Thursday, June 30, 2011

I fear I'm turning into Andy Rooney

Yesterday I was in a bookstore and I heard a sound I hadn't heard in a long time. It was the sound of a manual typewriter. The elderly man who was typing was perched on a stool, and wore a pair of small round metal rimmed spectacles. The sight and sound could only be described as elegant, and for a brief moment I mourned the inevitable loss of him and his entire generation.

I'm not as old as this man, nor am I young. Yes, I am most definitely middle-aged (though that moniker feels nearly vile). My relationship towards what's "new" is right in the middle of things, too, though I'm worrying (lightly) that my propensity towards a curmudgeonly attitude (though I've always had one) is nudging me into Andy Rooney territory, that of the older generation who looks down on the young and says "Idiots!"


I don't watch television, so I have no idea if Andy Rooney is still on Sixty Minutes. I don't even know if Sixty Minutes is still on TV, nor do I know what station it airs on. For all I know, Mr. Rooney is dead. Yes, I could google this information, but it's beside the point.

For those of you too young or too uninterested to know, Andy Rooney has been the resident curmudgeon on Sixty Minutes for, well, forever. He's been whining about the silliness of modern culture and life since I can remember, and since I can remember I've found him terribly annoying. I clearly remember talking back (out loud) to the television set many a time, saying, "Oh, please, shut up!" Then I'd remember I had a remote control unit and I could indeed shut Mr. Rooney up quite easily.

He's complained about the little plastic windows on mail (yes, snail mail. Do you get any still?) He's whined repeatedly about the stupid gifts his viewers send him. Mr. Rooney seems an old-fashioned fellow. I'm surprised he doesn't carp about people not saying a gracious "thank you" for gifts received.

Every time there's a new twist on anything, Mr. Rooney has been there to bemoan it.

So, here I am, in this middle age, giving more and more thought to how our culture is making us all into idiots, or how "we" seem to demand more idiocy in everything. Yes, I'm now squarely in Mr. Rooney's camp, though if you send me gifts, I will say "thank you."

I hate how emotions have turned into emoticons (even if some of them are clever, which this one is not). :-(
I hate the way we're communicating with txt msg pre-packaged feelings such as OMG and LOL.
I hate how we're confined to low character counts on Twitter and Facebook and how there's site after site of advice for the would be web savvy individual demanding that we learn to be terse. "People want to read status updates, not books!"
I hate how I want to say, "Go read a book, preferably something terribly long!"
I hate how the latest book I read, one of Picador's BIG IDEAS/small books series, was sloppy, stupid, and sounded as if it was a few month's worth of status updates.
I hate how every site on the Web now has the LIKE button. If someone dies, folks will hit that thumbs up LIKE button to give their condolences.*
I hate how Amazon has the LIKE button, but one can answer the question, "Was this review helpful?" with a yes or no answer, and it appears that people do not understand the question. The question is not whether one agrees or disagrees with the review.

I could go on, but I hate how the phrase "I hate" looks repeated so many times. I doubt I've used the word "hate" much on this blog, and the truth is that I really do not hate any of this. I find it worrisome, annoying, and infuriating.

Really. Though I disliked (no - hated) the movie Wall-E, I fear we will eventually become what's pictured above.

*There is no fan page for Death on Facebook. I checked.**
**Nor is there one for Life.

Why did I google "Did Gandhi use a typewriter?" No answer to that question; instead was directed to this photograph. I can imagine Andy Rooney asking, "What ever happened to the good ol' fountain pen?" I hate writing with a pen and paper. I love the rhythmic sound of a keyboard. Besides, I can't even read my own handwriting, though, if I slowed down, I have beautiful penmanship. That is quickly becoming a lost art.

"Just think. Less than a month ago. . .

. . .Santa Mira was just like any other town. People with nothing but problems! Now, you're reborn, into an untroubled world."

"Where everyone is the same?"

"That's right."

"But I don't want to live in a world without love or grief or beauty! I'd rather be dead!"

Watch the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers here.

They say this movie was not supposed to be a metaphor for anything. That's fine. It's doesn't take away from the fact that it is.

"We" perhaps were paranoid about the wrong things back in 1956. Later, the hippies protested, but I contend that the baby boom generation were about as conformist as any, if not more.

Of course, I am wildly oversimplifying here, but the truth is, we've mostly gone to sleep, happily. . .

As Dr. Bennett says in the movie, "In my practice, I've seen how people allow their humanity to drain away. It happens slowly instead of all at once. They don't seem to mind."

No, they don't. Now they ask for it. They ask their doctors.

We've brought back the once considered barbaric electroconvulsive "therapy" for folks who are "treatment resistant" to drugs. Perhaps we should look forward to a renaissance of lobotomy, or maybe we'll learn to grow pods of perfectly happy people.

I'm kidding, of course, but then again. . .

We have all been assimilated.

Image note: Before torching the pod he found planted in his car's trunk, Miles (Dr. Bennett) pokes it a bit.

Smitten or obsessed?

What's the difference?

Watch some of Adam Curtis' documentaries. Very interesting, to say the least.

As I've now watched them all (but they deserve multiple viewings), I'm scrounging the Web for his shorter works. Just watched "Oh Dearism," and "Paranoia," from Charlie Brooker's Newswipe.

Something about these comments amuses me greatly:

". . .political conflicts around the world are now portrayed to us as simple illustrations of the mindless cruelty of the human race. . .It's like living in the mind of a depressed hippie."

"Richard Nixon told his psychiatrist that when he looked in the mirror, no one was there. When we look in the mirror, we think we're too fat."

Image note: Elvis meets Nixon. There's a movie based on this event. Go read the description, both of the movie and the real event. Do you think you're crazy? Sorry, folks, but most of us are garden variety crazy compared to these two.

The more I learn about the past, the more sane I realize I am. Watching Adam Curtis' documentaries helps.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What if. . .

. . .instead of feeling sorry or scared for young people who experience "depression," we instead said to them "Congratulations! Welcome to being human."

I perused MedHelp's Teen Depression Forum, and couldn't find much evidence of a disease called depression. I read much of sadness, confusion, and downright grief.

One young woman wrote that her mother died, she's struggling with realizing she's bisexual, and that she just moved to a new town. She took the depression tests on every website she could find and now wonders whether she should seek help (read: get a prescription).

Another said she felt that the world was in a depression. Could it be that she's right?

One girl says she's always been depressed. This one sounds suspiciously like "real depression," but no, at the end of her list of symptoms of feeling bad for no reason she blithely mentions her father was 16 when she was born and she's always sore and bruised from his giving her nuggies and other things of that sort. I don't recall nuggies and "things of that sort" leaving bruises, do you?

One boy says he's tired all the time and wonders if he needs medication. Maybe he's just tired.

Many kids say they have no friends because they're shy or feel different, their grades have gotten worse, they aren't as social as they think they ought to be, like to be alone (horrors!), or have no clue what they want to Be When They Grow Up. Here's an interesting thing: not liking to text message or get on Facebook is seen a personal weakness or  character flaw. Perhaps it's a 21st century form of shyness. Is this something teens need medication for?

I'm sorry (sort of) for beating a dead horse, but I've simply had enough.

There is a cure for all of these ills, though it won't make the growing pains of adolescence go away:

Kindness, community, and acknowledgment of reality.

