Monthly Archives: January 2011

RIP MMR/Autism

Or, White People, You’ve Really Got to Start Hitting Vaccinating Your Kids

Boy bands and Spice Girls for the 90s; autotune and screamo for the 2000s—I remember decades mostly in terms of music, maybe fashion—but sometimes I wonder if decades could just as easily be defined in terms of “what the hell is wrong with our kids?”

At the end of the 90s, it seemed you couldn’t fling a rock without clocking a kid with ADD or ADHD, or shit yourself over a school shooting. This last decade, it was autism—according to educators, kids diagnosed with autism now comprise the greatest number of children receiving special education and some are calling this an honest to god ‘epidemic’ sweeping the world, as more children than ever are being diagnosed. And the numbers are only rising.

As with ADD and school-shooting rampages, the experts and non-experts have come out of the woodwork to offer their opinions, and in our never-ending quest to find the perfect whipping boy, the current theory has bypassed sugar, violent video games and a cross-dressing glam rock singer to settle on—vaccines.

Though this controversy has apparently been raging in the US for the past decade, I only became aware of it this past fall when I went back to the states and talked to an old friend. As we chatted and caught up, our conversation moved to doctors and she told me she was not planning on vaccinating her children at all, because she considered the practice unnecessary and dangerous. I was surprised to hear this. I’d never heard anyone express such a radical opinion before, but this friend has always been rather unconventional. She’s also extremely down-to-earth and intelligent, so I figured her reasons must be sound and I would look into it later. To my surprise, I needed to wait only a week until I heard ANOTHER person tell me that a whole wave of people, in and out of the US, are now against vaccinating their kids because of dangers supposedly associated with the practice. I thought: DANGERS?

What dangers? Vaccines have been around for a hundred years. They save thousands of thousands of lives a year from creepy-sounding ailments like rubella and whooping cough. When you don’t inoculate, you expose your kids and the community at large to polio or a somethingsomething fever that manifests in tiny vaginas breaking out all over the face, right before you bleed to death. How can people possibly be questioning the efficacy of inoculations after a full century of positive medical progress?

Then I realized that sometimes, it takes only one idiot to decimate a century of medical progress.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a research article in Britain that would cause a decade long controversy. In his article, he claimed to have discovered a link, however tenuous, between the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine and twelve children with autism. In wake of his research, parents with autistic children have waged campaigns to stop routine vaccinations and stars have written tear-stained memoires that supported his findings.

….by the way:

Mr. Wakefield is no longer allowed to practice medicine. His results have yet to be replicated/confirmed in any other study. The article was partially retracted in the early 2000s and fully retracted in Feb 2010, once it became clear that prior to the study, Wakefield had been engaged by a lawyer who hoped to launch a lucrative campaign against vaccine companies, and that his ‘research’ was not only unethical, but also largely anecdotal, relying on parental memory of when the involved children developed autistic symptoms vis-à-vis their administered vaccines. The ex-doctor has been called a fraud and many still-practicing doctors have said that his unsupported claims have done only damage.

Sadly though, none of this matters:

A link has been established in the public’s mind—a link that one doctor claims “just will not die.” And unfortunately, for many people, this completely unsubstantiated connection has moved onto vaccines that have never even been part of the fraudulent study, such as those for whooping cough or scarlet fever. As a result, diseases that have been good and dead for decades are raising their ugly heads again.

And yet, even so, there are parents with autistic kids (or parents without) who are vehemently against vaccinations. Their testimonies, along with those of a few celebrities, feed the flames.

