Pros and cons of the placebo pandemic.

Predictably enough, huge numbers of people are apparently placating their feelings of panic at the prospect of falling prey to the coronaviral pandemic by putting their faith in some sort of placebo.

In other words, they’re putting their faith in the belief that some pharmacologically-inert alleged nostrum or else some nonsensically superstitious notion will somehow keep them safe. And, albeit in only a small minority of cases, this apparently works.

Plus, however,implausible this so-called ‘placebo effect’ may be to us sceptics and cynics, medical science so completely accepts its reality that the effectiveness or otherwise of every new drug is determined by administering it to one group of patients and comparing the results obtained in a ‘control’ group of others who unknowingly receive similar doses of an apparently similar but actually inactive or, if you like, harmlessly fake medication.

So it’s an accepted fact that some or all of the seemingly inane if not outright insane varieties of placebo that many people are employing to protect themselves from viral infection, everything from gargling warm water through drinking bear bile or participating in faith-healing sessions to praying for divine assistance, will truly save at least some of them.

But only those few capable of believing so sincerely or obsessively as to achieve sufficient mastery of mind over matter, wishful thinking over sweet reason, or, if you prefer, of fantasy over reality, to activate the placebo effect for themselves.

Many of those who fail in this, however, but nonetheless remain infection-free through sheer good fortune, or else catch the infection but feel few or virtually no symptoms, will falsely attribute their safety or survival to one or more of their favourite fetishes.

And jolly good luck to them, I say, as long as they also join the rest of us in all the medically-recommended or officially compulsory community-protective measures.

But I have no sympathy at all with, indeed feel a great deal of antipathy toward, those hardest of hard-core adherents of various religions who congregate in great numbers to engage in the mind-over-matter placebo of prayer, then don’t mind infectively mingling with the rest of us as if we don’t matter.

The people I do feel sympathy and sorrow for, however, are those who experience not the self-protective or what I suppose you could call the positive-placebo effect, but its opposite.

In other words, people who, far from being capable of achieving a real or even illusory sense of safety by putting mind over matter, suffer the agonies of matter’s asserting itself over their minds.

A situation that has been so widely observed in student doctors, so many of whom at least temporarily experience the symptoms of diseases about which they are being taught that they are said to be afflicted with so-called ‘medical-student syndrome’.

I have to admit here to having often been subject to bouts of this self-inflicted negative-placebo effect myself, but even more embarrassingly so than for student doctors, as I was studying to be a vet at the time, and so the symptoms I found myself feeling through auto-suggestion were not those of human diseases, but of ills exclusive to various animal species.

But what the heck, I suppose we’re all more or less inclined towards medical/veterinary-student syndrome or some other psychosomatic manifestation of what’s commonly called hypochondria, and so I have real fellow feelings for those of us who fancy they feel alarming flu-like symptoms and shortness of breath every time the subject of the dreaded coronavirus/COVID-19 comes up.

Especially in the tiny minority of instances in which tests reveal these symptoms as not just signs of the negative-placebo effect or cases of matter-over-mind, but of the fact that it’s a matter of life and death.

Not, I grant you, that the ‘di’ in ‘diagnosis’ necessarily spells certain death. And in any case, as long as you’re in an age group much, much younger than my maximum-risk one, which to judge by your Facebook selfies pretty-well all of you are, a brief stay in quarantine or hospital should pull you through, even if, for some mysterious reason, your personal favourite placebo somehow fails to.

 

 

 

 

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Lawakakaka dan kookakaka!!!

It’s my mission today to reassure you, my Malaysian readers, relatives and friends, that you’re by no means alone in your embarrassment at your beloved country’s being made a lawak sedunia by the widely-reported antics of some of the more mentally-challenged menteri in your madcap Muyhuddin-led government.

Most of us in the rest of the world are suffering similarly, or even more seriously. For example, while your lawakakaka ministers are clowning around in ha- ha-ha-hazmat suits emblazoned with their titles, or recommending warm water as a coronaviral prophylactic, or allowing Ramadan night-markets to open and operate, or proposing that wives keep themselves beautiful and speak/squeak like Doraemon to please their husbands, we Australians are laughing like kookaburras at ours.

Or would be if we could see the funny side of our Prime Minister Scott ‘ScamMo’ Morrison’s delaying his government’s ban on mass-gatherings until Hillsong, the kookakaka church whose leader is his spiritual mentor, could comfortably complete its no-doubt-lucrative international conference.

