Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Black Snake Down... the Colonoscopy Diaries

The issue of colonoscopy, and men's health-screening in general, is clouded by false bravado, a macho "she'll be right, mate" attitude, and good old-fashioned embarrassment. Guilty as charged, Your Honour...

So it was with major reluctance that I finally bit the bullet after extensive hassling by my medical mates, and signed up for a routine colonoscopy. In my job, I diagnose bowel cancers with fairly high regularity in otherwise healthy people with completely unrelated complaints- around once a week. A typical scenario would be someone complaining of abdominal pain after an injury, perhaps a road accident, where an advanced tumour is picked up on a CT scan, completely unrelated to their presenting symptoms. With the benefit of this insight, and the knowledge that a small curable tumour is readily detected by colonoscopy (aka: The Black Snake- industry jargon for the colonoscope- a petit 1.5 metre flexible telescope), and these can be removed easily and curatively by the gastroenterologist during the procedure.

Snakes... why'd it have to be snakes?
Being on the business end of healthcare is new to me, and due to the somewhat taboo nature of the subject matter- not exactly a hot topic at cocktail parties- and its importance in early cancer prevention, I decided to keep a log of my experiences on the business end of the black divining rod.

C-Day Minus 1 : Flushing Meadows

8am: The Last Supper. Im allowed a slice of toast before switching to the requisite 24 hrs of clear fluids. Feeling confident... this will be a walk in the park. 

10am: Time for the first load of prep fluid... a litre of lukewarm salty stuff... reminds me vaguely of swallowing seawater after a nasty surfing wipeout... although not quite as satisfying...

12 midday: Lunchtime. Im now 2 litres deep in gatorade and various other fluids, but hunger is starting to niggle. Decided to tuck into lunch early- an orange Chuppa Chup. Really hits the spot. For 10 mins or so... 

2pm: i don't do hypoglycaemia well. My train of thought is becoming a little cloudy. I apologise to my partner for my vagueness, stupidity and inability to concentrate. She says she hadn't noticed any change in me...

3pm: Text message from a friend offering to bring round a box of Krispy Kremes. Salt into the wound... very cruel. I consider reporting it to the RSPCA, but instead opt to scoff half a litre of gatorade...

4pm: Cancelled my afternoon's activities... brain function minimal and fading rapidly... this calls for couch vegetation, Jaws movies, and a few litres of Pump water.

Rolf Harris never missed a gastroenterology appointment...

4.15pm: But seriously... I would inhale a box of Krispy Kremes right now...

6pm: The icing on the cake... the Imperial Grand Poobah... the gravy on the meatballs... an oversize litre jug of lemon intestinal lavage. This shit is almost starting to grow on me. The latrine has become like an old friend.

8pm: Lining up some scary movies... I figure if i scare the crap out of my girlfriend, it'll put us on a level playing field...

C-Day : Up, Periscope

6am: Feeling a little drained after a night spent catching up on my bathroom Rolling Stone mag collection, which I can now recite backwards on demand.

7am: The theatre staff are super-friendly and feign amusement at my unoriginal gags- "Be gentle, it's my first time..." and "Will you still respect me tomorrow?" 

Spanish Pole-dancing, coming soon to a club near you...

7.10am: I find myself kitted up in a pair of smouldering-hot disposable paper jocks, a green hairpiece and a Hugh Hefner bathrobe. Dressed to kill... I enquire if their fashion package comes with a Cuban cigar opton. I'm disappointed to learn that's not the case, nor do they offer an online shopping facility for their undergarment range. I make a mental note of this as-yet untapped fashion goldmine.

7.15am: The theatre nurses, despite their obvious amusement at my newfound flair for see-through disposable fashion, are very professional. My anaesthetist, an old acquaintance, offers me a choice of potent narcotic cocktails- 'The Cruiser', 'The Executive', or 'The Sledgehammer'? The bar is open, kids... I choose option C, without hesitation. A wise choice, she assures me as she puts in my IV.

