Since I Never Get the Last Word
Monday, March 6, 2006
Once again, I am indebted to Willard Espy for introducing me to the term venereal nouns. You may be asastounded as I was to learn they include such commonplace collectives as a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, and a brace of orthodontists. Well, the latter term is the inspiration of Don Tewksbury and may not have caught on yet.
Importantly, Espy points out that, though my dictionaries make no reference to the fact, venereal nouns are so named because of Venus. To which I mentally responded “duh uh! Venus, you recall, is also the goddess of the hunt . Medieval huntsmen were required to know the collective names of prey, thus the derivation of the term venereal nouns.
Aware of the debate in Merrie Olde over the hunting of foxes, I thought it might be helpful to one side or the other to begin to refer to the practice as a venereal activity. I’ve noticed that introducing precise language always seems to spur debates to new heights and this one ought certainly to accomplish that.
Picture this headline: “Vice President shoots venereal chum in the face.” Or a conversation overheard at Porky’s: “Yep, Bubba and I are off on our annual venereal outing, you know? Gonna break his cherry this year, fer sure. Them does don’t stand a chance.” Can you imagine the reaction of the NRA?
And you thought Brokeback Mountain had said it all.
Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-03-06 07:10:58
Saturday, March 4, 2006
My Fan Club
Most of my life I have enjoyed good health. The fact that I also enjoyed 4 decades of smoking had little or nothing to do with that fact. And it’s only been in the last ten years that I have ceded priority to Pienot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon over beer. Probably because Tom Brokaw pointed out a glass or two of wine everyday is good for the body. That idea had to overcome four decades of the certain knowledge that beer builds fatty tissue around the heart and, in emergency circumstances, that can be a good thing. Watched my father administer first aid to auto accident victims; adamantly refusing to give them whiskey but pouring beer down their gullets by the bucket.
Okay, so the triple bypass was a major blip on the screen. Bad enough in itself, that singularity has led to a parade of doctors, always accompanied by blood tests – you must admit phlebotomy is a heck of a descriptive name – and usually accompanied by some other test, e.g., sonogram, EKG, cytoscopy, colonoscopy, et al. What kind of person enjoys looking at other folk’s innards in situ?
My current nomination for all time worst sense of humor are the urologists. Here you have a group of specialists who figured out a way to give men the whole stirrup experience and, can they laugh? Hell, no, they went on to dream up a procedure involving TV cameras, stirrups, and maximum discomfort – alright, downright pain – and, from what I hear, they’re working on further modifications.
I do admire the cardiologists, though. They’ve figured out a way to stress the body without the need for exercise. You no longer have to jump in the shower after a stress test; you can go immediately to the hamburgers, French fries, and beer. Of course, for all those pluses, the minus of this new test is that it takes forever. Twice 23 minutes sitting in a chair that rotates as it takes pictures of the pretty little chemicals they inject into your blood stream with the express intent they attach themselves to your heart, all the while you aredoing nothing but remembering you could have said “no” I have been quite content with only the Lady Who Shares Her Life With Me attached to my heart; well, our two children have some attachment.
I was going to list the amazing number of specialists who have taken an interest in my body, folks who I have come to regard as my personal fan club. They can't wait to see into me and seem to be fighting over who gets to go next. Fortunately, the president of the club, my personal physician - who is a lot like my personal secretary for HCPs - is the gatekeeper. She keeps them in line and it appears to be a very long line. From the nutritionist who was completely bored with the whole issue to the vascular surgeon waiting in line, I think I have had a medical professional for every six inches from neck to feet. Amazingly, no one has asked to peer into my head. Knowing me, you would have thought that’s where they’d start.
Anyway, except for the blip with the bypass and the impertinent polyp, I still enjoy good health, a fact I personally attribute to William of Orange. Beefeater martinis are the elixir of life.
Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-03-04 19:51:58
Thursday, March 2, 2006
In preparation for that time of year, with due apologies to that side the family that believes more in Oktoberfest, and because we’ll be Down Under for the occasion, tis appropriate to give thanks and adulation to those who made it possible.
We begin with a bow to nature, who is a lady, and who donated to the occasion olea europaea.
Let uscontinue with the Romans - ave atque vale - who gave us the Ides and a blustery god to which to dedicate the season, a season requiringneeded strengthand energy of lions, and a “praise the god and pass the amber libation” kind of patronage.
Asfans of the scribing art, we nod in passing to Shakespeare who made the season literary.
We refuse to overlook Arnau de Villanova, who showedus the possibilities, so welift a glass of brandy with ahearty salud.
And to Holland - op uw gezonheid, where the Brits learned an essential brick in civilization’s edifice.
And to William of Orange- cheers - who made it a national pastime more important than football.
We’re getting closer to home now.
A most sincere go raibh mile maith agat to Art Guinness.
An equally sincere alla salute to Alessandro, Teofilo, and Luigi and the good folk of Turin.
