Eccentric people more extreme as they age, although flamboyant behavior declines, says a new study, which explains increasng eccentricity neurocentrically: “The tendency to be a little odd or eccentric can often be kept under control in younger people, as they modify their behaviour to social norms. But as people get older there is evidence of reduced plasticity of the nervous system, which makes them less adaptable and increases expression of their odd personality traits.” Perhaps, however, it is just that as people age they care less about conforming themselves to social norms? New Scientist

The Evolutionary Neuroethology of Paul MacLean: Convergences and Frontiers (Human Evolution, Behavior, and Intelligence) edited by Gerald Cory and Russell Gardner: “In the mid-20th century, integrative efforts began concerning the brain and its

social and humanistic functions. These efforts were led by Paul D. MacLean’s

integrative research and thought. As the century ended, however, such efforts

were lost in the surge of new effort in brain and genome research. Nobel Prizes

were awarded on biochemical and cellular findings relevant to psychiatry.

Findings on these levels seemed to provide ultimate answers… This text extends MacLean’s findings and integrative theory.” amazon.com

Fire Wars: transcript of a NOVA broadcast aired May 7, 2002 on PBS about wildfire issues, for those who want to think further about the firestorm I started with my remarks below. [Thanks to Jennifer Joy]

I just received the following email, which, from a Google search on the search terms they suggest at the bottom, appears to be making the rounds. Leuschke, for example, has commented on it as well. Here, in its agonizing entirety:

There is something extremely wrong with every single

person in this world. They seem to be part of a

pointless simulation.

“The Matrix” has portrayed this idea somewhat, yet we

watch it and go back to our daily lives. Yet in this

very life, underneath the seeming diversity in

people’s opinions, values, talents, and interests,

there is something that makes everyone the same. It

is as though this planet is populated only by mindless

fakes, objects that provide the appearance of

intellect on the surface but are based on only

mechanical reflexes and primitive thought patterns.

I don’t really care if anything I say has been said

before, if it was portrayed in movies, in books, or in

the lyrics of some useless song. With 6 billion people

covering the globe at any given time, thousands and

thousands of years of written literature, probability

dictates almost any combination of words has occurred

numerous times. Yet there is clear evidence there was

no action, so those words, just like the people who

spoke them, must have been just more fakes. I am

forced to use this language (also created by the

fakes) because there is no alternative, so everything

I write here could be misunderstood to make me sound

like one of them, but it will be the action that I

take and the dedication that will separate me from

them.

In my estimation the fakes that occupy this planet

don’t make up 99%, but more like 99.9999999% of the

population. I know this because I’ve searched, and in

my search have so far only found one true ally (I have

found him via the internet as well). But even with

those numbers we would not give up because there is no

logic in giving up.

The people on this planet are all fakes because the

societies have made them this way. Ideas that populate

people’s minds have no logic or purpose. Concepts such

as religion, god, morality, individualism, freedom,

identity, happiness, love and billions of others are

all just memes. Like parasites they infect the minds

and spread from one person to the next. They have no

point or purpose; they exist without any logical basis

or foundation. The fakes are completely controlled by

them, and they will never see beyond them. To not be

controlled by them one must do more then just realize

that they exist. One must resist any ideas that have

no point, endlessly question, and never accept

imperfection or compromise in any answer.

We (myself and my ally) are different though. While we

have had the limitation of existing only in these

societies, something has made it possible for us to

resist being indoctrinated into becoming one of those

fakes. We have no arbitrary wants, needs, desires, or

preferences.

If this world continues to exist the way it is then

nothing in it will ever have a point. It will always

be just a product of random evolution, one with no

importance or relevance. The only logical goal is to

dedicate our lives to increasing our numbers, those

that aren’t fakes, so that in thousands of years our

numbers may be such that the fakes would no longer be

a threat to progress.

Those that join us must see every other person

occupying this planet as the enemy, and us as their

only allies. Like us they must have dedication only to

taking the most logical action, and to nothing else.

To tell you more about us, we’ve posted some personal

information about ourselves on a website. You’ll also

find past responses to us on that webpage.

