“In this way, my brain tumor has emerged as a tiny Zen master.”

“Everything about it — from the intermittent fear it engenders, to the M.R.I.s it requires, to my daily struggle for physical balance — has made achieving that other kind of balance, inner balance, more possible. I can no longer coast through my daily life multitasking as I go: reading headlines as I walk, looking both ways as I dash across the street, showing up for good-night kisses, but being absent all the same. Even my most mundane actions have to be performed with intention….”

From a NYT essay by Adrienne Brodeur about vertigo, caused, in her case, by a brain tumor disabling the vestibular system.

Aptly known as “the labyrinth,” it looks like a miniature “Star Trek” space station with two sacs and three looping semicircular canals arranged at roughly right angles to one another. Fluid moves through the labyrinth stimulating tiny hairs, which act as sensors that monitor the position and movement of your head, sending the brain information about gravity, motion and your body’s relationship to earth.

Without a functioning vestibular system, you have to concentrate on you vision and proprioception (described in the article) to keep your balance. I’ve experienced a malfunctioning vestibular system — not from a brain tumor, but from the detachment of the otoliths that normally weigh down those “tiny hairs” (that is, cilia). You might wake up one morning, move your head slightly, and find the whole room spinning insanely out of control. It’s quite awful. Mine was worst the minute it started and eventually went away. But I empathize with the author’s predicament. Read More …

“Mr. Beauvoir was in his mid-30s and planning a career in biochemistry when his grandfather, on his deathbed, stunningly anointed him his successor as a houngan…”

“… one of the 6,000 or so healers, soothsayers, exorcists and therapists who outnumbered doctors and Roman Catholic priests in Haiti. The 17th-century mystical traditions imported by slaves from West Africa and known in Haiti as Vodou coexist there with Christianity.”

“Just as a carnival band went by the house,” Mr. Beauvoir recalled in a 1983 interview with The New York Times, “grandfather turned to me and said, ‘You will carry on the tradition.’ It was not the sort of thing you could refuse.”…

“My position as supreme chief in voodoo was born out of a controversy,” he said. “Today, voodooists are at the bottom of society. They are virtually all illiterate. They are poor. They are hungry. You have people who are eating mud, and I don’t mean that as a figure of speech.”

From the obituary of Max Beauvoir, who lived to the age of 79. If you read far enough into this piece, you’ll find:

In 1975 he staged a ceremony for Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton on their honeymoon. In his memoir “My Life” (2004), Mr. Clinton recalled, “The spirits arrived, seizing a woman and a man…. The man proceeded to rub a burning torch all over his body and walk on hot coals without being burned. The woman, in a frenzy, screamed repeatedly, then grabbed a live chicken and bit its head off.

Mr. Clinton did not elaborate on whether the man and woman benefited from the ceremony, except to say, “Haitians’ understanding of how God is manifest in our lives is very different from that of most Christians, Jews or Muslims, but their documented experiences certainly prove the old adage that the Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Did you know that a chicken’s head was bitten off in a Bill and Hillary Clinton honeymoon ceremony?! Read More …

“Switchel: the new (but really old) apple cider [vinegar!] drink hipsters can’t get enough of.”

“Consumed by woodsman pioneers in the 1800s, this tart, effervescent drink is threatening to dethrone kombucha as the next hip health trend – and I approve.” 

Oh, no. I got that link from Meade, who makes his own vinegar and ginger drink, and pronounces it delicious. This trend of drinking vinegar… I don’t even like seeing other people do it. The author of the linked article says: “I love vinegar, pretty much every kind I’ve ever tried. I’ve been known to drink pickle juice out of an empty jar of pickles….”

Here‘s the product that you may have walked right by at Whole Foods but that Meade has bought and savored. Here it is in limeade, which has Meade’s name right there in it.

IN THE COMMENTS: Terry said: “Drink tap water instead. It goes good with crackers. Good ol’ crackers….” And I said:

“Drink tap water instead.” That’s what I said to Meade yesterday. It’s one thing to eat a wide variety of foods, but one should be careful about drinking. You should assume water. Drink water. Anything other than water should meet a high standard. Don’t just down sodas and juices and other concoctions. Liquids are too quick, too easy. Food is more of an encounter. You have to chew, to really experience some in-mouth moments. But things consumed in liquid form are facilitated by your instinct for hydration, your basic need for water. So drink water… unless you have a really good reason to taint your water with other substances. You do not need variety in your drinks. You should drink water and focus your search for flavor and excitement on food.

