Sex and KFC

November 27, 2007

We can no longer trust our major media to report the news properly any more because of corporate interference trying to sell us hot pants and fast food which, you would think, are fairly mutually exclusive items*- if we’re lucky. The other area where it affects us heavily is medicine. It was pointed out long ago by concerned research scientists that if you put combating disease in the hands of profit-oriented companies alone without having government labs involved what you will get is only treatments- not cures. A cure, after all, is only for Christmas- a treatment is for life.

The first truly awful science of my generation was the way AIDS was handled in the 80’s. Cargo-cult science from a doctor of dubious repute connected a retrovirus to a syndrome and transmission to sex and we were told, with the usual enthusiasm of the tabloid media, of the bodies piled high on the streets come the year 2000. Sex sells. Sex kills. Those alive, paying attention and not out shopping for hot pants holding a bucket of KFC would have caught, at the time, the BBC Panorama documentary which questioned the science and pointed out that the odds on contracting the HIV retrovirus, should it exist, from sex was thousands to one**. The threat increased to one in hundreds only if both partners had an open wound on their genitalia. I personally lack the commitment to have sex hundreds of time with my penis bleeding profusely and even if I did I lack the charm, I feel, to talk another person into rigorous sex whilst suffering from severe blood loss.

Lunatic fringe thinker, I, joined only by Nicholas Regush of ABC News, Harpers, a few Nobel Prize winners for chemistry and around ten thousand scientists outside the USA whose income is not dependant on companies making billions from HIV treatments in thinking there is some less than robust thinking here are now re-joined by the BBC.

The method that has been proposed (but never proved) by which the retrovirus kills our T-cells has as much credibility as a trial lawyer representing OJ Simpson or Robert Downey Jnr. according to, for all my dissing Americans, a study led by Emory University in Atlanta. In reporting the story the Beeb, though, fearful of the American treatment of the English language, decided to get a quote from a trustworthy British scientist at Imperial College, Cambridge. Professor Jaroslav (very British) Stark said: “Scientists have never had a full understanding of the processes by which T helper cells are depleted in HIV, and therefore they’ve been unable to fully explain why HIV destroys the body’s supply of these cells at such a slow rate. Our new interdisciplinary research has thrown serious doubt on one popular theory of how HIV affects these cells, and means that further studies are required to understand the mechanism behind HIV’s distinctive slow process of cellular destruction.”

What’s worrying is this: they decided HIV causes AIDS by killing T-cells without ever understanding or proving the process by which it happens. Then how do you know that HIV is doing it, exactly? There is a word for this kind of thing: it is called a guess. Guessing, as you may conclude, is not great science. Guessing is what loses you huge amounts of money at the track. Guessing is what you do when you try and win the lottery. Guessing is not something you want from, say, a person packing your parachute, deciding on the length of your bungee cord or sending you to a foreign country to find weapons of mass destruction. So filling yourself with toxic chemicals to kill a retrovirus which may be sitting around, chilling, and generally showing the activity and work ethic of a procrastinating grandma on a weeks break in Torremelinos based on a guess may be considered to be less than smart.

The problem is the way we demand answers from medicine. Other sciences get to dabble around and have fun trying to make the universe accidentally fold up or putting new elements together to see how big a bang we can get. We, as individuals, don’t really care so we place no pressure on them. But we want to be cured of every tiny ill. Since none of us really believe in heaven any more we are afraid of death, otherwise we would let ourselves be “taken” at the first opportunity. Lying there, measle-infected, “See God,” we could utter, “it’s not suicide- just your will. See you in a minute- put my sexy birds on ice and pour me a Martini.” So we believe in something new: we have faith in medicine. Which is dumb. Medicine is reason and evidence. And profit. When we substitute reason and evidence for faith we end up with faith and prophet. Possibly one called Mohamed, or Jesus, or Dave The Amazing Faith healer. Or GlaxoSmithKline.

It is really our fault. Our brain seeks conclusions to problems and it seeks them quickly. We are designed to suffer anxiety about the unknown because early humans who were not quick to decide the best option when faced with, say, a large and pretty kitty with sharp teeth and savage claws, never got to decide anything ever again… least of all who to accidentally get pregnant at the prom.

So we get betrayed, every day, by our Selves. Our Selves are not something to be trusted. They will fuck with us at every given opportunity making us think our hair looks bad, our hot-pants don’t suit us and make us buy another bucket of comfort-KFC. We tend to believe what will make us happy and accepted rather than what is inconvenient and, quite possibly, true.

