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The Virus I’m Not De-Worming

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Department Of A Boon For A Natural Selection

For a few glorious days, we could only hope that the reports were accurate.

Moiself  refers to reports surfacing which claimed that ivermectin –

a livestock de-worming, anti-parasite  veterinary drug, deemed by the brilliant minds of certain people who were too smart to waste time going to medical or veterinary school, to be an ideal treatment for the COVID-19 VIRUS (which is *not,* ahem, a parasite), to be taken by people, who are not livestock (except for the horses’ asses which thought up the idea in the first place and the sheep who followed them) –

can cause sterility in men.

 

“Yesssssssss!”

 

When I first heard the reports moiself  praised the gawds I don’t believe in, and immediately changed my opinion about people who would try such an unproven and dangerous “treatment.”  Instead of thinking that such people should be locked up for their own protection,   [1]   I decided to lobby to make ivermectin mandatory (and free!) for any man who wears a MAGA hat and/or refused to be vaccinated/wear a mask…and please, can there be a study showing that ivermectin produces infertility in women as well?

Some things are just too good to be true.  It turns out there are problems with the ivermectin-causes-sterility study being cited, as Forbes and other sources have reported.   C’est la vie; it was a nice fantasy, while it lasted. 

 

“There, there; I too was disappointed. It’s good to dream, Spock.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Podcasts I Mostly Admire…

Or used to.

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to the latest People I Mostly Admire podcast (Episode 44 ).  After the first twenty or so minutes of his interview with his guest, the podcast  takes a break.  During the break the show’s host, author and economist Steven Levitt,  had a letter from a listener read to him by the show’s producer, Morgan A. Levey.  This is the podcast’s typical format; the letters usually involve questions about recent podcast topics. This week’s questions led to….well, read on.

Morgan Levey (reading a letter from “Jordan,” to Steve; my emphases):
” ‘Steve, since you have quite a large family and are a thoughtful person, I want to get your opinion on the morality and ethics of having children in the face of climate change.’
It sounds like Jordan is thinking of starting a family, and he wants your opinion on having kids, since you have six of them.”

 

The host at home.

 

Steve Levitt:
“So Jordan, I do have six kids, and I have to say, in having those kids, I don’t think climate change ever crossed my mind.  Here’s the thing: there are 8 billion people on the planet, so if you add one more, it doesn’t really matter.  And, what I do, doesn’t affect anyone else’s behavior.  If my having a kid led hundreds of other people to have more kids, then it’s a different story.

To me, it’s a microcosm of the exact problem we face on climate change generally: no individual’s behavior actually matters very much, but collectively, we all have to act together.

When I think of climate change, I really look to other kinds of solutions, whether it’s technology to take carbon out of the air, or doing something at a larger scale….

So if it feels wrong to you to have kids, that’s totally your prerogative….  but at least for me I would not put climate change near the top of my list to have or not have children….

ML:
“So Jordan also wanted to know if you thought that your kids will struggle in the future with the result of climate change-induced issues, such as food security, pandemics, water shortages, if this is something you thought about and were worried about.”

 

 

SL:
“I’m not a climate scientist, and I don’t know the exact answer. It certainly is an impression people have that weather patterns are getting wilder, and it’s probably true. I also think there’s a bias toward people assuming that every time something extreme happens, that’s caused by climate change ….but my impression is that the really destructive impacts of climate change are much farther in the future.  That, at least for Americans, in the next fifty or a hundred years, there’s no reason to think that our quality of life is going to dramatically degrade.  As I sit here just pondering whether I think my kids will have a better or worse life than I had, I think probably better.  

Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”

I didn’t hear his producer’s retort until days later.  I had to stop listening.  My butt was frosted to hear Levitt’s casually dismissive statements about the effects of climate change – effects which are “probably true,” he admits, yet not enough to trouble him as he sits there “just pondering”  whatever it is he ponders (apparently, not the plight of other people), from the POV of his privileged, upper class, white American ass — pondering his ignorant defenses which excuse himself from any personal responsibility to act…or care.

How convenient for him, to convince himself that an individual’s behavior doesn’t matter much, and that what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.  Dude, your six children are watching you.  Even more than what you say, they watch what you do…and don’t do. 

