any truth to what my parents say about it, I would hate to taste whatever it was that passed itself off as frozen pizza in the dark ages.  The debatability of the quality of frozen pizza nothwithstanding, it was the sought- after item on the menu that night. Even though the Tombstone pepperoni pizza was supposed to be for the four children present, I don't think any of us got even a sliver of it. I don't know who actually ate it, as no one brought it to the dinner table, but the adults, including the brother of the sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not vegetarian, had more than their share.  I'm not sure about the other kids, but I just ate candy for dinner that night, and my mom didn't even try to stop me. I remember bringing my stocking to the table and devouring one chocolate marshmallow Santa after another, placing the foil wrapper of each on my dinner plate at the table.  The vegetarian lady spent the majority of the meal just looking at me and shaking her head. 

     One time we were in the presence of the sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not vegetarian. I think the occasion was a celebration of the university graduation of one of my cousins, though that's neither here nor there. Someone asked another of my cousins where he planned to attend college.  One of the possibilities he mentioned was California State University, Chico. The mere mention of the name "Chico" very nearly sent my uncle's sister to a full-blown grand mal seizure-like state.  She immediately launched into a diatribe about the various iniquities associated with the city of Chico. I know almost nothing of the city of Chico now and knew even less then. I have no clue as to the validity of her claims, but if she is to be believed, a person would emerge both saner and safer after doing time either in Gary, Indiana, or Rexburg, Idaho, than after spending the same amount of time in Chico. The coup de grace to her remarks was , "And I've heard," her voice dropped to almost a whisper, "that they even have a butcher school in Chico."

     By this time, as we had been at my aunt's and uncle's home for more than five minutes, any filter my dad possessed, which would have been a thin one under the best of circumstances, would have been effectively obliterated by his consumption of alcohol.  "Do you think," my dad asked my uncle's sister, "that it would be somehow more humane if butchers learned their craft by trial and error?" 

     My uncle grabbed his throat as a piece of the beef jerky he and my dad had been passing back and forth in a Skoal Bandit container (it was less offensive to my uncle's sister that they were inexplicably chewing and swallowing tobacco right in front of her than it would have been to openly eat beef jerky) became wedged, as his sister ran from the house, howling for the benefit of the entire neighborhood. My aunt stood roughly equidistant between her choking husband and the open front door left that way by her sister-in-law, unsure of whom to aid. She solved the quandary by just standing with her mouth agape, helping neither. My dad put his drink down and Heimliched my uncle a couple of times until the beef jerky shot out of his mouth about twelve feet and landed squarely in the center of  the six-feet-by-six-feet living room window, then slowly slithered its way down. My aunt emerged from her stupor, grabbed a cloth and some Windex, and removed the unslightly blurb from the picture window. My uncle's sister returned to the house as though nothing had happened, bringing with her some pamphlets about seal-hunting off the coat of Labrador, which she handed out to everyone present, including a fourteen-month old baby who belonged to one of my cousins.  My dad used his pamphlet as a coaster. The baby gnawed on his.

     My cousin told me that once every three years his aunt gets arrested in a protest against fur and realistic-looking fake fur (Why would anyone waste time protesting against any fake fur no matter how realistic it might look?) that takes place annually on Black Friday in San Francisco's Union Square. She is arrested only once every three years because the members of the animal rights organization sposoring the protest take turns being arrested. It's all virtually choreographed, and the organization's members know years in advance of when it is their turn to be arrested. One of the years in which she was arrested her husband (who is not a member of any of her animal rights organizations and, in fact, consumes meat with the very best of carnivores) imbibed too freely on his way to bail his wife out. He hit a fire hydrant and was subsequently charged with, among other things, DUI. My uncle had to make the three-hour drive to bail both of them out. The sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not vegetarian was predictably livid. "I ask you to remain sober one day of every three years, and you can't even do that!" she practically spat at him.

     The most memorable thing I ever heard the sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not lady say was at another family gathering. I don't even remember the occasion. I just remember what she said when the squeal of a car's brakes and the screeching of its tires were heard, followed immediately by a high-pitched wail. "I certainly hope that was just a child and not a dog!" the woman blurted. 

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Peyton Place in the Great White North

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     Real life hit in a major way.  I managed to get caught in the midst of someone else's marital (or, more correctly in this cse, livng togehter without a marriage license) drama. How typical of my life it is that I managed not to get one ounce of either fun or romance out  of the experience. 

     The owner of the apartment in which I reside while in Canada is a doctor. The person who more or less oversaw the rental was the lady of the house, whom I assumed to be his wife. I was wrong. The two had been living together for roughly two years wthout the beefit of a marrige license, which is absolutely their prerogative, as they're consenting adults.  her only child lives on another continent. Two of his children are away at college. The third child of his preious marriage, which ended in his wife's death roughly ten years go, still lives at home. i had no idea the lady of the house was not his mother. He looks far more like her than he does like his father. Those odd coincidences pop up at times.

     It all would have unfolded without my being any the wiser until I saw the woman move out were it not for the ridiculously long shift I worked. It's apparently a tradition at this medical school to abuse those serving visiting clerkships, externships,  or internships during their first week here. I spent most of the week in the emergency room, not even being allowed to come home to shower or to sleep from Sunday until Thursday morning. 

     The woman's nephew, who has an alleged close relationship with illegal substances, showed up on the doorstep of the house to which my garage apartment is attached. The nephew had been a guest in the home on a prior occasion. Following the nephew's visit, cash, jewelry, and drugs were discovered to be missing. When the nephew showed up earlier this week, the man of the house refued to let him sleep in a guest room or on the sofa. The lady of the house, a doctor herself, knew of the medical school's tradition o treating visiting
medical students like indentured servants and didn't expect to see me back anytime soon. She gave the guy her key to my apartment.

