Thursday, December 23, 2010

chemical affliction

"We can never speculate as to what may happen with a drug once it goes into widespread use..."

quick quiz: are those the words of a responsible federal agency, or a two-bit drug dealer?

hint: it's a trick question.

the answer, of course, is "both."

that's your food and drug administration at work, ladies and gentlemen. how 'bout a big hand for the nice people selling us out so transnational pharma can keep raking in their billions?

yay, FDA!

but wait! the same description also fits the nice people at pfizer, the narco-traffickers responsible for "chantix," a drug that can cure your nicotine addiction by helping you kill yourself.

isn't that great? they get your money, and as a gift with purchase, you get a decorative toe tag.

random rhetorical question: if it's not the FDA's job to speculate what might happen when a drug hits the market, whose job is it? do they expect the nice people running big pharma do that? really?

fun trivia: almost half of people with depression are smokers. chantix is a psychotropic drug, the side effects of which can have a profound, often disastrous effect on depressed people.

fun fact: the people at pfizer never tested chantix on people with depression. nor was it tested on patients with histories of panic disorder, psychosis or bipolar disorder.

fun corollary: people suffering from those conditions are disproportionately more likely to attempt suicide than, say, billionaires with fresh tax cuts in their wallets. go figure.

would it surprise you to learn that the people a FDA and pfizer insist they did nothing wrong in bringing this drug to market? sorry, silly question. no one involved will ever admit "mistakes were made," or anything remotely resembling responsibility. the merest hint of same would cost them $ megamillions, maybe more, in legal complications.

instead, after hundreds of suicide attempts (over 100 successful), and more than 5,000 reports of "severe psychiatric symptoms," associated with chantix, pfizer and the FDA are kicking around the idea of maybe studying the drug a little more.

just to be, you know, safe.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

spinal fortitude

late last year i was diagnosed with cervical stenosis, a degenerative condition that signals decline and decrepitude.

if you believe in such things.

fortunately i'm great at denial, so a year later, after a bit of surgical legerdemain, i'm back to playing basketball and preparing for the ski season.

the osteoarthritis implicated in this diagnosis is commonly lifestyle related. if you're active and your workouts tend toward the debilitating, your spine can reap an eventual whirlwind of symptoms. but really, that's kind of a badge of honor, isn't it?

i mean, the alternative of couch-bound lassitude and cardiovascular disease is not much of an alternative at all, n'est-ce pas?

bla bla bla.

this retrospective is prelude to a recent email from a friend who says he's been dealing with symptoms nearly identical to those i experienced last year.

turns out he, too, has spinal stenosis, and he's been referred to a neurosurgeon.

as you might imagine, he's a little upset.

a review of the literature regarding stenosis is disconcerting. absent timely and effective treatment, it can cause all kinds of life-changing trouble. if you like using your arms and legs, that is.

surgery can make a significant difference. it can resolve symptoms, restore strength, and in time, return you to whatever passes for normal in your world. depending on your feel for karma and irony, it might make you better than you were, appreciation-wise.

howard...i feel you, man. i understand how seriously this might be messing with your head. and while your ski season might be over, next season will be here momentarily. and you'll be ready for it.

l'chaim, my friend.

Monday, December 13, 2010

tight christmas

mrs. spaceneedl loves her some christmas specials.

from it's a wonderful life to charlie brown to white christmas to the grinch, this time of year she's all about parking in front of the tv and shushing everyone so she can hear the lines we all know by heart.

which is fine by me. we have too few traditions tying us together at our house. it's comforting to have a handful that we can point to and say, "this is what we do, for no other reason than this is what we do." it might not make sense to sit and watch reruns we've seen dozens of times, but then again, what really makes sense any more?

maybe, one day, the little needls will have their own families and their own traditions, and maybe they'll gather to watch fred claus or elf or bad santa or, you know, whatever passes for holiday programming 20 years from now. it would be nice, though, if they shushed their kids so they could hear one or two of the old school shows, because they're a reminder of a simpler time in their lives. a time when holiday movies weren't full of snark and cynicism and sentiments that make you furrow your brow and think, "wtf?"

watching white christmas this year, it occurred to me that, despite its status as an all-time holiday classic, there's no way this movie gets made today. even if you could resurrect bing and danny and rosemary and vera-ellen.

unless you were making "zombie white christmas," i suppose.

made today, white christmas would have to feature robert downey, jr. as the cia chessmaster whose people love him because of the hilariously varied ways he kills hapless terrorists. will smith and kanye west would reprise the bob wallace and phil davis roles...of course you'd have to change those names. i mean, can you imagine will smith playing "bob wallace" and kanye west playing "phil davis"? and the two of them singing "count your blessings instead of sheep"?

on second thought, that'd be kinda funny.