Or if we could manage a chuckle at the fact that Morrison’s minister in charge of border security, or more accurately as it’s turned-out, border sickurity, Peter ‘potato-head’ Dutton, hadn’t been so whacky as to neglect any testing whatever of masses of airline and cruise-ship passengers, with the far-from-hilarious result that they spread the coronavirus all around and even beyond Australia.

The ship slip-up was especially unfunny, as in the parlance of the pleasure-cruise industry, it caters mostly to the ‘newly-wed and nearly-dead’, and lots of this latter group sadly ended-up not just nearly, but really dead.

Going further afield than Australia to countries whose citizens are too busy dreading dying to have time to die laughing at Malaysiantics or even Australianit-witedness, I fancy that few people in the UK are having much of a giggle at the initial response to the coronaviral pandemic by the Boris ‘Joker’ Johnson-led Conservative government, which was to more or less let it run its course and thus confer so-called ‘herd immunity’ on the citizenry.

And it seems that all but the most fatalistic of fundamentalist Indonesians are now failing to find much humour in their health minister’s first claim that the virus would be defeated by the power of prayer, now that the fatalities are starting to soar, US-style.

A thought that brings us to the fact that by far the most tragi-comic response to the coronavirus crisis has been that of President Donald ‘the great pretender’ Trump, who first claimed that the pandemic was no more perilous to public health than the conventional flu.

And when that snappy but sappy one-liner failed to fly, he declared all-out war on the infection, Warshington style, and bragged that the US of A could declare total victory over the virus in just a couple of weeks.

And any case, you could almost hear Trump and his supporters chortling to themselves, by far the most serious outbreak happened to be in New York State, home of homos, liberals, pinkoes and other such rinky-dinkoes who wouldn’t be seen dead voting for the dreaded, dead-headed Donald.

Now that the virus is spreading to the Republican so-called ‘red’ states, or, if you prefer, the Bible Belt, and the rednecks and Bible-belters, are starting to realise that not even all the prayers of all the born-again are any proof against it, Trump’s taken to claiming that he’s been Americans’ coronavirusaviour all along.

Surely such large-scale lunacy and loopiness as this, not to mention such pathological lying on a triumphantly Trumpian level, is vastly more laughably covidiotic than anything mere Malaysian ministers-of-state can manage.

So, my dear Malaysian kawans, you can all enjoy having a lawakakaka at the antics of your Putrajaya jokesters, and I can have a kookakakaka at the comedians in Canberra, but we’ve no need to worry about being the victims of worldwide jokes or global giggles as long as the governments of so many other countries are having far, far bigger coronaviralaughs at their poor unfortunate citizens’ expense.

 

 

 

 

 

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My April Fool’s duels.

While by no means an expert on the subject, I understand that one of the rules of April Fool’s is that the would-be fooler is a fool if he/she makes April 1 jokes after midday.

So considering it’s almost an hour later than that in my Sydney, Australia time, I’m safe. Not that I’ve had too many jolly japes or April Fool’s duels to contend with.

Only two, in fact, the first and far-from-funny one being that my mandatory fortnightly family-income report to the Australian government’s perennial joke at the expense of age pensioners like myself, Centrelink, was so overwhelmed with coronavirus-related applications for welfare that my attempts at reporting online as usual totally failed.

And thus the Centrelink funny was on me in the form of a two-hour wait on the phone to talk to a human being on its helpline.

But in the end I didn’t feel too much like a jerk, as ‘Kim’, the expert I finally got to talk to, fixed my problem in such friendly fashion that I ended-up not feeling so foolish after all.

Similarly, when my mother-in-law phoned me from Ipoh, Malaysia in her traditional attempt at April Fool’s trickery, this year’s being the story that she’d just arrived as Sydney Airport and was waiting there for me to come fetch her, I felt more fondly of her than foully fooled.

It’s been quite a fair day in other ways too. After I got out of bed, which to me feels April cruel every day of every month and year that I have to do it, I ate my customary bowl of Kelloggs Sultana Bran, or what this morning I couldn’t help thinking of as my April gruel, then strolled with my wife to our favourite cafe, where we had a chat and a smoke while we sipped our beverages and sat together at an anti-social distance on our usual seat, or, as I’ll call it just for today, April stool.