     At about 6;35 on Thursday morning i was finlly allowed to leave the emergency room after being on the premises just over ninety-seven hours. i had been kicked out of the medical students' sleeping quarters by someone who called himself the chief of the four-year medical class. We don't have chiefs among the medical student ranks where I normally study, so I don't know if he really holds a position of leadership or if he was full of bullshit. Wednesday morning at about 3:25.a.m., when I was given ninety minutes to rest, he woke me up and said he didn't know me, and asked to see my ID. I reached for it around my neck and showed it to him. The hospital apparently bought a new machine to make ID cards, and the new ones look considerably different than the old ones. He concluded that my ID was a fake, that I was a homeless person or a teenaged runaway taking advantage of the hospital's hospitality, and he demanded that I leave. Taking a cue from Dr. David Dao, I refused. He summoned a security guard, who told me I would be cuffed and stowed away until the authorities arrived to pick me up if I did not vacate the premises voluntarily. I went back to the E.R. Essentially the same thing happened around 2;00 on Thursday morning.

     When I fell asleep standing next to a wall Thursday just after 6:00 a.m., a resident said I needed to go home. I didn't wait around for someone to contradict the guy; I grabbed my belongings and sprinted out of the place. I drove home, wanting nothing more than a hot shower and to climb beneath the covers of my bed. It took almost more energy than I could muster to drag myself up the steps. I unlocked my door, opened it, and flipped the light switch. Immediately I heard a deep "What the fuck!?!?" coming from the direction of my bed. I screamed. "Get the fuck out of here and turn the god-damned light off!" the voice growled at me.

     I suggested that he might want to be the one to get the fuck out, as it was my apartment. At this time, the lady of the house made an appearance. "Alexis, what are you DOING here?" she screamed at me.

     "I was going to go to bed," I answered her.

     "That's not possible," she answered. We argued for several minutes.

      The cops or the mounties (or whatever they call them here) showed up. Oh, I forgot. I did dial 911.

      The druggie was angry because I woke him. The lady was angry because I called the cops on her nephew. The cops (or mounties) were upset because they had better things to do. The lady asked me to leave. I found my lease. The cops (or mounties) said she couldn't force me to leave because I had a lease. I took one look at my bed and knew that there wasn't a chance in hell that I would sleep in it until the bedding had been replaced and the matress had been steamed clean. I grabbed a suitcase, tossed enough clothing to last for a few days, grabbed my toiletries, and got a hotel room.

     The next day I paid the doctor who owns the home a visit in his office. He had heard part of the story. He told me to stay put in the hotel room until Saturday, when the lady and the nephew will both be gone. He said he would pay for the hotel room. I'll believe that when I actually feel the cold cash in my palm.

     My Vicodin (ten tablets) is missing. I reported it to the police with my landlord's blessing. He said he will replace it for me. I'm not sure that's any more likely to happen than my being reimbursed for my hotel expenses.


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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Crash and Burn: An Epic Fail of a Helicopter Parent

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     We've all read about them and may know a few of them.  Many of us have accused our parents of being one of them. Some of us were correct. In the case of a student in my medical school one year behind me, she was right on the mark when he referred to his mother as a helicopter parent. The mother proved her daughter right.

     A twenty-five-year-old woman in the medical school class immediately following mine scored poorly on an exam. She then made the mistake of mentioning the failing test score to her mother, who has in the past has shown a tendency to hover.  Her mother first emailed, then telephoned the medical school professor, requesting that her daughter have the opportunity to retake the exam. The professor denied the request. The mother then called the dean, who decined to take her call. Here's the kicker: we, the student's fellow medical school students, would likely  have no way of knowing that the student's mother called a medical school professor. The professor might mention the call over drinks with a fellow professor, and he might even share the story with a class a few years down the road, but odds heavily favor the side that he wasn't going to share the information with any of us -- at least not at any time in the near future. And the dean, whom none of us count among our drinking buddies, certainly wasn't going to clue any of us in regarding the hovering parent situation.

     So how do we now about it? I heard about it, despite being more than thousand miles away, from my friend and colleague Celinda. Celinda heard about it directly from the horse's mouth, or, more correcty, from the foal's mouth. The second-year medical student was so filled with misplaced pomposity that she actually boasted of her omnipotence by virtue of her mother's willingness to behave like a scorned Harper Valley PTA president whose daughter lost her place on the school's honor roll to the brazen hussy Mrs. Johnson's daughter. At the point when the second-year student boasted of her mother's interference in her life, she actually believed she would get a second chance on the exam. 

     Medical school, however, is a bit like real life. Sometimes when a person screws up, he or she does not get a second chance.  If a physician or surgeon kills a patient, there are no second chances where that patient is concerned.  It's probably fitting that medical school should prepare all of us for the real world of medicine by not offering redos on exams. Get it right the first time or forever hold your peace.

     Unfortunately for the second-year medical school student, along with not getting a chance to retake the test, she doesn't get to redo her response to having failed the test, nor does her mother. I don't know the student in question particularly well as the two of us have little in common beyond attending the same medical school, but from what Celinda has told me (Celinda has a cousin who is a second-year student at our med school this year and is, thus, privy to such information), the test fail was not an anomaly for the student.  The woman has reportedly struggled since entering medical school, and barely survived the cut to be allowed to return this year. She allegedly hid that information from her mother. The bettors at our school have declared even odds regarding the student's survival as a student at our medical school. (Some people would bet on anything under the sun, including but not limited to their own grandmothers' deaths. It's a cold, cruel world.)

     This incident has caused me to rethink my past practice of having referred to my own parents as helicopter parents. I mis-applied the term when I used it in reference to them. My parents were Nazi disciplinarians, grammar police, and overprotective parents. My parents didn't run in circles in attempt to protect me from the consequences of my actions unless the consequences of my actions posed legitimate safety hazards. I grossly misunderstood the meaning of the term. 

     Mom and Dad, you were fascists and you were ridiculously overprotective, but you were not helicopter parents. 

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Triangle of Life: The Safest Place to Be During an Earthquake, and Why the Duck and Cover Method Isn't Such a Great Idea After All

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It may not be such a great idea after all.