Image note: Corot The Letter 1865 Art historians say Corot found the "melancholic woman" to be his ideal.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Everything is extraordinary

Yes, everything.

Someone referenced this three-year-old post. Perhaps I should engage more in popular culture so I have more accessible things to write about?



I dunno.

No energy for writing (or, obviously, thinking) now. Just got back from a retreat, which, contrary to popular notions, is decidedly not relaxing.

"I could sleep for a thousand years.  . ."

Why on earth am I posting these thought fragments?

One last thing: Blogger is "asking" me if I want to enable readers to leave "reactions."  Gee. You can click a button that'll say things like "cool," "interesting," or "funny." I think I'll take silence over that. I'm sure, by the end of the year, I'll be able to add the wretched "Like" button. Ah, Facebook. .  .you're turning us all into pre-schoolers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I'm so glad I'm not jaded.

I was sitting in my living room and thinking about something. Okay, I was thinking about the few people I knew when I was young who had been victims of Dr. Mengele's experiments.

Huh? What's a photo of a rainbow to do with that?

Well, nothing.

Although, it says something about the state of my mind (and a mind), for one can go to thoughts of torture and genocide to standing in the rain with a grin on one's face, marveling at the beauty of nature.

As the topic line says, I'm so glad I'm not jaded.

I was sitting on my sofa, watching a documentary, when I noticed the light had changed. The rain was beating down hard. I thought, "There's got to be a rainbow somewhere."

As I stood up to go get my camera, a rainbow started to form. Then there were two, though one was too subtle for my point and shoot.

I went outside, knocked on my neighbor's door, and the two of us walked over to a spot where we could practically see it from beginning to end. We were both smiling like children, and I felt absurdly happy. I realized I have forgotten exactly why rainbows form, and thought I should look it up. That idea made me even happier, for I was filled with gratitude that I'm an adult who still is thrilled by seeing things I've seen many a time before, and still asks questions like "why is the sky blue?"

Is this saccharine? Maybe some of you think so.

There is something about this that relates to thoughts of genocide and torture. I had been thinking about why I wasn't angry and bitter (at least most of the time). Those feelings do me no good. I prefer, when I can, to focus on that which brings me joy.

I can do this and not shut my mind to the realities of this wretched world, for the activities of human beings surely can be wretched. But, that won't prevent me from enjoying the birds, the rainbows, and simply being alive.

Don't know what causes rainbows? Find out here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What happened to philosophy?

As you may have noticed, I've been nearly obsessed with the topic of psychiatric drugs lately. You can breath a sigh of relief because I doubt that there will be another post about this topic, though I might touch on it once in a while.

Now, I can say this (putting it in most nonintellectual terms). Though the drug companies may be dishonest and manipulative, I was picking on them. I had put it out there that I didn't believe there was a conspiracy, but that the "conspiracy" was nothing more than capitalism. This is true. Pharmaceutical companies do nothing different than sellers of breakfast cereal. All companies use manipulative tactics for profit. Unfortunately, in the case of drugs, the consequences of believing one must have the product are more marked (to say the least) than having decided that Special K cereal is "good for you."

In analyzing the way in which we come to believe we must have the product called drugs, I discovered just how much we place our faith in science. I am going to make no attempt to discredit science. I do have faith in science, but my faith (for lack of a better word) is in hard science. Hard science is science we can prove.

Let me illustrate my point with this story: Some years ago, I met a woman who believed she was going to hell because she was a lesbian. She had given up trying to change her predilections, which she wished she could do. She had also tried, unsuccessfully, to dislodge the thinking she had been brought up with, brought to her by born again Christian parents. In the end, she was simply resigned to her terrible fate.

Her belief in the bible as the truth and the law was solid. I pointed out to her that the bible could be interpreted in multiple ways, but that did not help. She believed the fundamentalist view that the bible was the word of God. End of story.

I tried to argue with this assumption by pointing out that there were non-canonical religious writings that seemed to have been intentionally left out of the bible. I thought this might shake her certainty in the infallibility of that good book. I knew, if one truly believed man's actions were always guided by the unseen hand of God, that this argument was fallible. Her counter to my suggestion, however, was a surprising one. She questioned the certainty that the non-canonical writings were actually written in the past. When I brought up carbon dating, she countered, "I do not believe in science. It is all theoretical."

I explained how the scientific method works, and how hard science is provable. This was fruitless, for it all hinged on believing that the observations of human beings were always fallible, and furthermore, would always be influenced by the unknown and unseen hands of both God and the devil.

I gave up, of course. It is not possible to win arguments of this kind. I must admit that I thought her arguments were wrong, and more than a little bit sad. What is sad, of course, is this woman's belief that she was damned to hell.

However, at this point in my thinking, I believe there is some truth to her assertions, though I do not think any gods or devils play a part.

I do think, as I wrote, that there is hard science, and that science is true. We have learned what things are made of. Their names may be a human invention. Organic and inorganic chemistry, for instance, is eminently provable. The fact that the names of things is irrelevant and man-made makes the truth of both these sciences even more irrefutable. You can call water any name, or even say water does not exist, but water will always be composed of two atoms of hydrogen bonded with one oxygen atom. If there are two atoms of water bonded with two atoms of hydrogen, you will no longer have water (or 水的, ilma, dwr, tubig. . .)  No matter what one's belief system or language is, H2O2 will always be hydrogen peroxide. Water has certain predictable, provable, and re-producable properties. Belief has nothing to do with it. You can click your heels, hold your breath, pray to any God of your choosing, or believe in nothing at all, and water will continue to have the same properties. You may perceive water differently than someone else. You will certainly perceive water differently than a fish, for to whom water is like air to us, but still, water has laws unto itself that are irrefutable, no matter how much one refutes them.

This is the nature of hard science.

The problem that arises is our desire to find the nature of all things, including human behavior. It is alluring to believe that such a thing is possible. There is, indeed, a theory that explains it all, and that is called religion.

For those of us who do not believe that everything is created by God, there must be something, right? I've come to believe that the answer is "no, " and that, furthermore, our quest to find this any answer had lead to some seriously poor consequences. More on that another time.

What I've come here to write about today is the idea that there is, simply, no such thing as a "social science." We once had ideas of philosophy to counter religious world views. But philosophy is known to be inherently arguable. That is one of the delights of philosophy to the philosopher. The words philosophy and debate go hand in hand.

This poses a difficult problem for philosophy. People distrust it, as they know, on a gut level, that all philosophies are open to discussion.

Philosophy, in the universities, is it's own study. However, (according to Wikipedia), the "social sciences," in the university and research setting include "anthropology, archaeology, business administration, criminology, economics, education, geography, linguistics, political science, government, sociology, international relations, communication, and in some contexts, history, law, and psychology."

The use of the words "social" and "science" tied together, and now forever embedded in people's minds as one (unless a person is particularly prone to skepticism) has been one heck of an unhappy marriage.

The idea of the "study," using the scientific method to prove how something(s) works, and what it is composed of, is a fallacy in the context of the "social sciences." Time and again, studies contradict each other. Time and again, we come to believe in the absolute truth of a theory (backed by so-called scientific studies), and come to find out it is indeed simply wrong.

