Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur December

“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

A men’s calendar of any genre or sexual orientation is only legitimate if it includes at least one professional wrestler. I can’t think of a more suitable final entry to this Dudes of Cancer Calendar than a real American patriot, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.

Duggan’s nickname is not complicated: he carried around a 2x4 piece of lumber, and “Hacksaw” sounds better than “Woody.” He was usually a face (i.e. good guy in wrestling terms), and his fans cheered him with a “U.S.A.!” chant. I guess back in the ‘80s and ‘90s a lumberjack was the symbol of the American way. Now, it is people of my profession: junior acquisition specialists.

Hacksaw wrestled before the advent of thoughtful signature maneuvers, and his was a three-point stance clothesline. That was probably a throwback to his days on the Atlanta Falcons before being released due to injury. It’s more unique than Hulk’s leg drop, so I guess I’ll give him that.

In 1998, Hacksaw was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He was fortunate to receive an early diagnosis, and after surgery he was back in the ring. He then feuded with the anti-American group, the Revolution, and was supposed to denounce the American flag after losing a pay-per-view match. Hacksaw refused and was beaten because of it. I find myself mouthing “U.S.A.!” and sobbing proudly right now.

Hacksaw’s major accomplishments include winning the inaugural Royal Rumble, earning the 1985 Feud of the Year with "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, and being ranked #157 on the 500 best singles wrestlers by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2003. I seriously need to get my hands on that complete list.

Happy New Year, my dear readers, and see you in 2011.
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan saluting and holding 2x4

Leia Mais…

Monday, December 20, 2010


My friend, Mr. Mountain Dew, is slow to adopt new forms of communication: he was one of the last of my friends to use instant messenger or get a mobile phone. Just about everyone on the planet has a cell phone. I see toddlers playing with plastic toy phones, and elementary school kids talking and texting on their smartphones. I’m always tempted to warn parents about the energy waves emitted by cell phones and other wireless devices and how they may be hazards to human health, especially to children whose brains are still vulnerable, but since the technology is too recent for long-term studies I can’t say for certain. But don’t claim I didn’t warn you: in twenty years, everyone will have a big, sexy brain tumor.

Up until a month ago, Mr. Mountain Dew did not have a Facebook account, either. But we had made a deal that when my book published, he would join so that he could be my Fan. It didn’t take long for numerous friends to post messages on his wall, like, “Good to know you’re still alive,” and, “Finally! Welcome to 2003.”

When I talked to him on our radiation devices a couple weeks ago he said, “Is there any way to turn off these e-mail notices?” I’m sure there is, Mr. Mountain Dew, but it would be far more amusing to see your inbox (and head) explode. So, to all my blog readers who recognize who Mr. Mountain Dew is: unleash the madness with messages, wall posts, and especially Farmville requests.

Although one-thirteenth of the planet has a Facebook account, Mr. Mountain Dew’s younger brother still isn’t a member. I amended this by making a deal with him: he joins after Facebook reaches one billion users. At that point Facebook may be the only way humans communicate with one another. Our brand-spanking-new brain tumors will develop ESP, and they will warn us about the aliens that have come to Earth to abduct Mark Zuckerberg and annihilate the rest of us. I wouldn’t want Lil Mr. Mountain Dew to miss the message.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Real 'Inception' is We've All Been Incepted

I watched Inception for the second time tonight, and it became clear that it was the best movie of the year, followed distantly by Kickass, The Expendables, Shutter Island, and The Town. Many different theories follow this film, which shows how great the story was. I devised one theory that I will expend no more than 100 additional hours pondering, and will then permanently put it in the can. My theory is...

Inception movie poster
Most viewers think the movie played out how it appears: Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is falsely accused of murdering his wife, he takes a job in return for dropped charges, he places an idea inside Fischer's mind, it works, he gets back to reality and lives happily ever after with his kids.

That is the easy way out. It is also likely what the director, Christopher Nolan, meant to happen, as anything else would be too crazy and complex to even consider. That's where us silly movie-watchers come in.

One theory is that the entire movie took place in a dream-state, and that there was no reality. After seeing Inception the first time, this was the direction my mind wandered.

But, what if Inception was a hybrid of reality and dream-limbo? Here is my new theory which will likely change numerous times before my brain shuts down from overexertion and I slip into my own limbo state:

The main storyline—implanting the idea inside Fischer's mind—actually occurred, and the planning of this inception took place in the real world. Cobb and his wife really did have children, and slip into limbo where they lived some 50 years before getting run over by a train, which seemingly brought them back to reality. She later killed herself by jumping off a building. But what if killing themselves in limbo occurred simultaneously to the actual sedative wearing off in reality, meaning they would have "kicked back" anyway? In this case, dying by train was merely a coincidence.

At the end of the film, Cobb and Saito realize they're in limbo, so Saito kills Cobb and then himself in order to return to reality. Saito had since become a very old man, while Cobb had aged very little. In this case, what if Saito killed himself simultaneously to when the actual sedative wore off in reality—just like the train mentioned above? Again, the "kick back" would have occurred anyway. Cobb entered limbo after Saito, so his "kick back" wasn't due for another 40 years. When Saito shot Cobb, that sent him into a deeper layer of limbo instead of reality. This is the second inception: Cobb thinks he's gone back to reality, when really he's still in unconstructed dream space. He creates the world around him, including his children. Essentially, he implanted in himself the idea that he let go of his dead wife, let go of his regret, and joined his children in reality. Whoomp there it is!

Postscript: Actually, DiCaprio incepted all of us and we are in a collective limbo. Let me spend 1,000 hours trying to figure this one out and I'll get back to you.

Leia Mais…

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur November

Mark Herzlich

In 2006, Mark Herzlich was named a Freshman All-American as a linebacker for Boston College. In 2008, he was a First-team All-American and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award—named for the nation’s top linebacker. He was a top-50 prospect for the 2009 NFL Draft, but instead returned to BC for his senior season.

That senior season had to wait because Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in May 2009. Only 150 Americans are diagnosed with this disease each year. I was one of them in 2000.

Watch YouTube videos of Mark if you want to see an amazing story. His determination and attitude were stone cold as he endured chemotherapy, radiation, and tumor resection. He continued his physical training because, when he finished treatment, he wanted to pick up where he left off and win that Butkus Award. Hairless, Mark is seen benching 315 pounds.

His tumor developed in his femur, and so that was removed and replaced with a metal rod. Just under a year after he became cancer-free, his leg muscles bulged during a feature by Raycom Sports. Though I don’t know exactly what his surgery entailed, clearly he pushed through intense pain and physical rehab. Mark talks about putting aside fears in order to get back on the field—fears of breaking his leg, which may then never heal properly.

Mark just concluded his final regular season at Boston College, and it did not end the way he had envisioned it—he had half the number of tackles as two years ago. In an ESPN interview he said that, though he was mentally prepared to play again, his body wasn’t quite there. Survivors like me who were eternally altered by our cancer surgeries look at Mark in awe. At the same time I understand his disappointment in not returning to All-American status. He is a mental giant, and just as I expected a return to greatness on the tennis court, his crystal ball displayed an NFL starting linebacker who just happened to have a titanium leg bone.