Then it was back to spend two fun hours phoning Centrelink and surfing Facebook for a look at posts by the usual April fools and ghouls, and of course lots of April drools at posts of females shown displaying a great many of their physical jewels.

With the result that, far from feeling like a complete April fool after all this April Fool’s folderol, I find that I’m feeling surprisingly April cool.

 

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Enough foolishness for this April.

We’re all been so overdosing on such a variety of coronovivial, coronavidiotic and even coronavicious coronaviral jokes lately that April 1, 2020 seems all set to be a coronanticlimax, or even a corona-non-event.

The customary April foolishness will seem very, very feeble indeed compared with all the failishness and foulishness that’s been amusing or rather bemusing us all for months.

For example, come April 1, or tomorrow as I write or at least type this, we’ll still be dying laughing at US President Donald Trumps betraypril of the American people by his downplaypril of the coronaviral pandemic to the point at which he’s made doomsdaypril fools of himself, his administration and the entire nation that he so ludicrously misleads.

Just as Australian  and Malaysian authorities have similarly made doomsdaypril fools of themselves by, in the former case, blasèprily admitting thousands of cruise-ship and airline passengers into the country without any coronaviral checks, let alone appropriate medical tests; and in the latter by risquèprily permitting mass-gatherings of religious fanatics, then letting them get loose to playprily wander off infecting perfectly innocent people all over South-East Asia.

Meanwhile, the police and other such power-trippers in India will be busy playing their usual jolly japril jokes on the poor, the dispossessed and the homeless by whipping and beating any that fall preypril to them, or spraypriling them with with anti-viral chemicals.

And the clownishly incompetent and criminally corrupt politicians who preside, or, if you prefer, April-rule over this perennially April-foolish and indeed outright April-foul state of affairs will be, as ever, blithely pretending everything’s totally ship-shapril.

But at least the joke this April 1 will be well and truly on fossil-fuels fools, as while so many of us are staypriling at home we’re not combusting such vast quantities of their products.

And thus, in the process, we’re reducing the very greenhouse-gas emissions that so many governments have been trying for decades to April-fool us into believing aren’t responsible for the evils of climate-change aka global warming.

On tomorrow, April 1 itself, of course, the vast majority of us will be in coronavirisolation, be it voluntary or vice-versa, and too busy trying to continue living our usual usefool, fruitfool,  beautifool or even bloody-fool lives to be bothered with making the extra effort to any further April-fooling around.

Or, for that matter, with what I think of as praypril fooling, self-prostration at the feat of some invisible but allegedly supreme being for the purpose of begging him/her/it for escapril from the ravages of the virus.

But hey, no offence to any friend, foe or other follower of whatever faith who sincerely believes in thus being able to April-foil fate.

And no more disrespect intended to this or any other kind of superstition/stuporstition, including the April-fool’s day one, than I consider that each and every one of them so verily and even virally deserves.

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Beating the around-the-bendemic

Have you self-isolated yourself for so long at home to avoid spreading or catching the Covid virus that you’ve now contracted a killer case of cabin-fever instead?

Or done so much cooking and eating to save yourself from going stir-crazy that you’re now going even more dangerously stir-fry crazy?

Or engaged in such a frenzy of house-tidying and cleaning that you feel that you’ve fallen victim to a serious and even potentially terminal spick-and-spandemic?

Or, like me, have you been doing nothing much out of the ordinary except for watching news that’s about nothing but the pandemic and thus find yourself suffering severe symptoms of breathtaking boredom and snoredom?

In hopes of finding ways of protecting myself against such home-grown epidemics born of viral pandemic-avoidance, and with a view to passing them on to you, I’ve been venturing out to my favourite cafe, which is now officially restricted, of course to serving take-away, and checking whether any of my coffee-cronies have discovered effective remedies.

John and Kristyn claim that they’ve been coping with the cooped-upidemic by busying themselves with home improvements. And I hope this idea of positive help to you. It certainly isn’t to me, however, as my wife and I rent the flat we inhabit, and thus, even though it’s so shabby as to be considered a slum, our lease specifically forbids us to improvise any home improvements, and thus we’ve nothing to do but keep isolating ourselves in our customary state of home impoverishment.

Our old friend Sue isn’t any help to either me or you either, unless, like her, you happen to be happy to infect yourself with what to me would be an absolute paindemic of impatience, the assemblage of a gigantic,  eight-hundred-piece jigsaw puzzle.

