Complementary and alternative medicine Homeopathy Medicine Naturopathy Quackery

Throwing everything but the kitchen sink, quackery-wise, at Ebola


You know how I sometimes lament that I’ve been writing too much about the hijinx of the antivaccine movement, its crimes against reason, science, and medicine? It’s become a bit of a trope around here at times, to the point where, when I bring it up, I tell myself I shouldn’t be repeating myself so often. Then I do it anyway because, heck, this is blogging and it’s impossible to blog for a decade without repeating one’s self. Besides, if I’m to start navel-gazing here in a blog sense, a successful blog actually needs certain repeating tropes, as long as they’re relatively entertaining or reveal something about one’s personality.

This time around, though, it’s not about vaccines. It’s about Ebola quackery.

Look, I get it. Ebola is the story of the day. It’s hot. It’s now. It’s hip. It’s happening. Everyone wants to discuss it, even though the actual risk of its causing any outbreaks here in the U.S. Unfortunately, that “everyone” includes quacks of every variety you can think of: Homeopaths; antivaccine loons; promoters of “auto-urine therapy” (i.e., drinking your own pee), high dose vitamin C, essential oils, and, of course, “natural” biopreparedness kits. Believe it or not, I thought I had heard practically every sort of quackery out there being touted as able to cure Ebola. In retrospect, I was deluding myself. This was driven home when I came across an article by “Dr.” Mark Sircus, Ac., OMD, DM (P) (acupuncturist, doctor of oriental and pastoral medicine), entitled Ebola – Saving Lives with Natural Allopathic Medicine.

My first question was, “What the heck is ‘natural allopathic medicine’?” Sircus is selling an e-book on it for $20.90 a crack. According to Sircus’ website, “natural allopatic medicine” is a “new therapeutic principle that revolutionizes both allopathic and naturopathic medicine offering a radical shift in medical thought and practice” focusing on “pH management, cell voltage, magnesium and iodine medicine, cannabinoid medicine, carbon dioxide medicine, re-mineralization of the body, increasing oxygen transport and oxygenation of the tissues, opening up of blood vessels, saturation and healing of cells with concentrated nutrition via superfoods, breathing retraining, emotional transformation processing, detoxification and removal of heavy metals and radioactive particles.”

Wow. Is there anything that this “natural allopathic medicine” doesn’t involve? And why on earth does Sircus call it “allopathic”? Remember that “allopathy” is a term that the inventer of the quackery known as homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, coined the term “allopathy” as a pejorative term to refer to any “conventional” medicine at the time that was not homeopathy. One would think he would know that and therefore wouldn’t want to take a name that would not appeal to those prone to embracing the pseudoscience that he peddles. I mean, this is the guy who promoted the use of baking soda to treat H1N1, considers cancer to be “tissue rot,” and advocated “stringing up” the scientists at the CDC.

So we know that Sircus and science are connected by, at best, coincidence. We also know that he has some truly odious views when it comes to conspiracy theories and quackery. Now, taking advantage of the media hype over the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and the handful of Ebola cases in the US, he’s advocating similar quackery for Ebola. He begins his article by pointing out that currently the only treatment for Ebola is supportive care, including IV fluids, oxygen and respiratory assistance, antibiotics for secondary infections, medications to encourage clotting when coagulopathy develops, and good nursing care. This is correct, as far as it goes. However, I’m constantly forced to point out that supportive care is medical care. While there is no specific treatment that isn’t experimental targeting the virus itself, nor any vaccine yet to prevent it, that doesn’t mean there is no treatment. It just means that there’s no specific treatment. He then proclaims that it is “nutritional law” that indicates that Ebola patients have “high nutritional requirements that need to be addressed,” stating:

Natural Allopathic Medicine takes a different approach than contemporary medicine. Instead of using toxic pharmaceuticals that diminish the immune system by further driving down nutritional status we use we treat and cure through the fulfillment of nutritional law.

We do not need to develop expensive drugs waiting while millions potentially die. Right in the emergency room are already excellent medicines that doctors are familiar with that save lives every day. Nutritional medicine is safer and more effective than pharmaceutical medicine. Just ask an emergency-room or intensive-care-ward doctor right after he has injected magnesium chloride or sodium bicarbonate to save someone’s life.

