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Surgery becomes popular option to battle obesity

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  • Robert J. Matter
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/printedition/chi-0312010143dec01,1,5088752.story?coll=chi-printnews-hed Surgery becomes popular option to battle obesity
    Message 1 of 10 , Dec 1, 2003
      http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/printedition/chi-0312010143dec01,1,5088752.story?coll=chi-printnews-hed

      Surgery becomes popular option to battle obesity
      Many say benefits are worth the risks

      By Karen Testa
      Associated Press
      Published December 1, 2003

      BOSTON -- Ken Powers knew the potential dangers of having his stomach stapled, but to a man who had tipped the scales at 475 pounds, those risks didn't much matter.

      "I had this thought: If I die on the operating table, having the surgery to try to better my life, I thought it was a better thing to do than to live the way I was living, which, in my opinion, I was kind of waiting to die anyway," he said.

      By the tens of thousands, morbidly obese people who have failed at diets, support groups and exercise programs are turning to surgery to lose weight.

      In 1998 there were 25,800 obesity-related operations, most of them gastric-bypass procedures commonly known as stomach stapling. This year, the American Society for Bariatric Surgery estimates there will be 103,200 operations.

      Questions about the risks and growing use of the procedures surfaced in recent weeks after two patients in New England died during stomach-stapling surgeries. However, obesity specialists say the procedure is safer than it ever has been, and that that is contributing to the growing popularity.

      And for most patients, the risk of not having the surgery is greater.

      "It's an operation that helps cure people of this disease, which is life-threatening," said Dr. Janey Pratt, a surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center in Boston, which does about 300 gastric bypasses a year. "People see it as some type of cosmetic surgery, when it's not. More patients die waiting for surgery than die after surgery."

      The operation involves using staples or stitches to close off part of the stomach to form a pouch about the size of an egg, which limits how much food the person can eat. A part of the small intestine also is bypassed to reduce nutrient absorption.

      Risks include wound infections, stomach leaks and occasionally life-threatening blood clots.

      The International Bariatric Surgery Registry estimates that 1 in 1,000 patients will die within four weeks of the surgery, and 3 in 1,000 will die within three months.

      Powers, 42, was lucky. Even carrying more than 400 pounds on his 5-foot-11-inch frame, the Worcester man had not developed many of the common ailments associated with obesity. Still, his sleep was fitful, and walking was exhausting.

      Powers underwent laparoscopic gastric-bypass surgery in May 2001 and now weighs 280 pounds. He believes the surgery staved off the onset of diabetes, and he has had no complications.

      Surgery is not used to treat minor obesity. Candidates must be 100 pounds above their ideal body weight and have failed at other attempts at weight loss.

      Still, an estimated 15 million people would qualify for the surgery, said Dr. Scott Shikora, head of bariatric surgery at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston. Tufts did not take new patients for nearly six months earlier this year so it could deal with its backlog of patients. At one point, there was a 500-person waiting list, Shikora said.

      Many insurers have started to cover the procedures, finding it cheaper to pay for the surgery than treating obesity-related health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

      But Powers worries that some may perceive stomach stapling as a simple, convenient option.

      "I don't think you see all the pain involved," he said. "You eat half an English muffin and you throw up. You have to be ready to abandon the way that you've lived with food for the rest of your life."

      Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
    • RIIN GILL
      ... Well, you all know what I m going to say, but I ll say it anyway. You want to join me? Our culture is mentally ill. ... Well, let s examine that, shall
      Message 2 of 10 , Dec 1, 2003
        On Mon, 1 Dec 2003, Robert J. Matter wrote:

        > http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/printedition/chi-0312010143dec01,1,5088752.story?coll=chi-printnews-hed
        >
        > Surgery becomes popular option to battle obesity
        > Many say benefits are worth the risks

        Well, you all know what I'm going to say, but I'll say it anyway. You
        want to join me? Our culture is mentally ill.

        > By the tens of thousands, morbidly obese people who have failed at
        > diets, support groups and exercise programs are turning to surgery to
        > lose weight.
        >

        Well, let's examine that, shall we? Diets...short term change in eating
        habits, usually some bizarre/unhealthy combination of foods that leave the
        dieter feeling deprived so that he/she can't wait to go off it and binge,
        gaining all the weight back and more. Exercise programs...programs...
        never making exercise just a part of daily life, but a "program."
        Probably involves driving the car to the gym three times a week, but gosh,
        there just isn't time, is there?

        Both diets and exercise programs are doomed to failure by their very
        nature. To be healthy *at any weight* people need to eat healthy food and
        exercise as part of their daily lives. Not just for the short term. They
        need to incorporate both of these things into their lives, for the rest of
        their lives. If they are overweight when they start, they will lose
        weight. At some point, their weight will stabilize. But it's important
        to remember, everyone needs to do these things to be healthy at any
        weight.

