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Archive for June, 2007

So what is this fascination with Big Brother – the show that all you Brits are gaga about – if the tabloids can be believed that is? I haven’t actually watched it myself I must admit but I get the general idea that it’s like all those other crap reality shows – people marooned on an island, at the bottom of the sea, on a pirate boat, half-way up Mount Everest, whatever, backbiting and scheming, stabbing each other in the back and generally displaying the very worst of human nature. What is so interesting about that? I can’t see it personally but obviously millions can. Since we in Canada are fed a constant diet of American TV shows we probably get even more purulent programming than you do – for example, shows that put happily bonded couples together on a tropical island with a bunch of ‘beautiful’ people whose only reason for being there is to get off with your significant other and embarrass you mightily while the rest of us take our vicarious pleasure in your distress – a real winner in the most distasteful TV programming of the year contest that one. But of course you have to ask yourself the question – are these shows for real – pun intended? Are the housemates or beach mates or half-way up Kilimanjaro mates as temperamental, greedy, conniving, spoiled, racist, lying, cheating and sexually predatory as they are depicted? Surely not [and don’t call me Shirley] – because if they are then there’s no hope for the human race – on either side of the TV screen. You would have to hope that much cutting and splicing in the editing room is taking place behind the scenes – which leads me to another point.

Documentaries are currently in vogue in North America – I don’t know about Europe. Michael Moore has had great success with productions such as ‘Bowling for Columbine‘ and his latest, ‘Sicko’ which aims to expose the dark underbelly of the American, ‘Pay up or Die’, Health System. [Strange that – America’s health system being so bad that you can literally die in the street if you can’t afford to pay for insurance and yet they have to run an annual lottery for people seeking asylum/citizenship in the United States. And here I thought that all immigrants were only after the free hand-outs, silly me…].

Supersize Me’ has also enjoyed a successful run in main-stream theatres, which is almost unprecedented, given that people don’t normally pay to see anything that does not involve car chases, lots of shootings, gruesome murders or crazy people in hockey masks massacring coeds in dorm rooms. It’s a mystery. All of a sudden ‘reality’ has become fashionable. It must appeal to the ‘peeping tom’ complex in many of us – that nasty little urge to spy behind the curtains, to eavesdrop on the neighbours, to read all about the escapades of Paris Hilton and Britney in the rags, or of course to hound people like Princess Di to death in order to get a good story.

Is there something in us that takes pleasure in the pain of others [see previous post: Schadenfreude]? We don’t root for the good guys anymore it seems – we root for the most devious, the meanest, the one with the loudest mouth, all the while pretending to be outraged at their antics. Mind you a good villain – in a fictional creation – is hard to beat. Joachim Phoenix as Commodus for example in the movie ‘Gladiator’ was so brilliantly awful and slimy and downright evil that it was a real tragedy that he didn’t get the Oscar for his work. I thought he was absolutely wonderful! But I’m not talking about fiction I’m talking about reality. And of course is there really anything that is real/truthful in these reality shows or these documentaries at all? All documentaries, like all ‘reality’ shows, must be heavily edited otherwise they would have to run on for about a thousand hours of nothing happening except someone scratching his/her butt or gazing in the mirror.

The minute you take the editing splice to the scene you lose the ‘truth’, whatever that might be, and let’s not get into a long and tedious debate on the nature of truth – we’ll leave that for descendants of Descartes. But the truth is – lol – that as soon as you cut the film, I would say that your documentary or reality show or whatever it is, has become fiction [with me so far class?]. Even Nanook of the North, the benchmark documentary studied endlessly in film classes, contained contrived scenes and ‘actors’ made to rehearse their onscreen activities in order to depict a way of life that was not extant at the time; certainly not in 1922 when Flaherty released it. ‘Real’ Eskimos just did not exist anymore, in the sense that they were a totally independent people isolated and immune to the ‘White Man’s’ influence – or the Hudson Bay Company, which is the same thing.