What the guilt-ridden lesbian believed due to her religion is, in essence, true, though her example may not have been. We do have hard science ways of understanding the age of things, but her questioning the very premise of modern society's faith in the understanding of and interpretation of hard science is something we all should examine.

Unfortunately, this idea has been hijacked by people wishing to disprove scientific ideas (most notably, global climate change), and those with hidden agendas for doing so.

But, that's a whole 'nother story. . .

Our collective belief in the social sciences, even amongst those who are religious, has left us vulnerable to the whims and follies of others. Is it any wonder that we believe we are "mentally ill," for instance, when science says there is, in fact, a disease called mental illness? Of course not. Most of us do not question the idea of illness.

Cancer is provable. It can be observed under a microscope, imaged with x-rays or by the naked eye, and oftentimes, can be removed by the simplest of tools, a knife. This is not to say cancer is simple, but, in a way, it is.

Other diseases are similar. Diabetes (which mental illness is compared to more times than I'd care to cite), is fairly straightforward. It can be reliably diagnosed and treated. It's mechanism in the body is identifiable and quantifiable.

Not so any of the social sciences, though we have come to believe this to be true. The fact that one uses the scientific method and studies in the social science fields does not make them sciences. The scientific method, I argue, can not be used in the social sciences. The very idea that it is possible is a dream. It is an attempt to legitimize that which can not be. It is an attempt to make philosophy a provable fact, which it can not be.

Think about it. If Descartes was not a philosopher, but a sociologist today, his idea, "I think therefore I am," would be studied. This is not an absurd notion. Many a sociologist has studied what constitutes the idea of self, in order to quantify it, and, supposedly, find a cure for what ails this self of ours, or cure the ills that plague society. But studies of philosophical ideas are always going to be self-fulfilling prophecies, or exercises in futility. Social scientists have repeatedly scratched their heads in bewilderment when a study has failed to prove the ideas that they should have, and concluded they had not designed the study well enough. People have spent entire lifetimes engaging in this futile effort to "scientifically" prove this or that essentially philosophical idea.

This may have been lots of fun for those with an intellectual bent. It may have provided a lifetime of interesting work for those in the social studies. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it has proved to be a disaster of grand proportions for the individual, who, in essence, has been enslaved to notions that our characters are shaped by unseen and little understood scientific forces. We have lost a great deal of autonomy because of this.

Once it was religion that played this role in the life of an individual. Seems we need, desperately need, to find grand unifying theories, and ultimately, this quest has again and again lead to what appears to be epidemics of thought that change the essential way a person views their experience of the world and of themselves.

I have painted these topics with a broad brush. More on this, I'm sure, in the very near future!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Random and mostly light musings

Comments have basically stopped, but I use Google Analytics. I know people are reading. If I didn't have GA, I probably would have stopped blogging. The funny thing is that readership is actually up (though you folks are silent). There was a period of time when I got a lot of hits due to the Ikea mattress story (gone, so no link). Even with all that traffic gone, after a year, it's back up to it's previous level. Yay!

Nonetheless, this blog is one big waste of my time, when I could be doing things that earn an income. 

What's been interesting to me about the Google Analytics is that the folks who visit this blog might pretty much come from "blue states." Is there something liberal about this blog? I suppose so. Posts about the evils of capitalism are, well, even more liberal than liberal.

I don't think of myself as a liberal. Doesn't matter.

I get the most hits from New York, California, Florida (retired New Yorkers?), Maine, Massachusetts, and Texas. I don't quite get Texas, though it's a big state. There are some states from which I don't recall ever having had a visitor, such as Utah. 

When I look at the Google Analytics "map overlay" of blog visitors, I think "edge." Visitors come primarily from the two coasts, and the borders of Canada and Mexico. Welcome, my fellow edge dwellers!

So, getting back to the "not thinking of myself as a liberal," I was thinking about identity last night (or this morning) when I could not sleep. The weather here has been awful: hot then cold and back again, with the occasional downpour, violent thunder storm (with hail), and high humidity. I've had a chronic sinus headache. I go to bed swaddled in blankets, nearly shivering, and wake up overheated and stuffed up. 


Wait. I've gotten oh so off topic, haven't I?


First off, I read the story about the surfer lesbian blogger who turned out to be an American man living in Scotland who was duped by the lesbian Syrian blogger who turned out to be another man. . ..where?. . .oh, I can't get it straight (no pun intended). Said one of these men, "I was trying to run an authentic blog."

He was so filled with delusions about himself that lying about his identity seemed honorable. 

Meanwhile, I write the truth. Too much of it, I'm sure. 'Tis a mistake in this day and age, both for self-marketing reasons and for reputation. Well, that's already ruined. 

While I couldn't sleep, I dipped into another of Carl Elliott's books, "Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream." Elliott is such an easy and fun read. I love this fact, for he writes about topics that we all ought to be thinking about, and the fact that he makes bioethics so accessible ought to make him a household name. I suppose that's too much to ask of the American public when they'd prefer someone such as Dr. Phil. 

I read the chapter about people who want to have amputations. There was a lot about issues of identity. Folks who want medically unnecessary amputations use the language of identity to speak about their desire. 

Most of us talk about ourselves using identity language. We "are" mothers, teachers, writers, and artists. We "are" men, women, lesbians, and gay. We "are" people who have disabilities. You might ask, "How else would I say it?" True, but why do we feel we have to announce who and what we are when we meet people? Others can see "what" we are, and find out who we are through conversation and our actions. I suppose that's too darned slow. It also means one really has to interact.

I've had a lot of trouble thinking about myself this way, as a something, and throughout my life I've felt I should at least try.

But, in the end, I just can't seem to get with the program. I am not an anything. I've said this countless times, and written about it fairly often. Some people say to me, "But, Julie, you are an artist!" Nope. 

I just happen to be able to draw. I just happen to be able to do a lot of things.

I just happen to be a woman, but no one has said to me, "Wait, Julie, you are a woman!," though as I've written about before (somewhere), one person did say to me, "I'm more of a woman than you'll ever be." That drag queen was right.

I don't "feel like" anything except a person. Luckily I have that, at least. Otherwise I'd be in trouble, no?

More about this to come. Right now I'm seriously sleep deprived and this brain of mine is not working. 

Why on earth am I blogging?

Image note: Found this map at Irregular Times (no endorsement - haven't even read it). It could be a map of my readership. Hmm.

Addendum of ruthless honesty: No one comments 'cause I'm just too damned opinionated, and no nicey-nice. Oh well. That is not going to change. Is this the beginning of finding an "identity?"

Monday, June 13, 2011

I do feel bad about my neck

I haven't read Norah Ephron's I Feel About about my Neck, and I probably should. When I ask myself why I haven't, I think, "What on earth would I have in common with a rich, wildly successful woman like her?"

The answer is probably "plenty," as we all have something in common, but beyond that, I don't know. I just read How to Not Go Gentle into that Eileen Fisher on Salon, and there was much I did relate to, but a part of me simply did not.  Mary Elizabeth Williams talks about being in one's early forties as a time of being at the height of one's life; the "career apex," and all that other good stuff she assumes a women in her forties is experiencing or has done. I suppose this is the average Salon reader.