        > The operation involves using staples or stitches to close off part of the stomach to form a pouch about the size of an egg, which limits how much food the person can eat. A part of the small intestine also is bypassed to reduce nutrient absorption.
        >

        That is absolutely disgusting. It's taking a body that is functional and
        making it non-functional. It's barbaric. It should be illegal.

        > Surgery is not used to treat minor obesity. Candidates must be 100 pounds above their ideal body weight and have failed at other attempts at weight loss.
        >

        I've lost 90 pounds from bike commuting, becoming a vegetarian, quitting
        drinking pop, and stopping eating in restaurants. I didn't even do any of
        those in an effort to lose weight. So, I lost 90 pounds without even
        trying. I'm still more than 10 pounds above my ideal body weight,
        whatever the hell that is. I probably could've found some butcher willing
        to take my money and mutilate me. Geez, people are so convinced they
        can't possibly lose weight without spending some huge amount of money on
        some surgery or drug or program. There's just no common sense.

        > "I don't think you see all the pain involved," he said. "You eat half an English muffin and you throw up. You have to be ready to abandon the way that you've lived with food for the rest of your life."
        >

        And that is the problem with the surgery. How is a person supposed to get
        all the nutrients they need in the tiny amount of food they can eat after
        the surgery? Their bodies are now non-functional. Yes, they'll eat less
        than before, but THAT much less? That's not enough to function! Well,
        their body will burn the excess fat, you say, but they still need other
        nutrients. It seems like they would be too weak to exercise, so that
        wouldn't be an option for them. And after their bodies have gone through
        all the excess fat, then what? They can still only eat less than you'd
        feed your cat?

        I just can't even put into words how repulsive this is to me.

        ***********************************************************
        Riin Gill
        Interlibrary Loan 734-615-6168
        Taubman Medical Library fax 734-763-1473
        University of Michigan
        ***********************************************************
        If you were riding your bike, you'd be having fun by now.
      • De Clarke
        Published on Monday, December 1, 2003 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune Going Backwards Tax Breaks Target Big SUVs by Elizabeth Dunbar and Rob Hotakainen
        Message 3 of 10 , Dec 1, 2003
          Published on Monday, December 1, 2003 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune

          Going Backwards
          Tax Breaks Target Big SUVs
          by Elizabeth Dunbar and Rob Hotakainen


          WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Taking the advice of her accountant, Carolyn Hodgson
          found a way to reduce her federal taxes this year: She spent $38,117 on a
          sport-utility vehicle.

          After deducting the cost of the 2002 GMC Yukon Denali from her 2003 income,
          Hodgson figures she'll end up saving about $14,000.

          "It helps offset some of the other rising expenses businesses are facing,"
          said Hodgson, of Plymouth, who bought the SUV for her Edina delivery
          business.

          The incentive, part of President Bush's economic stimulus package approved
          by Congress earlier this year, is gaining attention from car dealers and
          accountants across the country.

          For years, business owners have been able to use vehicle purchases as tax
          write-offs for equipment, but now the rules have changed dramatically.

          In a move intended to encourage businesses to invest in new equipment,
          Congress is allowing a full deduction of as much as $100,000 for business
          equipment. In previous years, the equipment deduction was limited to
          $25,000.

          Included in the category of equipment are vehicles weighing more than 6,000
          pounds when fully loaded -- which can mean heavy-duty pickups used in
          construction work or Cadillac Escalades.

          For those who buy smaller vehicles, the tax benefit is much less
          attractive. The maximum deduction businesses can take this year for a new
          car weighing less than 6,000 pounds is $10,710. And while the deduction for
          large vehicles can be taken in a single year, the deduction for smaller
          cars must be spread out over five years.

          In New York, RIA senior tax analyst Bob Trinz is urging people who run
          small businesses or professional practices to "buy yourself an SUV for
          Christmas." And in the Twin Cities, car dealers are realizing that the
          break could be good for business.

          "We're going to take advantage of this and go after it in the next 60
          days," said Michael Kahn, sales manager at Stillwater Motors.

          Kahn said the tax break has meant a bigger demand for trucks, vans and
          SUVs. For example, instead of stocking two or three Chevy Express cargo
          vans, Kahn has 15. And he's trying to get the word out because he says it
          will help his business and the economy.

          Heft helps

          The tax law is encouraging a bigger-is-better mentality among both auto
          dealers and the buying public.

          To qualify, vehicles must be used mainly for business. At least 38 vehicles
          hit the 6,000-pound weight requirement, including Dodge Durangos, Lincoln
          Navigators and Toyota Land Cruisers. Buick introduced a new luxury SUV for
          2004 that barely meets the cutoff: 6,001 pounds fully loaded. A buyer who
          has more than $50,000 to spend could shop for a Range Rover or a Hummer H2.

          "We've seen a change in the type of vehicles that some people are buying,"
          said Cheryl Meyer, an accountant with Biebl and Ranweiler in New Ulm, Minn.
          The firm's tax advisers have been talking about the tax breaks at state and
          national conferences for accountants.

