Insane in the membrane…

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HOLY SHIT, GUYS.

…er…I mean, Mornin’ all yada yada. But mostly, HOLY SHIT.

There I sat, choking down a cup of what I’m pretty sure is one of Teen Beta’s failed alchemy experiments to turn lye into drinkable coffee while I read the news, when I came across this:

Russian Volunteers for First Human Head Transplant

See? SEE!? Holy. Shit.

Here’s the deal. An Italian scientist announced last year that he had a kooky idea to take the good head off a bad body and stick it where a bad head used to attach to a good body. A Chinese doctor heard the snickers and jeers of 99% of the world’s physicians and bravely stepped forward to say, “Sounds cool, bro.” The two scoured the planet for a volunteer, and finally a Russian named Valery Spiridonov raised his hand and said, “Ispol’zovat’ moyu golovu!”

Wow, huh?

My mind is blown. I guess not as much as Val’s will be, but still, I’m gobsmacked. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got so many questions. Let’s dig in a little and see if we can make sense out of any of this.

First off, this idea isn’t exactly new. Folks have been curious about sticking parts of one person onto another probably since they sat around eating their mammoth steaks. No tv, no radio, no internet…I’m guessing caveman dinner parties were pretty boring affairs. I’m pretty sure minds tended to wander. Ugg sat looking at Mrs.*gruntnoise* and had the zany thought of wondering what she’d look like with Mr.*gruntnoise*’s head. Oh, you know he paid for the hoots of uncontrollable laughter he snorted out at the mental image later. Mrs. Ugg had spent all day grinding ash into that mammoth flank to make it tender and he HAD to go and ruin her efforts like the uncultured hyena he was.

Bad form, Ugg. *shakes head*

Or maybe the idea popped into the head of the first guy to use his super sharp, newfangled, handheld weapon fresh from the forger’s mystical cave to lop off an enemy’s arm in battle. The blade went *shing*, the arm fell to the ground, and the dude thought, “Hm, intriguing. I wonder if the barbers could attach the fallen appendage to another man? It’s a perfectly good arm. It would be a shame to waste it. If one were to simp*splat**gurgle*…uuuuhhhhffff…*thud*”

Never lose concentration in battle, folks.

The point is, it’s an old idea. Very old. One of those thoughts that probably popped into many different heads in many different cultures at many different times. The thing is, until very recently in terms of human history, it was just a thought experiment.

…get it? Thought experiment. Cus it’s brains. *ducks rotten tomatoes* Oh you fool. You just wasted your ammo, and you haven’t even heard the worst one yet. Pfft. Amateur.

We didn’t have the technology or the know-how to actually attempt such a transplant. And even if we had been able to manage such a medical feat sooner, this has always been considered one of the taboo experiments.

In the medical and psychomedical communities, there’s a general list of taboo and forbidden experiments. These experiments are deemed unethical or inhumane to a level that goes beyond any possible justification as to the value of the data outweighing the horror committed to attain it. These range from conducting medical trials on people who do not have the capacity to understand possible implications, to deprivation experiments, to using inmates as living donors… There’s a whole list, and head transplanting is pretty close to the top due to successful recent experiments with mice.

Yep, you read that right. They’ve done this successfully already. Not with humans, no, but isn’t that the next logical step? They have taken the head off of one mouse and successfully attached it to the body of another. And, they’ve done it multiple times, so this isn’t some one-off deal.

The anti-head swappers have called this experiment “bad” and “irresponsible” science, for many reasons. They believe the experiment will fail, and many have gone on record saying that should that happen, and Val dies on the operating table, the doctors involved should be tried with murder. They are saying that the docs must have downplayed the high likelihood of death to get Val to volunteer in the first place. No one in their right mind would risk death for something like this if he was sane! Besides, even IF the experiment was somehow successful, it’s incredibly selfish for one man to get ALL the organs when so many people are waiting for organ transplants. Any donated body should be rent asunder and scattered evenly around the globe. Grumble and balderdash and stuff and nonsense and muttering about charlatans and…

