Friday, 26 September 2014

Under the Knife…

Hello Friends.

Starting off on a bad foot because this is already late, but I also have to warn you not to expect a blog next Thursday either because next Thursday I am getting some work done.

The Cobra Superstar Oral and Facial Surgical Centre (not its real name) is just a few blocks from my house and offers everything from nose jobs to Botox injections. After an initial consultation and getting the right forms signed by a doctor, Jonny is driving me to and from Cobra Superstar for a brief procedure on October 3rd.

I could continue with this misdirection awhile because it’s fun, but truthfully I’m just getting some dumb operation done on my jaw because apparently (this is gross) there’s a tooth imbedded in there. I was hoping the tooth would be attached to one of those fetus twins but no joy. My dentist tells me that, while this imbedded tooth gives me no discomfort now, it will eventually hit nerves and the pain will be horrendous. The op is totally covered by my insurance combined with the Doc’s, so there’s really no reason why I shouldn’t get this troublemaker yanked outta me. If there are no complications and recover quickly, this procedure could open up a whole new world to me, and it might be fun.

Dream: Get extensive cosmetic surgery.

Goal: Achievable. Recently, I asked a friend, “If plastic surgery wasn’t at all stigmatized, would you do it?” She said, “Yes, totally. Wait, what did you say?” and I said, “If plastic surgery…” and she goes, “Ohh! I thought you said prostitution. But yeah. Yes to both” (she’s one of my best pals). And she’s right (about plastic surgery, anyway). If there was absolutely no stigmatization (and procedures were affordable and safe), wouldn’t many of us fix up our faces and bodies the way we get our hair cut or go to the gym? I know I would.

Plan: Make a list of potential procedures to undergo, assuming my rogue tooth is extracted from my jaw without causing me undue duress. Here’s what I’d fix if I could.

Ab implants. Would that be cool? I’m so tired of obscuring my pizza gut with big sweaters, Chinese dressing screens, and obvious props like a pregnant tv actress. I want to know what it would feel like to rub my hand on my belly and feel taut ridges rather than a hairy sack of gluten.

Face shortener. I have a longer face than a cartoon basset hound. I’m scared of ever getting a caricature done of me because I know it will just be a long bean riding a skateboard or something. What else?

Eyebag de-puffing

Ballbag de-wrinkling

Wit sharpening

Nipple sharpening. Just open cans of tomato juice instantly.

Nasal cavity widening. This will be a tricky one. I don’t want bigger nostrils, but apparently I have an irritating nose whistle. I saw apparently because I can’t hear it, but everyone around me can. In fact, I’m probably sending out a merry tune as I write, but I’m none the wiser.

Preemptive jowl filler. I know I should smile more to eliminate the future perma-creases on either side of my mouth rendering me a living Ben Wicks illustration. Actually, this has nothing to do with anything, but I read an article positing that facial fillers are a boon to AIDS patients. A small amount applied to either side of the face eliminates the gaunt, hollow-cheeked look common among sufferers. That’s a major downer, but the kind of thing one is tempted to trot out in defense of plastic surgery. Sorry for the AIDS digression.

Permanent hair. My hair has done me a solid over the years, can I get surgery to keep it on my head for the rest of my life? If that doesn’t exist, it should.

Finally, to steal a joke from Maria Bamford, what I’d really like to surgically alter is that part of my brain that cares what other people think. I’m not really considering any plastic surgery for myself right now, but I’m not one those people who casts aspersions on people who nip and tuck. A beautiful friend of mine confided that she had had a nose job in her teenage years and I stupidly thought, “But that’s impossible, your nose is so pretty!” But of course I’ve only known her with her current, pert and beautiful nose on her pert and beautiful face. Being (forgive me) nosy in turn, I asked if she had any other procedures done and she laughed and said, “No, I just had a big nose growing up. Now I don’t.” Simple as that.

