Sunday, November 29, 2009

Team Jacob!

I swear, if pharma is ever able to get a female libido drug on the market, I'd be willing to bet there's a little vampire mojo in there. I was going to write that if you are a straight or bi female you should definitely see "New Moon," the sequel to the "Twilight" book and movie, but I've since amended that sentiment to include gay and bi men.

I've been counting down the days until I could see "New Moon," and it didn't disappoint. In fact, it was a lot better than I thought it would be. The movie was very entertaining, and not just because Edward was gone for most of it. The film flowed well, and I liked the look and feel of the production. Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black climbs with the grace of Legolas in "The Two Towers," but manages to make Orlando Bloom look a little ordinary. Who knew that was possible? Even though I chuckled at the cheesiness, I liked the CGI effects of the werewolves, and how the ground shook when they ran.

The chemistry between Kristin Stewart as Bella Swan and Lautner was electric, and dare I say it, the acting was good. I have to give Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) props for the scene where he dumps Bella after correctly determining that he and his family are a mortal danger to her, and that it's in her long-term best interest if he leaves her and Forks, WA, altogether. In that scene, Pattinson manages to lie through his teeth, saying he doesn't want Bella, yet convey through his acting that he hates every second of it and that it's killing him to say it. This is a reasonable thing to expect from a principal actor who reportedly earned $12 million for this film.

I had no idea before today that Michael Sheen was cast as Aro for this movie. I find him delightful all the time, but even more so when he's playing an evil character -- basically the Godfather of the vampire mafia, the Volturi. I definitely hope they keep him for "Breaking Dawn," the final movie, where Aro and the Volturi are very pivotal. Sheen was a high point of the film for me.

Now let's get to the heart of the matter: As I've opined before, Edward Cullen is the Morrissey of vampires. He's so sullen, over-dramatic, and walks around like someone pissed in his Wheaties. He seems so depressed and self-absorbed that one antidepressant wouldn't be enough. Simply put, he's a whiny little bitch. I would love to hear a convincing argument that Edward is actually better for Bella beyond the teenage-girl refrain of "He's her true love!"

Jacob is in every way a better fit for Bella; he is safer, handier, warmer, better looking and, unlike Edward, does not seem to have a personality disorder. I was thrilled he got so much screen time because Lautner turned into a 100 percent hottie for this movie. A week ago I scoffed at the tween's mom who asked Lautner for his underwear at a promotional activity; now I get it (but hope that if I were a tween mom I'd be able to restrain myself even if I thought that). Cue the cougar music! One of the funniest moments in the movie wasn't in the movie: it was when Jacob took off his shirt for the first time to clean blood off Bella's head. There was literally a gasp heard across the theater, including from the two men in front of me. Oh my God, Lautner is stunning. I could barely look at anyone else in a scene with him when he was shirtless. I'm sad he cut his hair once his werewolf gene activated, but that was a major plot point of the book, and couldn't have been disregarded. The shorter hair also made him look older and more cut, which was an important part of the were character.

All that said, I'm not an Edward hater. As someone who believes in romance and who is fortunate to feel a soulful bond with her husband, I do believe in true love. Once it's clear that Jacob is not a real option, I do root for Edward and Bella.

Stay tuned. I'll try to write a short piece about why vampires should most definitely NOT sparkle.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Excuse Me, God, This Is Not The Life I Ordered!

You might be depressed if:

A. You cry whenever you hear REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore"
B. You watch the Pixar movie "Up" and tell your spouse "This makes me want to kill myself!" [not literally!!]
C. You've been chronically ill for nearly three years
D. All of the above

The answer is D. Thank you for all of your emails, phone calls, and text messages inquiring if I'm ok. People got concerned that the blog was quiet, and with good reason. Life lately has been very, very hard. I hadn't wanted to write about it, feeling like it drew me deeper into the depression that I'm fighting tooth and nail, but it's what's going on, so here we go:

I have not eaten a normal meal since Oct. 21, since I have been suffering from undiagnosed gastrointestinal (GI) problems. I have become a stalker at my GI doctor's office (I told him, "Hey, at least I'm nice and smart!" and he agreed), and have submitted myself to a battery of undignified diagnostic tests that mostly are coming up with no clear pathology. If you have never had persistent GI issues, you can't know that when that part of your body isn't feeling well, no part of your body can feel well. Of course, the GI tract is the massive engine that powers your body, and it's always working, so it's not like a sprained ankle that you can stay off of for a while. Even doing two days of bowel rest, which means drinking only clear liquids, calmed my system only a little bit. Until I had to eat again.

