You Choose: Which Is More Disgusting?

In today’s installment of “What can I space off on rather than focus on my job, which, at this moment, really doesn’t require much focus in order to do whatever it is I’m suppose to do,”  I began to wonder what one could do with a blog post that begins with as dull a first sentence as possible.  At about the same time my nose itched.

My nose itches.  The time-honored solution is to scratch it.  But a nose being a nose, rather than, say, an arm or torso, the location of the itch plays a significant role in the proper social response.  If the itch is on the tip of the nose, as was mine, you simply scratch.  However, if the itch is INSIDE your nose … well.  Cause blowing your nose doesn’t always relieve the itch.  And if a sneeze isn’t forthcoming, that leaves you with, yes, sticking a finger up your nose.  Which is socially disgusting.  Yet safer than scratching with a paring knife.

Speaking of “disgusting,” it’s time for you to choose.  In his book, Batavia’s Graveyard, Mike Dash describes life aboard a 1628 state-of-the-art Dutch East India Company trade ship bound from Amsterdam to (you guessed it) the East Indies.  Generally speaking, while sailing for months, life on board a trade ship (or retourschip) really, really, really sucked.  “Within a week of sailing even basic cleanliness became a dreamed-of luxury for the passengers and crew of a retourschip.  There was no fresh water for washing, and although one of the largest ships of her day, the Batavia was equipped with no more than four latrines” (p. 94 of my paperback copy).  If you were a ship’s officer or one of the East India Company merchants or a socially high-ranking enough passenger, you stayed in the stern of the ship.  Life here only sucked very much.

If you were crew or a soldier or socially low-ranking, you stayed in the bow.  Unless your duty called you to the stern, it was a severe flogging offence for the scummy bow people to go on the other side of the main mast (which went all the way down to the keel).  You are a common crew member assigned to the bow section to live for months.  Living your life in the bow:  Which Is More Disgusting?

No. 1)  “The rest of the crew had to line up to use the remaining pair [of latrines] in the bow, which were nothing more than holes in the deck under the bowsprit. … The only additional amenity was a long dung-smeared rope that snaked through the hole in the latrine.  The frayed end of the rope dangled in the sea and could be hauled up and used to wipe oneself clean.”  OR

No. 2)  “Hard tack was the worst affected.  This twice-baked bread contained no fats or moisture and would keep indefinitely in normal conditions, though it was so dry it cracked teeth and had to be dunked in stew to make it edible.  Damp, it was easier to eat but became a perfect larder for the weevils that laid their eggs within and turned each piece into a honeycomb of tunnels and chambers full of larvae.  Each sailor who made the passage to the Indies learned to tap his ration of bread against the sides of the ship before he ate it, to dislodge the insect life within.  Any that remained were eaten anyway.  Novice seamen learned to distinguish the flavors of the different species:  weevils tasted bitter, cockroaches of sausage; maggots were unpleasantly spongy and cold to bite into.”

Once you finish barfing, vote in the comments.


Joining the “End of the Year List” Club

For the next week we will be inundated with lists: “Best of …,” “Worst of …,” “Most Important …,” of the year lists. For professional media, lists are easy copy/programming. For me, it’s post-Christmas, the office is empty and I need to kill time.

2013 in review:

    • Best “Wow, Who Saw This Coming?” – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for everything that’s happened since he was caught on tape smoking crack.
    • Best “Coolest Thing – Nerd Edition” (tie) – NASA announced that Voyager 1 left the Solar System.  Launched in 1977, this little engineering marvel was supposed to take photos of the large gas giant planets, then become a cold piece of space junk.  Instead Voyager HQ shut down unessential functions to save battery power, leaving Voyager with enough oomph to collect data of its environment and stream it back to Earth.  As you may know, the Voyager craft has a gold plate that, among other things, includes navigational instructions showing our location just waiting to be found by an alien invasion force.
    • Other Best “Coolest Thing – Nerd Edition” – Using the Large Hadron Collider (a really, really big atom smasher), scientists found the Higgs Boson. Nobel Prizes for everyone.  Simply put, the Higgs boson gives mass to every other sub-atomic particle. It’s the reason you’re going on that post-New Year’s diet.
    • Worst “How Could You!!? – Reality Show” – Dancing With The Stars voters giving an early boot to Valerie Harper.  The woman has Terminal Brain Cancer.  What the hell’s wrong with you people?  Her doctors said Harper would be dead months before she got the invite from DWTS.  Ok, Harper wasn’t a very good dancer.  But she’s, what, 74 years old And Has Terminal Brain Cancer.  Good lord, the voters kept Bill Engvall dancing long past his expiration date.
    • Worst “Media Hyperventilation – TV Episode” – Game of Thrones, “Red Wedding” episode.  Oh, the shock.  Oh, the blood.  Oh, even people who read the book weren’t ready for the shock and blood.  Um, media people?  I read the book.  I You-Tubed (candidate for most unneeded verb) the wedding scene.  The scene wasn’t shocking.  And compared to your average slasher movie, it wasn’t very bloody either.
    • Worst “Of Course They Did – Tabloid Couple” – Kanye West and Kim Kardashian naming their kid “North West.”
    • Most Likely to Spend Inherited Fortune on Therapy – see North West above.
    • Best “Creative Re-energizing of an Already Good Show” – The Good Wife for Alicia starting her own law firm and the ensuing turmoil.
    • Why do movie studios keep hiring Ben Stiller?  No particular category.  Just confused.
    • Best “How The Fuck Did He Do That and Why Would Anyone Want To?” – David Blaine for shoving an ice pick through his hand without drawing blood.
    • Worst “This is the Best a Trillion Dollar National Budget Can Buy?” – Roll out of the Obamacare website.
    • Best Use of Papal Authority – Pope Francis telling his Cardinals, Bishops and Priests to shut their yaps about abortions and homosexuality, and start giving a damn about the poor.
    • Best Book I Read This Year – Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed, published in 2009.  The book is a history of the financial events leading up to the Great Depression and the four men who made the key decisions that led to much of what went wrong.
    • Worst or Best “Living Up to the Lowest Expectations” – Congressional Republicans who likely would vote against Motherhood, if Obama came out for it.
    • Best “Taking Advantage of the Situation While the Boss is Away” – John Oliver, who hosted The Daily Show during the summer while Jon Stewart was directing a movie half a world away.  HBO signed Oliver to host his own show.
    • Most Important Political Act – Edward Snowden leaking confidential NSA files.  Whatever your opinion is of Snowden, his leaks confirmed what we all knew – the NSA is spying on all of us, as in every person on Earth.  What remains to be seen is what we, domestically, will do and how our allies and others will react now that they have evidence.
    • Can we collectively erase all memories of Miley Cyrus twerking?  Just curious.
    • Best film of the year – I don’t know.  With even matinees costing nearly $10 a pop, I don’t see many movies during their theatrical release.  12 Years a Slave will probably win the Oscar.
    • Worst Neverending List – this one.
    • Best TV Episode.  Period. – Breaking Bad “Ozymandias.”
    • Best Event of 2013 – Living to see 2014.