Of course anything can be overdone and ghastly, and the effects of plastic surgery are permanent, but so are tattoos and we’ve become perhaps too permissible where those are concerned. All I would hope is that if I do ever seriously contemplate getting something done, it’s for my own peace of mind and nothing else. I hope I don’t age into Botox where a 60 year old James looks like a permanently surprised 70 year old James, or buy myself a new schlong for Christmas, but it’s my own damn business if I do. If there’s something different about me one day that you can’t quite put your finger on, don’t ask me to explain myself because I’ll probably just do what is advised for my recovery after next Thursday: keep my mouth shut.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Blinded With Science...

Hello Friends.

Do elementary school children still have to participate in science fairs every year? When I was a kid, science fairs were mandatory. I don’t remember what all of my projects were, though I never did that copout, the volcano one. One year, my mother saved all the bones from a helping of chicken wings, and then I traced a picture of a dinosaur onto a piece of cardboard, then put glue over the tracing, then glued the chicken bones onto the picture. I’m not sure what about this project made it an experiment, exactly. I know people walked by my display and probably asked, “What is your project about?” and I probably pointed to the picture and said, “Dinosaur.” It really shed light on the age-old question, “Did dinosaurs have bones?”

There’s a picture of note in our family album from my third grade science fair. Little James, in his little sweat suit (my uniform of choice, apparently), standing proudly in front of a big folded cardboard display that we all used for science projects. On one side of the cardboard display, written in red marker in my finest all caps printing read, “ARE FINGERPRINTS DIFFERENT?” Below the text were fingerprints from various family and friends. On the other side of the cardboard display, written in green marker was, “YES.”  

All of us laugh at this picture when it appears in the family album, but no one can get on a better roll about it than my father, who lapses into hysterics. “Are fingerprints different yes! What the hell kind of project is that? Look at you, what a wiener!” Lest this paint a bad picture of Dad, trust that he was always supportive and encouraging to me when I was a child, and it truly is the most heinous science project imaginable. Are fingerprints different? The fact that this was my topic suggests two possibilities: one, even at eight, I was more interested in taking the easy route where projects are concerned and built a project based on a foregone conclusion or two, more troubling, I genuinely didn’t know that fingerprints were different! What a stupid kid! That’s literally the second thing you learn when you learn about fingerprints! A) They are prints of your finger and B) They are all different from each other! How could I have missed those facts as a child?

LITTLE JAMES (pointing to smudges on window): What’s that, Papa?
DAD: Those are fingerprints, James. When you touch something with your fingers, it leaves behind a fingerprint. And every person in the world has their own unique set of fingerprints. Nobody’s fingerprints are ever the same as somebody else’s!

Dream: Improve my grasp on science.

Goal: Not achievable. If trendy listicles are to be believed, science is really enjoying a cultural resurgence. My Facebook feed is littered with posts from a site called, “I fucking love science.” Everyone seems to be watching that show Cosmos and kneeling at the altar of Neil Degrassi Junior High.

My trouble is, I lack even the basic principles upon which scientific discovery is based. For instance, you could tell me anything about what bees do in the wintertime and I would believe you. Fortuitously, I found out in high school that a twelfth grade science class was not required for my university program, so I scraped by in an eleventh grade physics course before leaving science behind forever. Even in University, though a science elective was required, computer science counted as a science! I barely eked out a pass making animated gifs out in MS Paint. The point is, having never taken any courses, I still have a child’s grasp on chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and all mysteries of the universe. It is time, therefore, to start figuring out the basics for myself.

Plan: Develop a successful third grade science project. Look, I’m not going to do research for fun, or read any books, but the least I can do is try to erase the distinct impression of my fingerprints fiasco. Here are some hypothetical projects that I could undertake:

Does a Plane Stay In the Air? Yes. This project would actually be another cheat because I did hear something on the radio the other day that explained the phenomenon quite plainly. Airplane wings curve up slightly so that it takes longer for air to travel on top of the wing than it does for air to pass below. This creates stronger air pressure on the bottom so the plane cannot fall out of the sky. However, I wonder if the muffled farts of airborne travelers doesn’t also help somewhat.

Do Cellphones Give Us Cancer? Yes. It’s gotta be cellphones, guys. To think that we’re sending and receiving enough signals both determine our exact coordinates on the planet and also download the new Taylor Swift song, how can that be healthy for our squishy melon heads?

