Sunday, February 28, 2010

Birth On a More Serious Note and An Apology to Johannes

I was struck by my good friend Johannes' impassioned response to my post of yesterday, and feel that it deserves more serious treatment than I initially gave it. First of all, in over two years of blogging, ocassionally you will strike the wrong tone for a post, and I feel that I probably did that yesterday. I tossed off some remarks (especially the "golf game") in an attempt to make a more serious point, and probably weakened my point in the process. Johannes was right to pounce. BUT (and there is always a "but"), I have valid points in this unsettled debate that I think came through better in the subsequent discussion in the comments section.

So, this post is to clear some of those up. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, just read the post and comments below). First, I apologize if I offended my friends and readers in the medical profession. I know many of you do God's work, much like I do in the classroom. I firmly believe that. At the same time, and I've known Johannes for a very long time, he tends to put medical folk on a pedestal that perhaps is a bit unrealistic. These are human beings afflicted by human weaknesses just like anyone else. Some can be greedy, some can be lazy, some can be careless. I have lawyer friends who make very good livings on that very fact. As fellow members of the human race, they can be these things. In my long experience with Johannes, my impression is that he is sometimes too close to the profession (himself, his brother, both of his parents) to realize that all medical professionals do not walk on water. I could be wrong. This is just my impression after over 20 years of hanging with Johannes. Fair, Johannes? Now, if I may brag for him, Johannes' father is acknowledged as one of the very best in his field. And I know Johannes and his brother personally, and I would trust my life in either one of their hands if need be.

Now, there are many respected studies, as the Anonymous person who commented pointed out, that show that we have one of the highest C-Section rates in the civilized world and that many of the C-Sections are performed for non-life threatening reasons. Or, that they could have been avoided had the doctors not started the platoon of medications that are sometimes used to push the birth process along. Pitocin (sp?) is one of the most common used, and pitocin when it is administered so early, will many times require further medications to fix its side effects, and on down the line until a C-Section becomes necessary when it would NOT have been necessary had the doctor held off on administering medications. Other induction methods cause similar issues.

Can I blame the doctors for all of this? Not entirely. The patient is the customer afterall, and often the patients demand the pain medications immediately. There are some extreme cases where people will schedule a C-Section ahead of time simply for a predictable and convenient delivery. That is major surgery. Doing that ahead of time when it is not necessary is unconscionable.

C-Sections ARE necessary sometimes, no doubt. They are needed to save the mother or baby's life in some cases. Absolutely. But the statistics speak for themselves. According to some statistics, we are delivering by C-Section up to 1/3 of deliveries in this country. Are you telling me that 1/3 of all baby deliveries have become life threatening situations? No way. As I said, many of these C-Sections become necessary only because of the cocktail of drugs administered earlier in labor.

Birth is a natural process. Often patients too quickly opt for pain relief too early which snowballs and leads to further inteventions, slows the progress of labor, increases intensity of contractions, which then leads to more complications and interventions to where, inevitably, the C-Section is needed to "save the day." And, in my view, the medical profession too easily caters to this practice, in part, because there is profit in C-Section deliveries. The insurance company pays out more for them, the patient must stay in the hospital longer to recover, which racks up more costs. Johannes may not want to admit it, but hospitals and doctor practices ARE businesses afterall. I'm not even saying that in most cases this is a conscious decision based on profit. But it seems that doctors will too easily fall back on the C-Section or other medical interventions to speed the birth along vs. allowing it to take its natural course. Why? Patients want it that way, profit, avoid law suits for other complications that could arise...I don't know. Maybe a subconscious mix of all of these things. But it happens. The facts are there.

In my view, and it is a view shared by many intelligent and informed people, including some in the medical profession, that the medical profession has turned the pregnant woman from an empowered woman in control of a natural process to treating pregnancy as an illness that needs to be treated.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Odds 'n Sods

I apologize that the posts have been rather light for the month of February. Been ridiculously busy with life things. I had some thoughts here and there for posts, but did not have the time to sit down and draft the quality writing that you have come to expect from GNABB. So, shotgun-style, here's some random stuff...

On the eve of the birth of my daughter (the due date is 3/1, but that doesn't really mean much as far as when she will actually decide to vacate her current residence and enter the world), I have had a little time to reflect on the fact that my old life as I knew it is over. That's fine.

My wife has decided that she wants to deliver the baby a la natural. No medications whatsoever. Caveman-style. I applaud her. After doing much research, I don't like the idea of all of those drugs entering my baby's body from the get-go. I also don't feel like "scheduling" the birth through induction or a C-Section so my doctor can schedule his golf game around a predictable delivery date and time. We took some in depth classes on The Bradley Method for natural birth, and so I am ready to be the "birth coach" and help her through delivery. We are still delivering in a hospital with a doctor, of course, but we have instructed them to use no medications and to stay out of the way until it is actually time to pull her out (barring complications and threats to wife or baby's health, of course). They are cool with it. In fact, the doctor and nurses that I have discussed it with are all pretty high on the Bradley Method, so that is comforting. It just makes sense. People and animals have given birth since the beginning of time, but drugging the mother all up and cutting into her has only really come into vogue within the last 50 years or so. The C-Section rate in the past decade has risen to over a third of births. Has the human body really changed that much to require such a jump in bullsh*t C-Sections? No. They want to move the patients along so the next one can come in. It's like fast food restaurants who want to move the the customers along. The business of being born is an interesting topic.