And then a tribute toour saintlygrandmother who raised half the family and gave us claim to “Live to Live,” as fine a clan motto as ever you’ve read, enigmatic, ambiguous, pretentious, but – you must admit - a remarkably apt toast.
We arrive at last to our choice of weapons,martini or stout, and prepare ourselves to celebrate the unfrocked saint. What better day/way to put aside the keyboard, the jotting down of life’s little mysteries, and go out and make some.Slainte!
Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-03-02 09:33:45
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Thinking About Women
Still thinking about women.
Over in History 101 (Revised), I spent a lot of time discovering women of influence in history, women who, according to NOW and such, shouldn’t have been there. The radical feminist and politically correct historians have concentrated so much on the oppression of women over the millennia, that discovering Heloise, for me, was a shock. Adding Hypatia and Hidlegarde, Christine de Pizan and Marguerite Porete are further shocks cracking the credibility I can place in the prevailing wisdom.
How did they manage to leave a trace of themselves? The question is not “did they write something worth reading?” The question is: “how did what they wrote come to be remembered?” How did they acquire the education that led them to write their thoughts down in the first place? And, then, once scribed, how was it not obliterated from history by all the male historians?
Of course, this is part of my continuing rant against historians, so what brings this topic up today? Reading of the debt my own country’s government owes to ancient Greece and the differences between that democracy and this democratic republic. Writers are at great pains to point out that only the men-not-slaves had any value in Athens. Only the men-not-slaves contributed anything worth mentioning or remembering. Of course, we in my country tried to begin this way ourselves and it took 100 years to begin to correct that mistake. But, back to ancient Athens. The old man, Aristotle, wrote: A good wife should be the mistress of her home, having under her care all that is within it, according to the rules we have laid down... This, then, is the province over which a woman should be minded to bear an orderly rule; for it seems not fitting that a man should know all that passes within the house. But in all other matters, let it be her aim to obey her husband; giving no heed to public affairs, nor having any part in arranging the marriages of her children.
Okay, Ari, old boy, please explain for me Sappho. Before you get to that point, please also explain to me Hipparchia. They shouldn’t be remembered, Ari; their remembrance pokes holes in your philosophy.
The old man Sophocles wrote: “Now she would be the man, not I, if she defeated me and did not pay for it.” Seems to fit with all the oppression I’ve been told about. Woman stay home, minding the things of the home, unaware of the greater world beyond their home and, under no circumstances, disagree with a man. Woman have no understanding and no part to play in the greater world. They should be barefoot and pregnant. I understand this is a male vision of perfection but I don’t understand how it manages to ignore the truth. Even with Sophocles, consider where that line comes from. Consider Antigone.
How could Antigone be aware of the burial rituals and not be aware of all the other rituals of her religion? Not likely.A person can learn the rituals just by repeated attendance but understanding the rituals takes education.Antigone understands the burial ritualand why her brother must be accorded his due. How could she dare to not act as her sister, Ismene, chooses to act? Not likely that she should and unlikelywithout an education, without an understanding of the issue at hand. These are assumptions underlying Antigone's behavior that have little to do with the main issue of Sophocle's plot. There are equal assumptions underlying the fact that he chooses a woman to be the executor of his thesis. And, to me most significant,there are assumptions underlying the acceptance of the Athenian population who attended the play and wrote about it for centuries thereafter, that what Sophocles provided them as a motif was not only morally correct butheld a working verisimilitude with their everyday lives.
It fascinates me more and more to consider Antigone.
Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-03-01 09:15:02
Monday, February 27, 2006
Extrapolating Elementary Implications
One can never overstate one’s debt to The History Channel. Today, again, they have astounded with an historical pearl wrought/frought with stunning significance.
“Conan Doyle created Holmes while practicing medicine in London, where his shortage of patients left him ample free time to write.”
Since Doyle published his first Sherlock Holmes story in 1887, and he was practicing private medicine from 1882, my first question is naturally one The History Channel fails to address. What happened in England after the turn of century to make everyone sick? And what did they die of before the turn of the century? Or, was it that health insurance had not been invented yet so no one could afford to see a doctor? Was Doyle a poor physician with a high mortality rate? Was his 007 graduation cartoon prophetic? Or was it just a healthier time?
Wait, perhaps, it was as a result of the National Public Health Act of 1848. Certainly that would explain it. No more cholera and typhoid about – well, evidently less than the amount necessary to keep a competent physician supplied with patients – would certainly do much to the free time allotment of physicians.
Now, consider the 20th and 21st centuries. Having made all that progress from mid-1800s, what caused the shortage of patients to grow into the present day flood of patients?
Among life’s little mysteries, the medical ones abound and no one seems to have the answers. Perhaps, someone will create a character who solves medical conundrums during his spare time from writing mystery novels.
Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-02-27 08:53:47