A Short Tutorial on Lifespans


I may have already written about the subject of average lifespans here at this blog. But if I have, forgive me and allow me to give this tutorial yet again. I read history frequently. I read general history, social history, primary texts, and biographies. I wouldn’t call myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve read enough to know that the oft-repeated notion that everybody before the 20th C dropped dead by age 40 (or sometimes age 35 if the epoch of history is particularly murky) isn’t true. Average lifespans don’t work that way. People didn’t live to an average age of forty, at which point they were lucky if they eeked out a few more years.

To take the simplistic route first, imagine that there’s a high infant mortality rate. Let’s pretend that if a babe made it to his first birthday, then he would live until age 80. With a lot of babies dying before age one, that puts the average lifespan at about 40. But it wasn’t as simple as that, either. It makes for neat and tidy math, but life was always a little more complicated than that.

Life before modern medicine was lived as a serious of tests that had to be passed. If a babe could make it past the age of one, he had a good percentage chance at living to adulthood. After age eight–the odds were even higher that he would make it to adulthood. Once a young adult, if the babe was an actual he and not a gender neutral one through the convention of language, he would then have to survive his years of warfare. If the babe was a she, she would have to survive her childbearing years, which often meant the ability to fight off infection passed from filthy doctors or midwives who didn’t know what bacteria was. The ability to fight off infection was, of course, helpful for injured soldiers, as well.

The prior paragraph was the complex look at average lifespans, and it was still too simplistic. Famine and other life hazards have always been risks for foolhardy humans who dare to enter this life. However, since modern medicine now understands the importance of hygiene and what causes many life-threatening diseases (i.e. viruses and bacteria), we have really good odds these days of passing life’s tests and living to the age of 80 or beyond. Women have been highly blessed due to modern medicine, as we now have a very low rate of mothers dying in childbirth. Men, always seeming to get the raw deal, still go to war and die. I have no idea exactly why women desire to be in the military, understanding what a raw deal it is, but that’s not really on topic.

Before the world-changing understanding of microbes, life’s tests were a little more chancy; there was a higher failure rate. That didn’t mean that people couldn’t or didn’t live until they were 80 and even beyond. One of my favorite historical characters to study, Isaac Newton, lived until he was 84–and that with mercury poisoning from his habit of playing with metals. Not to mention his misanthropic ways. A female contemporary of his, Mary Astell, died “young” at age 65, a couple months after having had a mastectomy to remove cancer from her right breast. Without anesthesia, mind you. I would have died from the shock, but she lived through the surgery and died two months later–possibly due to a latent infection she could no longer fight off.

There are no guarantees, you see. Astell chose not to marry or have children, and then died of complications from breast cancer. Newton didn’t go to war, as he was a scholar. Thus, he managed to eek out a very long life, thereby astounding those who believe he should have dropped dead at age 40 like everybody else in those days who were addled with mercury toxicity.

From our perspective, life is a lottery. Always has been, always will be. Just remember: ‘Twasn’t the cough that carried him off, but the coffin they carried him off in.


Five Steps To Using Pusillanimous In a Book Review Without Being Ironic

This is a tricky but important subject to address. Pusillanimous is the kind of word that may always be taken for irony, owing to its rarity of use. Subtlety is key, here. A list, being about the most unsubtle method of writing, is therefore the order of the day.

  • Pick a book for review that is supposed to be comic and/or absurd.
  • Choose a work of political parody if you can’t think of anything else, as it will fit any bill.
  • Intentionally misunderstand the parody because you just don’t have time for that.
  • Make certain to pass moral judgement on the author for his crassness and/or lack of delicacy.
  • Add scathing remarks about how only the dumbing down of America could give the author cred.

Now that your stage is set, the word pusillanimous will almost be expected. That breathless expectation, of course, almost deals with the problem of irony. Irony, however, is a problem that isn’t easily defeated, as it bears a load of complexity that often resembles pea soup. Anybody who has sat through a university level literature class understands that combating irony is about as simple as slaying windmills by means of a Trojan horse. Once inside, what does the reviewer actually do?

An example might be in order. So I will give it. For the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to pick an author entirely outside the framework of the modern American psyche, Johnathan Swift. I ran into a book of his political satire in the fiction section at my local library, which could only mean that he is so irrelevant to the American political landscape that his work is considered fiction. Or that the librarian and/or summer hire wouldn’t recognize satire if it bit him in the face. Or perhaps whoever labeled it as such thought it looked pretty next to Gulliver’s Travels.

First and second steps may be crossed off, as I’ve chosen A Modest Proposal and Other Writings for review.

Begin review.

I don’t understand why so many children are still allowed to read Johnathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. It goes to show the dumbing down of America, when parents can’t recognize pornography and filth for what it is. The author is a disgusting, racist, sexist pig who still believes that God is something that can be voted on. Here’s a hint: in America, we have something known as SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. Swift must believe he’s superior to all of us little people–that is, other than white men of the church, otherwise known as the RULING ELITE.