     I recently read an article about earthquake safety. I won't summarize or even paraphrase the entire article, as I do not have permission to borrow someone else's work, although the author might not object to my doing so. Eric Carroll, the author, seems committed more to getting the word out than to getting credit for it. Carroll actually appropriated the highlights of of another article, thi one by Dough Copp, who holds the title of Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International. I will offer by way of a disclaimer that Copp's arguement has been refuted in numerous places on the Internet. Be that as it may, you should take the refutations with a grain, or perhaps with an entire shovel, full of salt. Everything from Elvis' death to the chemical composition of water has been refuted on the Internet.

     The article that Eric Carroll summarized began with Doug Copp walking into a school following the 1985 Mexico earthquake. He discovered that a deceased child, crushed to the width of his or her bones, lay underneath almost every desk. Anyone who took refuge in a doorway suffered an even worse fate. (Bracing oneself under a doorway always seemed to me to be a profoundly bad idea, anyway.) The key point is that the safest spot during a severe earthquake is likely to be next to a sturdy object as opposed to directly beneath it. Don't take my word for it, however. Read the article.  

https://injapan.gaijinpot.com/uncategorized/2011/04/25/where-to-go-during-an-earthquake/

Thursday, April 6, 2017

DANIELLE BREGOLI AND CYBER-BULLYING: WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT ISN'T

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The word bullying is tossed around liberally now. The act of bullying receives far more attention and far greater scrutiny than it has in the past. What once was written off as kids being kids is now taken more seriously, which is a very positive change in how those in authority and with the power to effect change now deal with intimidation and mistreatment.  Predictably, though, whenever any societal dilemma receives greater attention than it has in the past and becomes the topic of the day, week, or decade, the issue sometimes becomes a bit too popular in that individuals lay  claim victimhood to it when doing so stretches the definition of the issue.

Bullying has been defined in many ways. Most definitions encompass essentially the idea that bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, aggressively dominate, or ostracize others. The inclusion of ostracize is not absolute here, as if the ostracism were to come about as the result of extreme bad-acting on the part of the one being ostracized, the term bullying would not apply. If the ostracism were due to the victim having funny clothing or hair, the term bullying would apply. It's subjective, it's not kind and gentle, but it is society's way of self-policing its members. 

Classic bullying as most of us conceive it is has probably occurred  since whatever time formal institutions for the purpose of education first were created if not before. The most characteristic examples of bullying most of us have either seen or experienced probably have occurred in schools. While such is not to say that bullying happens only at school or that children are the sole perpetrators or victims of bullying, the most cut and dried cases of bullying probably continue to happen among groups of youngsters. Bullies who are not stopped, though, don't necessarily outgrow the practice, and often continue their bullying ways in whatever settings they next find themselves. Hence, we have workplace bullying, PTA bullying, Kiwanis Club bullying, church bullying, and many forms of delightful social interactions in which people show their true colors and which are all very genuine bullying.

I won't go to the length of detailing what is or isn't bullying, as I'm not the final arbiter, and we wouldn't all necessarily agree on every specific instance anyway. Still, not everything that anyone -- adult or child -- describes as bullying is technically bullying. In discussion of bullying, caution should be exercised not to overuse the word bullying, because its overuse and overextension reduce the term's impact and devalue the meaning in cases where it is legitimately applied. Moreover, unjust designation of the term bully can itself, in some cases,  be a itself form of bullying.

Bullying used to be largely an on-site activity. It happened most often where young people gathered -- most frequently at schools but sometimes in other places. A brazen bully might have called a victim's home to further the abuse, but the incidence and impact were limited. A parent might have answered the phone, and if the victim knew and told the parent the identity of the abusive caller, trouble might ensue for him or her. Then came computers, the Internet, and the advent of social media. Later still came cell phones with text-messaging capacity and Internet capacity, following most young people into the privacy of their own rooms even if they did not personally own computers. Harassment came through text-messaging and on such forums as Facebook, giving birth to Internet- or cyber-bullying. 

This new form of bullying was especially devastating in that young people often had no escape from it, leading at times to depression and even to suicide.
While few of us would dispute the cataclysmic potential of cyber-bullying, like old-style bullying, the term cyber-bullying can potentially be over-extended or corrupted, lessening its power and taking away from those who genuinely suffer its effects.

For illustrative purposes, let us pretend that a group of students at the Jan Crouch School for Christian Girls, in an online forum to which most of the students had access, discussed the degree to which a particular classmate possessed ugly teeth. As "ugly teeth" is a subjective term, no one who weighed in with an opinion would be guilty of libel, and no one presumably expressed a threat or incited others to harm the schoolmate with ostensibly ugly teeth. Nonetheless, in the climate of the modern-day high school, this could, without over-extension, and despite the lack of force, threat, or coercion,  be construed as a from of ostracism. The ostracism, which would not have been as a consequence of bad-acting, would thereby be unjustified (even if the student's teeth really were ugly), and would, therfore, be a case of bullying.

For illustrative purposes again, let us now consider that a group of Trinity Broadcasting Network viewers, on a forum frequented by viewers of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, discussed the degree to which Jan Crouch* (may she rest in peace) possessed ugly hair. This, as with "ugly teeth," would be in the eye of the beholder and, hence, non-actionable as libel. Would it be, however, outright bullying? The non-consensus answer I accept  is no, it would not be not outright bullying. Indivduals who appear in the public eye (on television, in movies, or in whatever form) earn both money and public scrutiny. Both adulation and non-libelous criticism come with the territory. Is it kind and charitable for a person to bash the looks or anything else about a celebrity on public forums or other social media? Obviously it is not. Is a person inherently protected from the wrath of God or from the forces of karma for engaging in celebrity-bashing because of the bashed's celebrity status? If the wrath of God and forces of karma actually exist, no, the bashed's celebrity status would not proyect or exempt the individual or individuals who bashed him or her from the wrath of God or from the forces of karma. Bash at your own risk in relation to karmic forces or to the wrath of God.

