Friday, March 5, 2010


There's a lot of talk right now about antidepressants not working, and the fact that there's no solid, reliable, statistical proof that taking one of the popular, well-advertised antidepressants, actually helps.

They're saying that, PAXIL. ZOLOFF, EFFEXOR may be no more than "tic-tacs."

Many people I know have tried them, are on them, have been upgraded from one of them to the another.

(Oops, almost forgot CELEXA, that an Aunt's taking -- yes, I know the names, can rattle them off and spell them correctly without researching my research.)

I have an ear for the subject. At different times of my life, I've consulted doctors about not sleeping well, about depression -- career anxieties I had -- trying to become a published writer, when I was actively a dancer/choreographer.

The Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, has been questioning various studies made (many back in 1998), by drug companies, who were proving that their drugs helped/cured/depression.

It's a big business. The number of Americans on antidepressants doubled from 13.3 million in 1996 to 27 million in 2005.

Rumors that antidepressants didn't work started in 2007. And now, more and more scientists who study depression and the drugs that treat it, are saying that antidepressants are basically expensive sugar pills. (some cost between $3 and $4 per pill).

At the moment, general practitioners, internists, as well as psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, psychologists, are out on a limb. Antidepressants are currently in an "If-Maybe Land," where further studies of the studies are needed.

So, if you're on Prozac, do you stop taking it?

Well ... no ... not necessarily. Antidepressants definitely help some patients -- Doctors are telling other Doctors, it sort of, more or less, depends on the diagnosis.

"Diagnoses?" My word alarm is GOING OFF!

"The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders," published by The American Psychiatric Association, has not been revised since 1994, but it's the bible of modern psychiatry. Right now, they're considering revisions that will include the definition and causes of eating disorders and autism. They're saying it will make diagnoses more accurate, but it will require sorting through many more possible related issues.

(Oh dear -- in any discussion with a psychoanalytically-oriented person, a patient can end up over his head in a sea of vaguely interrelated psychological causalities.)

("Interrelated?" "Causalities?" If I cut the big words in the above paragraph, it means diagnoses are going to be very confusing.)

Well, based on my "pill" experiences with poor sleep, depression, career worries -- some over the counter medicines and herbs -- the ones that boost serotonin or epinephrine, can change things.

Sometimes, changing your mood is all you need, in order to get yourself out of a phase where you don't know who you are, or where you're heading -- i.e. depression.

I occasionally use "Elavil" (the inexpensive generic " Amitriptyline") that boosts serotonin. I use it occasionally, if a bad mood is brewing; use it occasionally if I can't get to sleep. (I take a low-dose pill or two, based on how I feel. It's like adding salt to boring food, or shaking grated cheese on your spaghetti -- just sort of "seasoning," changing the flavor of things, a little).

It works!

You may not need a name drug, or one that gets JAMA approval, and diagnosis from that bible manual.

Just take (make) your own placebo. Just thinking "it will make me feel better," you'll probably feel better.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Say his name and you feel like standing straighter -- you think of truthfulness, and integrity. (And actually, I do stand straighter.)

Without beating around the bush, Colin Powell says what he thinks.

His opinion echoes and reverberates --what he said gains substance and significance as it gets around town.

If Colin Powell had run for president, I would have probably voted for him. There was a time when he was a possible vice president on the Democratic ticket; another election when he could have been the Republican candidate.

As a military man, he's known as "the reluctant warrior." Powell has rarely advocated military intervention as the first solution to an international crisis, and usually prescribed diplomacy and containment. In his autobiography, Powell said he is haunted by the nightmare of the Vietnam War.

The reluctant warrior aspects of Colin Powell are very important to me, and what he's said about other major issues -- his clarity, and confrontation of realities, help me figure out what I feel.

Powell could not continue working as Secretary of State for G.W. Bush, because he was not told the truth -- Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. Powell did not want the U.S. to go to war with Iran. He believes Gitmo should be closed. He believes torture is against all principles of American Justice.

Here's the "biggie" that made me cheer, and applaud what he was saying, even though it was on television!