One of those things is: you’re going to die. Get over it. Stop worrying about it. Get laid. And use a condom not because you think you’re going to die from some random infection but because you’re considerate, because you are careful, and because if you have kids they will want you to send them to school and college and will want to borrow your car- which will eat into your drinking money and destroy your social life. Who wants that? Honestly.

*- bridged by the diet supplement market.

**- “Male-to-female transmission was approximately eight times more efficient than female-to-male transmission …The constant per-contact infectivity for male-to-female transmission was estimated to be 0.0009 [Meaning that female-to-male would be 0.00001125 or about 1/10,000]…We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study…No transmission occurred among the 25% of couples who did not use their condoms consistently, nor among the 47 couples who intermittently practiced unsafe sex during the entire duration of follow-up. This evidence argues for low infectivity in the absence of either needle sharing and/or other cofactors” Padian NS et al. Heterosexual Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Northern California: Results from a Ten-Year Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Aug;146(4):350-7

http://www.aras.ab.ca/

It’s been demonstrated all over the world but the best recent example of why local government is important is in comparing Switzerland and the USA when it comes to that ‘ol favourite, guns. Oddly enough, when it comes to guns the USA has, in government structure, the right idea. They had to get something right eventually. Here is why.

I am assuming, first of all, that we are dealing with a gun-toting, trigger-happy nation. It will probably come as a massive surprise to anyone reading this that the Swiss are, indeed, keen on drilling small pieces of metal into inanimate things and furry creatures at high speed. This has come about because the Swiss government has a ruling stating that every soldier in the country MUST have a gun in the house. An unregistered gun.

All of this, according to a leading psychiatrist who lives in my head, has a lot to do with insecurity over the jokes made about their deadly Swiss army knives and their masses of experience on the front lines of conflicts. That experience consisting mostly of standing behind their bankers, wearing odd clothing, yodelling and cursing their little red knives, unable to get the cork out of a recently pillaged (I mean ‘donated’) bottle of Chardonnay since the corkscrew attachment is rubbish, as said bankers quietly melt the gold picked out of dead soldiers and civilians teeth. Not that I am being nasty or judgemental or anything.

Not me.

This wide spectrum gun- ownership is by no means a bad thing since it at least adds a level of excitement to a country officially voted the second dullest on earth after Sweden. By who, you ask? Me, as it happens. Five minutes ago, shortly before consulting the aforementioned imaginary psychiatrist. It’s been that kind of day. So Switzerland has quite a lot of deaths with people going nuts and killing their families, office colleagues and, thankfully, themselves as well.

The American government, however keeps these issues local. South Carolina, it seems, site of a fun day out with death and carnage at Virginia Tech (when a graduate student decided he was sick to death of whiny rich kids bitching about nothing and decided to kill as many of them as possible- a reasonable guy by any standards), has decided to make the carrying of concealed weapons on campus legal. Presumably to make any future shoot-outs a little more fair. Given the American love of “friendly fire” this seems perfectly in keeping with their national psyche.

Why is it better to do this locally rather than nationally? Well… personal tragedy, rights of man and general compassion aside it’s to do with having a successful democracy and the advancement of the human race in general.

If you have these sorts of gun policies locally it has to be supported by the community. This means that most (more than 50%) of the community is dumb (or the smart people are too apathetic to do anything about it which is just as bad). The smart, non- apathetic, people then move away from the nut-balls to somewhere safer and more sensible, like Iraq or Beirut, tipping the balance even further. Now, if someone goes on a rampage there is a far better than average chance that the people killed will be dumb. Bigger shoot-outs due to armed civilians and masses of “friendly fire” will ensue between civilians all over dumb areas culling the herd on a regular basis and lowering the chances of idiot politicians winning a national vote and increasing the country’s average intelligence.

If you allow it nationally it offers no benefit as the odds of someone in the smarter 50% of your population being killed are the same as for the stupider 50%. This has no benefits to the nation whatsoever.

Localised gun control rocks…!

It’s an old phrase but I have, in my life, failed to find a better combination of just 3 experiences. These three most definitely add up to more than the whole.

Analysing it each of the things kick up one sure-fire flag that they are fun. Plenty of people disapprove of them. But it’s the combination that works incredibly well. Replace drugs, for instance, with yoghurt and it all kind of falls apart.

Or, alteratively, sex, drugs and Yanni… it would need to be a lot of drugs. Going to the Post Office, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll lacks a certain something although it might make an amusing story later. Leaving sex out of the three is just ludicrous anyway.

