Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Government and Health

I've been waffling for quite a while on the idea of whether or not government has a place in an individual's health. On the one hand is the free market, which I'm on balance in favor of. On the other, there's the simple fact that we currently subsidize, either directly or via tax breaks, the emergency care of indigents to the tune of millions, if not billions, of dollars each year, money which could probably help more people if applied preventively.

Then I read this article by Frank Furedi. Not knowing anything about him (as of this writing, I haven't even visited his site), I found that his essay echoed, sometimes eerily, some incohate feelings I've had for years now, and not known quite how to put into words.

His basic point (and I encourage you to read the article, because I cannot do it justice here) is that Western societies have become medicalized; that is, they have turned problems which were formerly inherent to the human condition into medical maladies. This has several interesting consequences, according to Furedi, but the one that caught my attention the most is this:

We are not simply making a virtue out of a necessity; rather we are consciously valuing illness. From a theoretical standpoint, we might view illness as the first order concept, and wellness as the second order concept. Wellness is subordinate, methodologically, to the state of being ill.

Furedi overstates his case a bit when he equates social phobia with shyness, but he has an interesting point: when we all have some illness, be it cancer, addiction (and therein lies a whole other can of worms), loneliness, or even not having had those diseases ourselves, but having to live through someone else's illness (friends, family members, et. al), when we in fact use those illnesses as a lens through which to view our lives and our experiences, what's the value in being healthy? When 'wellness' is not viewed as a default, but a condition to which we can only hope to aspire, how can we ever be healthy?

Consider our fundamentally marketing-oriented society: unless we are ill, how can we be sold products to make us well? Unless we are deficient, how can we be sold products to make us whole? I'm not condemming capitalism-- far from it! I think it has done wonders for our physical comforts. But when we change our focus from what we need to live to how we should live, we first must consider who we are. And society, it seems, is telling us we are bad, we are broken, we are unclean.

(Note to self: tie this in with a planned review of Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books)

To bring this entry full-circle, until we can focus our lives and ourselves towards health, and not illness (and, sadly, a direct approach only confirms the supremacy of illness; this is a very hard problem), I don't think a direct government health policy makes much sense. After all, if we're all sick all the time, how can government-sponsored health care be anything but a spiralling balloon of ever-increasing expenditures?

Another Sad Internet Experience

I just saw an ad for a dating service that prclaims proudly, "We screen for felons and married people". I can't decide if this is a great or a pathetically sad day for the Internet.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The End is Nigh

Yes, the end of all civilization is here. For proof, I give you... MANSQUITO!

Because, you know, flies are SO 20th century.

Rediscovering Books

You know, I haven't really read in a while. Oh sure, I'll go to bed with anything, as long as it has printed words on it, and I can't manage to sit still for longer than five minutes without at least a cereal box to keep me company, but there's a difference between that and really reading, sitting down with a good book and getting your teeth into it.

Enter: Discover Card. Thanks to the fact that I was going to buy stuff anyway, I ended up with about $160 in Cashback Bonus awards, and I spent almost all of it on books (except for $40, which went to help buy me a Dremel Tool).

You see, to save money, I'd been checking out library books for the past year or two, so I guess I'd forgotten what it was like to have new books that were mine, all mine! Muhahahah! It's pretty nice having a stack of five or six brand-new books that are brand-new, just lying there, waiting to be read, full of promise, full of imagination, full of stories yet untold, each of them a time machine where the start of the book is always now, and the actors within, be they real or imagined, are waiting, frozen, upon the stage for your pleasure.

Yaay, books!

Keep Your Day Job, Honey

Yes, another book review!

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, is a book that you've probably already read, if you're at all into food. So sue me, I'm slow. It's an entertaining, if somewhat rambling, look at the ups and downs of the life of a chef, and how he got that way.

It's a testament, I guess, to Bourdain's claim that the restaurant world is a world of rejects, misfists, thieves, junkies and losers that he was able to survive as long as he did while doing heroin, cocaine, and probably more grass than I've ever mowed. If you've ever seen my lawn, you will not be surprised at this. Admittedly, it wasn't until he cleaned up that his career finally took off, but I don't know many other industries where you could function at all doing that much dope for that long. Maybe I'm just naive.

There is a chapter in there that reads as if his editor said, "Goddamit, you're a chef, writing a book, if you're not going to give us recipes, at least put in some cooking tips already!" that actually has a few useful tips (use a good knife, shallots, maybe some demi-glace and for chrissakes roast your own garlic-- it's not hard, show some respect already), but most of it is biography. Fortunately for you, it's by turns, funny, brash, interesting, and astonishing (mostly astonishing that he got away with that).


Author: Anthony Bourdain
Title: Kitchen Confidential
ISBN: 0060934913
Publisher: Ecco

Friday, March 04, 2005

God help me

I'm so ashamed. I was just now searching for A/V components, and I typed "Pioneer Eleet".

It's a cry for help, I know it.