Oy. When magnesium chloride or sodium bicarbonate are used in emergency situations, they are not being used for their nutritional value. They are being used for their chemical properties. Magnesium ion has effects on electrical contractility of various muscles. That’s why it’s used to treat certain cardiac arrhythmias in the emergency department and eclampsia in labor and delivery. Sodium bicarbonate is used to acutely reverse severe acidosis, although it tends to be useful mainly as a temporizing measure. The reason for an acidosis is almost always metabolic or respiratory, and until the underlying abnormality is fixed, more bicarbonate will always be needed.

None of this stops Sircus from claiming:

The core of the Natural Allopathic protocol redefines the way emergency room and intensive care should be practiced on Ebola patients with proven fast-acting, safe, concentrated and mostly injectable nutritional medicines. If the Ebola infection truly gets out of hand, it is comforting for parents to know that they can legally administer these same medicinals if infected people are treated at home. All of the Natural Allopathic Medicines can be also taken orally or used transdermally (topically) to almost the same effect if treatment is started early enough.

Yeah, that effect would be nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. At least, Sircus never provides any compelling evidence that they would have such a dramatic effect against Ebola. Not that that stops him from going off the deep end and recommending multiple minerals and vitamines to treat Ebola. In typical quack fashion, he cherry picks papers and experimental data, throws it all together in a sort of plausible stew of speculation, and takes tha speculation to justify his claims. In this, he reminds me very much of some of the antivaccine activists over at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, who do the same sort of thing and think themselves brilliant having “seen” connection that those apparently unimaginative scientists and physicians fail to see. Of course, it never occurs to them that the reason they’ve “failed to see” is because there’s nothing there to see. It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect on steroids.

So, what is Sircus’ answer? Selenium. Vitamin C. Sodium bicarbonate. (Of course!) Vitamin D. Medical marijuana. (Again, of course!) “Infrared therapy.” Glutathione. He also mentions colloidal silver, given that quacks seem to think that colloidal silver is good for everything, at least infectious diseases.

High dose selenium is apparently the legacy of Emmanuel Revici:

The primary symptoms of a cytokine storms are high fever, swelling and redness, extreme fatigue and nausea. In Ebola a combination of factors lead to death so we chose a combination approach that deals with all the factors. In Ebola the immune reaction may be fatal with cytokine storms. To stop the cytokine storms and acute respiratory distress inject selenium or force the world of medicine to produce Dr. Emanuel Revici’s liposomal selenium, which can be administered orally in extraordinarily high dosages, much higher than is available through injections.

Dr. Revici’s greatest discovery was that if we want to deliver a nutrient to a sick cell – attach it to a fat. Unsaturated fats are the ultimate and perfect vehicle to deliver nutrients to stressed cells. This discovery enabled Dr. Revici to package therapeutic minerals, at will, to delivery only to sick cells.

We’ve met Revici before, albeit briefly. He made a name for himself in the world of alternative cancer quackery back in the 1970s and 1980s with what he called his “guided chemotherapy” or “lipid therapy.” It’s based on the idea that cancer is an imbalance between constructive (“anabolic”) and destructive (“catabolic”) body processes. The answer, to Revici, was to administer lipid alcohols, zinc, iron, and caffeine, which he classified as anabolic, and fatty acids, sulfur, selenium, and magnesium, which he classified as catabolic. As described in Quackwatch, his primary “biomarker” was the specific gravity of the urine.

Next up, magnesium:

Magnesium chloride (magnesium oil) has always been and remains my favorite first line medicine that affects overall physiology. Dr. Raul Vergini from Italy says, “Magnesium chloride has a unique healing power on acute viral and bacterial diseases. It cured polio and diphtheria and that was the main subject of my magnesium book. A few grams of magnesium chloride every few hours will clear nearly most acute illnesses, which can be beaten in a few hours. I have seen a lot of flu cases healed in 24-48 hours with 3 grams of magnesium chloride taken every 6-8 hours.” My recommendation would be to follow Dr. Vergini’s suggestion and augmenting that with Transdermal Magnesium Therapy.

Evidence? None, of course! He just presents anecdotes of claimed cures plus claims that it can cure polio and diphtheria.