What if the celebrity being criticized were a minor? Would it be it intrinsically wrong to criticize a kid in an Internet forum? The kid would have, in some fashion, profited or experienced financial gain through appearing in the public eye. On the other hand, unless a minor were emancipated, he or she could not unilaterally have made the decision to appear on a television program or in a movie. In a post at a forum entitled the Tempest, https://thetempest.co/2017/02/22/entertainment/cash-me-ousside-girl-has-a-name-its-danielle-and-we-are-cyberbullying-her/ blogger Aana Syed declared that it is cyberbullying to, as I did last night, criticize Danielle Bregoli, the recent guest on Dr. Phil who behaved in a wholly uncivilized manner both on the show and in other recent instances, and who has become a quasi-celebrity as a result of her misdeeds. 

By way of concession -- because a minor cannot make the final decision as to whether or not to appear on Dr.Phil or any other tV program -- I would not disparage a minor's looks or physical appearance. It could be argued that a minor had control over whether or not he or she wore a particular hairstyle, clothing, or jewelry, but even those may have been decided by the minor's guardian or by the show's producer, and the minor may have had no say. On the other hand, if the minor appears on a program such as Dr. Phil and behaves as a complete ass, it is justifiable to criticize the minor for his or her behavior. Such criticism is a form of the self-policing function of society, without which we would have far more people in our midst who behave as complete asses. Criticism and ostracism are logical consequence for behaving as an ass. I believe Ms. Syed is cutting bad-acting minors far too much slack. I will continue to criticize minors in a non-libelous manner for their bad-acting as I see fit. It is not in the best interest of society for a minor to be protected from the logical consequences of his or her actions by simple virtue of status as a minor. Calling a spade a spade, even when said spade is a minor,  does not constitutes cyber-bullying. Period.


* or perhaps Roger McDuff



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Phil McGraw Gains Ratings And Makes Money By Digging Up Pond Scum And Making It Infamous

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the one and only Phil Mcgraw




     Against my convictions, I'm posting about a disturbing trend in North American society. Perhaps it's wrong to blame all of North America. I doubt that many people in Mexico or Central America care much about this new trend. If a person ventures very far north into Canada, the people there probably don't give it much thought, either. I don't think the trend is exactly new, but it seems that the degree to which the media is taking it is more extreme than has ever been done in the past. What I have to say is uncharitable, but I will say it anyway.

     Celebrities have probably always existed and have been given publicity -- both negative and positive -- for bad-acting. It's been said, though, that for a celebrity, no publicity is bad publicity. Justin Bieber, Brittany Spears, Lindsay Lohan . . . and the list could be extended practically infinitely.  At least when these people were given publicity, however, they were at least already famous for some ability that could at least be loosely construed as talent. 

     Maybe the downfall really began with Paris Hilton. Why did anyone care about watching a reality show featuring a person who had nothing to offer the public except her own stupidity? She was born wealthy and was pretty; she otherwise had no claim to fame. Then when she ran afoul of the law and wound up being incarcerated, why did anyone outside her circle of family and friends care about it except to the extent of seeing that justice was served and that a person of extreme wealth was not able to buy her way out of justice? Why did hordes of people wait outside the jail at midnight for her release, and then cheer her as though she either had accomplished some great feat or was a political prisoner?

     Then we had or continue to have the train wreck known as the Kardashian family. The Kardashians, Jenners, and others associated with them are at least more or less law-abiding, but what have they done to earn the adulation of the public at large? Why have these people who were already wealthy been made into a financial empire? Why has their fame grown to the point that the younger Jenner daughter, despite having looks and a build every bit as unremarkable as mine, and in possession of even less talent and intelligence than that which I possess, will probably never have to do an honest day's work in her life without having to encroach upon the earnings of her relatives. Why did we as a society enable this?

     Before moving to my major concern, allow me to clarify one point. I would not trade places with Kylie Jenner even if I could. I would not want to be so academically inept that I struggled in traditional high school to the extent that I needed to enroll in a marginal home-schooling program so that I could even call myself a high school graduate. The Jenner daughters "had" to miss a great deal of school, then were very stressed when they couldn't keep up with their peers. They're probably not terribly bright in terms of traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence in the first place. They may even be learning disabled; Bruce Jenner claimed to be dyslexic, and dyslexia can be hereditary. Then they were raised by parents whose priorities were sufficinetly screwed up to allow girls who were already floundering academically to take on other pursuits that interfered with their school attendance and time to study. Ultimately, the solution was to enroll in a home school curriculum program that took even less time than did traditional high school, yet allowed them to complete secondary school curriculum and call themselves high school graduates. How can a student who is already behind his or her peers finish a high school curriculum by putting in even less time than his or her peers? The only way is for the curriculum to be curriculum. What parents in their right minds would allow this? 

     I do not claim to be this generation's answer to Nicolas Tesla, but I could have legitimately graduated from a traditional high school with rigorous academic standards at the age of thirteen after having completed one school year. My parents made me stick it out for the full four, as they felt that sixteen was early enough to go away to college or university. Even had I experienced difficulty in academic areas, however, my parents would have ensured that I received the tutoring I needed to be adequately successful in traditional school. They wouldn't have let me complete a bogus home-school course to call myself a high school graduate. Furthermore, I'm not lamenting that my parents demanded more of me academically than Kylie Jenner's parents demanded of her. Rather, I'm happy that I had choices both in terms of universities I could attend and graduate programs in which I could enroll. It's very possible that the Jenner girls' connections might have gained them acceptance into every university into which I was accepted, but the parenting practices used by my own mother and father gave both my brother and me the skills we needed to make it through undergraduate and graduate programs without any creative mathematics in calculating our grades or without my parents having to donate a new academic building to any school.