          Some dealers are expecting an end-of-the-year rush because small-business
          owners who buy and use qualifying vehicles before Dec. 31 can deduct the
          entire amount from their taxable income this year.

          So far, Kahn said, funeral homes, construction companies, real estate
          agents and delivery services are among those taking advantage of the tax
          break.

          "People come in and want to upgrade their whole fleet, so they're coming in
          with big orders," he said.

          Tom Johnson, a Minneapolis tax adviser for Boulay, Heutmaker and Zibell,
          said he hasn't seen people buy vehicles that they don't need or can't
          afford.

          "It's still an economic decision," he said. "But if they need a vehicle
          like that, it makes it much more attractive."

          Even with the tax break, consumers have to think about how much they'll
          spend on gas. The larger SUVs generally get between 9 and 15 miles per
          gallon.

          Hodgson said she already discovered the drawback.

          "This thing is horrible," she said of her Denali, adding that she's at the
          gas pump every three days. "I step on the gas and you can just watch the
          gas gauge drop."

          Opponents fuming

          Environmentalists and fiscal watchdogs are fuming.

          They say that not only is Congress failing to increase fuel-efficiency
          standards, but now Washington is allowing tax breaks that encourage bigger
          vehicles.

          "Just by increasing the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, we could
          answer a major part of the challenge of America's energy future," said Sen.
          Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

          "As long as SUVs are flying off of dealership lots, the current break makes
          no fiscal sense," said Keith Ashdown, vice president of policy for
          Taxpayers for Common Sense.

          Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and 26 other House Democrats are cosponsoring
          a bill that would plug the SUV loophole. A similar bill has been introduced
          in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

          "Giving tax breaks to encourage the selling of these heavy, gas-inefficient
          SUVs . . . doesn't do anything to help us reduce our dependency on oil,"
          McCollum said.

          Minnesota Democrat Jim Oberstar, the ranking member of the House
          Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the tax break is "bad
          policy," adding: "It encourages the use of the most fuel-inefficient means
          of transportation in urban America."

          While the legislation to plug the SUV loophole is pending, nothing is
          scheduled to change anytime soon. When Congress considered an energy bill
          earlier this month, efforts to change the deduction back to $25,000 failed.
          Under current law, the $100,000 deduction will end on Dec. 31, 2005,
          returning to the $25,000 level.

          For now, business groups argue that the increased deduction is helping
          businesses expand, even if it means more people are buying SUVs.

          "In the big picture, you're stimulating the economy by giving small
          business owners a bigger deduction," said Raj Nisankarao, president of the
          National Business Association.

          He said that people often forget that the new $100,000 limit is allowing
          businesses to purchase more equipment and supplies than the $25,000 limit
          permitted.

          But McCollum said the need for an SUV tax break has never come up in
          conversation with a small-business owner.

          Though Hodgson said she appreciates the tax break, she wonders whether the
          money could be spent elsewhere.

          "It just seems like this is helping the people who are already successful,"
          she said.



          --
          .............................................................................
          :De Clarke, Software Engineer UCO/Lick Observatory, UCSC:
          :Mail: de@... | Your planet's immune system is trying to get rid :
          :Web: www.ucolick.org | of you. --Kurt Vonnegut :
          :1024D/B9C9E76E | F892 5F17 8E0A F095 05CD EE8B D169 EDAA B9C9 E76E:
        • Kevan Smith
          ... I suppose by now many of us know someone who has had the procedure done. I know a person who has, and he rides bike with our local club. When I first saw
          Message 4 of 10 , Dec 1, 2003
            At 06:00 AM 12/1/2003 -0600, Robert J. Matter wrote:

            >Surgery becomes popular option to battle obesity
            >Many say benefits are worth the risks

            I suppose by now many of us know someone who has had the procedure done. I
            know a person who has, and he rides bike with our local club. When I first
            saw him, he showed me his driver's license photo, and it was some huge guy
            who looked nothing like him. The surgery, learning a better diet and
            exercise have undoubtedly mad him a healthier person. However, because he
            doesn't absorb as many nutrients as before, he bonks sooner. To make up for
            it, he rides at a moderate pace.
          • Chris Lauinger
            Outrageous!! This tax policy is indicative of a government dedicated to an economy bent on turning a one-time hydrocarbon energy inheritance into toxic waste-
            Message 5 of 10 , Dec 3, 2003
              Outrageous!!
              This tax policy is indicative of a government
              dedicated to an economy bent on turning a one-time
              hydrocarbon energy inheritance into toxic waste- as
              soon as physically possible.

