Marijuana and Sesame Street?

No, this is not some tell all that the entire staff of Sesame Street, that most beloved of tv childhood icons (certainly in my family with about three sets of kids have learned from it!), were all stoned. So not like our most famous space saga franchise in which some of the major players spent their filming days stoned etc., which was a bit disillusioning to learn…oh well.

I have for a period of time followed a superb blog on the history of drugs and substance abuse. It appeals to the history bug/buff/geek/triiva-guy in me for one thing. But it is also fascinating beyond words. It has set me ‘aright’ on a number of misconceptions I had in my lifetime before and after my medical education. The blog is “Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society.” Yes, there is such a society, it was news to me too.

The post that caught my eye this date, August 16, 2018, is “Hidden Figures of Drug History: Joan Ganz Cooney.” Who, you might ask is Joan Ganz Cooney? I had forgotten who she was, but I did remember her name. Only when I started reading the post did her personage come back to me.

Ms. Cooney was the founder, innovator, and driver behind The Children’s Television Workshop and Sesame Street. As a child psychiatrist-developmentalist and parent, I have to state my disclaimer that I have admired Sesame Street for decades and cannot say enough good about it. As much as Head Start and other similar early childhood educational movements, it has benefitted our preschoolers beyond measure for generations. (Even more than Barney…).  Her storied accomplishments are highlighted and recounted in the article. I was dutifully reminded of how important this woman was to America.

The post though has a different emphasis that was surprising beyond words.

Ms. Cooney’s service on the now largely forgotten “Shafer Commission” of the Nixon Presidency is highlighted. This article is worth reading for anyone interested in (drum roll please…): Nixon, legalization-decriminalization of pot, Watergate, the fate of federal reports that displease a President, and other fascinating tidbits one never would anticipate aforehand.

So no more spoilers, feel free to read this post, it is a true rare gem.




Mourning the Loss of The Aliens

DNA in space
“Life in Space”

Fairly recently some of our better known big shot thinkers like Elon Musk have begun to give voice to the growing idea that we should STOP looking for aliens in space.

The underrepresented public segment in the space and sci-fi communities read this sort of commentary in the esoteric scientific and sci-fi (there is less and less difference nowadays?) media in order to have an intellectual sort of escapism reading to be cognitively relieved of the relentless deluge of Trump-related news and vitriol from all sides of our so-called body politic. Other social demographically classified persons read of this burning issue such as space geeks, diehard Star Trek fans and their contentious Star Wars upstarts, and not to forget NASA government types who battle for funds for those oversized space radio receivers we tend to place in areas needing beer joints and economic development such as God-forsaken spaces in New Mexico and Australia.

The organizing idea seems to be that something called the “Fermi Paradox” has taken over space and alien related discussion sites, is that there is an increasing likelihood that there is likely no life OUT THERE. Other than us. And I thought this Fermi Paradox was all about the A-Bomb development in the Manhattan Project, that it was thought in those days, atomic power was nice and socially helpful and lo and behold turned out to be just another Defense Department awesomely scary military weapon.

Putting aside all the statistical and other abstract bases for the theorizing that there is no alien life virtually anywhere, I found myself mulling over the socio-cultural repercussions of this not quite cataclysmic news. This may not be as trivial as one might at first surmise. After all, why could the declaration of the NON-existence of something that has never been manifest in our world be such a Big Deal? It is akin to saying that purple bears do not exist in the unexplored areas of the Amazon. Or that Stanley no longer needs to search for Livingston’s never born twin. I mean, saying that something that has not existed does not need any further searching is not earth-shattering news.

I found myself further considering that this whole seemingly waste of time and billions of dollars of research, was not a waste but a “good thing,” because what if the great classical discoverers of modern times had decided there was “no sich-a thang as ‘lectricity” and not tried to shock themselves with lightning bolts or ignored getting shocked after scooting across a wool rug. We would be still locked in the ages of campfires and polluting coal furnaces in every room and have no egad, computers or tv!! We would have been spared bad movies about listening to outer space and watching Jodie Foster try to make a bad flick entertaining…At least we won’t spend billions looking for purple Russian bears I suppose.

There are though definite quarters for whom this apparently issue now deemed without importance is important. For instance, just to name a few, all the NASA scientifist and alien searching agenices and their funding, tin foil hat types, Area 51 devotees (now reclassified in the category of ‘there is no there there;), alien genre movie scriptwriters and so on. Some of those sectors command huge budgets. Those folks may lose jobs. And they and their families might be destitute. I can see the new class of highway handout folks now, “Space Scientist Willing to Tutor New Math Homework to Your School Child.”