Levitt admits the obvious – he’s no climate scientist – then ignores the facts climate scientists have been stating for some time, in favor of his flippant description of extreme weather events as an “impression people have“?  Holy cruising down the river of  De Nile.

 

 

 

But then, what should moiself  expect from someone with six children,  [2]  who doesn’t even include them in his statement of how what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.

Levitt is correct as to the need for global/larger solutions, but he is wrong about the individual’s impact, thinking it’s negligible because he’s one person out of 8 billion.  Eight billion people – how did we get here?   Holy compounding multiplication!  We got to that absurd number via one individual decision at a time. Multiply one person thinking having four to six biological children is fine times “only” one billion other individuals, and where will that get us?

 

 

As for Levitt’s comment about how his actions don’t influence people, how does he know that?  Whether or not he ever gets up on a podium and overtly decrees, “Everyone should have a large family, like me!” the fact of him having done just that that may cause others to think, “Oh, hmm…an educated and successful person does this, perhaps I can as well.”

Back to his producer’s response, to his question. At least she called him out about his cluelessness and privilege (however mildly, given the circumstances).

SL:
“Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”

ML:
“To be honest, Steve, *I* don’t like your answer very much.

I think what you said sounds a little  [3]  insensitive, considering the fact that that there’s already millions of climate refugees around the globe – people who’ve had to move because their home are unlivable.

We’ve just had the hottest month on record in human history, AND  extreme weather HAS been *undoubtedly* linked to climate change.  When I think about just ten years from now, *I*  worry about my own future, let alone if I have kids, what their future would be.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Beating Around the Bush…and Reagan…and Clinton….

” On May 12, 2015, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush could not fully commit to an answer when asked if he would have voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002, using the phrase “simple fact is, mistakes were made” on Sean Hannity’s radio show. He was lambasted by both liberals and conservatives for his answer.”

 

 

Remember the rightful disgust y’all have likely experienced over the years, whenever you heard the hideous passivity of, Mistakes were made.”   It’s the ultimate phrase of non-accountability, whether spouted by President Reagan re the Iran–Contra affair (the “arms-for hostages” debacle), or President Clinton as per a Democratic party fundraising scandal, or President G.W. Bush’s political advisor defending neocons re the Iraq War…as well as too many times before and after.

Mistakes were made.  By an unknown, but distressingly prevalent, almost mystical Mistake Maker ®,  apparently.

We’ve all been trained to use this passive voice; most of us don’t even know when we’re doing it.  But, think for a moment of the world it constructs.

 

 

I often get impatient when people nitpick language.  My fear: people often judge/dismiss and don’t really hear *what* someone is saying because they are too busy critiquing the  *how* someone is saying it.

Still, the writer in moiself  tries to never forget why word choice is important: it not only conveys, but shapes how we feel and think about issues.

Consider the different images that come to mind, when describing a disabled person’s mode of mobility:

“He rides (or uses) a wheelchair.”

“She is confined to a wheelchair.”

A wheelchair, for someone who has need of one, is actually a device of liberation.  Yet the second phrasing evokes images of shackling, and pity.

 

 

These subtle differences are why (as I’ve mentioned in this space, “The Speech I’m Not Policing” ) I think certain scholars and activists are correct in advising that we should retrain ourselves to use the term “enslaved” person, rather than “slave.”  The active voice is needed as a reminder, that people are not just born slaves, as they might be born a Swede or a redhead or with a certain eye color:

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery.  In Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with journalist Hannah-Jones, (which I referred to in a recent blog post as influencing my opinions about reparations for slavery), TG asked Hannah-Jones about why she uses the term “enslaved person” and not “slave” in her writing (my emphases):

“It was very important in the 1619 Project and whenever I write about this, to not use language that further dehumanizes people who every system and structure was designed to dehumanize.
I think when we hear the word “slave,” we think of slavery as being the essence of that person. But if you call someone an enslaved person, then it speaks to a condition. These people were not slaves. Someone chose to force them into the condition of slavery, and that language to me is very important, as is using the word “enslaver” over slave owner because these people didn’t have a moral right to own another human being, even though the society allowed it, and I think it needs to be active, that this was an active system of people choosing to treat other human beings as property.”