The depression that is nagging at me is a bigger threat than my GI problems, I think. I used to be a freakin' mess, to put it nicely, and at one point took 4-6 psychotropic drugs at the same time. It took me years of patience and determination to get off of them, and I have no desire to get back on them. If I have to, I will, but one day at a time, I've been giving my depression the middle finger and telling it it won't get me today. I've handled this by exercising, which hurts my tummy, but gives me yummy endorphins that stave off the depression. I've been very selective about my media, choosing light, fluffy, and funny over dark and depressing, which is part of the reason that the first half of "Up" threw me for a loop. I'm doing lots of service work for OA, which keeps me out of my head, and I'm doing my best not to isolate, though I'm not feeling social right now, to say the least. Prayer and meditation help, too.

The fact that it was December 2006 that I first started having serious pain leading up to my Lyme diagnosis certainly adds fuel to the fires of depression that I'm fighting. More on this later when I'm not giddy with the fact that David, unbidden, sought out and got me vampire erotica from the library. Could I be married to someone more attuned to me? I don't think so. I'm also giddy with the fact that I just watched and enjoyed "Twilight" in preparation for seeing "New Moon" on Sunday. I recognized the Stephenie Meyer cameo in the diner this time, and enjoyed the film a lot more since I didn't watch it immediately after reading the novel.

Back to brooding: In spite of everything crummy going on, I do sense the hand of God somewhere in all this. I have felt led to schedule a consultation with an integrative medicine clinic. This is a medical practice I've previously dismissed as being too expensive and too fringe-y for me to have an interest in it, but three years later, I'm willing. I have a friend who had great results working with them. I've surrendered myself to the several thousand dollars of debt that we'll accumulate if I decide to seek treatment with them, which I believe that I will. At this point I think they'd have to advocate overt idol worship for me to run scared.

After two years of being out of touch, two weeks ago I ran into the aforementioned friend who was healed at this clinic, and she urged me to give them a second glance. I checked out their Web site again, and saw they had a free Webinar about Lyme Disease with a naturopathic practitioner, which I attended. I found it surprisingly informative and credible, and began to seriously pray and meditate (haha, I just typed "medicate" instead of "meditate." Is that my Freudian slip showing?) about whether to seek a consultation with the practice. The overwhelming message I got was to go for it, so that's what I'm doing. David is going with me, and is being amazingly supportive, even though this type of health care definitely falls farther out of his comfort zone than mine.

Something that piqued my interest in the Webinar was the discussion of Lyme Disease co-infections. One of the reasons that Lyme has been so much more debilitating over the past 10-15 years than ever before is that when someone is bitten by a Lyme-infected tick, they usually are also being co-infected with up to eight or nine other viruses and bacteria. The naturopath giving the presentation said that in over a decade of practice treating Lyme, she has only had two patients who were not co-infected. There is not a lot of medical literacy about the co-infections in mainstream medicine; I was lucky to have had a neurologist who even knew how to properly check for Lyme. I was never tested or treated for any of the likely co-infections, and one of the most predominant symptoms of those lingering co-infections is GI trouble. In light of the fact that we have no other clear ideas about why my tummy is so upset, this theory is intriguing, so I am embarking on a different path to see if we can clear this up.

In related news, I'm pleased the Lyme-documentary "Under Our Skin" has made it to the next round of consideration for receiving an Academy Award for Best Documentary! I have a few beefs with this movie, but overall I support it because of the incredible job it does spreading Lyme literacy. At some point, I'll formally review the movie on my blog, but I recommend it. Check it out!

Monday, November 9, 2009


I've had a terrible few weeks due to GI problems that leave me very uncomfortable and depressed. So, I started writing about that in another post, but it was making me even more depressed than I already am, so I'm putting it aside for now to focus on a happier topic: Glee!

