A few weeks ago, I was in New York City to meet someone for drinks, and got on the subway at 34th and 7th to head downtown. I dislike the New York subway for many reasons. It is the only such system in a major Western city to look as if it had been swapped with the metro of a third-world backwater. Pick any otherwise dodgy country on Earth, and chances are the subway of its capital city is a gleaming tube with smooth rolling stock and palatial stations. Not New York. The trains lurch between filthy platforms like winos stumbling to and from tenement doorsteps.
It is also a place in which I am continually confronted with the human condition. Sometimes it takes the form of rudeness; other times, drunkenness. On this particular day, it was poverty. Immediately after the doors closed, a disheveled man entered the car at the far end, battered cap in hand, and made the following announcement to us passengers:
“Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention for one moment, please,” he said loudly. “I don’t want to bother you, but I am a homeless veteran. If you could spare some money, I would greatly appreciate it.”
The Introduction to Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge: Starting Down the Yellow Brick Road…
Part 1: The Mask of Marxism
Part 3: Who Needs a Brain?
Part 4: Are Conservatives Cowards?
“The August 1991 coup in Moscow collapsed three days after it had started, providing the ultimate, ironic proof that nothing, not even a coup, could succeed any more in a society whose vital arteries had been calcified by 70 years of disinformation and dismal feudalism. The main loser was the Communist Party.”
– Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
Both the Democrat and Republican parties have been disinformed by Marxism. The Liberal wing of the Democrat Party has been duped into putting their faith in Marxism’s many forms (socialism, economic determinism, progressivism), while the Republican Party has legitimized Marxism as a form of party politics instead of a murderous, atheistic religion that empowers despots. The Conservative movement, by and large, is slow to recognize Marxism’s true nature, because we are a nation that has been drugged by Disinformation. Pacepa continues:
At the end of the 2001 summit meeting held in Slovenia, President George W. Bush said: “I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” Unfortunately, even President Bush was deceived by disinformation. Putin consolidated Russia into an intelligence dictatorship, not a democracy. During the Cold War, the KGB was a state within a state. Under Putin, the KGB, rechristened the FSB, is the state. Three years after Putin enthroned himself in the Kremlin, some 6,000 former officers of the KGB—that organization responsible for having slaughtered at least 20 million people in the Soviet Union alone—were running Russia’s federal and local governments.
…Is it too far-fetched to suggest that this new Russia calls up the hypothetical image of a postwar Germany being run by former Gestapo officers, who reinstate Hitler’s “Deutschland Über Alles” as national anthem, call the demise of Nazi Germany a “national tragedy on an enormous scale,” and invade a neighboring country, perhaps Poland, the way Hitler set off World War II?
That is the secret power of disinformation.
Pacepa share these thoughts with me mere weeks before the Ukranian revolution and secession of the Crimea to Putin’s Russia. Disinformation is wielding its power on the American homefront as well. In his critique of Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, David Brooks embraces Piketty’s idea of a tax on the wealthy’s investment capital in order to create intellectual equality among the classes:
Think of how much more affordable fine art would be. Think of how much more equal the upper class would be.
His musings aren’t that far off from those of Russian intellectuals, who are “making do” with their government’s clampdown on free media and the right to protest. In exchange for their rights, these Russians whose intellectual arteries have been “calcified by disinformation” are being doted upon by their increasingly despotic government:
All sorts of entertainment is being lavished on Russia’s hipsters. Their favorite public parks have splashy, beautifully designed restaurants and clubs, comfortable biking areas and luxurious places to chill. Sanctions or not, Fedoseyev’s friends can still dine out at restaurants full of expats, take shopping trips to Milan, or buy their electronic gadgets online. Fashion Week this weekend was another party blooming with charming models and celebrities; the usual hipsters clubs, Solianka, Simachev, Oldich Dress and Drink or Strelka, felt as cuddly and crowded as ever.
To paraphrase Brooks, it would seem that the fine art is quite affordable in Russia these days. Like junkies seeking a quick fix, Russian intellectuals pursue disinformation at the expense of their freedom. Is Brooks suggesting we do the same, or have we already succumbed to the addiction? In either case, what we need to know now is: What is the antidote to disinformation?
