Thursday, May 9, 2013

And the poison's in my heart and in my mind.

Alpine Sanatorium architecture

If there's one thing I learnt from reading The Magic Mountain for Riddled Book Club, it's that if you're a stolid engineer with a pedestrian but reliable career ahead of you, DO NOT GO to visit a tubercular relative at a mountain-top sanatorium. The rarefied air and the crystalline architecture will awaken the restless aesthetic spirit, symbolised by a slight but persistent bronchitic fever, obliging you to remain at the clinic for seven years of labour on the instruments of time.
Inimical mountains

There is a more general lesson here as well, i.e. that mountains are inimical to health (quite apart from the mental-health issue). From which we deduce that tuberculosis on its own is a minor, even benign infection, which only became a deadly scourge of workers and bohemians alike (and a sought-after accessory for Victorian-vintage Goths striving to look pale and frail and unworldly) when people took to staying at Swiss sanatoria to cure it. Also, avoid symbolism. If Illness can be Metaphor then Metaphor can become Illness.

A cursory search of the Riddled library reveals this to be a frequent theme in Alt-Med circles. It appears that the various bacterial and viral and protozoan guests within our bodies have been framed. The first-born-claiming plagues of a century ago should instead be ascribed to chemical exposures of a satanic-mill-related nature... if not administered as part of a misguided treatment for the infections in question.

I am not making this up. It turns out [dramatic chord] that 'polio' -- those epidemics of contagious nerve damage and muscle atrophy that plagued sufficiently-crowded urban populations -- is in fact a previously unrecognised symptom of arsenic poisoning, with the whole bad rap for poliovirus coinciding with the popularity of lead arsenate as a pesticide in the 1890s. True, polio persists in parts of the world where vaccination programs were turned back by human stupidity and religious fervour (BIRM), but no matter for the blame now shifts to natural arsenic in well-water. See useful maps of polio incidence and arsenical groundwater to emphasis the nigh-total lack of overlap. The evidence is all cherry-picked and the cherries are POISONED WITH PESTICIDE.

At Riddled we tend to think inside the box, except on Sunday afternoons when tigris lets us out for a few hours of sunlight if we have been productive. Still, we are trying hard to adopt this creative and contrarian way of thinking, in case it is the way of the future.

"Oh look!" I announced. [Another dramatic chord] "More revisionism, this time rehabilitating the reputation of Treponema pallidum!" For a century, General Paresis or GPI has been regarded as the final stage of neurosyphilis. But here are some health cranks to inform us that it is in fact a long-delayed form of mercury poisoning brought about by the mercury-based remedies applied decades earlier to the syphilitic lesions. If proven, this thesis will require major revisions to literary uses of the neurosyphilis / creativity trope.

We are not entirely sure why GPI did not go away after 1920 when Salvarsan replaced those mercurial treatments, except that Salvarsan is arsenic-based, and these heavy metals and light metalloids are ALL.ONE.TOXIN. Nor is it clear how the progress of GPI could be stopped by killing the T. pallidum spirochaete with penicillin (or with fever, in the earlier malarial therapy).

Malaria is itself a victim of Pathogen Libel! I think I'm getting the hang of this. It's not Plasmodium species that cause the fevers and shivering and anemia, but rather the quinine given to control the plasmodium. Quinine and tonic water should only be taken in homeopathic doses, diluted with as much gin as possible.

The point, anyway, is that the T. pallidum pallidum of syphilis is no worse than T. carateum or T. pallidum pertenue, the causative agents of Pinta and Yaws.

"What's Yaws?" Another Kiwi vouchsafed incautiously.

"That's very kind," I said; "I'll have a double Glenfarclas."


tigris said...

the final stage of neurosyphilis

Hmm, somebody apparently tacked the end of Doctor Faustus onto The Magic Mountain. That would explain the 12-tone music on the terrace.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Gah, I originally read that as "Alpine Santorum Architecture". My brain now hurts.

Regarding the first "Inimical Mountain" picture, the artist seems to be conflating the Matterhorn with the Eiger. As the descendent of a Berner Oberlander, this gets me just a little upset.

Sirius Lunacy said...

Inimical Mountain on Mars
Inimical Novelty Mountain on Mars

M. Bouffant said...

More mount'in, more often!

Smut Clyde said...

the artist seems to be conflating the Matterhorn with the Eiger

You must excuse Emil Nolde's inexactitude. He hailed from the Danish / German flatlands so mountains were a novel experience for him.

Substance McGravitas said...

Got a cold? Chances are a doctor has broken in and administered snottification salts as you slept.

El Manquécito said...

I look forward to your explanation of spirochete diseases as a result of flame retardants and DEET use.