‘Demented Caesarism’

Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon, opines that, In the Wake of 9-11, the American Press Has Embraced a ‘Demented Caesarism’:

Just after 9/11, I was one of those who thought, and said out loud, that the catastrophe might knock some sense into the gibbering “culture” of the US media. Now there would be no more prime-time seminars about the likely cruising style of Gary Condit, no more shark watches, and quite a lot more coverage of, and talk about, the wider world. (The term “Afghanistan” had long been used inside the TV news biz as a handy term for all those faraway and over-complicated stories that the advertisers didn’t want to see.) And I believed that there would be a lot less dumbbell irony, a lot less potty comedy, and a lot less homicidal stand-up from the right. In short, I thought that Adam Sandler was all through, and that Ann Coulter would soon be forgotten, if not gone, and that the news would finally try to tell us some things that a free and democratic people needs to know.

Boy, was I wrong. Everywhere you look, Ann Coulter’s up there on her broomstick, cracking manic jokes about mass murder, and Adam Sandler’s said to be involved in seven movies soon to flood the multiplexes. Now I am old and wise enough to know that such bad acts are always with us, so I’m only disappointed – and, on cool reflection, not surprised – that there isn’t more stuff out there like “The Simpsons,” “The Sopranos,” “Lovely & Amazing,” Wilco. On the other hand, I find that I am absolutely flabbergasted at the many jumbo helpings of outright crapola that our “free press” has been laying out for us day after day since 9/11. While foreign journalists routinely tell their readers and/or viewers what’s going on – inside Afghanistan, Iraq, DC and all throughout this land of ours – our journalists don’t tell us anything. democrats.com [via Walker]

[Oh my God, another Wilco reference! (see “Shoddy Bookkeeping”

below) — FmH]

Annals of the Decline and Fall (cont’d):

Rent a Rapist:

“Crimebusters in Japan’s major cities are currently being plagued by a new type of criminal… — the rachiya. Literally translated into English as kidnappers, the rachiya are believed to be male members of secret associations that engage in simulated rapes. But there’s nothing simulated about what they’re apparently prepared to do for a price, picking up women off the streets and violating them for a yen.” Mainichi Daily News

[via the null device; thanks, Walker]

Weblogs by Profession:

Observation found on Seb’s Open Mind

The main professions that are represented in the weblogging community are:

  • (open source) software developers
  • journalists
  • librarians
  • educators
  • lawyers
  • web designers and information architects
  • knowledge management types
  • consultants
  • researchers

Each item in the above list of professions links to a list of weblogs by members of that profession. He goes on:

Is there a pattern here?

Those are mainly kinds of people who:

  • must interface to ordinary people.
  • are pattern explainers.
  • have little to hide and more to share.
  • are not afraid of writing.

Hey, Seb, what about psychiatrists?? (Well, at least the part about interfacing to ordinary people and explaining patterns…) [via wood s lot]

MDMA Controversy Continues:

A Salon interview with Dr. Charles Grob:

Last week, an essay in the Psychologist, a magazine published by the British Psychological Society, called into question the validity of recent research on the effects of Ecstasy. Its publication drew loud and immediate reaction from the British press, which printed stories under headlines like “Ecstasy Not Dangerous, Say Scientists.” The study’s authors demanded, and received, a retraction from at least one newspaper (the Guardian); but the question the researchers had hoped to raise — whether MDMA may have medical benefits — was lost in the din. And not for the first time, according to Dr. Charles Grob, a longtime researcher of MDMA and hallucinogenic drugs and one of the study’s three authors.

Grob, the head of adolescent and child psychiatry at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Southern California, is also the editor of a newly published collection of essays, Hallucinogens: A Reader

, which explores the social and psychological worth of such drugs. Speaking from his office, Grob spoke about the essay he coauthored, the current war on drugs, and the history of Ecstasy, which he believes has therapeutic benefit — not to mention potential as a facilitator of peace in the Middle East.

Anna, from annatopia

, wrote this piece

about Grob and MDMA and emailed me, pointing me to it and curious about my reactions. Among other things, she asked me if I had ever used it (in my work, she hastened to add). Here’s an (edited) version of my response:

— I haven’t gven MDMA in my work, but that’s mostly because I specialize in treating severely ill, nonfunctional, hospitalized, and often psychotic patients. I’ve known some of the researchers and clinicians who have used it clinically. I support entheogens/empathogens in general but think my patient population doesn’t have the ego strength, as the “walking wounded” do, to benefit from them. More than that, it takes a lot of thoughtful courage to buck the dominant cultural norms about illegal, hallucinogenic drugs being dangerous and degenerate. Although I ask that of myself, I wouldn’t ask that courage of my patients in their current suffering.

