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The Weekend Eudemon

Whew! Eric Scheske is shaking off a binge this morning. Yes, we realize a binge is only five beers, according to U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, so perhaps he should feel fine. But what if he had a binge and a half? Or a double binge? Or he was playing 18 holes of golf, a binge x 3.6 (a beer a hole)? Then would a hangover be justified?

No worry. Eric had only seven beers, light beers at that. He couldn't afford to be hungover on Tess' big day. She gets baptized at 4:15.

But if he was hungover, he'd be ready. Years ago, he assembled a list of purported hangover cures. We present them on this Saturday morning as a public service: Propel or other sports drink, combined with whatever pain relievers help; water with pain relievers; shotgun to the head; Red Bull or other energy drink; Chasers tablets (supposed to be taken while you drink the night before); coffee; tea; soda; Alka-Seltzer, Tums, Maalox and related chalks; exercising; hot bath; cold shower; jumping in pool; sauna; hot tub; walking around outside in cold weather; dunking head in sink of cold water (at times with ice cubes in it, ala Huey Lewis in that one video); wet towel around neck or on forehead; forced vomiting; rubbing one's temples.

Of all the above, sports drinks (Propel, Gatorade, etc.) are the best, and are even endorsed by Modern Drunkard Magazine. We wish we had learned this trick back in our younger days, when excesses were common, but we're grateful for the knowledge, and we hereby pass it along to our middle school readers.

Big site news: The Wednesday Eudemon is getting an upgrade. We will move to a page/sub-page format, add more "toys," and in general make the thing more attractive. We're guessing the upgrade will be ready in two weeks. We will continue to be hosted by instead of Google, and we'll be ditching Google's Blogger software.

We're also considering comments. We didn't allow comments at first because we were afraid that no one would participate, thus making our lack of site traffic obvious. We don't think that will be a problem any more, since over 1,250 different people visited the site during March, most of them many times (over 15,000 hits), and the traffic increases every week. We are, however, still concerned with two other problems: nuts and cranks.

If you have any thoughts on the topic (in particular, if you think you'd like the opportunity to post comments), please send us an e-mail.

Cousin of Tarzan
The Ottawa Citizen's John Robson had a nice opinion piece yesterday about genetic engineering and the news that scientists have created a humanzee: a creature that is part-human and part-chimpanzee. There's no link available, but it should be on his blog in a day or two. LINK

Robson basically calls for society to start serious discussions now about the moral implications of this stuff. He also weighs in with his preliminary opinion:

"Before grabbing a vine and swinging off the stage, I say genetic engineering to cure spina bifida is good, but making a humanzee is not, because it is right to use technology to give everyone as full a human life as possible, but wrong to use it to create a new and better person. And I say it because I say it is not for us to play God. (To atheists I say we are not qualified to fill that post even if it is vacant.) For the same reason I would not permit the use of human embryos, deliberately cloned or the product of abortions, even to let lame men walk . . .".

Punchy Journal
. . . All this media stuff is extremely useful to understand. We live in an era of mass culture. That's a fairly abstract term and therefore fairly useless, but what I mean is this: Our society works in a way that favorably and pervasively presents a particular ethos. As a result everyone has a strong urge to drink important advice–how to act, what to believe, where to live (heck, how to live)–from the same well.

There are problems with mass culture. It, for instance, cuts down on true diversity: diversity of the mind and independence of spirit, things that have traditionally given rise to great art, music, and literature. Instead, we get diversity in vulgarity: body piercings, obnoxious behavior, wealth. It's almost as if people naturally have a need to be different, but it's suppressed by mass culture, so it manifests itself in disturbing ways.

Mass culture also tends to appeal to more debased tendencies. It tends to bring everyone to the same level, and that level will tend to be lower. People at the lower level cannot rise to a higher level without much effort, whereas people at the higher level can easily come down to the lower level. The "culture" appeals to the lower appetites so it can appeal to the lower folk; the "mass" part of the phrase is the effect of bringing "higher people" into the lower fold.

From a McLuhan point of view, perhaps the most troubling aspect of mass culture is that its pervasiveness makes us numb to it. We don't even know we're being effected.

In some ways, we resemble sheep: going where led, not particularly aware.

For example, watch yourself while you watch a sit-com. You'll find yourself intuitively waiting for the laugh track to see if something is funny. I've noticed myself doing that and it's disconcerting. It's scary to see yourself as a sheep.

There are, after all, lots of lonely farmers out there.

And who are the lonely farmers that may take advantage of the sheep? The most likely candidates are today's increasingly-powerful media conglomerates.

I know the tendency to blame mega-corporations for ills (like mass culture) is simplistic, and criticizing behemoths is too easy. The bigger something is, the easier it is to find fault with it.

But even so, if culture is transmitting a handful of views and ideas and modes of behavior, doesn't it make sense that the message would be coming from only a handful of sources? (Conversely, if there were thousands of truly different messages out there, you'd assume there were thousands of messengers.)

And if those handful of messages are banal or even harmful, then aren't those handful of messengers to blame, especially when they are not merely the messenger, but also the original sender, concocting the base fare–American Idols and Britney Spears, celebration of sexy bodies and fortune–in efforts to increase their bottom line?

And once they succeeded in gathering the reigns of media into their collective hands, aren't they most likely to be the farmers who hurt the sheep? Who else is going to do it, en masse? Nobody, because nobody else has the ability.

Now, maybe they won't actually hurt the sheep. I'm merely saying they have the ability and, given the spirit of economism that drives mass culture, they would do so if it increases their profits.

All this, of course, assumes that there is, indeed, a mass culture. Some could object, claiming that the Internet gives rise to many different avenues of opinions and that there are hundreds of popular performers out there and that there are dozens of people who run for president.

I can't argue all those points here. I can only point to the general similarity of the different performers. Are any that different? No performers are doing polka (not popularly, anyhow), and the circus isn't nearly as big as it used to be.

Websites are a different matter; I see some promise there, but not if the webmeisters all work from the same principles (e.g., plentiful sex is important, money is crucial and the end-all, fame is good, modesty is shame and shame is modesty and both suck, etc.). . .