As for crackers, crackers are terribly dangerous. You can gain a lot of weight from crackers. They’re like cookies, the way you eat them impulsively and lose track of the number as one leads to another. But you think they’re not like cookies, because they’re not dessert. That makes them seem neutral, like water. But they have calories. Beware of crackers.

(Click the “crackers” tag and scroll to see why Terry said “Good ol’ crackers.”) Read More …

Did you understand the “Defeat Bloomberg” ad that ran during last night’s debate?

My reaction, as I watched the debates last night, was just: Huh?

I didn’t notice that it was an NRA ad. I’m reading about that here: “Wednesday’s ad was part of the NRA’s million-dollar campaign to paint Bloomberg as a nanny-state liberal, plotting to use his billions to take away Americans’ guns and influence the presidency.”

I guess they’re building a meme. Maybe you’re supposed be confused. You’re being drawn in by confusion.  

What? Huh? Bloomberg? Bloomberg isn’t running! Food. Food, I like food. He’s taking my food. But he’s not running. Soda. My soda. But he’s not running. Guns? Guns!!!! I must be alert, lest some insidious, subterranean gnome is deviously insinuating himself into the political process….

Bloomberg, the other billionaire. Read More …

Did Rand Paul help his cause?

Last night — live-blogging the GOP debate — in the 34th item on my 36-point list of observations, I said:

Who most improved his case? I asked the question out loud and immediately thought: Rand Paul. Meade answered: Rand Paul. But he’s got a long way to go….

My son John, who was also live-blogging, wrote:

I don’t agree that Paul especially helped himself. He was good, but he was also good in the first debate, and that didn’t improve his poll numbers. With such a crowded field, I don’t expect Paul to get any bump from tonight. If some more candidates were to drop out and Paul had a great debate night, then I could see him getting a boost.

I think Paul’s problem is mostly that Republicans don’t agree with his positions on various issues. It doesn’t matter how well and conspicuously he speaks. They don’t want what he’s selling. I feel like adding that he has the old doesn’t-seem-presidential problem — he’s a cantankerous rebel — but that hasn’t hurt Trump. Read More …

If you had to remember one thing from the debate last night, what would it be?

I ask out loud. Meade answers: “He’s an okay doctor.” That was Ben Carson, repurposing something Trump had recently said about him and using it about Trump.

And then: “Trump was so handsy with everyone.” Yeah, Trump kept reaching out and touching Ben Carson — who reconfigured a Trump attempt at a high 5 into something approaching a normal handshake. At a later point, Trump got the man on his other side — Jeb Bush — to give him an enthusiastic handslap.

Me, if I had to remember one thing, it would be how everyone was sweating profusely at the beginning. Everyone except Carly Fiorina, and I attributed her lack of sweat to the heavier layer of makeup that, as a woman, she was able to slather on to shield her from our nosy HDTV-enabled eyes.

ADDED: Typo corrected: I had written “a high 4.” I’ve always been bad at touch-typing numbers. Or maybe it had to do with just having watched those clips of Jimmy Fallon interviewing Hillary Clinton on his show last night. Jimmy has that trademark white bandage taking one of his fingers out of the running, out of the fingering. Here’s the part where she invites Jimmy to grab her hair (to prove that it, unlike Trump’s is real):

She also does a Trump impersonation. Earlier on the show, as you’ve perhaps already seen, Fallon does his amusing Trump impersonation, in a sketch with “Trump” talking to Hillary on the phone:

They both did a pretty good job with that, and you’ve got to give the Hillary people some credit for coming up with a sure-fire way for her to drag media attention away from the big GOP debate. Read More …

Watch the big GOP debate with me.

I don’t know if I can pull off some good old-fashioned live-blogging. I see my son John is set up to live-blog, and I’m sure he’ll do good work. I’ll just update this post, making a numbered list if any insights strike me, and I invite you to participate in the comments. I’m not rooting for anyone, not playing any drinking games, not obsessed with Trump, not anything in particular… just open to the moment.

1. As they take their places behind the lectern, Jeb and Ben are jotting down notes and Trump, between them, is standing, swiveling, and displaying his game face. Carly’s in royal blue, matching the large airplane that is stretched out behind them. Now, Jake Tapper is explaining the ground rules, introducing Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash. Rubio wipes sweat from his brow.