Take Jenny McCarthy. I don’t remember much of what she actually did—in my mind, the memory slot of JM is occupied by a lone picture (Rolling Stone magazine cover? Not sure) of a blonde holding a hot-dog with a shit-eating grin and dousing her sweet knockers, not the wiener, in mustard.  (Oh, you!) A handful of years later, she’d grown up, had a kid, and wrote a book documenting her first-hand account of how vaccines plunged her son into autism. With all due respect (wait, that’s what people say when they mean no respect at all), it could have been the copious amounts of yellow-5 that soaked through her boob-meat from her mustard-bukkake days that caused her kid’s autism—I mean, medically, that is about as sound as the claim she’s made and we could just as viably launch a campaign to shut down those people at ‘French’s’. But because she was pretty for five minutes, her emotional plea, based on ONE child  and with no scientific/medical basis at all, is out convincing people to not give their kids life-saving vaccines.

Now maybe you’re thinking, Jesus, heartless cow. Her kid has autism, can’t you give her a break? And all the parents out there who are in the same boat? But believe it or not, I do have some experience with this sort of thing—my parents also raised a kid with severe problems (ANOTHER one besides me, haha!)—back in the days when labels weren’t so easy to come by and one had to make do with ‘retarded’ or nothing at all. They picked nothing at all. They never knew what was wrong—they still don’t. But I’ve seen and watched them watch her, knowing that their kid (in her thirties now and not a kid anymore) will never be ‘normal’. She will never be able to raise a family or live an independent life. And though they’ve more or less stopped looking for answers that won’t come,  when they still had their optimism and would grasp at straws, they always said: “Oh… she’ll grow out of it.” Secretly, because I was an asshole as a kid too, I used to wonder “Why do they keep pretending she’ll ‘grow out of it’? Why don’t they just admit she’s retarded and move on?”

Two decades later, about to be a parent myself, I get why. Because it hurts. You want your kid to be healthy, smart, beautiful, happy—normal. Those so inclined pray for it. But the fact of the matter is—as I look around at my peers who come from multiple kid families… it seems as common as not to have at least one sibling who is not all there—that’s just the way it is, I suppose. And if my sister was growing up now, and not in the mid-eighties, it’s probable that she would also be diagnosed with autism, for lack of something better.

Which brings us to the other matter—whether or not you believe in there being much new under the sun. There are some doctors who claim this ‘epidemic’ is real; there are others who maintain that this might just be a lot of buha. Because as awareness is raised, diseases become as trendy as styles of music—what was once considered to be a fairly distinctive condition has become a blanket term for a variety of states that in the past may not have been called autism at all.

Whatever autism is though, I have yet to find any unbiased, medical account making a connection to its origins and vaccines. Based in cool, hard SCIENCE, that is. Any links I’ve found have been strictly anecdotal and highly emotional, claimed by parents desperate to find an antidote for the poison called ‘why’. Why is my kid like this and why did this have to happen to us? I paraphrase one mother’s bitter claim; that if she could pick between having a child with autism, or one with measles, having seen what autism did to her son, she would “pick the fucking measles.” Unfortunately, that implies some merciful god who gives you a choice between two horrible things, when what she’s really looking at is having an autistic kid WITH measles—and possibly endangering the community around her. In fact, non-believers can look at statistics of countries where, for whatever reasons, the MMR vaccine is not routinely given (say Japan and Russia). Autism, or what is called autism, is rising at the same rate in those places as anywhere else.

And now: new decade, new fashions, new music, new scandals. New disease scares. For the parents who have autistic kids (or any kids with severe disabilities), I do wish there was some answer out there for them as simple as avoiding a routine vaccine— Hell, if I could believe that not vaccinating MY kid would side-step any future behavioral/learning issues, I would do it!

But it never is that simple.

I hope people will read it for themselves, and let the relationship between MMR and autism rest in peace.