The cinematic industry will take a huge hit. A category that previously sucked in scare seeking teenagers wishing to sneak a hug in the dark protective anti-chaperone theaters will disappear. Summer alien mongering movie revenues will dip. Democratic political office seekers will have to reduce by a corresponding percentage the L.A. based PAC donations they count on every two years.

Back to Elon Musk for a moment. This public figure is drumming up support for funding from the government, meaning US, for his idea to Colonize Far Reaches of Space. His argument is that we are trashing the Earth so badly that we have to move to a new Cosmic Neighborhood that has better water and air.

But he has an inherent conflict of interest. He is plugging his Space X venture. He is generataing free publicity so that us Earth Bound Rubes will sign up for trips and generate revenue. Sir Richard Branson is doing much the same thing, though he does not rail so much about pollution and play upon our fears of survival. He is just a business man whereas Musk is a visionary! I concluded long ago that “visionaries” were all hucksters like P. T. Barnum and much more dangerous. I think that Musk would be better served if his publicity campaign for space travel and colonization went like this.

‘You Don’t Have to Worry About Aliens’ like the ones that nearly ate Sigourney Weaver in all those signature “Alien” movies. There are no more giant lizard like aliens out there with flesh eating heads inside of heads! The only tongue sucking beings you will have to worry about will be deep French kissing hotties. Without their bubble headed space helmets of course.

And the NRA will be able to save years of any new PR campaign inveighing against home invasion by aliens from space.

And homeowners can stop paying for sky directed anti-burglary nightlights to scare off aliens sneaking into their backyards from the sky.

And I can stop writing whimsical blog posts on rampaging aliens and get back to truly boring, mind numbing psychiatric articles…


The Active Shooter Controversy

Just two days ago I became aware of the controversy over a new version of the very popular video game “Active Shooter.” The game’s designers have included a module/section/world–whatever that permits the player to select a school shooter experience. As predictable, instant outrage has erupted everywhere in the media. My reaction was typical I suppose, thinking things like this is not appropriate, this is the height of bad taste, how could anyone be so heartless/clueless etc. My second line of reactions centered on anyone who has suffered trauma from school shootings lost someone to such incidents etc.

Then I realized that my son and I have this game and have played for a few years. He is my last “yearling” as I sometimes call him, near graduation, avid video game player since his youngest days with a Nintendo DS etc. I also realized that this kind of game and this game itself is one of the few I can master. I can shoot bad guys and terrorists through the rifle’s sights. I can hold my own in car racing games, Donkey Kong, and older generation games. All these have the forgiving characteristic that the controls are very simple; anything more complicated and I cannot keep up or play at all. After a few years of trying and occasional exasperated tutoring from my son, it has been clear to him for a long time, I have maxed out my hand-eye, and hand finger coordination and dexterity and I will never ever get beyond a certain level. So when he buys a new game, he will say, “Dad this is too hard for you (too, like all the others).” When we peruse the new games highlighted in his various game magazines, he will point to some fluff or “baby” game and tease me that this is one I can handle.

So this is my confession, the one person shooter, sniper type games are ones I can handle in my gaming dotage, and this game I enjoy and like. Gets out my aggression harmlessly etc. I also take goofy solace in thinking that if all kids are as skilled as my son and ALL his friends are on this type game, the Taliban do not stand a chance if they invade here. First, their gun-owning fathers will wipe them out and the sons will take care of the second wave as all dads would look on with pride. I am safe here and video games probably help to make it so…

But this issue of treating school shootings so cavalierly has ‘crossed the line’ for almost all of us. It was inevitable this would happen in our take any opportunity to make money society I suppose. I do not think that somehow trivializing school shooting into a widely loved video game will subtly train teens to not do such horrific acts. So no, I do not see some noble methodology of prevention at work here.

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Stem Cell Treatment Scams

Disclaimer (of sorts): I am a myeloma patient of now nearly 7 years’ standing and a stem cell transplant recipient. The reader may keep this in mind as I delve into a fascinating (for me at least) topic of one of the latest of the never-ending line of medical scams.

When I was younger as a kid, long before I became much of scientific rationalist, I would wonder how anyone could believe that this or that home remedy would cure the “heartbreak of psoriasis,” as the television commercials would trumpet. It was only three or so generations ago that we still had “Carter’s Little Liver Pills,” “Lydia Pinkham Pills,” Black’s Draught,” and a fair number of other nostrums of no scientific worth left over from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. My wife’s own great-grandfather used to peddle in the southern Appalachians of NC and VA a home remedy elixir good for almost anything that was, in reality, a flavored elixir of alcohol and laudanum (opium!).