Here are some facts about Val. Val has a genetic condition called “Werdnig-Hoffman Disease.” It’s a genetic disorder that breaks down muscle and kills nerve and brain cells that control those muscles. With all respect to Val, in the photo shown, the only thing that looks at all normal about him is his head. His body has crumpled in on itself. He’s confined to a wheelchair, and can’t even move his legs at this point. His arms have gotten to the point where they, too, are close to being useless. His life sucks, folks. It sucks massive amounts of balls, and there is absolutely no treatment whatsoever. His muscles will continue to dissolve until he is nothing but a head on a useless pile of bones, unable to move, unable to breathe or eat on his own, kept alive by machines. That’s the future Val has.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, because damn did that headline wig me out. But, I’m kinda on the side of Val and the docs here. I know it’s creepy. I know it feels wrong, somehow. I can’t help it. The more I read and consider, the more I think I’m on their side.

Shit. *shrug*

The body they plan to use will be a young, brain dead male. Trust me, there will be many options available to them without any clandestine behind-the-pub-waiting-for-an-unsuspecting-drunk attacks. Young, able-bodied men do stupid shit that gets a lot of them killed every single day. They’re going to start off with two absolute volunteers.

“But Bethie, Val is just desperate and not in his right mind.”

Yeah. Val IS desperate. He has absolutely no shot at living any sort of life. None, whatsoever. If he stays the course with his own body, he will only ever be a head. Everything else is too broken to repair. The doctors of the world have not done enough research to solve Val’s problem. Their “solution” is to make him “live” the rest of his life being a brain fed by a machine. That’s all Val will be. He won’t be able to talk, because his vocal chords are next on the Werdnig-Hoffman hit list. He won’t be able to move. He will be hooked up to machines that eat for him, that breathe for him, that pump blood through his dead body for him. He will not even be able to end his own suffering. Once he gets to that point, and it’s coming up fast for our pal Val, there is no way for him to stop it. He will be 100% at the mercy of whichever Dr. Frankenstein is at the helm of his “life” machines.

THAT is the “ethical” and “humane” future the doctors of the world are backing.

Would you want to be a cyborg head on top of a useless pile of bones for years and years and years and YEARS just because someone else wants to pat themselves on the back for keeping you alive?

I get it. At first I couldn’t wrap my head around all of this, but after thinking it through, I get it. In Val’s shoes, I would be gung-ho to try, too. The worst case, the very worst, is that his lifelong suffering is over. And even if that happens, the knowledge that will be learned for it will be the one and only shot Val has to contribute to the advancement of scientific and medical knowledge.

“You haven’t addressed the fairness of using all the organs on one person.”

All those organs were in one person to begin with. And if that person lived, then zero organs would be available for anyone. Maybe that donor would have lived long enough to develop cancer, or contract a virus, or be infested with worms, rendering the entire body useless for transplants. Maybe the person wants to gift their body to just one person. Maybe the idea of meting out body parts to and fro like a human pinata is pretty fucking creepy when you think about it.

“But it’s going to turn into rich old men buying bodies to use them in succession to use for eternal life.”

Classic sci-fi fears, playing out in real life. The thing is, all of these fears and trepidations have been voiced at every great medical leap. Some folks wanted to lynch the doctors in the Baby Fae for putting a helpless infant through that horrible ordeal. So many doctors in the medical community were absolutely convinced it was morally, ethically, and medically impossible. There were actual protests before the first human to human heart transplant. Protests!

And yet, enough doctors kept trying until they became successful.

“But…but…even if it works, Val won’t be the same person!”

Ah, there it is, what I think is the crux of the issue. What makes a person a person? What makes them an individual? How much can you replace of the man and have it still be Val? Is there a soul? Where does that soul reside…in the machine that is a brain, or in the chest that aches and warms when you feel emotion? Where does the person truly live inside a body?

Personally, I’m kinda hoping the experiment is successful and we can find out. I have no idea what that says about me.

