29 May 2007

Is Sanjay Gupta a real doctor?

So I'm pulling a pan of fishsticks out of the oven, and CNN is on in the background (because I like noise, and I'm not up for picking out a CD) and I hear one of the dumbest things I've ever hear a) on a news program b) not uttered by a member of the Bush administration. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is explaining, to some charmingly over-coiffed woman about drug resistant TB.

If you don't follow either of the fascinating worlds of infectious diseases or microbial evolution, you may have missed that drug resistant TB evolved in Soviet era Russian jails and orphanages through the improper treatment of regular old TB with not enough, or old, or poorly made antibiotics.

But Sanjay (I'm considering refusing to ever call him doctor again) says to the over-coiffed woman that TB microbes are drug resistant because "they've gotten smarter." Doubt me? Go look at the CNN transcript for a little before 8:30pm EDT, 29 May 2007.

Yes, smarter. Apparently single celled organisms, whose primary function is to be spread from one set of warm moist host lungs to another (via hacking up blood) is acing those new bacterium IQ tests. Now they are building little tiny planes and tanks to attack the antibiotics, hiding in drug shelters dug deep in the lung tissue beneath their tiny Victorian and ranch houses, and putting their young germplasms on kinder transports to whisk them away to safety.

Germs don't get smarter. They don't have brains, nerves, or anything that could be described as intelligence. The ones who don't bite the big one when treated breed, and those are what continue the population.

Dr. (if you really are one) Gupta, please do not eschew the word evolve just because some nut jobs in some state with marginal reading comprehension scores don't like it. And you might consider issuing, not an apology, but a retraction and correction of your statements. Everyone with non-treatable TB would probably appreciate knowing that it's not a super intelligent life form turning their lungs to bloody cottage cheese.

Anyway, I've got fishsticks to eat.

18 May 2007

Tricked By My Favorite Living Author

I bought a book the other day (at Virgin Megastore, which should have been the first sign something was wrong). Anyway, I've no interest in being snarky and naming names, so I won't tell you what book it is, but I'm not really enjoying it (and I'm almost done, and doesn't seem like it's getting better). Now this is something that happens a few times a year and isn't a big deal, except Neil Gaiman is involved.

Okay, he's not directly involved, but it is his fault I bought the book. You see, Neil Gaiman is my favorite living author, from the intra-Atlantic accent to the sushi consumption to the beekeeping. Not to mention he tells a damn good story every now and again. He's also got remarkably good taste. I like his taste in art and films and books and authors. And only a few weeks ago he recomended my new favorite book, In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente.

I checked Night Garden out of the Brooklyn Library and read it twice and kept it a day late. It was excellent, brilliant and I'm dying to get my hands on the sequel in the fall. (I would write a review of it, but it's a fantastically complicated book, and I don't think I could wrap my head around it. Perhaps when the second half is available.)

But the book from the Virgin Megastore is terrible and it had a Neil Gaiman blurb on the front cover, and I, brainwashed as a starving man watching commercials for Big Macs, bought the dumb book. And of course, when I carefully read the blurb (after reading the first hundred pages), Neil had merely endorsed the author and not that particular book.

Ah well, another case for AdBusters.

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