Category Archives: General

ADHD and Pharmaceutical Fearmongering.

ADHD and Pharmaceutical Fearmongering.

It’s never difficult to find articles about how ADHD is some trumped-up condition made up to excuse poor behavior and/or line the pockets of the medical industry. Whether the writer assumes one or both of these, it’s necessarily bound together with denial, ignorance, and hyperbolic claims. Sometimes all you can do is get angry, but other times the writer gives you a chance to deconstruct his points. The Price of ADHD Business is that second kind.

He opens with this blockbuster:

Over 12 million children and young adults consume ADHD stimulant and psychiatric medications in the United States. Pharmaceutical corporations generated near 9 billion dollars in 2012 for ADHD stimulant drug sales, representing 5x the 1.7 billion in sales ten years ago.

Shocking, isn’t it? Except that in the US, the Pharmaceutical Industry makes about $345 billion a year. That means that psychiatric medications make up a whopping 2.6% of the bottom line. Hardly one of their biggest players, compared to drugs for cholesterol, pain management, and cancer treatment, which are much better performers when it comes to percentage of business. Also, notice the subtle slide from “ADHD stimulant and psychiatric medications” to “ADHD stimulant drug sales,” because this will be important.

More alarming, this rate of consumption represents 3x the world’s children combined, according to data collected by Scientific American. The business model of behaviorally assessing and prematurely medicating young school age children with powerful stimulant and psychoactive drug therapy for over 40 years is now under fire. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) Child Foster Care Drug Audit Report uncovered dangerous and unethical prescribing practices. Widespread abuses of overmedicating young foster care children with ADHD stimulant as well as psychiatric medications prior to ruling out nutritional, physiological, and environmental risk factors were uncovered by the largest child foster care prescription drug audit in American history.

Of course, being a first-world country, it’s more likely that we have 3x the children being treated for, say, cancer or juvenile diabetes, or any number of other childhood diseases, so there’s something of a leap from claiming that 3x the children being treated means that something is being treated too much – or “prematurely.” I notice also that the source of the alarmist rhetoric comes from a study of children in foster care. Well, this is a problem with foster care, not with all children. Foster care children are more likely to have disabilities, both physical and mental, meaning they’re more likely to actually need treatment. They’re also covered by state medical programs that make it pretty easy to get treatment that a self-payer parent might not be able to obtain. There’s more, but if a mere scratch on the surface can reveal that we’re comparing apples to oranges, there’s not much need to go even deeper.

In today’s America parents, educators, and prominent healthcare professionals challenge the 40-year ADHD business model, as the ADHD diagnosis rate surpasses epidemic status in 2014. The symptoms of ADHD are real and in many cases can be debilitating to children as well as adults. Especially in the young child population, the ADHD business model of assessment and treatment requires immediate reform. Children have a right to receive comprehensive bio-assessments as well as behavioral assessments to determine cause of their symptoms prior to powerful stimulant and psychoactive drug therapy.

Yes, we have a serious epidemic of about 5-8% of the population. That’s massive. Not. Notice how he snuck in the disclaimer (like, some of my best friends have ADHD!!!) but still calls the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD a “Business Model.” I sense a broken irony meter. Also, have you ever taken any of these medications? The stimulants are among the least powerful ones out there, with the most immediate effect (no two-month waiting period) and little to no withdrawal problems. Lumping them in with all psychoactive medications is disingenuous, especially for someone banking on his rep as a Pharmacist.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental disorders (DSM) lists ADHD as a mental disorder. The DSM diagnosing criteria, created by psychiatrists, involves a subjective behavioral assessment process which forces children primarily into premature drug therapy. Although seven out of ten children may exhibit an initial positive behavioral response to stimulant drug therapy for focus and attention, the long term side effects are now known.

Yes, they are, and they’re not terribly scary. Children who start using methylphenidate or dextroamphetamine medications may grow up to be as much as one centimeter shorter than their peers. Of course, they’ll also grow up happier and more successful and less likely to abuse drugs than their non-medicated ADHD peers, but that runs counter to the narrative here.