These are weighty questions – great for a good ponder when you haven’t got anything better to do. In my opinion the only ‘real’ reality show would be – perhaps, maybe – the unedited footage from a CCTV camera. BUT – even then it would depend where you placed the camera because the very fact that you placed it where you did constitutes editing does it not? Damn – and I thought I was just going to rant about Big Brother. I’ve got to stop listening to those voices in my head. Argument on existentialism anyone? Fee is five bucks and the first one to prove the existence of the other one wins.

Joke:

Jean-Paul Sartre’s answering machine: “I don’t exist, you don’t exist, there is no beep, do not leave a message”.

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I’m getting a little tired of the young.  All I ever see on TV are actors young enough to be my kids – ditto with movies.  Well it’s not so much their ages as it is that all of them are slim, toned, and stunningly beautiful with improbably straight white teeth, perky tits and  perma-tans.  Victoria Beckham comes to mind although *her* tits are most definitely 90% silicon [oops – should insert the word ‘alleged’ there since she’s in the habit of suing people but since I’m skint I doubt that she’ll get much change outta me].  OH COME ON! As Gordon Ramsay might shout – you can’t weigh little more than a half-starved hamster and have *any* tits let alone perfectly round ones that stick up all by themselves.  Speaking as someone who has been sadly and unfairly affected by gravity I know!

 

This is why I prefer Brit TV over the American shite that we are served up on a daily basis here.  We don’t have shows of our own you see – all Canadian productions, at least on TV, are low-budget affairs which are usually set in fishing villages in BC with a few grizzly bears , an evil logging conglomerate and Ann Heche.  The irony of course is that many Hollywood productions are shot in either Vancouver or Toronto and in fact Toronto is known as Hollywood North.  We’re cheaper [not to mention cleaner] you see and we have lots of tall buildings that can stand in for the New York Skyline.  Staying in downtown Toronto is like visiting the set of Diehard 17 – in fact it probably *is* the set of Diehard 17, complete with car chases, explosions and dare-devil feats involving airplanes [Lester B Pearson International is just around the corner].  We have large tracts of green areas [Central Park], a big lake and an island [Manhattan] and some impressive early colonial architecture complete with Doric columns [New York Public Library, Supreme Court] and even an ivy covered university [Yale and Harvard].

 

But I got sidetracked as usual – what was I talking about again?  Oh yes – the Young and the Beautiful [could be a soap opera but I think it’s been done already].  As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, everyone I see on TV is just too flawless for words.  They must breed them in a lab somewhere. I often get the urge to mash muffins in their perfectly made-up non-wrinkled faces, especially just after I’ve been running [walking] on the treadmill of a morning and caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, bright red face, last night’s make-up that I forgot to take off still smeared all over [bugger that means an image of my face is going be indelibly etched into the pillows again] and hair plastered flat and glistening like some dreadful B-list movie star of the fifties.

 

Now give me Coronation Street over CSI any day.  Corrie is about the only show that anyone watches on CBC unless you’re into endless re-runs of Anne of Green Gables that is [I saw her once on stage at Stratford – not the character – the actress, starring in an otherwise magnificent production of Amadeus.  She was crap].    Corrie characters are ‘real’ – some of them, in fact many of them, are actually over the age of 25 [gasp] and they have – wait for it – wrinkles, and sagging tits [Deirdre really should wear a bra] even white hair, and in Ken’s case, a paunch.  We have our affectionate names for them – Deirdre the Neck, Gale the Turtle, Ken the Boring, Tracey the Slag.  Watch the show and you’ll see why.  But my point is these characters are portrayed at least as real people – they have warts, they dress badly, their teeth are crooked,  they smoke incessantly, and there does not appear to be a Mercedes or a mansion among them.  That’s another thing – how come all American TV stars are barely out of their teens but live in vastly spacious apartments in Manhattan, mansions in Malibu, or on ranches with  seven hundred acres complete with race horses?  Can’t see Vera Duckworth or Jack or Tyrone having to do with any of that, can you?

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I migrated to Canada 40 years ago at the end of the sixties when I was fed up with everything but mostly bored and the grass was greener on the other side; thus missing the Beatles revolution, Carnaby Street and Vivien Westwood [pre-Britney] turning up at the Queens’ tea party sans knickers. However, I believe that since then I’ve made my own small contribution to this country. I met my husband here; my kids were born here and have grown up here and although I still have a strong allegiance to England, this is my home.

 

In those early days of immigration the Canadian government provided interest free loans as incentives to would-be settlers and many employers were so desperate for British workers that they would pay the lot on your behalf and even put you up in a hotel to boot with an advance on your wages. Not now mate. Nowadays the Canadian Government views your motives with deep suspicion and puts you through the proverbial wringer – just as I imagine the Brits do to worthy oriental gentlemen who wish to relocate to Wiggan.

 

If you want to embark for Toronto you had better have lots of money in the bank with which to support yourself while you look for that non-existent job because heaven forbid that you should land yourself on our welfare system despite the fact that we have plenty of lazy indigenous yobs hanging about on street corners that already have. No matter that you were an engineer or a doctor in your home country and are fleeing from some repressive regime run by some tin-pot dictator [did someone say Bush?] and are seeking asylum in a country that will welcome your pioneering spirit, your expertise, your value to the economy. Not on your life Charlie. We make fully qualified doctors from Russia or Poland or Uzbekistan sweep floors and work as waiters even though we have a critical shortage of medical personnel and most people of my acquaintance – including myself- have not had a personal family physician for many years. We make do with teaching clinics and ‘walk-in’ urgent care centres unless we’ve been run over by a truck in which case we can take our number at the local emergency room at the hospital and if we’re lucky be seen by a junior intern next Friday.

 

My hairdresser – well she’s not mine she does other people too but I see her once a year or so when I’m feeling flush – was once a chemical engineer in her home country. Her husband ran his own company with a fleet of transports. Now he drives a cab downtown and dreams of the day he can buy another one. Fat chance – it costs more to run a cab than it does to make a profit what with high insurance, maintenance, licensing and plate fees, not to mention gas prices through the roof. But I digress. It’s surprising if you think about it that people such as these two have put themselves through all that aggro and given up professional careers to come to a country that does not value their professional qualifications at all. Things must have been pretty bloody rough for them before don’t you think?

 

I hear that doctors for example – if they want to practice here – must repeat practically *all* of their medical program and write all of the exams again – even if they were highly regarded consultants or surgeons or specialists before. Except that they can’t get into the medical schools because most universities cut enrollment numbers down to zip. God knows why – maybe it adds to the exclusivity of the club? Maybe since the government pays them when they get out they are keeping down the numbers to save money – which seems to be short-term thinking in the extreme because most of them probably bugger off to the States once they figure out they have to work 100 hours per week and move to Nanuctuk. Who knows.

 

It makes no sense at all to me that we are wasting such a pool of talent for no better reason than we arrogantly assume that they must somehow be of a lower caste. It reminds me frankly of all the shouting that I read about in the Brit papers re ‘Asylum Seekers’. My cousin, who still lives in Portsmouth and is actually older than me which is quite some feat bends my ear every time I speak to her about those bloody ‘asylum seekers’ and did I know that the Government gives them a free house, a car and a paid-up cell-phone the minute they step off the boat? Sounds great to me – how do I apply? But it’s this kind of narrow-minded thinking that leads to xenophobia both in Britain and here. Although here it’s less overt – here we welcome asylum seekers with one hand and then just point the way to the unemployment centre with the other. I say again – what an incredible waste of talent.

 

What ever happened to a land that whole-heartedly encouraged immigrants so that they could build the country into what it is today – well the bits that aren’t xenophobic, racist and intolerant that is. Last week there was a ceremony to open ‘Ireland Park’ in Toronto. That was the place where thousands of Irish families landed after fleeing the great Irish Famine of the 1840’s. They braved a horrendous sea voyage, sickness and an overland trek that killed most of them to make a new life for themselves and they practically built the entire city of Toronto from scratch. They worked their bums off to feed their families and carve out a little niche. But the irony is that their arrival was greeted, unsurprisingly, by the current inhabitants with outrage and letters to the papers about loss of jobs, lack of resources, the imminent downfall of civilization as they knew it, and all the old tired cliches about upsetting the status quo. Never mind that these poor exhausted people were literally starving and only wanted to make a place for themselves in a country that was, in terms of land area, more than twenty times the size of their homeland and there was plenty of back-breaking labour and hard work to go round. Talk about the sour milk of human kindness.

 

In those days the Government would allow you a portion of land provided you cleared it yourself and made your humble cabin out of logs you had felled yourself. And you had to be quick about it because if you weren’t the winter would arrive and put paid to you and your plans toot sweet. My husband’s great-great-grandfather came here in 1853, losing his wife along the way to ‘shipboard fever’ which was probably Cholera. In his case he had fled England because he was working as a cobbler and I guess since not many people could afford shoes he was in a negative financial situation and one step – so to speak – from the poorhouse. But he persevered, carved out his little plot of land, cleared the forest, built his barns and his log cabin, grew veggies, kept chickens, made maple sugar and sold enough to buy an ox to pull the plough and all in all prospered through hard-work, bloody-mindedness and determination. He was a pillar of the community. Nowadays we would of course tell would-be migrants like him to sod off back where they came from. We don’t want any hard-working salt of the earth types here! Clear off and tend your own backyard – even if there isn’t one and you’ll probably be shot and/or tortured if you do.

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Vacations to go

 

by thysbe @ 2007-06-23 – 04:23:10 pm

This morning I’ve been musing about vacations. I don’t know where I’ve been for the past five years or so but is it just me or have the prices on travel suddenly tripled while I wasn’t looking? In Canada here our money is only good for papering the walls or playing Monopoly and buys you nothing very much, especially in other countries – in fact, even our own merchants insist on payment in ‘real dollars’ – which for your information are those tatty American ones that are all the same colour so that if you don’t watch it you can pay for your taxi with a two dollar bill – which can provoke outraged curses in Arabic and fumblings under the seat for the baseball bat. If we should so desire to take our annual hols in Italy or heaven forbid, England, the exchange rate is practically 3 to 1 – and not in our favor; which means that everything is three times the price for the hapless Canadian tourist tootling off to visit Hampton Court or Stonehenge or the Tower. Even a vile McDonald’s hamburger translates to about 20 bucks a Happy Meal but at least you still get the same amount of fat and grease, beef tallow and coronary artery disease that you can here [there should be warning labels on each wrapper, “after imbibing this burger please proceed directly to your cardiologist”].

The situation has improved somewhat in the past year or so after the Blair and Bush comedy team over-ran someone else’s country and found only sand spiders, scorpions and suicide bombers under the rocks – oh yeah, and oil of course, not that that has anything to do with it… What the hell are we doing in Iraq? Or Afghanistan? Can someone explain this to me? Anyway – nowadays the Canadian dollar is almost on a par with the American dollar, which means that the government must take immediate steps to dampen our enthusiasm at finally being able to afford tickets to Disneyworld by raising interest rates, putting out frequent warnings of imminent doom and financial collapse and announcing that since the sky is falling, please bend over and kiss your ass goodbye. Thank you, and have a nice day.

I do hear that there are some countries in the world where our money is actually worth more than theirs! New Zealand for example and probably Zimbabwe but I can’t be sure. Of course getting there costs you as much as the national debt but there you are – can’t have everything.

I don’t know about you but our family income has not increased very much in the past five years – and as soon as it does go up a bit a sensor down at the income tax department lets out a warning beep and they run over to collect it. They just live for the day when they can dispense with all those untidy forms and costly collectors and just have your employer send over all of your salary by fax. So much more efficient and cuts out the middle-man – you.