Nearly half a century ago, in 1965, the Rolling Stones wrote a song called Mother’s Little Helper. The words went:
Kids are different today, I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill, there’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day…
And if you take more of those
You will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way
Through your busy dying day…
The pill was valium (diazepam) and the yellow pill was 5 milligrams – as it still is. White is 2 milligrams and blue is 10.
The song was not great poetry, perhaps, but for pop music it was prescient pharmacovigilance, the epidemiological study of the adverse effects of drugs: though strictly speaking overdoses of diazepam are not dangerous. Many thousands of people have taken overdoses of diazepam in attempts to kill themselves with it, but few have succeeded unless they took something else with it.
However, it has long been known that diazepam and other similar drugs cause falls in the elderly, and such falls are often the precursor of death. It has also been suspected that, by some unspecified mechanism, diazepam (and sleeping draughts of all kinds) promote death.
A paper in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal compares the death rates of primary care patients who were prescribed diazepam-like medicines and hypnotics with those who never were prescribed them more than once (they excluded patients who had been prescribed them only once because it was possible that they had never taken them, which was unlikely if they were prescribed them twice). The authors compared the records of 37,000 of the former with 63,000 of the latter. They attempted to match them for such variables as age, social class, sex, and medical and psychiatric history. They followed the patients for an average of 7.6 years.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Theodore Dalrymple has been contributing thoughtful pieces on medicine, culture, and politics to PJ Media for a number of years. This is the beginning of an attempt to collect and organize some of his writings on similar subjects. Here is an assortment of 10 articles weighing in on perpetual medical controversies.
The problem with banks, say their critics, is that they privatize their profits but nationalize their debts. But this is perfectly normal behaviour for human beings: did not Bastiat say that the state is the means by which everyone seeks to live at everyone else’s expense? How many people seek the freedom to behave as they wish while expecting others to pay for the adverse consequences? Moral hazard has become our way of life.
An article in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association advocates the distribution of a drug called naloxone to heroin and opioid addicts. Thousands of such addicts die of overdoses of these drugs each year in America, and naloxone is an effective antidote to them that reverses their effect. More than half of the 38,000 deaths from overdose in the United States are from prescription drugs, and 16,000 of them from prescribed opioids, more than from illegal heroin.
The article cites evidence from Wilkes County in North Carolina (the county with the third highest rate of deaths from opioid overdose in the country) that the distribution of naloxone to addicts has almost halved the death rate from overdose. Not all those whose lives were saved were either prescribed opioids by pain clinics or addicted to street heroin: they were foolish friends or acquaintances of either of these types of people who had been induced to try their drugs.
What is completely lacking in this article is any wider perspective. The people who pay for the naloxone are often not the people taking heroin or opioids; one might have supposed that those who can afford street heroin, at the very least, could also afford to buy their own naloxone. If they do not care enough for their own safety to do so, it can be argued that no one else should care – unless, of course, they are deemed, like Ophelia, to be “incapable of their own distress.” But if so, why should they be left free to take the heroin in the first place? In other words, like bankers, addicts want to be free to indulge in their own excess but want someone else to pick up the pieces when the excess leads to a smash.
USA Today: Obama: Pot no more dangerous than alcohol
President Obama says marijuana use is no more dangerous than alcohol, though he regards it as a bad habit he hopes his children will avoid.
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” he said in a magazine interview. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
He said marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”
“It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,” he said.
Obama made his remarks in a series of interviews with The New Yorker, which published a story about the conversations in its Jan. 27 issue and on its website.
Marijuana remains illegal to possess or sell under federal law, although Colorado and Washington have adopted state laws making it legal to possess and use small amounts. A number of states have decriminalized the weed and authorized it for medical uses.
Obama said he was troubled by the disproportionate arrests and imprisonment of minorities on marijuana charges.
“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.
Bridget Johnson at the PJ Tatler: Obama Praises CVS for Pulling All Tobacco Products from Its Shelves
Drugstore chain CVS got a shout out from President Obama after announcing this morning that it would stop selling tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores across the country.
“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO, CVS Caremark. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”
“As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners. The significant action we’re taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace,” Merlo added.
CNN: How heroin kills you
The autopsy results aren’t in yet, but police believe heroin played a role in the death of Academy Award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman — if not the primary role.