The Johns Hopkins Child Center Study results of 2013 prove that stimulant drug therapy should not be the primary intervention in young children. This study followed four year old preschool children who were diagnosed by their physicians for ADHD and medicated with stimulant drug therapy for a six year period. When the ADHD assessments were reviewed at age ten, over ninety percent of the children were worse off in their condition. Long term side effects of ADHD stimulants may include anxiety, minor depression, as well as aggressive behavior. Additionally, the Hopkins study determined that ADHD causes an economic burden to the US exceeding 45 billion dollars, annually.

To the first sentence I say, “Well, duh.” The primary intervention should be behavioral, with medications added to supplement as needed. This is not news, and it does not run counter to what any Medical Association is recommending, even the American Psychiatric Association, which says “Behavioral therapy and medication can improve the symptoms ofADHD. Studies have found that a combination of behavioral therapy and medication works best for most patients.” Add to this yet another lie, because what the Johns Hopkins study revealed was (prepare to be shocked) that ADHD doesn’t go away, and medications don’t cure it, just relieve the symptoms while they are in effect. And the economic burden he’s talking about? That relates to the consequences of untreated ADHD – people in jail, people who are substance abusers, people who are unable to work, people who have other health issues that are related to ADHD.

Many parents are not aware that a diagnosis of ADHD for their child is a diagnosis for mental disease in accordance to the DSM. Once a young child is placed on ADHD stimulants including Adderall or Ritalin prior to ruling out causative risk factors, there is an increased health risk. Additional medications for the treatment of long term side effects may be required due to the development of other behavioral symptoms.

Actually, parents know this, because lots of the evaluations are related to getting assessments for school. And it’s not the stimulants that increase the risk of further diagnoses and additional medications as much as the fact that ADHD is usually not alone, and the co-morbid conditions are discovered because the children are being observed and treated by doctors. The medications don’t produce these problems.

For example, the GAO drug audit uncovered a 2,200 percent increase in drug expenditures for atypical antipsychotic medication reimbursement to the state of Michigan during an eight year period from 2000 to 2008. Children in foster care, as the report states, were abusively prescribed powerful antipsychotic medications including Abilify, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Geodon and Risperdal. The Michigan Medicaid system was billed an increase of 40 million dollars during an eight year period just for this one class of medications in foster care children. US Senator Thomas Carper, requestor of the GAO drug audit and chairman of the Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee, stated “I was almost despondent to believe that the kids under the age of one, babies under age one, were receiving this kind of medication”.

Remember what I said about the creep from the “all psychiatric medications” to “ADHD stimulant medications”? Here we go with another false equivalency. Antipsychotic medications are the last resort, used for treating not just ADHD, but ADHD with serious comorbids that would make the children a danger to themselves or others. Also, remember that this is the foster children, not all children with ADHD as a whole. AND keep in mind that several of these antipsychotics are essential for the treatment of schizophrenia and seizure disorders, which are probably too legitimate to mention in the context of this article. So the figures on antipsychotics for foster children in one state is cherry-picked data that in no way reflects that there is an epidemic of children with ADHD receiving inappropriate medications.

Should ADHD be labeled a mental disease especially in young children who have not been given the right to find the cause of their symptoms prior to stimulant drug therapy? Or, should ADHD be classified as a symptom of condition with underlying causative nutritional, physiological, and environmental risk factors?

Um, yeah, it should. Get inside our heads, mister – it’s definitely a mental disease. It’s certainly not something we can choose or turn off at will. And the cause of their symptoms is mental – the other “causative” factors have been thoroughly debunked as “causes” in study after study. So this is a giant flaming strawman.

The German magazine, Der Spiegel, quoted a prominent American ADHD psychiatrist in their February 2, 2012 issue. Dr. Leon Eisenberg, who coined the term ADHD over forty years ago, stated “ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease.” At age 87, this was Dr. Eisenberg’s last interview prior to his death. During the last forty years, he was involved in pharmaceutical trials, research, teaching, as well as the development of social policy pertaining to child psychiatry. He was a recipient of the Ruane Prize for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research. Currently, over fifty percent of psychiatrists on the DSM panel responsible for ADHD diagnosing and treatment protocols have direct business ties to drug manufacturing corporations.

All that education, and Mr. Granett doesn’t know how to check snopes. How sad. As to that second claim, well, a link would be nice, but I’m not surprised it’s absent, since the actual ties would be openly disclosed and not as incriminating as the author would like them to be.

Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of National Institute of Mental Health, stated on April 29, 2013 “patients with behavioral conditions deserve better… the current assessment process lacks validity.” He supports research that better treats and may even prevent the development of behavioral symptoms in children.”

Again with a diversionary link. Psych Central has some validity, but “The Verge”? Really? Why not link to the NIH’s Research Domain Criteria which explains that what this means is that the NIH wants to have research focused on multidimensional approaches to research, and research that is targeted towards evaluation of symptoms and behaviors rather than whole conditions, because we now know that there’s a lot of crossover and and a narrower approach will produce more successful and useful research. Oh, but that would not support the POV of the author. That’s OK, now you can see what Insel was really talking about. You’re welcome.

ADHD symptoms can be reversed through a process of differential diagnosing. The elimination of nutritional, physiological and environmental risk factors prior to premature drug therapy is the new ADHD Business Model for helping children and adults reclaim their behavioral and mental health. The Action Plan for Childhood Behavioral Conditions discussed in the book Over Medicating Our Youth as well as the upcoming 2nd edition T he American Epidemic: Solutions for Over Medicating Our Youth provides critical bio-assessment information to find the cause of ADHD symptoms. This action plan provides an informational template to unite parents, teachers as well as all healthcare professionals for the purpose of helping children win the battle against behavioral challenges.

Many assessments help determine the cause of ADHD symptoms. Learn how bio-assessments for reactive hypoglycemia, diabetes, the brain-gut connection, cervical spinal alignment, exercise, whole food nutrition, brainwave optimization, and nutritional enzyme supplementation may reverse ADHD symptoms.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we begin our final descent into woo. ADHD symptoms cannot be reversed by any of these things, and. . .OMG, this whole thing is an advertisement for. . .wait for it. . .a book co-authored by Frank J. Granett! It’s so good that he had to cite himself! And real medical terms weren’t sufficient, so we have to make up some that sound really sciency, like “differential diagnosing,” and “reclaim their behavioral and mental health,” and “bio-assesment” so we can sell ineffective treatments to gullible patients. Blood sugar problems can be diagnosed and treated without ADHD medications. The “brain-gut connection” has no supportive research except in patients with full-blown Celiac Disease. Cervical Spinal Alignment is Chiropractic’s uglier younger brother, even less useful than regular Chiropractic for treating anything, much less neurological conditions. “Brainwave Optimization,” don’t even get me started. As for the rest, we already touched on how none of these things are causative, so they are not going to be curative.

But this is what it usually comes down to, isn’t it? The voices that protest the loudest that ADHD is a fake disease created to make money by the pharmaceutical industries tend to end up thinking that it’s real enough to be treated by whatever they themselves are selling. If only there were an all-natural cure for hypocrisy. . .

Treating the Symptoms, and the Placebo Effect

Treating the Symptoms, and the Placebo Effect

Proponents of various forms of alternative medicine regularly rally under the claim that medicine treats only the symptoms, while their favored modality “treats the whole person.” I’ve long known that this is wrong, and I could enumerate all the reasons why, but only now did it occur to me that there’s an even deeper level to this inaccurate claim that I haven’t seen addressed elsewhere – irony.

I’m not going to try to get into so much detail that it obscures the point (for a change) so I’ll stick to the examples that directly apply to my inspiration. Doctors and scientists who blog cover the overt falsehoods that are relative to their specialties with far greater specificity than I ever could. They can even tell you how each individual CAM treatment doesn’t work and why. I don’t think I need to do that, because I could never attain that level without the education, experience, and dedication that these science-based medicine bloggers have.

Instead, I’m going to draw from my own experience at a forum in which we discuss mental disorders – ADHD in particular, but also its other delightful companions and complications – where alternative treatments are accorded an undeserved level of respect and science-based medicine is treated with derision. In this place, since we are dealing with conditions that are complex in origin and difficult to reproduce and test in animal models, speculation is going to be a given. However, much of the speculation involves disregarding or even discarding the huge volume of information we already have from research.

There is absolutely no question that each condition being discussed is brain-based. There is absolutely no question that any effective treatment for these conditions is going to have to be a treatment of the brain. And there is absolutely no question that all the current approaches are aimed at relieving symptoms, whether through medication or other therapies, because research on the cause of symptoms yields results much more quickly than research looking at the most complex organ of the human body will yield information on causes. Science is churning away at brain research; new tools and knowledge are helping it to advance more quickly than it did in the past, and the findings from these are being used to develop even better tools and knowledge. Still, because there are practical and ethical limits on researching living human brains, results will not come as fast as they do for other diseases and conditions that involve other organs with simpler functions than the brain has.