Probably that it’s a good thing the Mr. hasn’t gotten around to funding my basement laboratory yet, eh?

Thus concludes a science-y Muse for Tuesday, August 20, 2016. I intended to hop on to talk about a completely different subject this morning, but when the first thing you see is a man getting a complete cranium transplant, everything else pales. Maybe I’ll ramble again tomorrow. For now, I’mma jet off to work. Unlike Val’s body double, it’s the only way I’m going to get ahead in life.

…told you. Next time, bring more tomatoes.

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There’s a reason walruses live in arctic climates…

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Mornin’ all.

Boy, it’s been awhile, eh? What can I say? I’ve always been a summertime slacker. I just don’t handle the heat very well at all. My body isn’t style like a gazelle, sleek and cool even in the worst conditions the Serengeti can throw at it. No, sadly if I had to pick my wildlife doppleganger, it would probably be a walrus. Big, cumbersome, not a fan of heat or humidity. The only thing I’m missing are the whiskers, and since I’ve got a healthy dose of Polish ancestry, I’m sure that’s just a matter of time…

It’s been hot, and I’ve been SO over it on my time off. It takes far more effort to communicate my thoughts than it does to fire up Halo and do a campaign with the youngest pup. It’s not you. I wanted to chat. But my gaming seat is riiiiight in front of the a/c…

I would LOVE to have No Man’s Sky. Oh that would be the best! Hours and hours of low key exploration of an observationally limitless galaxy in the cool comfort right in front of the a/c… I don’t have it yet, though, and I’m waffling back and forth on laying out the moula. If I get it, we’re having hot dogs or chicken legs for dinner for the next couple weeks. I mean, they can totally live if I do. There were many hot dog or chicken leg nights in my house growing up. But I can’t help this nagging feeling like that’s perhaps not the best parenting choice I could make.

Gaming was a whole lot easier when I didn’t have to feed other humans. #fact

I’ve also been working. Making cakes for the city of Metropolis to ensure the parties of my homeland were not ruined by a crooked icing border or a careless “Hapy Birday” scrawled in the minds of the guests and humiliated host for all eternity.

I got to play with my favorite bakery tool, too. I had a couple cakes that required the use of the airbrush.

Yes, we use an airbrush for some cakes.

Yes, it IS as fun as it sounds!

The only drawback is that we do so few of them that we don’t wear a mask when spraying. It would be silly. Even for the most complicated airbrush jobs, we actually spray for less than five minutes, in a large, open space. We skip the masks. But, let me tell you, it’s a weird moment the first time you get home, sneeze, and pull the tissue away to see purple.

So, the Olympics, huh?

What a shit show. Fortunately, it’s not the type of shit show everyone feared. I haven’t heard about zika infected zombie athletes roaming the streets of Rio looking for gold, silver, or brooooonze. I suppose that’s a long-play situation, though. I mean, given the incubation period, I don’t think we’ll know if the Zompocalypse has officially begun for a couple weeks, after they’ve all gone back to their respective homes and sneezed on two friends, who’ll sneeze on two friends, who’ll…

I also haven’t heard many stories of athletes getting kidnapped, stabbed, punched, picked of pocket… I mean, there have been like half a dozen, but that is WAY below what folks were estimating. So…win?

NBC is also doing a pretty good job ignoring any teeming masses of disadvantaged locals on their coverage, too. I was worried that if I tuned in to watch an event, I’d see the downtrodden masses crying for a shred of humanity. Nope. NBC is actually showing so little coverage of the events that it’s almost statistically impossible for them to catch a glimpse of the real Rio. Shit, they’re barely catching a glimpse of the Olympics themselves. Good on them for that! Who wants to see poor people, amiright?

Only one of their showcase pools turned green and potentially toxic. Now, some people made a big deal about that, but dude, they had another one RIGHT there next to it. And they only had athletes swim in the green pool for like two or three events before they were like, “Nah, let’s just use the other pool.” Fifty percent isn’t a passing grade, but it’s not really a hard fail, either. I mean, they got one right. Glass half full, people.