Because I’ve already discussed vitamin C for Ebola as the quackery that it is before in my usual inimitably detailed fashion, I won’t dwell on the rather long section of Sircus’ article that postulates using ascorbate to cure Ebola. It’s nothing more than the same nonsense. Come to think of it, so are the brief passages on vitamin D, which rely on the same claims that have been going around for a while that vitamin D can cure influenza, or at least prevent it better than the flu vaccine. It’s a claim that was popular five years ago when the H1N1 pandemic was in full spring. It’s just been “repurposed” to treat Ebola now. While it’s true that there is evidence that vitamin D deficiency might predispose to viral infection, there’s no evidence that vitamin D can combat Ebola (or even the flu, for that matter, at least not in the way claimed).

Here’s my favorite, though. Well, Sircus’ paragraph on medical marijuana is amusing, given that it presents exactly zero evidence that cannabis can treat Ebola, instead touting its ability to prevent seizures and convulsions and “anti-oxidative, neuroprotective, immunomodulation, analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions.” That’s nice, albeit exaggerated, as I’ve discussed before.

But, no, for sheer incoherence, the promotion of “infrared therapy” takes the cake:

According to Professor Abo Touru of Nagata University our immune functions are improved by 40% when we increase our body temperature by 1 degree. Infrared heat (light induced heat) relieves pain by expanding blood vessels and increasing blood circulation. Better circulation carries off metabolic waste products and delivers oxygen-rich blood to oxygen depleted cells, reduces pain and speeds up the healing process.

Having BioMats installed in every hospital bed would insure that fewer die from Ebola nor from the avian or any flu. Bathing patients in light and heating their internal environments boosts their metabolism and improve their immune systems. Patients in bed can use low levels of infrared around the clock making them comfortable and dealing with the chills that often come with high fevers.

Just one problem. Most people with Ebola already have high fever. Increasing their body temperature further is unlikely to be of any effect, and there’s no evidence that bathing the patients in light and heating their internal environment more than it’s already been heated by Ebola virus infection will do anything except make the patient even more miserable than he already is from his fever and infection.

All of this leads Sircus to conclude:

Kent Brantly, the Ebola-stricken American doctor who was flown back to the United States from Liberia, “seems to be improving,” Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday. Not everyone is going to die of the disease meaning there is hope and treatments that can increase the odds that one will survive this extremely nasty disease.

Brantly was treated with an experimental drug that has not been tested for safety had to be flown in at subzero temperatures. Though impractical for home use and unproven, it proves this disease can be beaten. Natural Allopathic Medicine offers proven safe medicines immediately available to all.

Got that? Because ZMapp, the humanized monoclonal antibody against the Ebola virus shows promise and might have been responsible for Dr. Brantly’s surviving his Ebola virus disease, that means that the disease can be beaten and therefore…Sircus’ Ebola quackery must work. True, he doesn’t straight out say that it does, but his describing how Brantly survived after having been treated using a new experimental drug before saying that “natural allopathic medicine” is safe and immediately available to all is clearly intended to give the impression that Sircus’ quackery is equivalent to experimental drugs like ZMapp.

If I didn’t have to spend over $20 to get it, I’d be half-tempted to order Sircus’ e-book on “natural allopathic medicine.” Given what a cornucopia of Ebola pseudoscience Sircus is recommending, I’d probably have material for weeks’ worth of blogging. In any case, maybe I’ve finally come to the end of my perusal of Ebola quackery. At least, I hope so. I am, however, under no illusion that there isn’t still more, even more bizarre, quackery being directed at Ebola out there. Sooner or later, I’ll encounter it.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

40 replies on “Throwing everything but the kitchen sink, quackery-wise, at Ebola”

Re “natural allopathic medicine”

Does it relieve the heartbreak of psoriasis ?

Let it be known** this day that:

our entirely fearless and peerless leader, most transplendent in his benificence and magnanimity, who is as perspicacious as he is perspicuous, the illustrious Orac, defender of SBM and slayer of stupid, bane of woo-meisters far and wide,
is being attacked by Child Health Safety via AoA for his reality-based discussion of the Atkisson creature.