2. Very short intros. Rand Paul is an eye surgeon who defends the Constitution, Huckabee says hi, Marco Rubio makes a joke about drinking water, Ted Cruz is a husband to his best friend, Ben Carson stresses the pediatric part of his career because he’s here for the children, Trump wrote “The Art of the Deal” and made billions and billions of dollars, Jeb looks forward to talking about fixing Washington, Scott Walker emulates Ronald Reagan, Carly started out as a secretary, Kasich is ready to lift us up, and Christie is gonna give back what Obama stole from us.

3. Carly gets the first question and she won’t answer it: Is she comfortable with Trump’s finger on the nuclear button? She just calls him an “entertainer.” Trump gets to respond: He’s a businessman, and his temperament is “very good, very calm.” Rand Paul got sideswiped by Trump, so he gets to respond, and he says that a guy that would sideswipe like that shouldn’t have his finger on the button. Trump: “I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter there.”

4. Scott Walker breaks in without waiting to be asked a question or to get a turn triggered by an attack from someone else. It was Jeb who was asked a question, and Jeb triggered a Trump response opportunity. Walker just butted in.

5. Tapper wanted to ask another question, and Kasich started talking, so now he’s been given an opportunity. Kasich is copying Walker, creating more chaos, and ironically, the point he wants to make is that the show is going to be too chaotic for the folks watching at home.

6. Christie offers to be our “vessel.” Jeb is asked if he’s “a puppet” for his donors. Jeb says Trump offered him money in exchange for getting gambling in Florida, and Trump said that didn’t happen, because if it had, he would have gotten it. Jeb tries to break in, and Trump gives mock approval: “More energy tonight, I like it.”

7. The candidates are all sweating like mad. How can they run the government if they can’t even run a room in the Reagan Library?

8. “There’s just something missing from our President. He doesn’t have courage.” Says Trump (talking about Syria).

9. Kasich breaks in ferociously. He’s yelling and looking swollen and red. He’s seething. This is interfering with my sense of him as everybody’s dad.

10. Huckabee is complaining about the Supreme Court “redefining marriage” and championing Kim Davis. Jeb agrees with him, but in a much milder, mellower way.

11. Cruz calls Planned Parenthood “an ongoing criminal enterprise.”

12. Tapper tells Carly Fiorina to respond to Trump’s statement a few days ago that when he said “look at that face,” he wasn’t talking about her looks but her “persona.” She’s asked to talk about Trump’s persona. She could have had a prepared remark for this, but she’s thinking on her feet and uses a line that Trump just used against Jeb Bush: people heard very clearly what he said. She said that, then absolutely shuts up, and the crowd cheers. Trump smirks, then leans forward and says: “I think she’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman.” I think that was a prepared remark (and a lie) and Carly utterly refrains from giving an appreciative smile. She’s got her game face.

13. Jeb is annoyed that Trump once said that Jeb may have a “soft spot” for Mexicans because his wife is Mexican. Trump babbles about what a lovely woman Jeb’s wife is, but resists Jeb’s demands for an apology. There’s the wife out in the audience, come on, apologize to her. Trump won’t do it. He’s done nothing wrong, he says.

14. Speak English! Assimilate! Says Trump. Jeb says he is speaking English, but if someone asks him a question in Spanish, he’s going to answer in Spanish. That’s an opening for Rubio to break in and talk about his immigrant grandfather taught him that he was blessed to live in America… and he taught him that in Spanish. And he wants people who speak Spanish to hear from the President in Spanish, not from some translator on Spanish TV.

15. “We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough” to have birthright citizenship, says Trump. And he’s not buying that it’s in the Constitution.

16. Fiorina thinks the Constitution would have to be amended, which isn’t likely. She concentrates on blaming the Democrats for not reforming immigration back when they had control of the Senate. They don’t want to solve the problem. They want the issue to remain live.

17. Trump is turning beet red fighting with Carly over who’s the better businessperson. He impugns her business career and she impugns him. Christie breaks in to say the person watching at home could “care less” about this back-and-forth about their careers. You 2 are both successful, what about the people out there who are not successful? Christie blusters.

18. “A track record” is important, Carly responds, without losing her cool at all. If we’re going to talk about Christie’s record in government, we should talk about the business record of the candidates who are coming to the race from business.

19. Aw, Rand Paul’s reduced to playing with his pencils.

20. Hugh Hewitt wants to talk about who can win in the general election and who’s going to attack Hillary Clinton? Kasich isn’t ready to do that yet. But “at the end of the day…” (That was one of my drinking game cues, by the way. And Ben Carson has already proclaimed something “ridiculous!”)

