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Don't Want to Live Like an Effigy: An unhappy puppet scowls at the Friends of the River protest.


Cat Scratch Fever

Last week, the CALIFORNIA HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY issued a warning to cat owners to keep their kitties indoors for a while, ever-so-gently pointing out that the cute, cuddly beasts are particularly susceptible to BUBONIC PLAGUE, a virus endemic to wild squirrels and chipmunks in California. Plague is most often transmitted via rat fleas, which harbor the bacteria in their stomachs. Eventually the flea gets so bloated with the bacteria that it accidentally regurgitates when it tries to feed on another animal, thereby infecting it.

If the plague sounds familiar, that's probably because it's got the same name as the plague that wiped out entire European cities during the Middle Ages. In his Pulitzer Prize–winning volume Guns, Germs and Steel, JARED DIAMOND wrote that "the Black Death [bubonic plague] killed one-quarter of Europe's population between 1346 and 1352, with death tolls ranging up to 70 percent in some cities." Remember that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the guy is ringing the bell and yelling, "Bring out your dead!" Yeah, that plague. Right. ... So we shouldn't all be totally freaking out because why, exactly? Santa Cruz County epidemiologist WILL FOREST sums it up succinctly, thus: "Nowadays we can treat plague with antibiotics," says Forest.

Further research on the website for the CHHSA (www.chhs.ca.gov) confirms Forest's assertion.

"Most bubonic plague patients recover following antibiotic treatment," reads the CHHSA's plague FAQ, but continues, "Septicemic and pneumonic plague are often fatal if antibiotic treatment is not started within the first 24 hours of illness."

Still, all indications from health officials point to the conclusions that this plague of the Middle Ages has been thoroughly tamed by modern medicine and hygiene.

"Not many people get plague either, not in this country," says Forest. "Partly because we don't live with fleas as people used to."

Nüz is currently living with a combined 10 house cats and an undisclosed number of fleas, so we were at least semicomforted by another statistic: Since 1977, there have only been four reported cases of plague in California humans, and out of those four, only two died. This year, only four California cats (living in Kern and Placer counties) have tested positive for the plague, and one even survived (Awww!).

Operation Enduring Drugdom

The last thing Nüz would ever want to do is unintentionally promote the use of drugs, which as we all know remains a national priority only recently eclipsed by the war on terror and the less publicized but no less earnest war on run-on sentences. In fact, so committed are we to the war on drugs and the need to re-establish it at the forefront of the public imagination that we feel it our civic obligation to make you aware of a new book called Busted! Drug War Survival Skills, which was published this month by HarperCollins and is attributed to the no doubt fabricated "author" M. CHRIS FABRICANT, who purports to be a criminal defense attorney living in New York City.

Adorned with a cover by cartoonist R. CRUMB (who lives in France along with other suspect ex-pats like former Good Times editor MARK HUNTER), the book seeks to provide "users" with advice that could keep them out of "jail." (Note: Nüz gets paid extra for gratuitous use of quotation marks, parentheses and local notables who have only the slightest tangential relationship to the subject at hand.)

Thankfully, California anti-drug agents have already seized over $2.6 billion worth of marijuana. In Santa Cruz County alone, sheriff's deputies shut down growing operations in both Castle Rock State Park and Big Basin State Park in the last month, much to the dismay of the hard-toking elves who are rumored to live in the forest's lush environs. Indeed, the authorities are continuing their successful effort to pack our jails with illegal substance abusers. Nüz certainly hopes Fabricant's drivel will not send California's Department of Justice efforts up in smoke, but it's still too soon to tell.

"I wish I had this book before I got busted!" says comedian/public enemy TOMMY CHONG in a front cover blurb. Yet, misguided though this book may be, the occasional voice of reason does emerge. Among them are famed drug authority RUSH LIMBAUGH and former L.A. Police Chief DARYL GATES, who once opined that "the casual drug user ought to be taken out and shot." (Fortunately, Gates was not nearly as committed to discouraging police brutality, or that RODNEY KING beating thing might never have happened.)

Elsewhere in this evil tome, readers are advised to use wooden pipes (since fingerprints cannot be lifted from them), to "always maintain eye contact" if confronted by a police officer (Nüz would like to note that this advice also works with dominance-testing rat terriers) and to, of course, remain silent ("Fabricant" says only "pedigree information"--name, address, date of birth and Social Security Number--should be revealed upon being busted).

The preceding only begins to skim the surface of this 366-page volume, but Nüz wouldn't want to deprive you of the chance to lend financial support to a despicable traitor and his clearly un-American publisher, nor to enjoy your own free trip to Gitmo once Homeland Security figures out you bought it. Happy reading!


Speaking of marijuana, WAMMFest III is coming up on the horizon--Sept. 10 at the San Lorenzo Park Benchlands--and will feature an appearance by '60s political activist, writer and philosopher/humorist PAUL KRASSNER. Recent Metro Santa Cruz cover boy Robert Anton Wilson is expected to appear, while both Mayor MIKE ROTKIN and Councilmember EMILY REILLY will spend some time in the dunk tank. Visit www.wammfest.org for more information about this music, food, arts and crafts and education festival.

Labor Day Film Series

Community Television (Comcast Channel 25, Santa Cruz; Charter Channel 71, Watsonville) will present a Labor Film Series starting on Sept. 5, 9am–8pm, and continuing every Friday evening, 6pm–6am Saturday, until Oct. 1. Many of the films were shown at the 2005 REEL WORK LABOR FILM FESTIVAL in May; visit www.reelwork.org for more information.

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From the August 31-September 7, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

For more information about Santa Cruz, visit santacruz.com.

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