in the arsehole of diogenes

NEO-HERACLITUS_____________Qweir Notions in the arsehole of Diogenes: weBlog of a septuagenarian Binge-thinker since February 2008.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Helen Rumbelow’s tale of ditching the soap.

I’ve stopped washing — be honest, do I smell?

London, October 16, 2017

One way to find out who your friends are:
is to give up soap and deodorant and ask for help to monitor how bad you smell. Even my partner refuses: “Is there any hope we can keep the magic alive?” he asks as I attempt to cover his face with my armpit.
But my children, whose love is mammalian and humour is gross-out, comply. We get into a routine: my arms outstretched as if for a hug, but instead they tuck their little noses into my darkest recesses and snuffle. This feels, somehow, like it once used to.
That’s no coincidence. For I am not just neglecting my personal hygiene, like those earnest people you meet, usually in Stroud, who tell you their bodies are “self-regulating” and you nod and think, “Yeah, but you reek of hamster.”
I am conducting an experiment at the vanguard of dermatological research.

Twice a day I spray on live bacteria. Live bacteria that has been cultivated from soil. I am literally covering myself in dirt to get clean.

It sounds crazy, but is it crazier than, say, our multibillion personal-care industry being an expensive way of killing off the very bacteria that would do a better job? Day one: I put my trusty deodorant in the bin. I’ve been dependent since I was 12 years old, and to keep it would be too tempting. Instead I stand in my pants next to the fridge door and spray my pits from a chilled bottle labelled “Mother Dirt”. It is indistinguishable from water, yet costs £30. “Welcome to the future!” I say to my family. They say I smell of “puddles”.

Like so many great body-odour stories, this began with a first date. It was 14 years ago, and David Whitlock, an American chemical engineer trained at MIT, was out at dinner with a woman who kept horses. Why, she asked him, did her horses roll in the dirt? He mumbled about rubbing off bugs, but she wasn’t impressed. The date was going nowhere and Whitlock went back to his lab. Why did so many mammals roll in dirt? It must play an evolutionary role in their health.

He zeroed in on a bacteria found in soil and streams: Nitrosomonas eutropha (known as N eutropha). He scraped some off the floor of a stable in Boston. It feeds on ammonia (which is found in sweat) and turns it into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide was crowned “molecule of the year” in 1992 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Why? It has a role in alleviating depression, lowering blood pressure and regulating sleep. But its relevance for Whitlock was that it is an anti-inflammatory. He was excited. Could N eutropha gobble up your stink and turn it into a balm for your body? He dumped a bucket of the stuff on himself. “I may be crazy,” he likes to say, “but I’m not stupid.”

Whitlock has not had a shower or used soap other than on his hands since. He relies on N eutropha misting.

It is no surprise that primates and remote human tribes have a 40 per cent more diverse skin microbiome than we soap freaks. However, acne, eczema and psoriasis are also practically unknown in hunter-gatherer humans, while in the west they are sharply on the rise. Why? Medics used to think we had to get rid of the bacteria causing skin conditions. Now they have begun to think about reintroducing the bacteria that prevent them. Dermatology journals are fizzing with early success stories.

Richard Gallo at the University of California found that eczema was triggered by a deficiency of a certain strain of bacteria. It was rectified when he dosed patients with a lotion containing boosted amounts of the live bacteria — a kind of skin-bacteria transplant. The same goes for acne: we all have acne bacteria on our skin and it is thought that spots flare due to a bacterial battle we little understand.

Acne, eczema and psoriasis are practically unknown in hunter-gatherer humans

Day three: it is not a smell that’s the problem, it’s the paranoia.
I don’t stink. One spray of the mist seems to convert my funk into a sort of rainy freshness. But I can’t trust this voodoo to keep working. It’s hard not to keep my arms pinned to my sides, like a 14-year-old in co-ed PE. I have a jog, a sweaty commute and an interview with Anne Robinson. We all know we can trust Anne to mention it. Her nose gets close as we say goodbye, but it doesn’t wrinkle a bit.

In the wild, humans would be bathing in muddy water, sitting in soil and enjoying daily inoculations of N eutropha. Whitlock devised a spray to replicate this. He called it Mother Dirt and founded a company, AO Biome, to set up clinical trials on the N eutropha spray.The trials are in phase two with regard to acne and high blood pressure. The spray’s efficacy must be proven before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves it as a medical treatment. The FDA had to create a category for the live topical.

