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Trimming Down

With regard to weight loss, should Christie really be pointing fingers? (NY Post)

One thing that I truly dislike about politics—and most organized religions, for that matter—is hypocrisy. Political candidates rarely seem to practice what they preach. And though they often call out others for their inconsistencies and transgressions—in an effort to garner support among the public—they are almost always guilty of similar transgressions themselves. The media are known for uncovering such skeletons in their closets, which is likely their most important function given how much bullshit they normally sling.

Consider New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, for instance.

Earlier this week, Christie criticized the leader of his state’s National Guard—Air Force Brigadier General Michael Cunniff—for being too fat and out-of-shape. Apparently, Cunniff had been reprimanded by the Pentagon for his poor physical fitness and excessive weight, so Christie gave him 90 days to “meet his obligations” and slim down.

A statement from one of Christie’s spokesmen put it like this: “The Governor has expressed directly to the General that his failure to meet that standard or to provide notification of his formal reprimand is both unacceptable and disappointing.”

I’m sorry, but if ever there were an instance of the “pot calling the kettle black,” this would have to be it.

In 2013, Christie underwent weight-loss surgery and had a band placed around his stomach to limit his food intake. He made light of this by referring to himself as “the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen.” Of course, he could have chosen to eat right, exercise and lose weight the healthy way, but he instead opted for the so-called easy way out. Was this same surgery offered to Cunniff? Certainly not.

I’m not a hater, but one look at Christie proves that surgery wasn’t the answer to all his weight problems. If anything, I bet that band around his stomach is stretched to the limit. One can only hope it doesn’t bust like a rubber band stretched too far. Otherwise he’s liable to explode all over his opponents during the next Republican debate.

Sadly, this might be just what he needs to make an impact in this election. And rather than forcing others to trim down, I hope stories like this result in a trimming down of the GOP candidate field even further—starting with the hypocrite known as Chris Christie!

Two-Car Garage

Bankson has it all: good looks, talent and a double hoo-ha (NY Brunettes)

For human beings, paired body parts are the norm. We have two eyes, two ears, two legs, two hands—and in the case of males, two heads (one above the shoulders and another below). But imagine being female and discovering you also have two vaginas, two cervixes and two wombs. This condition is known as uterus didelphys and it apparently affects fewer than 100 women around the world.

American model Cassandra Bankson is one of them. And until last year, she had no idea she even had it—until she went to see her doctor about her constant back pain.

“When we got the test results back the doctor said I only had one kidney and flippantly added that I have two vaginas—as she suspected,” Bankson said in a recent interview. “There is one vaginal opening but inside there are two vaginas, two uteri, two cervixes and two fallopian tubes.”

Having trouble picturing it? So was I, at first, until Bankson described it as being an “upside-down nose.” Kind of like a two-car garage with one door.

Bankson’s condition is serious since it could affect her ability to have kids and often results in periods that can last as long as three or four weeks. There is hope, though, especially since a woman in India with the same affliction gave birth to twins in 2011—one in each uterus.

Of course, now I’m starting to wonder how many double-dicked dudes are running around out there!

Don’t Even Think About It

Think about it… or don’t! (chrisauman.com)

According to a new Stanford University School of Medicine study—recently published in the journal Cellthinking can help “fuel the growth” of high-grade gliomas (i.e. deadly tumors that begin in the brain or spinal cord).

These gliomas represent approximately 80% of all malignant brain tumors. And sadly, there are few treatment options available to those who develop them. Fortunately, though, there is also good news.

Most of us have nothing to worry about…

Pee Pee, Poo Poo Hands

Washing hands after number two? Optional! (Getty Images)

This Republican Senator Is Fighting For Your Freedom Not To Wash Your Hands In The Bathroom.

Ah, there’s nothing like living in North Carolina and dealing with whacked-out Republicans like Governor Pat McCrory and, more recently, freshman Senator Thom Tillis.

During a presentation at the Bipartisan Policy Center this past Monday, Tillis questioned whether food workers really needed to wash their hands after using the bathroom… or if businesses should be able to “opt out” of this process.

Shake at your own risk! (Charlotte Observer)

“Let an industry or business opt out as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment, literature, whatever else,” he said publicly. “I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign.”

Of course, Tillis denied saying this when asked about it later, but that’s nothing new for members of the GOP.

Double fecal latte, anyone?

Restored Faith

I know how you feel, Mr. President (Stress Management Tips)

Have you ever had one of those days when you felt like selling everything you owned, leaving your unsatisfying life behind and disappearing to start fresh somewhere else, most likely as a completely different person?