My mate Michael affords us no inspiration in the beating-the-lockdown-blues department either, as he’s still classified as an essential worker, on the weird grounds specified by Australia’s prime minister that he still hasn’t been laid-off from his job, and is thus trucking all over Sydney and its suburbs, as usual, supplying his customers with vital plumbing supplies and equipment.

Though I grant you that he’s good week-end company to de-isolate myself with for a stroll up the street for a take-away coffee, a chat and a smoke, as is permitted as long as we maintain the specified 1.5-metre social distance between us.

Thank goodness for my longtime pal Patrick, then, as he’s the only person of my acquaintance who’s so far been capable of providing me – and thus, by extension you – with a viable home alternative to the viral pandemic: the paper-free, reading-free and totally free-of-charge mind-expandemic.

An absolute treasure-trove of amazingly easy-to-understand lectures by a tremendous selection of leading faculty-members of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and who knows how many others of the world’s top universities and colleges, on such a variety of subjects that there’s something to fascinate virtually anyone.

And it all there on instant-access, easy-listening audio instead of in bulky and hard-to-read books, at a truly sensational site called  learnoutloud.com

But if intellectual stimulation is just not as much your thing for dealing with self-isolation as it happens to be my friend Pattrick’s and mine, don’t worry.

For any readers more interested in experiencing an absolute porndemic or, in other words, sex-by-handemic of visual, physical and manual stimulation, I saw a Facebook post just the other day claiming that the world’s allegedly largest repository of so-called ‘non-violent erotica’, Pornhub.com, has laid itself wide-open and free to all comers for the duration of the Covid-related isolation.

But I must caution you that that this could be fake news, as, though I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the free-samples version of this fine site a great many times before, I haven’t yet had the time or inclination to check whether tidings of this free, open-slather offer are true.

Whatever, I truly hope that I’ve been able to provide you here with a an idea or two for preventing yourself from going around the bend, off the deep end or other such dangers endemic to endlessly lying-low in home isolation or lockdown out of the way of the Covid/coronavirus.

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What a Covidiot!!!

No, this heading isn’t about or directed to you, dear reader: it’s to and about me. Myself. About how devastated I felt the other day when I first encountered the term ‘Covidiot’ and had to deal with the envy I felt for whoever achieved victory over me by inventing it.

Serves me right for getting so above myself as to be convinced I was up there in or near the vanguard, verbal gymnasticswise, and having having to confront incontrovertible evidence that I’m, after all, at best average.

Or, in other words, that as a wordsmith I’m almost as vapid and vacuous and thus as Covidiotic as those that this very combination of ‘Covid’ and ‘idiot’ was actually devised for the purpose of reviling: people who panic-purchase vast volumes of merchandise and leave the shelves virtually vacant for others; and also those so devoid of any vestige of civility or civic responsibility as to keep convening in vast crowds against the most vehement advice.

And I venture to suggest that noun the neologistic noun Covidiot and its adjectival variant Covidiotic are even more relevant in to those Presidents, PMs, MPs, VIPs and VVIPs who evilly abuse their elevated positions by deceiving us.

Xi Xingping and his Party accomplices in the ruthlessly-truthless ‘People’s Republic of China, for example, who initially veiled the very existence of the  coronavirus/COVID-19 and took vengeance against those who revealed the veritable reality of it.

And the ever-deceitful Donald Trump, who at first vowed and declared that the virus was no more virulent than the conventional flu, and that thus the US would easily achieve victory over it,and is now having to devour his words, vehemently deny that he ever voiced them, and strive to divert the venom of US voters away from himself by calling COVID the “Chinese virus”.

The current Australian, or more verily Australyin’ government is also achieving very high visibility in the Covidiocy stakes.

Contriving a series of much-vaunted so-called ‘recovery packages’, none of which have done much if anything thus far to disavow its richly-deserved reputation for not only favouring the affluent and avaricious at the expense of not just the unemployed and otherwise socially and economically disadvantaged, but also for chronically under-funding and thus impoverishing such vital institutions as the ABC and the CSIRO, and even leaving most of the victims of the recent bushfires effectively in the lurch.

This coven of venal conservatives is also so lacking in progressive vision that it also chronically connives with its coal-industry and other cronies to vilify advocates of action against climate change, to do anything whatever to slow or prevent environmental vandalism, or, indeed to do anything whatever to live up to the nation’s anthemically-avowed intention to “Advance Australia Fair”.