     I've said all that needs to be said about anyone related to the Kardashians. my very real concern tonight is that the marginal media has developed an infatuation with a thirteen-year-old miscreant and is not only giving her publicity for her despicable behavior, but is actually giving her opportunities to display her horrendous upbringing and flagitious actions for large sums of money. The media should not be censored; the integrity of our government and even of our way of life is dependent in part upon freedom of the press. Nonetheless, the members of our media -- even of our marginal media, as I would describe TMZ,
Elite Daily, The Daily Beast, and other media outlets with questionable discernment and arguably diminished taste, would do well to consider the merits of the stories they choose to report even if there may exist a segment of the lowest common denominator of our society who actually  has interest in the questionable stories. Journalists have within them the power to weigh the right to know against both the need to know and the benefit to society. The exploits of this young moron are not genuine news; they are, instead, merely the exploits of a self- and parent-aggrandizing  juvenile delinquent. 

     It all started with Dr. Phil. Phil McGraw somehow found a creature and featured her in a segment on his program. She insulted and threatened Phil McGraw's studio audience, acted as though she would assault her mother, spoke her own sub-idiotic and unintelligible version of a street dialect, and generally behaved in a manner that was barely human if human at all. Dr. Phil sent the young fool to an outdoor rehabilitation program, at which the girl had some alleged measure of success, if short-lived.

     At this point, or, more correctly, before airing the initial episode featuring this debacle of limited humanity,  Phil McGraw's desire for ratings and for his own publicity came into conflict with his innate sense of right and wrong. Dr. Phil had the power to kill this story, at his own and his company's expense. His production company would have eaten the cost of flying the sub-imbecile and her mother to his studio and back home, as well as the cost of filming and the cost of his own time. Still, this organism would have been denied a platform from which to publicize her uncivility. She likely would have continued her uncouth ways until she ultimately broke enough laws to be put away for good, but I would argue that she is essentially headed in that direction despite Dr. Phil's intervention. She'll make some money in the meantime and she'll probably probably take other clueless young people and their equally clueless parents with her, but she will end up in the same place she would have gone regardless of Phil McGraw's intervention.

     The marginal media loves a train wreck. Low-life radio programs and other sources caught up with the quadriped and gave her further air time. YouTube videos of her became popular. Her instagram account went viral. She appeared in a music video. Abundant footage can be found featuring her in vulgar poses. She and her mother had a major altercation on a commercial airliner, fortunately before it left the ground, resulting in her being banned from the airline. She has been involved in bar altercations, which begs the question of why she is allowed, at the age of thirteen, inside of bars in the first place? She commands five- and six-figure appearance fees. According to TMZ she is fielding offers to appear in her own reality show on an unnamed fourth-rate network.

      The chordate's mother is allegedly under investigation because of a video currently circulating. In the video, supposedly taken by the thirteen-year-old's friend when she was eleven, shows her mother pinning the provocatively dressed eleven-year-old to the ground, shouting at her, hitting her, and calling her a bitch. The video offers some insight as to how the specimen became the product she is today. It's a pity something wasn't done earlier. Perhaps it would be appropriate for authorities to examine her school attendance and those school employees who came into contact with her, as it's conceivable that at least one employee was derelict in his or her duty as a mandated reporter.

     The vertebrate's father, a deputy sheriff in Florida, who has contributed child support but has otherwise largely been absent in her life, is seeking custody according to TMZ. The father reportedly feels that she is being exploited, which isn't a drastic leap from credulity. Granting custody to her father would be a step in the right direction. I'm sufficiently repulsed by her that I really don't have much compassion for her or care what happens to her, but it would seem that society in the form of the government has some obligation to do something to intervene for the sake of her well-being. 

     All the money she may earn likely cannot save her from herself. Her father, if he's willing, should be given the opportunity to try to redeem her. If he fails, she needs to be charged with the most serious offense applicable each time she breaks a law, and needs to be incarcerated for each offense. She should be closely monitored each time she is relesed from custody, and re-charged and re-sentenced as applicable. We as a society do not need this specimen roaming our streets and creating disturbances everywhere she goes. If she can be rehabilited and can live a productive or at least non-criminal life, she should be allowed to do so. If not, she should be locked away each time she does anything illegal that significantly harms anyone else. 

     As much as I would like for the government to assert a bit of censorship in terms of coverage of this life form, the rights of the media to report news and to create programming must continue. It would be ideal, nevertheless, if journalists and the Phil McGraws of the world were to exhibit a modicum of news judgment. Not every miscreant needs fame. That, however, will do nothing to rid us of the scourge upon society that Phil McGraw has already unleashed in the pursuit of ratings. My dream solution would be for the cellular mass to which Phil McGraw gave a platform leading her to infamy to live next door to him. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Odd Relatives I Have Previously Neglected





too small to be my actual extended family on either side, but it gives the reader an image with which to work





     I've ragged about my father's family almost ad nauseum, and for good reason. They're some of the strangest creatures ever to walk the planet. In using -- perhaps even overusing -- this obvious source of mirth, I may have neglected another source that, while not quite so pure a personification of Theatre of the Absurd, is still noteworthy in its aberration. In short, my mother's family has not received its due share of attention in this blog. I shall attempt at this time to correct this injustice ever so slightly.

     My mother is technically the youngest of seven. I use the term technically to note that in the caesarean delivery that produced both her and her twin brother, Kevin, she came in second (and last) in the lottery or the coin toss or the placement in utero or whatever influenced the OBGYN to pluck her brother out first. As far as I know, it was the very last time she came in second to Kevin in anything. She walked earlier, talked sooner, learned to escape cribs and playpens at an earlier age, outran, out-jumped, and outscored her brother in virtually every known measure. Despite having no intention whatsoever of joining the military (that would have made Private Benjamin by comparison to appear as a documentary), she took the ASVAB (the test that is given to prospective military candidates) and thoroughly kicked his butt on that measure as well. 

