Ringworm: No worm required

And what a relief that is.

I have a huge fear of parasitic beings. Everyone has their big phobia; mine is tapeworm, ticks, lice—just about any parasite you can think of (oh, and maggots). Some of this stems from childhood experience; some of it is from seeing the movie The Faculty, or at least that’s what I blame. I can stand mosquitoes and fleas, for some reason, but anything else that wants my blood gives me the heebie jeebies.

I even used to sleep with my hair over my ears so nothing could crawl in and deposit eggs and eat my brain! And even though that is a ridiculous form of prevention, I must admit that I sometimes still even do that, especially after watching a scary movie.

So when my best friend, a registered nurse, took a look at what I thought was a mole on my hand and pronounced it ringworm, I nearly fainted. I started to scream. I told her to get a knife and to cut my hand off lest the worms infest my body, nevermind that the mark had been there for weeks. I nearly cried, but I was so upset that I could only manage sheer horror.

Though you probably believe this to be exaggeration on my part, none of it is.My friend thankfully laughed and put me out of my misery within minutes, but not before enjoying my complete and total freak out first. She told me that it is actually not a worm at all, thank god, but a fungus much like athlete’s foot that could, in fact, be treated with creams created for similar fungal issues. I suppose you can imagine my relief, though I did hotly announce that I would be phoning the American Medical Association on Monday to demand that the thing be renamed RingFungus or Fairy Ring Fungus or something much more friendly and less wormy-sounding. They have no right to tell me that I have worms living in my body when I don’t.

If you do come down with this fungus—which is contagious and passed from other people or cats, by the way, which makes sense since I am around many people and many cats—keep in mind that its treatment may also make you uncomfortable, as the pharmacist took a tube of jock itch cream and handed it to me, pronouncing it their best product for such a thing.

Transplant Romance

"He gave her his kidney. She gave him her heart. Transplants and romance when Sick, Sad World continues"


If you google the phrase “kidney transplant romance,” you'll find an entire page of books on Amazon.com devoted solely to kidney transplant romance novels. I am not even making this up. Similarly, if you google the phrase “heart transplant romance” you'll find the Amazon page for heart transplant romance novels, such as “A Valentine Heart” by M. Latron:


"George Valentine thought he could live forever on love alone. The day he died he gave his heart to another man who was in desperate need. Little did George know that he would be giving Ernest Harper more than just his heart, and that his wife Amy would finally find a way to heal."

I would never have imagined that romantic fantasies related to organ transplants could possibly be such a popular genre as to inspire an entire page of search results for each separate transplanted organ and its associated romantic entanglements, but there you have it. There is even a page of search results for sickle cell transplant romance novels. So, although I have not yet found a novel in which a man and a woman exchange a kidney and a heart and then somehow fall in love (wouldn't at least one of them be dead?) I am still pretty sure there's one out there somewhere.


Clearly, for reasons beyond my own ability to either quantify or understand, there is a certain type of romance fan that finds the whole notion of transplanted organs either breathtakingly romantic or disturbingly arousing or both. I know that a lot of romance novels are really thinly-veiled erotica, so I can only assume both factors are in play here. There's probably a whole section of the internet devoted solely to transplant erotica now that I think of it, but I just can't bring myself to google it and find out for sure.



Microbial Hanky-Panky

"Are microbes having sex in your drinking water? H-2-aooh! next, on Sick, Sad World."



Okay, I admit it. I didn't really pay any attention at all in my high school biology class, and I don't really have a very clear idea about how cells reproduce. I'm pretty sure they just split in half and then go about their separate business- kind of like skipping right to the divorce stage without even dating first- but I don't think that counts as having sex.

But is that what all microbes do, or only some of them? I honestly don't know. Far all I currently understand of the situation, it's entirely possible that some microbe of some type is actually having sex of some kind in my drinking water, and honestly I wish they would just stop.


So I looked it up, but apparently you have to have paid at least a minimum amount of attention in that old high school biology class to even be in a position to understand the explanation when you finally do manage to track it down. Apparently the chromosomes go from being diploid to haploid and then the gametes get together and make a zygote, which is also diploid. I did not actually find this explanation to be terribly helpful, as I have no idea what any of those words mean in the first place.


But, maybe you do, and will now be in a position to answer the question to your own satisfaction and either drink right up or refrain from drinking forevermore in a spirit of puritanical revulsion. That's what I intend to do.





On The Plausibility Of Killer House Plants

"Death wore velvety green. Homicidal house plants, next on Sick, Sad World."