Now that Ewing’s sarcoma has received national recognition, let’s push aside prostate and breast cancer funding and awareness campaigns. So what if those two diseases outnumber Ewing’s in annual diagnosis by hundreds of thousands.
Football star Mark Herzlich

Leia Mais…

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Great Orator

Last night I spoke about TWICE at my Temple, Congregation Ner Shalom. My delivery from the bema wasn't Obama-esque, but I am determined to improve, as I will have more speaking opportunities to come. I am prepared to try anything: Toastmasters, acting classes, relaxation techniques, beta blockers, and of course benzodiazepines.

Here is a transcript of my speech:

Lightning flickered inside my hip. Every time my left shoe landed on the ground, another fiery explosion. The pain left just as quickly as it came, waiting for another flicker.
I was a sophomore in high school playing in a singles match to determine seeding for the tennis team. That was the first time I felt pain, and I pushed it aside because I wanted to play. But it would not be the last time. The pain continued and worsened over the coming half-year.
It turns out I had a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. They say this kind of thing can happen to anyone, but nobody really believes that until it does. So, I went through the whole process I’m sure you’ve heard far too many times already—official diagnosis, telling friends and family, and preparing for and beginning treatment.
Soon after treatment started was when I realized that I had superhuman powers. I know what you’re thinking—that superheroes like Brandon Routh, Christian Bale, and Christopher Reeve are taller and not nearly this good looking. True. But from the signs I was given, there was no other way for me to perceive it. My body recovered faster than the other patients, the treatment was more effective for me, and I generally tolerated everything easier. Chemo kills blood cells, but my bone marrow was more resilient than my nurses had ever seen.
So, however morally wrong it was, I looked down on the other patients and considered them inferior. I distanced myself from them—they were ill, I wasn’t. They were mere human beings, and I wasn’t.
Because of my powers, I didn’t fear death. I felt no reason to become any more religious than I had been before. I didn’t let cancer change me. I likened my illness to the way I rooted for my favorite professional wrestlers Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels: in order to win the match, I had to fight the bad guy, even if that included the 500-pound Yokozuna, though hopefully my opponent wouldn’t give me The Bonzai Drop, Yokozuna’s patented maneuver. My opponent would punish me a little, but in the end I knew I’d win.
I created a set of rules that guided my life: don’t complain, don’t be sad or jealous, don’t be angry for having cancer, think of cancer as normal. I followed the rules to a T. When I saw the other patients whining and crying, I felt reinforced, and so my ego inflated.
After a year I completed treatment—14 cycles of chemo, 5 weeks of radiation, complete removal of my left hip. I was now cancer-free just as I knew I would be. I went on with my senior year of high school and first year of college like cancer didn’t affect me, expect that now instead of playing tennis, I clobbered friends in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 on PlayStation 2.
The funny thing is that the same rules that helped me survive and even thrive during treatment held me back as a survivor. I was stuck in the past and stuck in a mindset that inhibited my growth. I sought out old friends from high school instead of making new ones. Cancer was a part of me, but bringing it up or telling people that I once had it was an act of complaining. Complaining was my number one sin, worse than any of the commandments or all of them combined.
I was lost, in a sense. But then, abruptly, I was diagnosed with a second, different cancer of the bone marrow called myelodysplasia. This was caused by the very treatment that killed my first cancer. My rules held strong, and were there once again when I needed them, just like Superman bursting through the atmosphere to feel the sun’s radiant energy. Instead of fearing death like most people would normally do in this instance, I stayed focused on getting treatment and surviving.
Whatever qualms one might have about inhibiting my own personal growth in college were completely and entirely outmatched by knowing that I was superhuman. I knew that my powers would lead me to a degree from University of Virginia and beyond, despite receiving a 50/50 chance at living past 20.
But this time, I wasn’t superhuman at all. I received an umbilical cord stem cell transplant at the University of Minnesota, and the treatment beat me up. I developed bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, as well as problems I didn’t know were possible. I was a mere mortal, now struggling to survive, instead of breezing to the finish line. My faith in my superpowers were shaken and nearly lost. But my faith hung by a thread, and though you may not see it, my invisible cape is still tied around my neck. I prevailed against my second adolescent cancer.
Am I now, or was I ever, a Super Man? I’ll leave that for you to decide. Do we all have the capacity for extraordinary things? Maybe so.
And now I leave off with a book excerpt. Even though I did not find religion the same way many newly diagnosed do, I did use Judaism in my own way. Jewish themes are prevalent throughout my book, and here is one instance. In this scene, I am about to receive my transplant via an IV catheter.

In late morning, Jen brought in a pathetically small bag of red liquid with a large O+ sticker on the front. Six months later my blood type would change from A+ to O+, that of my donor. I did a double take. This little thing is supposed to save my life? My unrelated umbilical cord was a 4/6 HLA match from an infant girl born in New York in 1999. That was all I knew of her. With God on my side, I was ready for that baby girl to rescue me.
Before Jen released the valve to allow the stem cells to flow through my veins, she asked, “Is there anything you would like to say first?”
I longed to say the Shema—a Jewish prayer declaring one’s faith in God—but instead said, “Do your job, little fella.” My No Complaining rule prohibited me from making a big deal out of it. It was no joke, and I knew that. Jen released the valve and the stem cells swarmed into my catheter.
While the little girl’s stem cells flooded my body, I closed my eyes and drifted into a fantasy. My strong heart pumped my future marrow through my bloodstream. The cells targeted my hip, sternum and skull. They latched on like spiders, and began to repopulate my empty calcium-phosphorus shells. It was glorious.
Now, there was only one thing left to do—pray that this girl, whom I would never meet and whose name I’ll never know, had the right kind of cells to give me a third chance at life.

Keep reading:
The Great Orator: Part II

Leia Mais…

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tough Selling

When I blasted the e-mail about TWICE being published to 550+ people, and the Facebook Page invite to 600+, I figured a good percentage of them would buy it. Regardless of the quality of the content, memoirs are inherently interesting, especially when you personally know the author. Hamburgers and I likened it to a snotty girl from our high school who lacked basic writing skills, but if she were to write a memoir, then we’d still buy it.

When I got the feeling that few people were buying from my book’s website, I accommodated.

I visited former doctors and nurses at National Institutes of Health, where I received treatment for my first cancer ten years ago. I took three hours out of my work day and dealt with the insane security measures at NIH, which are somehow more intense than they used to be. I enjoyed spending time with those folks, but was surprised when most—including doctors who are actually in the book—didn’t purchase it.

I am not suggesting that anyone is obligated to buy my book simply because they know me, or because I make factual claims like, “My book will save the world, or, “It will change your life.” I would never instruct anyone how to spend his money. Is my book too pricey in this rough economy? Do people assume my book is not legitimate? Do people no longer read?*

I then offered to personally deliver my book to friends in the Northern Virginia area. I hounded people on Facebook and Google chat, and with texts and phone calls. I wanted to approach the line of being terribly obnoxious without crossing it. This time I succeeded and began bringing joy to book lovers young and old (though, I likely trampled on my obnoxious line).

I met friends in Woodbridge and Manassas to watch football games, and even drove from my apartment in Arlington to the Vienna metro station during afternoon rush hour to deliver one copy. He felt bad and ended up buying two. This may all sound silly, but I view my time and money far less valuably as getting my book out into the world.

I feel like I’m taking an on-the-job crash course in sales and marketing. It can be frustrating how publications and bookstores outright ignore me (a response of “No thanks” or “Not interested” would be better than nothing). But it’s also exciting, and I am up for the challenge. I have a product that customers seem to really be enjoying, but this may be a slow process at first that relies more on word-of-mouth. This I promise: I will never quit until it becomes crystal clear that nobody wants to read my book.