Do Animals and Babies Keep Us Healthy? Yes. I want to hold your baby. LET ME HOLD YOUR BABY! Also, can I pet your dog? I really think my daily worries would decrease dramatically if I could play with a baby and/or dog sometimes. Pets are no longer allowed in our building and the Doc and I aren’t at the parenting stage yet, but I just want to have a friend with a baby who lives close by so I can snuggle it and give it squishes. Sometimes a baby will reach out and grab your finger with its little fist and that’s better than any 2 for 1 drink special. And sometimes you’re worried about your job or how fat you are and a dog comes by and puts his head on your knee and says, “Hi, can we play?”

Further to this idea, I know a man who is originally from India and he told me, in half-apology for his irreverence, that in India, they refer to Alzheimer’s and dementia as the white man’s disease. There are conflicting studies on this issue, some suggesting that degenerative brain diseases simply aren’t properly diagnosed in other parts of the world, and some maintaining that they are actually more prevalent in Western society. But anyway, my friend said that the cultural expectation where he is from is that the elderly parent is moved into the family home, or is otherwise integral to the family life. There’s no, “Going to visit Grandma”, Grandma is as much a part of the family as Mom and Dad. This structure keeps Grandma sharp in turn, because there’s often a baby or young child underfoot. There’s no boring routine to settle into if there’s a baby around! Grandma’s mind is sharp out of necessity and constant stimulation. Anyway, science.

Can We Smell Better? Yes. I really don’t think we’ve hit the zenith of what perfumes, colognes, deodorants, and breath freshener can be. I know people will tell you those are chemicals and toxins and “you don’t need it!” but those people are wrong and they especially need it. How come some people carry off a great scent so perfectly from morning until night and the rest of us somehow lose the smell of our cologne by ten in the morning and smell like ham the rest of the day? For all the shit I give my former job, the cosmeticians who work in those big drugstores really know their stuff. They have to attend several workshops a year as put on by various vendors so they can both speak knowledgeably about what they sell and sell it. Anyway, from learning at their feet, I know that a lot of people choose the wrong scent for their body chemistry. Also, and this is fascinating, did you know that the pigment in a person’s skin determines how deeply they absorb the scent on their body? In other words, the darker someone’s skin, the more the smell of their cologne or perfume sticks around, the better they smell. I’ve worn Armani Code pretty consistently in my adult life, but I don’t know that it does me any favours. That said, I have to be ahead of the game somewhat if I’m not dousing myself in Axe. People still do that. A guy beside me at the gym had so much on that I was tempted to move from my machine, but Chopped was on and I can really only enjoy that while moving at a glacial pace on a bike screwed to the floor.

Is Science Necessary? Yes. Despite my reluctance to learn anything, nothing chaps my ass more than willful ignorance to scientifically proven information. I read recently that schoolchildren in the wealthiest part of Los Angeles had vaccination rates lower than the South Sudan. Are people insane? The long ago study supposedly linking vaccination to autism was debunked and the study’s own conductor admitted to fabricating all of it! Perhaps we don’t know the long term residual effects of some chemical combinations in vaccines but we know it sure as fuck prevents polio and whooping cough in the short term. And I sure hope members of the “No such thing as climate change” crowd were relaxing in Calgary two weeks ago when Sunday was a balmy 25 degrees and Monday saw the city covered in snow.

I can admit to a lack of both interest and aptitude in science, but I can certainly appreciate the tireless work of the people in that field. While I don’t think it is the worst thing to be stymied and confused by scientific discoveries, I do think it’s crappy to be incurious. Learning things makes me feel smarter, and being convinced you know everything already makes you a real dope in my book. Every person accrues a certain amount of information and expertise in their lifetime, and everyone’s base of knowledge is completely unique. No two are the same. Much like snowflakes.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Pizza Day...

Hello Friends.

