Here’s to modern medicine

First, Listen at work. Listen at home. I wish I could listen in the car. This shit is The Funk, y’all. It’s spring here in northern California, or close to it. How can you tell? Well, there are some signs. The cherry trees are in bloom. We’re having freak storms and torrential downpours, or […]

First, Listen at work. Listen at home. I wish I could listen in the car.

This shit is The Funk, y’all.

It’s spring here in northern California, or close to it.

How can you tell?

Well, there are some signs. The cherry trees are in bloom. We’re having freak storms and torrential downpours, or were yesterday.

And my allergies just turned into a sinus infection and bronchitis. Weee.

My regular doctor – who I could talk about for a while, the man’s a character – is out of town with no warning again. So I’m forced to go to the local auxiliary doctor at the walk-in joint.

Now, this man’s an ok doctor. And he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the sorts of strange infections one can get in the tropics from his time as an army doctor. Only, we’re not in the tropics, we’re in northern California. So I’m forced to tell HIM what my diagnosis is, and tell him what to prescribe for it. Which makes sense considering my years of medical training – wait, months – wait, wee… Oh, wait, my fuck-all medical training. But doctor-baby, I know bronchitis and sinusitis when I have it. Trust me.

So then while he’s prescribing some cocktail of new allergy meds (Hell, I’m the illegitimate child of Raoul Duke, I’m not afraid to try untested chemicals. Can I have some ether and amyls with that?), I wind up giving *him* advice on his home central heating. Hello? Not a contractor! Not a heating expert! Software engineer here. What the *fuck* do I know about central heating, other than that my heater was, until recently, Chock Full o’ Rats.

So here’s my question. I did the diagnosis. And I consulted on his home environment maintenance needs. He listened to my heart and took my temperature and blood pressure (And I could have told him what he’d find).

Aren’t we even now? All he had to do was write a scrip.

So why do I owe him a c-note for this?

Mystery to me, I tell ‘ya. How do I get a gig like this?

So if you have not already signed up for, tell me and I’ll send you an invite. It’s stupid, I have to warn you up front, but it’s also sort of entertaining; it’s akin to friendster. Here is an article about it. How can you not – um – have an opinion on the phrase “Social Networking Service”?

Ok, so I just started reading this book (while I’m in between HST books). And – well – I’m rendered speechless.

Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow.

Two pages in, and I was left with my mouth hanging open, stunned to the point where I had to stop reading. This man is my new writing hero.

If this book goes on as great as the first five or six pages – well, let’s just hope.

I’ve read him before – his first book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was clever as hell but suffered a little bit (IMO) from having too many clever ideas fighting for space in one small book. Still, it’s a terrific read, particularly if you’re a big ‘ol freak for Disney like I am.

But this book – at least the start of it – is an order of magnitude more mature in terms of the writing. This is the sort of writer I always want to emulate.

I read a lot of great big fantasy bricks and multi-book series. And some really damned great writers turn out stuff like that; GRR Martin, GG Kay, JL Burke, Bujold, Cherryh. Lots of people. And I like their work and their skill and their craft. BUt when I read a writer and say – That’s it, that’s what I want to do, how I want to write, it’s always one of the short and tight and concise, no-words-wasted sort of writers. That’s what I aim for when I write fiction. Thus when I run across some piece of writing like the excerpt below, I am impressed and envious and inspired to go get back to those stories I have sitting unfinished.

I include an excerpt here for one reason – Cory has this available for free download from his site. If you want it, tell me, but you HAVE to follow his rules.
I’m not posting a direct link to his download site but it’s not hard to find. What I *will* post is a link to buy this thing, because if you’re going to read his work, you should pay the man his hunk o’ change IMO.

That said, here’s the excerpt. This is the beginning of the book.

(Wait – I kid you not, auxiliary doctor-man just *called me* to ask me more heating questions. I swear, he’s going to have to pay my in blanl perscription pads or a big ‘scrip for versed or something. C’mon, doc, throw down!)

I once had a Tai Chi instructor who explained the difference between Chinese and Western medicine thus: “Western medicine is based on corpses, things that you discover by cutting up dead bodies and pulling them apart. Chinese medicine is based on living flesh, things observed from vital, moving humans.”

The explanation, like all good propaganda, is stirring and stilted, and not particularly accurate, and gummy as the hook from a top-40 song, sticky in your mind in the sleep-deprived noontime when the world takes on a hallucinatory hypperreal clarity. Like now as I sit here in my underwear on the roof of a sanatorium in the back woods off Route 128, far enough from the perpetual construction of Boston that it’s merely a cloud of dust like a herd of distant buffalo charging the plains. Like now as I sit here with a pencil up my nose, thinking about homebrew lobotomies and wouldn’t it be nice if I gave myself one.

Deep breath.

The difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine is the dissection versus the observation of the thing in motion. The difference between reading a story and studying a story is the difference between living the story and killing the story and looking at its guts.

School! We sat in English class and we dissected the stories that I’d escaped into, laid open their abdomens and tagged their organs, covered their genitals with polite sterile drapes, recorded dutiful notes en masse that told us what the story was about, but never what the story was. Stories are propaganda, virii that slide past your critical immune system and insert themselves directly into your emotions. Kill them and cut them open and they’re as naked as a nightclub in daylight.

The theme. The first step in dissecting a story is euthanizing it: “What is the theme of this story?”

Go buy it, ok?

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