Brother and sister sceptics, you have heard my entreaty: you know what to do.

** obviously the reason he writes so much about anti-vaxxers is because there is so much material, both mind-boggling and risible: it’s a flipping goldmine.

About Revici;
his living legacy is the tireless work of Gary Null, who wrote his dissertation ( heh. heh.) on the analysis of the specific gravity of urine in subjects who suffered from ” caffeinism” (i.e. who drank coffee) compared to “healthy” people.
( see Quackwatch)

@ Rebecca:

I know. Maybe they’ll next dredge up Jake’s *expose* of Orac.
Oh. Wait….

I’m not sure whether I should be more amazed at this collection of thermonuclear stupid, or the fact that people are actually paying $20.90 for it. Not that I am an expert on e-books, but that price seems a bit high.

The bit about infrared therapy sounds like a garden-variety conflation of cause and effect. People who are fighting viral infections often have fevers, because that’s (as I understand it) a side effect of the immune response. It’s not necessarily a sign that the immune response is winning, given the high fatality rate of Ebola infection (and for that matter, the mortality rate from influenza).

Orac has identified an obvious deficiency: why isn’t there sink-based quackery?

why isn’t there sink-based quackery?

That would be homeopathy, as the sink is where all the active ingredient ends up.

This clown Sircus appears to be suffering from a high serum porcelain. Perhaps he has been self treating with a pinch of the kitchen sink?

Most people with Ebola already have high fever. Increasing their body temperature further is unlikely to be of any effect, and there’s no evidence that bathing the patients in light and heating their internal environment more than it’s already been heated by Ebola virus infection will do anything except make the patient even more miserable than he already is from his fever and infection.

Ohh, idk. Surely the excess heat would seem silly but what of a particular ‘illumination’ from some particular part of that ir band?? I would like to see this recieve some scrutiny.

Why are mammals homeothermic? Do all the cells get a signal to *ramp it up*? Do we have a localized ‘furnace’? Without looking it up, I have no idea. Clearly, general respiration produces heat — Bees buzz buzz in a ball and keep the hive toasty on the coldest of days; Reptiles ‘warm up’ doing their morning reps even if the sun is not shining. But could there be something else going on?

An open-hearth fire ‘warms your bones’. It *feels good*; It’s been a lifelong consternation and bone of contention with me that everyone occludes this warmth with stupid glass fronts on their fires — Cats will ignore a fireplace with the glass front yet lay in front of an open hearth just purring away no matter how hot they are to the touch. Ohh (insert name of cat here); You’re gonna spontaneously combust! <– this is relevant as that 'fur' is an insulator and is opaque for *most* parts of the IR band. Dogs and cats only loose heat through earlobes, paws, and panting. Shaving them down in the summer seems derpitudinal in that it removes this insulation as well as they just don't like it very much.

I love those metalized emergency blankets (nobody else does because they are crackly loud all night). One may pile conventional quilts feet deep and only ever feel 'stuffy' that way. But put one of those crunchy ones on top and you immediately feel the soothing *warmth* like unto sunshine on bare skin. Reflected photons. Photons for which the blankets are a 'window'. Strangely, the silvery plastic backing on the thin bubble-type house insulation does not seem to exibit this effect. Stranger still, a really large hot aperature of embers will mostly leave your pants and jacket smoking before one 'feels the warm'.

^^ From that, I would surmize that the good 'warm feeling' is on one tail or the other of the Plank curve for the heat source. I postulate that the human body, just like the blankets and jackets, may have a *window* for these particular photons — Some absorption is to be expected and be realized as excess heat, sure. But, what is going on? I postulate that this wavelength is being emitted far in excess in a febrile situation for some reason, possibly as an antiseptic, and that the ‘fever’ is mostly an unfortunate side effect — An as yet unresolved ‘engineering problem’.

I futher postulate they may ‘repump’ whatever generated them and sidestep futher respiration in doing so (not to go so far as saying photosynthesis by mammals<–maybe I am…).

What if the 'bone warming comfort' can be put back in but the 'stuffy' excess heat be artificially maintained nominal??