Less than a dozen top athletes have been kicked out for doping. That seems like a good number, considering all the people that are there. I know, I know…some of the medals will be pulled in the coming weeks and months, with China and Russia being especially scrutinized. I suppose it was the right call to let them compete at all in spite of the failed tests. Can’t have gaping holes in the athletic roster that might tarnish the perfect Olympic image, can we?

“…not a fan of the Olympics, Bethie?”

I am…in theory. I love what they are supposed to be about and represent. I actually worked at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. What a trip, man. It was so exciting to be a part of that.

But I have grown up, and the IOC has not. The past few Olympics have been travesties of corruption and greed without a thought or care for the millions of lives they bulldozed over to make the games happen. Doping scandals, payoffs for officials, razing the homes of people who had no money to fight for their property in order to spend millions of dollars on a complex that’ll be used for three weeks and then never, ever again…

And don’t EVEN get me started on the humiliating athletes themselves. I’m not talking about the doping. That’s already been said. I’m talking about the modern addiction to Twitter that lets people see the sore losers in real time.

No one likes to lose. I get that. Most people who lose have a brief moment of adrenaline-fueled “FUCK THAT GUY!!!” However, in the normal course of events, the athlete loses, shakes the hand while internally grumbling, and has a chance to cool off in a shower before they give an interview. They have time for the bitter sting of defeat to temper a little before airing their opinions.

Not with Twitter, though. The first thing they do when they get out of the pool or limp off the tumbling floor is to grab that cellphone and let ‘er rip. One of our premier female soccer players called her rivals “cowards” when she was defeated. What a baby.

Another athlete tweeted about an old doping rumor of the person who bested him. Just a rumor, mind. But, that will now follow the other dude forever. It’s out there. It’s been said. And maybe the other guy WAS doping. But, maybe he was just better.

It’s not just the athletes using Twitter and other social media to ruin the sport, either. Fans are doing what fans do on the internet, and it’s making the entire deal exhausting. Every single day, some news outlet is having to apologize for something they’ve said.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the papers that just said, “African American Wins Gold,” instead of using Simone Manuel’s name, especially since the athletes in the other Olympics news were all named in the headlines. That shit’s messed up.

But, people are being way too sensitive and looking for ways to pick the press apart. Guys, they’re just people trying to report on sports. If you’re really going to get pissed because in an effort to explain the family dynamic of an athlete they’re doing a bio piece on, the reporter says she was raised by her grandparents “whom she calls Mom and Dad,” then you really missed the whole point of the article.

It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting having everyone’s stupid opinion be turned into news. It’s not news. YOUR OPINION IS NOT NEWS. My opinion is not news. And when the press muddles that water by responding to every. single. opinion., it gets old quick.

I guess that last gripe is more about society in general than the Olympics, huh? It just carries over though and adds to the pile. I just can’t get into them, not even the gymnastics, my favorite summer Olympic genre. I just can’t do it, and that sucks.

Sorry. I didn’t mean to spend so much time venting about the Olympics. I hopped on to vent about something different entirely. See, there’s a post on Ye Olde Booke of Faces that’s making the rounds. It’s a different version of an old classic, the “I dealt with blah blah as a kid and I turned out just fine.” Are you familiar with these? The entire point of the post is to prove how wimpy modern kids are in comparison to their own childhood.

I hate these posts. I absolutely hate them.

Here’s the one that’s going around right now:

“I survived

Spankings

Lead Paint

Wooden Playgrounds

Second-hand Smoke

Toy guns

No seatbelts of helmets

Play without supervision

Drinking from the hose

‘Share’ if you did too”

Well shit. I didn’t share it. I must not have survived, huh?

That’s the thing with posts like this. The people who did NOT survive these things can’t possibly argue. They didn’t survive. They ain’t here n’more, as folks in my neck of the woods would say. Dead men tell no tales and dead kids can’t refute your flawed logic.

But I can.