I forget that I'm not average. I've been spectacularly unsuccessful financially. Twenty years ago I chose to "drop out" of society by moving to a poor and rural area. I consciously opted out of not pursuing anything called success. I have not had children.

Lately, I'm starting to see that there are indeed more people similar to me than, say, Norah Ephron and Mary Elizabeth Williams. Does the average woman in rural America relate in any way to the articles in the national magazines? How can she relate to articles written by those who live in Los Angeles or New York City? I can't fathom it.

I do feel badly about my neck, but I am not worrying about how it might impact my earning ability. In the city, this is a big concern, as last year's brief sojourn back into city life showed me. Here in Maine, feeling bad about one's neck seems absurd. Truth is, no one else truly does care about how anyone looks (unless one is in real estate), so concerns about looking old, or looking bad, become simply personal vanity issues.

In my knitting group, we joke about these issues. We notice when people start habitually wearing turtlenecks. I'll admit to a ridiculous thing I love about living in a cold climate: the fact that I can wear long sleeves and turtle necks most of the year without appearing to be simply insane.

Guess what? There's others that feel the same.

Norah Ephron does have some good things to say. In this article about her, she says, "when you're young, you're indulging yourself by feeling too bad about what you see in the mirror because you're going to have plenty of time to feel really bad about it, and you're also indulging yourself if you think that the pain in your hip is kidney cancer, because it probably isn't." Pointing out that a time will come when you will truly have reasons to worry is true. Of late, I hear story after story about some minor complaint that turned out to be cancer or any number of wretched illnesses.

I've loathed my neck since I can remember. It's been a running joke with my friends. "Julie, there's nothing wrong with your neck." There is now, and there's no denying. Trivial? Perhaps. Unattractive (in a purely aesthetic, unemotional way)? Yes. I got together with an old friend after years of not seeing her, and I must admit I noticed her neck had collapsed. As they say, "So? Shoot me."

Mixing up aesthetics and life-threatening illnesses seems just plain wrong, but there it is.

This is a mixed-up post indeed. There's so much I'm trying to pack in here, and perhaps it's not even related: How one should and could feel at middle-age when one has never been a success, aging, both the aesthetics of it (so to speak) and the realities.

I suppose what ties this all together is this: How does one face the reality that there's no do-over? Realizations that one was indeed beautiful when we were oh-too-self-conscious are simply an exercise in retrospection. Except for the very (very) few who are abounding in energy, going back to school and getting that Ph.D. one should have gotten is just not going to happen. The ability to see one's past mistakes may be crystal clear, and the desire may be there to try once again, but time, energy (and money, for those of us who've made a few too many mistakes) are just not there.

I suppose, in the end, I'm talking about living with regrets. I am starting to realize that living with regrets is fine. It's not an indictment. There's sadness, of course. Sadness is okay. Sometimes it feels like all together too much, but hey, I think there's more of us who live with regrets than not. We may just not want to yell it to the world.

Image note: I almost hate to use this one, for designer Sam Frenzel got a helluva lot of press for it, under the ad copy "Now, that's a turtle neck!" A brilliant piece of marketing that I now realize designers have used for ages; design something so bad, or so ridiculous, that you're sure to have people comment. Now everyone knows your name.

That's another thing. Lately I've been seeing exactly how easy it is to market oneself, or what one does or makes. Why on earth I didn't see all of this before is beyond me. Now, if I could only figure out how to do that with my blog meanderings. Still haven't figured out that one. I'm starting to think I'll know when I'm 100 (if I live that long).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Some time after dark in Paris

When I was a kid, I bought my mother a cobalt blue bottle of Evening in Paris perfume at Woolworth's. I saw Woolworth's described as a "Target-like" store of the 1960s on a Basenotes forum. My immediate reaction is that they were very different, and that Woolworth's was much more of a downmarket store. But, with a little analysis, I can see I'm probably wrong about thinking they're different. One store is old, and has a place in my own nostalgic memories. The other is modern and impersonal (but will most likely figure in someone's nostalgia in the future, though it's hard for me to fathom).

Both stores sold pretty much everything except produce and meat. Both stores were not discount stores, but instead sold (presumably) cheaper versions of things one could buy at regular stores. You can and could eat right in the store, though Target's has a Starbucks. Woolworth's had a restaurant that serves full meals, rather like the old fashioned counter in old pharmacies. I don't remember having a full meal there, but I sure do remember their banana splits.

This post's big digression will be a little reminiscence about my local Woolworth's. It was the first place I ever stole something from.  Besides that not-so-lovely fact, it was a big part of my childhood. They had a Photo Booth, and I just discovered that there's a Facebook page called "Remembering Woolworth's Black and White Photo Booths." One person left a comment there that was exactly what I was about to write here: how they had balloons at the lunch counter, and if you ordered a banana split, you'd get to pop a balloon to find out how much it cost. Sometimes it would be a penny, and everyone would congratulate you on your good luck.

I don't remember eating anything there except banana splits, and the silly thrill of getting to pop a balloon to find out just how much it would cost.

Woolworth's did have cheap stuff. Much of the stuff they sold there is the same merchandise that's sold now in places like Rite Aid and Walgreens. Walgreens was once, in fact, an old fashioned pharmacy that had soda fountains and lunch counters. I was just amazed to find out, in their Wikipedia entry, that Walgreens "claims credit for the popularization of the malted milkshake. . .invented by Ivar "Pop" Coulson in 1922." The electric blender was invented the same year. More about milkshakes here.

Anyway, Woolworth's was were us girls got our first cheap tubes of Maybelline mascara, or surreptitiously tried on new shades of lipstick. That aforementioned Photo Booth seemed to chronicle my life with boyfriends, and what came to be my ex-husband. I bought my first bra at Woolworth's. It was a place that I strolled through on a regular basis, most often on my way home from school. My mother and I went there together frequently. Though it wasn't a small store by any means, it felt local and somewhat cozy, but perhaps that's because it was a bit shoddy. Their floors were real wood, and in need of cleaning. The counters were banged up, and the colors of them mismatched, for they came from different eras. They always seemed to be on the edge of going out of business, which now know was true by the time I was a kid.

I bought gifts for my parents there, cheap cologne for my father (poor guy) and Evening in Paris for my mother. And now I've come to the point of this post. I was confused by someone posting a comment about Midnight in Paris earlier today. Van Cleef and Arpels has a perfume of that name. It comes in a cobalt blue bottle. My first thought was, "Could this be the same perfume I bought at Woolworth's back in my youth?" No. It is not, but their use of such a similar name and a cobalt bottle in such a pricey product seems rather a large mistake.

Midnight in Paris is the name of a new Woody Allen movie. I was sure I'd read the the Arpels scent's name was taken from an old movie, but I can't find one.

Evening in Paris is another story. A cheap perfume, sold in places like Woolworth's, and affordable to any kid with a paper route, a lemonade stand, or an allowance, was formulated first in 1928 as Soir de Paris, by Bourjois, a division of Chanel. What amazes me is that I'm having a heck of a time finding any information about scent on the Web, which is pretty interesting since it was once called "The Most Famous Fragrance in the World," according to the product copy on the Vermont General Store website (an odd place to find perfume info).

Aunt Judy's Attic, where there's three pages on how to date your old bottle of the stuff, says it was first put out in 1929. Oh, who knows. . .

