Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why did the chicken cross the road? IV

Salvador Dali’s viewpoint

Upon hearing the question, Dali got up, walked over to the questioner, wet his own index finger with his tongue and stuck it in the questioner’s left ear. Dali then returned to his chair, turned around and sat with his back to the interviewer. After a few more moments of silence Dali said: “I once said that intelligence without ambition is like a bird without wings. As I doubt a chicken has any intelligence and we all know that its wings are of limited functional use, it follows that it would not be ambition that would drive it to cross the road. Ambition cannot grow out of the barren garden of stupidity. In order for the chicken to cross the road, there must have been an external agent, a source of motivation that compelled it to go beyond where its limited imagination could take it. I can see only one source of attraction strong enough to elicit such behaviour from a lowly chicken.” Dali became silent again and played with his moustache by pulling it in every direction. After doing so for a minute or two, he once again got up, walked over to the questioner but this time bent down and slowly moved forward until his nose was almost touching that of his interlocutor. He then said: “I am now ready to answer”.

So why did the chicken cross the road? “Because I was on the other side.”

Monday, March 8, 2010

On the production and distribution of natural gas through non invasive means

This monograph covers an important yet often overlooked subject: the flatus. I have to admit, the choice may be rather bold. To some, it may be down right offensive while others may find it amusing. In any case, I feel it needs to be discussed. After all, it is essential to our well being, a key component of our digestive process, and a subject matter too often ignored. Although they are present in every walk of life, what do we really know about flatulence or, as others call it: fart, gas, confidential information, wind of change, fuse, SBD (silent but deadly), backfire, blown kiss, bomb, and the list goes on and on, ad nauseum (literally!).

The idea of this subject came to me one night when I joined my sleeping wife in the master bedroom. You see, we had had a simple dinner of wieners and beans and, by the time I was ready to go to bed, the side effects of our choice of sustenance were being felt. As I walked into the bedroom, ready to join my spouse in Morpheus’ arms, I distinctly felt an invisible cloud of heavier air enveloping me. Upon inhaling the laden air, I realised what was happening: I was walking into a macro Dutch oven. The friendly confines of our parental haven had become much like a fume hood holding the gases following a successful demonstration of the big black turd experiment.

As I made my way to the bed, I dreaded having to move the sheets which would most certainly hold an even denser gas cloud. Mustering all my courage, I jumped into bed and quickly buried my face in my pillow so as to filter out the potentially fetid smell. As I lay sleepless, I started thinking about flatulence (why oh why?). I first wondered if a direct link could be established between the number of beans ingested and the number of bombs released. Were beans acting like ammunition? Could those melodramatic rapid fire outbursts be caused by a bean a pop? If someone ate beans continuously, would he become a human Gatling gun? How long could one go on shooting blanks without risking that at least one shell would be live? How come these distinct gas bubbles were not separated by solid matter?

At that point I too started contributing to the already charged atmosphere of our sleeping quarters. A short, warm ejection added my scent to the mix. Then I wondered: how could a fart feel hotter then the body that produced it? Was it true heat or something similar to the effect of spicy food? Push to its most grotesque limit, could flatulence ultimately burn a hole through one’s off ramp? And, given that possibility, would additional holes change the musicality of one’s blows? So many questions, so few answers…

Still not sleeping I began to think that my contribution to global warming could jeopardize my wife’s sleep (and possibly endanger the polar bear) so I decided to try and withhold further distribution; to voluntarily constrict the pipeline. Although at first I was successful, it soon became apparent that the restraining actions would ultimately cause a massive internal uprising. The noise was becoming louder and louder, the vibrations more and more frequent, leading me to think that I was at risk of exploding. So, in order to relieve some of the pressure, I tried to gently open the valve. But then something strange happened: I was no longer sure whether I was dealing with gaseous, liquid or solid compounds. Somehow a transformation had occurred deep inside my bowels and I no longer felt safe, growing more and more concerned that if I were to let one fly I would end up touching cloth. To avoid a clean up effort of Exxon Valdez proportions, I extricated myself from my warm but odorous cocoon and went to take my rightful place on the porcelain throne.

Back from my short but effective tenure as Monarch of the chamber, I still could not get to sleep. My head was spinning from all the unanswered questions (or was it from the lack of oxygen?). Resting my head on the pillow, watching the ceiling fan turn round and round, I wondered what were the chances that part of the air I was breathing contained molecules of gas once farted by famous people? Do famous people actually fart? Although I could imagine Mozart letting one go at just the right pitch, or Churchill showing his determination by dropping a strong, loud, bold bomb, I could not picture the Pope, the Queen of England, Barbara Walters, Sir Conrad Black or Oprah Winfrey ever blowing off steam that way. Maybe that’s what sets them apart? Maybe if I stop farting I could stand a chance at becoming rich and famous?

As these questions and many others intermittently appeared and disappeared in my mind (could they be referred to as brain farts?), I decided that the first chance I got, I would do a bit of research on the subject. So here are some of my key findings:

  • Flatuses are by-products of digestion expulsed through the rectum. Although mostly made up of odourless gases, they may contain a number of sulfur-containing compounds accounting for the “rotten egg” bouquet;

  • Everyone passes gas, without exception. There are no drugs, cure, and artifices that can change that fact. So whether you’re Donald Trump, Céline Dion or Joe Shmo you have to do what you have to do. In a way, you can call flatulence the great equalizer: how ever highly you consider yourself, you still have to let it come out by the same hole as everyone else;

  • The heat one feels with certain flatuses is related to the amount of moisture it contains. Humidity makes a gas more heat conductive so the more humid the flatus, the warmer it will feel. The moisture content may be due to the proximity of more solid matter;

  • The different sounds often associated with flatulence peregrinations are due to the vibration of the anal sphincter (rattlely sounds), and occasionally by the closed buttocks (trumpety sounds);

  • Certain foods tend to increase the frequency and pungency of flatulence, usually because they are not fully digested when they reach the intestines and then ferment, causing gases. So a message to all teenagers out there, even though it requires a greater effort, chew your food if you don’t what to be known as Magmus Flatus;

  • In most societies, flatulence is taboo and so people attempt to withhold gases while in public until they can be safely released in a more private context. Sometimes, the flatulence is no longer present when the opportunity to release it occurs; this is because it has migrated back through your bowels. Don’t worry, it has not disappeared forever and will come back in due time;

  • Gases are not, in themselves, dangerous, but a few circumstances may lead to serious injuries or, at least, good discussion pieces. For example, lighting a flatus as it is being expelled may cause burns to the back end; also withholding gas for an extended period may lead to a pathological distension of the bowel meaning that your intestines become like a balloon too often inflated.

As you can see, there is a lot more to this subject then meets the eye (or the nose!). I suggest that we should establish a public funded research laboratory to further humanity’s knowledge in this area. There may be unknown cures or energy producing opportunities hidden deep inside our bowels. So, I say let’s all fart proudly for a brighter future!