May 13th, 2004


Intellectualizing Poop

May I point you to a journal entry by my brother Sean:

One of the topics of a LJ entry I contemplate regularly, and veto, is to write about pooping. Sean has written something that is funny and insightful with respect to the topic without being unduly gross or creepy.

The only thing I can add without diving down my own avenues of gross creepiness, is that a fundamental characteristic of elimination of waste is that yes, dammit, evolution or God or whomever has seen fit to make it pleasurable. Perhaps not equal to the pleasures of eating good food or having sex, but definitely top ten among the sensual pleasures. Being as how it's essential, it follows that making it feel good is an obvious evolutionary advantage.

Equally obvious is that this pleasure has it's immediate negative reinforcement once you've done the deed, and that getting the hell away from the nasty mess you've just made is an equally obvious evolutionary advantage. Your doody has germs in it that can kill you in a most unpleasant and embarrassing manner. But this pleasure/repulsion combination confuses people, and makes them want to avoid the topic entirely.

And mostly, yes, we do. It's interesting to think sometimes about how much of what makes human civilization is concerned with the problem of getting rid of waste without poisoning ourselves. It's as inevitable as death -- either a civilization deals with the problem or it's constituent members die off unpleasantly. It's vital that the human race figure out a sustainable way to get rid of all the excreta of civilization. Air pollution, water pollution, superfund sites, etc are all examples of a sin against sustainability -- shitting where you eat.

Maybe if there was a way to make getting rid of radioactive waste, Dioxin, and PCBs as much fun as taking a grand dump, we'd be able to get past the mess we're in now.

(no subject)

From joeker: Kurt Vonnegut

Written before, and not in reaction to, the recent beheading of American Nick Berg by someone in Iraq:

"One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us."

Vonnegut is getting to be one negative bastard in his dotage, not unlike Mark Twain.


ER is a show everyone in our family is addicted to. Sure it's a bloody-minded night-time melodrama, but it's also really well written, well acted, and with memorable characters. It's been on forever -- ten years or something, and Noah Wylie is the only original cast member left. A few years ago it kind of had it's mid-life crisis and sorta sucked but this season has been an amazing comeback, from the first 2 episodes set mostly in the Congo, to the season finale tonight.

My favorite character on the show tonight actually had minimal screen time -- Laura Innes as Dr. Carrie Weaver. Weaver lost her lover -- who was a firefighter -- a few episodes ago, and is involved in a custody battle for the baby they had together. Her lover's family is conservative Catholic, and didn't approve of their relationship, and don't want to give the baby up. She gave a short, gentle speech to the judge in the custody trial tonight that was devestating in its vulnerability and directness.

Maybe having a gay parent in a custody battle is a 'ripped from the headlines' plot device, but when it done this well, it's more than that. It occurred to me that for a significant percentage of the show's audience, the Carrie Weaver character may be the first lesbian mother they've ever known. The Congo episodes were similar in that they held up the horrible difficulties of life in Africa to an audience that may never have thought for more than a moment about what's gone on in the past ten years in sub-Saharan Africa.

ER managed to personalize both situations without being preachy or condescending. The medical focus, the dead-run pacing, and the effective acting make immediate and concrete what can be for a lot of people abstract and remote. Compared to this, "West Wing" does little more than talk similar issues to death. If a television series can be something more than a way to sell soap, this is one way to do it, and in this, ER excels.

It can also be really funny too, like the nurse that said last week "all that men think about is food, sports, and sex. If they invent a refrigerator with a wide screen and a vagina, we're in trouble."