Image note: Bottles of Evening in Paris from the Fragrantica webpage, where I finally found a decent enough history of it. It's the bottle on the right that I remember, which is too old (40's-50's) for me to have bought it, leading me to believe I'd seen it on my grandmother's vanity.

New concept of the day: Disease Branding

Until about a half an hour ago, I had never heard of "disease branding." I can tell you this, I sure have seen enough evidence of it, and so have you.

Here's an example: Overactive bladder. You may have seen an ad about this condition where a woman in a car needs to pee too often. Later on, we see her happily ensconced in the same car with her hubby, both happy, for now she's less of a pain in the rear end. Less rest stops for the both of them. They can get to their vacation destination quicker. She had overactive bladder syndrome, and now it's stopped, because she told her doctor, and she's got a new medication to take care of that once never talked about but oh-so common ailment.

There is no such thing as overactive bladder or overactive bladder syndrome. There are other reasons why one may need to urinate frequently, or be unable to hold it in, but none of them is an overactive bladder.

One may have a urinary tract or bladder infection, and it's painful to hold it in. For that, one needs antibiotics.

There's stress incontinence, which occurs when the muscles in one's pelvic floor cannot hold tight against the stresses one's body creates when sneezing, coughing, laughing, etc. This is most commonly due to low estrogen levels, which weakens the muscles around the urethra. It's common in pregnant women, and in those who are "grossly obese." The best treatment for this is strengthening these muscles by doing Kegel exercises, and weight loss.

There's overflow incontinence, which is basically what it sounds like. One's bladder is full, and the overflow dribbles out. The causes of this are varied. One is very simple: holding it in too long. In other words, the woman in the car on the road should stop at a rest stop.

Lastly, there's urge incontinence, which is also due to many factors. It is defined an an uncontrollable or unpredictable urge to urinate. Sometimes it is due to nerve or neurological damage. Sometimes it is psychological in nature. Sometimes one does have what is called a spastic bladder - one that has spasms, and an anti-spasmodic drug is needed.

Writing about this makes me think I need to pee. I don't. Perhaps I've got overactive imagination syndrome.

But overactive bladder syndrome? It's a public relations invention, a reframing of incontinence in palatable marketable language. It's disease branding.

To brand a disease, according to bioethicist Carl Elliott, is to "shape its perception in order to make it more palatable to potential patients."

Elliott says thereare  two kinds of conditions that are particularly good candidates for disease branding. One is "a condition that can be plausibly portrayed as common yet underdiagnosed." The other is a "shameful condition that can be destigmatized."

Hmm. Even though I started writing about needing to pee too much (because I presume you're sick of hearing about mental health), I'm starting to see why mental health issues are so easily disease branded.

Ever hear of Detrol? Or Detrol LA? I don't watch much television, so I didn't remember the name of the drug, but I obviously did remember the commercial for this drug, the one I mentioned above.

In 2002, Neil Wolf, the vice-president of Pharmacia, the company that manufactures Detrol, gave a presentation called "Positioning Detrol: Marketing a Disease." All forms of incontinence were folded into one new syndrome, unsupported by any research or doctors, but by public relations firms, and the company's own analysts. The drug (so far) was found to be not harmful enough to prevent people from taking it who might, say, just pee a bit more than they'd like to, so instead of simply marketing this new drug to the small "niche market" of those suffering from incontinence, a new syndrome was born.

The vice-president of Pharmacia, in his presentation, called this a "mass marketing opportunity to triple the treatable population of potential patients." One year after that presentation was made, the drug had $757 million dollars in sales.

Of course, one can't just simply make up a new disease. Doctors do have to say it exists, but there are cases, and this is one of them, where marketers came up with the suggestion to re-frame pre-existing conditions in a new, more palatable and expanded way.

Many drugs are invented with a specific disease entity in mind, but many more drugs are developed by drug company scientists with a wide range of physiological effects. Marketers then identify and promote the disease for the drug.

I will write what I wrote once again, more simply, so you can absorb it. Marketers identify and promote the disease for the drug. It is not that marketers are promoting a drug for a disease. Market the disease and then people will believe they might want to ask their doctors about a drug. If it's the drug one manufactures, all the better.

I don't know how many more people now than in 2003 believe they are suffering from overactive bladder syndrome. But, again, in 2003, three times more people believed they did than in 2002. One might argue that these people were simply in the dark about their conditions previous to 2002. Their syndrome was going undiagnosed. Haven't you heard an awful lot of that lately?

This idea has been promoted for so many illnesses and syndromes that it has become absurd. Pharmaceutical companies hire medical and psychiatric anthropologists (yes, there are such people) to study other cultures so as to understand how to convince them that there are indeed diseases that had previously not been recognized.

In "Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche," journalist Mark Watters analyzes four major instances where drug companies targeted entire countries for importation of psychiatric conditions that were considered rare. The words "undiagnosed" and "underdiagnosed" were used a lot. They are today. Just go to any health website and start noticing how many times you encounter those words. It's staggering.

I wonder when they're going to find a new name for the disease called This Human Life.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

From disclosure to money. . .

After writing my last post, I heard a radio program where someone called for more disclosure laws. Then I read Alison Bass' interesting posts about "about the strange case of Dr. Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University who has testified in more death penalty cases in recent years than almost any other doctor in the country."

I've come to the conclusion that more laws that essentially legislate behavior will not do much of anything, except lull people into a false sense of security. We can't legislate morality. Dr. Mayberg and others, who have had a spotlight put on them, are merely the tip of the iceberg of the financial greed that permeates our culture. Until we address that issue, laws requiring more disclosure and transparency are really no more than band-aids on a very large wound that needs stitches (or maybe an amputation).

There is little in our society that greed hasn't touched. Our basic societal assumption is that an individual has the right to make as much money as they possibly can, and that they deserve every penny of it (even if we bitch and moan about it when we learn of the latest "outrage" such as Charlie Sheen making $2 million dollars per episode of a sitcom). Why are things different in Japan, where it's dishonorable for a CEO of a company to make more than 9 times what the lowliest employee of his company earns?

People who make a lot of money think they earned it, but in truth, luck plays a much bigger role in these matters than anyone would care to admit. We say "we didn't pick our parents," but we act as if we did. If a person is born into a wealthy intact family, the chances for financial success in life are very high. If one is born in poverty, one's chances are low. Of course, there are people who fall down the socio-economic ladder, and there are people who climb up, but they are the exceptions, not the rule.

As long as we continue to believe in "The American Dream," the dream of a meritocracy, then those who are poor will continue to believe they have done something wrong, and those who have money will believe they are good, and right. Those who are poor will continue to believe that they just might make it, achieve the life of an American dreamer, and so, that carrot dangles forever in front of folks, both taunting and luring.

We need to question our basic assumptions. People like Dr. Mayberg are not anomalies. If you read her story, she sounds as if there's a good likelihood that she has some sociopathic personality traits, but the truth is, those traits are quite useful in being a financial success in America.

There's a good article in the Guardian about luck and financial success (amongst other things). Hmm. Second time this week I've linked to the Guardian. Good reporting there (and this article is a lot more coherent than I am, but of course, I'm not a professional writer, as you can probably tell).

