Scarlett

Welcome to an assortment of musings, essays and odd thoughts seeking a home. I hope that you enjoy your visit and would love to hear feedback. All posts are copyrighted material.

04 November 2005

A Social Phenomenon: Medicating the Un-Medicated




Recent headlines announce that Britain’s water system is infused with the anti-depressant, Prozac. It’s about time. I’m certain that wives and mothers of teenagers across the United Kingdom are elated. My friends and I have long thought that somebody ought to slip the stuff into our own public water system. One dear friend – who successfully threatened me into shielding her identity -- even secretly considered breaking open the little green and white capsules and sprinkling them inconspicuously over the bowls of breakfast cereal in her home. No one would know and we’d all be so much better-off. Husbands could breeze through financial pressures and office responsibilities, teenagers would gladly forego that belly-button ring hated by conservative parents and the women of America could breathe one huge estrogen-oozing sigh of relief. Not a bad idea at all.

If the truth were told, however, Britain’s water supply is scoring astronomically on the Prozac charts not because Parliament has mandated that the population be medicated, but because so many Brits are, in fact, taking the antidepressant by personal choice. The drug is then being secreted, with every flush, into the raw sewage in high enough concentrations to ultimately 'pollute’ the water table. That’s a heck of a lot of Prozac!

The statistics tell us that, in recent years, prescription of antidepressants has surged in Britain. In the decade up to 2001, overall prescriptions of antidepressants rose from nine million to 24 million a year. Current estimates of American use range between six and 30 million annually.

Believe me, I’m all for taking antidepressants in the right circumstances. In fact, Prozac was my good friend in earlier, more stressful years of my life. But the rising number of prescriptions being written also forces me to pause and question the long-term effects of mass-medicating society.

The great poets and musicians create the most beautiful language and music as a means of healing, or at least coping with, gut-wrenching turmoil, anger and longing. Visually artistic souls express their anguish through paint, clay and mortar. If we numb our artists to the struggles of life, who will sculpt the masterpieces or write the great classics and ballads? If writers are pacified into a pain-free reality, the likes of Holden Caulifeld (Catcher in the Rye) and Ponyboy (The Outsiders) might never be born. And without their voices urging us on, social change will be swept into a botoxed existence, inklings of passion veiled behind a façade of paralysis.

Great art, writing and thought rarely spring forth naturally from happy-go-lucky days filled with contentment. The winds of change are born when the status quo is so ugly that revolution itself is hungered for. When life is easy, why seek more?

Spiritual, political and social unrest need the voice of their artists to achieve change and, therefore, better society in the end. The world changed, and grew, with Thomas Paine’s inspiration of “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Patrick Henry’s battle cry, “Give me liberty or give me death!” rallied the multitudes to fight for a better cause, a better life. And, amidst her soul searching and anguish, Anne Frank’s steadfast belief in her fellow man, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart,” will challenge humanity until the end of time.

Where would we be if those voices were silenced?

Antidepressants certainly are necessary in specific circumstances, but that need must be balanced with the natural introspection and turmoil of our idealistic youth and burdened spirits. We can’t placate unrest (disguised as depression, attention disorders or other ‘conditions’) with pharmaceuticals without running the risk of a plastic-faced population that accepts the status quo without question, no matter what is spoon fed to their smiling faces.
That’s a pretty scary thought.

11 October 2005

With Green Day, It's All Good

With Green Day, It’s All Good
Concert Review


Portland’s Memorial Coliseum rocked recently to the punk pop sound of multi-award winning Green Day. Clearly influenced by the glory days of punk, the hard driving style and raw energy of bands like the Ramones and The Clash screamed through much of their set.

This trio succeeds where those groups failed, however, by pressing punk music to the forefront of mainstream rock ‘n roll. Diehard punkers reviled Green Day for ‘selling out’ their roots when they signed with major label Reprise Records in 1993. The Portland performance, one stop on the wildly successful American Idiot Tour, proved that the choice between punk and rock is not one that must be made after all. With Green Day, it’s all good.

Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong segued seamlessly between hardcore punk anthems such as “Basketcase” and “Longview”, emo-punk “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and rock standards like Queen’s “We are the Champions.” Billie Joe was born to rule the stage and rightfully crowned himself the King of Punk Pop by donning royal robes and a crown. The audience morphed into a puppet in his hands, responding to every tug of the strings. The frenzied mass, willing slaves to their charcoal eye-lined master, dutifully obeyed every glance or gesture bestowed upon them by the King. Armstrong’s control of the crowd was nothing less than awe-inspiring. The rush he must feel by that power can’t be imagined.

Unlike their adolescent tours, the boys did not take to the stage for merely two hours of jamming. This flamboyant rock ‘n roll show harkens back to the powerhouse displays that we free-spirited-children of the 70s recall with a secret smile in the midst of board room meetings and soccer-mom carpools. The show explodes with pyrotechnics, bombs, lights, confetti guns and a pulsating sound that burn into your very bone structure. Green Day is a punked out rock ‘n roll at its most fun.