We were back in Portsmouth for a week a couple of years ago. Fortunately I still have relatives over there that we could land on because we would have been staying in the local seaman’s ‘hostel’ or kipping on the beach if not [not a great prospect in February but then they seldom have seven foot snow-drifts in Portsmouth and temperatures that drop below absolute zero of an evening]. We took a couple of thousand dollars so that we could have a good time or even a pint or two at the Still and West and a pickled onion but it was not to be. Once the bank-teller had got through laughing and dispensing the 500 pounds or so that our money finally translated to we had enough left over to share a bag of chips and a glass of water.

Excuse me while I go back to my brochures. Hmm – Spirit Airlines has a deal to Gatwick for only three hundred bucks in July. Oh but wait – taxes are 400 bucks each and that price is only one way plus you have to leave at 3am on a Tuesday from Gander. It’s a right kerfuffle.

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Vacations to go

by thysbe @ 2007-06-23 – 04:23:10 pm

This morning I’ve been musing about vacations. I don’t know where I’ve been for the past five years or so but is it just me or have the prices on travel suddenly tripled while I wasn’t looking? In Canada here our money is only good for papering the walls or playing Monopoly and buys you nothing very much, especially in other countries – in fact, even our own merchants insist on payment in ‘real dollars’ – which for your information are those tatty American ones that are all the same colour so that if you don’t watch it you can pay for your taxi with a two dollar bill – which can provoke outraged curses in Arabic and fumblings under the seat for the baseball bat. If we should so desire to take our annual hols in Italy or heaven forbid, England, the exchange rate is practically 3 to 1 – and not in our favor; which means that everything is three times the price for the hapless Canadian tourist tootling off to visit Hampton Court or Stonehenge or the Tower. Even a vile McDonald’s hamburger translates to about 20 bucks a Happy Meal but at least you still get the same amount of fat and grease, beef tallow and coronary artery disease that you can here [there should be warning labels on each wrapper, “after imbibing this burger please proceed directly to your cardiologist”].

The situation has improved somewhat in the past year or so after the Blair and Bush comedy team over-ran someone else’s country and found only sand spiders, scorpions and suicide bombers under the rocks – oh yeah, and oil of course, not that that has anything to do with it… What the hell are we doing in Iraq? Or Afghanistan? Can someone explain this to me? Anyway – nowadays the Canadian dollar is almost on a par with the American dollar, which means that the government must take immediate steps to dampen our enthusiasm at finally being able to afford tickets to Disneyworld by raising interest rates, putting out frequent warnings of imminent doom and financial collapse and announcing that since the sky is falling, please bend over and kiss your ass goodbye. Thank you, and have a nice day.

I do hear that there are some countries in the world where our money is actually worth more than theirs! New Zealand for example and probably Zimbabwe but I can’t be sure. Of course getting there costs you as much as the national debt but there you are – can’t have everything.

I don’t know about you but our family income has not increased very much in the past five years – and as soon as it does go up a bit a sensor down at the income tax department lets out a warning beep and they run over to collect it. They just live for the day when they can dispense with all those untidy forms and costly collectors and just have your employer send over all of your salary by fax. So much more efficient and cuts out the middle-man – you.

We were back in Portsmouth for a week a couple of years ago. Fortunately I still have relatives over there that we could land on because we would have been staying in the local seaman’s ‘hostel’ or kipping on the beach if not [not a great prospect in February but then they seldom have seven foot snow-drifts in Portsmouth and temperatures that drop below absolute zero of an evening]. We took a couple of thousand dollars so that we could have a good time or even a pint or two at the Still and West and a pickled onion but it was not to be. Once the bank-teller had got through laughing and dispensing the 500 pounds or so that our money finally translated to we had enough left over to share a bag of chips and a glass of water.

Excuse me while I go back to my brochures. Hmm – Spirit Airlines has a deal to Gatwick for only three hundred bucks in July. Oh but wait – taxes are 400 bucks each and that price is only one way plus you have to leave at 3am on a Tuesday from Gander. It’s a right kerfuffle.