Now that the introduction is out of the way. . .
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Chiropractic Cures Nothing

Chiropractic Cures Nothing

There’s an interesting idea out there among people who adhere to a belief that can be proven to be less than substantial that in order to contradict or challenge that belief, one must become an expert in that belief. It’s silly, and it’s frustrating to run into. It’s also usually hypocritical, because people who are firm believers in something do not apply the same standards to themselves – and in this particular case, the folks who are insisting that one must become an expert in the workings of chiropractic before being qualified to dismiss them feel no such obligation to become expert in the voluminous amount of medical knowledge that provides robust evidence for the failure of chiropractic. I mean, you’re presenting me with a book about how chiropractic can fix an area of the brain. . .if I have to learn all about chiropractic to say it doesn’t work, how come you don’t have to become an expert in neurology to tell me that the neurological impairment evidence is wrong? (The first place I saw this argument was coming from Christian Apologetics. . .who didn’t, BTW, become experts in any other religions before declaring that they were immune from criticism by anyone without a degree in Biblical Theology. . .)

The flaw in the argument is that you really don’t need to be an expert in something to know it’s bogus if there’s good, solid information that it couldn’t possibly work and/or it’s making ridiculous claims in the first place. I could be picking anything to poke at right now, but because the thing that’s irritating me right now is ridiculous claims about chiropractic and being told to STFU until I become an expert in chiropractic, that’s what I’m gonna talk about.
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Something that Breaks my Heart

Something that Breaks my Heart

Many years ago, I joined an online forum community. One of the areas on this community was for scientific discussions. I had never had much interest in science in general, but I had been reading books about the brain – partly out of curiosity about my own issues, and partly because they were really fascinating. By the time I found this place, I had graduated to reading a fair number of skeptical and science blogs. My curiosity had been aroused. At the same time, my critical thinking skills were being tested and honed. Finding a place where people were discussing research and providing evidence and links to studies about brain things that were relevant to me was wonderful and exciting.

When people posted things that were well-supported, I found new sources of information in links and searches. When people considered implications or possibilities, they provided evidence and reason for their ideas. When people posted things that looked suspicious, I went off in search of the truth, and found out all kinds of knowledge that either rebutted or supported these things.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for someone posting about epigenetics in a way that sounded an awful lot like magical thinking, I would never have delved as deeply into this fascinating process as I have, and would not have learned most of the amazing things I now know about genetics, evolution, and developmental neurology. I had learned a lot about the physical structures of the brain and their functions, but without the input of the other curious and intelligent people there, I wouldn’t have known about the interconnectivity and the complex chemical and electrical communication that makes these structures function as a whole.

This was different from reading scientific information from scientists. While some were writing for public understanding, most were writing for their peers. These were not always places to pose elementary questions or ask if some speculation you had might have some factual support. This forum was, and I looked forward to visiting it every day. The dialogues were lively, and disagreements were usually battles of who had the most robust evidence. I was interested in science, but it was this particular place that got me excited about it.

No more.

Sadly, an extremely small number of people have been given carte blanche to ignore all the rules that used to make this discussion area work. Should anyone dare to post anything remotely resembling fascinating new information, they descend upon the conversation and shut it down. Every thread looks like a copy-paste of every other thread; evidence is disregarded in favor of dogma; anyone who disagrees with what is basically the only topic of the entire area is told they are wrong with a thinly veiled insult to their intelligence.

Cognitive dissonance should be a call to arms – go out and find the truth! It should prepare you to learn more and change your mind if you discover that the best evidence contradicts what you think you know. Now, the ability to ignore that conflict is treated as the highest of virtues.

Here was a place filled with creative, curious people, who had unusual approaches to connecting ideas, different ways of putting things together and taking them apart. Here was a place where the goal was not to be right for the sake of being right, but to be right because you could show your work. Here was a place that was exciting and interesting and challenging.

It is gone, and I don’t anticipate it ever coming back. I used to direct people to this place to get information; now I tell them they won’t find what they’re looking for there. It is hostile and uninviting to the very type of thinkers it used to attract. I miss it terribly.