I could go on and on.  And I will just a little more…One of my other favorites that did command some subscription among the rich and glitterati of the 1960’s and 1970’s, was the craze of Gerovital. This intrigued me because of a few goofy associative factors. First, it was made and dispensed in Rumania. I thought that contributed to its weird and exotic, and perhaps even dangerous factor, as one had to travel to clinics in a “Commie” country to obtain it. Second, it sounded like the all American and incredibly well known American iron elixir, “Geritol.” That was advertised constantly, and I thought it always hilarious that it was for “tired blood,” Back to Gerovital of Rumania. This held credence inexplicably for years. It was reputed to slow aging and movie stars, always a gullible and dumb crowd, flocked to clinics run by flacks in white coats with exotic Eastern European accents, always charging Big Bucks that only people “with more money than sense” as folk wisdom so aptly describes such doofuses, could afford. ‘If it costs a lot, it must be worth something.’ Just like penny stocks my father would always say.

Quack cures among the movie stars used to have a plethora of takers. The most famous and perhaps saddest one in my slightly lengthy memory was that of Steve McQueen. He developed abdominal cancer, either pancreatic or gastric, I am not sure which at the time of this writing. He headed down to Tijuan Mexico to the then famous clinic that utilized the then famous “natural” cure of “Laetril.” For those readers who are not familiar with this, Laetrile was some sort of extract of apricot pits of all things. It was reputed for a brief time in the 1960’s as a treatment for cancer and a number of persons went south of the border in a desperate search for medical aid when somewhat primitive chemotherapy for cancers failed. And of course Steve McQueen died within months of his treatment.

Contemporary medical scams are more flashy, have more trappings of science, but still do as scams have always done. Such fleecing operations typically cloak themselves in the scientific metaphors and well-known names of the times. The purveyors and installations are always called pretentious names such as “Institutes.” Beautiful people are the spokespersons or operator/heads of such. [Doesn’t sound different than most usual advertising does it…] The claims are just south of outrightly outrageous. Benefits point toward “breakthroughs,” and the near “miraculous,” that are “duplicated nowhere else,” [such as in replicative studies…]. Often seminars are offered in large metropolitan areas. Discounts of fees are offered in breathless haste to be redeemed. Testimonials are from nobodies. All of it sounds like sales outfits for beach condominium scams that by now most of us are wise to. Continue reading

The AntiPsychiatry Movement

I wish to comment of the “AntiPsychiatry Movment” as this month there has occurred a little known but imporant anniversary this very month of May at the time of this writing, May of 2018. First I will set the stage a bit laboriously by outlining the several main fields of focus for this movement. At least one of these “anti-psychiatry” movements was well placed, needed, healthily revolutionary and far sighted, Some of the others have been dismal flops, misguided lunatic efforts in the service of lunatic philosophies, and/or instrumental in generating monstrous new social problems.

There have been three forms of the “anti-Psychiatry” movement over the last half century or more.

In the USA the movement has focused on treatments that were, and/or seen as abusive, cruel or inhumane. These villified treatments concerned mostly the first few decades of the use of ECT, or electoconvulsive treatment, and psychiatric medications. In the last few decades ECT was refined to a point that its visually frightening quality of causing gross, big time seizures of muscles with all the scary “herking and jerking,” as I always term it in lectures, so that medications suppressed and eliminated those aspects that gave it a “bad” reputation. ECT was the only effective treatment for psychotic or serious mental illness for more than two decades until the advent of psychiatric medications commenced in the 1950’s and 1960’s Ritalin has long been the focus of certain advocacy groups as the second prong on the American anti-psychiatry groups as far as treatments.

The second main front on the anti-psychiatry movement has been the focus on the social phenomenon of institutionalization, or the inappropriate use of the state hospitals, large asylums, to house the chronically mentally ill for incredibly long periods of time, or lifelong, turning psychiatric hospitals into convenient warehouses for the mentally ill, keeping them out of the sight and awareness and social responsibiity of the rest of American society and of other western societies as well. Psychiatric hospitals became de facto prisons since hundreds of thusands of persons were confiend to hospitals lifelong for not only grossly obvious psychotically bizarre behaviors but also petty offenses such as being poor, chronically inebrited etc. These latter “status offenses” as they were called in more modern times when applied to juvenile offenders were more common the 1800’s than is commonly known.

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