In fact, as I’ve written over and over and over, rather than advancing the nation to even the slightest extent, this conservative regime is dedicated to an unforgivable degree to driving it in reverse, and in the process depriving it of every possible vestige of ‘fair’ in any of the word’s alternative meanings except ‘average’ or ‘mediocre’.

So it’s hardly surprising that Australia’s government is as Covidiotic in its response to the coronavirus threat as are its counterparts in China, the US and lots of other self-perceived ‘advanced’ or even ‘advancing’ countries.

Thus motivating me to devote as much of the time and energy as I’m I’m voluntarily spending in coronavirisolation to verbally reviling my own and other such vile governments rather than in Covideoviewing or other such more convivial activities.

In the possible but perhaps inevitably vain hope that I’ll be successful enough in vehemently venting my vexation against Covidiots of every kind to overcome my shame and embarrassment at having been so Covidiotic as to have so comprehensively failed to invent this clever new epithet in the first place.

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So far so good!

Just as you must be fit and well if you’re reading this, I’m happy to be able to write that I’m surviving the virus thus far.

And, though of course I can’t and won’t presume to speak for you, I put my own surviving and even thriving thus far down to not so much good karma or dumb luck, but to a lifetime of healthy living.

For example, very seldom if ever, in all my 76 years of sampling countless comestibles and cuisines since graduating from mother’s milk, have I ever succumbed to the scatty urge to consume bats or any other species of either exotic or endangered birds or beasts that might be dying to pass-on their diseases to humans, as some of these poor, unfortunate creatures so disastrously did recently in Wuhan, China.

Though I have in all honesty to concede that I went close to committing such an atrocity on the couple of occasions on which I threw caution to the winds and tried roast grasshoppers (delicious), and soup with whole frogs floating in it (both aesthetically and alimentarily repellent to an absolutely emetic degree).

Besides avoiding certain alleged delicacies on cultural if not culinary grounds, I’ve also done my best to avoid pigging-out too excessively on the those dietary items I’ve mostly restricted myself to, for the simple reason that I’ve always so valued my genetic tendency to slimness that I’d vastly prefer to starve than get even plump, let alone fat or outright gross.

So I haven’t yet seen the point in panic-purchasing any extra items related to either eating or its inevitable consequence, excreting.

Though it has occurred to me that additional supplies of toilet tissues might well come in handy for rolling tobacco in, in the event that too many of my fellow smokers manage to corner the market in proper cigarette-papers.

Of course this revelation that I still persist in my almost life-long disgusting habit of or addiction to smoking will cause a great many readers to question my degree of dedication to the healthy lifestyle to which I laid claim in the second sentence of this progress-report.

But I would counter anybody’s concern on this score with the comment that, though granted that I’m under some medical suspicion of having early-stage lung cancer, smoking hasn’t spelled my death-sentence just yet.

Though of course in combination with a dose of the dreaded coronavirus it well could, and thus my wife, a smoker herself, though admittedly a far, far younger one, is contemplating raising the degree of self-isolation I’ve in any case long practiced for the purpose of writing rather than for warding-off potentially fatal infections, from the currently Australian-government-recommended level of ‘as much as possible’ to spousally-proposed ‘complete’.

And I have to say I’m far from convinced this would be entirely necessary, or even desirable. For one thing it would deny me the company of coffee-and-conversation mates like Michael, Patrick, Eddie, Kirstyn, Judy, Sue and others, all of whom, despite a tendency on the part of the younger among them to make old-codger jokes at my expense, I’d miss terribly.

And of course I’d even more terribly miss cafe-class coffee itself, for which none of the home-brewed or instant versions that I’ve ever sampled has proven even a near-satisfactory substitute.

Though admittedly any cup of coffee, whatever its quality, contains, besides caffeine, a good deal of hot water that gradually cools to just warm, and thus, at least according to the maniac posing as Malaysia’s current health minister, should prove as perky a protection against viral infection as it is as a pick-me-up.

I still have misgivings about the very concept of moving from partial to to complete self-isolation, however, as what starts as a spousal ‘suggestion’ is all-too-inclined to propel itself down a slippery slope to ‘compulsion’ comprising such a strict degree of enforcement as to end up as virtual home detention if not outright house-arrest.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of events, here, since, as the heading of this piece proclaims, life for yours truly is still very much a case of so far, so good in terms of both longevity in general and conoviral survival in particular.

And I heartily hope that it’s happily the same for you.

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