8.30am: My next memory is reclining in a Gold Class recliner chair in recovery, smashing down a tray of sandwiches, cappuccinos and chocolate bars like a Guantanamo Bay hunger-striker. I have zero recollection of the procedure and no after-effects or discomfort whatsoever other than the feeling of having shotted a few tequilas. 

Turn The Other Cheek...

So there it is. My motive for enlightening you with my personal Black Snake Saga is really to illustrate that, as a bloke and a doctor, routine screening colonoscopy shouldn't be avoided out of overblown bloke-ish pride or machismo... talk to your doc about it. The experience overall is a walk in the park, and colonoscopy is a test that can save your life by early detection of small, curable cancers.

Bottoms Up!

Sir... according to the State of New York, you are the Assman....

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Success and The Dumbing-Down Syndrome

Welcome to the Dumbing Down...

Once apon a time, in a far-away land of sugar gum-drop fairies and purple unicorns, there was a very different way of thinking about education. The people of this mythical land believed that to get ahead in life, you had to learn shit. All kinds of weird shit... stuff  like spelling, grammar, post-graduate study and degrees. They believed in a philosophy that Knowledge is Power. And they respected those with knowledge, because they understood that the Knowledgeable could use that power to help them get ahead... to grow... to heal... to advance their position in life and achieve a better living standard... When the Knowledgeable gave them advice... they listened and respected it.

In the Here and Now World of 2013, though, there is a rising and very different set of values, especially in the Land Down Under. Knowledge and education have taken a back-seat to ego, materialism, cosmeticism, steroids and swag. This cocktail of attention-seeking attributes is pushing old-school hard yakka, intelligence and work ethic onto the back-burner as desirable traits for success (at least at face value). This revolution of attitudes has emerged rapidly over the past 3-5 years, most radically in Australia, and nowhere more so than the Jewel in the Dumbing-Down Crown... the Gold Coast.

I Like it a lot...

What the hell is going on? Why the quantum shift in attitudes in just a few short years? 

The answer is complex, but can basically be put down to a shrinking world in the forms of Google-isation and Social Media, fused with the good old-fashioned Aussie Knocker's Syndrome, the mainstreaming of cosmetic surgery and ready availability of performance-enhancing drugs to the punter on the street.

Google-isation is Coming...

Google-isation is at once a blessing and a curse. At no point in human history has so much information been available to so many with such ease. The problem, though, is a lot of that information is basically horse-shit. And a lot of what is posted out there is driven by individuals' personal agendas. Let's say, for example, I had a bug up my ass about a particular health issue... let's suppose my Uncle Herb died of a complication during a routine colonoscopy, generally considered a safe procedure 99% of the time, but with a rare incidence of death in 1/10,000 cases. The thing is, though, old Herb was having this test done in the first place to look for a bowel cancer which might have killed him if not detected early, so for every 100 tests, maybe 2-3 lives are actually saved. So the pros clearly outweigh the cons here.

The Gospel According to Herb's Ass...

But let's say my mythical Uncie Herb was a very close relative, and now I've got a serious bug up my ass (pun intended) over this issue. So I make like a keyboard warrior and start a Facebook page calling for the banning of this shocking life-threatening medical procedure.... most punters have no idea about colonoscopy other than what they read on my page, so they "Like" it, share it, and maybe have a little ignorant tantrum about it on their own page. And so it goes on... and pretty soon we have half-a-million misinformed social media sheep spreading the Gospel According to Herb's Ass.  Next thing you know, you have a few politicians who's medical education extends no further than Grade 9 frog dissection, hopping on the bandwagon and blowing the Trumpet of Herb's Ass in federal parliament calling for a ban.

Sound ridiculous? Moronic? Inconceivable?

Think again... right now there are a myriad of moronic social media campaigns threatening to impact on everyday healthcare.... most notably the ludicrous anti- Fluoride and anti- Vaccine campaigns, based on irrational and unscientific hysteria... with little or no regard for good old-fashioned balanced scientific assessment.

Knock 'Em Down...