              --- De Clarke <de@...> wrote:
              >
              > Published on Monday, December 1, 2003 by the
              > Minneapolis Star Tribune
              >
              > Going Backwards
              > Tax Breaks Target Big SUVs
              > by Elizabeth Dunbar and Rob Hotakainen

              __________________________________
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              Protect your identity with Yahoo! Mail AddressGuard
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            • billt44hk
              ... 0312010143dec01,1,5088752.story?coll=chi-printnews-hed ... You ... To my mind some of the ways in which people actually do keep fit are more subtly
              Message 6 of 10 , Dec 7, 2003
                --- In CarFree@yahoogroups.com, RIIN GILL <riin@u...> wrote:
                > On Mon, 1 Dec 2003, Robert J. Matter wrote:
                >
                > > http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/printedition/chi-
                0312010143dec01,1,5088752.story?coll=chi-printnews-hed
                > >
                > > Surgery becomes popular option to battle obesity
                > > Many say benefits are worth the risks
                >
                > Well, you all know what I'm going to say, but I'll say it anyway.
                You
                > want to join me? Our culture is mentally ill.

                To my mind some of the ways in which people actually do "keep fit"
                are more subtly symptomatic of sickness in society. One of the
                greatest scams of our era has to be the one which persuades so many
                into subscribing thousands of dollars to a health club to work out
                on an exercise bike. Or jog on a treadmill. After damaging my hips
                and lower back with accumulated years of competitive sports - first
                rugby, then many years of competitive squash and tennis, and
                eventually realizing at about 50 I was too old for such games I
                started using the gym for jogging and "cycling". Only later still
                that I rediscovered the convenience, health and fitness benefits of
                everyday cycling and soon resigned my sports club membership. One of
                the reasons for treadmill jogging in the gym was that the external
                street environment was so obnoxious to try and run in. I guess I'd
                never even seriously thought about cycling outside.

                Treadmill jogging and exercise bikes have been around for a long
                time . But it's the way someone has devised a new confidence trick
                to extract greater profitability out of the latter that amuses me.

                Perhaps it's the increasing influx of Americans into Hong Kong and
                China in recent years but the growth of American yuppy-style fads
                is spreading. See article below about "spinning".

                (I guess stomach-stapling is already being taken up by wealthy
                carbound Chinese.)

                A few weeks earlier I had spotted in the press an
                earlier "advotisement" piece entitled "Aerobics of the New
                Millenium". It was written by one George Dovas, described as
                National Group Exercise Manager of Fitness First, (presumably part of
                an American-owned global chain of such fitness clubs?)

                Anyway I saved these bits-
                "Cosmic cycling rooms are darkened to enhance the mind and body
                connection….."
                "So walk into a health club nowadays and you are likely to find an
                indoor cycling studio……"
                "Ride the calorie killer in an indoor cycling class like RPM…. climb
                the highest mountains and conquer the most dangerous terrains without
                having to leave the indoor cycling room."
                An extraordinary touch was George's final paragraph: "So, next
                time you see someone carrying a backpack traveling at high speed
                through crowded streets, dashing across busy roads, you know that
                they are on their way to their favourite group exercise class." Eh?
                Could he mean a cyclist? Highly doubtful as you can count the numbers
                of such urban cyclists on one hand in this city-and none of us are
                likely to waste time in a gym.

                It's a pretty sure bet that in most cities many of these yuppy
                health club virtual/ersatz "cyclists" will drive in their cars to
                get to the health club in order to ride on their bolted-to-the-
                floor "bikes".

                There's also a photograph of this scam in operation -a lot of
                suckers in a semi-circle of exercise bikes, a lycra-clad woman on an
                exercise bike on a central podium. What can she be teaching them -
                how to rotate the pedals?