Obviously anyone reading this email is most likely

just another fake. Do not simply reply to this email,

if you do your message will almost certainly be

ignored. If you do wish to communicate, first

demonstrate your interest by taking the effort to

find us online, one of the ways to do that is

described below.

Use a major search engine to search for every

combination of any two words from the list below.

The order of the words shouldn’t matter as long as

you do not search for them in quotes. Also when you

pick the right combination you shouldn’t need to

look at more then (sic) the first matches.

There is no trick to this and this isn’t meant to be

quick, it should, however, be fairly clear if/when you

find the right site. The following search engines were

verified by us, please use any of them as other search

engines may simply not list us correctly: MSN, Lycos,

InfoSeek, LookSmart, HotBot, InfoSpace, Google,

Ask.com, AllTheWeb, Teoma, WebCrawler, AltaVista,

AOL Search, Netscape Search.

perfect,

theory,

endless,

desire,

eternal,

logic,

driving,

perpetual,

vision,

logical,

infinite,

dream,

final,

best,

escape,

objective,

thought,

only,

ambition,

clue,

perfection

If this can’t be solved, or if you never reach us,

there should be no reason for you to give up as

we will never give up and thus there will always

be some way to find us.

Ryan and Jacob

I feel their pain, I really do. But what I want to know is: Why me, obviously one of the 99.9999999% of the world’s population who are evidently fakes? BTW, the email was said to be from one “Ithacensian Elatinaceae”. ‘Ithacensian’ means ‘from Ithaca’, as in The Oddysey‘s ‘Ithacensian Suitors’ of Penelope, wife of Ulysses. The ‘Elatinacea’ appear to be a family of vascular plants. Any other significance to anyone?

Chemical in Starchy Foods Baffles Health Groups: “Two international health and safety organizations said yesterday that they were still a long way from solving the riddle of why a potential carcinogen appears in staples like French fries, bread and potato chips, and how much of a risk, if any, its presence may pose… (U)nexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, a known carcinogen in rats, appears in certain carbohydrates after frying or baking them at high temperatures, though none of the agencies seemed to know why. ” NY Times

Looking for X in the Algebra of Leadership:

Dr. Arnold M. Ludwig, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Kentucky, has come along with his “Political Greatness Scale” — the latest in a long line of scholarly attempts to measure political leadership with the cool objectivity of science…

On this scale, Yasir Arafat scores 17 out of a possible 37 points, placing him a couple notches above Bill Clinton and on a par with Dwight D. Eisenhower and François Mitterrand. The scale’s real overachievers, however, are for the most part a motley crew of despots and tyrants, including Hitler (25), Mussolini (26), Stalin (29), Mao (30) and Kemal Ataturk of Turkey (31), as well as a lone American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (30).

Dr. Ludwig says the numbers reflect a leader’s impact on the world, not his personal virtue. On this scale, for example, warmongering turns out to be critical to one’s long-term historical standing. “No American president can be regarded as great unless they’ve been involved in war and been responsible for the death of many,” Dr. Ludwig said. NY Times

Trend Should Also Be a Warning:

I’m all for progress and evolution, but this talk about a European explosion in the N.B.A. and that Europe has supplanted the United States as the hotbed of pro basketball is specious at best and devious in its darkest inferences.

The European influence may be on the rise but not because players in the United States can’t hit an outside shot. There seems to be a taste for a new flavor. This season, sportswriters heralded the success of the Mavericks and Kings as models of the rise of European basketball.Fifteen of the 17 foreign-born players drafted on Wednesday are from Europe.

All of a sudden critics say that young, elite players in the United States — the majority of whom are black — can’t hit the outside shot. Suddenly our kids are not fundamentally sound.

NY Times

Antidepressants Lift Clouds, But Lose ‘Miracle Drug’ Label: “The euphoria that accompanied the first antidepressant drugs has faded, forcing drug manufacturers to strive to create a new class of drugs.” The article explores the premise that, while millions are helped by these medications, often to the point of complete symptom relief, millions of others are not helped enough or “sexual dysfunction, emotional numbing, insomnia, weight gain, restlessness and memory lapses make the drugs unusable — or simply not worth the trouble.” But the author doesn’t grasp the central significance of that fact, leaving the reader with the impression that it it simply a scientific problem calling for the discovery of new and better drugs. The reality is much more complicated, and is much more a problem with the attitudes and assumptions toward antidepressants among the prescribers, the manufacturers and the consumers.