Using heroin can kill you, but it may not be in the way you think. If Hoffman did die from using heroin, his death was atypical in some aspects. Here’s how heroin kills.
Most people die from heroin overdoses when their bodiesforget to breathe.
“Heroin makes someone calm and a little bit sleepy, but if you take too much then you can fall asleep, and when you are asleep your respiratory drive shuts down,” said Dr. Karen Drexler, director of the addiction psychiatry residency training program and an associate professor in Emory University’s psychiatry and behavioral sciences department.
“Usually when you are sleeping, your body naturally remembers to breathe. In the case of a heroin overdose, you fall asleep and essentially your body forgets.”
I live in Boulder County, Colorado, the genesis of the marijuana legalization movement in my state. The students at the University of Colorado in Boulder hold an annual illegal celebration called 420. Every year on April 20 students cover the campus lawns and smoke marijuana. There are other rallies, but this is one of the most famous.
Our home has a lovely view over the Boulder valley, and last spring when I pointed out a low-lying fog bank in the early morning my youngest son joked: “I think that’s the pot haze from Boulder, Mom.”
Colorado, a state previously known for fresh air, active lifestyles and beautiful mountains, is now the Pothead state. Thanks, marijuana activists.
On the other hand, we can now get to the important part of pot legalization: Getting users into rehab and getting them clean. This attitude does not endear me to libertarian types and marijuana users, who consider pot a harmless drug. Here’s a sample of headlines from marijuana activists in their joy at achieving recreational pot legalization in Colorado:
“It’s a plant, it’s harmless, and now anyone over 21 can buy it if they want to. Beautiful.” (A quote from pot shop owner Amy Reynolds.)
Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado On First Day of Legalization (A joke column from the Daily Currant).
Here Are All The People Who Have Died From A Marijuana Overdose (The article shows a .gif of playing pandas, because no one has died from a marijuana overdose. Hilarious!)
The lie of marijuana as a harmless drug must be fought strongly, ferociously, and with every tool at our disposal. Join me if you drive a car on the highway, if you ever get on an aircraft, or if you have children. Marijuana is an addicting drug that stupefies the brain, stays in the human system for days, and puts anyone around an addict at risk.
October 4th, 2013, will forever be known as the day I fell into a giant porn hole. Imagine my surprise when I took my children for an outing with a friend to the Orland Park Public Library to look at books, surf the web and just have a relaxing afternoon. Instead I discovered an adult “masturbation lounge” lurking within a few hundred feet of the unsuspecting teen area.
I would like to briefly note that none of this would have happened if the librarian who rudely chased me out of the children’s area (like an angry ghost haunting the stacks) would have just let me use a computer there like I had very nicely asked. I would have never known about the library’s terrible porn policy (they don’t have one) or about the numerous sex crimes that have occurred there (many, going back years and years). They could have continued catering to pedophiles completely
unmolested carefree, but for the rudeness of a single employee, who will be forever be known as Kathy the Library Poltergeist. I would like to take a moment to formally thank this harridan on the taxpayer payroll. Without her this story would still remain buried in the sticky recesses of the Orland Park Public Library’s “masturbation lounge.”
Instead of being able to use a computer in the children’s area with my children, I was ordered upstairs to the adult computer area with my children (whom I did not take with me on instinct and left instead with my friend in the more appropriate children’s area). When I saw the oiled breasts on the computer screen of Drooling Mouth-Breather (as he will forever be known), I took my eyewitness account to the front desk. Instead of being handed an “incident report” to fill out (that I later discovered are kept in giant overflowing envelopes) I was told, “We have a lot of those,” referring to sex-crazed porn addicts.
Have a nice day!
This launched what is now going on a month-long investigation that has revealed some extremely disturbing and possibly criminal activity going on at the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL), paid for by the taxpayers of Illinois.
As I hurried my children out of that den of iniquity, I was already planning a letter of complaint to the village, the library board, the library director, and anyone else I could interest in my horrifying experience. I fired off the missive to every email address I could find. I followed that up with a Freedom of Information Act request for complaints against the library, police reports involving sex offenders, library policies on porn, internet policies, and anything else I could think of to help explain this bizarre and dangerous situation where a building full of children (many of them unsupervised after school) could also be a place where pornography addicts go to get a fix.