Happy reading.

*My friend, Greek, joked that he had never read a whole book until he finished mine in four days. JD joked that he didn’t know how to read, but finished my book in a week.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur October

Joe Torre

Many don't realize that Joe Torre was a nine-time All-Star, as well as a National League MVP during his playing days, once even batting with a .363 average. Additionally, most don't realize how poor he was in his early years as a manager, leading his teams to a 47% win percentage.

And then he managed the Yankees for 12 years: Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter, Wade Boggs, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, Ruben Sierra, Tim Raines, Darryl Strawberry, Jorge Posada, Cecil Fielder, Kenny Rogers, David Cone, Jeff Nelson, Andy Pettitte, Dwight Gooden, David Wells, Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, Orlando Hernandez, David Justice, Jose Canseco, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Robin Ventura, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Kenny Lofton, John Olerud, Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Johnny Damon, Roger Clemens, and Mariano Rivera. With the Yankees, he ticked off 1,173 managerial wins with a 61% win percentage, and a 4-2 World Series record. He'll be regarded as one of the best managers ever. I'm not saying anything. I'm just saying.

Torre was surgically treated for prostate cancer in 1999. Despite his Yankee affiliation; and his shit-talking about poor, innocent, young, stupid, naïve A-Rod in his recent book; and that he turned down a $5 million contract to manage the Yankees in 2008 (which would have made him the highest-paid by $1.5 million) because the offer was beneath him, we are still happy to have him in the Survivor's Club. Additionally, Pfizer would be happy to have Torre advertise Viagra, as ED is an unfortunate side effect of prostate removal. Personally, I would love to see 70-year-old Torre in ExtenZe commercials, or at least see Torre fight Jimmy Johnson for the spot.

Postscript: Notice the November 4 time stamp for Monsieur October. Clearly I did this on purpose as a post-Halloween "trick."
Baseball manager Joe Torre survives cancer

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My First Book Party

On Sunday afternoon, my generous aunt and uncle threw me a book party at their home in Washington, D.C. They hired Politics and Prose, an independent D.C. bookseller, to sell copies, as well as caterers and a bartender. It was an outdoor event and the weather was gorgeous—a perfect day to blast off my book into the world.

My aunt and uncle's highly successful friends attended the party: former Secretary of Defense, an author of 16 books, a Washington Post writer for the last 28 years, a CEO of a solar energy company, among others. It was an honor to be celebrated, and seeing my yellow book in just about everyone's hands—hiding behind the crowd before poking its shiny head out for a brief moment—was exhilarating. But hearing publicity experts discuss what it takes to sell a lot of books was overwhelming. I will be spending most of my non-working, non-exercising, and non-Redskins-watching hours trying.

Though technically I saw some of the Redskins game Sunday and thus will continue my streak of seeing every game since 1997, I did not watch much. I did not realize that D'Angelo Hall intercepted four passes until afterward. Sadly, I did not know the outcome until afterward (Redskins won 17-14). Of course I wanted to watch, but I was expected to mingle, and I did so begrudgingly.

Benjamin Rubenstein speaking at book party
I had prepared a short speech, and my aunt and uncle had me deliver it twice in case some guests didn't hear it the first time. My jokes were exactly the same each delivery. I didn't get too many laughs the first time, and a whole lot of crickets the second. I was so nervous I forgot to thank Mary Tabor, who helped so immensely with my book.

I may have turned a corner, though, in my ability to speak publicly. In my tenth grade Honors English class, I had to deliver a five-minute speech as part of my group project. My group members had been Zeke, PepperoniNip, and HollaAtYoBoy. When it was my turn, my voice cracked. Those horse's asses burst into laughter, which sparked the rest of the class, including myself. Unable to stop, I placed my note cards on the podium and took my seat with the rest of my classmates. Our teacher, oblivious to what had just occurred, said, “Ben, what are you doing?”

PepperoniNip realized I was laughing too hard to speak, and said, “Ben won’t be able to continue, so I’ll finish his part.”

For the rest of the semester, my friends volunteered me to read in front of the class.

Sunday, my aunt and uncle volunteered me to read a book excerpt. I found a way out of that one, but I may not be so lucky at the next event. So if you attend a book signing of mine, and notice that, during a reading, I grew nine inches and look exactly like my cousin, then keep it to yourself.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Book. Published. Available. Now.

It has been a long road spanning one-quarter of my life. It has put my life on hold, indirectly preventing me from moving forward. If I were to divide my life into segments, they would go: Pre-Cancer Ben (0-16 years old), Cancer I (16-17), Pretending Like Cancer I Never Happened (17-18), Cancer II (19), Cancer II’s Aftermath (19-22), Book (20-26). Writing and trying to publish my book has been an extension of cancer, in that I cannot move forward until this process is complete.

Expectations are powerful, and I feel for college athletes who believe they are destined for fame and riches. I expected the writing and publishing process to take less than a year. And so I pushed opportunities away, claiming that success would be easier and rejection less likely after becoming a published author. I foolishly pushed life away for six years.

I knew that I was resisting the lesson I had already learned when I became cancer-free in September, 2001: that no matter what happens, life just keeps moving along. Life is pretty much the same at 20 years old as at 21, at 8% body fat as at 15%, and, in many ways, being a survivor isn’t a whole lot different than having cancer. Life’s linear path keeps moving forward. But it became convenient to wait and wait and wait until my book was published.

The wait is over. My cancer memoir, titled TWICE: How I Became a Cancer-Slaying Super Man Before I Turned 21, has been published and is available for purchase. On the surface, TWICE is about dealing with and surviving cancer. But really it is about a boy who sees something special in himself. He embraces it, and uses it to his advantage. What he doesn’t realize is that his faith in this special trait holds him back in life. TWICE is a story of struggling to grow up from adolescence into adulthood in the face of deadly challenges.

I am overjoyed to share my story with you, and I thank you so much for your support.

TWICE can be purchased through my website,

Hear what others are saying about TWICE:

Jonathan Kellerman, 33-time New York Times bestselling author

Benjamin Rubenstein is a gifted story-teller and the story he tells in TWICE is riveting. This is a stunning page-turner of a memoir, devoid of the mawkishness that often mars the genre. TWICE is brutally honest, sometimes rib-achingly funny and all the more profound for the author’s brave exploration of himself.

Library Journal by Jodith Janes, Cleveland Clinic Library
It is estimated that only 150 diagnosis of Ewing's sarcoma are made annually and only two-thirds of these patients survive more than five years. Rubenstein was diagnosed with Ewings's at 16, but was determined not to be a "Sick Kid" for "I would never be able to discard the Sick Kid label." Writing with wit and humor, he chronicles his fight with this terrifying disease. Rubenstein's belief in the superhuman ability to fight his cancer gave him the courage to face chemotherapy and its devastating side effects, bone biopsies, a second cancer (leukemia), a stem-cell transplant, more chemotherapy, infections, hemorrhagic cystitis, weight loss, and osteoporosis. In spite of invasive diagnostic tests, treatment set-backs, and demanding physical therapy, he never fears he will lose his battle. The strong support of his family is documented with love and occasional frustration at what he sees as over-protectiveness. A University of Virginia economics degree is testament to his survival and entry into young adulthood.
Verdict: An inspiring and fascinating personal account of a long and often painful journey that would appeal to other patients and their families.