The greatest factor in the blush being off the rose is that the newer antidepressants have been applied to a broader and broader segment of the population, many of whose conditions are not really suitable to such medication treatment and therefore will not succeed, and many of whose conditions do not trouble them to an extent that they’d be willing to put up with inconvenient side effects.  This is occurring for several interlocking reasons, about which I often talk here on FmH —

  • because the newer drugs have been easier and less dangerous to use;
  • because doctors (especially non-psychiatrists) have been subjected to an unprecedented onslaught of marketing pressure to prescribe them broadly;
  • because psychiatrists are unconsciously under pressure to expand their notion of the size of their potential clientele, to compensate for losing market share to nonprescribing competitive mental health professions;
  • because of discoveries, or mythology, suggesting that antidepressants are applicable to a much broader range of mental health problems all mediated by the same neurochemicals;
  • and because managed care has relentlessly pressed mental health practitioners to find rapidly expedient alternatives to interminable courses of therapy

So both the intolerance and ineffectiveness of many of these drugs comes first and foremost from the broadening definition of the depressive conditions for which they are considered applicable, far beyond the major depressive episodes of the greatest severity which were the major target of antidepressants before Prozac. Paradoxically, complete symptom remission happens most often in the more severe conditions, as compared with the smouldering, chronic, low-level depressive syndromes that appear to be more a part of sufferers’ personality or constitution which have been the last decade’s greatest area of market expansion in antidepressant use.  The market is fairly tapped out because just about everybody who might be benefit from an antidepressant has already received them, and then some.

Peter Kramer’s seminal Listening to Prozac broke some of this ground, asking us to consider the social impact of using antidepressants in this way. He called it “cosmetic psychopharmacology,” a term that is precise and economical in summarizing what’s wrong in the seduction of modern American psychiatry into this largely pharmaceutical-industry-manufactured dream. From an ethical as well as a macroeconomic viewpoint, even if SSRIs and newer agents can help a given temperament problem, should  they be used in that way? And selling medication by creating demand through advertising to the public compounds the problem by fostering massive misconceptions. The smiling faces of recovered patients in the ads are false promises that these are ‘happy pills’ that can take away our troubles. Instead, as I explain to my patients, what the medications do is more akin to Freud’s famous dictum about the goal of psychoanalysis being to turn neurotic unhappiness into ordinary, everyday unhappiness. If someone has something to be distressed about, they’ll usually still be distressed about it after antidepressant therapy. In fact, they may be more distressed about it, i.e. more able to feel  their distress, and certainly more able to function in the face of such distress. I often analogize medication to a bicycle — it’ll get you where you need to get faster and more efficiently than walking, but you still need to do the peddling.

Prozac arrived on the scene just as psychiatry and neuroscience were getting sophisticated about the biological underpinnings of major mental illnesses such as depression, and the SSRI antidepressants became inextricably woven into the fabric of the discoveries of the Decade of the Brain, as the ’90’s were called by the American Psychiatric Association. While, as a neuropsychiatrist and psychopharmacologist, I’ll be among the first to support that paradigm, I’m also among the first to say we have overdone it, both because of the above-mentioned catalogue of pharmaceutical industry- and managed care industry-driven pressures, and because of an intellectual laziness among overworked overextended workaholic psychiatrists that takes the form of biological reductionism. This will be neatly illustrated by a single unpalatable statistic I recently encountered — that the recent average per-patient cost for medication for all patients hospitalized at my 85-bed psychiatric hospital is nearly $15 per day. Not only are medications given without proper regard to diagnostic precision and likelihood of benefit, but multiple medications are usually given together, making it impossible to tell which — if any — are the effective agent if the patient does respond. Each medication is thrown at a different target symptom without regard for the notion that a single medication-responsive disease process going on within the patient’s CNS might cause several or many symptoms which might co-correct with the prescription of a single proper, judiciously chosen medication.