I am obsessed with this show. Part of this is unsurprising if you know me: I don't really do anything half-assed, other than house cleaning. I am totally into this show -- the last time I gave a damn about any non-cable network TV show was when Babylon 5 was airing circa 1996 when I was dating my husband. Now I'm a semi-regular (read 3-D Loser) on the Glee fan boards. So what has Glee done to win me over?

First of all, singing & dancing is just cool. I love musical theater, and since Glee follows the ups and downs of the Glee club at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, there is lots of singing and dancing. Their musical numbers are really fun, and so far my favorites are:

1. "Somebody to Love" (from the episode The Rhodes Not Taken)
2. "Halo/Walkin' On Sunshine" (from Mash-Up)
3. It's My Life/Confession (ibid)

I've been listening to the Glee Cast album on Grooveshark, and the only song from the show that I really can't handle is their version of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab." I think this was a poor choice on the part of the producers because the treatment of it by a high school chorus completely misses what makes that song so awesome: that everything about Winehouse's performance makes you totally believe what she's singing is plausible. She sounds like someone who needs to head to rehab but is saying "No, no, no." I'm sure this song was chosen because of its overwhelming popularity, but the overly-produced high-school glee club version just doesn't work.

The Glee overlords have done a bang-up job with casting. The producers auditioned 2,900 people; apparently it's tough to find people this age who are required to be good actors, singers, and dancers. I think the characters are believable as typical Mid-Western kids. I have found Lea Michele totally captivating since the first time I saw her, and she shines as the self-important, star-obsessed Rachel Berry on Glee. Jayma Mays is another stand-out on the show as the obsessive-compulsive guidance counsellor with more than a crush on Will Schuester (played by the charming Matthew Morrison), the leader of the Glee club.

The humor in Glee really appeals to me, and largely is driven by the brilliant Jane Lynch, who is cast as Sue Sylvester, the sadistic cheerleading coach who has a personal mission to destroy the Glee club and Schuester. You know Lynch, maybe as the lesbian handler of Rhapsody in White, the poodle, in Best In Show. More recently she was in Role Models, and she was the store manager in The 40 Year-Old Virgin. If you still don't know whom I'm writing about, you could just look up, since Lynch is in the icon at the top of this post. I listened to an excellent Terri Gross interview with Lynch that you can check out here. Lynch is so good, I literally can't imagine anyone else cast in this part.

Still, nothing is perfect. My biggest complaint with Glee is that they use damn auto-tone on all their choral numbers -- luckily they haven't applied it to solo numbers. I'd take slightly imperfect harmony over the excessively-engineered, phony, auto-tone any day. My other complaint is that due to the !$@# World Series, Fox has deprived me and millions of other obsessed fans of new episodes two weeks in a row, but that will be rectified tomorrow.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bariatric Surgery for Children = A Terrifying Idea

Recently, I had a shocking conversation with two health care providers from Baltimore. They work in an inner-city hospital that soon is planning to do bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, on children as young as five, and it hopes to do the procedures on babies as young as two in the next few years. How is this horrifying? Oh, let me count the ways! But first, some background.

I am a grateful member of Overeater's Anonymous, which has helped me lose 99 pounds and has given me the support to not eat compulsively since Dec. 31, 2005. The program is patterned after that of Alcoholics Anonymous, but helps people who have any kind of disordered eating whether they are compulsive overeaters, anorexics, bulimics, or some combination of all three. All of the local OA meetings are under the umbrella of the D.C. Intergroup, which purchased a booth in the exhibit hall of the Obesity Society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. I was the co-chairwoman of this project, primarily taking care of scheduling and working with volunteers from OA who handed out OA literature and spoke with conference participants about the program and how it can complement their practices and help them help patients with eating disorders.

I felt like the Obesity Society booth was an amazing project to work on, because we were talking with doctors, therapists, nurses, researchers, nutritionists, and anyone who works to cure or manage obesity. They came from as far away as Argentina, Australia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. I asked each person I spoke with about their jobs so I could give them relevant information about OA. This is how I learned about the Baltimore hospital's plans for pediatric bariatric surgery. Until then, when I've heard the adjective "pediatric" modifying bariatric surgery, it has referred to teenagers aged 14-17. Note that it is controversial to do bariatric surgery on kids in this age range, and it's tough for teenagers to find docs willing to operate on them at that age. So, when the women told me they plan to do this surgery on two year-olds I repeated what they said to make sure I heard them right.

