Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chasing the Scream

by Johann Hari

Mount Hope May 23, 2015
I am sitting at Mount Hope on a cool clear day. The vista is beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky and the air is filled with birdsong. Here are some excerpts taken from the introduction to Johann Hari's remarkable book.

Lady Day
"How do we react to addicts and the war on drugs? We all know the script. Treat addicts and drug users as criminals. Coerce them into stopping. This is the prevailing view in almost every country.

Hari used to think that way but has changed his mind. He now argues instead for a second strategy – legalize drugs stage by stage, and use the money we currently spend on punishing addicts to fund compassionate care instead."

The journey that he took to research and write this book took him across nine countries and 30,000 miles and it would last for three years. The story is a compelling read.

Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is. There is a very different story waiting for us when we are ready to hear it. Pick up this book and read.

Johann Hari's Ted Talk: Everything You Thought You Knew About Drug Addiction in Wrong, June 2015.

Cast of Characters (in order of appearance)
Harry Anslinger: Bureau on Narcotics "godfather."
Billie Holiday: Jazz singer hounded to death by Anslinger
Arnold Rothstein: NY drug/alcohol lord
Chino Hardin:  FTM drug dealer turned activist/reformer
Leigh Maddox:  Policewoman/lawyer who once stalked addicts and now he workswith LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)
Sherif Joe Arpaio: Arizona reincarnation of Harry Anslinger.
Prisoner number 109416 (Marsha Powell): small time drug user and victim of Arizona "justice" system.
Gabor Mate:  Family physician from British Columbia who is helping drug addicts on the front line.
Bruce Alexander: a psychologist at SFU in Vancouver. He worked on a Rat Park study that showed it's the environment which creates addicts not biology.
Bud Osborn: An addict and an activist who organized the Downtown Eastside drug users and got them recognition and respect.
John Marks: Liverpool psychiatrist who ran a drug prescription clinic and saved many lives until the British government disbanded it.  He self-exiled himself to New Zealand.
Ruth Dreifuss as president of Switzerland, she approved the establishment of drug distribution centres.
Jose Mujica: The anarchist president of Uruguay who implemented legalization of many drugs.
Mason Tvirt: Activist in Colorado who spearheaded that states campaign to legailze marijuana.  He fought against Hickenlooper -- the CO governor.
Tonia Winchester: An attorney who led a successful campaign to decriminalize marijuana in Washington state.

The author, Johann Hari, did a masterful job here.  When I looked at his Wikipedia page, I was surprised to learn some disquieting facts about him - but feel they only make him a more scrupulous reporter her.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My Year Off: Recovering life after a stroke (1995)

by Robert McCrum
From Amazon:  " On July 28, 1995, Robert McCrum suffered a severe stroke at the age of 42. His thoughtful memoir chronicles the long, arduous process of recovery. Drawing on his own diaries and those of his wife, Sarah Lyall (then the publishing columnist for the New York Times), McCrum presents a detailed portrait of the physical and psychological effects of a stroke. His speech was impaired and his left arm and leg were paralyzed, but almost worse was the emotional havoc those disabilities wrought. As the hard-driving, hard-living editor of English publishing house Faber & Faber, McCrum had defined himself for 20 years by what he did--now he was forced to ask himself who he was. He ruefully admits that his upbringing in the privileged British upper-middle class, traditionally suspicious of introspection, had ill prepared him for such a struggle, and he pays loving tribute to his American spouse's crucial role in his recovery. (Indeed, the excerpts from Lyall's diaries, which honestly reveal doubt, fear, and anger, are among the book's most moving sections.) Famous friends like Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje make appearances at McCrum's London hospital bedside, but Lyall is the narrative's heroine, and the hard-working staff of physical and speech therapists the invaluable supporting players. The author's lucid explanation of stroke's medical aspects and thorough account of his slow progress toward nearly full recovery will inform and inspire other stroke victims, but at heart this is a touching marital love story and an exciting drama of personal rebirth. --Wendy Smith 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Amy Tan on Lyme Disease

This is a sobering and compelling pathography by a world-renown author.

I used to brag that I never got sick. I rarely came down with colds or the flu. I had health insurance for catastrophic illness and only used it once, for surgical repair of a broken leg, the result of heli-skiing, the sport of a vigorous and fearless person.

But in 1999, all that changed. I learned what it is like to have a disease with no diagnosis, to be baffled by what insurance covers and what it does not, and to have a mind that can’t think fast enough to know whether a red traffic light means to press on the gas or hit the brakes. I have late-stage neuroborreliosis, otherwise known as Lyme Disease. The neurological part reflects the fact that the bacteria, a spirochete called borrelia burgdorferi, has gone into my brain.

Read full article: SLyme Disease: How A Speck Changed My Life Forever

Image from the article

Missoula (2015)

Krakauer's book, Missoula, is focused on the most common type of rape:  non-stranger sexual assault.  While it reports from a Montana college town, Missoula's rape statistics are about average for the U.S.

The book has been criticized which is not surprising, however, I have read it twice and find it convincing and sobering.  Alcohol seems to be an almost-constant factor.  Alcohol, jocks and naive students -- female and male.

This is a hugely important topic and Missoula is an important introduction.  Probably, everyone in high school, college, or with children at these stages should read it.  Educators are another important audience.