The article goes on to explore in more detail some of the pitfalls of taking Prozac and similar medications. Emotional flatness and apathy are indeed side effects — these medications mute the intensity of acute and intrusive emootion. That is how they work in severe distress, turning down the volume knob, so to speak, to allow the symptoms to be livable. And that is why the medications are often not as suitable to “cosmetic psychopharmacology” as patients would wish. There is one dramatic exception. Even when they are not effective with depressed mood, some patients to whom I have prescribe SSRIs do not want to come off them because of how effective they are against irritability and temper outbursts. In fact, I sometimes think they may be far better against this target symptom than as antidepressants. You can see how this would be a benefit of ‘turning down the volume knob.’ The loss of libido and impaired orgasmic ability often caused by SSRIs may be a form of turning down the volume as well, and some people — sexual abuse victims and men with premature ejaculation problems — sometimes welcome this side effect.

Other reported side effects (some of which have led to lawsuits about which you’ve read my vituperations here) are either entirely specious — the reported link between antidepressant treatment and propensity to violence — or exaggerated — the complaints of a withdrawal syndrome when SSRIs are stopped too suddenly (which they should not be…)

While several novel trends in drug design or mechanism of action are in the works, the quest for the Golden Calf in an antidepressant psychopharmacology industry dying to recapitulate the phenomenal success of Prozac has largely taken the form of new formulations of the same drugs — timed-release versions that can supposedly be taken less frequently (claiming better response, convenience, compliance and tolerability); the condemnably deceptive practice of marketing the same substance under a different brand name for a new indication (Serafem Prozac; Zyban Wellbutrin); and purifying out the active subingredient, such as one stereoisomer out of the two, in a current antidepressant. (If only one of the two stereoisomers is active, you can get the same benefit from half the number of milligrams of only the active moiety, but of course they’ll be able to price the drug at twice the cost of its mixed counterpart.) These are of negligible if any pharmaceutical advantage and should be seen as attempts by the manufacturer to extend their proprietary rights beyond the expiration of their patent.

Responsible psychopharmacology demands collaborative responsibility among the consumer, the prescriber and the manufacturer, with prominent failings in each domain. Since most of you are in the former camp, potentially at least, I’ll finish with a caveat emptor. If you’re prescribed the newest, best (most expensive) agent, you should grill your physician about the basis for their choice. Even if you have a prescription drug plan so it doesn’t end up costing you more than the older alternatives, the trend is driving up health care costs for all of us, and justifying the ever-deeper penetration [that’s right; they’re screwing us all…] of managed care bean counters into the practice of medicine..

Here are some of my results for the newest Google-based net parlor game suggested to me by mark woods:


Eliot is a master of the mind

Eliot is an interactive animation environment

Eliot is excited about our “vision for the future”

Eliot is a name that refers to an individual human being who can be anyone…

Eliot is a very cerebral and weighty social critic

Eliot is a leading consultant and expert in peak performance…

Eliot is as famous as you.

Eliot is so intentionally, even perversely, difficult.

Eliot is likable and intelligent…

Eliot is easy to fault.

Eliot is very client facing, good at following a situation through to resolution and he gets things done.

Eliot is propositioned by another hot chickie

Eliot is a little more impulsive than his real-life counter-part.

Eliot is more than just an artifact;

Eliot is sitting there twenty or so years later

Eliot is slated for destruction sometime

Eliot is being not entirely serious…

Eliot is always conscious of his own efforts,

Eliot is a civilized man.

Eliot is very different than he was as a baby.

Eliot is very warm and loving. He plays well with his sister.

Eliot is too indulgent to Ladislaw.

Eliot is one way the wrong way

Eliot is being cryptic

Eliot is a true “character,” believable for all his insecurities, lovable for all his eccentricities, and memorable because he holds a part of all of us in his …

John Entwistle, Bass Player for the Who, Dies at 57. ‘Onstage Mr. Entwistle was the Who’s still point, barely moving anything beyond his fingers and calmly looking on while Mr. Daltrey strutted and swung his microphone and Mr. Townshend jumped around and windmilled through chords. Mr. Entwistle also wrote songs for the Who, such as “My Wife” and “Boris the Spider,” that revealed a sly and sometimes macabre sense of humor.’ NY Times [I like to think he’s joined Keith Moon playing in Jehovah’s favorite choir with Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, Lennon and Harrison, and Richard Manuel and Rick Danko.]

