Sunday, March 29, 2015

Richard II, Act III, scene 2


Is Bushy, Green, and the Earl of Wiltshire dead?
Ay, all of them at Bristol lost their heads.
Where is the duke my father with his power?
No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let's choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives and all are Bolingbroke's,
And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart -- Mildred Baily

I let a song go out of my heart
It was the sweetest melody
I know I lost heaven 'cause you were the song

Since you and I have drifted apart
Life doesn't mean a thing to me
Please come back, sweet music, I know I was wrong

Am I too late to make amends'
You know that we were meant to be more than just friends, just friends

I let a song go out of my heart
Believe me, darlin', when I say
I won't know sweet music until you return some day

<instrumental break>

I let a song go out of my heart
Believe me, darlin', when I say
I won't know sweet music until you return some day

Friday, March 27, 2015

Mozart improves upon a piece by Salieri: Amadeus (1984)


[the Emperor offers the sheet music of Salieri's welcome march to Mozart]
Mozart: Keep it Majesty, if you want. It's already here in my head.
Emperor Joseph II: What? On one hearing only?
Mozart: I think so, Sire, yes.
Emperor Joseph II: Show us.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Fistful of Dollars: I Don't Think It's Nice, You Laughing.

"I don't think it's nice -- you laughing."

[Before gunfight, to the undertaker.] Get three coffins ready.

You see, I understand you men were just playin' around, but the mule, he just doesn't get it. Course, if you were to all apologize... [the men laugh] I don't think it's nice, you laughin'. You see, my mule don't like people laughin'. Gets the crazy idea you're laughin' at him. Now if you apologize like I know you're going to, I might convince him that you really didn't mean it...

[After same gunfight, to the undertaker] My mistake: four coffins.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review of Jeffrey Lieberman's Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry

Excerpt from a great review by Gary Greenburg.

Book Forum
"I may be critical of psychiatry, but as a clinician, I would be thrilled if the portrait Lieberman paints of the mental health field bore a closer resemblance to reality. If a scientific medicine of the brain were truly available, I’d be glad to avail myself of it. At the very least, I’d be relieved not to worry that every time I sent a patient to a psychiatrist, she might return with a fistful of prescriptions, little idea of how the drugs work (for no one really knows) or what side effects she may suffer, and no guarantee that she will get better. Lieberman’s apologetics suffer from his cheerleading, from a tendency to gloss over history that would perhaps suggest a less sanguine conclusion than his.
But it’s not just the distant past that Lieberman leaves unrecounted. He minimizes or entirely overlooks such unsavory recent chapters as the widespread diagnosis, against the criteria of the DSM, of bipolar disorder in the very young and their subsequent treatment with powerful (and untested in children) antipsychotic drugs—an episode that occasioned Senate hearings and front-page exposés. He never acknowledges that the “serotonin imbalance” that antidepressants supposedly rectify does not exist—or if it does, it has yet to be discovered—and his lock-and-key image belies the much less certain clinical reality, in which antidepressants are routinely prescribed for anxiety disorders, antipsychotics for mood disorders, and anti-anxiety drugs for a wide range of complaints—and all on a trial-and-error basis. He fails to mention that no new psychiatric medications have been discovered in the past quarter century, or that none of the newer ones have proved more effective than the drugs discovered in the 1950s (although some of them do have fewer side effects). And he vastly overestimates the current state of neuroscience, which is only beginning to unravel the mysteries of how the billions of neurons and trillions of connections among them turn into consciousness."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thomas Szasz, Epicurean psychiatrist?