Announcing that he was breaking with his party, and voting for Sen. Barack Obama, Powell said, "He has both style and substance. I think he is a transformational figure. I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities -- and you have to take that into account -- as well as his substance -- he has both style and substance. He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."

Later in the broadcast, Powell noted the "over the top" negative tone of the GOP campaign, as well as in McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the vice presidential nominee, "...who is clearly not prepared to be the president ... " (Powell mentioned that Obama's vice presidental choice, Joe Biden, was.)

Later in the broadcast, Powell said that Palin pushed the Republican party further to the right and has had a polarizing impact on it. (Anything negative that's said about Palin, assuages my fear that she'll be running for president in 2012 -- I'm worrying where the Democrats will be, afraid that Obama won't run for a second term.)

Anyhow, Colin Powell, who supported the Don't ask Don't tell policy is now strongly against it, and also ( this is important to me), he's pro-choice on abortion.

(Is it his wife's influence? At one point, when there was talk about him running for president, I remember he mentioned his wife's concern that they live their lives, have their time together, and not risk his life.)

"I don't want to describe the hate mail we've gotten," Alma Johnson Powell said. "One day I got two letters -- one telling me what a wonderful man I was married to and how much the country needed him; the other said Colin Powell is a scum bag and proceeded to list all his evils."

Alma Powell mentioned some people who'd journeyed across the country, discovered where she and her husband live, and showed up on their doorstep. That scared her, even when the callers were fans. Her grim conclusion: "A black man running for president is going to be in a dangerous position."

(I've written about this; fearing that Michelle and Barack Obama have this hanging over them. See my posts "Please God," 4/7, and 11/24, "Inciting Would-be Assassins.")

I fear it, and fear for them. I think there are lot of Americans who can't stand the fact that a Black President is shaping American ideas, and policies, and trying to solve some of our country's problems.

Powell's strength, strong mind, and popularity cheers me up -- also, the fact that what he supports is not connected to any political party -- it's what he's examined, considered, and concluded is right for America.

Here's what he said quite recently:

That's why I salute him, and hope you'll salute him with me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Advertising Agencies have been researching neural response for a long time. And they've got us nervously twitching, buying lies and junk, as well as what we sort of need. But now, it seems, they're aiming at our "aural" responses

I'm not surprised, are you? After all, selling things to us television watchers is a huge large part of the 34 billion dollars-a-year business. This has been cooking, brewing, for a long time.

The fact is, I've been a borderline anti-ad, fanatical complainer for years, and even created a spliced-up mocking distortion of ads, as music for an end-of-the world choreography.

Back in the seventies, when I was choreographing it, a scientist wrote about vocalizations in gulls and pigeons being something they were studying for a University's "media communications" department -- I remember hearing about it and wondering why. Since then, there's been a rash of books about subliminal advertising, word-case recognition, how to sell, sell more, sell larger audiences -- and now newspapers, dots coms, blogs and columns are quoting a major article, that was in Time magazine last week.

Here's a video of it that I found on Yahoo -- "Why a Baby's Laugh Will Make You Buy."

So get ready for the subtle sounds of steak sizzling, a baby laughing, and other noises our bodies can't help paying attention to. They're saying we may be powerless to resist it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I remember thinking "this is awful" back in the nineties, when I was watching Arsenio Hall's show -- he'd do his fist pump, making a circle and sort of barking, then the audience expressed itself -- not with applause -- with barking, pumping/cranking their fists.

I remember this show -- Clinton played the sax, and then he and Arsenio chatted.

No doubt about it, Arsenio was fun, but the crowds got noisier, bolder in their responses. "Good Lord, where's this heading?" I wondered. Back then, I was touring the college campus circuit, and a hooting, barking audience was not what I wanted to fill the theaters, where I and my dance company were performing.

But it's what audiences do, nowadays. Dignified applause is gone from tennis tournaments. Opinions are expressed with cheers, jeers, and shouts, Applause after aa play or musical, is quite often an ovation (whether the show's a hit or not) -- whistles, hoots, barks, cat calls.