The Orland Park Police Department was the only department that responded to my FOIA request in a timely manner. Neither the library board nor the library director, Mary K. Weimar (email@example.com), has responded to my letter of concern to this day.
The police reports that came back were terrifying but not surprising. The Orland Park Public Library has been for many years a haven for sex offenders who feel very comfortable exposing themselves to women and children and masturbating in public in the library.
Worse, the library’s internal reports show that there have been at least four instances of sex crimes committed in the library and library staff chose not to call the police. In fact, in two instances they sided with the offender instead of believing witnesses. One of these reports involved a man allegedly viewing child pornography. There were two witnesses and library staff chose not to call the police.
Because of other bad library policies, the computer histories delete automatically when the computers are turned off. Thus, the evidence was lost forever. And if they had found the illegal activity, they would not have been able to trace it to a specific user since there are no requirements to show an ID or a library card in order to get an anonymous login number where no one will ever know what you do. (Psssst… al-Qaeda! Orland Park Public Library is the perfect place to plot your next attack! Not even the NSA can figure out who you are!)
My colleague Kevin DuJan (who was with me that day) and I scheduled an opportunity to speak about what we witnessed at the next library board meeting. The library held all the requested documents until the day of the meeting so I wasn’t able to read all the incident reports and speak about them at that meeting (and that’s fine. They don’t know yet that I’m coming to the next one). We were met with open hostility and stony silence.
If you ever try to petition your local government for redress (which appears, conveniently, in the Constitution as your right, despite the opinion of OPPL’s terribly uneducated attorney, Jim Fessler, who thinks I have no right to demand answers from this august board), this is how they will act. Be warned. The upside is it’s really fun to watch them make mistake after mistake (on camera) and wind up in a public-relations nightmare. Imagine if the supervisor on staff on October 4th had taken the time to actually address my complaint instead of setting up the wall of silence and pretending that they are untouchable, unquestionable gods reigning high above the huddled masses that deserve nothing but disdain. All that did for them is put them on the side of sex offenders.
For your viewing pleasure, I submit to you my great adventure in front of the OPPL Board of Trustees. Pay close attention to the derision and sneering hurled at me at every opportunity. And stay tuned for much, much more in the coming days and weeks. I have barely scratched the surface of this cesspit.
The study by students at Connecticut College found that when the rats ate Oreos they formed an equally strong association with the cookies as when other rats were injected with cocaine or morphine.
Additionally, researchers found eating the cookies activated even more neurons in the rats’ brain “pleasure centers” than the addictive drugs.
The students hope to springboard off this research to help discover why people have difficulty resisting foods that they know are harmful.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” Neuroscience Professor Joseph Schroeder said in a school press release. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
“Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/ high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability,” [researcher] Jamie Honohun said.
The researchers were unable to determine if the cookie or the cream were more responsible for the stimulative effects of Oreos, they did learn something fascinating.
On a lighter note, Honohun says they also got a surprise when watching the rats eat the Oreos.
“They would break it open and eat the middle first,” she said.
Seriously, it’s a little weird to be writing my 13 Weeks column and not have much of anything to complain about.
I just got back from taking a friend out for her birthday. We ate at Jax’s new seafood restaurant in Glendale (Colorado, “Godless Glendale”, the little enclave inside Denver with slightly more liberal rules for bars and restaurants. And stripper joints but we didn’t go to a stripper joint.) I had a frutte de mare salad, octopus and squid and clams and mussels in a vinaigrette, then an iceberg wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese, and a piece of monkfish sautéd with duck fat on a bed of a little bit of risotto with wild mushrooms and sautéd spinach and some nice chicharrones as a garnish.
Tasted great, and dinner only cost as much as a week’s groceries. But you’ve got to splurge every so often, and as a high-fat low-carb meal it was pretty much exemplary. I seriously do recommend the restaurant, although they seem to have a little bit of organizational trouble due to the weather getting cold enough they had to close their outdoor seating. But it is mid-October in Colorado, you have to figure it would get a little chilly. (In fact the first ski resorts are about to open.)