Sex, Caring for the Elderly and Rock ‘n Roll somehow lacks some of the joi de vivre that drugs bring to the party and could get you in trouble if anyone filmed it… Although there is the possibility of stealing the drugs from the elderly but that just takes us back to Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll, anyway.

Trying to knock up another three that more usually go together and offer the same level of excitement doesn’t seem to work either. Daytime TV, Ironing and Crisps, for instance, doesn’t compare terribly well. A movie, popcorn and loud people two rows back annoying you doesn’t come close either. Not even a little.

And let’s not forget that there are so many variables in Sex Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll that you are unlikely to run out and get bored before you die of an overdose, syphilis or a dislocated Tibia*. So, no loss there, then.

The only true leeway does appear to be in the selection of music although Enya or any one- man- band is always a mistake, especially live. He always stares. Enya would just send everyone to go into a coma, and that’s what the drugs are for. Funk would probably work, too, as would Latin but it would be important to match the music up to the right drugs.

Remember, sex between 2 people is a beautiful thing, sex between 3 is fantastic!

There is a reason what was promoted in the 70s has lasted through the test of over 30 years. Admittedly, we laid off the oily hair after a short while because it sucked but they couldn’t get everything right, could they? We owe a lot to a generation that reminded us, after all the crap of the Victorian era, what partying was all about.

*- a town in Sudan, I think.

Dave, 33

April 20, 2007

It had been a strange year. 33 years of skating over a frozen pond, skimming over the world, unaffected and always in command and then, in the 34th year two cracks formed. Two pieces gave way and twice I was plunged into cold, unforgiving waters.

The second was depression, the war of my life. Prone to madness, my family, and I got off lightly I suppose. One schizophrenic uncle, a gaggle of suicidal aunts and grandmothers, nutters perched on every branch of the tree. It was a fight I had always won. Sometimes a little too easily, perhaps. It is when you lose your fear, in my case my only remaining fear, that you might succumb. Fear is healthy, it exists for a reason.

I was never scared of dying. Never of pain. Never fazed by dislike or revulsion. Always happy to make the tough decision. Never afraid of never being loved by anything but a pet. Not scared of poverty. Never titllated by speed, wrenched by heights, nor threatened by the malicious and vicious. Afraid of only one thing and that was losing sanctuary. Everyone needs a place of sanctuary. A place of calm. Of control. Stability. Home.

I lost my mind.

The second crack. The ice gives way and down you go. It’s an odd thing, losing your mind. In my case, losing it to depression. When people talk about unhappiness, about grief, about that wailing, crying, sobbing, drizzy mess that comes with loss few realise that they are, at that point, nowhere near true depression. Crying is cathartic. Grieving is love.

Depression is empty.

That was the surprise as I dropped through the ice and sped down to the bottom of that world. How numb it all feels. How coldly logical everything seems. How detached you are from everything tactile. It is not like sorrow, don’t confuse it with sorrow because sorrow comes from yearning, as does melancholy. The smart, smarter than I, know to cherish those emotions. The depressed yearn for nothing. Cherish nothing. Air. Water. Fire. Tea. Sunshine. Friend. Oblivion. All are the same to the depressed.

With sorrow and grief and pain there is still you. There is still some driving force that can think of a better life. That can remember having one in the past and is desperate to have one in the future. To the depressed there is no sch thing, no reason to get out of bed, no reason to change the channel. There is no reason to turn on the television. You can’t anyway, there was no reason to pay the electricity bill…

The second crack. The second time drowning. Just enough of me left somewhere. Just a voice in the background not content to slip into oblivion without just one more final try. one more push. One more chance. A tiny voice had the sense to take control of the voice chords and scream “help”.

That was yesterday.

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This is a piece about cultures, about nations, about values and happiness. It is about pride, jingoism and justice, whatever that may be. It is also about South Africa, my miracle country, about 50% too long and it might be preachy as all hell- or it might be insightful. I imagine I will only be able to tell myself when I re-read it some months from now. In other words: you have been warned.[on re-read it is too long and needs to lose the last 2 paragraphs to be a decent piece]

For many years I was, in many ways, a typical white South African woeful of the backward nature of my nation stuck out on the tip of Africa. Seeing massive potential but also seeing it squandered by ignorance, squandered by self interest, suqandered by bickering and distrust.

politics_bush_cheney.jpgThe more I see of our turning world outside this country’s borders the more I laud my home and it’s achievements. I look at the USA and messrs. Cheney and Bush and wonder at the lack of criminal investigation into their dealings. The idea of a government contract foregoing the tender process and being simply handed to a company the “Hander Outer” (right hand man of “The Decider”) used to be a Chief Executive of and still holds shares in is ludicrous and alien to me in darkest Africa.

