The Devil’s Lettuce

A close look at demonic vegetation

I apologize for the brief hiatus. My absence wasn’t due to anything extravagant or glamorous, just quotidian tasks and responsibilities one is often mired in. I offer the following post in recompense.

Marijuana: it’s just a plant, right?

Yes, and so much more. But, I mean, where does one start with such a divisive herb? Marijuana (or cannabis) has such a rich history and is currently one of most hotly debated topics, particularly when it comes to recreational use. Proponents of marijuana often cite potential medicinal applications and its benign nature relative to alcohol and tobacco, while opponents decry it as a gateway drug which threatens to vitiate the moral fabric of society. Historically, intelligent and sober discussions about marijuana have generally been stifled by an oppressive stigmatization that has, in part, successfully equated marijuana with immorality, corruption, debauchery, and licentiousness. (Politicians claimed legalizing marijuana in Colorado would increase adolescent marijuana usage… so much for that, eh?) It’s this condemnation that led to stern legal prohibitions and a poverty of knowledge of marijuana’s true benefits.

In writing this post, I wanted to briefly touch upon the relationship marijuana has had in human history, as well as discuss the opposition to it, the medical research that has been conducted, and what the future holds for this herb. (I may decide to explore these topics more in-depth at a later time.)

This is my longest blog post to date. You have been warned.

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My Chosen Path

Destroying that which impedes the way

I’m giving the reader another biographical entry into the happenings of my life. Consider this an extension of my 2 a.m. gym session., with more intimate reflections and disclosures from the author.

Since my late-night gym session, I’ve encountered death in its various guises and succumbed to quasi-debilitating injuries, the vicissitudes of life that remind one how tenuous it all really is. Yet, I have survived and thankfully recovered. And I often ask myself whether I can still be motivated to improve my health and wellbeing. As I have said, motivation can be derived from rather unlikely places; in the aforementioned post, it was hatred.

Motivation can come in the form of inducements. Sometimes, it comes in the form of supportive gestures. I have also been moved to action by speeches given by people I admire, and by music lyrics that resonated with something deep inside. More recently, I require fierce pushes from a friend—to whom I am eternally indebted—to help me control my negligent eating habits and to have something resembling a consistent workout schedule. Alas, this lack of endogenous drive for self-betterment has inexorably had some startling health implications. Which leads me to the final motivator—or impetus to immediate action—I wish to talk about, the one that comes into sharp relief when in close proximity to oblivion.

My primary care physician has assured me that my intemperate attitude towards food and drink have threatened to undermine several organ systems, namely my kidneys and liver.

I undoubtedly lack some internal self-disciplinary mechanism that keeps normal individuals consistent and focused on reaching their goals. Perhaps I’m missing the requisite allele for proper portion control or my brain chemistry doesn’t permit prolonged commitments to self-improvement. (I tend to be highly motivated in three-week bursts, imposing strict dietary constraints on myself and adhering to an even more rigid gym attendance.) Maybe these are just more excuses, attempts to sidestep accepting full responsibility for my actions (or inactions). Until quite recently, I found myself coming up with all the predictable and stale responses to avoid working too hard, to avoid sweating too much, to avoid going too far out of my comfort zone. That shit requires energy… and fortitude and resilience and determination. Do I have any of those things?

As a result, I truly don’t know how far I can physically push myself before my meat carapace yields. I don’t know my true potential. After my doctor broke the news to me, entreating me to abandon my bacchanalian lifestyle before I reached the point of no return, I lapsed into a dreadful session of self-sabotaging thoughts. We all slip deep into the recesses of our consciousnesses to debate and fight ourselves and lament certain things we regret doing. Some of my thoughts are merciless salvos whose only victim is I; that’s how it was when I departed the doctor’s office. I focused on the imminent deterioration of my organs, the hardships I would have to endure, the complacency—and, frankly, the laziness—that had precipitated these circumstances.

And then I stopped.

My thoughts were betraying me, proceeding as though I had been defeated. The termites of self-destruction had dined long and well on my self-esteem. I was focusing on all the wrong things. During my most recent three-week burst (it was admittedly longer), my knee had sufficiently healed to make cardiovascular exercise a viable option. I have, at the behest of my friend, increased my walking speed and improved my times, noteworthy and tangible progress. (Isn’t that what we all want?) I even received an unsolicited compliment from a coworker who had noticed I was less voluminous. Some of my work had started to pay off!

More importantly, I realized my mind, despite its willingness to periodically drag me through cerebral hell, had developed a defense mechanism for pernicious trains of thought. Don’t worry, brain. Allow me to assist:

Fuck those self-sabotaging thoughts! And… those termites, too! 

I’m neither infirm nor in extremis (nor in close proximity to oblivion for that matter). I can reverse the abuse and damage done to my body. When I set out on the journey to improve my life, I acknowledged that setbacks were temporary. But I must be willing to accept the possibility of future injuries, of grueling workouts with overwhelming perspiration and excruciating diaphragmatic spasms as I gasp for air. I must visualize my goals and turn my words (and thoughts) into unstoppable determination. I have to do it, as I have been, for moi-même, to become the architect of my own fate. I’ve equipped myself with knowledge and I’ve approached myself—and the flaws requiring remediation—honestly. Now, more than ever, it’s time to act.

Quarantine Protocols and Civil Liberties

When mandatory isolation reeks of benevolent dictatorship.

As technology and globalized markets reach further into previously inaccessible regions, our world veritably shrinks and we risk exposure to exotic diseases. Sometimes, as is the case in recent years, the diseases of old return for an encore performance. I’m sure we all remember the recrudescence of Ebola in West Africa in 2014 and the concomitant fearmongering by public health officials here in the United States; Thomas Frieden, then-director of the CDC, compared the Ebola outbreak to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s. Yes! He seriously said that.

Foolish comments notwithstanding, let’s not be mistaken. Ebola—otherwise known as Ebola virus disease (EVD)—is extraordinarily deadly with, according to the World Health Organization, an average fatality rate of 50%. And Ebola isn’t the only wee-beastie out there. Indeed, many health agencies worldwide acknowledge a category of communicable diseases that don’t receive their due attention and thrive in tropical and subtropical climes—appropriately named neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)—causing considerable hardship to more than a billion people. That’s quite frightening, but as I adamantly maintain: fear is the one true contagion.

Many admirable healthcare workers and volunteers returned from relief efforts in West Africa only to be imprisoned in their homes for twenty-one days, the incubation period for EVD. This is a scandal.

I don’t know as many of my rights as I ought to and I suspect this is true for a lot of people, not just Americans. We are all familiar with legal buzzwords like “freedom of speech,” “human rights,” “due process,” “informed consent,” and “probable cause.” Law & Order—and recent publicized encounters by police with people of color—have been rather instructive. Nonetheless, our civic and legal ignorance can leave us in rather precarious situations which perpetuate negative attitudes towards the justice system, and the government generally.

Would we, when stopped by airport security or customs agents, know whether our rights were being violated? Whether we could be detained based on a list of ambiguous symptoms?

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When all is Polluted

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”

I awake each morning to a veritable cannonade of news updates. I find we aren’t approaching an Orwellian nightmare, but rather a tawdry simulacrum of such a nightmare, headed by a modern-day Caligula; I reckon this latter reality is far worse than Orwell’s fictional world. The scariest part, I think, is that I cannot discern whether the commander-in-chief is morally corrupt or that he’s truly enjoying the systematic destruction of a great country—or both.

Thus, I wasn’t surprised to learn President Trump had selected a known climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Neither am I surprised by the Pruitt’s blatant casuistry in the National Review, where he hopes to continue urging a “healthy debate” about global warming—in his favor, of course; even the title of the article, “The Climate Change Gang,” should signal bullshit is afoot. No, I’m more aghast that media coverage surrounding this unbelievably egregious appointment was so scant.

