Anti-depressants research depressing

The manufacturers tried to avoid publishing it, but a recent study stamps a big question mark on the thousands of anti-depressant prescriptions made daily.

A review of clinical trials of new generation antidepressant drugs, including Prozac and Aropax, found they were no more effective than a placebo, or sugar tablet, for most people with depression. The study included results that manufacturers had chosen not to publish, as well as data reported in scientific journals…

Kind of depressing.

Horse flu, gambling and related ramblings

This bout of flu which kept me home today got me thinking about the national crisis we recently experienced. No, it had nothing to do with terrorism (to which we are to remain alert but not alarmed), the environment, or the impending parliamentary elections. We were shaken by a crisis of equestrian dimensions: Equine flu put much of our racing calendar on hold this year.

Word has it that jewel-clad trainers and height challenged jockeys had to downgrade their sports cars, whilst punters had to find a useful way to expend their weekly income, some even on food and family. Exorbitantly priced hats did not find their way onto the heads of botox-injected, surgically enhanced women with laser-bleached pearly whites who traditionally don the racecourse with a champagne glass in hand. A national tragedy for our culture and our economy. Luckily enough, by closing the state of Victoria’s borders to all incoming horses who may be carrying strains of this debilitating virus, we recovered in time to hold our most illustrious race, the Melbourne Cup, a fortnight ago.

Not once did anyone stop and think about the poor horses and their dilemma. Try having a runny nose with the capacity of a fuel bowser. It’s nothing to be sneezed at. Mine’s hardly running and it’s got my head going in circles. I digress. Would our world really be so much worse off if we didn’t gamble on horses? I propose the opposite would be true.

It’s like alcohol. We love it so much we can’t bear to admit the statistics which point to it being our society’s biggest problem drug, one whose deleterious reach extends to all aspects of health, civil and family life and society. But hey, it’s culture right? I propose that so is disrespecting women and honour killing in other parts of the world. I don’t mean to be exaggerative or alarmist, or even compare these evils. It would certainly be out of line to do so. I’m just suggesting that we are all blind to some things when we wear the blinkers of our cultures, and alcohol cannot be seen as an exception. Nonetheless, this sounds like a topic to inspire a future posting.

Pop star gyration a terrorist threat?

Apparently so. There’s been an uproar amongst mullahs and government officials in Afghanistan, who found a televised concert by the tightly clad Shakira too provocative, despite her breasts being pixellated.  Gyration may be a humorous word, but when commited by pop stars it joins US foreign policy and Zionism as the “causes” of terrorism, with a pro-government newspaper actually stating that it will provoke suicide bombers. Okay then.

Have we met?

A new study has shed light on how new memories are formed. Comparing the short term effect of the drug Midazolam (an anxiolytic and retrograde amnesic which is my bread and butter at work) and saline on memory of studied items, it found that when recollection was relied on, Midazolam impaired memory, whilst when familiarity was relied on, it did not.

I’d tell you more about it but can’t remember the details. But these findings don’t as yet point to any manner of improving memory, apart from vaguely suggesting not being on these sorts of drugs just to calm you down, as a rule of thumb.

In all seriousness, these findings don’t as yet point to any manner of improving memory, apart from vaguely suggesting not being on these sorts of drugs just to calm you down, as a rule of thumb. De ja vu. Speaking of which, scientists have now triggered de ja vu in the lab. Apart from having a lot of time on their hands, their study has shed further light on the processes of memory and the distinct workings of recollection vs. familiarity. It also casts doubt on beliefs in reincarnation, a theory which some support by their experiences of de ja vu.

Caught between a Left and a Right place

In our increasingly polarised society, we find solace in identifying with extremes. We identify with Conservatives or Liberals, Evangelists or Atheists, the Left or the Right, Aggressors or Pacifists, Traditionalists or Progressives. We brand ourselves with Hip-Hop or Rock and Roll, Geekdom or Emo-ness. It gives us identity and purpose. It gives us someone to be like, someone to blame. It gives us salvation.

Then along comes a new campaign, a new war, an Enlightenment, A Reneissance, a famine, a flood, a new ad - the pendulum swings and masses of us change our mind, and identify with something new. Perhaps something on the other side. But do we sometimes throw out the baby with the bathwater? Do we replace communism with a rampant capitalism of excess that still leaves us with extremes of wealth and poverty and for some, death by excess? Do we oppose the fire of religious fundamentalism with an equally fanatic form of atheism, blessed with a highly presumptuous, patronising and unwarranted faith in its own abilities? Do we fight gender inequality and female suppression with a hyper-sexed and sex-obsessed society which treats women in just as severe a way, as objects?

We can all argue our bit. We can say that those women are excercising their liberal choices and being empowered by presenting themselves in that way. We can say that all of a sudden our knowledge of science is so perfect that we don’t need religion, and that religion is for the weak, because we are too weak to delve into the deeper mysteries of both. We can put our trust in the free market to deliver us from all evil for all time.