Who Am I This Time?

Like an anthropologist or a method actor, (photographer Nikki S.) Lee “identifies a particular group in society and infiltrates it over a period of weeks or months. She will drastically alter her hair, her weight, her clothes… More subtly, she will take on the mannerisms, the gestures, the way of carrying oneself characteristic of the group she has chosen. After entering into her new identity, she will hand her point-and-shoot camera to someone and ask to have a snapshot taken of her in the chosen milieu.” Baltimore City Paper [via ghost rocket]


Rest in peace, Philip Whalen, 1923-2002.


ACTION TRACTION SATISFACTION

I just don't think my blood circulates good any more.
Let sleeping minds lie. Let the old man go, git away!
Fly to Oxnard or to heaven, whichever soonest,
Moving right along.
"I could just cry."


PART 2

The unrefrigerated cheese grew a rind;
It did not become soft & manageable, as I had planned.
I don't cry but I like to get my own way.
"DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE!"


Boulder
23:VI:87

[From a Whalen chapbook, found here.]

Shaken or stirred: “Stanley Zlotkin got his first look at the ravages of malnutrition as a young medical student visiting a remote hospital in northeastern Nigeria. Now, almost 30 years later, his innovative ideas could hold the key to eradicating childhood iron deficiency in the developing world.

Zlotkin, a professor of pediatrics and nutritional sciences at U of T and chief of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Hospital for Sick Children, is the creator of Supplefer Sprinkles, a powdered form of iron and other essential micronutrients that can be sprinkled on a child’s meal without altering its taste. That’s no small feat considering that other treatments – syrup or drops – have been around for 150 years without solving the problem on a global level.” [via David Brake… thanks!]

Cygnets, eels, gannets and gulls, oh my…

All on the menu for nobles of medieval England: “Chopped sparrow, roast swan, poached pike, conger eel, porpoise and lamprey: if it walked, swam or flew, the English medieval nobility ate it — usually with a dash of cinnamon, ginger or cloves — according to an ancient cookbook just released to the public.

Dating from 1500, A noble bok of festes ryalle and cokery, A bok for a Prynces housholde is the earliest copy of a printed cookbook in English, according to the British Library.” SF Chronicle

New 7 Wonders: “Much time has passed since the 7 Wonders of the World were last selected. Now on the threshold of the third millennium, our view of the world is characterised by a global consciousness. It is, therefore, an appropriate time to determine the new seven symbols of the most important human accomplishments of the last 2000 years. During the initial phase of the project we have received well over 5.5 million votes from over 200 countries. This global acceptance and the great success expressed in the number of votes received has been overwhelming and has strengthened our belief that we are on the verge of bringing about a meaningful dialogue between the citizens of the world.”

The Buddhas of Bamiyan – Reconstruction — The Afghanistan Institute & Museum, Bubendorf (Switzerland) and the New7Wonders Society & Foundation, Zurich (Switzerland) have launched a campaign to reconstruct the Buddhas at original shape, size and place with computer reconstructin, serving as the basis for the physical recreation, by ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Three data sets — low resolution images of the Great Buddha from the internet; a 1970 set of Austrian high resolution metric photographs; and some tourist images from the late ’60’s — are being used in parallel.

The reconstruction process for all data sets consists of:

  • image calibration and orientation;

  • image matching to extract the 3D points;

  • point cloud editing and surface triangulation;

  • texture mapping and visualization.



The computer model generated with the manual measurements on the metric images will be used for the physical reconstruction of the Great Buddha of Bamiyan. First a small statue will be constructed (scale 1:200) to reproduce the original figure. Then a 1/10 size model of the Buddha will be created and set in the museum of Bubendorf. This model is necessary to study (1)the materials to be used, (2)the construction methods to be applied and (3)the implementation of the necessary infrastuctures for the final rebuilding of the full size Buddha in Afghanistan.

Currently the fundraising efforts are underway to support the physical reconstruction of the Great Buddha of Bamiyan.