Mad in America
"The opposition of these two approaches [i.e., shamanism v. medicalism] is well known, and figures in every history of psychiatry. What is less familiar today is that in 4th-century BC Greece, yet another view was on offer—the Epicurean model, which attributed mental abnormality, as inferred from behavioral deviance or self-report, to spiritual anguish. The Epicurean model held that man’s universal fear of death was responsible for his mental anguish, which caused and resulted from his poor choices and failure to understand the relationship between his appetites and his responsibility. The sacred symbol of the Epicurean view is its emblematic treatment, talk therapy or exercise, both mental and physical.
The competition among three different models of mental anguish—the shamanic, the medical, and the Epicurean—is hard to map onto today’s context. In part this is because the Epicurean model runs counter to modern scientific thinking. It interpreted the spirit or mind (psyche, soul), not as something immortal and God-given, but as a purely mortal and material product of natural evolution; so it may seem counterintuitive. Since most people today, and especially non-Christians, believe either that the soul does not really exist, or that the mind is just a function of the brain, they have a hard time understanding this approach. For an atheist to say we have a spirit, and to refer to "spiritual well being" (as Szasz does), may strike you as funny. Most unreligious people today would deny that human beings have a spirit. For them, humans are organic compounds of atoms, molecules, electrochemical processes, and no more. There is no room in this picture for a spirit, a word that smacks of religion, superstition, or supernaturalism. Furthermore, today psychoanalysis (talk therapy) and pharmacophysical treatment (lobotomy, electroshock, drugs) are both subsumed under the name psychiatry; whereas in antiquity, the two were in direct competition. The medical model was the province of the Hippocratic healers, or doctors. The Epicurean model was the province of the philosophers and their students. Each group explained distress differently. The philosophers, like psychoanalysts, thought the patient’s psyche was disturbed; whereas the psychiatrists, like the Hippocratics, thought the brain's chemistry (or humors) were out of balance. (In antiquity, the shamanic model was only believed in by the lower classes and because it is obsolete today, it does not interest us here.)
It is the Epicurean model, I suggest, that Szasz himself hit upon and developed independently—though he was apparently unaware that he was reactivating a view that was not only ancient, but that had once been massively influential on civilized man, and for seven centuries."
The entire paper is well worth reading.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Evil Hours, by David J. Morris

So...the big question is...having worked in VA hospitals...would I recommend that a combat veteran friend of mine go seek treatment there for PTSD?

Pacific Standard

"Morris served in the Marine Corps in the halcyon 1990s, so he experienced most of his trauma not in uniform but as a reporter in Iraq. When he was embedded during the 2007 surge in Baghdad, an IED buried in a trashpile rocked Morris’ Humvee. For several harrowing minutes, a wheel of the burning vehicle was stuck in the blast crater, and Morris was trapped.
That terrifying ordeal, followed by the turmoil precipitated by his trip to the cinema, led him to the San Diego VA for treatment. There, the young clinicians were caring but didn’t much help. Morris underwent a VA-approved treatment called prolonged exposure, which entails exposing patients to their most feared experience repeatedly over several months, until the situation no longer invokes panic. Morris found PE too anxiety provoking, and quit. (In the largest study of PE in veterans, a modest 55 percent had good outcomes.)
He also underwent cognitive processing therapy, a form of group therapy aimed at clearing up distortions in thinking (i.e., the world is a dangerous place; the war made me unlovable; I need alcohol to cope). Morris found it somewhat helpful but still incomplete, and too focused on the symptoms. A fuller reckoning with trauma, he found, required treating it as more than just a series of near-death nightmares, and instead as the transformative experience it really is. “Never was I invited to think of how my experiences might be converted into a kind of wisdom or moral insight. When I did so, on my own initiative, I was admonished for ‘intellectualizing.’” Many soldiers find war, Morris writes, “to be sublime, and more than a few of them ... were suddenly consumed by a need for answers to life’s greatest questions.”
Fortunately, VA clinicians are increasingly attuned to the existential dimensions of veterans’ needs. However, there are too few seasoned clinicians to go around, and newer mental health professionals—like the ones Morris saw—are assigned to conduct one-size-fits-all, protocol-driven treatments. There is a place for these treatments, but not at the expense of encouraging suffering veterans to see returning from war as a major existential project, a struggle to “make meaning out of chaos.” By “making meaning,” Morris means telling stories, a process with “tremendous healing power” for both the teller and the listener."