ANYONE who shares this clearly lived. They have fingers that move, therefore, they survived. But that does not mean YOUR childhood was BETTER. It just means that you got lucky. You weren’t one of the thousands of kids who died every year until basic safety features were added to life.

You lived through spankings, but were taught the way to handle a situation is by beating the tar out of someone instead of thinking. You ate lead paint and lost IQ points, while others suffered lifelong neurological problems or flat out died. Wood rots. Changing over to plastic is just financially sound. You’ve lived through second-hand smoke exposure SO FAR. Better knock that wood fast before the longterm effects start showing up, asshole. You cannot CAN NOT send a child to a park with a toy gun today. Not because kids are wimpy, but because our generation and the one before created a policing system and violent society that makes that critically stupid and dangerous. Maybe it was all the lead paint and beatings we took…? The only reason you didn’t die from not wearing a seatbelt is because your mum, dad, or other adult chauffeur of the era was fortunate enough not to get in a wreck, idiot. That had nothing to do with you being tough. You played without supervision and have how many scars? Had how many trips to the ER? Knew a kid who didn’t live through that? You drank from the hose and lived. Well good for you for living in a community where the water from the hose wasn’t contaminated. I do, too. I still do. And the fact that it’s a matter of pride for my town to have clean drinking water tells you how rare that is. Again, that’s on us for not fixing our broken water infrastructures that cannot handle the boom in population. It’s not at ALL a reflection on the kids whose parents know they could get a disease from drinking hose water.

Look, you got lucky. YOU GOT LUCKY. I got lucky. The people still alive today who lived through all this GOT. LUCKY. Luck. That’s it. How about you think about the kids that were NOT lucky?

If that doesn’t do it for ya, think about what the older generation says about you and your childhood. They say the same damn thing. I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s. If we had the internet back in, say, 85, this post would be going around:

I survived

Lawn jarts

Walking around town at night alone

Taking candy from strangers

Hitchhiking

No child proofing on prescription bottles

Cars without air bags

Legal whippings with belts and other household objects

And if the internet was around in the 60s, the post would be:

I survived

Radioactive science kits

Polio

No emergency cutoffs on gas lines

No safety switches on industrial equipment

Smoke filled hospitals

No stupid “domestic abuse” laws

In the 50s:

I survived

WWII

…because really, would you have to say anything other than that?

In the 40’s:

I survived

Lard as a staple food source

Measles and tetanus

Rumble seats

Corporal punishment in schools, churches, stores, public streets…

Working in factories by the time I was 11

…and on and on and on.

Every single generation can look at their childhood and compare it to a modern one and see ways a modern childhood is safer. That’s the ENTIRE point of humanity. To grow. To learn. To make things safer and better for the next generation. It is not a point of weakness that kids today wear seatbelts and helmets. It’s SUCCESS. It means that we learned from the past and found ways to make sure that as many kids as possible make it through to adulthood.

You know what? I bet in twenty years, we’re going to see a post that starts with,

I survived

Zika without a fancy vaccine

Actually, I hope we’ll be around to see that post. Still too early to tell, isn’t it? I figure we need to give it about three weeks before we should start paying attention to the obscure international news sites for signs of the end of humanity as we know it. Three weeks for the Olympic athletes, trainers, and staff to wrap up their summer games, return home, and spread their zika spores.

I just thought of something.

With the impending mass contagion looming over us, I can’t see any logical reason NOT to spend the end days playing No Man’s Sky. I mean, if we’re going down, then now is not the time to hold back. Live whatever life we’ve got left to the fullest! We’re facing an apocalypse, folks. Doomsday. Zika is about to play out across the globe like some hack, tired sci-fi story. Life is about to imitate art.

I suppose there’s only one thing left to be said.

Filiorum, carpe pullum crura!

Thus concludes a long winded rant for Sunday, August 14, 2016. Nah, just kidding. I’m not really going to buy No Man’s Sky. One of the teens is bound to cave to the hype and pick it up. Let the kids dispose of their disposable income. Walrus can sit back and bide her time.

Walrus is patient. Walrus is wise.