Will Model for Coffee/Money

One of art friends/heroes, Shari, writes me randomly a week or two ago. She has an artist friend living in Munich who wants to hire a figure model and Shari had remembered that I used to do that. Back in the day. She wonders if I’m interested…

Remembering that I hadn’t seen/talked to her in a….while…, and that I have been a little freaky-secretive about my physical developments, I write back saying that I wouldn’t mind doing it at all–but that she should inform her friend that I am very pregnant right now. On the cusp of fucking pregnant. As one probably doesn’t get that many opportunities to draw very pregnant women, he may find it cool, but if not, I could contact him in six months, when I am (hopefully) back to normal…

A bit in shock (she hadn’t known at all) she writes back and says he is interested and away we go. When  I tell Hazel (my other Munich art pillar), about this new side job, she seems a little skeptical. Hazel has a highly sensitive perv-o-meter, but I assure her that Shari has vouched for this person as a long time art connection and English student. (Which is more than I can say for many jobs I’ve been on, the most outrageous being–sitting in a room full of potted plants with a middle easternaged man, shuffling through a HUGE stack of nudies while he explains to me that he does not DEMAND a sexual relationship with his models–but it is desirable. (A trusted friend had been seated at the corner bagel shop with instructions to come rescue me if I didn’t show in 20 minutes…)

….

In contrast to that, this job seems entirely safe.

I meet the artist at his home–he lives relatively close to me–and when I step in, I remember how much I love going to creative people’s houses. There’s just such a nice vibe from the art supplies and the finished works and the half finished works lounging around and you immediately get the American Beauty glow–that says everything is going to be ok. (You know, vis-a-vis life in general.)

It is a little weird to get naked in the room of a person you are not going to have sex with, but it stops being weird after about three seconds. I get into the first pose and we chat a bit about art–I like the stuff I see in his room–several large paintings (for paintings, I am a size queen… it’s what I like about Hazel’s stuff too, that she does large. =) He starts sketching and I remember how meditative it is to sit for someone–your body gets hard outside, and soft inside (this lets you not move while avoiding a cramp) and your mind detaches. We do a few short poses, then we have a coffee break (!!) and then a longer pose.

He asks me delicately how long I can stay in one place in my condition and I figure half an hour should be alright, provided I’m laying down…Once I recline though, prayer must begin. (That I don’t have to fart or start lactating–) One bad thing about pregnancy is that you become a complete slave to your body. Besides requiring a lot more food, sleep, peeing and screwing than normal, you start leaking substances. Most of the times, it’s not in your control.

Thank god, there is no leakage. I am laying on my right side though, and (–) gets a little picky about that sometimes. He starts to kick me in the ribs. Luckily, we have telepathic communication:

“Hey. I can’t move right now for at least 20 minutes. So knock twice if I’m squishing your head or your balls–otherwise pipe down.”

He pipes down. (Or she!)

W finishes the pose and we set up another appointment, which is good. I guess it means we clicked– I like him already and I’m glad he seems interested in working with me further. He even suggests a sitting with the baby once it’s born and I think booyaka! (–) will start his exposure to art in infancy.

This sitting has also reminded me of the  portrait I’ve been wanting to do for ages. It involves a Slavic boy (boy is a very loose age here, spanning 20 to 35), sitting in nothing but underwear and a parka, eating a bowl of cereal. (I love parkas.) If this description fits you (the Slavic- looking being the most important, the other items I can provide) and you’re willing to work for coffee, cookies and some money, drop me a line. (The medium would be charcoal. I’m not a pervert, I swear. Or not more than the average person, anyway >:P And right now, I move very slowly. So you can run away with ease.)

Incidentally, if you’re an artist living in Munich who needs a pregnant figure model–I also work for coffee and some money (cookies are welcome too).. and my rates are quite reasonable. ^-^

Let’s Save ‘Everyday’, Every Day

Maybe you’ve noticed, and maybe you haven’t, but a cruel, subversive subgroup of English speakers are trying to change the phrase “every day” to “everyday.” I don’t know what their nefarious motives are. It could be innocent ignorance. It could be they just don’t want to add that space anymore. They figure, if they added up all the half-seconds from NOT hitting the space bar when they typed ‘every day’ over the course of their entire lives, they might gain an extra nine minutes to watch “Top Speed” and eat chicken nuggets in their eighties. It’s a sweet plan, but unfortunately…

“Everyday” has a meaning too. Its an adjective that means “ordinary.” An everyday occurrence. Perhaps it also happens EVERY DAY, but it need not.