I am writing to you this afternoon on my lunch break at work. After a fairly hectic week, my boss has ordered pizza for the office and we’re waiting for it to arrive. I can only think of pizza. Anything could happen right now and it wouldn’t take my mind of pizza. Joan Pizza could be brought back to life and hit the pizza carpet with her fashion zingers and I’d still be all, “Pizza!”

The trouble is, my gut, ass, thighs, and upper arms are also pizza. Upper arms, that’s the cruelest fat depository! I was feeling so pleased with myself at the gym yesterday doing shoulder presses. The machine faces a mirror and I saw what I thought were muscles bulging under my shirt, but it was only goddamn pizza. If I can grab and manipulate the flesh on my arm, It’s not muscle tissue, it’s DiGiorno.

Notice how I aggressively inserted that “In the gym yesterday” bit? Yeah, so did I. After parting ways with my Big City Gym when I moved, I was content to just go swimming at the university for any kind of fitness, but now that classes have started up again, the pool is so goddamn full of youths that I can’t be bothered to go anymore. Instead, I found a good gym and a pretty good rate and thought, “Now everything will change! Goodbye, fat guy underwear!”

Anyway, one of the “perks” to this gym membership is a consultation with a hunk employed by the facility. I dreaded my consultation because I knew I’d fail terribly at all of the tests and I was right. But beyond sweating, humiliated, at the machines, I also had to have a chat with him about nutrition, during which I lied through my goddamn teeth.

Dream: Eat better.

Goal: Achievable. The hunk explained that diet was responsible for like 70% of achieving a successful fitness goal, to which I wanted to ask, “Could I counteract some of that with aggressive pooping?” I don’t eat garbage food, I cook at home a lot, but I cook red meat, and chicken, and pasta, and dishes where the only vegetable is mushrooms, and the only side dish is more of the entrĂ©e. But at the same time, my own lightning-fast metabolism has slowed down because I’m too old to figure out how Instagram works.

Plan: Adopt the following strategies to eat better, get healthier, and buy thin guy underwear again.

Cook and eat more nutritious foods. That’s definitely something that works better in theory than in practice. Have you guys had nutritious food lately? It’s fucking gross. Kale? Gross. Quinoa? Gross. Spinach is okay, but only because you can wilt it in garlic and toss it in some goddamn noodles. I think I’m going to try to integrate healthy components into unhealthy dishes. I’ll put an orange segment next to my steak, for instance, or a broccoli floret will garnish my tumbler of Baileys.

Eat less. It would really be a win-win if I could do this. I would have less food to eat, but more food leftover for lunches. As often as not, however, I’ll make a big dish of something, justify a second helping, eliminate all possibility for leftovers. I guess I could just make more at suppertime but I feel like I’d just keep eating, like one of those awful competitive eaters, expecting a prize at the end.

Not care what I eat. Man, I wish I could do this. The Doc appreciates my cooking, which is lovely, but he could also just as easily eat a frozen dinner, a plate of beans, a slice of bread, a piece of string. He’s the rare bird that just eats because he’s hungry and doesn’t recognize the truly enjoyable experience of eating really good food. Consequently, he has no guilt about what he eats or whether or not he gains weight (though he doesn’t). That’s the way to go. Also, he’s great to live with because if there are chips in the house, they’ll usually stay in the house until I eat all of them.

These are all very first world problems. I’m lucky to go to a grocery store, or eat at a restaurant, and get whatever I want in unlimited quantities. It’s only good genes and being raised by health-conscious parents that keeps me from tipping the scales. Plus, I know age is only going to make me gain weight faster and restrict food further, so why am I kvetching now?

In elementary school, we had Pizza Day. I don’t know if that’s still a thing, but I remember regarding them as akin to days off from school entirely. “I don’t have to pay attention in class today, it’s Pizza Day!” As if all of our activities would somehow be pizza-related. Now, of course, all food decisions are stupidly fraught, and tied to all kinds of feelings of either superiority (“Just a salad”) or shame (“Can I get a side of mayo with the fries?”). But all I’m really serving up is a helping of gluttonous vanity, which is the first thing I have to shed before stepping on the scale. But now I have to go. Pizza’s here.