While You Guys are Writing Anti-Abortion Legislation. . .

While You Guys are Writing Anti-Abortion Legislation. . .

I make no secret of the fact that I feel that abortion should be a choice made by a woman and her doctor (and in some cases, her partner.) I find none of the reasons provided by anti-abortionists to be rational or compelling enough to justify sweeping legislation that impinges on the rights of women whose lives may be lost or destroyed by these limitations. Some of it is insulting to women’s intelligence; some of it is representative of medical ignorance; all of it is based in religion, which should not be influencing government in the first place.

Let me say, though, that the most abhorrent reasons are the ones that portray children as “punishment” for a woman in one way or another. Some state this overtly, some with a bit more circumlocution, but they all boil down to the woman shouldn’t have engaged in sexual intercourse if she didn’t want to have a child, so now she’s just going to have to deal with the consequences of her actions. I can’t even begin to plumb the depths of the awfulness of this argument. There are so many levels of wrong here that it would be impossible to address them in a single blog post.

What I can do is suggest a way that this attitude can be expressed legislatively in a far less discriminatory fashion.

You see, if a child is punishment for having sexual intercourse, then the punishment should be equally distributed between both parties involved in the punishable act. Legislation that prevents access to abortion should not affect only the mothers, but the fathers as well. Much of this might not be necessary, as in the case of faithful married couples who will already be legally obligated to share the financial and other burdens of having a child, but there’s no reason to leave them out completely, either. I’ll get to that.

Include something in this legislation that creates a record of women who request abortions, just to establish a paper trail for legal purposes. If a woman seeks an abortion and is denied it or cannot afford it, the state will perform DNA tests on both the child and the father named by the mother. Just as the ultrasound costs are paid by the mother in these legislative acts, the DNA testing cost must be paid by the father. Once paternity has been established, a judge will decide the best punishment for the father – in some cases, marriage to the mother may be ordered, but mostly it will involve lifetime child support and regular visitation. If the man didn’t want to be a father, then he shouldn’t have had sexual intercourse, after all.

If the father is already married to the mother, DNA tests should also be required, just to make sure that the right father is being punished. This would make having even wanted children more expensive, but we want to be absolutely sure that the right person is being punished for every child that’s born. Some states might even want to do this retroactively, DNA testing every man who, say, applies for public assistance or disability or unemployment, since those are obviously the selfish, irresponsible people who’d go around having recreational sex in the first place, amirite?

This way, states wouldn’t have to limit the procedure to only women seeking abortions, but to all the leeches on society making babies they can’t afford. Oh, yeah. But start with the abortion-seekers. That way the wording that punishes fathers with children can be included in the laws that punish mothers with children. If you want to be taken seriously when you say that you’re not anti-woman when you propose this stuff, then you shouldn’t be leaving fathers out of the picture. Of course, it’s hard to take you seriously when you talk about living, breathing, dependent little human beings as “punishment,” but at least this way you’ll appear a little less disingenuous.

Expert Opinions

Expert Opinions

Somewhere in the wilds of the INTARWEBS, I had the audacity to suggest that the opinions of experts actively practicing in a specialized field probably were things we should pay attention to – especially if they were held by a majority of these experts. Well. . .someone whom I would never, ever be so insensitive enough to characterize as dumb as a bag of hammers took great offense at this. His argument, which boiled down to telling me I was a poopy diaper head, was that if several people were strongly invested in an opinion that gave them emotional satisfaction, it should be held in the same high regard as that of a phalanx of well-educated, well-respected researchers whose opinions were informed by well-supported evidence.

Taking this tack would mean that at the next major convention of geologists, the guy who disproved continental drift by taping cut-out paper continents onto a balloon and blowing it up should be sitting at the table for the panel discussion on plate tectonics or continental drift. His opinion is just as valid!

It would mean that the guy who “disproved” that a plane hit the twin towers by hitting a stack of plastic inboxes with the side of his hand was just as credible as a professional engineer with specialized knowledge of airplane technology or the structure and construction of the towers.

Robin Ince posted a much better rebuttal to this idea in his blog entry “The Fascism of Knowing Stuff.” He’s more articulate about it than I could hope to be. He covers a number of reasons why these beliefs are held mostly by people who don’t know stuff, and people who are not afraid of what is known, but how it will be used. Some of his commenters “got it,” as well – it’s much easier to condemn specialized knowledge that you don’t actually have. It’s comforting to see your beliefs confirmed because you don’t understand the much more complex factual information that challenges them.