Don't forget to join my Facebook Page.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I’ve been following Lance Armstrong for years. I knew about him before I developed cancer, as a cycling champion and philanthropist. I looked up to him, mostly for his athletic prowess.

And then I got cancer, and people told me to read his book, It’s Not About the Bike. I read it a year after finishing treatment, and only after I got over my disgust of Lance. Despite his cancer memoir being one of the few that aren’t sappy, he still wrote about his experiences, and that made him a pussy according to my rule. Lance Armstrong: seven-time Tour de France winner, raiser of tens-of-millions of dollars, idol to tens of millions of people, and a huge pussy.

Though the rules that guided my life remained, I exempted Lance and began to study him. I learned how treatment made him a better athlete by trimming fat and transforming his muscles to fast-twitch, how his chemotherapies were immensely more potent than mine, how he thrived on pain, how he tweaked his body and bicycle to attain efficiencies, how he dedicated his life to curing cancer, how he used technology and knowledge to gain an edge.

I noticed how he doesn’t trust people and keeps a tight inner circle, how he can’t stand losing (at anything) as much or more than Jordan or Kobe, how he’s a risk-taking lunatic, how his family background created a ferocious drive in him. Lance was one of the best athletes in the world, from a physiological, as well as competitiveness, standpoint.

Lance is cancer’s poster boy. His organization has raised millions. His goal is to raise billions. He is a god to millions of patients, survivors, athletes, and others. Like past presidents, the rewards of his life and actions may not be seen for many years to come.

Despite his life carrying more value than most others on the planet, our government—or in other words, we, the taxpayers—are paying millions of dollars to attack Lance and put him in jail. I do not know if he is guilty of doping—it seems that every cyclist does. I’m not sure it’s possible to complete that race without some chemical assistance. I do know that Lance will fight his charges to the death, that if anybody could win the Tour seven times without doping it is him, and that, just as Lance was exempt from my “pussy” rule, he is exempt from “justice” even if he is a cheater because a conviction will punish the world as much as Lance.


Two weeks ago, my friend at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told me that Lance Armstrong was visiting young cancer patients on her unit. She asked if there was a message I would like to give him. Of course I would accept this opportunity for one of my heroes to read something I wrote. But I was torn: do I mention the book I wrote in hopes that he’ll want to read it? Lance must despise unsolicited requests more than I hate self-promotion. Do I slobber over him? He probably gets annoyed with constant praise. Or do I try to be witty and make him laugh?

I wrote that he inspired the title of my blog (and original title of my book) and the non-sappy direction of my book, that he inspired me to reach my peak in physical fitness, and that he inspired a mindset in me as I took on cancer. I only half-heartedly thought he would actually receive this message. When my friend later wrote that she personally handed Lance my message, and that he put it in his inside jacket pocket and said “Great!” I was touched. He could have trashed it, but I like to think that I broke his inner circle during the thirty seconds it took him to read it.

My friend also sent me an autographed LIVESTRONG guidebook. I will frame this and hang it on my Wall of Fame with all my other great memorabilia.

Lance’s probable reaction to seeing “I’ve Still Got Both My Nuts”: I’m going to slice this arrogant fuck’s nutsack. It was meant to be playful, Lance, I swear! Is it creepy that imagining Lance thinking of my nutsack makes me giddy? (…Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Lance Armstrong autographs LIVESTRONG Guidebook

Leia Mais…

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Perfect Poo

I’m not claiming it was symbolic—so many cancer people search for deeper meaning behind events, while I just see probability and randomness. But, at the time it was difficult to deny that this was a clear sign from God that I would survive the aggressive cancer. Yep, clear as day, like an angel flying down from heaven to relay the message…from the toilet bowl.

I was sixteen, visiting for the first time the hospital that would treat me for the next year. I hadn’t yet learned the value of taking Imodium AD prophylactically which I sometimes do now: before weddings, outdoor day events, and Chinese buffet outings.

I was touring the main floor of the hospital—not the side with nuclear medicine and diagnostic machines and operating rooms—but the side with the auditorium, granitoid tile floors and coffee bar. Mother Nature called, and despite my reticence to let loose in public bathrooms, I didn’t want to have to remain clenched when the doctors detailed my 60-70% chance of surviving.

The facility was very clean and bright. The toilet paper was well-stocked, and not with that gritty, single-ply material that rips through your anus. I was alone with the whole room to myself.

I set down two sets of three squares to avoid contracting crabs (unlikely for all of you who take me seriously). I dropped trow and took my seat. Would it be a positive experience, or one of those gel-like shits I like to call “million-wipers”?

On the contrary, it was one of the cleaner poos of my life, not even requiring a single wipe, though by rule I make three passes at a minimum for insurance purposes. It was a make-my-day shit, or in this case, make-my-year shit.

There would be many more poops to come in this hospital. Poops in plastic measuring containers, in hospital rooms, and in lobbies, including the same lobby as this first poo. There would be hard poops, harder poops, and rock poops. There would be runny poops, liquid poops, and brown water poops. There would be poops that cause me to twitch with pain and others where I nearly blackout from pain.

But after my first perfect poo, all my fears were wiped away as I now knew that nothing could harm me. The next year of my life would be similar to school, only more compelling and with a higher proportion of hot girls (i.e. nurses). I cleansed myself of my body’s waste before the chemo and radiotherapy cleansed me of my disease. It was such a beautiful, natural, and weight-reducing thing. If flushing out my body’s garbage could be this sanitizing, then the drips and pokes and energy waves and pukes—and subsequent shits—could be, as well. And now over ten years later, I see that they were.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur September

The Benjy

As the story goes, JD had been harassing his younger brother for days and baby Benjamin quietly accepted it. And then, when no one was looking, he grabbed his biggest, baddest toy, and smashed JD over the noggin with it. That was the day the young sociopath who would later be referred to as “The Benjy” was born.

The Benjy strayed down the opposite path his loving parents had chosen for him. Skipping elementary school during the day, he occupied sleazy neighborhoods slinging crack rock. And in the evenings, he shunned his piano teacher and soccer coach to pimp out mostly young women (and some very old men) in the red-light district of Manassas. When his mom or dad drove to pick him up from his lesson or practice, he threatened potential tattletales with his now infamous symbol—inserting his index finger into his rear end (sexual orientation was a gray area for The Benjy). Urban legend has it that children who were shown the symbol twice were never seen again.

Gender roles were similarly confusing to him, as he passed on neighborhood tackle football games in favor of sewing a sarape—sort of like a Mexican cape. He loved that cape. The Benjy’s favorite middle school outfit was Redskins Zubaz pants and his sarape. You would think this would lead to endless teasing, but his anal symbol continued to terrorize would-be hecklers. The Benjy had a free pass to wear spandex in high school, and just in time, too—he would need his delusional super powers to defeat the bone cancer he was diagnosed with at sixteen.

Some say The Benjy’s disease was karma for all those kids who supposedly vanished in his presence (no proof currently exists). Others say that a nine-year-old simply couldn't have handled that much crack cocaine without eventually developing some kind of tumor. Though his doctors and family pleaded with him to undergo traditional cancer treatment, he declined. Instead, he gave his cancer the finger-in-the-butt, and miraculously, it, too, vanished.

The Benjy then opened up a crystal meth lab at a local Red Roof Inn. His goal was not money or a high. He actually desired a second cancer, in order to test his theory that a finger in the ass is the cure-all—just as some people claim extra virgin olive oil or Windex to be. Sure enough, cancer invaded his bone marrow. He had a second battle on his hands.