I took my blood sugar just now, about an hour after dinner, and it’s 91. Morning blood sugar has been good too. My weight has bounced up a little this week, but “bounced up” from 264 means it’s more like my lows from a couple weeks ago.
And I feel good. That last 5 pounds seems to have made as much, or more, difference as the preceding 30. I feel somehow skinny. I’ve had people — like a barber I hadn’t seen in a while — comment on how much weight I’d lost.
My mood is better. People who have depression will tell you, it’s not just a bad mood or feeling sad — it’s more like all that and a mild case of flu, body aches and all, along with a foggy, thick-headed feeling. And, well, I’m not feeling that.
Of course, the question is “why?” And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that one or two or three weeks is too little to judge. But there are some things I’ve been doing.
I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it, but I felt like you should know.
I put beans in a pot of chili yesterday.
Here’s my chili recipe, which is the one and only true authentic chili recipe (just like everyone else’s).
- 2 lbs meat (stew beef, ground beef, beef, elk, moose, elk, venison, bear, elk, jackrabbit, or even God help us lamb or mutton. Jackalope is excellent, but be careful, those things are vicious. Save pork, javelina, and your obnoxious neighbor kid for green chili.)
- 2 chopped onions. Big ones, why mess with a medium onion?
- How much garlic you got? Throw it in, smashed or chopped. 6-7 cloves at least.
- 1 Tsp lard
Now, there’s a place where I go slightly astray because I can’t find good lard. Real lard is quite soft; most store lard is somewhat hydrogenated, which makes it more solid and stable, but hydrogenated fats include a lot of trans-fats, which seem to be associated with health problems. I’m not ambitious enough to buy and render pork scraps, and I don’t know of anywhere to get leaf lard, so I use olive oil or canola oil.
Soften the onions and garlic in the lard in a heavy pot or a dutch oven. Add the meat, and let it brown a bit. If you let the onions brown, it adds some interesting flavors but it gets too sweet for my taste. Now add:
- One package Fernandez Brothers Prepared Chili Powder.
Yes, I could make my own, but why? Fernandez Brothers’, from my home town of Alamosa Colorado, is the Platonic Ideal of all chili powders. They’ll mail order. (719) 589-6043. They’ve got pretty much anything else you need to cook Mexican food too.
- 1 Tsp (heavy) Mexican Oregano
Stir them up, coating everything with the Red Food Of The Gods. Add:
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
and lots of water. Doesn’t hurt to put a bottle of beer in the chili as well. Or in the cook.
Stir until reasonably smooth and well-blended, and then simmer low until everything is nicely combined and the meat is tender — anything from a half hour for ground beef to 3 days for the jackalope. Stir it fairly often if on the stove, as it gets thick and can tend to stick. Or put it in the oven at 225°F for a couple hours.
The magnificent Theodore Dalrymple, writing in The Telegraph about David Cameron’s back pain (and yes, you should read the whole thing), starts by empathizing,
As an occasional sufferer from lower back pain, I sympathise deeply with David Cameron, whose lumbago currently prevents him from pursuing deer on Jura. A bad back is an utter misery: there is no position that one can adopt for long that remains comfortable. It is like a nagging spouse: it demands attention and cannot be ignored.
But soon transcends that, going into an area often, justly, feared by modern medicine:
Regarding myself as psychologically robust rather than fragile, I was once rather humiliated to discover that my bouts of back pain had a considerable, not to say overwhelming, psychological component. I was in India, and due to return home in a few days, when I was stricken by severe pain that made it almost impossible to walk. There was concurrently a problem with my ticket, but I did not connect the two. The ticket had disappeared into the maw of the airline office (no internet then).
As someone who suffers from both eczema and asthma, I’m often reminded that very real ills of the physical body can come from stress or other emotional states. So why do I say that area is justly feared?
Because there is a great temptation to consider ills as psychological if the symptoms are baffling. A doctor once attempted to diagnose an infection I was suffering from as depression because of certain baffling symptoms. So this type of illness needs to be approached with care.