 

I recently saw the following on social media, and it was another click moment    [4]  for me.  I’m referring to it as The Real Problem:

 

 

Let’s resolve to use the active voice. To take responsibility – and to point the finger and accuse as well – when necessary.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Climate Edition

What do you call a weatherman who destroys dinosaurs?
A meteorologist.

It was a terrible summer for Humpty Dumpty, but he had a great fall.

People using umbrellas always seem to be under the weather.

What’s that Arabic country with loads of sheep and very wet weather?
Baaarain.

 

*   *   *

May we keep in mind The Real Problem and lose the passive voice;
May we never comfortably think that our individual actions don’t matter;
May we all anticipate having a great fall;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Whatever happened to just drinking bleach?  That wasn’t idiotic enough for them?

[2] I think two of them were adopted by Levittand his wife, from China.

[3] “And by ‘a little,’ Steve, I mean, absolutely fucking…”

[4] Click! In the 1970s that word signaled the moment when a woman awakened to the powerful ideas of contemporary feminism. Today “click” usually refers to a computer keystroke that connects women (and men) to powerful ideas on the Internet.  (Click! The Ongoing feminist revolution, cliohistory.org )

The Towel I’m Not Throwing In

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Department Of Throwing In The Towel

Sometimes it’s just easier to give them their own glass.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Profound Reflection After Being A Surgery Buddy  [1]

The inventor(s) of the twist-‘n-seal vomit bags should win the Nobel Prizes for Peace, and Medicine.  As well as any other awards the Swedes have lying around.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of Things Related To Nausea
Sub-Department Of Let’s Get This Out Of The Way

 

 

I have been trying to avoid writing about the TexASS’s draconian anti-abortion law, because what hose TexASS politicians have done leaves moiself  almost speechless.

 

 

Can someone build a barf containment bag for the entire state of TexASS?

I know there are good people there; it’s a state which, once upon a time and despite its history of self-mythologizing and macho posturing, managed to produce a triumvirate of some of my favorite feminist raconteurs:

* Governor Ann Richards

* Author, political commentator, humorist and columnist Molly Ivins

*  Journalist Linda Ellerbee

But that was then and this is now.

Meanwhile, in the here and now, TexASS political leaders seem determined to secede from the 21st century.

Speaking of which, there is a history of secession movements in TexASS which extends beyond the Civil War to the present day, producing headlines such as

“Texas Republicans endorse legislation to allow vote on secession from US”
(The Guardian, 2-5-21)

…as well as a quote only a reality-oblivious politician could spew:

“You cannot prevent the people from having a voice.”
(Allen West, Texas Republican party chairman,
quoted in the above article)

 

“I’d like to buy a U”

 

The TexASS GOP chairman was speaking about the voice of TexASS citizens, as per their being allowed to vote for their state to secede from the USA and become an independent nation. Meanwhile, TexASS political leaders are hellbent on preventing people – female people – from having the final voice when it comes to managing their own bodies.

TexASS wants to secede?  Oh, honey, stop being such a tease.  Really; this is the stuff dreams are made of.  Fine; let ’em leave.

 

 

“Texas is ranked first in the U.S. in the variety and frequency of natural disasters.  Flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, hailstorms sinkholes, drought, all occur in the state. Sometimes, even utilization of the state’s natural reserves of oil gas, and water can lead to subsidence and earthquakes.”
(“Natural And Man-Made Hazards In The State Of Texas,”
NASA’s NISAR Mission report: Reliable Observations for Hazard Mitigation )

As for that “independent nation” nonsense, it would be delicious to watch TexASS politicians come crawling, 10-gallon caps in hand, the next time they need emergency funds for the natural disasters which strike TexASS with mind-numbing regularity, along with the totally Texan-made disasters ( the most recent being the 2021 power grid failure) their infrastructurally-ignorant leaders refuse to recognize or address.

I’m sorry (former) Gov. Abbot, but can you drop the faux genteel drawl and enunciate clearly?
You see, For a moment, the rest of us thought we heard you request Federal Emergency funds – you remember, funds that come the federal government of the USA, the one y’all flipped off just before the door hit you in the ass as you left?

This way, dude. The line for Foreign Aid applications starts at the rear of the building, near the Voting Rights Act Memorial and gender-inclusive restroom.

