Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What are you listening to?

What a stupid question. I guess lately

Die Antwoord
Madeleine Peyroux
Boby Lapointe
Joe Flood
Les Chauds Lapins
The Cure
Carole King
James Fletcher
Lionel Ritchie
Noir Desir
Baxter Dury
Justin Townes Earle
The Dead Weather
Alain Goraguer

and many more.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Placebo Effect

I've been thinking a lot about the Placebo Effect lately. There was a story in the the New Yorker about it a few weeks ago. One of the points it was making was that the placebo effect works in physical ways that are not even understood yet. It is a clearly documented, scientific fact that believing that something will cure you can have positive effects on your health. The placebo effect works. The mind exerts a very powerful force on the body. If this is the case, why do some very positive people die? Maybe the Placebo Effect is just like any other remedy? What I would like to know is this; is a placebo more effective than no treatment at all? This is fucking with my mind. I believe in the placebo effect. In fact I believe that the placebo effect is more powerful than any drug if you can actually let your body be fooled by your mind. But this is not always easy.
I know lots of very intelligent people who cured themselves with belief. I know others who believed, and yet they still got sick and died. My mother was one of those. When I was a teenager, I swallowed the pill of religion, the pill of Jesus Christ, my personal buddy, my tough, bearded bodyguard. When i was a pimply-faced thirteen-year old, my life was crumbling around me. My parents' marriage was falling apart. My balls were growing hair and my penis was spurting white milky goo. My face was covered with acne and all i could ever think about, all day, every day, was sex. I found solace and belonging in a group of Southern California Christians. I prayed and I sang and I communed with other young, confused, sexy Christians from Orange County, California. I learned how to play the guitar so i could stand at the front of the group at bible studies every Wednesday night and join our leaders in a round of godly singing. The songs we sang were Christian and also secular, songs by Bob Dylan and Car Stevens and songs to the cool, surfing Jesus we could swallow. Being the guitar player at these church gatherings was my first taste of performance, and it filled my heart like heroin.
I recently learned from a very close friend of my mother's that the reason she died at the age of 47 was that she refused to have a double mastectomy, against the advice of her doctors and friends. Something inside her refused to believe that she had to sacrifice her body, her breasts, her feminine physique to save her life. She made a fatal error and she died for it, when i was 19 years old and my sister was 17. It was a very strange realization to make that part of my mother's undoing was something as simple as vanity. I know it's more complicated, she had been through a divorce, she had recently started a relationship with a new man, and she wanted to feel that she could still draw on the reserves of her sexuality to be desirable. She wanted to be sexy and be in love, after the nightmare of her failed marriage was finally behind her, her children were growing up (I was a freshman in college and my sister was a junior in high school) and she had a solid career as an administrator at McDonell Douglas. For her, the option to have her breasts removed to counteract the effects of a disease that seems only middy threatening and easily curable seemed like no optional all.
This is a sad story and it ended badly. I wish she could have lived to meet my gorgeous wife, my beautiful kids, my sister's family. What am i left with? An unshakeable belief in the power of entropy and randomness, and a deep mistrust of cancer. Don't fuck with cancer. The placebo effect works up to a point but then science has to step in. But then again, science is not always so smart either.
Now there are more loved ones suffering from this disease, and they must deal with it in various ways. They must summon their faith in science or nature or the divine healing energy of the earth, or a combination thereof. I love them all and wish them long life.
Adam Yauch, one of the members of the Beasty Boys, just died last month of throat cancer. He was 47 years old, the same age as my mother when she died. What does this tell me? I'm getting older all the time and I'm so thankful for all of the beauty that surrounds me. I'd like to think i've contributed to some of the world's happiness, and there's a lot more to come.