Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It turns out smoking is bad for you

Well, Christopher Hitchens is undergoing chemotherapy. Announced on the Vanity Fair website:

I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice.

From a recent interview in USA Today:

Q: We're here outside on a sidewalk because you needed a cigarette. Have you tried to stop smoking?
A: I gave it up for two years, but I think it's a boring subject. I went back when I was trying to finish this book. I figured one cigarette isn't going to kill me, which is stupid.

I hope to heck he pulls through.

I understand what he means when he says it's a boring subject. There have been movies made about drug addiction, alcoholism, and none of them have ever interested me. Individuals go through terrible struggles with addiction--it's a life and death battle--but it doesn't make for compelling viewing or reading.

The thing that always got me was the image of the hipsters. There were radicals, beatniks and so forth. There was Serge Gainsbourg always smoking a cigarette. Then you look at the rich, conservative scum running the tobacco companies. Which image fits better with the product?

In the '60s, I remember William Talsman's public service announcements made as he lost his fight with lung cancer. Perry Mason had an original cast of five of whom three died of smoking-related illness. And at least two were gay.

There were lots more. I had a "funny" calender someone gave me. For each day of the year, it gave the anniversary of a celebrity death. Gave the cause of death for each. I don't remember who gave it to me and why they thought I would be amused by it. I don't know what the precise numbers were, but looking through it, it was shocking how many died from smoking-related illness. Seemed like it probably a third of them.

Ayn Rand dooms her followers to death

There were William Talsman and Yul Brenner who tried to warn people.

And then there was Ayn Rand. She smoked like a chimney. She had an interest in architecture and visited Frank Lloyd Wright in his studio. Wright found her so offensive that he banned smoking in his studio which was unusual back then.

Rand believed that health warnings about smoking were all part of an anti-capitalist conspiracy, so she smoked all the more. Stupid bitch. Her followers smoked, too. It was part of their thing. They said something about the light of the cigarette symbolizing the light of....I don't know, enlightenment or something. She was leader of an organized cult in which her followers tried to imitate her in every way.

Rand got lung cancer. She was successfully treated for it, apparently. People close to her asked her to let people know about it. It could save the lives of her idiot followers who started smoking to be like her. She refused. Which, I suppose, was in keeping with her "philosophy".

Rand's "philosophy"

The title of one of her "philosophical" works was The Virtue of Selfishness. She thought that being rational was good and being irrational was "evil". And only selfishness was rational, so "altruism" was, therefore, "evil".

Her first novel was about an architect who blows up the building he designs because he doesn't like how it looks.

But before that she was working on a novel she was going to call The Little Street, based on child killer William Edward Hickman. Hickman kidnapped a girl, demanded a ransom for her. The family paid the ransom and Hickman delivered the girl's dismembered, butchered body. I won't go into it, but the mutilation was actually worse than the Black Dahlia case. Rand regarded Hickman as a Nietzschean ubermensch. She described the character in her novel as having "the true, innate psychology of a Superman".

Rand said, "The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the 'virtuous' indignation and mass-hatred of the 'majority.'... It is repulsive to see all these beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal..."

Um. Worse sins and crimes? Like what?

Rand couldn't stand the idea of "average" people judging her Superman Hickman. She discussed the jury in her journal:

Average, everyday, rather stupid looking citizens. Shabbily dressed, dried, worn looking little men. Fat, overdressed, very average, 'dignified' housewives. How can they decide the fate of that boy? Or anyone's fate?

Look at Rand's philosophy. The worst, most vile interpretation of it turns out to be the correct one.

Are teenagers Nietzschean by nature?

Here's one thing I found interesting. Rand's followers were all people who read her books as teenagers.

Adults who read her books usually just wonder what the hell her problem was, why she despised ordinary people. But apparently teenagers really go for that sort of thing.

Look at Harry Potter. You'd think it would have been enough for a kid to discover that he was a wizard. But no. He had to be king of the wizards. He had to find out he was a celebrity wizard and he was locked in a battle of good against evil.

I heard on This American Life on public radio, some Zionist idiot. He kept a diary as a teenager. As he wrote it, he imagined that someday his diary would be read by Jewish youth everywhere who would see him as an inspiration after he became leader of Israel. He said he couldn't understand how his parents could stand living ordinary lives without power over other people.

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