Now, I thought the last public and gross misuse of this phrase was generated by Coke’s mineral water offshoot, Dasani, with their slogan “Treat yourself well. Everyday.” (Then again, what can you expect from a company that started its UK  bottled water marketing campaign under the slogan “Bottled spunk.”???*    *(Apparently, it was only after posters had been distributed and bells and whistles sounded that someone meekly pointed out that ‘spunk’ was a slang term for ‘semen’ in the UK. …Uhm. … In the entire English speaking world, so far as I know…. ahahahaha.)

So anyway, I thought Dasani was the last major offender. But this misuse crops up again. And again. And again. Most recently in the letterhead of my husband’s software company. I won’t name names, but it’s an international company and the slogan was something to the effect of “Treating our customers right. Everyday.”

…..
…..

Knowing my personal hatred of this particular use, he couldn’t resist telling me about it nor of what ensued: When he wrote an email back and in an aside, discreetly tried to point out that this was a misuse of the word, the president wrote back something to the effect of, well, this is what the team is working with at the time being, and I thought–

Dude. It’s wrong. It’s just as wrong as if it had said: Treating our customIrs right, everyday. Be HAPPY that someone pointed this out and then just change it! But with everyday/every day, people have this tendency to not believe you. Like you’re trying to force them to put in a superfluous space for no good reason. They hem and
haw and mumble into their lapels and talk about customers preferring the ‘alternate’ spelling and all kinds of happy horse shit.

If you’re a marketing guy or girl and you’re debating on using the trusty “Blah blah blah. Every day,” template, please!!!!! Have mercy on us! And if you DO get caught with your pants down, try to take it with grace–not like this:

One of my favorite exchanges of all time, between grammar conscious David Armstrong and Coca Cola. Read all four letters for maximum grammar hilarity!!

Ciaociao =)

Food Porn #1

This will be the first in a series of food porn (a subject near and dear to my heart.)

Look at that waffle. He just lay there and took it….
To eat this deliciousness specifically, you will have to find the cafe called ‘Australian’. They have one in Amsterdam (and eating a waffle of this nature while you’re insanely high may be one of life’s greatest pleasures… Almost as good as
biting into a chocolate cupcake right when you’re about to come. To my delight,
I discovered an ‘Australian’ much closer to our neck of the woods, up
in Nurnberg.

Otherwise– To anyone following the Ice-T case in Hungary with breath
that is bated >:P– the man and his music has been freed! Charges against
Tilos radio have been dropped when it was abruptly decided that the
English lyrics not cause moral-warpification of (not really existent)
younger listeners.

To anyone following the Hungarian media law kerfuffle–
protest from at home and from abroad has Hungarian PM Victor Orban
considering a reversal, though he and supporters of the law insist
it is not much different from other media laws in the EU and safely
within EU guidelines

 

A Small Step Back for Ice-T…

A huge blow for democracy.

I’ve been wondering for years now what the hell Hungary is doing in the EU. (Ok, there are a few other countries I’ve been wondering about too, but…) Not that I should wonder TOO hard–if this gross oversight by the Euro angels hadn’t been made in 2004, I would not have valid papers to live in this here cushy Munich. But I’m not sure I can justify EU citizenship at the expense of the entire European Union sliding downhill.

Even I am not that selfish.

In the year of the Euro crisis, a few times I’ve torn my hair and screamed into my pillow with only God listening: “What were they thinking when they let Hungary in?!” You know. THEY.

But now it’s 2011 and I finally see the error of my ways:

I was wrong European Union, and you were right.