But does it happen? That is undeniable. Doctor Dalrymple mentions that many world leaders have become addicted to pain pills and other substances while trying to treat vaguely defined “somatized” complaints. Men under great stress show it in their bodies.Nothing to be surprised at. As Dalrymple says
In a giant textbook from 1917 entitled Malingering, dedicated (ironically?) to the author of the National Insurance Act, Lloyd George, we read: “Our views as to the nature of [backache] sadly lack precision, and up to now the condition has not been correlated with any anatomical lesion… It is easy to complain of ‘pain in the back’, difficult to establish the truth of the assertion – a fact of which the fraudulent-minded are well aware.” To this day private detectives are probably better at discerning the truth than radiographers.
Between anatomical lesion and fraud, however, there is a large no-man’s land, probably inhabited by Mr Cameron – and by me. Perhaps also he suffers from that well-known phenomenon, illness that comes on when busy people relax. They have had no time to be ill before.
I know that I, personally, get end-of-novel flu, something that is well known in the writing community. When I let go I get ill. Now think of the myriad situations in which this could affect world leaders, and you’ll see the need for better understanding emotional conditions that manifest on your body.
The study had sixty people with an average age of 73 and no signs of dementia drink two cups of cocoa a day and measured changes in the blood flow to their brains.
Their findings: Eighteen of the 60 test subjects who had impaired blood flow to their brains at the beginning of the study experienced an 8.3 percent improvement by test’s end. Those with normal blood flow at the outset of the experiment did not see any improved blood flow.
Yes, I know there have been problems with some of these studies in the past, and the methodology isn’t always right, but come on! With people living longer and longer, dementia has become the specter that haunts us all and that – if we live long enough – will come for almost every one of us.
My grandmother used to say “May G-d give me my wits to the hour of my death.”
If hot cocoa improves my chances of that prayer coming true, I know what I’ll be doing. Of course, due to the low-carb lifestyle, I’m restricted to no sugar cocoa, but I don’t let that stop me!
I know that a cup of cocoa once a week or so keeps my mood up, but now I’ll have to increase the intake to keep my memory up.
Two cups of cocoa a day. It’s medicinal!
image courtesy shutterstock / Alliance
The Del Close Marathon is the Coachella of comedy.
The 15th annual blend of performance and partying recently wrapped after 56 consecutive hours of long-form improv on seven stages:
UCB founders and Close disciples Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Ian Roberts (Arrested Development), Matt Walsh (Veep) and Matt Besser launched the Marathon 15 years ago to honor the memory of [Del] Close, a comic and teacher widely regarded as the father of long-form improvisational theater. (…)
The Marathon concluded with C.K., Poehler and the ASSSSCAT cast sitting cross-legged, watching never-aired broadcast monologues from the festival’s namesake, the man we have to thank for much of the landscape of modern entertainment.
Yeah, about that…
I’m a bit of a comedy nerd.
(Most girls stuck pictures of the Bay City Rollers in their high school lockers. Mine had Woody Allen.)
But I’ve always hated improv.
If you’ve ever squirmed in your seat, thinking, “Man, there’s nothing more painful to sit through than a bad stand up comic,” then you’ve clearly never endured an even-worse improv show, which multiplies that raw, naked awfulness — bad jokes, missed cues, drunk patrons — by at least three, depending on the number of performers.
There’s a conformist cultishness about improv, though, that’s far more troubling than anything you see onstage.
Close is still revered as a demi-god by many comedians, who slavishly recite his “rules” like a bunch of Manson Girls.
From the 1960s until his death in 1999, Close taught improv at Second City, and worked (behind the scenes) at Saturday Night Live from its inception.
In other words, most American comedians you’ve seen in movies and on TV since the Nixon administration either studied under Close or one of his disciples.
What most of these famous folks brush past while dutifully praising and quoting the guy on WTF or at events like the Marathon is that Del Close was a self-described warlock who cast spells on stage:
In the definitive biography of Close, one student complains to a Second City producer that “Del is invoking the Devil” in class. His creepy “invocations” remain legendary in the improv community and are featured in his classic textbook.
In one exercise, students “invoke a ‘god’ that they create themselves from their own group vision,” usually an object they are supposed to “worship.”
“It’s not as frightening as it sounds,” the authors insist rather unconvincingly, describing a sample invocation:
“Thou hast taken control of my good sense. When thou art with me, I am debased and dishonored.”