Meanwhile, the spray is available as a cosmetic product. Mother Dirt is run by Jasmina Aganovic, a 30-year-old chemical engineer who trained at MIT. She says they shift tens of thousands of mist bottles a year in America and are about to launch it in the UK.

Most customers are aged from 25 to 35, and half, she estimates, are from the “Paleo” community, which tries to replicate ancestral lifestyles. Yet the other half, she says, are those so at their wits’ end with skin problems that they will try anything. “They’re confused. They’ve done everything they have been told. We seem to be cleaner than ever, yet have more problems than ever.”

There is much talk of the gut microbiome and how it affects obesity and immunity, but no one thinks much about skin, which also teems with bacteria. The same person who smugly eats yoghurt for her gut has probably slaughtered her skin microbiome 20 times before breakfast.

That’s the problem for Mother Dirt (slogan: “I used to be addicted to soap, I’m clean now”). Base-level hygiene for most westerners is kryptonite to N eutropha. Everyone from the company stresses that they wash their hands with soap to stop communicable disease. There is no medical need, however, to soap anywhere above the wrist. Yet we do. And soap kills N eutropha. So does sodium lauryl sulphate, a lathering ingredient in almost every shampoo and body wash, which is an antimicrobial.

Not only that, but almost every personal-care product, from foundation to moisturiser, contains preservatives. These are designed to stop bacterial growth. As for deodorant, Aganovic says they have never found a “biome-friendly” one. Put like that, my bathroom cabinet seems to be crammed with the cosmetic equivalent of junk food.

We should think about our skin biome as an unexplored rainforest. There is an utterly serious scientific endeavour called Belly Button Biodiversity in which scientists swabbed 500 navels and found 2,368 different bacterial species. It estimated that more than half were new to science. Each person had an average of 67 in their belly button. In that light, modern body care is nuking the rainforest: who knows what endangered bugs you are washing down the plughole?
Aganovic knew that 21st-century customers wouldn’t give it all up to roll in the dirt, so she has come up with an alternative cleanser and moisturiser that seems to be rosewater and coconut oil. It’s fine, but for the last three days of my ten-day experiment I up the ante: I stop showering or cleansing and rely on the mist alone. (Aganovic doesn’t recommend this; she showers and mists daily.)

It’s not the smell — it’s the paranoia
My grandmother used to say “horses sweat, men perspire, ladies gently glow”. Sorry, grandma, but I glow like a bloody horse. Yet without washing at all, my much-sampled body odour isn’t as rank as it would be otherwise. When I am overdue a misting, it’s more, reported my (very) good friend, like a “faint top note of chardonnay left in the sun”. One Mother Dirt user said her altered odour reminded her of a waft of “pleasant pot”. A few minutes after misting, my faint smell vanishes.

Aganovic says that about half of users find they can give up deodorant, as she does: they have no idea why people differ. For them odour is less the point than helping skin conditions. There is much continuing research into this, but only one small double-blind study has been finished; in it the N eutropha group said their skin felt better. The only independent studies of N eutropha are being conducted by Raja Sivamani, a professor of dermatology at the University of California. Sivamani asked one group of volunteers to spray Mother Dirt on their skin, while another group sprayed water, then he studied markers for inflammation. His data will not be ready to publish for a few months.
“We can see that N eutropha appears safe, but the jury is still out on how it works and what it does,” Sivamani said. “We did see a shift . . . Maybe some of the inflammatory agents were reduced, but those results were preliminary. This science is very early.”

Other scientists are being cautious too. I speak to Carsten Flohr, the head of research and development at St John’s Institute of Dermatology, Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust in London. “It sounds nice, but they have a product to sell,” Flohr says. Yet he remains open-minded, especially when I tell him about my armpit miracle. “The fact that there is little evidence so far doesn’t mean it doesn’t do something.”

In fact, Flohr’s research is pushing at the horizon of this new field. There is good evidence that there is an important window in infancy for establishing a healthy gut microflora, and this may be the case be for the skin. Heed this, all you over-washers of children! He also has studied how irritating sodium lauryl sulphate can be for the skin. But, I say, I now know they are in almost every bathroom product. Should we be avoiding it? “Not everybody, but certainly those with eczema and dry skin.”

