The Humans Are Dead

Seems like a somewhat appropriate response to everything going on in the world at the moment as another new year filled with violence, war, disease, economic chaos, etc., unfolds.

Not all that long before he passed away Kurt Vonnegut trenchantly observed that all great literature was about “how stinky it is to be a human being”…

So it goes.

From the Smuckers File: “There are now only 82 women and nine men verified as being 110 or older, according to gerontologist Dr. Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles.” This is somewhat encouraging I suppose: “Whether they drink alcohol or not, it doesn’t matter. Whether they smoke cigarettes or not doesn’t seem to matter. The thing that does seem to matter is that they chose their parents wisely.”

Attack of the Killer Fungi

Here’s something else that’s pretty cool. This short excerpt from Sir David Attenborough’s amazing BBC wildlife series Planet Earth looks at cordyceps, a parasitic fungus that preys on ants and other species of insects.

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It’s somewhat reminiscent of the lancet fluke, which is another parasitic microorganism that lodges in the brain of an ant, turning it into a sort of ant zombie that every night crawls to the top of a blade of grass in an effort to get eaten by a grazing cow or sheep, in whose liver the lancet fluke can then propagate.

Some Cure!

You may have seen this unintentionally hilarious commercial (or one like it, there are several) for the anti-depressant Abilify (Aripiprazole) made by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

In addition to the potential of a “life-threatening reaction” and other symptoms “leading to coma or death,” the list of side-effects is truly staggering. Common ones include: headaches; anxiety; insomnia; nausea; constipation; vomiting; dizziness; indigestion or heartburn; drowsiness; shakiness (tremors); weight gain; restlessness; fatigue; dry mouth; joint pain; throat pain; blurred vision; abdominal pain (or stomach pain); general pain; cough; nasal congestion; increased salivation; and swelling or water retention in the arms, legs, or feet.

Less common side-effects of the drug include but are not limited to: anemia; vertigo; tinnitus; hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism; gas; gastroesophageal reflux disease; hemorrhoids; irritable bowel syndrome; canker sores; gallstones; yeast infections; arthritis; carpal tunnel; kidney stones; impotence (erectile dysfunction); acne; eczema; hair loss; and varicose veins.

Yikes!

On a more serious note about bipolarity, Stephen Fry made an excellent documentary a few years ago on the subject called The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive that deals frankly with his own mood disorder, “mental illness” or whatever you prefer to call the condition.

Smart Money or Wishful Thinking?

Aside from filling up a column with words, it’s hard to guess what prompted Lawrence Martin’s editorial in this morning’s Globe & Mail in which he predicts that, having “sucked the well of good fortune dry,” Stephen Harper may step down as leader some time this year. While obviously not inconceivable, it seems highly unlikely that Harper would voluntarily step aside and consider his dubious small-bore achievements to date a “success” by any measure; certainly not by the standards of the man who famously vowed that “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.”

The Pornography of Power

This lecture by liberal journalist Robert Sheer from last summer promoting his new book (subtitled “How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America”) likely won’t tell you anything you didn’t already know that hasn’t been said before about the “military-industrial complex” although it does provide another timely reminder about the “grave implications” that Eisenhower prophetically warned about in his 1961 farewell address.

If nothing else, it provides an interesting perspective in which to consider one of the most important, if not the most important, budgetary fight during Obama’s first term.