Aussies love to take the piss out of anyone they perceive as more successful than themselves. Don't ask me why- maybe it stems back to deepseated convict issues, or maybe it's a symptom of getting smashed by the All Blacks so frequently. I have no idea. But what is clear is that if you stick your neck out in the form of flexing your brain muscle in this country... it will end up in a basket, Marie Antoinette-style. 

Spelling... grammar... gratuitous use of facts... these are the cardinal sins of Social Media and should be avoided at all costs in the interest of conformism, and will be treated with contempt at best... abuse at worst. Boobs, biceps, bullshit and bling are the keys to the Digital City, and will be rewarded with accolades from your new legion of fans- for those who conform. The new currency is Mass Validation on Social Media, and this has changed the way many people behave in the real world. Dumbing Down is now playing on a Social Media App near you...

Mass Social Media Validation vs Real-World Success

As a business owner, the cold hard reality, unfortunately for those who relentlessly pursue digital-world success, is that "success" in the Social Media world DOES NOT translate into tangible success in the real world in any way, shape or form... the brutal but unspoken truth is that when applying for a real-world job, old-school values like education, respect, personal grooming, eye contact and articulation remain critical to success, just as they are in conducting successful business. Bling, boobs, biceps and 40,000 'Likes' count for nothing.

Living in a city that rewards bling and exhibitionism above intelligence, humour and respect can be quite isolating at times, but the trade-off is the unique coastal lifestyle.

I'm not naive... far from it.  Just a die-hard realist... ;)

Friday, 31 August 2012

The Power of Tribalism

The question on most Australian rugby fans' lips right now is... why the bloody hell can't we get our hands on that giant silver mug sitting on Richie McCaw's bedside table? Yeah you know, the one John Eales used to have...  a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. He was that tall guy who kept winning World Cups in the '90's. The guy who never raised an eyebrow, even in the wake of a good old-fashioned eye-gouging from the French forwards, because Ealesy knew that winners were grinners.

"If ooonly Harry was as well behaved as this charming South African chap..."

We haven't seen the elusive Bledisloe Cup on these shores for a decade. There are a thousand theories about why we can't win it... our forwards don't have the grunt up front... the backs don't have the composure and discipline when the heat cranks up in the pressure cooker of trans-Tasman rivalry... or the coach is actually a double-agent for his homeland of the Long White Cloud.

The traditional pre-match curry occasionally had lingering after-effects for the Wallabies...

But I have another theory.

The answer lies with another high-profile rep team with exactly the same problem. The long-suffering NSW State of Origin side. On paper they have some solid firepower... they've had a string of successful high-profile coaches... and they swear black and... well, blue... that they have the tenacity and passion to match it against the mad tribes of the North.

But the beauty of both codes, league and union alike, is that paperwork and words count for little when the adrenaline starts pumping, the hits get ferocious, and the sweat is rolling in golf-ball size droplets down your cheeks. Physically and athletically there's little between the sides. So the only remaining deciding factor becomes what's actually going on inside each individual's head.

What determines how a player's mind works? Some are born optimists, some are just hard-asses, but the majority are just like the rest of us. Self-confidence on game day is determined by player's training, their coach, team-mates and captain. But it's also ingrained into them by the crowd and the media. And this is the common advantage the All Blacks and the Queensland Maroons Origin sides have over their rivals... an unblinking died-in-the-wool support base who back them 100% regardless of what they do on or off the field. And a media base that avoids crucifying them for human errors or failure. Because their fans know that win or lose, their team was out there giving 200% for their home tribe.

"Rise and walk, my children..."

The Blues and Wallabies have a tough crowd to please. Small onfield errors are punished severely by the crowd and the media alike. At a recent Bledisloe match in Sydney, a dropped ball by Wallaby Kurtley Beale was met with boos and sarcastic jeers for the subsequent 30 minutes.... at his home stadium. What does that do to a player's psyche? He was sufficiently rattled that coach Deans had no choice but to drop him the following week.

Here's a free tip to long-suffering Blues and Wallaby supporters alike... a little positive reinforcement goes a long way, especially on game day when the stakes are high and player confidence decides the final scoreline. Ask any All Black or Maroons player...