 

 

I urge the rest of us to help any TexASS refugees that you can.  Then, do your research as to businesses that are based in that state.  From Exxon/Mobil to Southwest Airlines; from 7-11 to Dell trechnologies; from Frito-Lay to J.C. Penny to Gold’s Gym; from Pier I to Pizza Hut; from The Container Store to Zales Jewelers; from Nieman Marcus to Whole Foods (what ?!? Whole Foods?  Aw, shit)  [2] …. As much as possible, boycott all things from TexASS, from sports and arts and entertainment to goods and services. 

 

*   *   *

We now return you to our regular programming.

*   *   *

Department Of the Price of Reminiscence

Dateline: Monday afternoon.  MH decides to spend a portion of his Labor Day in doing a labor of love Periodic Household Task ® – going through stuff in the attic.  He comes upon a Star Trek Concordance, and finds, tucked into its pages, a list of episodes Someone ® has made. This list contains the names of certain TOS episodes, sorted into three categories.  The first category is faves; the second is stinkers.

“Do you know anything about this?” MH says, waving the list in my face. When I see the third category I realize that the list-making Someone ® must have been moiself …although I have no memory of compiling the list.

Category #3 is pesha.  ‘Tis a word which, mercifully, will mean nothing to y’all, nor to anyone outside of a certain circle of moiself’s  friends and college roommates.   [3]

Pesha is a dear friend’s family slang for, “wet fart.”   [4]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Earlier That Same Day…
Sub-Department Of Other Things I Thought Were Long Forgotten

MH and I are discussing son K’s recent surgery (alluded to in the earlier mention of moiself  being a surgery buddy), and how it involved moiself  doing quite a bit of blood-cleaning up afterwards (K’s post-surgical bleeding was not fully under control for a while).  Suffice to say, K’s kitchen floor got a thorough cleaning.

We take a break from household tasks and decide to go out for lunch. As we are gathering critical lunch-out accoutrements (two copies of the days’ NYTimes crossword puzzle) MH starts singing, “Blood on the Saddle,” a song from Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree show.  With a heh-heh-heh tone to his voice, he teases me about how that song had to be one of my favorites.  He refers to the fact that, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a seasonal job at Disneyland’s Hungry Bear Restaurant   [5]  (which was adjacent to the Country Bear Jamboree theater).  I worked there summers and vacation times, after high school and my first year in college; that song was one I thought (hoped?) I’d never have to hear again.

Minutes later, in the car: MH fiddles with his phone and connects it to his car’s audio system.  For reasons only the gods I don’t believe in can understand, the Spotify music service has the Country Bear Jamboree soundtrack.  And MH proceeds to torture entertain me by playing the original Blood on the Saddle, which contains the immortal lyrics,

♫  There was….

Blood on the saddle/and b-blood on the ground

And a great…big…p-p-puddle…

Of blood all around.  ♫

 

This is followed by another ear-mangling cacophony  favorite I had also, for a few blessed decades, completely forgotten about:  Mama Don’t Whup Little Buford.

C’mon, everybody – y’all know the words.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Pandemic Lessons Learned

Dateline: Saturday afternoon. After enjoying lunch at a Pastaria with MH – NOT the aforementioned lunch outing, where my auditory sensibilities were assaulted by country bear “music” – we headed for a nearby movie theatre, to take in the latest Marvel Superhero flick.    [6]

My lunch of whole grain spaghetti aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and oil), plus a side of garlic lemon spinach, was a gustatory delight…which then haunted me during the movie.  For 2 ½ hours in a darkened theater, I received continual feedback via my mask.  Read: I was surrounded with – and sometimes felt as if moiself  would be suffocated by – my own robust garlic breath.

 

Only my ten rings of minty breath fresheners can save civilization from the deadly Dweller-in-Darkness’s dragon breath.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Italian Noodle Edition

The cook at our local Italian Restaurant has died.
I guess you could say he pastaway.

Noodles are part of my daily rotini.

What type of pasta do they serve at haunted houses?
Fettuccini afraido.

Why do Gen Xers take selfies when they’re eating spaghetti?
They want to record it for pastarity.

My friend sometimes pretends to be a lasagna noodle – she’s such an impasta.