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OK class – today let’s talk about movies – sorry, films for the Brits among you. I was watching TV this morning while pounding away on the treadmill – well, strolling along the treadmill – well alright standing on the treadmill – when they started discussing the top ten films of all time. Their list contained the usual suspects – Casablanca [yawn], Citizen Kane [yawn], Gone with the Wind [please!] and the Wizard of Oz [well alright that one was good and it has given me years of pleasure doing my “I’ll get you Dorothy and your little dog too! He he he he he he he” impressions].

 

Actually I think we only remember most movies by their ‘catch phrases’ – let’s have a quiz – identify the movie and who said it for a chance to win a cruise around the world or at least a mention in my blog:

 

  1. Hasta la Vista Baby [sounds of gunfire and breaking furniture]
  2. Play it again Sam [sounds of clinking glasses]
  3. Rosebud [whispered]
  4. Stella [ vastly over-acted using loud Noo Yoik accent ]
  5. Frankly Scarlet I don’t give a damn [furrowed brow and tons of Brylcream]
  6. Do you feel lucky punk? [waving very phallic looking magnum around]
  7. Is that an African or a European Swallow? [sounds of coconuts clacking]
  8. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a little chianti [sounds of slurping]
  9. Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking? [posing]
  10. Carpe Diem [for intellectuals]
  11. I’m going to Greece. It’s going to be sex for breakfast, sex for lunch and sex for tea. [leaning out the window]

 

I’ve got a million of ‘em. Another interest of mine is art history and it’s surprising how many movies include references either direct or indirect to works of art. The da Vinci Code for example [and *I* thought Tom Hanks was very good despite the critics who said he was crap and had a funny hair-do]. The only mystery with the da Vinci Code as far as I’m concerned was the scene when the curator of the Louvre spent all that time getting naked and then drawing a large square and a circle around his body in his own blood. Since he was in the Louvre already why didn’t he just run over and point at the Vitruvian Man hanging on the wall just down the corridor on the left? If *I* had a gaping gunshot wound in my stomach I wouldn’t exactly be thinking of arranging myself artfully on the floor to demonstrate how erudite I was before passing on to that great museum in the sky. Personally I would be shrieking at the top of my lungs for Le Medics and bugger the Illuminati. But I digress. How many ‘art’ references can you come up with in movies you’ve seen? I’ll start you off – there’s a scene in the movie MASH where the characters momentarily arrange themselves into the tableau from the Last Supper – have you seen that one?

 

If you don’t want to strain your brain with that last one – how about the most famous scenes from movies – the absolute iconic defining moment in a classic film i.e. the shower scene in Psycho and that close-up on Janet’s eye [she said she got eye-strain from doing that without blinking for hours]. What about the panoramic shot of the lone horseman [or maybe it was a camel] coming across the horizon in Lawrence of Arabia? The chariot race in Ben Hur? Moses Parting the Red Sea? The look on Nicolas Cages face when he spies Cher outside the Met in Moonstruck?

 

Well come on come on then – get the old thinking caps on. I’ll be waiting here with the popcorn and the Coke [diet of course].

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Ok now – hands up all those who love going to see the Doctor?  All those Hypochondriacs and weirdos among you put your hands down; I’m talking to those who – maybe – might be counted as ‘normal’ in the bunch.  Har Har.   When you get to my age – ahem – 25 or so, [Who said 125?  Sit down you at the back!] – you find that your visits to said doctor increase in both length and frequency and what’s more they tend to keep finding more things wrong with you every time you see them.  We all know that doctors live to find exotic diseases in all their patients so that they can write it up in the Lancet or the CMAJ and so become esteemed among their kind but never mind the poor patient who has just been diagnosed with something disgusting and probably fatal ; he or she has now become merely a lab rat on which to practice their arcane and mysterious medical arts.