    At the time my mom was twelve and in eighth grade, she drove herself (and her brother, too, if the two of them were on good terms) to school each day in the new TransAm that she purchased with winnings from a gambling ring. Her football betting operation was successful in part because she was able to start out with large bets due to having banked a large sum of money from organ-playing jobs at church services, weddings, and funerals. She probably could have paid for the car solely with her earnings from musical gigs, but she saw a source of income (high school boys who thought they knew a great deal more about college and professional sports than they actually did at a time before the Internet was up and running) too promising to pass up, and in possession of the capital to back up potential early losses, she was able to start out full-steam. Early losses by her clientele seemed to compel them all the more to want to win their money back, but their bets seemed to grow increasingly desperate, to the extent of taking ridiculous underdogs. All my mom had to do at this rate to make money was to bet on the favorite unless the opposition was willing to give up a ridiculous number of points. She closed out her shop after football season of her junior year, before any authorities had even caught wind of her operation. At that point, in addition to her car and steady gas money, she had put away enough cash to pay for the first two years of her college education. She chose to end her high school career after just three years at the age of fifteen, and her nest egg was even not needed to fund her education because of the amount of scholarship money she earned.

     My mom's twin Kevin stuck around the high school for an additional year until he was admitted at the age of sixteen to the U.S. Air Force Academy's prep school. (Perhaps it was one of several prep schools the academy operates or operated, or it may have been just the one; I really don't know.) At seventeen, he moved on to the actual academy, and made it through in the typical four years, graduating as a pilot. He's still in military service. I don't want to interfere with his career, so I'll hold off on sharing the juiciest bits of information about him. Let me just share with you that he irons his underwear, that he won't eat anything that is yellow in color, that he takes his own bedding to hotels (even really nice hotels) because he doesn't trust what is provided, and he carries a pair of dice with him in his pocket at all times (I don't know if he wears pjs with pockets or keeps the dice on his night stand when he sleeps) because he cannot force himself to make decisions -- major ones, minor ones, any decisions at all -- and is thus forced to settle matters by the roll of dice. I'm sure it would be highly comforting to many military personnel (and to their parents as well) that many decisions concerning the lives of Uncle Kevin's subordinate military personnel are made on the basis of the roll of a couple of dice. In the interest of preserving U.S. military security, I shall not dish any additional dirt pertaining to Kevin. Kevin is married to Diane, who supplements their family's income as a belly dancer when opportunities for her service are available.

Next in the chronological rankings of my mother's siblings is Uncle Brian. He did his stint at the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, too, and also became a pilot.  After fulfilling whatever the minimum of time for military service is or was following receipt of an education at a U.S. Military Academy (Six years seems right, but I wouldn't insist upon that as fact. Perhaps Knotty knows. I could call one of my relatives, but I don't think any one of them particularly wants to hear from me at this moment, so I'll leave the definitive answer concerning length of time for mandatory service following an academy education up in the air for now) he chose to take his talents to the private sector, working for a commercial airline. One of Brian's distinctions is that he was considered too tall at 6' 6.5" to be a pilot and was required to obtain a waiver. Certain jets he was not allowed to fly due to his inability to fit comfortably into the cockpits;  other planes were found that he could fly. I don't think the height thing has been a problem in the commercial airline field. 

     Uncle Brian, a lady's man, thrived in the life of an airline pilot. At one point, the family believes he had "serious" girlfriends in at least eleven different cities. At least he didn't knock any of them up as far as we know. I may have cousins I don't even know about all over the place. If or when I decide to get serious and consider marriage with someone, I probably should have the prospective suitor's background very thoroughly checked, because it would be an utter shame to be set to walk down the aisle to marry some guy, only to learn that the man of my dreams is actually my first cousin via Uncle Brian. It would be even more of an utter shame for any children we might produce to be defective due to fallout from consanguinity. Just the idea of boinking someone [particularly if it was good, if you get my drift] only to find out he's my biological first-cousin is enough to give me a serious case of the creepy-crawlies. The odds are against it, but odds have been defied before. It happens all the time in soap operas, not that I base my reality on soap operas.  Uncle Brian dislikes red hair, which, unfortunately, is his natural hair color. He rotates between shaving his head all the way to the skull (which is a bit odd for a man with a full head of hair) and dying it various colors. All of this hair treatment makes him appear almost as a member of the witness protection program. Brian has allegedly given up on his womanizing ways and has married a beautiful woman -- we'll call her "Nancy" in order to protect the innocent. As far as we known, the leopard has changed his spots, or the zebra has changed his stripes, or whatever, and Uncle Brian is faithful to "Nancy." But do leopards ever truly change their spots? Time alone, and perhaps the services of a private investigator if "Nancy" has reason to be suspicious, will tell.

   Aunt Victoria is next in the pecking order.  When my grandfather was stationed at Castle Air Force Base in central California and she was still in high school, Aunt Victoria met up with the love of her life, an Azores-Portuguese Future Farmer of America. He was technically a future dairyman, but that's not what the organization is called. He was and is a cowboy as well. Looks can be deceiving. He's also an uncannily shrewd businessman. When dairy families all over central California were living the high life until the day their dairies were foreclosed and they lost everything, Aunt Victoria and Uncle Ralph were quietly buying the foreclosed dairies. They were able to take advantage of properties on which pesticides and not been used within X number of years, which made the properties eligible to be organic dairies. Organic dairies were thriving while other aspects of the dairy industry were going belly-up all over the place. Aunt Victoria worked for public utilities long enough to buy the modest home they were living in outright. They lived on her salary alone for several years so that their share of the  dairy money was able to go back into the dairy. They were able to buy land connected with riparian rights (water is now, and will be for the foreseeable future, an issue in California agriculture)for pennies on the dollar. They were then able to diversify a bit, getting some of their money free and clear of agriculture. In the event that every dairy or farming operation they own goes under, they have sufficient solid assets elsewhere that they and even their children are essentially taken care of for life. 