I have. And it’s happened almost daily since I quit smoking nearly two weeks ago.

Granted, I know the nicotine withdrawal my body is experiencing has something to do with it. I was a smoker for almost three decades, so I knew the physical effects would be pretty intense. And I honestly don’t miss cigarettes at all. They’re nothing more than little white and brown devils that make me feel terrible the moment I light them up, so what’s to miss?

No, the real problem is the effect non-smoking has had on my tolerance level for bullshit. I mean, I always had road rage. Only now I get so annoyed by bad drivers that I’m tempted to run them off the road every time they pull out in front of me, travel slower than the posted speed limit or focus more attention on their cell phones than the road ahead. Sure, they may receive a one-finger greeting or an expletive-filled “how-de-do,” but I still fantasize about doing something more serious in nature.

Of course, the recent mid-term elections didn’t help my outlook much, either. After years of gridlock and partisan posturing in Washington, we can now look forward to even more political bullshit in the next few years. To me, a Republican-run House and Senate mean nothing significant will be accomplished… and more people will get screwed in the process. Take Obamacare, for instance, which the GOP hopes to repeal. I know it isn’t perfect, but now we can look forward to insurance companies sticking it to people once again. And as long as big companies and corporations get paid—along with Republicans themselves—it’s all good, right?

Wrong. Politics are a joke and Washington seems like little more than a bad comedy club.

Yes, things seemed pretty grim earlier today. Fortunately, though, I read a story that lifted my spirits and restored my faith in humanity… at least for now.

SIEGEL POURNAZARIAN

Dylan and his buddy Jonah (David Siegel)

The story was about Dylan Siegel, an 8-year-old boy from Los Angeles who published a book entitled Chocolate Bar. To date, his book has sold more than 21,000 copies, which in itself is quite a feat, especially for someone so young. What touched me was the fact that Dylan hasn’t made one penny off his book sales. Instead, all of the proceeds are going towards a University of Florida fund to support research on glycogen storage disease, otherwise known as GSD.

Glycogen storage disease affects how people process sugars and, believe it or not, Dylan’s best friend Jonah suffers from the affliction. Jonah’s body cannot process sugars, so his parents have to feed him a special diet… and through a tube in his stomach, no less. To help his friend—and to hopefully find a cure for the disease—Dylan donated his book earnings to the cause and launched a fundraising campaign that has almost reached $1 million. Support has poured in from more than 60 countries around the globe and, with any luck, even more donations are forthcoming.

And Dylan could not be happier.

“I am so, so, so excited to be able to help my friend,” the young author said recently. “I am thankful to people everywhere for letting me share my story and inspire kids to change the world.”

Maybe there’s hope for the human race yet…and for non-smokers like me, as well. Thanks for the inspiration, Dylan!

An Invasive Procedure

Pink power! (Cafepress)

When 32-year-old Andrew Walls went to the Delaware Surgery Center for a colonoscopy, he was prepared for surgeons to “stick it to him” in a most uncomfortable, yet predictable way.

When he awoke from surgery, though, he realized something even more disturbing than a sore butthole: his normal underwear had been replaced with a pair of fashionable pink panties!

Apparently, Walls worked at the center and fell victim to an “outrageous” prank by his colleagues. And trust me… he was not happy.

Shortly after the prank, Walls lost his job due to “severe emotional stress.” And now he’s suing for damages. Here’s a brief excerpt from his lawsuit:

“When the plaintiff initially presented for his colonoscopy he had not been wearing pink women’s underwear and at no time did the plaintiff voluntarily, knowingly or intentionally place the pink women’s underwear upon himself.”

And this, to me, is the real problem: if Walls had been wearing ladies’ underwear to begin with, then none of this would have happened!

Where’s the Beaver?

reproductive diagram

Has anyone seen the beaver? (PinIt)

According to the British women’s cancer research charity The Eve Appeal—and released as part of Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month—at least half of young women (ages 26-35) in the United Kingdom have no idea where their vaginas are located.

Women were provided with a diagram of the female reproductive system and were asked to identify important features like the cervix, womb, ovaries, vulva and, of course, the vagina. Sadly, only half of them were able to point out the “hoo-ha,” which is pretty disturbing.

As a public service—and despite being on the other side of the world—I would like to offer my services to these ladies. If any of you would like me to identify your vaginas for you, please send pictures and an email to gnosticbent@outlook.com. I am more than happy to help.