                At least simulated golf ranges are used by people who are just
                practicing their strokes to improve their game when they get out on
                the golf course. But these exercise bike regimes are clearly an end
                in themselves. Even the millions who have such a contraption in their
                homes will never venture to travel a single mile outside on a real
                bicycle.
                Here's the recent South China Morning Post article. (Note the boast
                that in a typical 40 minutes "an average cyclist" (shouldn't that
                be `virtual cyclist') "is likely to burn at least 500 calories". I
                guess my 15 miles of riding every day to get to and from work burns
                just as much, costs me nothing –indeed saves me lots of money and
                time etc. It would be interesting if the benefits of real functional
                commuter cycling could be fully compared with ersatz/virtual
                cycling .
                Bill T
                By Tony Myers
                WHEN THE FOUNDER of Spinning came up with the concept of an exercise
                routine for a stationary gym bike, it was perhaps the closest any
                fitness instructor had come to re-inventing the wheel.
                Devised in the US in 1987 by personal trainer and endurance athlete
                Johnny G, as a form of indoor training for professional cyclists,
                Spinning is a group exercise performed on specially adapted bicycles.
                Although it has long been popular with cycle enthusiasts and gym
                rats, Spinning is gaining wider appeal as a form of exercise that
                focuses on the mind/body connection, as do Pilates and yoga.
                Florida native Tony Vargas has been Spinning for more than 10 years
                and is a master instructor at Mad Dogg Athletics, the company formed
                by Johnny G to promote Spinning.
                "Spinning is cardiovascular conditioning using technique, balance and
                timing with a strong mind and body connection," says Vargas, who was
                in town last week to train instructors, and lead a three-hour
                endurance marathon at New York@hAL club in Central.
                Spinning is very much a group activity, in fact it is almost
                impossible to "Spin" solo, as it is designed for a peloton - the main
                pack of cyclists, as in the Tour de France - and is performed to
                music, which is synchronised by the instructor to reflect
                the "route". For 20 minutes it could be a full-on dance track as the
                instructor leads the group up a hill, over jumps where you have to
                get up off the saddle and peddle for dear life. Then, when the summit
                is reached, the cyclists "Spin" back down switching off the torque on
                the bike and the music changes to chill-out, ambient or classical.
                If all this sounds like a form of group humiliation - remember
                aerobics classes in the 1980s? - then think again. It is a high-
                energy group exercise and the camaraderie is important to give you
                that extra push, but an individual is encouraged to set their own
                pace and the mental focus and inner strength from spiritual awareness
                is just as important as achieving those thighs to die for.
                Because a typical class of 40 minutes will go through several energy
                zones, an average cyclist is likely to burn at least 500 calories. As
                you can imagine, it's a complete cardio workout so it gets the heart
                and lungs going and also tones the legs, stomach and upper body
                because there is a special way to grip the handlebars.
                Vargas sums up Spinning thus: "Using ancient mind/body techniques
                with modern-day gym equipment. It's really a life discipline, in the
                same way as yoga or martial arts. The music helps the emotional
                aspect, but it's not all about BPMs, it's about self-awareness,
                control and independence."
                Apart from this kind of philosophy, which is perfectly suited to
                today's approach to wellness, Star Trac bikes are radically different
                to normal exercise bikes. For one, there's no on-board computer
                offering a whole range of programmes, but a simple knob that acts
                like gears to increase the intensity. Secondly, the chain-driven
                flywheel delivers a smooth ride, and the handlebars are ergonomically
                positioned for maximum grip and comfort.
                As a complete Spinning novice, but someone with mountain bike
                experience and a bit of yoga practice under my belt, I was intrigued
                enough to try it out, so I signed up for the three-hour marathon
                endurance ride. There were about 12 of us. Some were newly qualified
                instructors, some were spinning fanatics, and me.
                I imagined that I'd maybe last one hour tops, and was as surprised as
                anyone to actually complete the ride. The feeling of achievement at
                the end was overwhelming. The esprit de corps really did promote a
                sense of togetherness, it was a good laugh, there were no egos in the
                class and the music took the rider on an incredible journey as images
                of climbing hills, speeding down country lanes and sea breezes took
                you to another place.
                Three hours in the saddle on a stationary bike may sound like a cruel
                form of torture - but not if you're Spinning.
                New York@hAL, 22/F, New World Tower 1, 18 Queen's Road, Central, run
                Spinning classes every day. For more information and schedules phone
                3113 0123.
              • De Clarke
                ... OUR CULTURE IS MENTALLY ILL (I m joining you) ... Before I got hit with the latest flu virus (an unpleasant surprise as I am usually smugly robust in
                Message 7 of 10 , Dec 7, 2003
                  billt44hk (telomsha@...) wrote:
                  > >
                  > > > Surgery becomes popular option to battle obesity
                  > > > Many say benefits are worth the risks
                  > >
                  > > Well, you all know what I'm going to say, but I'll say it anyway.
                  > You
                  > > want to join me? Our culture is mentally ill.
                  OUR CULTURE IS MENTALLY ILL

                  (I'm joining you)

                  > To my mind some of the ways in which people actually do "keep fit"
                  > are more subtly symptomatic of sickness in society. One of the
                  > greatest scams of our era has to be the one which persuades so many
                  > into subscribing thousands of dollars to a health club to work out

                  Before I got hit with the latest flu virus (an unpleasant surprise as I
                  am usually smugly robust in health and don't get "what's going around"),
                  I was thinking about this thread (surgery as a "cure" for obesity).

                  A couple of random thoughts...

                  One thing at which corporate capitalism (and hucksterism in general) has
                  always excelled, is in turning misery into money. People's capacity for
                  happiness is fairly limited but their capacity for suffering, self-hatred,
                  feelings of inferiority etc. is practically infinite. So it is far more
                  profitable to market to their doubts, fears, and weaknesses. The more
                  the misery, the higher the price the "sucker" is willing to pay to have
                  it alleviated -- including expensive surgery. Whether to "look White"
                  (nose jobs, eye jobs, all the array of "racial correction surgery"),
                  to "look sexy" (I'll spare you the dismal list), to "become slender"
                  (liposuction, horribly and unforgettably parodied in the X files --
                  ugh! -- stapling, sectioning), to adjust one's gender self-image to
                  received norms (we can make you male! we can make you female!)....
                  the medical profiteer manages to convert misery, self-hatred, social
                  cruelty, prejudice, folly into a stream of cash.

                  The more unhappy we are, the more money can be made off us. We make
                  fat people very, very unhappy with vicious stereotyping, public insult,
                  schoolyard bullying, etc. And the diet and surgical hucksters get very
                  rich.

