Wednesday, June 26, 2013


A vaccination lesion on a cat. The same sort of thing happens to many humans. (Wiki commons photo)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The medication in question has, like so many others with big TV budgets, been removed from the market. Not because of what I wrote, since I never published this before, but because eventually, enough people are sickened-maimed-killed for pharmaceutical company profits that the lawsuits litter the earth, and--since they've already made a bundle--the ethics-challenged pharmaceutical companies take them off the shelves.

A recent article in The Telegraph in the UK, about the pseudo-forcing of flu shots on kids and shingles shots on older folk brought this to mind, and I thought I'd offer it to my readers.  



Like a lot of other Americans who don’t believe God is spelled D-o-c-t-o-r, I’m a little tired of seeing TV ads for prescription medications one can ask one’s doctor about taking.  But this week, the ads for Wellbutrin tm pushed me over the edge; I am now in full-tilt revolt against the pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Here’s the gist of the TV spot:  Take Wellbutrin tm for depression because there’s a low incidence of sexual side effects.  If you take it, you may, however, experience one or more of these side effects:
·       Seizure
·       …….
OK.  Stop right there.  Why would anyone want to risk a seizure to get over a little bout of feeling blue, or even a large bout of feeling blue?  I mean, crying in public beats the pants off falling down on the floor unconscious, getting carted off to the emergency room at some outrageous cost, and having one’s driving privilege revoked.  Because in many states, if you show up at a hospital and get diagnosed with a seizure, you don’t have to worry about informing the Dept. of Motor Vehicles about it; the hospital will.  You can then forget about getting behind the wheel until six months have passed without another incident.  By then, of course, you will either have lost your job (talk about depressing!) because you can’t get there, or annoyed friends and family with constant requests for rides here, there and everywhere until you don’t have many of those either (talk about depressing!), or maybe you’ve just killed yourself because you couldn’t deal with the depression the side effects of this feel-good capsule produced.
Well, you might think, but how many folks would suffer that side effect?  Don’t know.  The Web site I viewed didn’t have those numbers and, frankly, I didn’t feel like hunting for them.  The fact that that side effect is the one now mentioned FIRST in their TV spot said it all for me.
But wait, there’s more.  In case the thought of a seizure doesn’t put you off, maybe one of these unpleasant possibilities will:
·       Dry mouth
·       Headache
·       Increased sweating (how nice!)
·       Nausea/vomiting (how quaint!)
·       Constipation  (I didn’t say a word)
·       Anxiety
·       Fatigue
·       Blurred vision (another one that’s really fine for driving skills)
But wait, there’s more.  The Web site also advises reporting promptly:
·       Unusual weight loss or gain
·       Palpitations
·       Agitation
·       Trouble sleeping
But wait, there’s more.  These are labeled “Unlikely, but report promptly:”
·       Tremor
·       Dizziness
·       Fainting
·       Mood changes
·       Slowed movements
·       Difficulty urinating
·       Decreased sex drive (AHA!)
·       Drowsiness
And then there is the “Very unlikely” category, which includes:
·       Seizures
·       Mental problems
·       Fever
·       Muscle aches
·       Yellowing of the eyes or skin
Reading on a bit in the disclaimer on the Web site, one might get the idea that this drug is for people on heavy-duty mood altering medication.  It says: “Suddenly stopping certain tranquilizers (e.g., diazepam, chlordiazepoxide) is not recommended because doing so may increase the risk of having seizures.”
Yipes.  So maybe it’s fine, then, about all those other side effects.  But hey, if a patient is already juiced out of their gourd on deadly chemicals in tiny doses packed in pastel pills, why would that person be worrying about the incidence of sexual side effects anyway?  From the disclaimers on the Web site, it would appear that most of the people who would seek or use Wellbutrin tm are, well, outside the mainstream of human interaction already.  In short, if you’re drugged out of your senses, then it would seem the only sex you might be betting would be the sort which, when a result of Rohypnol, is called Date Rape.  In short, if you’re so fuzzy-headed you don’t know which end is up, someone’s probably taking advantage of that situation, and you don’t know much about it anyway, so again, who cares?
About that point in the research, I thought it would be nice to have the manufacturer’s name.  But it is not to be found on the Web site I was viewing, the one through which you can place really big orders for the stuff.  Still, looking for it was fun.  That exercise revealed that the non-timed-release version of the drug, in its development and post-marketing phase (so apparently it was released for sale while still being developed?  I thought the FDA was involved here….), offered lots of other side effects.  Lots.  I mean like a dozen or more for each of the systems in the human body, from brain to butt.  These I really liked:
·       cystitis
·       abnormal ejaculation (AHA! again)
·       urinary incontinence (lovely!)
·       menopause (Why bother waiting for those hot flashes!  Have them now!)
·       penis disorder
·       vaginitis
Those were not all of the genitourinary system disorders, just my favorites.
            Some people will say I’m over-reacting or using scare tactics, or that I am politically incorrectly assaulting the hopes of the poor, downtrodden depressed population. 
I say: If you think courting any one of the few possible side effects I have mentioned might be fun, why not do this?  Just go find someone who has epilepsy and ask if he or she would recommend taking the chance of getting it.  Ask someone with Parkinson’s disease if having tremors is a treat.  Do you enjoy gaining weight?  Swallowing Milk of Magnesia?  Do you want your penis, for crying out loud, to be disordered?  Or perhaps the sweats and cravings and sometimes hair loss and other menopausal excitements excite you.
            I have been depressed.  Everyone has been depressed.  (Well, maybe not Dr. Phil or Dr. Wayne Dyer.  But everyone else.)  I may even, at times, have been clinically depressed.  My mother was depressed forever.  I have relatives who had been diagnosed with severe mood disorders.  And I’m a freelance writer; I’m always living on the edge, always waiting for a check or screaming for it, and sometimes tucking my tail between my legs and asking friends or family for a bailout.  Talk about depressed!  I have found a good book, a glass of wine, a walk down a country lane, or even planning something pleasant helps.  I may still feel depressed, but less so than otherwise, and a lot less so than risking any one of the disasters described on that Web site.
            Even on my worst dark, lonely, depressed days—when my rent is due, the car needs work, my dog is out of food, I’ve had pasta for one week straight and my publishers still haven’t sent the check—you couldn’t pay me all the royalties of Gone with the Wind, Catcher in the Rye and the Harry Potter books combined to get me to swallow one single sample of Wellbutrin tm.
            By the way, the manufacturer of the stuff was GlaxoSmithKline.