Read more at TMZ. And some recommended books on the subject:
As an early teen in the early ’80s, it was just about impossible not to like Michael Jackson’s music. It was certainly impossible to avoid it. With Thriller, Jackson and producer Quincy Jones set out to make the ultimate crossover album — one that would gain black and white audiences in equal measure. And equal airplay, too, back when radio stations were even more racially targeted than they are today.
And boy, did they succeed.
But Michael Jackson the person? It was pretty obvious even then that he was one strange dude. What happened though is what happens to too many child performers: The weirdness went up and up, while the quality of the performances went down and down. By the time Dangerous came out in 1991, the magic was pretty much gone. It sold in the millions, yet nobody was buying it. And by that I mean, nobody was buying Jackson’s pseudo tough/tender/ladies man act anymore. The weird was just too weird.
Then came the obligatory-yet-somehow-disappointing greatest hits collection, the horrifying-yet-believable stories about his sleepover parties with kids…
I shudder even to think about it. His last studio album, ironically named Invincible, came out after years of delays and way over budget — and to a tepid response.
It was around this time he was dangling babies off balconies and looking like a bad drag queen version of Elizabeth Taylor. Oh, and he’d somehow managed to go broke buying giraffes and rollercoasters and stuff. The music had hit bottom and the weird was at the top of the charts.
The amazingly talented and abused little boy who never had a childhood, never really had an adulthood, either. There’s so much blame to go around, you barely know where to start.
Jazz and Islam, Part 9
Jazz was more popular than ever in the early ’60s. Then the Beatles exploded onto the American pop music scene, and that was the end of that. Jazz artists who had begun the decade engaging in innovative and enthusiastically received explorations of harmony and rhythm finished it by offering up tired, pale instrumental covers of psychedelic Top 40 hits. Ever since then, many of jazz’s fiercest partisans have spent an inordinate amount of time insisting that jazz is not dead — which, like the claim that “Islam is a religion of peace,” wouldn’t have to be endlessly repeated if it were obviously true.
If jazz is dead, two suspects who should be brought in for some intense questioning are two of the unlikeliest people ever to be thought of as the ones to have administered the coup de grace to America’s foremost native art form: Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am one of the most ardent fans either one of them could possibly have ever had. On my shelves are easily two hundred discs featuring one or (better yet) both of them. Their historical role as towering musical pioneers and composers, improvisers, and virtuosos of the first order is unshakeable. Yet in their own ways, where the vibrant and popular jazz of the 1960s is concerned, they became death, the destroyer of worlds.
John Coltrane took the road less traveled. He became enamored of Ornette Coleman, the great innovator of “free jazz” — and with good reason. Coltrane liberated his sound from the dense chordally based improvisations he pursued with characteristic passion in the late ’50s and early ’60s — first adopting Davis’s modal approach, and then emulating Coleman in exploring improvisations free from harmonic structures altogether.
No doubt I have forgotten much pharmacology since I was a student, but one diagram in my textbook has stuck in my mind ever since. It illustrated the natural history, as it were, of the way in which new drugs are received by doctors and the general public. First they are regarded as a panacea; then they are regarded as deadly poison; finally they are regarded as useful in some cases.
It is not easy to say which of these stages the medical use of cannabis and cannabis-derivatives has now reached. The uncertainty was illustrated by the on-line response from readers to an article in the latest New England Journal of Medicine about this usage. Some said that cannabis, or any drug derived from it, was a panacea, others (fewer) that it was deadly poison, and yet others that it was of value in some cases.
The author started his article with what doctors call a clinical vignette, a fictionalized but nonetheless realistic case. A 68-year-old woman with secondaries from her cancer of the breast suffers from nausea due to her chemotherapy and bone pain from the secondaries that is unrelieved by any conventional medication. She asks the doctor whether it is worth trying marijuana since she lives in a state that permits consumption for medical purposes and her family could grow it for her. What should the doctor reply?
In 1972 (or what I like to refer to as “prehistoric times” before cell phones, internet or cable) I was a junior at Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.
In homeroom, my assigned seat was next to a student named Peter, who my friends had designated “most likely to die of a drug overdose.” But Peter, despite “having issues,” had cultivated a reputation for being on the cutting edge of rock music hip-ness.
So one day during homeroom “quiet time,” I passed Peter a note asking what bands he was currently listening to and he wrote back Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and Fleetwood Mac.