Drummer Tre Cool and bassist Mike Dirnt backed Armstrong’s guitar and vocals, along with a brass section and keyboards. Tre left the drums behind for an odd rendition of the cult favorite, “All by Myself“, a hidden track on 1994’s “Dookie” album. True to their reputation, the band plucked kids out of the audience to spray sweaty moshers with a fire hose and to join them on stage to play the band’s instruments. One stunned teen, 14-year-old Garrison Schmidt of Scotts Mills, Oregon, walked away with the lead guitarist’ Epiphone Les Paul guitar as a souvenir.

Green Day’s style could also be termed “political punk” for its aggressive Bush-bashing and anti-war stance. Images of war and falling bombs backed their performance of the current hit, “Holiday,” from the American Idiot CD. Lyrics like “Sieg heil to the president gasman” brazenly compare Bush to Hitler, while Armstrong urged the crowd to use the power within them to push the Bush administration out of power.

While most of the free world has embraced Green Day, buying over 25 million of their albums, be forewarned that the American Idiot tour will likely offend the very old, the very young, or the extreme political or religious right. Profanities are the norm and Billie Joe chooses to exercise his own civil liberty with an extended masturbation scene and occasionally mooning the audience. Instead of being shocked, the audience laughs along with Armstrong who seems tickled that he can get away with whatever he deigns to try.

The encore included a haunting rendition of “When September Ends” and the band closed with Billie Joe serenading the audience with “Good Riddance” from 1997’s “Nimrod” album. The acoustic ballad hopes that the fans have “had the time of their life.” We absolutely did, boys. Thank you.





16 August 2005

The Teenage Gamer


The Teenage Gamer

Virtual worlds and fantasies
Ruled by kings and knights of old,
Envelope his bedroom cave
From the soft green monitor glow.

Empty Dr. Pepper bottles
Line the musty walls,
Along with crumpled Dorito bags
And candy wrapper balls.

Outside, al-Qaida threatens terror
While sirens scream and wail.
The girl he loves may not know his name
And blood and war are real.

But inside his bedroom fortress,
He becomes the mighty knight
The friend of kings and wizards,
Defender of honor and right.

10 July 2005

Sorrow of Sorrows

A child died today. Or perhaps it was yesterday. The days blur into one tragic, slow motion, day-long weekend.

Thousands of children die everyday, but I knew this boy.

J.R., 13, finished 7th grade only a few weeks ago. Yesterday's sun rose with the promise of a fun-filled day at the rugged Oregon coast with his family and closest friends. By 11:15 a.m., however, J.R. was in trouble. Only God knows how many moments later he actually drowned, caught in an ominous riptide lurking beneath the calm surface of the Pacific.

No one did anything wrong. The adults checked out the surf first. The Oregon coast, known for its treacherous sneaker waves and annual deaths from logs rolling in the water, appeared friendly and safe on this bright morning. Saturday was just a happy day with two families and miscellaneous extra kids tagging along to play in the water and sunshine.

J.R. and his dad, James, were playing in the water, jumping waves. The water was only waist deep. They couldn't know that they were standing on a temporary sand shelf. They couldn't know that when they stepped off that shelf, the water was over their heads and a riptide was swirling beneath the surface. In a moment, James and J.R. were sucked further and further out to sea. James told J.R. to float on his back and swim for the shore, before going under himself. Their families and the young friends watched in what grew from disbelief to terror.

In the last moments, James saw his son swimming twenty feet away and calling, "Dad, help me!" In the end, rescuers reached James, but J.R. has yet to be found. The Coast Guard suspended the search late last night.

*****************************************************************************
It is rare, indeed, that I can find no words to express my heart. This is one of those times.

The questions have all been asked before.

How? Why? The prayers have all been uttered before by countless souls losing innocent loved ones for no reason at all. I can think of nothing new to add that wounded generations before me haven't already cried out, longing for answers that would act as a healing balm for their sorrow.

The sorrow of sorrows.

No parent should have to bury a child. What could be worse? No parent should have to wonder why he or she lived and their child perished. No father should go to sleep with the cry of "Dad, help me!" ringing in his ears.

Why, this boy on this day? Why this family? I don't know.

But I do know this. No one did anything wrong. And yet, J.R. died.

Horrible events happen in this world.

That's the way the ebb and flow of life works. Is it any more unfair that J.R. died at 13 rather than at 83? Will he be any less missed?

I don't think so. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush declared that each death extinguished an entire world for somebody.

J.R.'s short life was an entire world to those that knew and loved him. He will be sorely missed on this earth.

Someday, we will have the answers to all of the hows and whys. Someday, we will understand why God allowed this boy to die this weekend, and allowed this family to suffer so.