I do not say that dodgy politicians in South Africa may not try to undermine the tender process: they do. I do not say that when they are caught they do not see some favour and cronyism when it comes to how their sentence is dealt with: they do. But they are investigated, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced by one of the most independent and least corrupt judiciaries in the world. We, after all, are a country with a special division of police simply for investigating corruption, specifically government corruption. The only one I know of.

In the USA I do not even hear talk of an investigation by the FBI into Cheney and Bush. In the UK Tony Blair is interviewed but “not a suspect” in the cash-for-honours scandal. How can the leader of the party that gave away knighthoods for cash not be a suspect? Are they insane? Does he not have a clue how his party is funded? When they get given hundreds of thousands of pounds does he assume “what lovely chaps” and move on? Does he not ask why their names are also on the honours list put forward to the Queen? Not a suspect? What toadying, sycophantic rubbish.

politics_yengeni_boesak.jpgWe, as a country, in recent years, have fired our vice president, put out to pasture dangerously unstable politicians like Winnie Mandela and slammed into jail (if briefly) a number of our politicians (Yengeni, Boesak) for dodgy dealings. When was the last time a UK politician went to jail? Archer had to be hounded by a national newspaper into a jail cell.

In the USA, who was the last senator in office put behind bars? Last congressman? The only person brought up on any sort of charges in recent years was their former president- and this over trying to get some under the table nookie from a fat, unattractive intern who doesn’t clean her clothes often enough. Don’t tell me it was about “whether he lied under oath,” that is rubbish. It was no-one’s business in the first place whether the man was getting laid occasionally and when the question was asked any decent judge would have told a prosecutor to stuff it.

Yet, the same skepticism of South Africans of all colours toward their government and lack of belief in how great we are is part of what will keep us honest. The UK has the same skepticism toward their leaders but their attention has wavered from their government’s activities as the population is distracted by the most capitalist of enterprises: building wealth.

A country which lauds their leadership and believes their own propoganda of how great they are is doomed to be steamrollered by the powerful with just a small squeak as liberty disappears. The USA has been, to outsiders, a police state at least since the 80’s and now starts to look fascist in it’s approach and attitudes. If anyone reads Orwell’s 1984 and then reads the speeches of Bush and Cheney can be in no doubt to the direction in which they are heading, with the UK not too far behind.

big_brother.jpg“FREEDOM IS SLAVERY”: every American must give up some civil liberties to protect freedom.

“WAR IS PEACE”: the war on terror must be fought with troops for the world to achieve peace.

“IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”: the media must not report what the government don’t want them to as it ’emboldens’ the enemy.

I could go on but considering the comparisons to 1984 are currently being made by every first-year university student in the world this piece is already dangerously fatuous in it’s outpourings.

My confusion comes wherein I believe national pride (not to be confused with jingoism) is a positive force, not a negative one. Jingoism is where you laud the greatness of your country regardless of it’s actual behaviour. National pride is when you laud it for achievements you, personally, believe worthwhile. The safest, most easily gauged and most beneficial source of national pride must be sport as it is also the most easily engaging and widely watched of human achievements. Much more so than science, academia or art- which is why so much money is available to it.

So, if it is this influential it is something we should pay attention to, a great deal of attention. It influences countries behaviours and attitudes. Things like fair play, honour or a win- at- all- cost attitude will filter to the populace. Our South African rugby team winning the world cup after isolation from international rugby for close to 20 years- and the sight of aour first black president, our universally loved Madiba, standing next to the winning Captain wearing a rugby shirt (Rugby being traditionally a whites sport- soccer a black sport in Apartheid South Africa) did a great deal for unifying the country. But since those days of amateur sport over professional sport I have seen my favourites start do display that win- at- all- costs- mentality, seen them cheat with impugnity, and ne’er an eye is batted. Where is the outrage at cheating? Where is the desire for a fair society?

The last time I saw a player do something I was proud of was in cricket and the player was in later years to become a self-confessed cheat- taking bookmaker’s money to adjust player scores (but not to throw games). His moment came in a game against Australia, our traditional chief rivals, in a World Cup game (I seem to remember). Australia were 9 wickets down (the game in it’s dying embers, 2 balls left with 4 runs to get and the game decided if a man goes out- a real Hollywood ending if Hollywood knew anything about cricket) when Shane Warne (Aus), in an effort to avoid being out when taking a quick run, illegally hit the ball a second time- away from the fielder.