To find out how much money different people are "worth," go here. I'll give you a taste. I would like to ask this question, "How much money does a person need?" Also, why do we still pay teachers so little? People moan about it all the time, but really, asking this question, it seems to me, is at the heart of a great deal of what's wrong with this country. Aren't our values more than a little skewed?

"Net Worth:"

Tom Cruise: $250 million
Rapper 50 Cent: Yes, he's "worth" as much as Tom Cruise. $250 million
Charlie Sheen: $35 million
Martin Sheen: $50 million
Steven Spielberg $3 billion Just give that some thought. Yes, he's a good director, but really?
Oprah Winfrey $2.7 billion Her salary is $315,00 million a year. She's a great example of someone who truly pulled herself up by her proverbial bootstraps, gives money to charity, and would probably give you some really great reasons why she, ahem, attracts wealth.
Dick Cheney $90 million

The median wage for a teacher in the United States is approximately $47-51,000 per year. The U.S. Department of Labor says, "Teachers can boost their earnings in a number of ways. In some schools, teachers receive extra pay for coaching sports and working with students in extracurricular activities. . .Some teachers earn extra income during the summer by teaching summer school or performing other jobs in the school system." I looked up how much a public school janitor makes, and this was shown in hourly wages. After a bit of math, I discovered that a janitor in the same school makes a median salary of approximately $37,000. I am not suggesting the janitor make less.

For those of you considering teaching in Maine, the average teacher with a Master's Degree earns between $22, 171 and $34, 428.

Perhaps the Department of Labor should encourage teachers and janitors who have some acting or rapping talent to look for work in those fields during their summer vacations, or they can try being a guinea pig, where they can earn $100-300 per day according to, "the world renowned information resource for research participants." Interested? Take an eligibility test, but don't bother if you're "not interested in clinical trials or invasive procedures."

Image note: Oprah's latest favorite shoes are these Julienne Leather Heels from J. Crew, and according to Oprah, "cheap" at $198. Totally unaffordable on a teacher's salary, though don't worry, I googled "Can I find a cheap substitute for J. Crew's Julienne Leather Heels?" I did expect to get a hit on this question, and the answer, is yes. Found it over at uberchicforless. Anyway, the J. Crew ones are sold out.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Human behavior is fascinating

I've been reading (read: consuming) books about the pharmaceutical industry. I find it all fascinating. Yes, human behavior is fascinating, as the title says.

I don't know why, but from an early age, I've always wanted to analyze why we act and think in certain, seemingly fairly predictable ways. If most girls liked to play with dolls, and boys with trucks, I wanted to know why that was so. I always wanted to know, "Who decided this?"

Knowing my parents had opinions and ideas that weren't typical might have something to do with my need to analyze. My parents were opposed to many things ranging from the seemingly trivial (deodorant) to that which most people would consider pretty darned important (religion).

I understood my parents' motives pretty well. What I didn't understand was the motives of everyone else.

I clearly remember one day when it was a religious holiday, standing at the door of my house, observing how quiet it was outside, and thinking to myself, "What is it that everyone else believes? How can my parents be right and the entire rest of society be wrong?"

These were good questions.

I've analyzed myself. I have always wondered why I'm like this. Know I think I  know!

So, back to the pharmaceutical companies. . .

Wait. Do I hear some of you sighing? Are some of you thinking, "When is she going to get off this topic?!" I will, I'm sure, when something more interesting comes along. My knitting is very interesting to me, but there's not much to analyze (or maybe not - I'll give it some thought).

I just read some highly interesting research. Studies have shown that disclosure of conflict of interests actually creates more bias.

The first study that noted this was published as "The Dirt on Coming Clean: Perverse Effects of Disclosing Conflicts of Interest." I've read about this on line and in a few books, and I don't think it's "perverse" in any way. It's totally logical to me.

Think about it for a moment. I'll use myself as an example, just for fun: If I'm working in a yarn store, and I recommend a yarn for a company I work for, if I say "Please keep in mind that I'm biased because I work for them," then I feel free to say whatever I want after that disclosure. If I have not disclosed that I have an interest in seeing this particular yarn sell, I'd feel uncomfortable promoting it.

Disclosure clears consciences.

I'm not suggesting that we eliminate disclosure, but we should be aware of this effect. Lawyers know that saying something that will be struck from the record is a sure fire way to get a point across. They may be simply outrageous in the courtroom, say something that they know full well they'll be admonished for, but they want the jury to hear it. Then they'll say, "I'm sorry." The judge will tell the jury not to take this bit of information into account. Not only will the jury take the "stricken" information into account, they'll probably remember it more than other things.

That's not exactly the same as disclosure, but it's similar. With disclosure, a person is in effect saying, "Don't listen to or trust what I'm telling you." If that's said, the person can now say anything, and the listener thinks they aren't being swayed. Not just this study, but many more, point to what does seem to be a paradox: the fact that the more someone thinks they are unswayable, the more easily that person can be manipulated. A con artist can con a person who thinks they're smart, or un-connable very easily.

This post has been all over the map. I'll end with this thought. Our society, and capitalism, is one big con. Con artists, in my opinion, are perhaps simply more honest versions of the rest of us. They know they're criminals. A big CEO, or a rich doctor may be quite self-deluded, and think that they're performing great public services (and indeed, they might be doing so), but unlike the con artist, they're not only conning others but they're conning themselves.

How often have you done something in your life, that in retrospect, you said, "Wow. How did ever I believe that was okay?"

Image note: The "crew," the most likable con artists you'll ever (not) meet. Never seen Hustle? It's a heck of a lot of fun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stuff one ought to know (part 1)

I just spent too much time writing (but not finishing) a blog post. Then I got up, did some chores, and re-thought the whole concept of "stuff one ought to know."

It's come to my attention, in a fairly dramatic way, that even if a person is given information about the pros and cons of medication or treatment, they are unable to make an informed decision, because they do not understand the information they are given.

Recently I gave the Zoloft  official FDA-approved prescribing information to someone. I didn't go to medical school, so I can't understand all of the science and language, but I understand it well enough to decode it. When I was young, if you got a prescription for a month's supply of medication, it would still be in the drug company box and bottle, along with this information. I always read the entire thing. At some point, pharmacies started putting medication into their own bottles all the time, and one had to ask for the prescribing information. Pharmacies also started to dispense "consumer information" with all prescriptions. Though nothing on these hand outs is blatantly untrue, it is a careful selection of information about the medication. If one asks for the FDA prescribing insert, most pharmacies will not give it to you. They say things like, "We only get one of these for each drug," or even "we're not allowed to give that to consumers." Both statements are not true. Yes, they are obligated to tell consumers what the possible side effects are, and any other pertinent warnings, but there's so much information left out that's it's simply ridiculous. I've heard both doctors and pharmacists say not just that this is "too difficult" for non-pharmacists to read, but also that it is "too scary for patients."

Pharmacies do only get one insert for each bottle of medication, but that doesn't mean they only have one, nor do they need it. They have the same information on the computer and in the Physician's Desk Reference or the dumbed down PDR for Pharmacists.

What people don't realize is that the consumer information is what the drug companies want consumers to know. What I didn't know until today is that the PDR is a commercial publication. Huh. I've read and known about it for my entire adult life, and I did not know this. Yet more "stuff one ought to know."