Matt Damon Kicks Ass

You're the man, Matt! (Water.org/YouTube)

You’re the man, Matt! (Water.org/YouTube)

Given all the celebrities completing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and donating thousands of dollars to ALS research—which at last count surpassed $80 million in total contributions—I thought one particular celebrity deserved some extra attention: award-winning actor Matt Damon.

Damon was nominated by his close friend and Good Will Hunting screenwriting partner, Ben Affleck, as well as television host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

Unfortunately, dumping a bucket of freezing—yet clean—water over his head wasn’t an option. California is currently experiencing a drought—which makes wasting water almost a cardinal sin—but Damon had another reason for being wary of this challenge: he co-founded Water.org, a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide clean water and sanitation to developing and underserved countries around the world.

As you can see, it simply wouldn’t be prudent for Damon to dump clean water over his head, so he took a different approach: he used water collected from toilets around his home.

Check out his unique take on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by going HERE.

Like many of you, I have watched endless videos of famous and not-so-famous people completing this challenge—as well as some hilarious failed attempts—but none of them even comes close to the heartfelt, considerate approach taken by Damon, one of my favorite actors.

So kudos to you, Matt. And thanks for showing us that fame and fortune don’t always change what lies deep within a person’s heart.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for Dummies

How NOT to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (Gawker/YouTube)

How NOT to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (Gawker/YouTube)

Since my father passed away from ALS—also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease—I absolutely love all the attention being paid to this terrible and incurable affliction. As I understand it, more than $14 million has been raised for ALS research, which I hope will translate to a cure in the coming years. Granted, it’s too late to save my father, but there are plenty of others who could be saved. And thanks to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, there is more hope of this happening than ever before.

Of course, not everyone who chooses to complete the challenge does so successfully. Do a quick search online and you will find all sorts of “ice bucket fails,” most of which are hilarious.

Unfortunately, not everyone who fails at the challenge does so gracefully. Case in point: the Confederate-flag waving jackass in this VIDEO. For some reason, this guy thinks it might be a good idea to “kick things up a notch”… and it doesn’t end well.

Check it out and remember this: if you choose to complete the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it’s probably best to stick with ice and water. Anything else could lead to the same disaster this poor bastard experienced!

Flashback: Living through ALS

I wrote this article a number of years ago as my father was wasting away from ALS. Given all the attention on this disease recently—as well as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenges appearing on Facebook and other social networking sites—I thought it might be nice to re-post this. Unfortunately, my father lost his battle and passed away in 2008—roughly a year after my son was born. It is too late to help my dad, but I hope we can find a way to save the lives of other ALS patients before they suffer the same fate. I love and miss you, Dad. This is for you.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—is a degenerative motor neuron disorder that generally affects the muscles, but later spreads into almost every system in the body. Those unfortunate enough to develop the disease experience “rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy and fasciculations, muscle spasticity, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing and decline in breathing ability” (Wikipedia). And the mortality rate for ALS is 100%. There is no cure and the outlook is always grim.

I know this because my father passed away in 2008 from ALS.

My father in the early days

Although I’ve come to accept the fact that he is gone, I often find myself wondering how someone like my father could develop such a horrible disease in the first place. And even though it isn’t genetic—he was the first in our family to suffer from ALS—I worry that eventually, I could be next. Of course, my father and I were almost polar opposites in many respects, so I am optimistic and feel confident something else will likely get me.

This fact doesn’t make me feel much better, though. After all, we’ll all die from something eventually and none of us can escape it.

What bothers me most about my father dying from ALS is the way he lived his life and the eventual irony of it all. You see, my father was an orthopedic surgeon who exercised all the time. In fact, some of the equipment at our local YMCA had been donated by my father and uncle, both of them surgeons and partners who endorsed exercise and physical activity at every turn. When my brother and I were young, my father forced us to accompany him to work out, hoping we would follow his example and start exercising more on our own someday. Granted, we both stayed active through sports and other pursuits, but pumping iron wasn’t really our focus. And he was hoping to change that.

For years, the three of us would visit the YMCA, work out to the point of exhaustion and then repeat the process several times each week. Dad even hired personal trainers to set us up with exercise routines tailored to our specific needs. Combined with his exercise tips, we learned everything we needed to know and worked hard to get in shape, at least in the beginning.