                  Second random thought: what is ersatz is always more expensive than what
                  is real. It only *seems* cheaper. There was a time when it was
                  recognised as a temporary inferior substitute (people tolerate wartime
                  margarine while longing for the return of real butter). But now we
                  seem to be living in the Age of the Ersatz as well as the Age of Oil,
                  when fantasy and the artificial hold a higher value in most people's
                  estimation than reality and the natural or practical, when kids like Tang
                  better than real orange juice. This process in America may have started
                  with Disney and the original Disneyland theme park, but I'm guessing
                  it's far more deeply rooted: people are always fascinated by theatre,
                  by costumes and puppets, masks and make believe. Audiences in old Japan
                  would sit (not always quietly) for 15 hours at a stretch to watch marathon
                  historical dramas...that's a pretty powerful commitment to a fantasy
                  experience. But that was a clearly circumscribed, ritual experience
                  with a specific locale, beginning, and ending -- like Carnivale or the
                  Feast of Fools or an opera performance. Today we (like some reiging
                  aristocracies of old) have somehow integrated the experience of theatre
                  with the experience of shopping, dining, living -- so that *everything*
                  is make believe, nothing is genuine. I seem to recall posting something
                  a couple of years back about a very popular beach in Japan that is wholly
                  artificial -- waves and all. The waves are made by machine and roll in
                  at precisely timed intervals... many people like it there because it is
                  their idea of an "ideal" beach, where everything is safe and predictable.
                  The first thing that wealthy people do when holidaying in some remote
                  country is to retreat to a Disneyland created by some four star hotel,
                  where the entire environment is artificially landscaped, controlled,
                  lit, decorated... predictable.

                  So it does not surprise me that people living in the Culture of Make
                  Believe would prefer to ride a virtual bike in a controlled, sealed
                  virtual environment than to ride a real bike in a messy, uncontrolled,
                  open environment. We are moving further and further towards full-time
                  existence in a wholly patented, copyrighted, corporate-owned reality.
                  And no, I haven't been watching the "Matrix" movies lately :-) sorry
                  to say found them rather boring.

                  I read recently that there is a multiplayer online web-access game
                  something like Sim City, a "virtual reality" city where you can spend time,
                  interact w/people, etc. It is said to be remarkably sophisticated. Now
                  here comes the kick [forgive me if I have mentioned this before, several
                  days of fever have dimmed my recent memory a bit]: players are apparently
                  spending *real world dollars* off their credit cards, to change into
                  game-world money so that they can buy clothes, accessories, jewellery, etc
                  for their game-world personas. In fact a small but lucrative business has
                  been created to change real money into game-world money. Not only that,
                  but (you are all sitting down, right, since you are at your computers?)
                  apparently the game-world owners have been able to charge substantial sums
                  to real-world corporations for license to open franchises in game-world.
                  As in, let's say, Gap clothing company pays the game-world operators N
                  thousand dollars per month for the "right" to open Gap stores in the
                  game-world shopping district. Coke pays them monthly fees to install
                  virtual coke machines. And so on.

                  This is the kind of thing that makes me feel like some old Amish feller
                  shaking his head at the strange and foolish ways of the English.

                  But sometimes I have an almost gleeful feeling about this sort of
                  nonsense. The more idiots (in the classical sense of the word) are
                  safely ensconced in their virtual realities, leading a make-believe life
                  without ever leaving their sealed, gated enclaves (or even their living
                  rooms!) the more space and quiet there might be outside, in the real
                  world that they are afraid to touch. I found some years back that if
                  I walked just fifty yards from the vehicle pullouts on the rim of the
                  Grand Canyon in cold, snowy weather, I could be alone -- completely alone --
                  with the great abyss. No one from the car/cocoon culture would venture
                  that far from their mobile wombs. OTOH, the reach of the Cocoon Culture
                  grows ever greater with more oil squandered -- now, luxury tourist trips
                  to the Antarctic research station are becoming commonplace...

                  it used to be that only the super-rich and the children of royalty and
                  merchant princes lived in a cocoon of privilege, squeamishness, and fear.
                  now every "average middle class kid" in the US lives in a cocoon. what,
                  I wonder, are we hatching into?

                  de

                  --
                  .............................................................................
                  :De Clarke, Software Engineer UCO/Lick Observatory, UCSC:
                  :Mail: de@... | Your planet's immune system is trying to get rid :
                  :Web: www.ucolick.org | of you. --Kurt Vonnegut :
                  :1024D/B9C9E76E | F892 5F17 8E0A F095 05CD EE8B D169 EDAA B9C9 E76E:
                • RIIN GILL
                  ... Yep. If someone can figure out a way to make a buck buy making someone unhappy and then promising happiness, they will. The more ... One of the books that
                  Message 8 of 10 , Dec 8, 2003
                    On Sun, 7 Dec 2003, De Clarke wrote:

                    > One thing at which corporate capitalism (and hucksterism in general) has
                    > always excelled, is in turning misery into money. People's capacity for
                    > happiness is fairly limited but their capacity for suffering, self-hatred,
                    > feelings of inferiority etc. is practically infinite. So it is far more
                    > profitable to market to their doubts, fears, and weaknesses.