“Berlin Wall” is listed in the homeopathic materia medica, so I am sure that ground-up and diluted kitchen sink would work as well. The hard part is translating it into Latin.

the Natural Allopathic protocol
There’s that stethoscope-cargo-cult word again!

liposomal selenium
First it was lipsomal Vitamin C. Is ‘lipsomal’ the new ‘quantum’?

“We do not need to develop expensive drugs waiting while millions potentially die.”

From birth, everyone is potentially dying, and nobody’s kicked up much of a fuss. Those still alive have just never immanentized the potentiality of their death, is all…

I think that sprained my brain, just a bit.

@herr doktor bimler
That’s easy. It doesn’t have to be real latin. I nominate “sincus kitchenum.”

You should like the word “protocol.” It makes it all evidency and sciency.

I was informed today by one of the tinfoil-beanie crown that she didn’t have to look at evidence because she was guided by her conscience; and remember, “conscience” has “science” in it.

@Shay, she’s right, so far as she goes! Pity she didn’t notice what the word *starts* with, though.

@Richard Smith,
“immanentized the potentiality of their death…” Are you, by any chance, trying out for a Vogon Poetry Slam?

@herr doktor bimler,
I hesitate to ask, but what could homeopathic Berlin Wall possibly be *for*? A lack of openness, feelings of enclosure, desire to climb arising in dangerous circumstances, that sort of thing?

Or, no, it must be homestasis–it’s got “Stasi” built right into it!

These people… They can’t believe their own hype or they’d be in West Africa right now, as has been pointed out here many and many a time.

If you don’t have time to look at the evidence it makes it essential to rely on someone who does!

Aye, verily, justthestats. In fairness, the world is rather complex, and it can be difficult to sort out experts from pseudoexperts in fields you don’t know well. Still, we must try to.

NZ Sceptic @20

Too bad the Green Party aren’t as fond of the evidence around GMO’s…many of their policies are pretty knee-jerk anti-science.

Good to see this, though.

Yes, you can put a ring around that, which is why I found this so pleasing – and surprising!

Really. 21 comments and only one weak joke about this Sircus bozo. He’s bursting out of a cranky little car with a thousand quacking clowns, tossing liposomal selenium creme pies, “water” buckets filled with magnesium chloride confetti, and springing the suitcase trick with a big grip case labeled “M.J. Miracle” that pops open to reveal… nothing at all! Thankfully, Orac the Lion enters the center ring, and chases the buffons back to the sideshow where they belong. Leaving one hopefully not-burning question: who’s gonna sweep up the elephant poo?

Back in the sideshow, the Sircus doctor hawks biting off chicken-heads as the newest innovation in natural allopathy.
Perhaps homeopathic dilutions of the Berlin Wall cure coulrophobia. Maybe that explains the Krampus

Claustrophobia, there’s too much paranoia
There’s too many closets, so when will we fall
And now I gotta reason,
It’s no real reason to be waiting
The Berlin Wall

Gotta go over the Berlin Wall
I don’t understand it….
I gotta go over the wall
I don’t understand this bit at all…
Please don’t be waiting for me
For over 450 years, the English word ‘trope’ — from the Latin ‘tropus’ (“In use throughout the ages” as far back as Latin goes) — meant “any literary or rhetorical device, as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony, that consists in the use of words in other than their literal sense.” (‘tropus’ being defined as “figure of speech”).

Then, in 2004, a Whedonite named Gus “Fast Eddie” Rawley and two anonymous buddies from a “Buffy” fan board, all of whom had apparently slept through English class, but were not averse to using a latinate academic word to firends who knew less than they did, started the “TV Tropes” wiki. Virality ensued, and lickety-split 2000 years of stable meaning are down the dung hole, and everybody and their cousin is now using ‘trope’ to refer to “commonly recurring motifs or clichés in creative works.”

I call foul postmodernism. Alert Sokol and Bricmont! Make it stop! Please, make it stop!

Received an email from the good reverend the other day with the MMS Ebola protocol…

I am shocked to see an Alt Health outlet full of shameless cynical opportunists who will throw in any meaningless bullsh1t buzzwords they think will extract more money from the rubes.

The last time I stated that a certain someone, despite the assured certainty with which he made his announcements, might possibly be MISTAKEN, I got deemed “subhuman scum”.