Copyright 2013 by Laura Harrison McBride

Friday, June 14, 2013

Table manners cut the sheep from the goats

(Formal place setting, Wikipedia)

Americans are goats.

I realize most liberal commentators--hell, anyone with a working human brain--usually refers to Americans as sheep, mainly because of the way they allowed George W. Bush to lead them into bondage over a stage-managed putative terrorist attack.

But actually, they are goats.

Goats are more intelligent than sheep, which would tend at first to suggest that Americans, dumbed down by hook and by crook, cannot be goats.

However, one may be willfully obtuse if one has a brain, and goats--as do Americans-- have a reputation for being a bit stubborn. Goats also are not nearly as attentive and protective of their young as are Americans, who proclaim loudly and widely about loving kids, but actually generally fail to raise them...but that's another rant for another day.

Goats also have rather annoying table habits. According to Wikipedia, when goats investigate something new:

They do so primarily with their prehensile upper lip and tongue. This is why they investigate items such as buttons, camera cases or clothing (and many other things besides) by nibbling at them, occasionally even eating them.
I suspect a table at which goats had dined would look a lot like the one described to us on night recently by our favorite restaurateur.

International relations

Suzanne said a group of semi-Americans (that is, a mixed group of Brits and Americans) came in together for dinner one night. They passed the dishes of food around as if they were in a Chinese restaurant. And she couldn't tell when they were finished eating because of the completely American way they left their plates. That is to say, cutlery was everywhere, and the tables were an awful mess when it was all over.

How do Americans leave their plates, I asked, being a former American, and being curious.

"Well," said Suzanne (also a former American),  "They don't place their knife and fork across the top of the plate; they just leave the cutlery any old place, on the table, on the plate any old way...." She didn't say on the floor, but having worked in family restaurants in the US years ago, that's a distinct possibility.

A light bulb went off, though. Aha, thought I, now I know why waiters and waitresses in the States used to ask me if I was finished when it was clear that I was, the knife and fork having been placed across the top of my plate. They didn't know. They had no idea that the signal for being finished with one's meal is to place the knife and fork side-by-side across the top of the plate.

Dining boot camp

I was taught such things early, and I suppose I just thought everyone knew them. I was also taught not to bang the sides of my glass with the spoon while stirring sugar into iced tea (this would not be an issue in the American South where iced tea comes already sweetened.), nor on the side of a cup when stirring tea or coffee. I was taught not to gulp from a glass, nor make sucking noises with a straw. I was taught to scoop soup away from me, and to tilt the bowl away when I needed to get the last drops. I was taught to put the spoon down on the service plate, if any. I was taught to wipe my lips after eating before sipping from a glass.

I was taught to handle a knife and fork American style--switching hands between cutting and conveying food to mouth--because that's the way my mother's family did it. My father, however, was raised and taught table manners by an Irish mother from Ireland and so he ate English style, fork in left hand, knife in right, throughout the meal. When I began traveling to Ireland and England in my early 30s, it was easy for me to make the switch, and I've never gone back.

A view of tongue and tonsils, etc.

Whether one eats American or English style, though, some things transcend culture. One of those is signalling that one is finished to anyone--waiter or Mum--that you are finished. Another is wiping lips before drinking. And another biggie is eating with the mouth closed.

Years ago, my husband and I took my father out for dinner to our favorite Italian restaurant in NYC, Monte's in Greenwich Village. He'd been there with us before, and also liked it. But that evening, as we ate, I was aware that my father was uncomfortable in the extreme, picking at his food, looking down at his plate. Eventually, he began behaving as usual, talking and cracking jokes. What was all that about, I later asked him.

It was awful, he said. A man directly in his line of sight had been eating cheese ravioli carbonara with his mouth open, which was turning my father's stomach. When the man left, my father was able to enjoy his meal once again.

And then there's the editor. I had to invite him to lunch. There was a problem that needed to be solved, and it seemed the best way to do it was over an expensive lunch; New York publishing works that way. I hesitated, dragged my feet for weeks. Finally, it could wait no longer. I needed the money, and I had to face it. Courage, I told myself. It won't last longer than two hours. I figured I could endure anything for two hours. So I sent him a note, he accepted the invitation, and I sought the strength to get through a long lunch of what my father endured so that I could come away with the problem solved. Since the problem was my royalties, okay, it was worth it. But just.

What do you do when there is a salt cellar but no spoon for it? How do you get the salt out?

Answer: Use your CLEAN knife, before it has been used for anything else, and dip a bit of salt out of the salt cellar. Deposit the salt on the side of your plate, and add it to your food as you eat each bite with your fork.