Monday, 30 July 2012

Evolution of the Next Music Revolution

Hardship is a powerful catalyst for change. When the chips are down, governments are failing and hip-pocket nerves are raw, a rising undercurrent of musical angst invariably follows. And when the banks of that river of discontent burst and overflow into the mainstream airwaves, you have yourself a music revolution. The cycle of social unrest reflected in a wave of musical angst has revolved for 5 decades, and in 2012 the planets of financial pain and social discontent are lining up once more. Change is a'-comin'...

Some of the most enduring and game-changing music of the past 50 years was borne from the roots of global economic downturn or war. The hugely unpopular Vietnam War, under the guiding hand of an even more despised President Nixon, spawned a decade of protest songs that changed the shape of music. The blissful naivety of the '60's 'Hard Day's Night' era gave way to a new wave of angst and biting lyrical cynicism moving into the '70's, the likes of which had not been seen before, in the shape of Dylan-esque epics like 'All Along the Watchtower', rip-roaring Hendrix riffs of anti-Americanism, and a second-wave of mid-'70's protest prodigies, the likes of Springsteen and Don Walker (the reclusive, brooding and largely unheralded genius behind Cold Chisel).

Yeah, we get it, Bob.  More or less...
The '80's saw a rebirth of disco-infused optimism and synthesized bubblegum pop commercialism dominating the airwaves in the wake of a new global economic boom. But when the ass fell out of Wall Street in '87, suddenly there were stockbrokers base-jumping from skyscrapers without parachutes. Devastating financial aftershocks rippled across the world, squeezing suburban hip pockets for another 5-7 years. Jobs were hard to come by and interest rates spiralled. For the jobless and the struggling, 'I Should Be So Lucky' just didn't ring true anymore... luck was hard to come by. Clean-living, pink shirts and pointy shoes gave way to drugs, faded flannelettes and grimy beanies. Big-haired lycra-clad '80's glam-rockers the likes of Poison and Motley Crue became an urban joke. The kids wanted some gritty reality in their music that reflected the harsh realities of life. 

When three struggling young underground punks from Washington DC calling themselves Nirvana signed a deal for a second album in '91 with rising Seattle label Geffen, that wish was squarely delivered. The raw and biting anti-pop punk-rock masterpiece 'Nevermind' gave the world a much-needed shot in the arm of gritty angst. Cobain and his crew spearheaded a new urban assault against superficiality, commercialism and authority, symbolically knocking Michael Jackson from the Billboard number 1 spot, and unleashing the grunge revolution. Nirvana's meteoric and sweeping global conquest took the industry by storm and forced the corporate puppet-masters to rethink the face of music, opening the floodgates for a legion of emerging underground hard-rock talent who gave the metaphorical finger to mainstream pop- the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains.

Moisture is the essence of wetness... 

Down under, a bunch of unknown 14-year-old kids from Newcastle, originally known as The Innocent Criminals, and later adopting the alternate tag Silverchair (derived from Nirvana's 'Sliver' mis-spelled, and You Am I's 'Berlin Chair'), released a gritty little garage-tinged EP which doubled as a school music assignment, which went ballistic on a global scale on the back of their debut single 'Tomorrow'.

Pop once more faded into irrelevance, unceremoniously brushed aside by the global bulldozer that was the grunge revolution.

As economies gradually rebuilt from the ashes of the '87 crash, the rising breed of Gen X-ers found they had more green lining their pockets, and less to complain about coming into the new millenium. Cobain had long-since become a victim of his own anti-everything. Suddenly their little sisters were jumping about on the couch in tube skirts and red wigs to the sounds of a group of lip-synching Poms, aka the Spice Girls, a manufactured product of the re-invigorated corporate world. The global boom was kicking into full swing, the punters' bank accounts were swelling, and plasma TV's appeared in every living room. Optimism was back with a vengeance, and along with it, the return of pop.

As the fortunes of the guy on the street grew, it now seemed OK when synthetic iTunes popstars crooned shamelessly about the size of their own bloated wallets, gloated over their stable of Mercedes, their diamonds, their bling and perfect lives. The kids lapped it up! Why? Because this was their destiny in the new millenium. Bling-pop connected with the rising belief amongst GenY-ers that every kid was destined for fortune, fame or both.