The shy pasta chef was in a contemplative mood, so I offered him
a penne for his thoughts.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you urge your congressional representatives to support
the secession of TexASS;
May you accept the consequences of that which leads to garlic breath;
May you turn up the volume and sing along with,
“Mama Don’t Whup Little Buford,” imagining that Buford
represents Texas politicians;    [7]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You know what a surgery buddy is, even if you haven’t heard that term (and you may have been one, or needed one).  You provide a ride to and from the hospital or day surgery center with someone who is undergoing a surgery/procedure and given medications that prohibit them from driving.  Surgery buddy duties may also include pharmacy and drugstore runs, meal prep and other TLC, overnight stays, making sure the patient does not do any online shopping while under the influence….

[2] I shop at Whole Foods…but not anymore. I contacted them with an “I regret to inform you” letter notifying them that I will not shop there until there is demonstrable evidence that they have lobbied Texas political leaders to rescind the anti-abortion legislation (oh yeah, and fix your state’s racist voter suppression while you’re at it).

[3] I’m talkin’ you, LMW.

[4] There was only one TOS episode which I deemed worthy of the pesha appellation: “Turnabout Intruder.”

[5] Which, as many a hangry, tired, overheated and cranky customer (always male) pointed out to me, was not in fact a restaurant (haruumpf!) but was yet another one of Disneyland’s fast food eateries.

[6]Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. ”  Like most Marvel/Superhero movies, it is in serious need of editing for length, IMHO, and, of course, by now there aren’t many surprises.  Some good characters; you just need to get in the mood for such summer movie froth and it is entertaining.

[7] I think this is this blog’s longest “May you…” ever.  Gee. Thanks for the opportunity, TexASS.

The Germline I’m Not Editing

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“There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.”
( Salvador Dali  )

 

The romantic notion that mental illness and creativity are linked is so prominent in the public consciousness that it is rarely challenged….. To be sure, research does show that many eminent creators – particularly in the arts – had harsh early life experiences (such as social rejection, parental loss, or physical disability) and mental and emotional instability. However, this does not mean that mental illness was a contributing factor to their eminence. There are many eminent people without mental illness or harsh early life experiences, and there is very little evidence suggesting that clinical, debilitating mental illness is conducive to productivity and innovation.
( “The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness,”
Scientific American)

Carrie Fisher had quite the resume that few people outside of Hollywood know about.  In addition to being an actor, best-selling author, and screenwriter, Fisher was  “one of the most sought after script doctors in town.”  As a script doctor,   [1]   Fisher’s (mostly uncredited) work included Hook, Sister Act, Last Action Hero, Made in America, and The River Wild.

Fisher also was known for being candid  – and wickedly self-deprecating – about her struggle with bipolar disorder and substance abuse.  Was known.  Damn. I so hate having to write about the multi-talented Fisher in the past tense, but it her bipolar disorder – specifically, how she’d tried to self-treat it – which killed her.

She died at age 60 – way too young.  After losing consciousness on a plane flight and dying four days later in an ICU, her autopsy revealed heroin and other opiates and MDMA in her system, a revelation which surprised and frustrated and saddened her family and friends.  Although I share most of those emotions, it (the revelation of the drugs she’d taken) was no surprise to moiself .  She’d been open about how the various psychiatric medications she took for her bipolar disorder didn’t always work well or consistently.  As a young adult Fisher discovered, long before getting her bipolar disorder diagnosed, that whatever it was that made her brain do the things it did, LSD and other the hallucinogens her friends ingested had the opposite effect on her, and it was an effect she welcomed. Whereas her friends took those drugs to “trip,” she took them to feel “normal;” as in, they tamed the frenzied delusions which so tormented her when she was in the manic phase of her disorder.  She continued self-medicating for the rest of her life.  Fisher had the best professional/medical help her Hollywood paychecks could buy, and it wasn’t enough.

 

“If only George Lucas had let me script-doctor this hairdo.”

 

People who buy into the “tortured artist” stereotype would credit Fisher’s bipolar disorder for her creativity.  I heartily enjoyed Fisher’s works and her wicked wit – some of the lines in her various books made me spit out my gum    [2]  in guffawing admiration.  But, if there had been a definitive cure for her bipolar disorder – one pill/surgery/treatment/genetic tweak and it’s all under control! –  and I’d expressed the opinion that Fisher should keep suffering in order to make art, I hope that someone would’ve slapped me upside the head and shamed me for being a cultural vampire.