I haven't seen “Day of the Triffids” since I was a kid, when they played it as part of the Creature Double Feature on Saturday mornings, home of Godzilla vs Just About Everything. Triffids are either alien plants or mutated plants, I think it depends on which version of the movie you watch. Either way, they like to eat you, usually after blinding you first. This might seem farfetched, but I consider it a perfectly realistic plot concept. We already know that there are meat-eating plants, ambush predators that eat little creatures unlucky enough to wander into range.

Is it so much of a stretch to think that our own trusted house plants, perhaps after watching a re-run of “Day of the Triffids” on late-night TV, should suddenly develop the ability to render their human owners blind and helpless, allowing them to feast on our bodies at will? I think not. When you think about how realistic this actually is, it's probably only a matter of time before it happens for real.


That's the thing about horror movies- the more realistic they are, the better. I find it much easier to believe in and be terrified by the possibility of a legion of house plants annihilating modern civilization in an orgy of leafy bloodletting, a kind of inverted all-you-can-eat salad buffet where the salad eats you instead of the other way around, then some of these modern horror movie plots. Guys killing college kids with butcher knives- how farfetched!




Jesus On A Penny

"Next on Sick, Sad World: hoax, or vision? Some people in Florida claim they've seen the face of Jesus... on a penny!"

If anyone ever thought he saw the face of Jesus on a penny, it was probably due to a lack of bearded men among his circle of acquaintances (not an uncommon thing among a certain sort of Christian) leading to an overenthusiastic tendency to see any bearded man as either a hippie or Jesus Himself. But mysterious visions of Jesus, Mary or various saints are not an uncommon occurrence. Jesus has been seen in everything from cloud-banks to potato chips, and that's not even counting all the bleeding statues and other vaguely-related miracles.

So what's up with all the manifestations, and why are they so much more likely to happen to Catholics? Protestants of most persuasions tend to frown on visual images, due to a somewhat exaggerated fear of accidental idolatry. This is probably causing them to miss out on visits from Jesus, who stays away so as not to offend them. He's supposed to be a pretty nice guy, after all, so if the Catholics want a personal visit and the Baptists don't, I'm sure he tries to accommodate them both.


Come to think of it, if any person was so unaccustomed to the sight of a bearded man that he would just immediately assume that person to be Jesus, I think Jesus would probably be willing to work with that too. If he can appear in a potato chip or as a disembodied glowing blue head (see picture above), I have no doubt he could change into Abraham Lincoln if he wanted to.




Drunk Ballerinas

"When these ballerinas work out at the barre, they work out at the bar! Tanked in a tutu when Sick, Sad World returns."

Have you ever been drunk at work? I sure have! Hell, I'm drunk right now.


Okay, not really. I haven't had a drink since last night, and that was just one glass of wine. But I've been drunk at work before, usually because I drank so much whiskey the night before that I just couldn't get it all out of my system by the next day. Once I even slept through an entire shift in a phone sales office, raising my head only to make a sales call about once an hour. Due to some miracle, every one of those calls was a sale, which not only saved my job but led the sales manager to tell everyone else in the office to go home and get drunk. On another occasion, I was so drunk on my way to work (on foot, of course! Don't drink and drive!) that I failed to recognize an old friend when she stopped to offer me a lift.


So it's not really surprising to me that ballerinas might sometimes be tempted to indulge as well, that they might sometimes be tempted to indulge too much, or that they might on some occasions end up drunk at work. I don't know if that's the explanation for the ballerina in this video, or if all ballerinas just fall down occasionally, but if a ballerina was actually drunk at work I'm sure this is exactly what would happen.

So don't judge the hard-working and hard-drinking ballerinas of the world. They are only human, after all. And humans are just drunk at work sometimes. It's the way of the world.



Frog Princes, Or...?

"A nightmare story of an enchanted kiss gone horribly wrong, when Sick, Sad World returns."

Princesses do not normally kiss frogs by preference. They generally prefer to kiss either princes, or (in some cases) other princesses. But if you accept the premise that under some circumstances a prince may be turned into a frog by a magic spell, does it not logically follow that any number of other transformations are equally possible?

A sufficiently powerful witch might be able to turn a frog into a prince, but it is unlikely the resulting creature would be getting kissed by many princesses. Why? Because when a witch turns a prince into a frog, he retains the intelligence of a prince. This implies that a frog who was enchanted into the form of prince would be likely to retain the intelligence as well as the habits of a typical frog. And most girls don't make a habit of kissing boys who eat flies.