When someone has gastric bypass surgery, a surgeon sections off part of the stomach to make a tiny pouch that can hold very little food, and rearranges the intestines to join that pouch. There are other forms of bariatric surgery, like the Lap-band, an inflatable device that goes around the top of the stomach and that the doctor inflates with saline to reduce the amount of food the stomach can hold at one time. Bariatric surgery, especially gastric-bypass, is a serious procedure with a not-insubstantial risk of severe complications and death. Of course, since it's only performed on people who are morbidly obese (typically defined as being 100 pounds or more overweight), one could argue that the patients were dying from their obesity anyway and that their obesity puts them at risk for surgical complications. Even if it's true, I don't think even that warrants surgery with high complications and spotty efficacy.

People who work 12-step programs have sponsors, who are like your guides on your recovery journey. I have sponsored several women who have had bypass surgery, and guess what? They're all doing the same work I'm doing every day for my recovery, like making 3 phone call to other food addicts, doing a daily reading and writing assignment, and weighing their food, but they struggle with nausea and/or diarrhea and/or vomiting, and have to get intravenous iron infusions because they're anemic as a result of their surgeries. Moreover, all of my sponsees who have had bypasses have gained nearly all or all of their weight back, which shouldn't surprise you, because the things that cause someone to be eligible for bariatric surgery are not in the stomach. They are in the mind, heart, and soul, and no surgeon can fix those things.

I have several friends who have had gastric bypass, and all of them suffer complications -- some major. My friend, H, lost more than 200 pounds in OA and had so much hanging skin, she had to walk with a cane. She had to get that extra skin removed via a body lift, which is a really nasty and drastic surgery. She was hospitalized for nearly two months because her wounds wouldn't heal. Granted, they are enormous -- they cut from both sides of your navel and cut all the way around your circumference, stopping just before your butt crack. But one of the reasons she wouldn't heal is that she couldn't assimilate enough protein to heal because of her bypass surgery.

The women from the hospital in Baltimore told me that they have two year-old patients who weigh 80 pounds (normal is up to 30 lbs.) How did these babies get so fat? They're not in the kitchen baking lasagnas or going to CVS for Ben N' Jerry's and Oreos. Their caretakers are overfeeding the kids and making them obese, and unless these kids are reassigned to foster care after their bariatric surgery, the same parents are going to overstuff their kids post-operatively. Why would this be different with children?

I think if this trend of operating on very young children catches on, we're going to see a lot of kids who are both fat and sick. It's one thing for an adult to choose a life disrupted by potential diarrhea or vomiting, yet another to impose it on helpless kids. We also should be freaked out about this because we have no idea how weight-loss surgery will affect growth and development when done on a young child. What will be the consequences of limiting dietary calcium on bones that are still growing? Bariatric surgeons will tell you that patients will take supplements, but we already know that the body does not integrate nutrients from dietary supplements the same way it does from food (duh). Could limiting food quantities adversely affect neurological development? We don't know, and the professional hubris that says it's safe to do gastric bypass on 2 year-olds is really galling.

If you're thinking, "Kids are fatter than ever and getting comorbidities of obesity like Type 2 diabetes, which was unheard of 20 years ago. So, what would you propose instead of pediatric bypass surgery?" First of all, I'd tell you to chill with the obesity horror stories -- I think it has become the healthcare boogeyman, which I'll discuss in another post. I won't solve the obesity crisis on my blog, though I hope to explore its many facets. But I did read a summary of a clinical study with impressive outcomes that might be a step in the right direction. A facility in West Virginia created a summer camp for overweight kids that was followed up with family programming throughout the year. So after the camp, the entire family participated in healthy cooking and exercise classes. The kids responded really well, both losing weight and keeping it off. I don't think that cooking and exercises classes are of much use to true food addicts, but hopefully we can intervene with overweight kids before they become addicted. I strongly believe that bariatric surgery on two year-olds is most definitely NOT the answer to our obesity problem.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Liberal Graffiti Fail

Do you think that Obama has heathcare on his agenda? Friends, if you're going to graffiti, please spell correctly. This is at O and 34th Sts. NW.