Moiself most firmly holds to the following:

Writers, musicians, artists and scientists and other “creatives” produce great things *in spite of,* not because of,
any afflictions they may have.

This topic is on my mind because of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race.  It is the book I’m reading…as in, ahem, still reading.  I’ve mentioned this book previously in this space; the reason I’m still reading it after two months is that it’s chock full of scientific, historical, and medical discoveries and the resulting political and cultural and ethical adaptations and information such discoveriespawn, and…the predicaments.  Some chapters I have to chew on for days, even weeks – in particular, the one I just finished: Chapter 41: Thought Experiments.

This chapter deals with the ethical questions raised by the CRISPR gene editing technology developed by Doudna and other scientists, a technology (“genetic scissors”) which may lead us to both the greatest opportunities and most disturbing dilemmas of our times.  It doesn’t matter that, for the present, the overwhelming majority of scientists (and the public) have either signed or supported pledges not to use the genetic scissors for germline editing.   [3]  Once the technology exists, it will be used – as in the Chinese scientist’s creation of the first gene-edited babies[4]  Gene editing, like any other activity or profession, can and will be regulated, but for what, and how, and by whom?  And there will be a black market for the technology, and hackers using and, (depending on your POV) “misusing” the technology.

 

 

Chapter 41 offers up specific examples wherein gene editing could do good (e.g., treating ALS) before, as the author puts it, “our knees jerk and we stumble onto hard-and-fast pronouncements (somatic editing is fine but inheritable germline edits are bad; treatments are fine but enhancements are bad).”  In one segment of the chapter, “Psychological disorders,” the author postulates how and if people will decide, should the genes that contribute to a predisposition for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression be isolated, whether or not to allow (or even encourage) parents to make sure that these genes get edited out of their children:

“But even if we agree that we want to rid humanity of schizophrenia and similar disorders, we should consider whether there might be some cost to society, even to civilization. Vincent van Gogh had either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  So did the mathematician John Nash (and also Charles Manson and John Hinckley). People with bipolar disorder include Ernest Hemingway, Carrie Fisher …and hundreds of other artists and creators….

Would you cure your own child from being schizophrenic if you knew that, if you didn’t, he would become a Vincent Van Gogh and transform the world of art (don’t forget, Van Gogh committed suicide)….

A reduction in mood disorders would be seen as a benefit by most of the afflicted individuals, parents, and families…. But does the issue look different when asked from society’s vantage point? As we learn to treat mood disorders with drugs and eventually with genetic editing, will we have more happiness but fewer Hemingways?  Do we wish to live in a world in which there are no Van Gogh’s?”

Here are the chapter notes moiself  made, while reading this section of the book:

First of all, IMO the world would get along just fine with fewer Hemingways.

 

 

And about a world with  “no Van Goghs” – seriously? He is/was one of my favorites.  But if people like VG had never been born, or were born but without their mood disorders, we wouldn’t miss what works they never produced…or perhaps we’d all be enjoying the art and literature they *did* produce, during a lifetime of creative endeavors not cut short by suicide (Hemingway at age 61; Van Gogh at age 37!).

VG’s world and Hemingway’s world had to get along without them, and did.
BECAUSE THEY WERE SO MISERABLE THEY FUCKING KILLED THEMSELVES.

We don’t have and likely never will have a time machine to see the “what ifs” that might occur should a person be born, or not born, or have this trait or tendency or lack another.  We often casually throw around such “what ifs” for the thought experiment, but we should never forget how many of the “tortured artists” we label as such were literally tortured to death by their mental demons.  Van Gogh *killed himself.* Although that fact is presented parenthetically in the book, I think it should be front and center to any debate about these issues.  I think that only a person who has no experience with the suffering inflicted upon a  loved one with schizophrenia would even be able to play devil’s advocate and pose such a question, about “society” being richer for one man’s exquisite anguish.

More chapter notes from moiself:

And how could you sentence your child to that fate, knowing the suffering?  “Yes, she’ll have bouts of – if not live the majority of her life with –  dealing with horrific, debilitating delusions…but she may write some catchy songs/paint some cool pictures other people will enjoy….”