So our hypothetical witch would probably be forced to get a little more creative. She could enchant a princess into a prince or a prince into a princess, but if it is a princess initiating the kiss as in most versions of the legend, this might not have such drastic consequences. Just because a princess sets out to kiss a prince, it does not always follow that she would have any strong objection to kissing a princess, and vice versa. So, the witch's little practical joke could fall flat quite easily if the girl is adept at rolling with the punches.


No, the thing for the witch to do is to transform a commoner into a prince. Most people who are at the social level where they can just go ahead and steal a kiss from royalty are not the sort to go around locking lips with the hoi palloi, at least not when they're not out slumming. A princess who believes herself to be kissing a genuine prince, only to find out he's really a member of the Great Unwashed, would probably take it even worse than if he did turn into a frog!






"One three-ton hubby is not enough for this red hot mammal. The polygamous hippopotamus, when Sick, Sad World returns."

Hippos, like Iron Age warlords and cult leaders, like to preside over multiple wives. A bull hippo is not an equal opportunity kind of guy. He uses his massive bulk and his terrifying teeth to keep all the female hippos in a certain stretch of the river for himself and himself alone. Any young bucks who want to meander through his part of the river had better behave with conspicuous respect, or they'll find themselves in a world of hurt before you could say “enraged bull hippo.”

It's safe to say that female hippos have not been exposed to feminist thinking. But what if they were? Could some Margaret Thatcher of the hippo world not only survive but thrive in the role of the “bull,” taking on multiple husbands?


If you think about it, it might actually be a better deal for the majority of the hippo males, who currently don't get a chance to mate unless they can somehow unseat the reigning bull. But it would probably also cause a huge decrease in the overall hippo population in that area, because any female hippo warlord could only have a certain number of hippo babies in the works at a single time, whereas a bull hippo can impregnate all his females at once if he wants to. Maybe the hippo revolution should aim at equal mating opportunities for all hippos on the river, instead of simply replacing a male warlord with a female one. But try telling that to Margaret Thatcher.


Whole Body Transplant Monsters

"Can renegade surgeons transplant your brain while you sleep? The frightening truth, next on Sick, Sad World."

In “The Master Mind of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a Martian scientist takes the brains of the wealthy Martians and transplants them into healthy young bodies so they can effectively live forever. This was some pretty far-fetched science fiction at the time, but apparently modern scientists are starting to think they could really pull this off. Just imagine the world that would result from that development.

Instead of having to be content with a few decades of fabulous wealth and power and luxury, the world's rich could extend that experience for centuries and centuries. To a virtually immortal being like that, a regular human would seem like little more than an insect. The life of a serf- and that's exactly how they would see the rest of us- would be worth almost nothing, as they would see dozens or even hundreds of such lifetimes come into existence and then disappear while they went on and on. They would view the rest of humanity the same way we view those species of fly that live for only a single day.


The development of a “whole body transplant,” as this procedure is known, would result in the permanent division of the human race into two separate and highly unequal classes. One class would be effectively immortal and beyond most sorts of consequences, beyond humanity as we know it. The other would toil and suffer to serve the first, without hope of betterment. That would truly be a sick, sad world.


The Horror of the Oceans

"Are fish using our oceans as their own private toilet? A Sick, Sad World exclusive, right after this."

It's pretty awful when you think about it. You step into the ocean, and not only do you have to worry about all those fathoms of cold, heartless darkness (every fathom of which is literally swarming with hungry sharks, half-drunk on the blood of the innocent yet yearning for more), you also have to ask yourself a simple yet terrifying question. What percentage of the ocean is actually water, and what percentage is fish urine?

I mean, think about it- there are at least 20,000 different species of fish, and they all have to urinate somewhere. If the sharks weren't so busy eating people all the time, there would probably be a lot less, but there you have it. Anyway, the sharks have to urinate somewhere too, so it doesn't really help. When you think about the actual proportion of water to fish, it's difficult to escape the conclusion that the ocean is probably mostly urine. That, mixed with a little bit of blood because of all the shark attacks, but given the sharks' addiction to human blood they probably drink most of that up. So in the end, it's basically just urine.


And what that means for the Earth is pretty frightening. If seventy-five percent of the Earth is covered with ocean, that means that seventy-five percent of the Earth is essentially made of fish urine. And when the heat of the sun makes that urine evaporate and turn into clouds and then rain down on our heads, what is basically happening is that we are being peed on by billions of fish. Now, that is a sick, sad world!