As my better half has pointed out to me on many occasions, men are the ultimate wusses when it comes to getting sick. Even a mild cold – as it was my oh-so-grave misfortune to suffer over the past few days – is the tribulations of the damned. What’s more ironic is that it has been ages since I’ve been struck down with a truly dreadful case of sniffles. I’ve always had a pretty strong immunity; never have I been one to spend a week confined to bed, my head oozing snot from every orifice. The occasional illness, every six months or so, is overcome within a matter of one or two days, if not hours. The problem is that when one is accustomed to more or less perfect health, one loses the capacity to endure discomfort of any sort. Hence the infrequent stuffy nose turning into a harbinger of the apocalypse. In any case, I think I’ve hit upon a pretty reliable recipe for licking that pesky rhinovirus (at least, it works for me; this should IN NO WAY be misconstrued as any form of medical advice, as I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on television): copious amounts of Vitamin C, orange juice and oregano tablets (bring on the spaghetti burps), washing the nasal cavity frequently with a neti pot and the kicker, the “cook it out” method: basically, wrap yourself in as many sweaters and blankets as you can endure, dope yourself with NyQuil and go to bed, and let yourself sweat. If you can stand it, the heat basically fries the virus out of your body and dramatically shortens your recuperation time. The bad news is you have to go back to work that much sooner. Anyway, I’m back and I’m ready to kick April’s cruel arse into May.
As one of my many forays into the digital world, I’m on Foursquare, the social media platform where you earn points and virtual badges by “checking in” at different locations throughout the world (an expensive hobby if you travel frequently and don’t have a good roaming plan on your mobile). One of my Foursquare contacts lives in San Francisco, another in Washington, and speaking of illnesses, I’m always struck with “square envy” when the cool places they’re visiting pop up on my notification board. When friends are crisscrossing the continent checking in at places like embassies, monuments and concert halls, your long-held mayorship of the local grocery store doesn’t feel that impressive. Call it a social media variant on the old “grass is always greener” saw; one of the drawbacks of this new phenomenon of ambient awareness, where everything everyone is posting as their status update seems a lot more profound than what’s going on in your ordinary life. Then again, it’s all relative – something that seems unique to the first world is our ability to be dissatisfied with abundance, to see existential emptiness within the horn of plenty and to always crave more, or at the least, to crave the idea of not appearing boring to the others around us. The Buddha was probably on to something with the whole concept of suffering being related to unfulfilled desire. (Now how is that for a train of thought – from Foursquare to Buddhism in less than 200 words. If that doesn’t qualify me for the “Downward Facing Dog” badge, I don’t know what does.)
One final random note for today – finally saw the Season 2 premiere of Game of Thrones and had forgotten that all the Men of the North and the Night’s Watch sound like they should be playing bass in 60’s Merseybeat bands. I gather that since Sean Bean was cast first as patriarch Ned Stark, they needed to find actors with a similar Sheffield patois in their speech to reflect the idea that they are all from the same family. Yet it’s interesting how the British accent (and its many regional and even neighborhood variations) seems ideally suited to the fantasy genre (the Lord of the Rings series being another prime example), and how actors speaking about kingdoms and dragons in American midwestern dialects yanks you out of the story faster than you can say “You betcha!” Indeed, there is a conceit that any period piece, no matter where it is set, seems more genuine when the actors sound like they just graduated from RADA. It was such an unusual choice of director Milos Forman, when making Amadeus, to allow the actors to speak in American accents, when the safer, more traditional bet would have been to go with the Queen’s. The movie is set in Austria so British accents would be no more logical for the setting than say, Spanish ones, but still, something still feels a bit off in how people are speaking (then again, you couldn’t exactly have the genuine Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Mozart). Of course, the champion of mishmashed dialects still has to be one of my personal favorite movies, The Hunt for Red October, where you have a crew of Soviet submariners captained by a Scot (whose character is actually supposed to be Lithuanian) and made up of Englishmen, New Zealanders, Germans, Swedes, Italians and Frenchmen, with one token Russian-born actor providing a lonely hint of verisimilitude – not that he has any lines in Russian, of course. I guess what matters most is internal consistency, so if the entire cast of Game of Thrones was Icelandic it would make just as much sense as having them all hail from working-class Northern England. Wonder if one of the Starks will have to warn the others that “one on’t crossbeams gone owt askew on treadle”?