Hungary isn’t just a fucked-up little post-Eastern-bloc prosti with good sausages and chicks with tight butts. It is a country dedicated to shielding its youth from the utter vulgarity that gushes from the American rapper Ice-T. And that is a trend all countries, demo and despo alike, can seek to emulate.

Will Hungary take away the rights of free speech from its ordinary citizens to carry out this
holy and little understood mission?

Hell yes. Because unlike other free nations, they do not make the mistake of underestimating the lyrics of this man. (not to be confused for the even more incendiary lyrics of a certain Hot-T). From the song 99 Problems: I’ve got a ho from the East, got a ho from the West. Got a ho that likes to jack it off and rub it in her chest.

Filthy, filthy, filthy.This is not the kind of stuff prim Magyar youths should be listening to. Which is probably why Mr. Orban Victor, current PM of Hungary and leader of ruling parliamentary party FIDESZ kicked off 2011 by passing a very vague, splashy 180 page law allowing for the censorship of virtually all media, even those residing in the shadowy hallows of the internetS. (ALL of them.) And because I am naive and trusting of my fellow man, I imagine this move must be to stop Ice-T and his brethren.

It can’t be, ex-foreign minister Jeszensky reassures us in an interview with Spero News, a move towards political censorship and general despotism. (Hear, hear! What POSSIBLE interest could Mr. Orban have in possessing total control over his oppositions’ expressions and squelching the amount of corruption revealed to the ‘good nep’ on the news and radio? The c-word? In Hungary?!)

What this new media law is, Jeszensky purrs, is a law to protect DECENCY.

The first to feel the lash of censorship was the Hungarian radio station Tilos (Banned), for airing an Ice-T song back in September 2010. Understandably. The song has the word ‘ass’ in it and was thus deemed unfit for under-16 ears, though it makes me wonder if Orban was schooled out of the country…. or whose tender sensibilities he is protecting exactly. Oddly, no Hungarian youth I’ve ever encountered, say over the age of ten, would have a problem of telling me to go get impaled on my good-grandpa’s dick. Or to crawl back into my mama’s c***. I bet Hungarian kids learn the word ‘ass’ right after ‘mama’ and ‘weewee’.
(I know I did…*)

*lie

And the angle that this is a move to control ever-increasing anti-Semitic/anti-Roma rhetoric in popular media is simply laughable. If you stopped Hungarians from bashing gypsies… … what would they even have to DO? I mean. Really? That is a national pastime. …It would be like taking away the French from the rest of us. Orban knows this. FIDESZ knows this.

So the only logical conclusion is: now that Hungary has perfected pre-stained underwear (ahaha, I was buying a pack of underwear last year in Hungary and I joke you not, a SEALED package of three came with a stain already, on the crotch–only back home)… So now, that they’ve dominated all competitors in the pre-stained underwear industry, they figured they had bigger fish to fry. And their hungry little eyes just happened to fall on Ice-T. Poor bastard.

Or: My poor ex-home-country really continues to get raped side-ways by a bunch of corrupt, power-hungry a-holes.  Ahhh, I don’t know what’s the truth anymore!!!!

Trapped in the Closet

I drew this screwy little pic while I was at Hazel’s. It’s called “Trapped in the Closet Dollhouse.” Inspired by Vogue magazine, J-bert wearing these crazy glasses and r. kelly.

Everyone sing along now….

“So I was just standing there…
Tom Cruise… he locks himself in the closet…
then… John Travolta comes and he… locks himself in the closet too-oo.
Nobody’s got no answers…
So then I pull out my GUN! ( oh lord, there he goes with the gun again.)

One, I’m gonna cap this ho-o.
Two, I’m gonna shoot some bi-itch…

Sell Me German

Sketch of Boy Reading Rilke in German and Enjoying It Immensely

What’s good, people?

It’s a new year and I have but one fervent plea:

Help. Me. Love. German.