One expert, one “guru,” isn’t enough to hang all your understanding upon. Believers tend to believe a source and all those who agree with that source regardless of whether or not they themselves have any expertise. But when all or pretty much all the specialists in a field of knowledge say one thing is the most likely explanation, and the only people who challenge them have no background in that field, you really should have some confidence in the experts.

The Heritage Foundation, among other things, is a big anti-global-warming promoter. I sucked it up and watched one of their videos so I could have a cogent argument with a climate change denialist, and the one thing that every single speaker had in common was the admission that he was not a climate scientist. In fact, most of the speakers weren’t scientists at all. One former astronaut claimed that since he had seen the earth from outer space, that was proof enough to him that the earth looked just fine.

The things we know now are far more complex than the things we used to know. They consist of many more specialized pieces. There are few areas in which a general knowledge is sufficient for understanding. One expert can have a different view, or not really be much of an expert at all – but when an opinion is held about a piece of specialized knowledge and is the consensus among the other people who are actively working in that specialized field, it’s a safe bet to take their word over something some guy said on the internet.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

A new study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about neuroimaging to determine response to medication or therapy in Major Depressive Disorder. It seems much more exciting if you don’t actually read it. Fortunately, Neurocritic did, so you have someone to explain what’s hope and what’s hype.

Paul Offit explains why we shouldn’t take multivitamins.

He also has a book coming out soon called “Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine” and USA Today covers some of the issues that make this stuff such a dangerous alternative.

And Darshak Sanghavi at Slate wonders why so many of us think we need to avoid gluten

Now, if you happen to be near Washington, DC, and you want to see some cool genetics stuff, hit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for an exhibit called Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code.

Teaching otters to use vending machines might not be the best idea, but it sure is cute to watch.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Yes, it’s been a while since the last set of links. I’ll try to do better. Enjoy these for now.

Carl Zimmer wrote an article on Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva for the Atlantic. One of the reasons I think it’s important to read stories like these is to see examples of the success that comes from investigating genetic origins of diseases. Another is to show that there are real reasons that a treatment may or may not be produced outside of the simple profitability of the treatment itself. All in all, this is a great story with some human interest thrown in for good measure.

I’ve often had the discussion with people about how even though we have names for colors, not everyone perceives them the same way. Well. . .who’d have known it? Apparently some of our perception differences arise from how we name the colors in the first place! Empirical Zeal discusses it in two parts. Part 1. Part 2.

Beyond Recognition: The Incredible Story of a Face Transplant
Yes, it’s graphic, but it’s also absolutely amazing.

Scicurious has an interesting piece about genes and environment. . .interesting not only because it shows an actual mechanistic result in the brain that can differentiate genetically identical mice, but also because those of us on SSRIs can take comfort in knowing our meds are assisting us in hippocampal neurogenesis.

Another thing that seems to be related to a mechanical malfunction in the brain is Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which a person is uncomfortable with the very presence of a part of his or her body. Mindscapes: The man who needs to paralyse himself in New Scientist talks about some of the possible roots of this condition that makes people seek elective amputation procedures.

From Nature, an explanation of what a chemical is, and why it’s not inherently dangerous or toxic.

Some tips
on distinguishing science journalism from infotainment.

And. . .a tap-dancing seagull.

Addicted to Bollywood

Addicted to Bollywood

So, a friend of mine actually asked for recommendations for Indian movies, which was ironic because he’s Indian and I’m decidedly not. Since I’ve been stuck at home, mostly prone and on an ice pack for most of the last year, I’ve indulged in quite a few. When you’re stuck in one place, a 3-hour movie is a great way to pass the time.

I thought about organizing this in a particular way, but then I’d never finish it, so I’m just going to go by my Netflix and IMDB ratings.

Band Baaja Baaraat I really liked, mostly because I love watching Anushka Sharma. She plays an ambitious young woman who wants to start her own wedding planning company, and finds a niche in creating affordable but spectacular events. Ranveer Singh plays a young man who wrangles his way into the business, and eventually they test the waters of romance. This actually drives them apart, and they dissolve the company, only to find that they can’t live or work without each other. The dance numbers fit in because part of their success hinges on creating these dances and getting everyone at the weddings to join in, and they’re a lot of fun.

