20 April 2015

The Naked Vacuum Cleaner

"On my way," she texted. "Shopping done!"
"I'll be ready," I replied. But ready for what, and by when?
Susan drives from O'Leary to Charlottetown for a few days every week, often stopping on the way for provisions at Sobeys in Summerside. 'On my way' signified to me the start of a sixty minute drive from the west of the island. Normally I am prepared way in advance but that day I was running late owing to an early morning excursion to Sport Chek, on the hunt for Under Armour compression shorts (long leg, 32 waist). But I digress.
I consulted my watch and sketched out a mental plan by which I would be sitting comfortably in my armchair awaiting Susan's arrival with time to spare, bathed, shaved, bathroom cleaned, laundry folded and stowed, and my modest abode vacuumed and scrubbed to the point where eating off the floor would be a serious contention; my preferred way of life.
While drawing a deep, hot bath, I shaved my cheeks till they glowed smooth and pink. I had stripped off and was about to clamber into the tub when a thought occurred... vacuuming can be sweaty work. Perhaps I should do that before bathing; such a sensible move. I strode to the storage room, bare feet slapping on the vinyl floor, and grabbed my vacuum cleaner (Kenmore, cylinder type, 1400 watts) and carried it to my bedroom. I would start there, shimmy to the hall, the second bedroom and thence to the living room; my faultless plan.
Here I will concede this was not my first foray into housework 'au naturel'. Perhaps it's that certain thrill, that frisson of excitement, dancing from room to room, wondering if it's safe to scurry past those huge patio windows. You get in the zone; the back and forth, the hum of the motor. In fairness and in my defence, it's easy to forget you're in your birthday suit.
I twirled out of my bedroom, tugging my trusty vac behind, long lissom limbs reaching and stretching into all nooks and crannies. Soft brush attachment in place, I sucked at ledges, shelves, skirting boards and radiators, leaping over the cylinder as nimbly as a young gazelle, in a world of my own.
As I pirouetted out of the bathroom, hose and nozzle in hand, and headed for the living room, I saw a person... a real, live, fully dressed person, looking at me with eyebrows arched high and jaw slack. I froze... my heart actually skipped several beats. While my mind processed the scene and its ramifications, my silent witness sank slowly to her knees. Then she bowed forward until her forehead reached the floor. Only then did she emit a sound, a stuttering squawk, half laugh, half wail...
As alarm took its vice-like grip on me, I leapt sideways in a single bound to the relative safety of bedroom two. "You're early, Susan," I ventured, studiously avoiding any mention of my state.
Her initial reply was a clucking sound which gradually resolved into peals of laughter. I sneaked a peek around the door frame and saw Susan lying on my floor literally quivering with mirth.
"You made good time from Summerside," I said.
Between ragged guffaws came the words, "I messaged you from Charlottetown, ten minutes away! Now I see what you meant by I'll be ready!"
We met under adventurous circumstances several months ago and became inseparable from day one so it's strange that I felt so cringingly embarrassed, but I did. Perhaps it was the simple business of being caught red-handed and bare-cheeked, quite unexpectedly. Well, put yourself in a similar position and imagine!
To her credit (and proof, though hardly needed, that she accepts every part of my character and personality), Susan didn't ask me why. Nor did she bat an eyelid while I blabbered on about having calculated that I still had an hour before her arrival, and had been side-tracked at the very point of leaping into the bath. There are no satisfactory excuses. No one behaves like I did, or if they do they don't get caught!

16 April 2015

Epigenetic Inheritance

Epigenetics, the newest science of all, lifts the lid on the old conundrum "nature or nurture". It turns out to be partly both. But we've always known that instinctively haven't we?
Several years ago scientists mapped the entire human genome, the rules for human physical and mental development. From that we learned that we inherit equal amounts of genes from each of our parents. No surprise then that we look and act a bit like mum and dad.
Epigenetics reveals that our destiny is not cast in stone. If we have the will we have the power to influence the extent to which inherited genes are triggered in our lifetime. Every thought, every mouthful, every step, changes gene expression and therefore our future. Genetics loads the gun but Epigenetics pulls the trigger.
1880 famine records in Sweden combined with birth and death records, showed that children and even grandchildren had longer life expectancy. The gene responsible for switching metabolism to 'survival mode' was activated, then bequeathed in genetic code to future generations.
Psychotherapists found that not only did Holocaust survivors come to them for counselling but almost all their children did too, even though those children were born long after the Holocaust. The gene for trauma had been activated and passed on.
Some organ transplant recipients report sudden changes in food preference, habits even hobbies. This adds weight to the notion that DNA molecules carry not only the building blocks of life itself... but how to live it too.

02 April 2015

Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux is still recognisable as the impish interviewer whose TV documentary career began in 1998, challenging his subjects with, at times, impudent lines of questioning, but his latest films are serious investigative journalism. 'Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity' is a sympathetic exploration of the personalities of inmates in an Ohio prison for the criminally insane. While always giving their heinous crimes appropriately minimal coverage, Louis nevertheless treats his subjects with respect and a degree of compassion.

He made his name examining the strange underbelly of North America, hunting down the weird, the fanatical and the marginalised. UFO spotters, wife-swappers, born again Christians and other whimsical subject matter provided the perfect foil for his slightly tongue-in-cheek approach. The hour-long films work so well because Louis playfully teases his subjects with questions that the discerning viewer will realise are poking fun, yet the interviewees are so devoted to their cause that they are blind to even oblique criticism.

He has a propensity to put himself in positions well outside his comfort zone, willing his audience to join him in his bizarre experiences: entering a lion's cage with a man who keeps big cats for pets; joining in on the set of a porn film; entering the scary realm of modern Nazis. His soft English accent and erudite language skills endear him to the Americans, somehow letting him get away with statements, and the cringe-worthy repetition of boyish questions, for which he would be crucified in his native land. "Can I look at your penis?" "No." "Please?" "No!"All this makes for fascinating viewing, especially to an Englishman.

His style is deceptively smooth. He is easy-going and charming and that allows him to get so close that he can deliver pointed questions. He still tackles fringe subjects but these days they are much more serious. Gone is the title 'Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends' and the almost goofy fun-poking. The frightening arenas of drug addiction, mental health and violent prisons demand challenging questions and the mature Louis steps right up to the mark and asks them.