Blog o’ the Humours

In which one modern American man, semi-permeable in both mind and body, through rarefied feats of biochemical introspection (powered by an impeccably cursory knowledge of contemporary biochemistry in admixture with an equally negligible grounding in thoroughly discredited medical theories of antiquity), (a) pinpoints the one internalized substance that has bested all others to govern his thought, temperament, behavior, and overall mojo on a given day, and (b) offers random ruminations on same.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The BotH Manifesto

In these information-challenged times, an era in which it can be so arduous to discover, say, what our friends, our loved ones, or even perfect strangers have eaten on a given day; or which movies, books, or CDs they judge to rule, and which, alas, to suck; or whom they think is cute, or not so very; or what adorable thing the cat did; or exactly which part of one’s body them sumbitches in office may consider themselves free to kiss, and often…. In this day and age, simply put, a weblog is too rare and important a thing to leave either to chance or to newfangled whims.

Thus, the Blog o’ the Humours. Grounded in one of the most illustrious and thoroughly discredited medical theories of antiquity—Hippocrates’ system of the Four Humours—this blog will pinpoint the substance (or “humour”) that has had the most profound influence upon the blog’s author on a given day and offer commentary (read: wild guesses and pitiful excuses) as to why the author believes this to be so.

But lest you think this blog will present no more varied fare than a daily trudge through —as Hippocrates had it—blood, phlegm, and the two biles, yellow and black, please know that Blog o’ the Humours (“BotH,” to its friends), like its author, is an entirely contemporary and semi-permeable membrane, open to invading substances that border on the innumerable (dioxins and furans and pthalates, oh my!)—a condition that will be faithfully reflected in the Humour du Jour. So if the mood herein begins to seem sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, or melancholic at times (to switch to Galen’s sense of Humours), please rest assured that the polychlorinic, the benzinic, and the heavy metallic are not far behind.

Thanks for stopping by. On with the analysis!

* * * * *

Note: Two inspirations should be acknowledged here at the get-go. One is the somewhat new and more than a little chilling (for its discoveries, not its practice) field of biomonitoring, a.k.a. assessing the Body Burden imposed on you and me by our, ahem, chemically rich modern environments (bear with that linked page, folks, it can be slow to load). To summarize the study that partially inspired this blog, which I became aware of while doing some consulting for Whole Earth Magazine: in 2000, the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, set out to measure the toxic-chemical contamination of nine test subjects—among them the DC-based journalist Bill Moyers and Marin County–based Michael Lerner, the president and founder of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute. (Why just nine? These tests are very expensive, so they went high-profile on the test subjects to raise awareness.) While it will not, perhaps, strike many readers as odd that the entire test group was chock full o’ toxins, what was surprising to me, at least, was that Lerner, basically your typical tree-huggin’, granola-munchin’, clean-livin’ Marinara, had more toxins in his system than Moyers, the jet-hoppin’, late-night-airport-food-court dinin’, second-hand-smoke-in-public-places-inhalin’ Beltway-dweller. Can you win? No, you can’t win. But do check out the EWG site, if you can get it to load. You can also read more about Body Burden studies here. (I’m not as familiar with this organization, the “Coming Clean Network,” but I see one of the principals is Sharyle Patton, another Body Burden test subject and an expert on chemical transmission in breastmilk—as well as another Commonweal higher-up and Lerner’s wife to boot.)

The second inspiration wasn’t a conscious one at first, but it popped into my head recently, and now it seems pretty obvious: Primo Levi’s great book The Periodic Table, which you can buy from an independent bookseller here. So all props to Primo, and may no readers be so unkind as to compare my poor little blog to his work.


Anonymous Joe Citizen said...

Ouch. I feel like I wanna stick a Brita filter in my gob and never remove.

Quick note on not-winning: NYC has famously followed your own homeland in banning smoking from all workplace environs. Bravo. But this has not, alas, done away with smokers as such. What it *has* done is concentrate them -- especially in these raking northeastern winters -- in furtive-yet-defiant clusters at the little arched entryways to our giant workhives. Thus are we now, every one of us, forced to pass through tunnels of secondhand death on our way to the spiritual death of cubeland. Someone's sick sense of symmetry, no doubt.

Rock on. Welcome to the 'sphere.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Peet's French Roast not count as a humour that permeates, nay fuels, thy weltenschaaung?

4:52 PM  

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