                    Yep. If someone can figure out a way to make a buck buy making someone
                    unhappy and then promising happiness, they will.

                    The more
                    > the misery, the higher the price the "sucker" is willing to pay to have
                    > it alleviated -- including expensive surgery. Whether to "look White"
                    > (nose jobs, eye jobs, all the array of "racial correction surgery"),
                    > to "look sexy" (I'll spare you the dismal list),

                    One of the books that came through the interlibrary loan dept a few years
                    ago was something like "Cosmetic Surgery on the Asian Face." It was
                    decidedly creepy. Creepy enough because any photographs of plastic
                    surgery, especially on faces (I'm talking about photographs of actual
                    procedures, step by step, during surgery, in addition to before and after
                    photos with lines and arrows pointing to where the surgeon should cut,
                    etc.) totally creep me out, but especially creepy because it was implicit
                    that the patients would want to have the surgery to look more white. Most
                    if not all of the patients were women. Not surprising. My Chinese
                    coworkers told me it was quite common in China for actresses to "have
                    their eyes done," i.e., have surgery to their eyelids to look more white.
                    They got more acting jobs after having the surgery. We all thought it was
                    totally disgusting.

                    > The more unhappy we are, the more money can be made off us. We make
                    > fat people very, very unhappy with vicious stereotyping, public insult,
                    > schoolyard bullying, etc. And the diet and surgical hucksters get very
                    > rich.

                    "Advertising is the opposite of therapy." The purpose of advertising is
                    to make you unhappy. If you were happy you wouldn't feel a need to buy
                    their crap. How many people ever were ashamed of their toenails before
                    they started seeing ads telling them many people were ashamed of their
                    toenails and wouldn't dream of letting anyone see their toenails because
                    of how ugly they were, oh, the horror!, but now there's a cure!

                    The two biggest things anyone can do to improve their mental health are to
                    not watch television and to not look at women's magazines.

                    > Second random thought: what is ersatz is always more expensive than what
                    > is real. It only *seems* cheaper. There was a time when it was
                    > recognised as a temporary inferior substitute (people tolerate wartime
                    > margarine while longing for the return of real butter). But now we
                    > seem to be living in the Age of the Ersatz as well as the Age of Oil,
                    > when fantasy and the artificial hold a higher value in most people's
                    > estimation than reality and the natural or practical, when kids like Tang
                    > better than real orange juice. This process in America may have started
                    > with Disney and the original Disneyland theme park, but I'm guessing
                    > it's far more deeply rooted: people are always fascinated by theatre,
                    > by costumes and puppets, masks and make believe. Audiences in old Japan
                    > would sit (not always quietly) for 15 hours at a stretch to watch marathon
                    > historical dramas...that's a pretty powerful commitment to a fantasy
                    > experience. But that was a clearly circumscribed, ritual experience
                    > with a specific locale, beginning, and ending -- like Carnivale or the
                    > Feast of Fools or an opera performance. Today we (like some reiging
                    > aristocracies of old) have somehow integrated the experience of theatre
                    > with the experience of shopping, dining, living -- so that *everything*
                    > is make believe, nothing is genuine. I seem to recall posting something
                    > a couple of years back about a very popular beach in Japan that is wholly
                    > artificial -- waves and all. The waves are made by machine and roll in
                    > at precisely timed intervals... many people like it there because it is
                    > their idea of an "ideal" beach, where everything is safe and predictable.
                    > The first thing that wealthy people do when holidaying in some remote
                    > country is to retreat to a Disneyland created by some four star hotel,
                    > where the entire environment is artificially landscaped, controlled,
                    > lit, decorated... predictable.

                    Clean, antiseptic, plastic...

                    > So it does not surprise me that people living in the Culture of Make
                    > Believe would prefer to ride a virtual bike in a controlled, sealed
                    > virtual environment than to ride a real bike in a messy, uncontrolled,
                    > open environment. We are moving further and further towards full-time
                    > existence in a wholly patented, copyrighted, corporate-owned reality.
                    > And no, I haven't been watching the "Matrix" movies lately :-) sorry
                    > to say found them rather boring.

                    I haven't seen the "Matrix" movies. I tend to see about one movie every
                    other year or so. "The Truman Show" came to mind though.