The Benjy repeatedly showed his cancer the symbol, over and over and over, to no avail. He was crushed, and nearly lost his faith in his superpowers. He began questioning everything—the law of gravity, the potential of his Redskins, and even the popularity of his Zubaz pants.

The Benjy conquered, as he always has, this time by giving his disease the continuous “finger,” so to speak. He is now disease-free, residing in Arlington,VA. Though still crazy as hell, he has abandoned drugs, pimping, and super heroism, trading his cape for Brooks Brothers dress shirts and ties.

Today, he celebrates exactly nine years of freedom from his first cancer. Next year will mark ten years, an achievement worthy of perhaps an out-of-town trip to Vegas or Huntsville, Alabama, an equally fun destination. If said trip is chosen, The Benjy will begin recruiting trip mates in early 2011.
author Benjamin Rubenstein preparing for friend's wedding

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


It was the event of the century…literally. 9-9-9, T2theZ called it: September 9, 2009, 9 innings at a Washington Nationals game, 9 hot dogs, 9 beers. T2theZ transformed the event into a fundraiser with donations going to The ALS Association, a fitting charity considering it is often referred to as “Lou Gehrig's Disease.” I joined his charity team, and as a group we raised over $150.

Long Island's Colony Diner's strawberry shortcake
T2theZ was the only team member to complete the challenge, finishing 9 hot dogs and buns that he provided cheaply, as well as 9 16-ounce beers that Nationals Park provided expensively. I was there more to laugh than participate. Consuming a few days’ worth of calories within three hours isn’t my cup of tea (with the exception of my annual trip to Colony Diner in Long Island, where this strawberry shortcake last week nearly made me poop out my appendix.)

The large beers were equivalent to 12 regular-sized bottles. T2theZ may not remember finishing, but we have proof in the form of expertly-drawn pictures of frankfurters and beers. I couldn’t resist a delicious cinnamon pretzel in the shape of a “W,” which is why a squiggly thingy is drawn under my name to the right of our poster.

This year the hot dog, beer, and baseball gods have one-upped themselves. The Nationals have a home game on September 10, 2010. Thus, our team is back with 9-10-10: 9 innings, 10 hot dogs, 10 beers. T2theZ is determined to show ALS who is boss and finish the challenge. He is also hoping the game features very slow relief pitchers and a lot of runs.

Though you may not agree with the motives behind our charity event, you can still contribute to the cause on my ALS donation page.

I will once again forgo all those dogs and beers, and will root for extra innings.
Raising money for ALS with 9 hot dogs 9 beers and 9 innings

Leia Mais…

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur August

"I'm not an athlete. I'm a professional baseball player." — John Kruk

John Kruk

The former Major League baseball player, John Kruk, deserves much praise. Before joining the San Diego Padres in 1986, he won a championship…with the Mexicali Eagles. In 1987 he stole eighteen bases…but also got caught stealing ten times. He was a backup on the National League All-Star Team… in the Nintendo game, R.B.I. Baseball. After college he lived with two high school friends, who, without Kruk’s knowledge, were armed robbers. He may be the only player to ever retire in the middle of a game. Kruk wrote a book titled, I Ain’t an Athlete, Lady. Most importantly, he landed a role in a straight-to-DVD sequel to the baseball classic, The Sandlot, titled The Sandlot: Heading Home. It starred Luke Perry.

Krukker was fat, which isn’t itself a reason to tease anyone, except when you’re a professional athlete. He had a legit, Kenny Powers-style mullet. In the 1993 All-Star game—the real one and not the video game version—Randy Johnson accidentally threw a 98 mile-per-hour fastball over Kruk’s head. Kruk then swung wildly at a terrible pitch just so he could get out faster.

Nothing to joke about was Kruk’s testicular cancer in 1994, which resulted in the removal of his nut. Thanks to his jolly nature and us being only ten years old, Zeke and I then joked that Kruk had a golden ball as a replacement. Though I do not know of the chemical elements in Kruk’s scrotum, I am pleased to say that he’s been cancer-free for some fifteen years and is a great asset to Baseball Tonight, a highlight show on ESPN. He’s still pudgy, which is perfectly acceptable post world-class “athlete.”
Sports broadcaster John Kruk ducking from Randy Johnson pitch

Leia Mais…

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Arlington Update: Spinners

It wasn’t preparation for the cold and snowy winter that led me to fatten, though we did get two twenty-inch snowstorms. And it was only partly related to food, as I pounded Chipotle burritos and the like.

When I moved to Arlington in January, I struggled deciding how to obtain normal exercise. My condominium has a gym with substantial weight training equipment, but minimal cardio machines. There is also an inexpensive county gym down the street from me. And then there was the lure of buying a stationary bike for my apartment.

Despite my reticence to spend money, I couldn’t get by on anaerobic exercise alone. I developed complex mathematical equations that compared the costs and benefits of all the options. Conclusions: county gym: cheap, close, but a pointless membership for cardio alone. Stationary bike: expensive, several years the cost of one year at the local gym, prone to malfunction due to electrical components, pointless if I move to a residence that lacks weight training equipment as I would then have to join a gym, anyway.

I consulted my all-knowing former physical therapist and unofficial “personal advisor for everything,” Formula-6. He provided another option: spin bike: all of the same conclusions as a stationary bike, except it may last my lifetime. Very few moving parts, nothing electronic, smooth, quiet, fully-adjustable. Boom!

I visited various gyms pretending to be interested in joining, but really just wanted to test different spin bikes. I would begin my spiel with, “I’m in a rush, but I’m interested in joining a gym. Can I just look around for ten minutes?” By “look around” they think that means sit down with a salesman, and by “ten minutes” that means an hour.

Spinner NXT spin bikeBecause of my hip injury I need to sit fairly upright on the bike. I was looking for a spin bike with tall handlebars, and a seat that is in a vertical line with the pedals. All signs pointed to the top-of-the-line Spinner NXT. New price: $1,500. Refurbished: $750. I like new shit, but out of principle I couldn’t pay an equal amount for my spin bike as my 50” plasma 1080p HDTV with a 30,000:1 contrast ratio.

Spinner NXT spin bikeI customized my bike with a floor mat and a remote control holder (aka empty Coke Zero box). I placed it directly in line with my TV. I want an odometer to track my cumulative miles, which I suspect over the next decades will reach a high number as I use the bike most days. It is one of my best purchases.

My fat is shedding off as I strive, once again, to reach a body fat percentage in the single digits. Because of the convenience of my spin bike and gym, I am accomplishing my goal faster, and am also several pounds of muscle heavier. Unlike last year, I’m going to devise a plan to maintain my trimness instead of accepting the Chipotle-15 as unavoidable.

Rhetorical question: Would Lance Armstrong use his kitchen for a table or a spin bike?

Leia Mais…

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur July

Tom Green

“My bum is on a man/Bum is on a man/It's a lot of fun to put yer bum on a man” said Tom Green in his 1999 hit, “The Bum Bum Song.” That was back during Tom Green’s heyday when he hosted The Tom Green Show on MTV and starred in Road Trip. Tom is now one of those long forgotten celebrities, though he still makes some TV appearances, hosts a web show, and continues his rapping career.