But the only certainty in this world is change. And just as it had done every 20 years or so for half a century, change arrived like a tsunami in '07 in the form of a titanic Wall Street correction, spawned by the very same taking-success-for-granted attitude that had become an endemic theme in commercial pop music and living rooms around the world. The aftershocks of the GFC continue to ripple globally, and pundits predict a much slower recovery than in '87, perhaps another 5 years (and probably far longer for the likes of Greece and Spain).

Whilst many punters have been insulated from the full impact of the GFC thus far, as time goes by and the ripples continue to spread, that insulation is likely to be eroded. And as unemployment inevitably grows and hip-pocket pain starts to grate over the coming years, a change in attitude in music, and a re-emergence of angst and protest in mainstream airwaves is on the cards. What form that change takes remains to be seen... a re-emergence of angsty pop-punk? A new wave of gritty industrial electronica? Or a re-awakening of informed and cynical hard-rock?

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Killer:  The Early Years

Whatever shape it may take- change, she is a'-comin'...

Viva La Revolution!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Decade Originality Forgot...

Forget what Seal, Benji Madden or the 12 year old girl next door are saying.... when history judges the past decade in music, we won't be using the words "inspirational", "originality" or "thought-provoking". No, you'll more likely be hearing terms like "global corporatisation", "sell-outs", "legalised plagiarism" and "mind-numbing". True, bigname commercial artists have been recycling covers and stealing basslines since Bob Dylan mastered his 3rd chord, just ask the likes of Bryan Ferry, Mick Jagger and Don Walker. But the noughties has seen ripping off (or is the politically correct term 'borrowing'?) old stuff grow from around 2% in the eighties, to around 20% in 2012.

So what's happened to originality in the 21st century? Simple really... recycling a catchy old song to a GarageBand dance-loop is a commercial no-brainer for the corporate music-world. And let's face it, most 10 year olds with a Mac are more-than-adequately qualified to knock a mutant hit single together... they just lack the $10 mill marketing budget, global sales network and steroid-enhanced physique to make it a commercial success. Maybe that's where YouTube comes in... bypassing the corporate fatcats to bring real musicians to slightly more discerning listeners. Im no Lily Allen fan, but kudos to her and the many others who have bypassed the rigid and often brutal corporate pathway, riding on the back of raw talent (is it legal to use the 't' word on the internet?) alone.

Wally 'Gotye' de Backer- breaking the mould... we got-yer back, Wal'...
Yes, the range of commercial music made available to the punters has always been influenced heavily by the corporate Men In Black (speaking of rip-offs... a flick about 2 dudes sporting cool shades and sharp black suits who make shit happen... Blues Brothers anyone? But I digress...), but this has risen to new levels. There are obvious examples of talented musos who have succeeded in recent years despite the corporate cancer, and none more so than Wally de Backer (aka Gotye), who has cracked the iron nut on a global scale, and kudos to you Wal'. But without taking anything away from him, in the '80s there were 5 new Gotye's cropping up every week. Already you can hear the dubbed Mac version of his mega-hit in a club near you, and no doubt Wally's original masterpiece will continue to be dissected and cloned for decades to come. It's even money that the greatest rip-off merchants of our time, The Black-Eyed Peas, are working on a mutant rap version as we speak.... perhaps entitled "Somebody's Bitch I Used To Know"?

Don't be brainwashed by the multinational music corporate 'Men In Black'...

5 symptoms of a decaying music industry that personally give me the shits, and should strike fear into the hearts of anyone learning a musical instrument:

 1. Synthetic Reality TV Pop-stars.

 2. The rise of the "f/-" single. (eg: Justin Bieber f/- Mariah Carey) (lets be honest, there's a strong case for pedophilia charges there). The "f/-" is corporate music's rising and extremely unsubtle cross-promo marketing strategy... and in most cases has absolutely no bearing on a true collaboration of mutual inspiraton by likeminded artists. At last count, around 25% of current Top 40 content are "f/-" singles.

