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Tom has opinions on the Wildcats, hospitals, vaccines and a white dude who can really sing

Some stuff I need to mention before we get into the holiday season:

• Is this a great time to be an Arizona Wildcats football fan, or what? Only one Pac-10 team is ahead of Arizona in the standings, and a home game with that first-place team is coming up. We need to bask in this right now, because the Cats will probably be underdogs in three of their last four games, and the one game they'll be favored in, against Arizona State, is always a toss-up.

A lot had been made about their going 35 days between home games earlier in the season, but this has shaken out quite nicely. Of course, reality might come crashing down over the next four weeks, but for this moment in time, it's pretty sweet.

• I was watching the news the other day, and they showed this bad car crash on the northwest side. Guy Atchley (or Kristi Tedesco, I'm not sure which) said, 'The crash occurred on La Cholla, right in front of Northwest Hospital."

Then, Heather Rowe (or Dan Marries) said, "The injured driver was taken to University Medical Center."

What the heck?! You're right in front of a hospital. Who cares if there's a trauma center someplace else? I'm bleeding here!

• Somebody sent me a CD to review with no picture of the artist. I listened to it, and it sounded like late-'60s Motown, with maybe some Chi-Lites thrown in. The instrumentation sounded like the Funk Brothers, who backed up the Motown groups; it even had that echo sound to it.

The singer's voice reminded me of Eddie Kendricks (the high-pitched Temptations member who sang "Get Ready" and "Just My Imagination"). The music is sweet soul, basic and simple, with clever hooks and almost-innocent lyrics. (On "Make Her Mine," he sings, "I may not be a rich attorney, but I'll win my girl's heart in the trial of love.")

He even does a song called "I Wish It Would Rain." It's not the Temptations' song of the same name, but an equally heartbreaking ballad of lost love.

So anyway, I love the CD, and I'm listening to it all the time. It sounds so much like the stuff I grew up on that it actually makes me smile.

The other day, I finally saw a picture of the guy. His name is Mayer Hawthorne, and he looks like the love child of Buddy Holly and Pee Wee Herman. He even plays up his nerdiness. I don't care if he's goofing on us; if he is, it's a brilliant goof.

The CD is A Strange Arrangement. Give it a listen.

• Letter-writer Chuck Aubrey took me to task for my contention that the swine-flu vaccinations of 1976 didn't cause Guillain-Barré syndrome. He's sorta right, but mostly not. I shouldn't have said that the widely held belief that the mass vaccinations caused some people to contract Guillain-Barré is not true. I should have said that there is absolutely no evidence to prove that it is true.

My side in this is the easy (and smart) one to take, because nobody knows what causes Guillain-Barré syndrome. Experts think that something (perhaps a severe infection) triggers an auto-immune response that begins to attack the body. According to the National Institutes of Health, "No one yet knows why Guillain-Barré syndrome—which is not contagious—strikes some people and not others. Nor does anyone know exactly what sets the disease in motion."

Mr. Aubrey quoted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offered this classic nugget of CYA and hedging:

Because GBS cases are always present in the population, the necessary public health questions concerning the cases among vaccine recipients were, "Is the number of cases of GBS among vaccine recipients higher than would be expected? And, if so, are the increased cases the result of increased surveillance or a true increase?" Leading epidemiologists debated these points, but the consensus ... was that the number of cases appeared to be an excess.

Whoa! The experts disagreed, but more than half of them thought that there might have been an increase. And even those who thought there was an increase put it at maybe one per every 100,000 vaccine recipients. That sucks for that one person, but it's statistically insignificant and certainly no reason not to get the vaccine, since far more people die from the flu than from GBS.

It's entirely possible that some people back in 1976 got the flu from the vaccine, and then the flu lowered their resistance, and then something triggered a runaway auto-immune response. But claiming that putting a needle in someone's arm led to GBS is a leap that Baryshnikov wouldn't have attempted in his prime.

Mr. Aubrey started by saying that an alt-weekly columnist shouldn't be dispensing medical advice. My point was that we have parents these days who are making important medical decisions for their children based not on what they're told by doctors or nurses or government health officials, but rather by doofuses on talk radio and Fox News.

Finally, as for my not getting a vaccination, it's only because I don't get the flu. If there was a widespread outbreak of dumbassitis that could be contained by a mass vaccination, I'd probably get the shot. If not, I might find myself watching Glenn Beck.

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