Until then, we must draw comfort in knowing that J.R. was not alone in those last few moments of his life. J.R. knew the Lord Jesus, and his Lord would not leave him to die alone and frightened in the swirling Oregon surf.

James need not be haunted by his son's last terrified words crying out for help. Those cries were answered even though James was not able to provide it.

Jesus Himself, along with a multitude of angels, were there in those last few moments to take J.R.'s hand and guide him through the swirling surf and into the gates of heaven itself.

J.R. was not alone in death, and neither are we, in life.

In life, or in death, there is really nothing else worth saying.

Or believing.

06 June 2005

PIECE OF CAKE

In the black and white world of childhood, life was easy to understand. I could always count on certain things. Fat earthworms came out after the spring rain, television had just three channels, Grandma’s currant jelly was the best and you didn’t mess with mom. Boys were boys and girls were girls and when the two got together, they wound up with babies.

Piece of cake.

And then I took Mr. Dunn’s fifth grade biology class. I learned that males and females don’t hold the monopoly on the sexuality market. Turns out there are his, hers and its. Huh? I vividly remember blinking, stunned. Mr. Dunn droned on, explaining the ins and outs of asexual reproduction in the plant kingdom.

I was just as stunned when Cindy Morrison, who knew everything in sixth grade, explained the concepts of heterosexual, homosexual and bisexuality in whispers at a slumber party. After that, I was wise to the world and knew it all.

Until last month. The local newspaper ran an article discussing the dawn of a new breed: the metrosexual. Metrosexual? I thought that was the cast from HBO’s wildly popular "Sex in the City." Perhaps it’s just people who have sex in the city, I pondered. Made sense.

But what does that make the folks who live in my small town? Hamlet-sexuals? That sounds like the latest concoction on the breakfast menu down at the local diner. Or a newly discovered Shakespearian comedy. How about farmers? Should they now be referred to as ag-sexuals? A bit too reminiscent of Mr. Dunn’s asexuals for my taste.

And what about the farmer out in Salt Creek who wears a huge sombrero to protect his face from the summer sun? An out-of-the-closet FarmMex-sexual? Sounds like a Willie Nelson concert for migrant workers.

According to WordSpy.com, a metrosexual is actually an urban male with a strong aesthetic sense that spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance. So I guess we are now determining sexuality by our sense of fashion style.

Uh-oh. America would plunge into a mass case of the giggles if some poor slob were given the task of ‘naming’ me based upon the contents of my closet. He’d be lost in a whirl of schizophrenia; there’s the homeschooling-granola-mother-sexual in that corner, the professional-sexual on the top shelf (Ahem. No comments, please) and the pink-fuzzy-slippers-with-matching-robe-sexual hiding in the back. Poor guy.
Life was so much easier when it was just boys and girls. Leave my closet alone and pass the cake, please. Preferably with a scoop of Grandma’s current jelly on the side.

30 May 2005

Good Spam, Bad Spam, Everywhere Spam

I am one of the few people that actually enjoy the canned lunchmeat, SPAM. Much to the chagrin of Hormel Foods, maker of the canned "Shoulder Pork and hAM"/"SPiced hAM", the term "spam" has today come to mean network abuse, particularly junk e-mail and massive junk postings to newsgroups and bulletin boards on Usenet.

So how did the name SPAM come to mean massive junk postings? Here's the scoop according to www.templetons.com.

"Most people have some vague awareness that it came from at first from the spam skit by Monty Python's Flying Circus. In the sketch, a restaurant serves all its food with lots of Spam, and the waitress repeats the word several times in describing how much spam is in the items. When she does this, a group of Vikings (don't ask) in the corner start a song:


"Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam! Wonderful spam!"

Until told to shut up.

Thus the meaning of the term at least: something that keeps repeating and repeating to great annoyance."

I savor the meat (yes, really) and I adore Monty Python, but this new version of digital SPAM? Definitely on my top ten hit list.

Sadly, much of the digital world were targets of a rightwing German propaganda campaign this month using email spam to get its point across. Most of these emails were in German and were sent to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe and Russia, as well as a current European election. Spammers used the Sober.G virus - a mass mailing worm that sends itself to email addresses harvested from infected computers - to spread their messages as widely as possible. This marks the first time that right wing extremists have used spamming techniques to reach a broad audience. The sheer size of the operation stunned many experts across the globe. In the past, spam has primarily been used as a means for low-cost direct marketing. They want to sell you something. This new attack has a completely different focus: global political propaganda. Once this door has been opened, it likely will not be the last event, I’m afraid. I believe it will happen more and more frequently.

As we techies work to find a better solution to bad spam, you might want to try having a fried slice of the GOOD spam for lunch: a little mayo, sweet pickle relish and whole wheat bread makes for a great sandwich!