When we watch a television series, laughs and applause are generally dubbed in. Audience approval -- waving arms, rhythmic clapping, loud comments, is more or less what a crowd is expected to do at award shows, and pop music concerts.

The crowd's reactions -- cheers or jeers -- are measured, weighed, and evaluated by pollsters in politics, as well as the MC at the Apollo Theater on talent nights.

What's significant to me, nowadays (what bugs me), is the bad taste, blatant lack of courtesy, often stupidity -- gross ignorance -- of the crowd. Quite often I think the crowd is wrong.

Wait a minute, am I saying the crowd is stupid? No, I'm saying that the crowd reacts to itself.

The other night at a dress rehearsal for an off-Broadway play, I didn't feel that a standing ovation was appropriate, but finally, I had to stand up and clap my hands, because row by row, everyone else was on their feet, excessively cheering, loving it.

Loving what? The show with their friends and loved ones in the cast -- the performers, and the creators -- telling them, "You're great, love your work!"

The show may or may not become a hit. It becoming a hit depends upon the mood of what's happening in the theater world, and what the director and writer decide to work on. The audiences reaction affects them, and sometimes leads them in a wrong direction.

I remember the crowd in Grant Park last year, the huge display of love, approval, excitement when Obama walked onstage.

It had a great deal to do with pride and thrill, that a black man (that he was educated, articulate, honest, eloquent was part of it), that a black man had won. That he was going to be running the country was an event in history that we'd participated in, and that brought tears of joy to our eyes.

The people in the crowd and those watching it on television, felt that electing Obama was the right thing to do. It was people connecting with each other, trusting each other, believing in their wisdom -- the wisdom of people banding together.

What about the crowds that heard McCain concession speech? The Republicans, the Joe-the Plumber-people, the people who've become Tea Partiers, the thousands buying Sarah Palin's book, the millions who listen to Limbaugh and Beck and other Fox commentator stars? They get energy, and belief in their wisdom, affirmation from each other, and have banded together in feeling the wrong man won.

What I'm saying, and feeling is -- what's cheered, loved and celebrated is not always the best, the wisest, right way for the country.

The crowd can be wrong. FDR had a struggle, selling the nation on the New Deal. Hitler came to power in Germany because he was loved by the crowd.

We elected a Black President and we were thrilled, but now that time has passed and some things have changed, we're not sure where we're heading.

Right now, there's a lot of race prejudice in the air. We hear statistics on who feels what about which thing the President is doing, and we encourage the statistics, by paying attention to them.

We loved Obama's eloquence, but now, columnists are complaining that's he's too eloquent -- he's not doing the right thing -- he needs to be more emphatic, or less emphatic, or whatever ...

We let other people's conclusions -- sometimes stupid remarks infect/affect us like is he a citizen, is he a Muslim, a socialist? Didn't he promise us ... ? What happened to what he promised?

We blame him now, for taking on too many projects for his first year in the White House. But we wanted him to take on all those projects, immediately right away -- and he did.

We express to our friends, and loved ones, and poll-takers that we're disappointed, not satisfied with what he's doing, and has done.

I'm just saying to myself and to anyone who reads this -- don't go with polls, and reports about what the majority is thinking. The wisdom of the crowd is often ignorance.

Monday, March 1, 2010


My son was born on March lst. The morning of his birthday, (with no sense that March 1 might be a birthday) we were wakened by someone breaking the glass of the skylight that's over our bed.

Those were the days when we had a problem with an unwanted visitor -- a robber seemed to know when we were out, and had visited us twice -- each time he'd stolen a tape recorder. But there wasn't a robber on the roof. Someone from one of the tall buildings that surround ours, had knocked over a flowerpot. A piece of brown pottery and a few geranium petals told the story.

I had a big breakfast and put on my pink and white maternity dress because the weather, after a cold winter, was suddenly, unexpectedly balmy. Spring had arrived and with it, a lovely, most special, utterly, totally a memorable day.

