Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Naughtie Aughties

If you’re going to start analysing the decade, you might as well do it from the perspective of an American Baby Boomer.

Try as we might to acknowledge that Canadian culture is slightly different than that of our Southern neighbour, or that we and most people we like were actually born in the mid 1980s, it really doesn’t matter. The vast majority of our culture’s influence is from the perspective of a white, middle class American man born sometime in the winter of 1947. And like it or not, this is his story.

Our protagonist knew a simple, homey life within the 1950s. This era will remain synonymous with the good old days and the American dream - mostly because our baby boomer was too young to observe the nuances of domestic conflict, rising feminism, and racial inequities which were rampant and rising. He remembers a slightly hazy, very comforting time. He remembers his parents and they seemed happy. Milkshakes...I remember milkshakes. They had cherries on top. That sort of thing.

Along with the development of our baby-boomers brain came the rise of his hormones and the experience of social awareness, conflict, and rebellion. This was the sixties. Our baby boomer kissed a girl, smoked some pot, went to college and felt that he was smarter than everyone he had ever met back home. He railed against injustice. He argued about Vietnam. He did not grasp the concept of gentrification, or the hypocrisy of berating the establishment of his parents while simultaneously eating their food and making daisy-necklaces on their lawn. Those were judgements reserved for a different time...fucking hipsters. This was a time of passion, truth, and ideals.

Eventually, our baby boomer stopped smoking so much pot and got a job. And while we’re still pretty vague as to what, exactly, happened during the 70s, by the 80s things were going well. There was excess enough for hairspray and globular lipstick. And by the 1990s, our baby boomer had risen through the ranks of his respective career and found himself to be established, secure, and indomitable. He had money. He had power. He was, in his own way, ‘the man.’ And being the man, it turns our, is generally a kickass thing to be.

Which isn’t to say that he flaunted his power, or entirely forgot his impassioned, pot-smoking days. He gave to charity. He rallied for AIDS. He has treated his own children, now young adults, in a manner which would have been unheard of within his father’s belt-whipping heyday. (And herein we learn that our baby boomer, likely, has some very deep seeded psychological issues.) And generally, there is no question that The Man is, for all of his prestige, a pretty great, down-to-earth guy.

Enter the aughties, step into the 00's.

Think what you may of the preamble, the causes, and the specific acts and consequences, but at some point or another, our baby boomer, and the North American, middle-aged, middle-class society he represents, was complacent in some of the following: the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, the election and re-election of President Bush (or if you’re Canadian, Stephen Harper), Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, unprecedented greed, unprecedented profit, and the eventual collapse of Wall Street and the global economy. Did you personally rape an Iraqi teenager, insight a civil war, or take a smiling photograph of yourself in front of a pyramid of naked torture victims? Well, no. Certainly not. And yet, in another way, in the way that happens when you yourself are an intrinsic part of a society that commits unconscionable, terrible did.

(Canadian Society, don’t get smug. If you don’t think your country was complacent in torturing child soldiers, burning crops of Afghan peasants, and committing a series of acts which gall the human spirit on an equal level to our American counterparts, you’d be wrong. We’re a smaller country with a much smaller military, but considering that, we did good.)

So, the year 2010 is upon us, and our protagonist in the the verge of turning 63. The decade ahead could be a time of simpler things, of leisure, of mutual funds, of establishing his legacy as he gives up the reins and begins to think ‘retire.’ It could be many, many things.

A man who’s not as handsome or persuasive as he once was has a slightly shaky hand and greying hair when he says, “I did what I had to do. Don’t you dare judge me.” And I look at him coldly and I say that, I do. I am railing against the man that I may inevitably become. But it’s barely 1970, to me, and I still think that, this time around, anything could happen.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Not a Doctor, and that's probably a good thing

When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. Or, if you're me, think of tapirs, a species native to Malaysia and Central and South America, whose body resembles the capybara, which is actually a type of rodent.

And if you're my sister, and you're awesome (which you likely are - awesomeness is genetic), you will bestow unto me the following perfect gift - "The Complete Manual of Things That Might KILL YOU - A Guide to Self Diagnosis for Hypochondriacs." The only thing that could make this book better is if the title replaced "could" kill with "definitely will, and soon."

Unlike many similar-looking gimicky books, which are designed purely for the amusement of the book-giver (as in "You have an awkward personality trait! Look! A novelty gift which allows me to highlight the awkwardness of your personality trait!"), the inside is actually brimming with useful facts and information which not only encourage, but aid my exotic pathogen discovery. For example, did you know that  mosquitoes (only the females of which suck blood) inject anticoagulants into a mammal's blood - and that this secretion is the major transmitter of diseases like malaria and elephantiasis? Or that the odds of getting leukemia within your lifetime, for the average man, is 1 in 67? Or that bilateral, surgical mammomegaly is the root-latin word for a boob job?

All this information, and more, is conveniently gathered at my fingertips, along with handy flow-charts and a rating system highlighting contagion, lethality, and a 1 to 5 scale for pain and suffering. Eeee!

But my love of obscure diseases is not just about my own neurotic amusement. For example, last week, a real live doctor (specializing in neurology) diagnosed my mother's husband with 'migraines of the stomach, for lack of a better term.' My own diagnosis, given a week prior: Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, the medical term for migraines affecting the stomach. Unlike my mother's migraines, which I've determined are caused by Arteriovenous Angiomas, or raspberry shaped pustules leaking blood into her brain. ...See? Hypochondria enriches lives!

And now, a math formula which perfectly summarizes my day, because math, like the latin routes of medical terms, is very cool:

(Hours of Sleep Last Night * Waking Hours Spent Watching Videos on College Humor) + Smelly Coefficient (which is greater or equal to the number of clothes on your floor divided by how many clean underpants you regularly have available when you choose to do the laundry)...equals one over the Odds of My Cleaning the Toilet by Sundown. (This formula has been proven accurate according to Modern-Day Science.)

Goodnight =)