So, we would chose to have other people suffer as long as there is the possibility they will do something to entertain us?

 

 

“Of course we should use germline therapy to fix things like schizophrenia that nature got horribly wrong.”
( James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA’s double helix.
Watson’s son Rufus has schizophrenia.
Quoted in chapter 41 of The Code Breaker )

Whenever I hear/read a claim about how the physical suffering of, say, a person afflicted with Huntington’s Disease caused that person to become more empathetic, or that the mental suffering of schizophrenia allegedly produces creativity, I think of all the kind, creative, empathetic peoples I know who have somehow managed to develop and nurture those skills and abilities without having to suffer the brutalities of the loss of language, thinking and reasoning abilities, memory, coordination and movement (Huntington’s disease) or hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior (schizophrenia).

We praise Van Gogh’s art and rightly note his influence on generations of artists…but the man never made a dollar from the Starry Night posters you see on dorm room walls all over the world, nor one cent from his Almond Blossom painting being reproduced on reusable tote bags. In fact, he never made any money at all from his art.  [5]

Yes, it is a great (and necessary) “Thought Experiment,” to think of both the positives and negatives that can come from having – or getting rid of – certain mental and physical maladies.  And you can play that game in a myriad of ways. Those what-if they’d-never-existed? arguments are, to me, ultimately ridiculous.  You can’t think of it one way without postulating the other – think about how much more great art could have been produced by those who suffered from mental illness, including artists we never heard of because they killed themselves before their talent came to fruition.

Gene editing, in some form, is inevitable.  I won’t even deal with the trivialities of how the technology may one day be used, such as using it to make would-be basketball players taller, or to have more green-eyed redheads in the world.  For me, who has seen the anguish severe mood disorders inflict upon individuals and their families, I would take the opportunity to relieve future generations of that, if the “genetic scissors” approach could be shown to be safe and efficacious.

Relieve suffering, if you can.  Trust me, art will survive.

 

“Glad you like the posters and tote bags.  I’d rather live with bouts of happiness, if it’s all the same to you.”

 

“Vincent Van Gogh’s mutilation of his own ear, Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and Ernest Hemingway’s alcoholism are just a few of the anecdotes that fuel the popular belief that creativity goes hand-in-hand with mental illness…. a systematic review and meta-analysis of the research on mood disorders and creativity found no clear link between them. ‘You can have a mood disorder and be creative, but those things are in no way dependent on one another.’ “
( “No Clear Link Between Creativity and Mood Disorders,”
Association for Psychological Science

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Punz For The Day
Carrie Fisher Memorial Mental Health Edition

I hate being bipolar… It’s fantastic!

I met a bipolar fortune teller yesterday – she says she either feels very manic,
or quite depressed – never a happy medium.

Did you hear about the white bear who had a female mate *and* a boyfriend?
Apparently, he was bipolar.

 

 

*   *   *

May you never conflate great art with great suffering;
May you read at least one of Carrie Fisher’s books;
May you engage in your own thought experiments of which genes you would
(or would not) edit out of humanity;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] A script doctor is a (usually uncredited) writer called in, by a movie’s producer and/or director, to help fix or improve a movie, by polish or fleshing out a character, “punching up” jokes, dialogue, and other story elements.

[2] Yep, despite rumors to the contrary, I can read and chew gum at the same time.

[3] A process wherein the genome of an individual is edited in such a way that the change is heritable – germline editing affects all cells in an organism, including eggs and sperm;  thus, the changes will be passed on to future generations.  This is in contrast with somatic gene editing, which affects only certain cells of the patient being treated.

[4] After which the scientist, He Jiankui, who carried out his own experiments on human embryos to try to give them protection against HIV, was convicted of violating the Chinese government’s ban on such experiments.  For acting  “in the pursuit of personal fame and gain”, seriously disrupting “medical order” and crossing “the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics,” He was sentenced to three years in prison and fined three million yuan (roughly $430,000 ).

[5] He made not one legitimate sale of his paintings.  His brother Theo bought one ( so VG could claim to have sold one and thus be a professional artist, which was the requirement to have his work shown at a certain gallery), but that doesn’t count.