These names fascinated me because I had yet to hear of any of them.
Why do I even remember this note passing incident from 40 years ago?
Two reasons: first, as predicted, not long after high school Peter tragically died of a drug overdose. And second, the music of the bands named in Peter’s note formed a prophetic soundtrack for my life in the years ahead.
Starting in September of 1973, Pink Floyd and I had a monumental first meeting during my freshman year at Ohio State University. The experience resulted in lifelong friendship bonds chronicled here a few months ago.
Then there is Black Sabbath, or rather Ozzy Osbourne. Although I was never a big fan of his, the lyrics, “I am going off the rails of the crazy train” is a favorite phrase that occasionally pops up in my writing, but more often in conversation when I am describing the current state of our nation.
But most prophetic was Fleetwood Mac, a band with whom I had a love affair which lasted years. Later in 1972 a friend introduced me to their new album called Bare Trees. A good album I thought, but not life altering.
But in 1977, during my senior year in college, Fleetwood Mac released the album Rumours and that was life altering. Songs from Rumours were always playing in the background as I transitioned from college to Washington D.C with first jobs and first marriage.
I will not bore you with all the tawdry details of why I am so emotionally tied to this album, but please do write some comments about yours! For if you are about my age I know you have some, because this album greatly impacted millions of baby boomers.
Especially one 1946 “first crop” baby boomer by the name of Bill Clinton, who in 1992 revived the popularity of Rumours and Fleetwood Mac by choosing Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow as his presidential campaign theme song.
President Clinton even convinced the band to get back together to play at his 1993 inaugural ball.
Back in the late 70’s, due to the popularity of Rumours, I discovered the first and only album by Lindsey Buckingham and Steve Nicks entitled Buckingham Nicks. This spectacular album, largely forgotten and never released on CD, was a foreshadowing of this duo’s future greatness. Here is the entire album if you have never heard it.
So in honor of Rumours, Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey, Stevie and Peter (may he rest in peace) what shall we drink?
Absolutely nothing but spring water! Because this morning I am sitting in Manitou Springs, Colorado elevation 6,412 feet with a pounding headache that started last night after I imbibed three glasses of Pinot Noir with my dinner of wild boar spare ribs and a few bites of my husband’s antelope.
Apparently, since I now live at sea level (literally next to the sea), an elevation of 6,412 feet and wine do not make beautiful music together for this aging baby boomer.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone and may I recommend that your family along with ours sing this really classic song before dinner.
And will someone please try that “favorite rock song conversation game” I wrote about recently over the long holiday weekend when gossiping about other family members finally runs dry?
When I was a young doctor, which is now a long time ago, patients who were close to death were often denied drugs like morphine for fear of turning them into addicts during their last weeks of earthly existence. This was both absurd and cruel; but nowadays we have gone to the opposite extreme. We dish out addictive painkillers as if we were doling out candy at a children’s party, with the result that there are now hundreds of thousands if not millions of iatrogenic — that is to say, medically created — addicts.
An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine asks why this change happened, and provides at least two possible answers.
The first is that there has been a sea change in medical and social sensibility. Nowadays, doctors feel constrained to take patients at their word: a patient is in pain if he says he is because he is supposedly the best authority on his own state of mind and the sensations that he feels. This certainly meant that at the hospital where I worked you could see patients, allegedly with severe and incapacitating back pain, skipping up the stairs and returning with their prescriptions for the strongest analgesics to treat their supposed pain. In the new dispensation, doctors were professionally bound to believe what the patients said, not what they observed them doing.
The automatic credence placed in what a patient says — or credulity, if you prefer — is deemed inherently more sympathetic than a certain critical or questioning attitude towards it. And since it is now possible, indeed normal, for patients to report on doctors adversely and very publicly via the internet and other electronic media, doctors find themselves in a situation in which they must do what patients want or have their reputations publicly ruined. When in doubt, then, prescribe.
Nadya “Octomom” Suleman has checked into rehab for a prescription pill problem, leaving her 14 children in the care of nannies.
Over the weekend, Suleman was admitted to Chapman House Drug Rehabilitation Center in California in order to deal with her addiction to the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
More on drugs and addiction at PJ Lifestyle: