Archive for February 24th, 2006

Laproscopic, My Ass

1

Fair Warning: Anyone grossed out by medical details or
simply uninterested in the personal life of your correspondent can safely
skip the rest of this entry. However, since we are still to a certain
extent a Mom and Pop operation (Hi Mom! Hi Pop!) and a lot of our readers
know us personally, we feel a certain obligation to blog about our recent
medical emergency.

When we went into surgery two weeks ago today, we were
certainly not expecting
to
come
out gutted
like
a
bottom
feeder
and studded
with more metal than the population of The Pit in Harvard Square.

We needed this urgent surgery because of wandering stomach
syndrome. Our stomach had somehow come unanchored and migrated through
the esophageal
opening in our diaphragm. Most of it was now in our chest, shoving aside
the previous occupants like our heart and lungs. This was extremely puzzling
to our doctor, who said he typically sees this condition in elderly,
obese women.

The operation supposedly consisted of 1) grabbing the
stomach and pulling it back through the hole into the abdomen where it
belongs 2) wrapping
an anchoring it among the intestines and such so that it doesn’t start
wandering again, and 3) sewing up the hole in the diaphragm it went through.

According to the Chief of Surgery, who does this kind
of thing for a living, they hoped to be able to do the entire operation
laproscopically,
through three or four small holes, using miniature cameras, robot arms
and other tiny tools. If so, they said we could go home in a couple of
days, and be back at work in a week.

However, if the hole in our diaphragm was too big or
hard to get at, sewing it up would not be simple, and the surgeon said
he would probably have to sew a patch in
to seal it up tight. This would involve a slightly larger incision in
the chest, three or four days in the hospital, and two weeks of rest
before returning to work.

Once they got me on the table, however, all of these
estimates went the way of the Big Dig. Turns out that during the month
we were waiting
for the operation our stomach had gone COMPLETELY through the hole, and
was folded over and twisted around to boot. Putting it back was considerably
more complicated than anticipated. Pretty much everything had to be moved
around somehow.

Then there was some problem putting in the patch. We
are not sure exactly what went wrong (they never tell the patient the
details, apparently),
but several other surgeons, not part of our "team" have told us they
were in and out of the operating room several times because the case
presented "unusual complications."

In all, the operation lasted 5 hours, and we will end
up with a scar down the middle of our belly bearing an eerie resemblance
to a C-section. We ended up with 30 stainless
steel staples holding our gut together.

After the 5 hours of the actual operation, we were told
it took them an additional 3 hours to "get your pain under control".
We are not exactly
sure what this means, since mercifully we remember almost nothing, but
near as we can figure it means the first few times they tried to take
us out from under the anesthesia, we started kicking and screaming.
So
they
would
put
us back under, increase the underlying dosage of narcotics in our system,
and try to bring us out of it again.

Obviously, they had to repeat this routine several times
if it took them three hours to get us to the point where we could manage
consciousness.
Of course, the amount of narcotics any individual needs to overcome a
given level of pain depends on multiple factors, including body mass,
general physical condition, past opiate usage, individual pain threshold
and reaction to different specific opioids. The Dowbrigade takes a load.

The first 48 hours were extremely difficult. Just let us say that the
pain management function in the step-down ward (one step down from Intensive
Care) on the weekends is less than fully effective.

Because of the length and invasive nature of the operation,
our return to the classroom is now predicted to be not one week, not
two weeks,
but SIX WEEKS. Meanwhile, we have to take it easy, no heavy lifting,
light exercise and bland diet. They won’t even guarantee we’ll be able
to go to Florida in three weeks, where we are supposed to deliver a 56
minute paper and then spend four days in the sun. Maybe, the doctor said,
but don’t buy a non-refundable ticket. The reason we were asking is that
we were just about to buy a non-refundable ticket. It’s the only kind
we can afford.

Anyway, two weeks out, we are feeling a lot better,
although we still tire easily, and have daily (although not constant)
pain the in belly. We got our surgical staples out
Wednesday, and that helped a lot in making us feel comfortable. Yesterday,
for the first time since the operation, we finished the New York Times
crossword
with no help. And we can still blog….

Branding the Olympics – Sports No Sports

7

This
ersatz network media event they are calling the Winter Olympics is really
starting to chap our ass. The whole thing leaves a nasty taste in our
mouth, as it seems to have been trumped up merely to get more mileage
out of the worldwide branding potential of a single word – "Olympics".

We all know the inspirational story of how an aristocratic French poof
named Pierre Fredy resurrected the concept of an athletic meeting of
nations in 1896. But the story is
much older
and
iconic than that – who hasn’t heard the stories of the original Ancient
Olympic Games, started in 776 BC near the historical Mt. Olympus, with
their naked homoerotic wrestlers, Bacchanalian feasts and ritual Temple
‘Ho’s. Further, on yet another level even deeper in the collective subconscious
and the mists of time is the story of the mythical Olympus, home to Zeus,
Triton, Uranus and Dionysus.

With so many levels of meaning and resonance, combined with the success
of the Modern Summer Olympic Games, is it any wonder that in 1924 a bunch
of European aristocratically cloned the franchise and held the first
Winter Games in Chamonix, France.

We remember watching the winter games as a kid. Growing up in the snow
belt girdling the Great Lakes, we could relate to the sledding events
as the major league equivalent of what we ran out to do on Suicide
Hillside on
nearby
Cobb’s Hill
every time we got more than an inch or two of snow, which was practically
every other day for four months.

And the large hill ski jumping on the little TV screen looked like the
closest a human being could get to flying, and we all watched fascinated,
imagining
it
was
us soaring through the air, and waiting for the inevitable, excruciating
crash.

But what these originally borderline Winter Games have morphed into
is something a thousand times worse.  Our complaints fall into two
categories: first, many of the "sports" are clearly not sports by any
rational definition
of the word, and second, the makeup and presentation of the latest generation
of made up sports, currently being force fed to the worldwide TV audience
in a misbegotten attempt to pump up their ratings in the key youth demographic.

As to which sports are worthy of the name, and which not, lets take
them one at a time. We start from the firm conviction that Sports are
like
Science:
they
must be objective, quantifiable, and replicable over time and across
the globe. That is, the human being who can get from Point A to Point
B,
these two points being 100 meters apart, in the shortest elapsed time,
can be quantified. We can say who is the fastest person on the planet,
between A and B, be they in Stockholm or Nigeria or Kingston. There are
no style points in the 100 meter dash.

In alphabetical order:

Alpine skiing – Clearly a sport. The classic three
disciplines of Slalom, Grand Slalom and Downhill offer a spine-tingling
combination of speed,
skill and guts. The cool thing about world-class skiing was that to
win you had to be right on that edge between control and out-of-control.
No question as to who wins – fastest skier down the hill grabs the gold.

Bobsled, luge and skeleton – Great, gripping, true
sports which combine speed and skill with equipment and technology.  There
is something very appealing about sports which require small mechanical
implements,
which evolve over time and can give one or another athlete that winning
edge.

Cross country and Biathalon – also among our favorites
and clearly real sports. Sure Biathalon is the bastard child of cross-country
skiing and
shooting, but there’s
no rule that a bastard can’t be an authentic Olympic sport, especially if both of its parent qualify. As a participant sport, cross-country
always seemed to lose the energy-in, adrenaline-out comparison with its
downhill cousin. As to shooting, well the Dowbrigade DOES have a Varsity
Letter for his participation on the Harvard Rifle Team, but we’ve never
tried to shoot on skis.

Curling – now we get into the first gray area. Unlike
most Americans, we grew up around curling, learned it at the knees of
a French-Canadian
nanny.
It is objective, the rules are clear, if obscure, and there is a clear
winner in every match. Curling, however, has more in common with chess
or billiards,
both of which it resembles in the importance of positional play, than
traditional contact or speed sports. Borderline sport.

Figure Skating – not only is figure skating NOT a true
sport, like female gymnastics it skates on dangerously thin ice between
child abuse and kiddie porn.
Driven, doped sacrificial virgins have been featured players in popular
and ritual entertainment since even before the Ancient Olympics, but
that doesn’t make them real sports. At best, this can be considered a
performance art, like ballet or cheerleading, but there
is no way something with Judges awarding style points should be considered
a competitive sport. At worst, most of the adult participants should
be arrested and charged with sex crimes.

Freestyle skiing – See above. Is there no difference
anymore between the Olympics and the X-games? Deserves to be an Olympic
sport about as much as Ballroom
Dancing.or Ice Sculpture.

Ice Hockey – One of the original Big 4 professional
sports, and a joy to watch.  To us, the Olympic variety is much
more entertaining than the NHL.  Professional athletes these days
are mercenaries – they rarely care about the name on the front of the
shirt.  The
exception is when that shirt belongs to their national team – even jaded
millionaires can still feel the stirring of patriotism when given sufficient
prompting. A real sport.

Ski Jumping – Still the closest a human being can get to flying, without
a motor or drugs. Judging is easy – all you need is a loooong tape measure.
A real sport.

Snowboarding – Once again, tricks and style trump going
faster, jumping higher, and scoring more goals. If snowboarding is an
Olympic sport, how about
its inspiration, skateboarding?  How about Pogo Stick jumping? Bungie
jumping?

Speed Skating – We don’t care if the track is short or long, speed skating
is a real sport.  It doesn’t matter what you wear, whether you flirt
with the audience, or what your hair looks like, as long as you get to
the finish line first.  Plus, there is is a lot of pushing, elbowing
and disqualifications between here and there. Definitely a real sport.

Finally, we are finding it really objectionable the way the new "youth-oriented"
sports are being sold to the public. Freestyle skiing, the half-pipe,
and snowboarding are being promoted as some kind of de-gangsterized,
hip hop break dancing. From iPod buds dangling from $500 haircuts to
stories of personal struggles with zits and supportive parents, this
whole movement
is a travesty of what a real sport should be. .

It is embarrassingly clear that the TV networks are playing up these
sports in a desperate attempt to find a few fresh new faces to use as
fodder for the
insatiable pages of People magazine, and as human vehicles to sell
whatever for a few new product cycles, before being forgotten, abandoned
and discarded to the trash bin of Olympians past.

Not that there is anything wrong with boarding or mogul skiing.  They
are a lot of fun, and as we all know, kids just want to have fun. But
there is no reason to name a World Champion in having fun. In fact,
we all like to think we have a shot at that one, despite our age, decrepitude
or lack of athletic ability.

Personally, the Dowbrigade is a traditionalist, and would like to see
the Olympics return to their authentic origins. Naked, sweaty guys,
bathed in oil and eager to rip one another limb from limb, all competitions
to be followed by wild Dionysian revelry with exotic temple prostitutes
and heaps of ceremonial intoxicants.

Those Olympics just aren’t what they used to be….

But Will the Mail Go Through?

ø

China’s ancient culture has outlasted famine, Mongol hordes, the
British Empire, opium wars and Japanese militarism.

So why is Beijing scared of Tinky Wink?

That’s the member of U.K. kids’ favorite Teletubbies, which aroused the
ire of televangelist Jerry Falwell. Now the animated gang has fallen
afoul of Communist China–although not for the preacher’s reasons.

See, Teletubbies is a mixed media show, in that it blends cartoons with
live action. And that melange is now officially banned by Beijing.

from Forbes Magazine

 

 

When we find out about something interesting but can’t
put together even a plausible theory as to why it should be so, it sticks
in our craw and itches our imagination
like a touch of poison ivy in that exact spot between and below the
shoulder blades you can never seem to scratch. Why in the world would
the
Chinese be afraid of mixed
media
?
Promoting a homegrown animation industry is all well and good, look
at what the Japanese have done with anime and animation, art forms
invented
and
monopolized by the US during the first stages of their development.
But why do the Chinese feel that Space Jam is intrinsically
more subversive than Bullwinkle or Ghost in the Machine?

Is it that their studios lack the know-how or hardware to mix live action
with animation? That is hard to imagine; the young Chinese entrepreneurs
we know seem to think they can do or make anything, and we are inclined
to believe them. Is it some weird cultural revulsion, like cartoons of
the Prophet, which makes mixed media an abomination in the middle kingdom?

Any readers with insights into the Chinese mind who might enlighten
us are encouraged to comment.

Afterthought – Gabe just mentioned that it is also somewhat hypocritical of the Chinese to ban the Tubbies – considering that every plastic Teletubby toy, coloring book, play set and fuzzy jammies featuring them is now “Made in China”…..