     My aunt and uncle are legitimately wealthy by the standards of almost anyone, with the possible exceptions of Donald Trump and Bill Gates. Agricultural wealth is usually quite different than wealth in other forms, as money in an agricultural operation is a commodity as much as it is capital. Because my aunt and uncle have been so astute and have diversified to the degree that they have done, they're beyond their wealth being merely a commodity. They're bona fide rich people. Most of us have preconceived notions concerning rich people -- of how they conduct themselves, how they dress, how they speak, etc. Aunt Victoria and Uncle Ralph defy these notions. They lived within a small city until it became impractical for them to be so far from all of their dairies. At that point, they sold the house my aunt had purchased with her salary as a public utilities worker and moved into a house on one of their dairy properties that was intended to be a dwelling for one of their milkers and his family. In most modern dairy situations of which I know, dairy owners no longer treat their workers as though they're Dust Bowl relocatees straight out of The Grapes of Wrath, housing them in tents or worse with no running water. Nevertheless, a house intended to be occupied by the family of a milker would be considered modest at best by most of us. It would typically have one bathroom, two bedrooms (three bedrooms if the milker is highly esteemed by the dairy owner), a small living/family room, and a kitchen. (I know the typical design quite well, because my family lived in a milker's house for two years. It was clean and adequate, but it was a downward move from the most basic home in which we'd ever lived before.) The house in which Aunt Victoria and Uncle Ralph lived was a very typical milker's  house, and was very much a step down from the modest home in the small city in which they had previously lived. The plan was for this home to be temporary. Land was already purchased for a more substantial home. The land had lain dormant for six years, and as far as appearances indicated, it would remain dormant for at least another six years.

     Uncle Ralph had his recliner, his remote control with Direct TV, providing him with every sports competition he would ever want to watch, good food that my aunt cooked, and a comfortable bed. Why would he want more? His motivation to build the house he had promised his wife receded by the day until he reached the point that he finally declared, "I have everything I need right here! We don't need a new house!" 

     My Aunt Victoria, a large part of the dairy operation's success, wasn't so dumb as  to blandly go along with her husband's proclamations. Charitable functions, organization dinners, awards banquets, and such are held and hosted  by people of their stature on a regular basis. Often these  events are scheduled far in advance. In November of 2009,  Aunt Victoria volunteered to host at her home in December of 2012 the annual recognition dinner for the local chapter of the Grand Holstein Dairy Society (or something like that; there are too many organizations of that ilk for me to properly track).

     Aunt Victoria played it very cool. "We don't have an actual driveway. Maybe we could clear out a barn for the guests to park,"  she mused brightly. "We can set up tents over there," (she pointed in the direction of a pasture). "The port-a-potties can go over here," she pointed to the family lawn. "The guests can enter through our front door, pick up their complimentary gift packages from our kitchen," [which would hold maybe a 2.5' by 5' table at best], "and walk out through our bedroom door to the tent holding the cocktails and hors d'ouvres, then on to the dinner tent. It will be quaint."

Uncle Ralph had an epiphany of sorts -- a mental picture of the expressions on his colleagues' and their wives' faces when they beheld for the first time his actual home. Within forty-eight hours, he had hired an architect. Eleven months to the day that my Aunt Victoria announced the hosting of the annual dinner for the Grand Holstein Dairy Society, the family moved into a 5,300 square-foot home at which the event was actually hosted.

But lest I paint a picture of my Aunt Victoria as being a cut-and-a-half less eccentric than her siblings, I shall share with you a recent conversation concerning a bridal shower for her future daughter-in-law.  The morning bridal shower, which will be held in the garden setting of a restaurant, will be fashioned after an English Tea. The restaurant opens up to the covered garden,which features a full-sized grand-piano in the opening. Aunt Victoria thought it would be perfect for me to play the piano  to add to the ambience of this shower.  I am more than happy to oblige. "What sort of music do you think would be fitting for this 'English Tea' shower?" I asked her.

"Country music, of course," she answered. Of courseWhy didn't I already know that? How could one have an English Tea without country music? When Queen Elizabeth gets up every morning, she puts on her slippers and does a line dance to "Achy Breaky Heart." Everyone knows that. 

I wouldn't even know any actual country music except that a very good friend of mine sent me The Great American Songbook -- Country Edition for my most recent birthday. I will try to Muzak the country music a bit and slip in a few semi-classy things that aren't country, but I believe I can make everyone happy since I am in possession of this marvelous book.

Moving on next is my Aunt Elizabeth.  She raises meerkats. She has a habitat for them in her backyard. She cannot understand why the rest of us aren't interested in spending time out in her meerkat habitat. Her husband, Uncle Todd,  has little interest in even looking out the back door. Once the habitat got so unwieldy that the meerkats formed rival gangs and, for all intents and purposes,killed each other off. It was a dark day in Aunt Elizabeth's life. Now she controls the population and staves off future meerkat holocausts by trying to give away meerkats to unsuspecting friends and relatives. Matthew and I each got one for Christmas when we were eleven. They went straight to the SPCA. She and Uncle Todd have a son who is willing to spend time with the meerkats and to help his mother interact with them. His name is Chalmers. It isn't actually the meerkats Chalmers enjoys spending time with. Rather, it is his marijuana garden, which grows just beyond the meerkats' back fence to their enclosure, that occupies Chalmers' interest.

     Nest in line is Aunt Colleen. Her full given name is really "Mary Colleen." Actually, all the daughters in the family have "Colleen" as a middle name. There's Erin Colleen, Victoria Colleen, Elizabeth Colleen, and Mary Colleen. I suppose my grandparents  thought they had a good thing going, and that they might as well stick with it. They were similarly uninventive in naming their sons, all of whom have the middle name of Patrick. With all the names out there, I'm not sure why parents would limits themselves to one male middle name and one female middle name for seven children. Hell, if they were going to do that, they should have found a unisex name (maybe Shannon, since they're partial to Irish names) and given all seven kids the same middle name. Or they could have done the "George Foreman II, George Foreman III, George Foreman IV, Georgetta Foreman"-like theme. I asked my mom whose idea the middle name thing was. She said she's sure it had to have been her mother's doing. Her father would have been happy naming all seven kids after his favorite racehorses or the Green Bay Packers' offensive and defensive lines.