Therefore, I will simply note that it did not take me very long to find multiple references to the term “genre tropes” – clearly using the word in the sense of “a frequently occurring theme or device” – several years before the alleged invention-by-woefully-miseducated-Buffy-watching-undergraduates of this ‘new’ sense of the word.

A few examples:

Michael A Morrison, describing certain horror novels of the early 1980s, in “A Dark Night’s Dreaming: Contemporary American Horror Fiction” (1996, published by University of South Carolina Press): “Most are episodic and feature multiple plot lines constructed around standard genre tropes.”

Anna Sonser, after recounting certain major plot points of Joyce Carol Oates’ “Bellefleur” and comparing them to similar occurences in Poe, declares in “A Passion for Consumption: the Gothic Novel in America” (2001, published by an imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press): “Clearly, Oates’ text is … a self-reflexive amplification of the genre’s tropes …”

Ethan Mordden in “Open a New Window: The Broadway Musical in the 1960s” (2002): “Besoyan was the sole author of ‘Little Mary Sunshine’ (1959), a hit at the little Orpheum for its burlesque of outmoded genre tropes from operetta to musical comedy.”

From “Contemporary North American Film Directors” (2002): “… this not only indicates the extent to which cyberpunk was built from conventional genre tropes …”

It seems fairly clear that, not only is it incorrect to suggest that the “common theme or device” meaning of “trope” originated with the founders of TV Tropes in 2004, the implication that they could not have been following established academic usage and therefore were displaying a failure of their education is unjustified – and offensive.

The last time I stated that a certain someone, despite the assured certainty with which he made his announcements, might possibly be MISTAKEN, I got deemed “subhuman scum”.

The imaginary “2000 years of stable meaning” routine is pretty comical in and of itself.

I blame postmodernism.


@ Sadmar

Initial definition, according to you:

any literary or rhetorical device

TV tropes definition:

commonly recurring motifs or clichés in creative works

I would have thought that literary devices tend to be recurring motifs in literature, and reciprocally.
The TV trope authors have enlarged the definition to encompass all forms of creative media. Language evolves as much as everything else.
I don’t see this as a big difference, but I’m just an amateur.


@Helianthus –

To be fair, that person’s definition was “any literary or rhetorical device […] that consists in the use of words in other than their literal sense.”

For an example, when “Wayne’s World” became popular, many people started imitating Wayne and Garth’s trick of making an affirmative statement and then following it with “Not!” “Gee, Wayne, Dana Ullman’s case for homeopathy has me completely convinced… NOT!” That would probably count as a “trope” under that-individual’s given definition. “Noodle incident”, by contrast, has nothing to do with “the use of words in other than their literal sense”, and therefore they don’t fall under that-individual’s definition.

Where that-individual makes his mistake (am I allowed to suggest such a thing??) is in thinking that because the word has a precise technical definition he is familiar with, all other usages are incorrect. Language doesn’t work that way.

If that-individual had contented himself with simply saying “that usage of the word is wrong”, then the worst that could have happened is that someone might point out that he was wrong in deeming it wrong. No big whoop. It is unfortunate that he felt compelled to present it as part of a larger narrative whereby this “wrong usage” of the word originated with a trio of Buffy fans who could be safely sneered at for their lack of erudition (for their pretense to knowledge that they actually lacked because they “slept through English class”) and then spread virally through “friends who knew less than they did” and that sent everything “down the dung-hole”. It’s unfortunate because he’s told us, by example, that the Haves of literary knowledge should be looking down upon and archly demeaning the Have-Nots, and now he has to deal with the fact that he’s put himself in the camp of the Have-Nots.

@ Antaeus

OK, I stand corrected. I missed the whole picture.

Word usage is an interesting topic. In this case, I cannot help making parallels with the use of the word “theory” by a scientist, compared to everyday’s use. I should remember that the layman’s use of “theory” is not a wrong one (unless debating a scientific theory – when in Rome, speak like Romans).

I’m fully in agreement with your last paragraph.

Stranger still, a really large hot aperature of embers will mostly leave your pants and jacket smoking before one ‘feels the warm’.

^^ From that, I would surmize that the good ‘warm feeling’ is on one tail or the other of the Plank curve for the heat source.