I've always encouraged people to read the FDA prescribing inserts, and I do tell people they are hard to understand, but that they should at least try. Recently, I realized just how difficult my well intentioned advice is to follow.

For instance, though I think that everyone knows what an SSRI is, this is not so. They made have heard the acronym, but they don't know what it means. If one looks up Zoloft on the Web, and they go to MedicineNet, for example, they will read a little bit about SSRIs, how they work, and what it is that they do for depression. It is stated, "it is believed that some illnesses such as depression are caused by disturbances in the balance bewteen serotonin and other neurotransmitters. The leading theory is that drugs such as sertraline restore the chemical balance among neurotransmitters in the brain. The FDA approved sertraline in December 1991."

This is a confusing piece of information. The two sentences that precede when the FDA approved Zoloft both state that it is theoretical connection between serotonin, neurotransmitters, and depression, but wording makes it unclear, especially in context. The first sentence begins with "It is believed," and the second with "the leading theory is. . ." The logical assumption that most people would make is that the FDA approves of the theory in addition to the medication. This is not so.

I got a far afield of my original intent, which was simply to start providing simple information. I suppose I wanted to explain myself first.

Now, I forget what particular term I wanted to explain! Ah well.

I suppose the fact that there is no proven link between low serotonin levels and depression is a good enough piece of information that falls under the category "stuff one should know." You can read an accessible article about this here. What's interesting to me is that in spite of the fact that there's much evidence that there's different reasons that anti-depressants (sometimes) work, the "low serotonin" theory is still believed and being pushed on every public health website and consumer educational hand out. Is that because it's easier to understand, and therefore can sell drugs better? I'm not sure.

Perhaps it's because the doctors and the drug companies would prefer that "health care consumers" continue to think of researchers and doctors as smart, infallible people who don't make huge mistakes in judgment. I'll continue to blog about just how that isn't true, and I'll continue to tell you stuff I have felt I ought to know. . .

Maybe stuff one ought to know should merely be "definitions of the day." I assume people know what a neurotransmitter is. I'll give you the Wikipedia entry link, but I started to read it, and realize right away that it's probably indecipherable to most. The first sentence says that neurotransmitters are endogenous chemicals. That the heck is that? Well, one can't click on the words "endogenous chemicals" as a concept; one is directed to the pages for endogeny and chemistry. Most people would give up right there. I'm confused, and I happen to know what an endogenous chemical is, or at least I think I do. It's a chemical naturally produced by the body.

Image note: This cool looking image, is found on WebMD's depression overview slideshow. It says, "Doctors aren't sure what causes depression. . ." Good! Some honesty! ". . .but a prominent theory is altered brain structure and chemical function. Chemicals called neurotransmitters become unbalanced." Along with this image, described as "illustrated here are neurons (nerve cells) in the brain communicating via neurotransmitters," most people would get the impression this is more than a theory, and that this is a photograph. 

One has to learn to read very, very closely. Not even well meaning, well educated physicians read that closely, as much as we would like to believe that they do.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

In which I admit many mistaken assumptions

I had always thought that NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) was a good organization, or, at least, a benign one. I had thought that it was the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which makes it sound like an advocacy group for those labeled with mental illness. I had believed that it was a group designed by those who were labeled with mental illness, for those labeled with mental illness. In other words, an advocacy group. What could be wrong with that?

As it turns out, plenty.

First off, I just tried to figure out if it was ever called what I had thought is was, and yes, it was founded as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1979. You may think "what's the difference?" There is a world of difference.

The name now infers authority, not advocacy. 

I have not been able to find out when they changed their name. You'd think this would be a simple piece of information to acquire. Wikipedia doesn't help in this regard. The NAMI entry is short, and at the top of the page, it has the warning that "bad entries" have; a large exclamation mark in a box, and reasons for it being tagged with such. In this case, it has been tagged with "It is written like an advertisement and needs to be rewritten from a more neutral point of view," and the more common, "It needs more references or sources for verification." This is a huge organization. The fact that it has had these tags since 2008 says something, but what, I'm not sure.

In spite of being "written like an advertisement," there is some information on the multiple investigations into the fact that NAMI is funded by pharmaceutical companies. Here is a link to a New York Times article about the alliance between drug companies and mental health "advocacy" groups.

On the NAMI website, if you visit the "About Research" page, you'll see very little. It says "NAMI's Scientific Council," and under that, you'll read "NAMI is currently updating the list of members of the Scientific Council. Please stay tuned for a new listing coming soon!" I do wonder how long this page has been essentially blank, and how long it will stay that way.

NAMI's mission is to fight stigma with education. Sounds good, no? However, their idea of education is to promulgate the theory that mental illness is a physical disease ("just like diabetes"!). Anyone who questions this or provides evidence of helping modalities that are not based on the disease model are, in their view, helping to perpetuate stigma.

I had wondered, in the past, why it seemed that non-drug modalities were so frowned upon by helping professionals and advocacy organizations. They seemed to be fine as adjuncts to drug treatment, but if you want to find out about programs like Soteria, Open Dialogue, and the Seneca House on the NAMI website, for instance, you'll be out of luck.

If a family found out that newly diagnosed schizophrenic son or daughter had a 67% chance of not having a relapse, and would probably be either in school or at work five years post first hospitalization, don't you think that would give them hope? If they were told that after three years, only 8% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia would be re-hospitalized, wouldn't these families feel relieved? This is what the statistics from the Open Dialogue program in Finland show, and yet there is nary a mention of it on the NAMI website. 

I had always thought that schizophrenia was a chronic and lifelong illness. I have, mistakenly, believed it was the only psychiatric "illness" that been proven to be a "real disease." This is not so. For helping promulgate this myth, I am sorry.

The numbers above? They are the statistics for those who have had their first psychotic episode, diagnosed with schizophrenia, and who have not taken neuroleptic drugs.

What are the numbers for those on neuroleptics? 73% have been re-hospitalized at the three-year mark. That is a statistic that would instill fear and hopelessness in anyone. NAMI claims they are "dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness," yet the modalities (and statistics that go with them) that would give these individuals and families the most hope are not mentioned on their website. For more statistics and information about schizophrenia that you will not find through NAMI, go here and here. For hope and true advocacy for all mental health issues, visit Mind Freedom International.

If one reads their mission statement carefully, one can get a glimpse into their true philosophy: "NAMI's support and public education efforts are focused on educating America about mental illness, offering resources to those in need, and insisting that mental illness become a high national priority. Mental illness is a serious medical illness that affects one in four families. No one is to blame. Treatment works, but only half of people living with mental illness receive treatment.  NAMI has engaged in a variety of activities to create awareness about mental illness and promote the promise of recovery. (italics mine)" 

NAMI's primary purpose is to get people into treatment for their illness. This means medication.

When I first their Schizophrenia Research page, I was about to applaud them for admitting that something other than medication may be helpful. Under the absurdly named "Family Psycho Education" heading (I kid you not), is information about the efficacy of their 12 week "Family-to-Family" program. One doesn't need a study to prove that having supportive family and friends might be of some value when one has any illness. 