Are you a German? Have you ever seen a German? Have you ever had the sweet tang of sauerkraut dissolve on your tongue and felt at peace with yourself? Do you want to have an undead threesome with Goethe, Mann, and Nietzsche? …A bitter ale and a cool lager are hanging from a cliff–would the ale get it? Have you ever felt your hackles rise subtly or dramatically when some troglodyte  around you described the Germanic language with terms that included “guttural,” “unpleasant,” “commanding,” “Nazi-ish,” or “sounding like retarded English”?

Now is your time to come forward. You can make a difference!

I am a citizen of Munich, Bavaria, Germany. I have been enjoying the wonderful dollhouseclean streets here, the U-bahns purring effortlessly, whisking me all around, the socialist medicine, and the wide-haunched Bavarian boys in bum-enveloping embroidered leather shorts for five long years now. You know those immigrants who piss you off back
home, who came over to enjoy the apple pie and the Uncle Sam, but never bothered to learn how to speak English? Yeah, that’s me. An ocean over.

Oh sure, I can mumble out an “Ich hatte gern ein….” (I’d like a….). Or a “Wo ist die….” (Where is the….?). I can have a primitive conversation aided by alcohol and gestures, and I’ve added a few vocab words over the years to spice up these conversations when normal vocab fails me. I may not know the word for “government,” but I can substitute a close enough concept–”punitive rape” Straffvergewaltigung.

Still, a few exotic words do not a German speaker make. My excuses for why not are wide ranging and creative. They have evolved over the years, with subtle modifications that make me start to believe in intelligent design. Simple to ever more complex– “I don’t have time” (which, once upon a time was true) has transformed into “I don’t have contact with Germans” (which is also sort of true, but it’s become a self-imposed exile all in the name of avoiding the language! A self-fulfilling prophecy!) Ending at the most spectacular–Well, at least now I can save precious years in my lifespan by not raising my blood pressure vis-a-vis reading the papers and hearing the idiotic crap on the news.

A new year is here though, and new years have this knack of making you look down, deep down into the fuzz of your belly button. The real window to the soul. Actually, by now, my belly button has become so corrupted, that it’s turned inside out. And there, in that tiny space resembling a fleshy turkey timer, I was shocked to read the real reason for why I still cannot communicate with the Bavarian natives.

“Madame,” the miniature writing on my belly-button flesh said to me, “you are an asshole.

You are a lazy asshole.”

And I had to concede that this was true. I don’t speak German because I tell myself that I’m better than it. I tell myself the language is not worthy of my time and sweat. If you, reader, speak more than one language, you may agree with me that the relationships we have with our languages are like those we have with men (or women, or pies or whatever you like). You have the ones that you love, and the old flames, and the childhood friends, and the cheating bastards you never got over. German and I–a few times a month, we come together, when I need him, but I never open my eyes. German’s like: Hey, why do you have to be like that with me? I shoe-gaze, feel guilty, make desperate promises I can’t keep. I set dates with German, but he ends up waiting at the coffee shop with two wilting cappuccinos, because I don’t have the decency even to call and cancel. In the end though, he’s done nothing.

IT’S NOT YOU, GERMAN, IT’S ME!

So, if you’re reading this and you want to bring another German lover into the ranks,
help me! Sell me the good points. Tell me your favorite German words. Respond to me in German–or tell me to get off my lazy ass. Start studying, moof, and stop being That Guy!

You know. That Immigrant Guy.

****************************************

In other news: — is getting huge. This is the month we have to turn our bachelor pad into a place where a kid can spend his (her) first year and not be scarred for life. (Literally… we have these… piles of books. If the kid ever pulls one down on his head, he’s going to be buried in an avalanche of David LaChappelle and the manga “Pride.” And those LaChappelle books are HEAVY!) We also have to paint our room colors. Right now, the colors are white, with scuffs of gray, adorned with nothing but a sad, curling CK One ad ripped out of a Vogue, with a topless model getting doused in CK One and loving it.

J-bert and Dr. Fail are going to help.