Hmm. I can only say that I liked this experiment. I felt fresh. The Mother Dirt bottle is expensive, so I won’t carry on, but I will try to be a better host to my bacteria. I knew I was converted when I was involved in a kid’s bath-time and some bubbles got on to my face. I dashed to towel them off like the soap was some deadly poison. Which to my new friend N eutropha, and God knows how many of his relatives that have come to stay at mine.

* * * * *

There is actually no need to use this expensive stuff.  Just stop washing with soap everything except your hands.  Your body will acquire the necessary bacteria pretty quickly, especially if you also stop washing clothes unnecessarily and water-wastingly.

I haven't used soap for years, except for my hands, sometimes my feet (whose smell I like) - and then only soap made with olive oil and herbs.  I probably smell of dog, as well as human, but that is an added bonus - and better than hamster.

Monday, 16 October 2017

ex-Hurricane Ophelia runs up Ireland

This chilling, patriarchal pronouncement

by the 17th century hypocrite Thomas Fuller
(over 300 years before Orwell's 1984)
is a mantra displayed in the Headquarters of Apple® :

Good is not good when better is expected.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

My new 'portmanteau' word -


- is the feeling that kind people
(or even whole organisations) have
for distressed other beings,
while also feeling (or even knowing)
that there is nothing they can do.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Ecological French

Now that plastic bags are allowed to be used only for squelchy things,
the use of paper bags has dramatically increased -
and many people bring them back to market-stalls to be re-used.

A paper bag can be used many times.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Essence of Beckett.

"What happened ?"

"I have never known anything to happen."

- from All That Fall.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Борис Гребенщиков

The great Boris Grebenshikov updated his Facebook portrait :

His voice is not quite as good as was Vladimir Vysotsky's
but his lyrics are much better.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

It's not Consumerism

that we should (hypocritically) be condemning,
but the 'producerism' that everyone encourages,  admires.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A very arcane piece of information:

The wonderful letter


was removed (along with several others, such as  ѭ, )
from the Russian alphabet in the early eighteenth century.

More were removed just after the revolutions of 1917.

Monday, 9 October 2017

I have no difficulty in accepting

that 'everything'  (The Universe)
is physical, mathematical,
chemical, biochemical, etc. etc.,
and that we are basically puppets of evolution
with limited scope for self-alteration,
but I have great difficulty in accepting
that most people don't also accept this.

Sunday, 8 October 2017


My dog was disappointed
that the meteors this Fall
weren't meatier -
in fact, not nourishing at all.

Anyone, anywhere,

can take time to contemplate
the Question of Schrödinger's Cat.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Illustrated Haiku

This is the place where
I may slowly decompose
when I'm freed from life.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Haiku after Issa

Behind the hemlock :
a  luscious stream of water
can be heard, not seen.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

It is a great pity

that humans are too stupid
to use their intelligence

Sunday, 1 October 2017

In this most unreal of worlds

Other People's "spirit-guides" are boring,
predictable, phony and fake.
I imagine mine to be
an Ebola virus, a cockroach, a lake,
an archaeopteryx,
a fungus, a flea,
a dog or a hog or a fog
or a tree.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Friday, 29 September 2017

On e-bay

I got (very cheap) a super-duper Sony tuner-amplifer
with Surround Sound capability, and lots of inputs and outputs
and throughputs.  It works well for my modest requirements
which include, importantly, Surround Silence.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

“The Düsseldorf Vampire”,

Peter Kürten, asked the Cologne prison psychiatrist in 1931 if –
after his head was sliced off by the guillotine –
he would be able to hear, just for a moment,
the gush of his blood from his neck. 
He was told that, most likely, it would be the last
and perhaps most exciting sound to reach his ears.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

When I am unwell,

my caring, sharing, tiring, demanding and devoted dog lies
on top of me and bestows
a laying-on of paws.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Sigmund Freud wrote that

the satisfaction of a 'savage desire'
is incomparably more pleasurable
than the satisfaction of a civilised one.
But it is civilisation that produces
ever wilder and more destructive desires.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Kustodiev: Portrait of Kardovsky.

Dmitry Kardovsky looks just a bit like me.
Alas! even though he admired Mikhail Vrubel
he was not a very inspired or original painter -
which may be why he kept out of trouble
and survived as a professor until 1943.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Testosterone ?