Unfortunately, my brother and I responded to being forced to exercise in very different ways. He continued long after we were free to choose for ourselves and still exercises regularly today. I went the opposite way, choosing to exercise indirectly through work or other activities like sports. Oddly enough, the same thing happened with church. Being forced to go anywhere didn’t really agree with me, but my brother could find all sorts of value in it and, as a result, is a more religious person than me. And in this respect, I was more like my father.

Diet and nutrition were also important factors in my father’s life. To this day, I have never seen anyone consume as much fruit as him, sometimes two or three different fruits in one sitting. As for drinking, he would occasionally have some Vermouth with dinner, or the rare glass of wine or cold beer, but generally abstained. Smoking was never his vice, either. Instead, he would lecture me for hours about its dangers once he discovered that I had taken up smoking cigarettes. And no matter what ailed me, he always claimed it was the result of my smoking.

My dad was also a man of adventure and always took us on trips full of excitement and thrill-seeking, as evidenced in my earlier post “Ketchum If You Can”. Over the years, we traveled all over the world to go white-water rafting, skiing, hiking and sightseeing. We ended up at one time or another in Colorado,Costa Rica, Hawaii, Argentina and dozens of other wonderful locales. And even when he was unable to accompany us, my father would still finance our trips to places like Brazil and the US Virgin Islands.

It was during a family trip to Costa Rica that I first noticed some of his physical limitations.

During most of our previous hikes, my father was front-and-center, leading us through the woods or jungles with a Devil-may-care attitude and almost unlimited energy. This trip into the rain forest was much different. Instead of maintaining his footing and trudging along, my dad would often slip or have to keep himself from falling down an embankment that normally would not have fazed him. My siblings and I expressed concern, but he always blamed it on being a little older or unfamiliar with the terrain. We had our doubts, though.

Dad before the symptoms began

Later, I noticed that my father had started limping. When I asked what the problem was, he would simply qualify it as some minor nerve damage that would eventually correct itself. Only it never did. In fact, it started to get worse, but he insisted it was nothing. And since he was always the tough, macho man from South America, we never questioned it.

Then came the phone call that changed everything.

I was dining out in Raleigh with my fiancé and her family, walking back to the car after a delicious meal at the Macaroni Grill. The call from home seemed a little strange since I had spoken with my mother earlier, but I really started to worry when I heard my father’s voice instead. He was never much for phone calling and our conversations were always short and sweet.

This conversation was much different.

He told me he had been diagnosed with ALS almost a year before, but didn’t want us to worry so he kept it a secret during that time. Knowing next to nothing about the disease at the time, I asked about his prognosis and he told me he wasn’t sure, but things wouldn’t end well once the disease progressed. Of course, I was crushed and immediately thought the worst. He comforted me and assured me that he would be around for a long time. We both knew that wouldn’t be the case, but remaining optimistic seemed like the best approach at the time.

Over the next year, I watched helplessly as a man who was always strong, muscular and mentally sharp deteriorated into a mere shadow of the father I once knew. One by one, his muscular systems started to shut down and, towards the end, he even needed help using the bathroom. We bought him an electric wheelchair to allow him greater mobility, but he hated using it because he was so proud. About the only time he would ride it was when I brought my newborn son to visit. They only spent a year together, but my son still remembers cruising around the house with him.

The last time I saw my father, we talked about the life he helped me create for myself and the new family I had just formed, which brought him a great deal of pleasure. He just wanted to know that his own life had made a difference to someone else, which it certainly had. In fact, he had impacted nearly every person he came into contact with, including his family, friends and the hundreds of patients he served during his successful career in medicine. Everyone who knew him loved him. And I made sure he knew just how much I loved him, too.

The next morning, my mother called to tell me he had passed away in the middle of the night and that I should come over immediately to see him one last time. My sister had spent the night on the couch near his favorite chair in our living room. She woke up in the middle of the night and gave him a kiss before heading to bed. Little did she know, but that would be the last kiss he would ever receive.

I found my father lying in the same chair, only now he was perfectly still and cold. Grief took hold of us all as we wept beside his body, holding his hand or gently stroking his head. Then his body was removed and cremated, leaving me with only a small urn containing remains that were split between my mother, my siblings and me. Today, it sits on my mantle with his picture, a constant reminder of the man who spent his life for his family, and who made me the man I am today.

ALS is a terrible disease that affects roughly 30,000 people at any given time. And as I mentioned before, there is no known cure for it either, but there is hope. The ALS Association is working hard to find ways to treat and eventually cure this degenerative disease, and they are making progress. I encourage everyone to support their efforts because, believe me, you don’t want this to happen to you or someone you know and love.

And if you are living with ALS, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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