CAN’T WE FIND BETTER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT?


THE TRAGEDY (?) OF DAVID GUMPERT, PART THE SECOND

Mr. Gumpert had cancer of the prostate. All things considered, I don’t rate this as tragic. Unfortunate, yes, but certainly not down in the depths as was the case with Frank Zappa,  whose prostrate cancer struck at the age of 53 and was fatal.

With Zappa’s death, the world was deprived of an unusually sharp wit coupled with a virtuosic musical talent and an incredible knack for humor and originality. (I am in no way saying that Zappa’s life was worth more or less than any other human being’s. But I feel free to compare their works.) Mr. Gumpert, on the other hand,  is a sort of reverse Carrie Nation, wielding his hatchet so that we can drink something instead of having it prohibited. Like Ms. Nation, Mr. Gumpert will probably not achieve any long-term success. I believe that raw milk will continue to be a highly regulated substance, consumed only by a small part of the population. Most Americans, I imagine, are to be content to drink inexpensive, safe milk.

IF YOU’RE GOING TO OBSESS ABOUT ONE THING, YOU’D BETTER PICK A GOOD ONE.

oops

But while raw milk is a bagatelle, prostate cancer is a serious problem. It is also an extremely complicated problem. there are a lot of unanswered questions that come up after the doctor’s glove comes off:

Should all men get PSA tests?How often? Is it different for those with a family history of prostate cancer? How do we know when a biopsy is called for? What is the best way to biopsy? What are the consequences of false positive tests? How can a patient find the best surgeon? How can we be sure that the media is conveying this information accurately? How do we get the correct information to the men at risk? How do we deal with the fact that men tend to be such poor patients? Can we change the behaviors of men to make them act more in their interest as patients?

So here is a very real public health problem, suffered by someone who is actually a real journalist. He has an audience. He knows how to meet a deadline and get his material out. He has connections with trusted publications with large circulations. He is in a real position with the help a lot of men parse out the difficulties of a very difficult disease, one that even if it doesn’t kill, strikes at the very core of what it means to be a man. And yet, he chooses to be the bandleader for a small group of fanatics, many of whom have an economic interest in the outcome of this bizarre fight. The Complete Patient (which is neither complete nor about patients) doesn’t even say if  Mr. Gumpert is so interested in raw milk  because he believes that it cured his prostate cancer.

I don’t think most of his current readers are interested in real and pressing public health and health policy problems. If so, it seems to follow that he would’ve been writing about them more regularly. There are, however, plenty of worried people out there with plenty of questions about problems other than the single imaginary one dealt with in his blog. With all the monomaniacal energy expended on something that really isn’t a problem, one can’t help but wonder if he couldn’t use all this energy to perhaps give the next Zappa a few more years.

OK, I’m done writing about raw milk weirdness.

Prostate Cancer Victim, but most definitely not a monomaniac


Lactic Wackiness and the Fightin’ Foodies–Some things are beyond parody


Historical note: August 2010 was the biggest month ever for the Assassin Bug, when for some unknown reason , searches for Brigitte Bardot (its matron saint) shot up like the price of Halliburton shares during an unnecessary war. The Assassin Bug was the unintended beneficiary.We are hoping that this August we will top last August’s number of visitors, when over 6,000 gawkers drooled over pictures of France’s most famous hate-speech criminal. Please check in daily to The Assassin Bug, or the Meta-Bug if you must, as often as possible between now and Labor Day. Every time you visit, another mosquito is squished. 

Wrong blog, buddy. If you want Bardot (or Ekberg or Loren), look somewhere else.

August Sweeps Month is coming up for the Assassin Bug, and the foaming-at-the-mouth believers in raw milk can always be counted upon to drive up a site’s number of hits whenever their sacred cow (ha!) is looked at askance. But I won’t write about this on my public health blog, because as a matter of public health, this is settled (at least as far as the science is concerned).

So I’m not going to write about raw milk. I’m going to write about the Tragedy of David Gumpert. It’s a minor league tragedy  in comparison with real tragedies, like  the dismembered child in New York, or that woman whose drowned body wasn’t discovered for two days in Massachusetts, or that there are people still not able to find adequate medical care.  It’s hardly poignant like great fictional tragedy, like Othello or the book version of The Natural (Roy Hobbs does not hit a homer off of the lights, but strikes out–How  could Hollywood change that?) But  it is tragic nonetheless in the low level why-do-the-Cubs-keep-losing- and-won’t-I-ever-see-a-pennant-in-my-lifetime  kind of way.