as undercover operatives posing as r&b artists in new york, the two of them find themselves assigned to the badlands of south dakota, battling caribbean pirates on a quest for lost incan treasure. while in sioux falls they stumble across a promising sister act performing old school christmas songs at a holiday inn express. the haynes sisters, portrayed by taylor swift and katy perry, are desperate to get out of the dakota lounge circuit and land a recording contract, so they concoct a variety of hijinx to impress wallace and davis.

meanwhile, downey has cleverly allowed himself to be captured by the pirates, who have taken control of an icbm silo. downey promises to help them aim the missile at the moon, which legend says will reveal the location of the treasure. instead, he disables the warhead and reprograms the missile to topple the main towers broadcasting fox news.

simultaneously, romantic sparks are flying between west and swift, causing smith and perry to furrow their brows and think, "wtf?"

the four get caught up in a snowmobile chase between, over and through the countless ice fishing houses on lewis and clark lake. hilarity ensues as pirates, drunken ice fishermen, and walleyes fly across the screen at high speed.

i don't want to spoil the finale for you, but it's a big fight scene/dance number involving the five heroes, a bunch of confused fishermen, and a plethora of pirates and wenches played in cameos by an army of international celebrities.

at some point the entire cast gathers to sing a rap version of a certain holiday classic, renamed "tight christmas." afterward everyone grudgingly hugs and goes their separate ways.

a series of sequels is a given.

can you feel it? i got chills. it'll be huge.

mrs. spaceneedl just rolled her eyes at me. it doesn't feel like a classic to her.

she'll change her mind when the screenplay contract is signed and the first check hits our bank account.

that'll be tight.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

filling station

through timeless words
and priceless pictures
we'll fly like birds
not of this earth
and tides they turn
and hearts disfigure
but that's no concern
when we're wounded together
and we tore our dresses and
stained our shirts
but it's nice today
oh, the wait was so worth it..

~ jason mraz

from the front end, ten days can stretch beyond the horizon, full of plans and promise.

but the fact is, ten days is only 240 hours, and they pass in the blink of an eye.

especially if you fill them up with life.

for example, you could roll out of bed at dawn every one of those days, because that's when you wake up and find you're ready to get your day rolling. however improbable you might've found that prospect on the front end.

and because it's already warm, you might throw on shorts and a t-shirt and walk a couple miles along the beach as the sun comes up, watching the sky change from purple to pink to orange.

you could pass a couple dozen people, who invariably smile a little smile and say a quiet good morning, because they too are experiencing something simple and clean and timeless and therefore profound.

your new routine, which in no way resembles your old routine, might include coffee that smells like coconut, and a bowlful of something healthy that includes actual coconut.

later, your day might find you out on the electric-blue water, hovering over an ancient volcanic crater or a fossilized coral reef covered with contemporary coral. you splash overboard with a tiny cylinder of portable atmosphere, putting a world of distance between you and your regularly scheduled programming. from the boat to the bottom is a matter of a few dozen feet, but the quiet that settles over you feels like a warm embrace of miles.

it's like swimming in the world's biggest tropical fish tank, pulsing with color. until you see the enormous sea turtles paddling around you, which could never fit in a tank. the honu are either mildly curious or completely indifferent to your presence in their world. they drift away in all directions, leaving much more of an impression on you than you made on them.

another day might find you clinging for life to the side of a volcanic ridge, high above a tropical valley floor. your position is made more precarious by the early morning fog and mist swirling around you. each step is an opportunity for a foot to slip. every reach up is a chance to lose your grip.

photos never do justice to the steepness of this climb, or the consequences of an uncontrolled descent. you don't really get it until you're 10 or fifteen minutes up. that's when it hits you that if you fall, you die.

you keep going up, because the thought of not finishing is unacceptable. in fact, the goal is to get to the top quicker than the last time. for no particular reason.

when you get there, you catch your breath but you don't really celebrate. because you know that the trip down is actually more difficult, and now it's raining. en route, how many times does your foot slip off its designated step? four? six? how does that shot of adrenaline feel, every time?

after what seems like hours, you reach the bottom safely. and you're already thinking about repeating this foolishness on your next visit. which means you're an occasional adrenaline junkie, and therefore not very smart.

ten days seems like a long time, except on day nine. that's when you realize how pitifully short it is. and in a time-warped moment of clarity you can see ahead to a day you might be at this place again, after the children have grown and gone. you think back to this trip, when they were here, running around acting like children...and you wonder where the time went.

you feel that moment with perfect lucidity, and find it dusty and sepia toned. it's not adrenaline you experience then, but something else moving and powerful.

ten days is only 240 hours. and they pass in the blink of an eye, whether you fill them up or not.

better to fill them up with something. if you're lucky, it could be something timeless and priceless.

and so worth it.

Sent from my iPad