But, leaving that aside, read this carefully (and again, italics are mine):
"Taking medication is not, and should not be the only way a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia is treated. Education and social support are also critical to recovery. However, support is not only crucial for the individual living with schizophrenia; the family and loved ones of this individual sometimes need support as well. A recent study published looked at the helpfulness of enrolling in NAMI's Family-to-Family Program, an evidence-based practice. At the conclusion of the 12-week program, participants demonstrated greater feelings of empowerment and reduced displeasure and worry about the family member who live[s] with mental illness."

This isn't about the person with schizophrenia. It's about making sure their family is more comfortable. Silly me.

Of course, they don't need medication. They're normal! They will benefit just fine from a support program.

The schizophrenics? Drug 'em. If they don't want the drugs, put them in the hospital against their will, and forcibly give it to them.

Think I'm starting to sound over the top? Nope. E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., a psychiatrist, had been an active advisor to NAMI. He is one of the founders of the Treatment Advocacy Center. You can read about him on his organization's website. He practically sounds like a saint; he's been in the Peace Corps, won commendation medals from the U.S. Public Health Service, and NAMI itself gave him a Special Families Award in 1984, and even had a tribute to him in 2005. NARSAD (National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression) gave him a humanitarian award.

NARSAD? Oh, this gets complicated! NARSAD is another "advocacy" organization. It has changed its name, too, though their website is still On their "about us" page, it says, "The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD. . .), is committed to alleviating the suffering of mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research."

Before I go to far afield, let's get back to E. Fuller Torrey. This saintly sounding psychiatrist is more accurately the stuff of a schizophrenic's paranoid delusion. You can read a short biography of him on Biographicon. Dr. Torrey's life mission, it seems, is the involuntary commitment and drugging of those with "severe mental illness." Don't just take my word for it. There's plenty of documentation about this. 

No, it's not a paranoid delusion, though it surely sounds like one.

For a humorous presentation of all this material, check out Nami Dearest.

I may have not made my point, and I'm tired, though I now realize I did not get around to this: Though the NAMI Scientific Council page is suspiciously empty, and they've publicly distanced themselves from E. Fuller Torrey recently, the two public research institutions that they link to on their "Advances in Research" webpage are NARSAD and the Stanley Medical Research Institute. SMRI's home page states that they are the supporting organization for the Treatment Advocacy Center, "dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe psychiatric disorders. TAC promotes laws, policies, and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.(italics mine)"

Who's the executive director of SMRI? E. Fuller Torrey.

I think I've just encountered the devil. Now, that sounds a bit paranoid. I did say I was tired, didn't I?

Truth is, the devil appears to be the parent or sibling of a person who is schizophrenic, or so it seems. Every one of these organizations I've mentioned, and the ones I have encountered, but have not named in this post, have been founded by people who have "loved ones" who are severely mentally ill. These caring people desperately want to found out what the cause and treatment of mental illness is. It appears that they want an answer, and that answer does not include any indictment of the family. Psychological answers are not on their agenda. I have not mentioned that all these organizations are funded by the pharmaceutical companies. That piece of information seems more than obvious. The pharmaceutical companies just love these organizations.

E. Fuller Torrey, founder of TAC: Sister, schizophrenic.
Constance Lieber, founder of NARSAD: Daughter, schizophrenic.
Harriet Shetler, co-founder of NAMI: Son, schizophrenic.
Beverly Young, co-founder of NAMI: Son, schizophrenic.
Almost every NAMI state affiliate website's "about us" page proudly tells the story of how a parent/parents of a schizophrenic founded the local group.

Additionally, two of the largest health care philanthropic groups, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, have ties to for-profit healthcare concerns. Robert Wood Johnson II founded the Johnson & Johnson company, and Kaiser Permanente is a managed care consortium. Both these foundations are also the two largest named private funders of NAMI.

These examples are but a few of the many. When I watch or listen to a program on "public" TV or radio and hear that a program was sponsored by an organization or foundation, like most people, I assume that it is a benign or "good" entity. That is why these foundations sponsor the programs. The programs, in turn, are biased, but we do not see the bias. I had not seen the bias of NAMI. I had not seen the bias of any of PBS' programming on mental health issues. I'll write about these in-depth at a later date. I've written more than enough this evening.

Image Note: Hieronymus Bosch, "The Extraction of the Stone of Madness or the Cure of Folly," c. 1484. Fun little link - click it!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lyrical observation

The other day I heard the song Penny Lane on the radio. It's one of those songs I've heard many times, but don't really know the lyrics to. This time, I heard the words, "Four of fish and finger pies" clearly, and though I haven't any idea what it really means, in the past what I heard was "for a pishandpinger pie." Hey, the Beatles' lyrics were always inscrutable, supposedly filled with hidden meanings, and frankly, I never cared a whit about them, but when I heard the words "fish and finger pie," I realized that there must have been many lyrics I had heard which I couldn't have understood. When I was a little kid, I didn't know British slang, nor did I know anything about British food.

Giving it some thought, I realized that there is no such thing as a "fish and finger pie." What does it mean? Ah, "four of fish," is British slang for four pennies worth of fish, and "finger pie" is slang for teenaged sexual fumbling. So, it's a cute little play on words. 

I googled "inscrutable 60's lyrics" and found that Louie Louie is #1 with a bullet. I've heard so many covers of this song, all of them lyrically absurd, but when I just gave the Kingsmen's original song a listen, I can understand why it got the most hits. Here's what I just heard, and have remembered:

Louie Louie oh baby the way I go
Louie Louie oh baby the way I go

My little girl is waiting for me
Ketchup Jim is fantasy
Say I dream about all alone
And never now I wait at home. . .

For nights and nights I say you see
Make up girl a fantasy
My arms my tail my dreams be there
My girls a roll are in her hair. . .

Sig a maker the moon above
A perfect long a baby love
I'll shake her hand her arm again
I love her eyes I believe amen

That's with listening. If I think about it, here's what happens:

 "Louie Louie, oh baby, the I go. 
Louie Louie oh baby the way I go. ."

Louie Louie oh baby the way I go now

yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

Louie Louie Oh baby the way I go 

Nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh 
nyeh nyah nyeh nyeh

Nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh
The fantasy.
I make or break her
My arms you see

Louie Louie oh baby the way I go" 

Etcetera. I really haven't a clue, and can't remember anything except, "Louie Louie Oh Baby The Way I Go."

What do you hear? No cheating! Do not read below the video.

What I've discovered, is that if I read the lyrics of a song, I can then hear the right words (though with this song, it's still a stretch).

Amazingly, according to the "official" lyrics, it isn't even "the way I go."

Here they are:

"Louie Louie, oh no
 Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go

Fine little girl waits for me
Catch a ship across the sea
Sail that shit about, all alone
Never know if I make it home.

Three nights and days I sail the sea
Think of girl, constantly
On that ship, I dream she's there
I smell the rose in her hair.

Okay let's give it 'em right now!

See Jamaica, the moon above
It won't be long, me see me love
Take her in my arms again
Tell her I'll never leave again.

Let's take it on outta here now
Let's go!"

I had written a completely different post earlier today, and accidentally deleted it. In that post, I analyze some Rolling Stones and Slipknot lyrics. Well, I'll leave that to another day. It was an even longer, and more complex post.

Yes, even listening to light music on the radio spurs long tangential thoughts. That's just the way I am. Uh huh. I like it.

That's the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it. Duh duh duh duh duh. Louie louie, oh baby, the way I go. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.