Gumpert has become the Glenn Beck of the “food rights” movement. (No, this is not the right of foods to vote, marry each other, or not be eaten–it is the supposed right of any citizen to put into commerce whatever he or she deems is edible, though I daresay that that has as much sense. )The movement would have us believe that there exists in the Constitution something that they call food rights.

Historical aside: Some noted historians claim that  Food Rights are found in the famous “Lost Amendments Scrolls,” purportedly written by Jefferson while in France (Jefferson was serving as Ambassador to France while the Constitutional Convention was meeting), and lost in transit on their way to the United States. Some scholars go on to say that someone paid to have these parchments hijacked and taken to the Barbary Coast by the hired pirates. On the beaches of North Africa one can occasionally find a pink-skinned American wearing something that looks like a medical detector, but is actually a parchment detector in the hands of a history buff. I know one guy, Apoteoso Arco-Balena’s father of all people, who regularly goes there on his vacation to look for such lost parchments. He never found any of interest in terms of American History, but he  did find communications between Hannibal and his generals. Alas, Roman history didn’t interest him, and he sold them for a song–literally–and they eventually ended up in the National Museum in Iraq where they were lost during the pillaging of that institution during the recent sacking  of Baghdad. Apparently, Apoteoso’s father, Heinrich, was convinced that Arabic covers of Connie Francis songs were to be the next big thing. He heard a band playing that very stuff at a night club in Oujda, and traded a band member the manuscripts for some low-quality cassette recordings and the international rights to their music. The band’s oud player, it turns out, was an out-of-work archaeologist who specialized in the Roman Conquest of North Africa. Having received a rather healthy sum for the parchments, he now lives in villa on the Costa Smeralda. Much to the dismay of his mother, he hasn’t touched his oud in years.

The Fightin’ Foodies  usually fail to distinguish between the right to consume something and the right to enter something into commerce. No matter. In the mind of the zealot such distinctions are useless. The playbook is familiar: Take no quarter! Admit nothing negative! Attack on any level! Play victim! Reading the comments on Gumpert’s blog seem to bring to mind the worst groupthink tendencies of the our current political hostage takers. It seems that fanaticism in our country ranges from tax policy to what goes into your cereal bowl.

But, yesssssss, Gumpert’s Blog, a kind of Cosmic Convergence point of hokey-anna. A milky white hole, if such a thing existed, where misfit minds are sucked in and nothing with any sense escapes. First of all, it’s got a great title: The Complete Patient. Secondly, it’s a complete misnomer. It’s not about being a patient, and it’s far from complete. It’s a busted old harmonica that plays but one note, the one that the Gummint and Big Dairy are engaged in an not-so-secret evil plot to deprive the public of nature’s most miraculous food: milk that has not been pasteurized.

See? Wasn't that easy? (Scanning electron micrograph courtesy of stegerphoto.com)

To be continued. . .

Live Blogging the All-Star Game


8:12 PM

Why is it that our main displays of patriotism take place at sporting events? Conflating the two seems to degrade both sport and love of country.

From one of my favorite Mike Royko columns:

Both teams were on the field. The crowd stood for the singing of the National Anthem.
Everybody except one man. He just sat and studied his program. The band began playing.
The singing was led by a TV star who had been up all night drinking gin. Ten jets swooped
over the stadium. Fifty majorettes thrust out their chests. The one man stayed in his seat
and looked at his program. Somebody gave him a nudge. He ignored it.
“Stand up,” somebody else hissed.
“I’ll stand for the kickoff,” the man said.
Another man glared at him. “Why don’t you stand and sing?”
“I don’t believe in it,” he said.
The other man gasped. “You don’t believe in the National Anthem?”
“I don’t believe in singing it at commercial events. I wouldn’t sing it in a nightclub, or
in a gambling casino, and I won’t sing it at a football game.”
A man behind him said: “What are you, a damn radical?”
He shook his head. “I’m not a stadium patriot.”
“I’ll make you stand up,” a husky man said, seizing his fleece collar.
They scuffled and struck each other with their programs. Somebody dropped a hip flask.
“What’s wrong?” people shouted from a few rows away.
“A radical insulted the anthem,” someone yelled.
“I did not,” the man yelled. “I won’t be a stadium patriot.”
“He says he’s not a patriot,” somebody else roared, swinging a punch.
A policeman pushed through. “What’s going on here? Break it up.”
People yelled: “He insulted the flag . . . He refused to stand. . . . He’s a radical . . . Sit
down—I can’t see the girls . . .”
The policeman said: “Why wouldn’t you stand?”
“Not at a football game,” the man said.
“Hear that?” someone yelled, shaking a fist.
“Let’s go fella,” the policeman said, leading him away.
He was fined $25 for disorderly conduct, and the judge lectured him on his duties as a citizen.

The next week he had a seat at the Stupendous Bowl game. Both teams took the field and the
crowd rose for the National Anthem. They were led in song by a country music star, who had been
up all night playing dice. A dozen jet bombers flew over. Sixty majorettes thrust out their chests.
This time the man rose with everyone else, and he sang. He sang as loud as he could, in an ear-splitting
voice that could be heard twenty rows in any direction. A few people turned and looked at him as if
he were odd. When the song reached the “land of the free” his voice cracked, but he shrieked out the
high note. Then it was over, everyone applauded, yelled “Kill ’em,” and “Murder ’em,” and “Belt ’em,” and sat down to await the opening kickoff. Everyone but the one man. He remained on his feet and began slowly singing the second stanza in his loud voice. People stared at him. But then they jumped up and cheered as the ball was kicked off and run back. When they sat down, the man was still standing, singing. He paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and started the third stanza.
“Hey, that’s enough,” someone yelled.
“Yeah, sit down. I can’t see through you,” said somebody else.
He kept on singing. People called out:
“Knock it off.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“I can’t see.”
The game was under way. Three plays were run while he sang the third verse. Everyone jumped
up for the punt return. When they sat down, the man was still singing. Everyone around him was becoming upset. People stood and shook their fists. Somebody threw a hot-dog wrapper. An usher asked him to take his seat. He shook his head and began the fourth stanza as a touchdown was scored. The people behind him were outraged. “I couldn’t see that because of you . . . Make him sit down . . . He must be crazy . . . He’s a radical . . .” He went on singing. Somebody grabbed his shoulders and tried to push him into his seat. They cuffled and swung their programs. Somebody dropped a hip flask. The man struggled to his feet, still howling the fourth stanza.
A policeman pushed through. “What’s going on? Break it up.”
“He won’t sit down,” someone yelled. “He won’t stop singing,” someone else said. “He’s trying to start a riot. He’s a radical.”
“Let’s go fella,” the policeman said, leading him away as he finished the final stanza, holding the note as long as he could.
The judge fined him $25 for disorderly conduct, and warned him about not shouting fire in a crowded theater.

The next week he went to the Amazing Bowl. The crowd was led in singing the National Anthem by
a rock star, who had been up all night with three groupies. A squadron of dive bombers flew between the goal posts. He stood with with everyone else. As the music was played, he moved his lips because he was chewing peanuts, and he stared at the chest of a majorette. Then he sat down with everyone else.
The man in the next seat offered him a sip from his hip flask.


8:48

Over half an hour later, end of the first, and no hits yet.

Why is the reality of drinking of beer so much different than what I see in the commercials? I guess it’s not so important anymore. From what I see on TV, I’m apparently too old to drink beer.

8:56 PM

Three up, three down for Halladay to end the top of the 2nd.

8:57

People get paid for doing this shit (live blogging)?

Ford commercial. I’ll never buy another Ford. Owning a Ranger was one of the worst experiences in my life, just slightly better than getting bacillary dysentery in Morocco.

9:03

David Robertson pitching for the AL. Full count on Holliday.

9:21

3 innings, still no score

I think that giving the home-field advantage to the team whose league won the All-Star Game is a bunch of baloney. Or bologna. Why should a team benefit or suffer from the deeds of a composite team that plays only one game?

9:26

Oh, fuck, Lee gives Gonzalez the pitch he wants. Home run, 1-0, AL.(I told my son that the NL was going to win).

9:28

Prince Fielder’s dropped fly is ruled a hit, not an error.

9:33

Why am I doing this? I’m beginning to get bored.

9:46

Prince Fielder has redeemed himself, and then some. NL leads 3-1.

10:32 PM

There’s a Jew on first base, as Kevin Youkilis hits a 2-out single.  The Red Sox players are actually concerned about the outcome of this game, as they plan to make it to the World Series.

We’ll see.

10:39

Kendrick grounds out, stranding the Jew at 2nd base. Still 3-1.

Oh, shit, they’re singing G-d Bless America. Do we really need to have this gross admixture of religion, nationalism, and big-dollar professional sports?

10:47

Castro of the Cubs just struck out. How did a guy who made 17 errors so far make the All-Star team?

The Panda is up to bat. Will we see any other Giants (Timmy? Wilson?)?

10:50

Sandoval gets an RBI. 4-1, NL leads.

11:18

2 outs from an NL win

11:22

Will Castro’s error loom large? What is this guy doing in the All-Star game anyway?

The Beard is on his way in. Will he save the NL?

11:25

One out to go.

11:29

Back to back wins for the NL!

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