Umm. Probably wrong. There’s probably nylon in the clothing. So, probably not so much.

I seem to remember a fib about counting people at an ‘occupy’ encampment by looking into the tents with thermal imaging. A test with cheap imagers revealed this to not work so well. Also, the waterproof coating does seem somewhat reflective. Still, there are some ‘windows’.

Perhaps, a string of warming emitters of the right wavelength can be snaked up into the colon for direct theraputic application to relieve an inflammed situation there?

As an aside, the ‘bone warming feeling’ goes right through the visibly opaque old Corningware plates with the little green flowers — Why can’t those stupid inserts at least use that over glass??

Interestingly, it seems like “trope” in the ‘new’ sense came into literary studies by way of philosophy.

If I have the story right, “trope theory” was introduced into philosophy as an alternative way of looking at the identity of objects – a “trope” is essentially a characteristic of an object, so that instead of saying “it IS a blue cushion”, you can say “it has the tropes of blueness, and of cushionness”, and certain philosophical problems of “Is A a B?” may be made easier by saying “does A have the tropes that make a B a B?”

At some point it was realized that, applied to literature, this made many nettling questions of “genre theory” all but melt away. Instead of arguing about *whether* Night of the Living Dead is a noir, one can simply observe “these are the tropes for which noir is noted, and here are the tropes that are also shared with NOTLD; what insights does that observation suggest?”

I realize this is still off-topic, but I do love that I learn so much about all kinds of things through this blog.

Hi Antaeus:

You can use my nym, and I encourage you to suggest I makes mistakes, as I do make mistakes quite often. I request only three things: 1) that you address the issue – as you have here – and not me so much, 2) be careful about making assumptions regarding my intent or underlying opinions, 3) attempt to recognize that much of what I write is not meant literally, especially digs at things or people. My ‘style’ is heavily influenced by a variety of satirists, also ‘punk’ writers like Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer, and the ‘gonzo’ style of Hunter S. Thompson. As such, I rarely mean to actual condemn, but merely to tease.

I’m fully aware that language mutates constantly whether any of us like it or not, and actually consider my personal pique at the neo-meaning of ‘trope’ a basically hypocritical old-fuddy-duddiness. It’s just that the old-school sense of ‘trope’ is one of favorite words, and it annoys me that if I utter it now, it’s just going to confuse people. But, so it goes. I suppose I could say ‘tropos’ and ‘tropoi’ but that feels stuffy.

Actually, your posts and those of Hellanthus strike me as good etymological analyses, where I had offered merely a joke.

Yes, figurative devices do become recurring motifs in creative works, and sometimes to the point of cliche. The Wayne’s World example is very good. And I’ve never found genre analysis to be very productive, as the category definitions are too flexible and mean too many different things to different people — none of which are ‘wrong’, it just poses a communication difficulty. It’s better when you can define things, or just frame your subject, by identifying common devices.

Yeah, I find something like debating “Is NOTLD a noir” kind of pointless, but studying the devices NOTLD shares with the noir canon, and also where it differs, can be quite insightful indeed. Now, many of the typical motifs of noir ARE figurative. “Dark with something more than night” for one Captain Obvious example. But some are just narrative conventions, and other stuff.

For the record, the new use of ‘trope’ is not “wrong.” It is, on the contrary, a very good example of the way the meanings of terms evolve in the constant changing flux of language. As you and Hellanthus have observed, the new use can be seen as a kind of ‘natural’ extension of the older use.

I happen to detest the work of Sokol and Bricmont, which I thought folks here knew, so by referencing them I was intended to frame my ‘language cop’ comment as performative, and a self-deprecating joke. But, I certainly wasn’t clear about that, totally understand how you read it, and cannot fault you for your interpretation in any way.

In fact, given your quite justifiable interpretation, your personal critique in #34 is fair not just in substance but in tone. I do appreciate that.