South Africa appealed (umpires cannot intervene in cricket unless appealed to- cricket was once a game of gentleman who admitted when they were out and simply walked off the field of play) and the umpires were about to send him from the field with South Africa winning the game by default and Shane Warne in shame. Hansie Cronje approached the umpires and withdrew the appeal. There was now one ball left, four runs needed from it (ball hit to the boundary) and South Africa won by bowling Shane Warne, the cheat, out. Like I said, Hollywood stuff. We showed great sportsmanship and win or lose I was proud of the way our team had conducted themselves, I was proud to be a South African that day.

The last time I saw a sports association do something I could be proud of was that previously mentioned scandal over betting and cheating. Every national team in the world, bar none, was involved. Bar none- I kid you not. South Africa was the only country to ban players: Hansie Cronje, a national hero, was not even allowed to coach at school level, commentate on crcket games or have any official involvement with any cricket team ever again. All the other world associations protected the cheats, hid evidence and generally thwarted the investigators. The only South African involved to escape punishment was Herschelle Gibbs who admitted he happily took the money from the bookmakers and then completely failed to do what they asked. I was proud that we exposed the cheats and banned them, no matter how much I wished Hansie, a much loved captain for what he did for us, had not been involved.

These are things where national pride affects a country. Affects the way it does business and the social behaviour of it’s citizens. I have seen the behaviour of these teams and those in football, the sport I have always enjoyed the most, deteriorate. I think, without doubt, that it affects the psyche of the countries involved. The youth, above all others, are convinced that cheating is endemic in every sphere of society and the odds on their success in life are stacked against them. The sad thing is that they are not wrong.

In America, for instance, the middle class is dwindling as real wages have decreased and time at work increased since the 1960s. Everything we are brought up to believe valuable- property, posessions, family have become less affordable yet company profits- the ones who have allowed wages to decrease, continue to rise. Where is the outrage?

Countries with democracies are having them corrupted by rich people with unregulated donations the politicians could not achieve power without. Where is our outrage?

We are having less time to ourselves, to see our friends, to build families, to expand our minds and enjoy our lives. Where is your outrage?

We are told how many husbands or wives we can have as if it is some universal truth, whether we can sample some drugs and not others, whether we can get treatment for illness based on our income. Should I not be outraged?

We allow the phrase “it is just business,” the coldest most hateful phrase in the human lexicon, into general usage to justify all means of behaviour destructive to our societies, our neighbours, our friends and ourselves.

Outrage is not enough. Do something. Write a letter to a senator, a congressman, any politician, a company that uses child labour, a television station, a sports association. join a union to fight for a better wage- it’s not just for blue collar workers. Whatever part of your life is most affected.

[should have ended here]

The internet gives us all a powerful medium to effect change. Five days ago I started my contribution. I have decided not to be outraged but proactive. I have decided to do my bit for a change. I put up a website called sportscheat.org where players are shamed for cheating, where visitors are encouraged to sign a petition, write letters to television, sponsors of cheats and sports sportscheat_nas_01.pngassociations. In the first 4 hours it had 350 visitors and 70 signatories. I have committed myself to an hour or two a day to try and make a difference in the world.

What will your contribution be?

sportscheat.org

jester

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Paranoid Jester

February 10, 2007

big_brother.jpg

An old piece of mine called “maybe I was too quick to damn torture,” critical of the US government, has disappeared off my weblog. This must be some growing conspiracy of the American government because of the increasing influence I have over the four people who read my weblog rather than an accidental deletion on my part or the part of the server.

In it I had a controversial quote only available on my weblog and about 10,237 other sources on the web who, no doubt, have suffered similar abuse and intimidation. This was what it contained…

From the Los Angeles Times:

Since then-CIA Director Porter Goss assured Congress last year that this was a “professional interrogation method,” not torture, citizens should be permitted to bring splintery planks, leather straps and water tanks to expedite discussions with any member of Congress who continues to insist that things are going swimmingly for the U.S. military in Iraq.

Well, as long as it’s a “professional interrogation method.” No-one taught the Spanish Inquisition about spin, methinks.

Remember, Big Brother is watching you.

No, not that big brother, the George Orwell one. You know? From the book, 1984. They made a movie. Had John hurt in it? Oh, for fucks sake, put down that magazine and go and read a damn book, will you. Really, it’s exasperating!

ps. On the subject of the book 1984 I rather liked this image i came accross during my image search…

big_brother_1984.jpg