Rapper? This Canadian-born oddball, who now looks like a cross between Edward Norton and a serial rapist, was a legitimate rapper in the early ‘90s, when his group was nominated for one Canadian rap award and won another. Tom has dabbled with many forms of entertainment, including radio and stand-up comedy. He became highly popular with his MTV shock humor variety show, and even had a brief marriage to Drew Barrymore.

They became engaged around the time Tom was diagnosed with testicular cancer. His illness is considered the reason his MTV show ended, though I believe based on zero factual evidence that it was the fault of Barrymore, who also destroyed all of her own movies post-E.T. (seriously, have you seen Duplex?).

I was concluding treatment for my first cancer when The Tom Green Cancer Special aired, which was a documentary on his time with cancer and his surgery. That showed far too much uncensored nutsack, and also a human side to Tom that most didn’t think existed.

Tom is healthy and cancer-free, and also a single guy with one testicle, which clearly women love and thus negates his sex offender-appearance.
comedian Tom Green

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Thought Hurricane Season was Over

My friends at UVA honored Hurricane Isabel on September 18, 2003, by drinking Hurricane 40s. Their apartments were flooding, but they were too drunk to care. I observed Isabel in the ER from a fever, since I was still recovering from my bone marrow transplant. I was sent home at midnight, shortly after the worst of the storm. My dad drove us down the leaf-covered roads, dodging small trees. There was a downed tree on our street, and we had to walk the rest of the way.

Our house stood at the bottom of a 700-foot hill. Towering trees lined the street on both sides. With a small flashlight, the two of us slowly crept down the dark, wet concrete. The wind howled and the stinging rain punished our faces. We could only see a few feet ahead. Suddenly, we heard the crash of a tree falling. How close was it? Were we in danger?

“We have to get out of here,” I whispered to myself.

Halfway down the street, we reached the behemoth. My dad lifted small branches as I crossed over. Two more trees collapsed around us. We made it home, which had lost electricity, and went to sleep as the wind pounded against the bricks.

Related story:
Quarter Mile of Shit

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Danger of Flip-Flops

One late afternoon toward the end of my sophomore year of high school, as I reached the outer edge of the lobby, I got a whiff of a familiar odor. I spotted Zeke and walked toward him. With each step, the smell grew stronger until I finally realized it was Zeke’s nasty feet.

“Dude?” I said with a confused look on my face.

He nodded and smiled like an idiot. Once we got in my car I said, “What the fuck, man? I could smell your stinky-ass feet from 100 feet away.”

“I know,” he said. “It’s been bad all day.”

“That’s beyond bad. I can’t even breathe over here…oh, this is horrible. I’m not driving you home unless you ride with your feet out the window.”

“If that’s what you want.”

The wind swept the putrid odor back into the car and infested the once perfectly-good oxygen. Zeke bought a bottle of air freshener and sprayed it on his feet. Now, he smelled like cinnamon potpourri mixed with an old, sweaty gym bag. When we reached his house he left his sandals upstairs while we played video games in his basement. He still stunk, but it was bearable.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur June

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is a genius. He co-founded Apple in the ‘70s, was basically booted out of his own company in the ‘80s, and was brought back when Apple purchased Jobs’ new company, NeXT Computer, during Apple’s unprofitable years in the ‘90s. Since then, he has taken Apple to enormous heights: $37b in revenue (Fortune rank: 56); $6b in profits (rank: 26); and $209b in market value (rank: 3).

For the record, I am not a fan of Apple and talk shit about the company when it doesn’t make me look like a total idiot. Apple products are overpriced and overly restricted. I want to download my music for about $0.99 less than what iTunes charges, in most any format, and not have to worry about importing or exporting anything. My eight gigabyte SanDisk player cost me $90 brand new and syncs perfectly with Windows Media Player, and probably MediaMonkey, as well.

I’ll stick with my Windows-based PC. It cost a fraction of a Mac computer, is compatible with everything, and has a fucking right-click.

The iPhone is, admittedly, awesome, but I will stand by my boys at Google and happily show off my Droid Eris. As impressive as the iPhone 4 is, I bet a Droid comes along very soon that kicks the shit out of it (think Incredible, no wait…Evo, no wait…X, no wait…the next hot shit Droid phone that will inevitably arrive).

Apple restricts information and usability. Google wants the whole world to be accessible and free (at least so long as AdSense and AdWords continue dominating internet advertising, of course). It is creepy how Google places targeted ads in Gmail based on the content of my messages, and how my Droid immediately syncs with Facebook and Gmail. In fact, my contact list now somehow contains phone numbers of people I haven’t spoken to in ten years. And I believe Google knows enough information (think passwords, bank account numbers, etc.) to take over the world, but surely that would never happen (think Die Hard 4).

As well as being a genius, Steve Jobs is a dick. He reportedly throws temper tantrums and berates employees. But he is also a cancer survivor. He keeps his medical record private, which I commend him for. But it is believed that he developed a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004, which is often a very deadly disease. In 2009, he secretly received a liver transplant in Tennessee for what was likely a cancer recurrence in the form of liver cancer. It was reported that he may have cheated to get higher on the donor list, but sometimes to survive you have to say “fuck it,” even if that means someone else on the list dies in your place.

Good luck with your new phone and iPad, Stevie, even though that doesn’t support flash and isn’t quite in full HD. Your tablet may do everything else in the world, but those extra few pixels are clearly make-or-break for me.
Young Steve Jobs holding an apple

*Update October 6, 2011: Steve died yesterday as a result of cancer.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aloha: The Lost Stories and Photos

Six months after our trip to Hawaii, Greek finally provided me his digital photos. He tossed in a one gigabyte flash drive for good measure. It then took my lazy ass another four months to post some of his photos to my blog.

As I relaxed in my beach chair listening not to Justin Bieber but surely music nearly as awesome, JD, Greek, and NoCommonSense kayaked to two small islands.

Kayaking in Hawaii

NoCommonSense took off in shame after being dominated by a wave, but his follies continued. When they reached the second island, he tipped over his kayak spilling the GCBs (Good Cold Beers). Regardless, the island party continued. (Doesn't this look like Lost, anyone?)
Resting on Waikiki beach

On our way to the North Shore, we stopped by a popular turtle hangout. Turtles are amongst my favorite animals. Zeke and I found one when we were kids and named him Wolfy. We probably saw 50 more over the next decade, and named them Wolfy 2, 3, 4, etc. In truth, I can't tell if these are Wolfys or rocks.
Sea turtles beach on North Shore

I tried teaching Greek the way of the sunscreen. He listened after his skin was replaced by a stiff coat of sand.
Sunburned legs in Waikiki, Hawaii

Hurricane Felicia was talking shit, but couldn't back it up.
Hurricane Felicia raining in Hawaii

I love hand-me-downs, even ones from the mid 90s featuring Hare Jordan—though the t-shirt would be better with one or two Wolfys. Yes, I do wear this shirt in public. I'm pretty sure I possess at least one triple-hand-me-down.
Benjamin Rubenstein wearing Hare Jordan shirt

USS Wahoo plaque in Hawaii

Our boat trip to Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island was spectacular in retrospect—at the time, my seasickness made it horrendous.
Visiting Kilauea Volcano by boat in Hawaii

JD had no problem.
Holding molten lava from Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

Greek had no problem.
Holding molten lava from Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

I turned a different color and felt like death.
Holding molten lava from Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

NoCommonSense was worse.
Holding molten lava from Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

The photo of the four of us is frame-worthy, but only after eliminating color—and thus my and NoCommonSense's green-yellow tinge.
Benjamin Rubenstein with brother and friends at Kilauea Volcano

Back on land, NoCommonSense getting ready to puke.
Getting seasick after boat ride to Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

NoCommonSense puking.
Getting seasick after boat ride to Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

NoCommonSense puking some more.
Getting seasick after boat ride to Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

We went to bed around midnight before heading to the volcano, and woke up around 2:30 am. After being awake for about 37 of the previous 40 hours, a certain somebody may have dozed off standing up at a bar.
sleeping at a bar

It could've been worse: I could've been this dog, Kona. That is one sickeningly ugly little bastard.
Ugly, stray dog at North Shore in Hawaii

Leia Mais…

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Kid Grows Up

Read this first:
Griffey the Kid

Outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr.
I’m not writing about Ken Griffey, Jr.’s lackluster performance as of late. Though natural, it is always sad when our heroes deteriorate with age. I’m also not discussing his reported snoozing incident—all players probably doze off from time to time, some games can be boring to watch, and how that became newsworthy is beyond me.