In an attempt to add some constructive critique, I’d suggest the way language actually works ought to constrain all of us from making assumptions about each others’ intent. Perhaps we could elevate the level of discourse on RI by — when encountering ideas from other non-troll commenters with which we wish to take issue — first asking “Is that what you meant?” or framing replies with something to the effect of “I’m not sure that’s what you meant, but it’s reads as X, and X is not cool, because…” Just an off the top of my head suggestion…

Finally, Antaeus, some time ago I began drafting an apology to your for things I’d written here earlier, but as i am who I am, it got rather long, WAY too long and OT to post here. Not knowing how to get it to you, I never actually finished it. If there’s some means you can figure out for me to transmit it without revealing your IRL identity here (not a good idea, methinks), I’d like to do that. Perhaps you have an account not-in-your-real-name on some board that allows PMs, and you could forward that info to Orac to pass to me? Thus I wouldn’t have your real name or regular email. (Believe it or not, my guess is we’d get along pretty well IRL, but this is the Internet…)

P.S. I tend to have reservations about any fandom that reaches a certain level of intensity, but beyond that, I have nothing against Buffy or Buffy enthusiasts. I never watched the TV show, but I heard a lot about it in the late 90s, as most of the most-interesting students I worked with at the time were pretty into it.

sadmar – well, I’m glad to find out that your comments were meant to ‘tease’ rather than ‘condemn’. I do suspect that if we were to meet face to face, we might get along quite well indeed.

I admit that I didn’t consider the possibility that you were speaking with tongue in cheek. The reason I didn’t consider it is because I learned long, long ago that sarcasm does not translate well on the Internet, and I tend to assume that others have observed the same.

I’ve been a regular here for years, but I’d never count on even the people who have been reading my comments the longest to know how I feel about Sokol and Bricmont. Just something to think about.

P.S. If you decide you want to check out Buffy to see what all the fuss is about, I’d recommend concentrating on the second and third seasons, as where the strengths of the show are at their peak.

Good to see your reply. I too have observed sarcasm/irony often fails in Web text exchanges — even on forums where that’s kind of a dominant mode, it can get just to hard to tell. NP, in not considering I was being tongue in cheek. It’s definitely not the mode here. It’s just so much a part of my IRL persona I have trouble turning it off online, even when some part of me ‘knows better.’ FWIW, I don’t really think of it as ‘sarcasm’ as that unually implies an intent to be cutting, which I only have on rare occasions. E.g. the whole pique about ‘trope’ was meant as self-mocking of my own curmudgeonly reactions.

Alas, as of a few years back, I’ve fallen to a kind of adult-onset ADD that has mucked up my ability to concentrate to the point where I have great difficulty sitting through a movie at home or watching TV shows on DVD, etc. I have a whole shelving unit full of DVDs of interesting films and series I bought quite awhile ago that remain unwatched. I have all of The Wire, e.g. which everyone says is great. Haven’t watched one episode yet. This sucks because I was a film professor. .It’s weird to be unable to do something you used to enjow and do all the time… So, no Buffy’s in my foreseeable future, though I do appreciate the suggestion, and I’ll remember that two and three are where the best stuff is.

Again, my apologies for all the drama. I messed up.

Granted that the meaning of ‘trope’ has changed and that just it what it is, just for the record.
The old meaning, as applied to individual examples, was used more often to unique expressions than repeated ones.
“The fog creeps in on little cat feet”
“Oh rose, though art sick / the invisible worm/ that flies in the night / in the howling storm / has found out thy bed / of crimson joy / and his dark secret love / does thy life destroy”
And it wasn’t recriprocal. It wasn’t a literary device, it was the use of a figurative rather than literal method of representation. Lots of literary devices aren’t figurative…

All the online dictionaries have been updated with the new meaning. If you check a printed dictionary published prior to 2000, you’ll see the change.

This kind of change, not just a new meaning but a displacement of the old, is how etymology has always worked. It just happens a lot faster in the Internet age…

The now-all-but-universal sense of ‘trope’ has just made me grumpy (as I mentioned before) since I don’t have another word to use for what ‘trope’ used to mean. So if I say, “Hyperbole is my favorite trope!” people are gonna go ‘huh?’, or I say, “The brilliant tropes Shakespeare used in Hamlet’s soliloquy remain unequaled in English literature,’ (which I wouldn’t say, it’s just an example that came to mind) that would be confusing, or maybe seem like I was dissing the Bard for using shop-worn cliches, or something… Which is my problem, not something other people are doing wrong.
Sincere best wishes to you all.

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