     Anyway, Mary Colleen, otherwise known as Colleen, is a wonderful, kind, generous person. She is also the most gullible person I've ever known in my life. (Could there be some correlation between her gullibility and her being the only member of this side of the family to convert to Mormonism?) Someone could walk through her front door on a 100-degree day in July and announce, "It's snowing!" and she would run to the door or window, fully expecting to see snow falling from the sky. Her husband, my Uncle Douglas, is a medical doctor who pulls in a decent salary, but despite his decent salary and the fact that they have only four kids (I say only because they're practicing Mormons; four is a small number of kids in a Mormon family) because Colleen wanted to invest in every sales pyramid scheme that came along, and a whole lot of those sorts of things seem to materialize in areas where Mormons proliferate. We often have received as gifts  products from the multi-level marketing schemes with which my Aunt Colleen has affiliated herself. She's not being a cheapskate in giving the gifts to us. She legitimately thinks we'll benefit from Neo-Life vitamin supplements, or LIV International supplements, or Nerium skin products, or DoTerra essential oils, or XanGo wellness products. She never really tried to sell the stuff to anyone. In a way, she was the prototypical worst nightmare to all of these MLMs because she had no interest in selling. She just bought as much of the stuff as she could and gave it away.

     Fortunately for Aunt Colleen's and Uncle Douglas' bank account, Aunt Colleen has an incredible singing voice and a doctorate in music performance with vocal emphasis, and they live in a university town. Now that chicken #4 has flown her coop, Aunt Colleen has become a full-time professor of vocal music at the university in their town. She has less time to be hustled by church members trying to get her to buy into just one more pyramid scheme. 

     Uncle Kent is the oldest of the seven offspring my mother's parents produced. He, too, went to the Air Force Academy.  He stuck around for several years afterward, teaching and coaching. When his service obligation had been fulfilled, he went to work as a professor and tennis coach for an Ivy League university. He spent the bulk of his career there. while at the Ivy League school, he had the opportunity to buy into an existing Tennis Camp for kids and teens. (I think they run a few adult and family sessions as well.) Matthew and I used to attend the camp until my scholarship was rescinded because my uncle did not think I had what it took to become a legitimate tennis prospect. (He was right about my not having the physique to succeed as a high-level tennis player, but I had misunderstood the intent of his gift. I thought it was to help Matthew and me to be the best tennis players that we could be while having fun at the same time. My uncle was apparently more serious about it. Matthew got even with him the next year by choosing baseball over tennis when the choice had to be made in high school.) Uncle Kent was and is, in addition to a tennis coach, a serious wine connoisseur. These two vocations/avocations didn't blend all that well. Consequently, Uncle Kent wouldn't make it to the courts until he had sufficiently nursed his hangover from his previous night's indulgence. This was usually around ten o'clock, after the campers had already been on the courts for two hours. At noon we would break for lunch and a brief rest period, then be back on the courts by 1:15. Uncle Kent would make it to about 2:30, at which time it was time for him to once again begin connoisseurment (made-up word- I know) of wine.We wouldn't see him again until the following morning. 

     One summer my brother cut his leg when he ran into a jagged piece of the chain-link fence. The nurse on staff concluded that it needed to be stitched and cleaned out better than she could clean it without anesthetizing it, which she didn't have the supplies to do. My mother had authorized only Uncle Ken or his wife Natalie to give consent for medical care for Matthew or for me. This would not have been a problem except that A) Aunt Natalie wasn't usually within seventy-five miles of the place, and that day was no exception, and B) It was well after 2:30 when Matthew cut his leg. Uncle Kent would have been into his third bottle by then. The nurse drove in the camp van. A counselor rode shotgun. I sat in the second seat by Matthew, holding a towel over his leg to control the bleeding. Uncle Kent was, for all intents and purposes, passed out in the back seat.  When we arrived at the local hospital, whose personnel had been notified we were coming, the camp nurse and I helped Matthew into a wheelchair. Then the accompanying counselor and the nurse practically carried Uncle Ken to the registration desk, where I basically held Uncle Kent's hand on the pen and moved it into some form of a signature. The nurse and counselor helped Uncle Kent back to the van, where he remained semi-comatose until we returned to camp to hours later. By then, he was coherent enough to ask both what had happened and where his wine was.

     The evening activities went off every night without Uncle Ken's presence. For five years in a row I won the talent show by dislocating my arms at the elbows, then putting them back into place myself. I don't know what counselor thought it was a good idea to allow a little kid to do this, but I still have the trophies to prove it. When my parents saw the "Talent Award" trophies I brought home, they probably assumed I had played the piano, but they assumed wrong. Matthew kept his mouth shut because he thought it was really cool. It was probably the only cool thing about me as far as Matthew was concerned. I was about the un-coolest sibling a boy could have.

     People are still sending their kids to my Uncle Kent's tennis camp. They think their kids are getting high-quality coaching. They may be receiving it, but not from my uncle. My uncle has a diagnosis of geo-aphasia supposedly brought on by traumatic brain injury incurred through years of high school and college (1 year of college) football. It's not impossible, but I suspect another diagnosis is more apropos. It begins with a and ends in m. I'll leave you to fill in the blanks.

     So you, my few readers, see that if I am ever-so-slightly off-center, I come by it quite naturally from both sides of my parentage and heritage.




Sunday, January 1, 2017

Mood Instability

Image result for mood swings




What if I'm not happy 100% of the time? Does that mean I am guilty of having mood swings? What if it only happens when I'm sick? Am I still guilty? Does it still mean there is something inherently wrong with me or that I am a bad person because of it? Do I need to hide this from everyone I know? Is it necessary to plaster a smile on one's face or even metaphorically do so upon one's writing at all times even if the smile is phony?