He mocks women by discussing their sh*t. He makes light of terrible immigrant issues by endorsing vile practices, such as the Irish boiling and eating their children in order to eradicate the poverty and disease that existed so close to the precious English border. What if we said such things about the immigrant children who are flooding the American borders right now? If Swift was really “one of the most influential political writers of the 18th C”, then it demonstrates why we should no longer be so influenced by Englightenment philosophy and writings, the Constitution being a PRIME example. He, like so many of his contemporaries, were pussies*, scared of TRUTH and REALITY. Yeah, women sh*t. Get over it. Impoverished immigrants are humans. Get over it.

This book gets ONE STAR from me. If you must read it, check it out from the library and use it to furnish paper when [you] sh*te as Lady Mary Wortley Montague suggested we do to Swift’s writing almost 300 years ago. But if we’d had a practice of listening to women 300 years ago, the world might not be so full of a pusillanimous public who can’t tell a man to shut up when he should.

End review.

*Simultaneously denotes where I’ve cleverly used a diminutive insult based on our word of the day and the words Amazon won’t allow in their reviews.


Lyndon Perry’s New Release: Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut

Online author friend Lyndon Perry released a cute cozy called Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut about a week ago. Starting today and through the weekend, it’s on sale for $1.75. Click the link and give it a try. Here are a few reasons why you should: 1. It’s a professionally done indie book; 2. It’s a charming, easy-to-read cozy about a magical cat and a woman who retires from the corporate world to open a donut shop; 3. With a backdrop of a small mountain town in CA, it has a great sense of setting populated by endearing characters.

The book description calls it a mystery, but it isn’t a true mystery. It’s, rather, mysterious. Its four self-contained stories function as a novella that builds toward a common conclusion.

If you would like to know more about the author, read this interview over at Jeff Chapman’s blog.

Also, in case you’re wondering, yes, I am blogging at Provision Books this week. Here’s a preview:

My kids picked up a summer cold. I’m sure there are gloomier events that can occur in life, but on a gloominess scale between 1 and 10, the summer cold is probably about a 7. Therefore, I popped in The Princess Bride to alleviate the gray mood. What’s better than sword fights and daring rescue narratives at clearing the air?

Being that I’ve already seen the movie dozens of times since it first came out in the 80s, I found it impossible to sit with my kids and lose myself in the story. Instead, I found myself examining it. It’s a popular movie–a cult classic, even–and there’s a reason for that. It’s got everything: action, adventure, high stakes, comedy, loony characters, likeable but not perfect protagonists, and last but not least, true love. For more, click HERE.


Duplicity, Directness, and Other ‘D’ Words

I’m blogging at Provision Books today. Here’s a preview:

It’s hot here. As it’s the middle of summer, that’s not surprising. The other evening, I languished on the futon in the guest room, my head at eye level to a shelf of books I rarely see any more. One caught my attention: A Farewell to Arms. I used my lazy summer arm reach, one could call it my go-go Gadget arm, to nab the book by its spine.

I love Hemingway. He was one of my childhood favorites (beginning at age 12, lest you wonder why a *true* child would go in for bullfights, exploding shells, prostitutes and promiscuity, a load of booze, and struggles with big fish).

For more, click HERE.


I Am Not an Animal! I Am a Human Being!

It’s a bright, sunshiny day. The political climate is gorgeous, mon ami! I’m going to kick off my $120 Euro clogs and run laughing ecstatically through fields of clover and stinging nettle. I’m going to strip naked for my big fat lover because, you know, the fatter the better.

I don’t know where that came from. That must have been my bohemian side emerging from the static. Except I don’t have a bohemian side.

Let me try this. Squash the bohemian and be direct:

Employer paid healthcare stinks. Forced healthcare stinks even more. Both stink because both involve a big fat entity determining what healthcare you should have access to through your own hard-earned cash. Sweet John Galt, we’re so far down the Rabbit Hole that everything stinks like rabbit. At this point, who gives a flying figwit if Hobby Lobby decides which birth control options its employees can have for “free” through employer/employee paid insurance? If Hobby Lobby doesn’t roll in the nettles with you, the government will. That’s what mandatory healthcare is all about.

It’s about you. And your birth control. And your very essence of personhood.

Do you know why this is so important? Uummm….I forgot, Ms. Willard, will you explain it again? Suzy Sunshine, I will indeed explain it to you more carefully this time. You see, a woman’s personhood is based on her reproductive organs. That is why it’s so important that one of her big fat lovers, either corporate or government, must ensure she has access to all birth control methods on the market.

I don’t understand, Ms. Willard. That’s because you’re a very stupid child, Suzy Sunshine. If you don’t understand how mandatory “free” access to all forms of birth control makes you a human being, then I can no longer help you.

Ms. Willard? Yes, Suzy Sunshine, spit out your nonsense! My big fat lover is crushing me. And I have a rash on my bottom.

Smack! How dare you speak such dirty things here!

But I was squashing my bohemian and being direct (Are you sure you were the one doing the squashing?).


Cue clogging song: It started out nettles, and it’s coming up roses. It’s a bright, bright sunshiny day for a roll in the…