I happen to also love almost everything Ranbir Kapoor has starred in. Not too many exceptions. I saw him first in Rocket Singh, adored him in Barfi!, Wake up Sid, and Bachna Ae Haseeno

Oh, and if you watch Barfi!, look for Jhilmil’s amazing transformation into Neha in Dostana. It’s a silly little movie about two men who pretend to be gay lovers in order to get into a fabulous apartment with Neha, while disguising the fact that in the process of learning to be friends with her, they’ve both fallen in love with her instead.

I’m also a big fan of Imran Khan. I saw him first in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, which has one of the most improbable plot lines ever, but he is adorable and has a great sense of comic timing. I liked Jaane Tu. . .ya Jaane Na so much I bought the soundtrack – the story and the way it’s told is very different from most of the run-of-the-mill Bollywood movies of best friends discovering they were made for each other. Delhi Belly could be enjoyed by even non-Bollywood fans – it’s not a musical – but remember to turn on the subtitles. Everyone speaks English until you meet the bad guys. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu is funny and sad, but not a must-see.

But speaking of must-see, Aamir Khan is a force to be reckoned with in Indian films. If you watched Lagaan, you’ve seen him, but you probably don’t know it. Watch 3 Idiots. Watch Dil Chahta Hai. Watch Mumbai Diaries. Watch Rang De Basanti. Watch Ghajini. He has a long, long list of credits.

I think I’m going to finish up for now with one of my favorite actors to watch, Hrithik Roshan. He might not have as many movies, and he definitely doesn’t have the acting chops of Aamir Khan, but he’s an amazing dancer and quite possibly the most beautiful man on the face of the planet. This does not mean that you should watch Kites, though, which was so awful I’m not even going to link to it. Really. Just don’t. Guzaarish, though, campy as it might be at times, is completely enjoyable. He plays a world-famous magician paralyzed from the neck down when an act goes wrong, and follows him from being an inspirational radio voice for the disabled to fighting the government for the right to die. He’s paired up with Aishwarya Rai, who is quite possibly the most beautiful woman on the planet, and they’re together again in Dhoom 2. It’s a very silly movie, just like Dhoom, but if you enjoy ridiculously far-fetched plots and action sequences that completely ignore all known laws of physics, go for it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Koi. . .Mil Gaya is the story of a young man who gets special powers from an alien and. . .and. . .the story is ridiculously convoluted and borrows shamelessly from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., and it’s a cheesy, guilty pleasure. Preity Zinta makes it better. More on her later. Anyway, I watched it only because it’s the prequel to Krrish, which is about his son, raised by his mother in a remote location so he never reveals his inherited super powers to the world. (Of course, he does. And dances. And falls in love with someone he shouldn’t. It’s Bollywood.) Come to think of it, I wouldn’t say any of his movies are must-see, but I love to watch him. Maybe Krrish 3 (they skipped right over 2, because 1 is 2 because Koi. . .Mil Gaya is 1. . .or something like that) will be better? Whatever, he’s been working with a personal trainer to look even better for it, so even if it’s bad, I’ll watch it.

That’s enough for a starter, and I didn’t even hit a single SRK movie. Yeah!

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Watching the Lights Go Out is a blog by a man who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimers’, chronicling his life and thoughts and how the disease affects him. It’s touching and thought-provoking. Go read it.

How animals grieve – make sure to watch the video, too.

Scientists playing around with the prefrontal cortexes of rats may have come across a new way of treating addiction.

People who don’t understand epigenetics or neuroplasticity have no compunctions about writing about them anyway. Then we get books like this that the average reader thinks represent real science. And because genetics and epigenetics is so nuanced and complex, people automatically assume a position of nature OR nurture – with the nurture enthusiasts often accusing people who talk about genetics as being genetic determinists. Virginia Hughes has some wonderful insights about how we really think.

And Bradley Voytek explains why this should be fixed by more science – it’s an investment in wonder. Kevin Mitchell at Wiring the Brain adds that, well, it works.

Images of g-coupled protein receptors
that may help us understand how they work and how to treat the problems they cause!

Before kitten can drink the milk, kitten must DEFEAT the milk!