 3. The rise and rise of recycled '80's hits, or parts there-of...

4. The steep and steady decline of local Australian content in Top 40.

5. The slow death of live music. Or to be more specific... live music performed without a Mac...

Don't be part of the problem and dine exclusively on the narrow menu of Big Mac music served up to you by commercial radio, HMV and the Big 4 Global Music Corporations. Look further afield. There is an untapped goldmine of  talented independent artists out there who need your support to pay the rent.

Go get 'em.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Prometheus Riddle

OK, I'm just going to come right out and say it.... Ridley Scott, we're not worthy!!  That was quite cathartic, thanks for indulging me. But let's face it, Scott is god's gift to popcorn sales... or in my case, Snakes and Slurpees. For likeminded sugar junkies, a free tip that'll change your life... when you're laying down your layers of frozen coke/blueberry/red stuff... if you're not doing the Slurpee Shakedown, you're wasting your time and money. Pour a layer... slam it down... layer... slam... any other technique amounts to pouring yourself half an oversize cup of greenhouse gases. Thank me later.

But I digress from the Riddler thread. With a back-catalogue boasting the likes of Alien, Gladiator, Blade Runner and Black Hawk Down, there's no disputing Scott's legend status amongst directorial royalty. And Prometheus earns itself a topshelf spot amongst his impressive archive. More cerebral and perhaps a little more soul-less than the original Alien flick, this outing asks more questions than it answers, leaving some gaping holes between its finale and the opening sequences of Alien. Like a 10 year old red, I found my first sip of Prometheus compelling but leaving me thirsty for more, but a second swig was far more satisfying.

Whilst the concepts of the origins of man are fleetingly interesting, as a closet Alien nerd what intrigued me more was the bridges between the two films. I walked out of the first viewing whining about the apparent flaws in Scott's own recollection of the opening sequences of his own sequel, but on a closer look it turns out the great man has just left a wider gap to insert a Prometheus sequel into. Yes, it turns out the two films are in fact set on different planets. Alien's mummified space jockey is no relation to Prometheus's albino steroid-junky with a bad attitude and a hole in his sternum. Rumour has it a sequel is on the cards possibly entitled 'Paradise', no doubt a reference to the pumped-up albino's home planet, where presumably Prometheus's heroin visits to recover from her dodgy Cesarian section.

The talk is that a Scott Blade Runner sequel is also in the pipeline. Awesome news, Ridley, but a Gladiator prequel is what we really want...

"Ever Done Time, Doc?"

Welcome to The Rusty Scalpel, my contribution to the betterment of mankind through my invaluable insight and one-eyed opinions on the things that REALLY matter in life... rock, blokes' films, sport (with a strong rugby flavour - league and union), and life. Being a doc, and a closet Chevy Chase fan, I thought it appropriate to kickstart this page with a classic Fletch one-liner, check out the link... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfzXpE0QB2U . Chevy is without question one of the funniest human beings ever to grace the earth with his piss-taking and razor-sharp wit, and the Fletch flicks were unquestionably the cream of the Chase crop. Yes, I hear you, the Vacations were right up there, (at least the first two), but the Chev was at his wise-assed peak as the irrepressible Irwin Fletcher. There has been loose talk for nearly 2 decades of a Fletch prequel ('Fletch Won') with Chase and Kevin Smith linked originally, and Matt Damon and Brad Pitt pencilled in the lead at various stages, but now on the Miramax backburner. (And without Chase, that's probably for the best).

On that note... here's the 10 funniest flicks of all-time...

1. The Wedding Crashers

3. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey 

4. Flying High

5. Fletch/Fletch Lives

6. Anchorman

7. The Naked Gun

9. Zoolander

10. Wayne's World

For maximum appreciation of the 'Bill and Ted' flicks, try the ultimate drinking game- "Dude Skulls"... from memory there are around 158 "Dude" quotes in the original Bill and Ted... although admittedly after the first 50, the records became a little hazy...

Till next time, kids...