I celebrate every year nature's wonderments. Look -- here's elk dancing, celebrating his life as I celebrate my son's!

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I've worn the same hair style since age 12, when I decided to be a dancer. I'm not very venturesome, but I adventured, experimented a lot, with far-out clothes.

My favorite head-turning outfits were thin cotton, wild print blouses and dresses from India, and also, voluminous, floating cotton, Indian culottes, with bangles, beads, and dangling earrings.

I love to buy clothes from India, and they love to buy ours -- but hair, according to my friend who owns a Greenwich Village boutique -- hair is the thing in India.

(My friend is a streaked blonde, with sparkles in her hair, nowadays.)

She says in Delhi, you make an appointment with Jawed Habib at his Cut It Out salon, or Priyanka Chopra, the expert in multi-color dye jobs. If you're brave, Siti Channel gives wild cuts wearing a blindfold, or you can try Doordarshan's "hair-cut with fire."

Or drop in at Vikram Mohan's Chaisalon. It's what "with it" people in India are doing these days.

In India, the salon or the barber-shop is no longer a chair in front of mirror that's stuck to a tree trunk. It's a spot with two or three places to sit, and an assortment of imported lotions, shampoos, hair dyes, wigs, weaves, and all the latest tools.

There are a dozen salons in Delhi, but Jawed Habib, who's a leader, is planning a chain of "Bounce" Salons in smaller cities and towns, where satellite television ads, and "Bollywood" celebrities have inspired the "Tier 2" hairstyling "IT" market, and the "Dhoni" Bollywood dream come true.

"Tier 2" -- "Dhoni?" What's "IT?" What's "Bolly" wood? My store-keeper friend used terms I'd never heard before.

Tier 2 is basically the people who use the longer, larger words and ideas (beyond simple basic cat, dog, house, baby English) -- words that appear in instruction books -- synonyms, antonyms, adjectives, adverbs that are useful in writing and talking. ( And handling the help-line phones for Dell computers, Microsoft, Earthlink, Time Warner, amd Verizon.)

And Dhoni? "Dhoni" was a small town boy who made a big name for himself, got fame and fortune, as the captain of the winning cricket-playing team in India.

"Bollywood" is a café in San Francisco -- an atmospheric meeting place, for food, music, and fun people. Bollywoods are cropping up everywhere in India, apparently, because of the exploding "IT" business.

"IT" is "information technology" -- if you have a computer, or high-speed Internet, you know what that is -- it's an intrinsic part of the Tier 2 world, that's expanding the middle-class in and around Bombay, Delhi and many of the smaller towns in India

Habib has 155 salons, 42 training academies, and Hair Espresso outlets (where cuts are only two dollars). The "IT" people, especially those doing help-line work, have "disposable income" (money left over after they've paid their basic bills).

My friend (for years, she's nagged me to cut my hair), said if I went to India, her hair stylist would tell me to get a "Rapunzel-Barbie doll cut." It's big with long-haired women in India right now. Men often ask for Bollywood superstar, Shah Rukh Khan's hair style. (Like us, most of the things they do to look good, are inspired by what's on TV and in the Movies.)

Since things in our world inspire India, will their "wild" hair become our latest fad? Will men be getting the Doordashan "fire cut" Are we going back to pink, orange, purple, green hair, or locks sprinkled with sparkle dust?

Where's it heading? Will Bosley hair weaves be advertised? What about "use it before you lose it" monoxidil?

Hair loss is the beginning of growing old. (I remember the days when "growing old" was something wonderful I looked forward to -- I wanted to be able to stay up late, pick out what to wear to school every day.)

In India, with Tier 2 people in the IT business, earning disposable money, dining at Bollywoods -- with their hair treatments, dyes, perms, fire cuts -- thinning hair is an inevitability. Though it sounds like progress in India, it sounds as if "punk" is coming back, and our out of date styles are going to be IN again -- boomeranging back and forth across the oceans.

My friend wasn't kidding about fire cut -- there's already a place that gives them in DC. Have a look.