Where were the placards? Where were the protests?

Alas, nowhere.

Let’s get into a very brief lesson. Around the middle of the twentieth century, it dawned on society that our mortal ventures and pursuits could augment the planet with noteworthy consequences for its inhabitants, namely us. Prior to this exigent concern, industrial eructations coated our skies and toxic waste was callously dumped away from populated areas. Established in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency has generally acted as the proactive bulwark against environmental pollutants that would otherwise lead to our untimely demise as a species. They are principally responsible for enforcing laws like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and various forms of hazardous waste disposal, among other things. Check out their mission. It’s kind of important.

I have written about the Love Canal and the Valley of the Drums and how just one important piece of EPA legislation—the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, more affectionately known as the Superfund Act—superintended the cleanup of two toxic dumping grounds and held the perpetrating goons accountable.

Yet, the EPA isn’t an infallible or perfect institution.

Despite all its faults, alleged negligence, and various lawsuits threatening its existence, we need the EPA. Hell, I think the EPA could be doing a better job; I think much of its initiatives and actions are reactive, acting belatedly to environmental health disasters. Just look at the spillage of waste at the Gold King Mine in Colorado or the lead-rich waters of Flint, Michigan or the new water finance program. My criticisms and misgivings notwithstanding, we require an agency which advocates for the preservation of the natural world, for it has become distressingly clear the Trump administration endeavors to achieve the contrary.

Improving Food Choices

In a world where wallet size dictates access to healthy food

This is post is adapted from a graduate paper I recently submitted. I thought it was important to be able to discuss it without academic constraints. (I primarily wanted to adorn my rhetoric with some wit, sarcasm, and expletives.)

Food. We need it. All the time. Not only for survival, but there are foods we turn to for emotional comfort and gratification—lascivious or otherwise. Thanks to advances in agricultural practices and the diversity of food retailers, the United States is rife with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. It is, therefore, ironic for a country considered part of the First World—that is to say, an industrialized, prosperous, and developed capitalist nation—to have an alarming number of its citizens starving, let alone without the pecuniary means to obtain salubrious foods.

Let’s face it… we all have food problems, whether of our devices or tainted supply lines. But the lack of nourishment is the gravest food problem of all.

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Punch-Drunk

The curious case of dementia pugilistica

Sports.

Many people flock to stadiums and arenas where uniformed warriors compete in strenuous physical activities. Team sports require athletes be clad in all sorts of armor—some more than others—to prevent injuries. Contact sports like football and hockey demand heavy padding and helmets, while non-contact sports like basketball and soccer call for little more than modest uniforms.

Does it not seem slightly strange that boxers or mixed martial artists aren’t obliged to wear protective gear save for a mouth guard? Or is it because the goal is to injure and maim?

The importance of brain for daily living cannot be stressed enough. We use 100% of our brains. However, I suppose a compelling case could be made that some individuals indeed only use 10% of their brain. Nevertheless, traumatic brain injuries have seen more coverage lately as former football players gradually slip into depression and suicide and their families bring legal grievances against organizations like the NFL. Let’s discuss that.

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The Salt in our Blood

How halophobia killed the humble potato

What happened to french fries in America? Did I pass through some membrane into another dimension where salty foods are verboten?

If so, get me out of here!!!

In all sincerity, I haven’t truly enjoyed a french fry in quite some time due to the country’s growing halophobia. That’s correct, halophobia: the exaggerated fear of salt in one’s diet. Admittedly not a term currently found in dictionaries, but I can hope to introduce this word into the already bloated English lexicon. It is this fear of salt that threatens the nobility of the french fry as the crispy vehicle of ketchup.

I am obliged, insofar as I am able, to combat this lack of seasoning and see its proponents defeated. Who eats french fries with no salt? Who thought that was a good idea? That’s like ordering an iced tea without first saying ‘Long Island.’ Screw that noise. Pass the damn salt, please!

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