But we can also stop and wonder: Is the balance not in the middle of all these things? Is there not some truth in each side, however distorted, beneath a surface of inconsistencies and vagueries? Are we not overdue for approaching things with a world-embracing vision, one of foresight and detachment from pre-conceived notions tempered by open-mindedness and wisdom? One that can listen as well as preach? One that though progressive, is guarded and moderate in the way that it swings? Yes, this is where we must expend our energies. Somewhere between the left and the right place.

There is a certain convenience in throwing rocks at falling buildings, but there is much greater purpose in the laborious process of building a new one, giving timely and patient attention to such verities as moderation, humility and deeper truth. Building is highly underrated, but I suspect we have reached the age of the owner-builder.

Triple Filter Test

One day an acquaintance met Socrates and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”

“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I`d like you to pass a little test. It`s called the Triple Filter Test.

“Triple filter?”

“That`s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you`re going to say. That`s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don`t really know if it`s true or not. Now let`s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you`re not certain it`s true. You may still pass the test though, because there`s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

Ironically, I have not looked up the source of this story and do not know if it is authentic. It is no doubt, however, true.

Here, have this tooth.

If that dreaded root canal was not successful and surgical apicectomy is not your cup of tea, there may yet be hope. Scientists have grown and successfully implanted teeth in rats, in the search for organ generation and replacement by non-stem cell means.

Pedro in the running, unwittingly

A review of last year’s Victorian state elections has revealed that Pedro almost made the cut, the  dark horse receiving an unexpected number of votes, despite not contending. 

We could probably use some unassuming and sincere types like Pedro in positions of power. He might make all our dreams come true.

Apologies if this posting makes no sense to you. Reference: Napoleon Dynamite, the cult comedy classic (of course).

Congratulations, you.

Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle wrote that “the history of the world is but the biography of great men.” How wrong he was, because he could never have anticipated that you, of all people, would end up moulding human culture and shaping civilisation.

Congratulations. In case you did miss the news, you have been named Person of the Year.

For the love of the Kraft

It was a lazy morning and Whitford City was all but deserted. Whitford City is a shopping centre which in my mind accompanies the jingle “We whit-ford city on rock and roll,” purely because of its unimpressive nature. The only thing open was McDonalds, where I was heading for the usual wake-me-up of rubber muffin and water-ocino.

Some mornings I go there to bathe in the quiet before the storm of onrushing shoppers - the inevitable stampede of that strange species blessed with a glint in their eye for objects of possession. In this quiet state of desertion, when it’s too early for the suction-rich tentacles of consumerism to have yet reached in to gobble up their breakfast, one has the space to allow his mind to receive a distinct thing: unclamoured thought.

But on this particular morning, despite the usual calm, I could feel a distinct buzz of anticipation. As I turned the corner towards the long corridor to the Centre of hunger salvation and the Provider of the economy (McDonalds), I noticed a male-dominated cue in single file, stretching the length of the mall. They were an ecclectic lot, appearing individually unruly, but at a general glance, arrayed as a perfect chain which at each moment accepted a new link at its terminus. They were young and somewhat dishevelled, but in their stance they promised to abide by the law of the land. I did not see one exchange a word. As I progressed further down the corridor, I saw the reason for their order - four security guards who pulled the short straw, having been sent in as reinforcements this morning.

“What’s going on here?” I asked one of the guards, who was taken aback by the unexpected need to exude words from his mouth so early in the day.

“Video game release - Warkraft,” said the gentle giant. I could feel the creeks in his musculature as he forced the day’s first smile onto his face.

“Ah, it all make sense,” I thought. This time as I gazed back over the chain, I could see its individual links, which included:
1 - A short adolescent with a crop cut and long black cloak, undoubtedly hiding his pyjamas.
2 - A jolly taller fellow with brown silky hair to the waist, sporting a drooped stance and a fuzzy goatee around a bright smile, a smile of recognition that said “now you understand why we have braved the world at this ungodly hour, for the love of something that usually has us sleeping in at hours like this.” I understood perfectly, there was no need for words as we exchanged glances. In his smile, he showed the cheek of assuming that we both knew, which we did, the silliness of this important pursuit.
3 - A pretty young Eurasian who looked like she stepped out of a Gwen Stefani video clip - about 3 days ago, not having showered since. Her hair was such a rich black it looked like it had been highlighted with mascara.

I glanced past the quota of 3 shoppers at a time making their anticipated purchase, and looked back to see a yet longer chain.

Returning to my journey, I glumly traversed the remaining corridor to the promised land of Golden Arches. What a sad reality that we should awake from a state of perpetual slumber content with a life all too sullied by news of war and disease, for the promise of the new Warkraft? (I take the liberty of spelling it with a “k” only by assumption that a game by that name must needs be misspelt and conjoined, though I could be wrong, having never heard of it.)

I wondered if there will still be war when our generation one day assume the power of governance. Do we leave much promise when our greatest hobbies and obsessions focus in on pleasure in imbecilic games of warfare and the nuances of violence?

In these obsessions do we rob the future of peace and tranquillity? Would we not be better focusing our time and energy on more moderate pursuits? It was at this moment of clarity that this lazy morning got me thinking: Peacekraft… Now there’s an idea.

P.S. Dear reader, sorry to mislead you if you thought this posting would be about Kraft cheese or mayonnaise.

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