— I agree absolutely about distinguishing therapeutic and recreational use. Except for one thing; you have to tolerate the bad with the good. This is a longer-standing issue, as Grob’s reader about hallucinogens indicates. Leary and Alpert were Harvard psychologists; LSD was/is a valuable tool for psychic exploration too, as other hallucinogens, if taken with reverence and intellectual curiosity, but if you give people the freedom to do so you also give them the freedom to trivialize its use as a means of just “getting high”. (Funny, I never thought of what LSD gives you as a “high”!)

If one of the dangers of MDMA is how often the ravers take it, the thing about an exploratory/therapeutic approach is that it will result in limiting one’s exposure, as Anna and Dr Grob rightly point out, and taking it in the context of a psychotherapeutic relationship. You want to assimilate the information it gives you about yourself and the world, which takes time. You grow from it, which means there might be diminishing returns from dropping it over and over. And if you’re interested in taking an exploratory/therapeutic approach, you’re usually a person who is committed to taking good care of yourself, which means you’ll limit the adverse impact of frequent, repeated dosing. That’s one of the things that bothers me about the ravers’ use — that with no limits on the magnitude of their indulgence, they’re really really at risk of health complications and ‘suicide Tuesdays’. The self-destructive image of recreational use is deserved, but there isn’t going to be a substantial risk of cardiac or neurotoxic complications from judicious, intermittent, informed use.

However, when you’re talking about recreational Ecstasy users, one issue is that they are often taking a lot of different drugs — it’s kind of a poly-drug-use scene. They often take high dosages. They’re up all night, they’re sleep deprived, they’re nutritionally deprived, they’re basically taking the drug in the most adverse environment you could possibly imagine: Hot, stuffy, crowded clubs, not replacing fluids, exercising all night. That will accentuate the likelihood of an adverse response.

The only environment I can think of that’s worse would be taking it in a hot tub.

But make no mistake about it — and probably even moreso if you try to regulate it into a controlled drug available only under a health practitioner’s prescription — you’ll get the recreational use fist-in-glove with the serious, therapeutic/exploratory. However, I don’t *blame* the ravers for the war against MDMA. As much as those who wage war on recreational drugs point to specific adverse outcomes, sudden deaths, bad behavior, etc., of users, these are not the *causes* of their convictions; they are after-the-fact justifications. Deeper-seated cultural norms — uhhh, prejudices — determine that! IMHO, don’t vent your spleen against the ravers, they are not the ones who ruin it for you. They’re just caught in the crossfire.

In my work as a trainer and supervisor of psychiatric residents and other mental health trainees, I ask them to look at why clinicians, as a rule, dislike treating drug abusers. I think it has something to do with the fact that we are people whose personality structure involves an investment in deferring gratification for goals we find more valuable in the long term. As such, we are rubbed the wrong way most by the classes of patients who, for hedonistic or other reasons which seem diametrically opposed to our mindset (I don’t actually think most of the drug abusers we treat in the mental health field are motivated by uncomplicated pleasure-seeking, but that’s the first assumption about them), appear unwilling to defer indulging or gratifying themselves. (Of course, that’s not the whole story; we are also dissed by our well-intentioned efforts to help being rebuffed.) Mental health professionals are generally similarly distressed by happy manic patients. (Some manics can be irritable or dysphoric instead of euphoric, and we have considerably less difficulty with those.) There is a similar anti-hedonistic streak in the work- and productivity-ethic-driven culture at large, for similar reasons.

While the ravers don’t deserve our resentment,

I mean, if we follow to the letter this “Just Say No” mandate, and then if the kid isn’t wise enough to follow the “Just Say No” edict, are we saying he deserves whatever adverse effects he experiences?

they do probably deserve our empathy. It saddens me that so many people have no idea that their own minds can be an object of contemplation and study for themselves, like holding a jewel up to the light and marvelling at its scintillations. Instead they treat themselves as trivial playtoys. Their loss.

Shoddy Bookkeeping

Oregon weblogger Don Wakefield writes that he’s loving the new Wilco recording Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Since he gets most of his music referrals from his websurfing, he’s curious who recommended it to him but, through his “shoddy bookkeeping” he is frustrated that he cannot recall. A source whose tastes are similar to his is slipping through his fingers! Finally (courtesy of Google??) he ascertains that it was my two recent references on FmH. Actually, I’ve mentioned Wilco three times around the current attention the band is getting — here

, here

, and here

. But Wakefield laments that, while I point to rave reviews, I do not make my own reactions known. Can he trust my taste?