I don’t want to get into “what ifs,” as in how many homers would Griffey have if he had never gotten hurt? 750? 800?

Performance-enhancers aren’t on the agenda either, despite his name never being linked. If juicing meant that Bonds was disqualified from career leaderboards, then Griffey’s 630 home runs would put him fourth all-time behind Aaron, Ruth and Mays. I actually wish he had taken HGH—then maybe the second half of his career wouldn’t have been so riddled with injury. Performance-enhancers have enormous medical value, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ten years from now they become an accepted practice to heal damaged tissue.

Reading through several articles about Griffey this morning saddened me. I was a small boy when I adopted him as my favorite athlete, and a twenty-something when he finally retired yesterday after 22 years in the Majors. He has been part of my life since I had a memory. I truly cannot imagine baseball without him. It will not be the same.

“The Kid” was one of my biggest role models, teaching me life lessons over the years. Hard work—he caused some of his own injuries because he leaped and dove for every ball in center field. Priorities—he left Seattle in 2000 because he wanted to be closer to his family. Perseverance—he continued to play despite his 20 surgeries.

I mostly felt sad for him. No matter how hard he prayed to stay 25 years old—or how wide he smiled or how straight he wore his backwards hat—time moved on and took him with it. At 40 and with a teenage son, he was demoted to a dugout bench next to teammates younger than me. Baseball was his life. I’m sure he feels very hurt, and his wounded pride may take a while to heal. I hope he knows how much he meant to me and so many others who idolized him.

Because of Griffey, I was clearly a Mariners fan growing up. When he was traded to the Cincinnati Red, I switched allegiance to the Orioles, my then-local team. (Though, I still watched Griffey play on DirecTV Extra Innings. His swing was more beautiful than Bar Refaeli in a Donovan McNabb Redskins jersey.)

Now, the Orioles are in their 13th consecutive losing season. Their record stands at 15-39, the worst in baseball. In the past, I could watch Griffey no matter how shitty his team was. I am a very loyal person and sports fan, but I can honestly say that I’m approaching my threshold with Baltimore. They have ruined baseball for me this summer. I can only bask in the memory of grilling two hot dogs outside on my parents’ grill and flipping through the channels to find my hero.

There may come a time soon when I consciously decide to adopt a new favorite team. I understand that is taboo at my age. With the Orioles a perennial disaster and The Kid now a middle-aged man leaving the game behind, I just want my summers back.

Leia Mais…

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur May

John McCain

It is hysterical what politicians will say in front of cameras, none funnier than Senator McCain. He mixed up Iraq and Afghanistan, Sunnis and Shiites, Somalia and Sudan, and the Packers and Steelers. He said Putin was the president of Germany and miscounted the number of American troops in Iraq by 20,000. He has referred to Czechoslovakia, which was divided into two countries 17 years ago.

I still crack up when I watch the YouTube video of him saying, "And you know, I couldn't agree with them more. I couldn't disagree with you. I couldn't agree with you more with the fact..."

McCain referred to Obama as "That one" when he couldn't remember his name.

He referred to Americans as "my fellow prisoners."

Economics is not something he understands well...according to himself. And he thinks the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

McCain couldn't remember how many houses he owned, and referred the questioner to his staff.

His slip-ups only get better: "Rates were cunt in the Bush years."

"Sure. Technically, I don't know."

"I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don't expect to be a great communicator, I don't expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate."

"I will veto every single beer, um, bill with earmarks."

"We should be able to deliver bottled hot water to dehydrated babies."

"It's not social issues I care about."

"The French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it."

"At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt."

"Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father."

And the best of all: "I think [Palin is] most qualified of any that has run recently for vice president, tell you the truth."

I am an equal-opportunity politician basher, and would probably prefer to rip Biden instead of McCain, but Biden is not a cancer survivor. In 1993, Senator McCain developed melanoma—the rarest and deadliest form of skin cancer. During his presidential run in 2000 two new melanomas were detected and removed. He has been cancer-free for many years.

We all know McCain possesses an enviable desire to live, to say the least. In truth, he has some highly intelligent policy ideas, as well. It is sad that his medical history and experience as a POW were used against him in his bid to be president. Even Matt Damon, who I love, referred to his cancer when he said that statistically there was at least a 33% chance McCain would die in office and Palin would take over.

On this Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who died serving our country. And I also tip my hat to John McCain. We can only hope that his quotes get exponentially better as he further approaches senility.
John McCain tongue out behind Barack Obama

Leia Mais…

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost and Found


My brother can attest that I'm bad at following complicated movies. I get confused and lost. Films like Snatch and Traffic will never be in the grasp of my understanding.

Which is why I was surprised last night when I felt that I "got" the epic finale to Lost. Admittedly, I tossed and turned in bed going through different possible meanings, and today I read through virtually every Lost article, blog, and comment I found.

Here is how I see things, though that doesn't mean I am correct. (As an example, my mom is convinced they all died with the original Oceanic 815 crash, but I will show soon why that is false.)

Jack near death with dog from Lost
The island was real, and everything that occurred on the island actually happened. Our hero, Jack, saved the island and possibly the world, and then died soon after. Hurley and Ben took over as protectors of the island for an unknown period of time. We don't know if they succeeded; we simply know that they did their best.

The plane carrying Kate and Sawyer likely got away and presumably they lived out the remainder of their lives in Los Angeles or Sydney or wherever. I say this because as Jack was dying, he saw a plane ascending high in the sky. Some may point out that the two planes are different, and that the wreckage at the very end of the episode was Kate's plane, but I disagree.

Now, my initial assessment:

Sideways world was a creation of their collective subconsciousness as a way to accept death and move on. Timing is not linear in this case, and thus does not matter. (Perhaps even the entirety of sideways world could have been a mere second, occurring in the precise moment of their deaths.)

They needed each other to let go and move on, because they were the most important people in each other's lives. And that is how we know the island was real, because without the island these people never would have known each other. Again, timing doesn't matter—Jack may have died in 2007 and Hurley in 2207. Some others, like Michael, were not present in sideways world because they were not ready to move on.

Stop. About face. Hold the phone.

I thought back to the ending and remembered that Aaron was a baby in the church, and Sayid was with Shannon instead of his life's love, Nadia. And why was it that Jack took a long time to "get it" while all the others accepted instantly?