                    > I read recently that there is a multiplayer online web-access game
                    > something like Sim City, a "virtual reality" city where you can spend time,
                    > interact w/people, etc. It is said to be remarkably sophisticated. Now
                    > here comes the kick [forgive me if I have mentioned this before, several
                    > days of fever have dimmed my recent memory a bit]: players are apparently
                    > spending *real world dollars* off their credit cards, to change into
                    > game-world money so that they can buy clothes, accessories, jewellery, etc
                    > for their game-world personas. In fact a small but lucrative business has
                    > been created to change real money into game-world money. Not only that,
                    > but (you are all sitting down, right, since you are at your computers?)
                    > apparently the game-world owners have been able to charge substantial sums
                    > to real-world corporations for license to open franchises in game-world.
                    > As in, let's say, Gap clothing company pays the game-world operators N
                    > thousand dollars per month for the "right" to open Gap stores in the
                    > game-world shopping district. Coke pays them monthly fees to install
                    > virtual coke machines. And so on.

                    Hmmm...and do other game-world personas then buy things from the
                    game-world stores that the individual franchise owners run? Does the
                    game-world money the store makes then get converted back into real money
                    for the franchise owner? Ah, I suspect not. I suspect someone's getting
                    taken to the cleaner's. Whether the cleaner's is in the real world or the
                    game-world doesn't really matter much, I suspect. A fool and his money...

                    > This is the kind of thing that makes me feel like some old Amish feller
                    > shaking his head at the strange and foolish ways of the English.

                    Yeah, I know that one.

                    > it used to be that only the super-rich and the children of royalty and
                    > merchant princes lived in a cocoon of privilege, squeamishness, and fear.
                    > now every "average middle class kid" in the US lives in a cocoon. what,
                    > I wonder, are we hatching into?

                    Scary thought. Another generation of the same, but only more so? Or will
                    they realize this isn't a way to live and raise their children
                    differently? There may be some of that, but not enough, I suspect. Even
                    when they want to do things differently, there will be a lot of things
                    they simply don't know how to do because they were never taught, and some
                    things will be things they don't know they're missing. Mental fractures
                    don't heal the same way physical ones do.

                    ***********************************************************
                    Riin Gill
                    Interlibrary Loan 734-615-6168
                    Taubman Medical Library fax 734-763-1473
                    University of Michigan
                    ***********************************************************
                    If you were riding your bike, you'd be having fun by now.
                  • De Clarke
                    wow. Bill Talen ( The Reverend Billy ) has summed up that ersatz environment in one pithy phrase: ... the dictatorial simulation of the retail environment...
                    Message 9 of 10 , Dec 8, 2003
                      wow. Bill Talen ("The Reverend Billy") has summed up that ersatz
                      environment in one pithy phrase:

                      "... the dictatorial simulation of the retail environment... "

                      "dictatorial simulation" -- that's exactly the atmosphere of modern
                      consumer life. it's make-believe, but not like children's make-believe
                      which can be dropped any minute for a quick dash home to lunch. it is
                      a make-believe in which our complicity and participation are *required*,
                      a make-believe which hectors us and infiltrates our personal space,
                      disrupts our visual field with its larger-than-life fantasy billboards,
                      assaults our ears with its nonstop manic ranting. it's a coercive make-
                      believe... "the game wants to play you."

                      "We're told constantly that we're the freest people. But we're in
                      hallways all day, we're in traffic all day, we're in mutual dead
                      zones all day, we're in prisons or malls that resemble prisons
                      with Muzak and fluorescent lights. We're consumers and all day
                      long we're in positions where there's a distance between our
                      body and anything that we could impact."

                      the downside of the cocoon culture...

                      de

                      --
                      .............................................................................
                      :De Clarke, Software Engineer UCO/Lick Observatory, UCSC:
                      :Mail: de@... | Your planet's immune system is trying to get rid :
                      :Web: www.ucolick.org | of you. --Kurt Vonnegut :
                      :1024D/B9C9E76E | F892 5F17 8E0A F095 05CD EE8B D169 EDAA B9C9 E76E:
                    • Jym Dyer
                      Date: 08 Dec 2003 18:04:35 -0800 In-Reply-To: De Clarke s message of Mon, 8 Dec 2003 13:25:17 -0800 Message-ID: Lines: 22 ...
                      Message 10 of 10 , Dec 8, 2003
                        Date: 08 Dec 2003 18:04:35 -0800
                        In-Reply-To: De Clarke's message of "Mon, 8 Dec 2003 13:25:17 -0800"
                        Message-ID: <Jym.wzekvekaq4.fsf@...>
                        Lines: 22

                        > Bill Talen ("The Reverend Billy") has summed up that ersatz
                        > environment in one pithy phrase:
                        > "... the dictatorial simulation of the retail environment... "

                        =v= He may be "Talen" when he's just Bill, but when he's
                        Reverend Billy, he's Reverend Billy O'Nair! Hours of fun at
                        his website:

                        http://www.revbilly.com/

                        ObCarFree: He's a fixture at New York City's Critical Mass,
                        where he gives sermons on the eeevils of cars:

                        http://www.things.org/~jym/critical-mass/pix/sep2000nyc-rev-billy.jpg

                        <_Jym_>
                        --
                        Boycott Compulsory Consumption:
                        http://www.xmasresistance.org/

                        Ignore the ads below, for starters.
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