21. Trump effuses about Hugh Hewitt’s declaring Trump “the best interview in America” and the camera shows Hewitt grinning responsively. What a bromance!

22. “Finally!” I say, and the crowd gives a big cheer, when Jeb says “Let me say one thing about my brother: He kept us safe.”

23. Trump tried to high-five Carson and Carson received it in a way that moved it around into a regular handshake. Don’t slap the neurosurgeon’s gifted hands! The cause for Trump’s move was Carson’s statement that he’d advised George W. Bush in 2003 not to go to war in Iraq. (Trump had previously stated that he’s the only one on the stage who opposed the Iraq war at the time.)

24. Do you think the questions are being evenly distributed? My sense of it is that they keep coming back to Jeb Bush.

25. Cruz thinks Bush I should have appointed Edith Jones instead of David Souter and Bush II should have appointed Michael Luttig instead of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Jones and Luttig were both “rock-ribbed conservatives.” The Presidents Bush both took the easier route and didn’t want to fight for conservative Justices. Cruz’s appointees will “not act like philosopher kings.”

26. How long is this darned thing? I thought 2 hours. Then I thought 2 and a half. Now, I’m thinking it’s going to go on for 3 hours. This is madness! (And I watched some of the other debate, the one with Santorum and… I forget who… Lindsey Graham… Pataki. One other. I have to ask Meade: Jindal.)

27. Oh, good: marijuana. I could use some marijuana at this point. The question goes to Paul, who thinks the laws hurt the poor and racial minorities. Bush confesses to smoking marijuana 40 years ago.

28. Paul is dominating for a long time on the marijuana question. He calls attention to Christie’s willingness to enforce the federal criminal law against people in Colorado, who may think that their state has legalized marijuana, so — as Paul puts it — Christie doesn’t believe in the 10th Amendment and “states’ rights.”

29. “Autism has become an epidemic,” says Trump when he’s asked whether he’ll stop saying that vaccines are linked to autism. Carson is asked to comment and he says, “He’s an okay doctor”… which is a quote of something Trump once said about Carson, so some pretty good humor from Carson, even if it’s not enough pushback. Trump’s point is that all he’s saying is that vaccinations are too “bunched up” — too much is pumped all at once into a “beautiful little baby” and parents ought to have some discretion to space out the vaccines the way he did with his babies. Carson agrees with that point, and Trump reaches over to pat Carson on the elbow.

30. Uh-oh, lighthearted questions. First, what woman should be on the $10 bill. Huckabee says his own wife. Blechh. Cruz wants the $20 bill, not the $10 bill changed, and he’d put Rosa Parks (as would Rubio). Carson wants his own mother on the bill. Trump wants Ivanka or Rosa Parks. Jeb wants Margaret Thatcher. Walker wants Clara Barton! Carly wouldn’t change the bills, and we should recognize that “women are not a special interest group.” Kasich wants “Mother Theresa, a lady I had a chance to meet.” Christie provoked laughs nationwide, I suspect, by saying “I think the Addams Family has been shorted in the currency business,” causing a million people to quip “Morticia?!” (He meant Abigail Adams.)

31. What Secret Service nickname should you have? Carly Fiorina says “Secretariat,” because, you know, she started out as a secretary, but I’m sure a million Americans just made a “horse-faced” joke. Bush wants to be “Ever Ready” — trying to establish that he’s not low energy. Walker wants to be Harley (for his motorcycle). Trump says “Humble.” Rubio wants to be “Gator.”

32. What was up with that “Defeat Bloomberg” ad?

33. They’re all boringly predicting what the world will be like after their presidency. The blabby question from Tapper was framed to invite them to connect that to Ronald Reagan… as if there hadn’t been enough opportunities in all these many hours for the candidates to liken themselves to Ronald Reagan.

34. Who most improved his case? I asked the question out loud and immediately thought: Rand Paul. Meade answered: Rand Paul. But he’s got a long way to go. Did anyone hurt his case significantly? I don’t think so. It’s more: Who needed to make some real progress here and didn’t? Maybe Walker.

35. After the debate, in an interview, Trump says what he learned is that he can stand for 3 hours. Yeah, that was a severe challenge — having to stand there for 3 hours. It was hard enough to sit through!

36. John opines that Carly Fiorina won. Read More …