Men seem to find it more difficult to be male
than women (oppressed by men, each other,family, marriage
and their own fertility) do to be female.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Haiku (on anticipation of death) by Issa.

The old snake turning
towards the western paradise
enters his burrow.

(Irish version)
The old snake turning
towards Tír na n'Óg goes
into his burrow.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Long live sharks!

These Ridiculously Long-Lived Sharks Are Older Than the United States, and Still Living It Up

In an evolutionary sense, sharks are among Earth’s oldest survivors; they’ve been roaming the oceans for more than 400 million years. But some individual sharks boast lifespans that are equally jaw-dropping. Incredibly, deepwater sharks off the coast of Greenland appear to have been alive and swimming back in Shakespeare’s day 400-plus years ago—making them the longest-lived of all known vertebrates.

Bristlecone pines can live to be 5,000 years old. Sea sponges can live for thousands of years. One quahog, a hard-shelled ocean clam, died in 2006 at the age of 507. But among vertebrates, the long-lived skew much younger. Bowhead whales and rougheye rockfish can live for up to 200 years, and a few giant tortoises may also approach the two century mark.
Now it seems that Greenland sharks more than double even these remarkable lifespans, scientists report today in Science.
The reason for the sharks’ unfathomably long lives has to do with their lifestyles. Cold-blooded animals that live in cold environments often have slow metabolic rates, which are correlated with longevity. “The general rule is that deep and cold equals old, so I think a lot of people expected species like Greenland sharks to be long-lived,” says Chris Lowe, a shark biologist at the California State University at Long Beach. “But holy cow, this takes it to an entirely different level…”
(read more: Smithsonian Magazine)
photograph via: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

Friday, 15 September 2017

This armpit...

And maybe also after 9 years -
but I don't expect to live that long.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Now 76,

I can cheerfully announce
that there are two things I do not know:
1. Everything
2. Nothing.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Genealogy (a birthday poem).

Like almost everyone,
'I come from a long line of nobodies'.
My last Famous Forebear
was Abel.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Only in America ?

"Tampering with or disabling toilet cameras is a Federal Crime
punishable by a fine of up to $3,000."

Monday, 11 September 2017

"Dating" - a peculiar mid-twentieth-century American expression and practice.

When I was twenty, I met the only woman in my sex-life
on a live-in summer job in Copenhagen.
So I never "dated" anyone,
not even men I found sexy
when I "came out" vingt ans après.
I brought them home, or they brought me to their homes
immediately.  Or else we parted courteously.
I never understood the "dating concept" -
was it to do with calendars or palm-trees ?
Immediate invitation to dinner, bed and breakfast -
is, I rather think, very different from "dating".

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Educated Poor

(a regrettably rare demographic)
know both the price
and the value
of most things.

Friday, 8 September 2017

My friend Jindra

had this on his Facebook timeline
way back in July:

I have just come back from a short vacation up North [Ontario, Canada].
This woodcarving fascinated me.

"We are explorers from England. We mean well."
"We are not amused, neither are we stupid. Get the fuck out of here !"
"Big Bear, I am sick to my stomach about them coming here."

"Let me write this down. I find his attitude deeply offensive, Captain."

© Jindřich & Dína Hrdliča & Anthony Weir (with Asterix) MMXVII

Thursday, 7 September 2017

No tree shall be felled

to publish anything I write
(poetical, tendentious, sententious or trite)
which shall stay insubstantial
in the margin of the virtual.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Doctors are

like "gateway drugs".
The more you visit them
the more you need them.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Haiku after Kobayashi Issa.

Writing trash about
moonlight for the bourgeoisie
is no kind of art.

[Issa wrote 54 haikai on snails, 15 on toads, nearly 200 on frogs, about 230 on fireflies, more than 150 on mosquitoes, 90 on other kinds of  fly, over 100 on fleas, and nearly 90 on cicadas, making a total of about one thousand verses on such creatures.]

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Haiku after Bashō.

Rather than the leaves,
we admire gaudy flowers
on our planet of pain.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Graham Greene

wrote in his autobiography:
'All life long my instinct has been
to abandon anything for which I had no talent.'

If only a few million more people would be so wise !

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Life on Earth

exists only for its own sake,
not for any purpose or process
that we might dream up.
It exists only to exist,
to distinguish itself
from solids, gases and liquids.

But does it have to be aggressive ?