The answer, Don, is yes and no. As it happens, I’m wild about YHF too, and it has had an honored place on my CD turntable in recent months (actually, right now it is in my car deck). I loved the Mermaid Avenue stuff as well, although that was at least at first because I’m a fierce Billy Bragg fan and reverent about Woody Guthrie. But I think Tweedy has reached a pinnacle with the new material.

I would, however, have probably blinked to the Wilco stuff even if I didn’t like the music so much. I tend to post what interests me — and what I think will interest or edify FmH’s readers [which may be tautologous, because you wouldn’t keep reading if it didn’t keep interesting you…] — and I was struck by Wilco’s giving the album to their fans for free download before its commercial release; by the fact of a rave in the NYT, especially by critic Jon Pareles; and by how an attempt to make a film about the band turned into “a classic three-act narrative, replete with surprise turns, stunning rejections, and an emblematic clash with Corporate Rock.” The documentary is on my list, although I probably won’t get to see it until I can rent the DVD, because I could never get my wife to go along with spending one of our hard-won opportunities for time together, when we have managed to score a babysitter, in that way. And therein hangs a tale…

Coming of age in the ’60’s and early ’70’s, I wore my artistic sensibilities like a bumper sticker of political correctness (I could easily be embarrassed by someone associated with me being seen to like the ‘wrong’ thing), but what I enjoy now is much more a matter of what moves me, in an interior and unfathomably individual way, rather than what social clique I participate in by liking something. So I no longer have to proclaim my tastes and no longer have any expectation that anyone I love or appreciate will have similar tastes. And, indeed, my closest friends are incredibly diverse in what moves them aesthetically. I once chuckled in print

about how at one time I could never have imagined spending my life with someone who didn’t love the Grateful Dead as much as I did, and I ended up marrying someone who was only barely aware of their existence. On the other hand, I could never conceive of being married to a Bush Republican (or even a card-carrying Democrat!). My wife and I would consider it a failure to convey our entire set of values to our children if they turned out to support some of the oppressive, life-denying, heinous standards of our elected leaders (or most corporate officials, for that matter). Yet I have nothing invested in them grooving to the same Garcia licks or, for that matter, transported by the same moments in St. Matthew’s Passion, that I enjoy. Our children’s musical and literary tastes are, already, quite distinctive,but they understand about Bush…

In my weblogging, while I am unabashed about my political opinions (I’m edified, for example, that Rebecca Blood

cited me in her list of “webloggers with strong voice” in her new book

, and I seem to get noticed by Le Blogeur

more when I’m most “out there”), Don’s post helped me realize that, indeed, I have been much less committal about my taste in music, film or books here and, yes, you cannot necessarily conclude that I am endorsing a particular creative work if I mention it. Nor should you conclude that, because we like something in common, you will like other things that I like. Nor, I hope, should you think anything less of me if you don’t, for example, care for Wilco… Even if you find my musical tastes totally uncool, I’m still a cool guy…

Only peripherally related: Chuck Palahniuk’s forthcoming novel

appears to be about the dangers of excessive congruence of musical taste [grin]:

In his last novel, Choke (1999), Palahniuk proved he could write a best-seller without sacrificing his trademark biting satire. And in Lullaby, he manages an even more impressive feat by showing himself capable of tenderness as well as outrage. The story, of course, is plenty outrageous. Middle-aged journalist Carl Streator discovers that all children who die of SIDS are read the same poem the night before their deaths, an African “culling song” traditionally sung to sick animals and people to ease their pain and hasten death. Once he discovers that simply reciting the poem in someone’s direction is invariably fatal, Streator can’t stop murdering. Then he finds out that Helen Hoover Boyle, a real-estate agent who sells the same haunted houses over and over again, knows the secret, too. They set out on a grand literary road trip to destroy all extant copies of the song. The narrative itself becomes a sort of lullaby, hypnotically repeating its anti-advertising, anti-everything catchphrases, lulling the reader into a false sense of security just as it launches all-out attacks on America’s “It’s a Small World after All” culture. It’s a fun ride, but what separates this novel from Palahniuk’s previous work (Fight Club, 2001) is its emotional depth, its ability to explore the unbearable pain of losing a child just as richly as it laments our consume-or-die worldview. amazon.com