The answer is that the last episode was from Jack's point of view alone. This was his journey to move on to the afterlife, and these were the people his subconscious chose. Aaron was a baby because that is how Jack remembered him most fondly. And Jack never even met Nadia, which is why she was replaced by Shannon.

Lost series finale
Jack's father, Christian Sheppard, shepherded his son into understanding. Perhaps he was the only one who could do so. This does not mean that Juliet ended up eternally with Sawyer or Kate with Jack. It was simply the process Jack needed to move on to the afterlife.

We can presume that others like Kate and Sawyer had similar experiences in their own deaths, and Jack may have been present in their subconsciouses during their journeys to move on, just as they were for him. Not necessarily, though.

This leads me to the conclusion that the whole of sideways world was just Jack's creation. And this leads me to the conclusion that Lost is a show about Jack's life and death. Period.

I loved the finale. I found two overarching themes that are uplifting.

(1) There is inherent goodness in humans, as evident by Jack killing the smokemonster; good beating evil; light defeating darkness. The "bad" guys like Ben Linus showed that their goodness could overcome evil in the end. Jack saving the world proves that humans have the capacity to defeat all obstacles.

(2) Despite what I just said, for our Losties it didn't matter if Jack and the others succeeded, so long as they did their best and did what they thought was right. In that sense it doesn't even matter if Kate's plane made it off the island or crashed. The smokemonster could have destroyed Earth or even the entire universe, but Jack's journey to death would have been the same. He still needed his friends and father to help him move on, even if life on Earth ceased to exist. The place where Jack's subconscious took him, and the place he was about to go, had nothing to do with the world as we know it. The same could be said for the other Losties in their journeys.

The beauty of Lost is that we can all debate this, and we may all be right because there may not be a "right" answer. As I said a few years back, the first season of Lost was one of the best ever on television. The other seasons dropped off in quality, some of them dramatically, but in the end Lost was provocative and awesome. I was ready to be done with it yesterday. Now, I will really miss it.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Russia Sends Sweet Satellites

I think of myself as a candy connoisseur. I like to try new varieties and alternate brands. I sometimes rate candy on categories like texture, lasting flavor, flavor peak, replay value, and, of course, tongue stain. The bluer the better.

(This odd opening has an even stranger transition into capitalism)

Our American economic system is a marvel. It ranks as both the best country in the world to do business with, and the best country for entrepreneurs. It was just in the late ‘90s that Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, one of my favorite companies along with Amazon, Facebook, and any firm that makes 3-pound bags of gummy bears. Now, Google ranks 102 in largest American companies by revenue (Forbes), but way higher in terms of profit and market capitalization.

Capitalism has its downsides, though, and none more observable than in the candy industry. Once upon a time there were thousands of confectioner companies making unique candies and chocolates. Because of the internet, all of those local brands could bring joy to anyone in the world. Sadly, most of the treats made by smaller companies are no longer available because the giants like Hershey and Nestle gobbled them up. The biggest losers in this case are us candy lovers.

Some people don’t like our capitalist economy and try to paint large corporations as greedy thieves that lack ethics and function solely to increase the bottom line and shareholder dividends. Sometimes, though, that isn’t the case.

Hamburgers’ dad wore a single pair of Ray Bans for 10 years before they broke. He then wrote a letter to Ray Ban expressing how valuable his purchase had been, and how durable Ray Ban’s products were. Ray Ban then sent Mr. Hamburgers a shiny new pair for free. They valued him as a customer and wanted to “do the right thing” even though Mr. Hamburgers probably would have purchased a new pair, anyway. Ray Ban’s behavior was not based on reducing costs or increasing revenue.

Now, I’ve had my own experience with a huge company that sells extremely durable products, and acts nothing like a greedy thief.

My parents bought me a black JanSport backpack when I was in high school. It lasted at least 10 years. Last month one of the straps finally ripped away from the top stitching. JanSport offers a lifetime warranty on its backpacks—it will repair or replace damaged ones in most instances. So, I mailed it to JanSport with a letter showing my gratitude with the product. I also mentioned that I had bone cancer many years ago and my left hip was removed. Because of my injury, I wrote, it is easier for me to carry force straight down (like from a backpack) as opposed to from my side (like from a laptop bag or briefcase). Because I often bring my laptop to work, I wondered if JanSport could upgrade me to a bookbag which also had a sleeve to carry a laptop.

I received a call from a JanSport representative one week later. The woman said JanSport could easily repair my backpack, but instead they were going to upgrade me to a brand new Sputnik model which also contains a laptop compartment. They don’t normally do that, but they wanted to help me out. I suspect this will last another 10+ years.

Dammit, now I’m hungry for vanilla Tootsie Rolls and cherry Twizzlers and LifeSavers Fruit Splosions and Starburst Jelly Beans and a three pound bag of gummy bears. I could really use some high-fructose corn syrup right now.

JanSport Sputnik bookbag

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arlington Update: Living Quarters

Dead cockroaches in Arlington apartment
We have cockroaches. I see maybe five each day, and multiples of that on peak days. I squash them when: towel paper is accessible; I’m not already comfortable on my couch, La-Z-Boy or toilet seat, or; I’m not in an apathetic mood. I often find them dried up on my kitchen floor. When the benefit of discarding them is outweighed by the cost of bending down to collect them, I just walk around them.

The pest control guy visits every month. Millennium was in the apartment one such occasion and he thought there was a good chance the bug guy was actually a burglar.

My building didn’t turn on the air conditioning until the second week in May. My bedroom reached 86 degrees some nights and my cockroach problem took a backseat to sheets smothered in sweat. Besides, at that temperature critters decompose quickly.

There is a convicted sex offender living on the floor above mine. Though I believe it is a breach of civil rights to register these people on a publicly accessible website, and I have my own qualms about many of our country’s laws, this is still fairly amusing and, thus, blogable. Besides, I've seen his picture and he looks like a sick fuck.

Beyond the incredible ethnic diversity of our immediate location and building itself, we have variations in mental capacity, as well. One guy walks around like a caveman with a blank stare, and speaks in a monotone voice. He moves aimlessly through the building. Another guy talks to all the tenants, as well himself, ghosts, and the cockroaches.

Gay magazines in Arlington condominium gymMost strikingly, there is an extremely high proportion of gay people in my building. When I noticed that my landlord and her friend—the guy directly across the hall from me—are both gay, I considered it a coincidence. Then when I knocked on doors asking if anyone wanted to split wireless internet costs, I noticed several tenants were gay. And in the gym everyone seemed to know each other, and everyone seemed gay. And the only magazines near the treadmills were Out and The Advocate.

I’m no statistician, but that is unlikely to be a coincidence. The percentage of gays seems to be many standard deviations above normal. And if most reside on my floor, which may be the case, then Millennium and I are probably assumed to be gay. (Infinicuralier did tell me that the tenth floor of apartment buildings are known for congregating gays, though he may be full of shit as he often is.)

I welcome this change in sexual orientation. Studies show that gays are better educated and more affluent, and based on stereotypes they are cleaner and more welcoming than the rest of the population. In fact, I vote to make the whole building gay—maybe then the cockroaches would be forced to find a dirtier building.

Having said all that, I like living here. My landlord is very responsive, the weight room is substantial, many major bus lines pick up across the street, my apartment is spacious with fake hardwood floors and a gas stove, and it's relatively affordable with utilities included. I'm inclined to stay next year (moving sucks taint).

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