 

Who is it that invented most of the tests that Doctors visit upon us?  My opinion is that it must be some direct descendant of Torquimada – you know the one – the bully boy of the Spanish Inquisition who had lots of fun pulling out finger nails and winding up the rack while cackling fiendishly and flapping his red cloak.  Ok I added that last bit just for a bit of colour, no pun intended.  I don’t know if he flapped his cloak but I’m willing to bet that he certainly went in for a bit of cackling.  Now where was I?  Oh yes – Doctors and their fiendish tests.

 

In the middle-ages Doctors had their instruments of torture always ready to hand.  They carried their leeches and maggots about in a jar along with pincers and lancets of various sizes and their little suction cups the better to suck the life out of you with.  During the Plague Years – and no I’m not talking about Tony Blair – they had several handy dandy remedies to administer to those about to expire.  They had oranges stuck with cloves, or little flower posies for you to smell and thus take your mind off your own stinking putrid flesh not to mention your imminent demise.  If that didn’t work they sucked large quantities of blood out of you in order to drain off the ‘bad humours’ [I would be in a bad humour too if someone sucked off a couple of quarts out of me wouldn’t you?].  And if that didn’t work they could always bore a few holes in your head.  Trepanning has been popular for quite some time it seems.  There are Mayan skulls with holes in them as well as ancient Egyptian ones and probably a few Sumerian ones scattered about somewhere in the vicinity of the Red Sea or the outskirts of Baghdad.  Or maybe, just maybe, the archeologists are all out to lunch and they are actually holes caused by blowing your ancient brains out with an early prototype of the Lee Enfield – the better to escape the tests with.

 

In ‘modern times’ the medical profession has developed tests and procedures along similar lines.  Who dreamed up the “attach the patient’s head to electric wires and shock the shit out of him” protocol I wonder?  The logic is that if they run 40,000 volts through your brain things will be reset [no kidding] and you will cease to be depressed – or suicidal – or manic – or possibly schizophrenic.  Or perhaps if you weren’t when you went in you will be when you get out, we can’t be sure.

 

Think what it must have been like aboard His Majesty’s Ship Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar for example.  As if it’s not bad enough to have several of your bits blown off by incoming cannonballs it was quite possible for you to be carried below to see the Surgeon, an ex-barber who was waiting for you with a lot of very large knives, a leather strap for you to bite on, a bottle of rum and a tub of steaming pitch.  No anesthetic in those days you see – you had to just grin and bear it – so to speak.  Oh and no sterile procedures either so your chances of survival were somewhere in the vicinity of zip.

 

An entry in Samuel Pepys Diary details how he was finally forced after much pain, discomfort, denial and stalling to go and have an operation ‘for the stone’.   He must have been cheered by the fact that surgeons of the time were warned that “In this great and dangerous Operation, life and death doe so wrestle together, that no man can tell which will have the victory”  and patients were advised to make their peace with God [and no doubt draw up the Olde Will]  forthwith.  On the day, in lieu of an anesthetic, or even a bottle of rum, poor Samuel was made to swallow a drink made of liquorice, marshmallow, cinnamon, milk, rosewater and the whites of fifteen eggs, for no discernable reason other than to take his mind off forthcoming events and make him gag.  Then they grabbed him, trussed him up like a chicken, tied him to a chair, called upon several strong men to hold him down and came at him with a knife. Shudder – intestinal fortitude must have been at a very large premium in the 17th-century.  Personally I would have been seen running down the street screaming.

 

Hmm – in retrospect then perhaps having to suffer the annual proctology exam or having your boobs squished in that awful mammogram machine is not so bad after all.  And having things poked in your ear or up your nose or other orifices I shall not mention is obviously a mere doddle in the larger scheme of things.  If it comes to a choice of being strapped, fully conscious,  to a chair or wafted off into the arms of Morpheus I’ll take the morpheus every time.  A large dose please.  And if you really must use that big knife on me make sure that I am somewhere far far away before you do it.

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