I've been following this story of the homocidal killer whale at SeaWorld with great interest. He's killed three people so far, yet they are keeping him as part of the show in Orlando anyway. Seeing as SeaWorld has created their entire brand around the Shamu killer whale shows, there is a lot at stake financially, of course. For the record, I think SeaWorld does a great job educating people and inspiring an appreciation for nature. But this is the apex preditor of the oceans, rivaled only by the Great White Shark. They are also quite intelligent. Teaching them to do repetitive dumb tricks in exchange for food and making them live in the equivalent of a bath tub for their entire lives does seem a bit cruel in some respects.

ABOVE: Maybe it would be cute to teach Shamu to jump through hoops for the rest of his life?

I need to go paint a nursury now. I promise more posts soon. Baby stories, the Oscars are on the horizon (as is the next Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony!), some reviews of the upcoming Peter Gabriel, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix releases. Oh, speaking of tunes, I am really digging Kings of Leon lately. Their latest Only By the Night is so great.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dez's Oscar Predictions

There was a time when I would have seen a majority of the nominated films for any given year. Not so this year. But I have always maintained that not having seen some of the films is no handicap when predicting Oscar winners. As long as you are relatively aware of how certain films have been received and you understand Hollywood politics, you've got a good shot at getting most of them right. So, here goes...

Best Supporting Actor
The nominees: Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds).

Dez Says: Damon. I think it is between Damon and Plummer. While Plummer is a respected vet who has never been nominated before (and the Academy often likes to make up for past mistakes with so-called "career" awards in the guise of an Oscar win), Damon is much respected for his range and acting chops, and he's acting in an Eastwood vehicle, which is always a bonus.

Best Supporting Actress
The nominees: Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) and Mo'nique (Precious).

Dez Says: Mo'nique. The Up in the Air chicks will split votes, and Cruz won last year. This is often the category where they like to reward respected films that may not win anywhere else.

Best Actor
The Nominees: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus) and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker).

ABOVE: Bridges gets the Oscar this year

Dez Says: Bridges. This category, as usual, is filled with some heavyweights and it should be an interesting race. Freeman is just below Jesus as far as how much people love the guy, and Clooney has it all. But Jeff Bridges is a true original who manages to be both an entertaining individual (a walking bong hit) and incredibly respected as an actor. I haven't seen this film, but I hear he is outstanding in it. He's also been nominated four times but yet to win. It's time. Plus, voters may just want to see what the hell he'd say up at the podium.

Best Actress
The Nominees: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).

Dez Says: Man, this is tough. The smart money would probably be on Bullock, but I've got a feeling that Sidibe's story may be too enticing for many voters to pass up. Perhaps her reward is the nomination itself, so if I had to pick one, I guess Bullock, but with a feeling that an upset may be likely. Streep is nominated every time she farts, this is getting ridiculous. She's good, but not 16 nominations good.

Best Director
The Nominees: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), James Cameron (Avatar), Lee Daniels (Precious) and Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds).

Dez Says: Bigelow. I'm sure the Academy would love to give the first female Directing Award, and she is awesome. Haven't seen the film, but no matter. She is the director of cult classics Point Break and Near Dark, both of which I love. Hell, ex-husband and fellow nominee James Cameron has even said that she deserves to win this year. And that's something coming from the self-proclaimed "King of the World."

ABOVE: I think that Kathryn Bigelow will be the first woman to win Best Director

Best Picture
The Nominees: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up in the Air and Up.

Dez Says: Avatar. First of all, I am not sure how I feel about expanding the field to ten this year (as opposed to the usual five). I can appreciate the desire to allow for more popular movies (and smaller critically acclaimed ones) to compete, but all this will do is split those votes, thereby assuring victory for the frontrunners and having fewer upsets. I think this is between Hurt Locker and Avatar, but the voters will find it hard to resist the visually groundbreaking Avatar, no matter how trite the story is. They like to reward the BIG movie of a given year, and Avatar is definitely that. Since Bigelow will probably get the Directing award for Hurt Locker, they'll reward Avatar with Picture. James Cameron now holds the record with the #1 (Avatar) and #2 (Titanic) top-grossing films of all time. Maybe he is King of the World. The only problem that Avatar may have is if lots of the voters didn't bother to go see it in 3-D. Without that, it is a very ordinary film.

Thoughts? Predictions?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Two years of GNABB and 287 posts strong. I would like to thank my loyal 4 or 5 readers for sticking with us. More to come soon, I promise. I thought about linking to some of my favorite posts of the last two years or so, but why look back. You can expect more razor sharp political commentating, revelatory music and film reviews, tearjerking obituaries and general blogging goodness. I will hit you soon with my Oscar predictions.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dez Reviews Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

After hunting high and low, I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of this wonderfully salacious recounting of the 2008 presidential election. First of all, it confirmed most of my suspicions: Barack Obama is savvy, ambitious, aloof and would rather deal with big visions than the nitty gritty details of policy. It is funny how he becomes frustrated being a Senator within about three months because there is too much policy and not enough publicity. He has little patience for the details. Much like, ironically enough, George W. Bush. Hillary Clinton was probably the most qualified candidate on either side of the aisle and loved to get into the details but had a problem with the "vision thing." She was plagued by overconfidence, a sense of Clinton entitlement, an inept campaign team, gripping paranoia and was utterly unprepared when her forgone coronation was wrecked by Hurricane Obama. Her most fatal flaw was named Bill. None of the Republicans, including John McCain, really wanted to run. Except Mitt Romney. (There is a great high school-like scene where McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee are all lined up along the urinals in the bathroom before their debate laughing and making fun of Romney, and the room goes quickly silent as Romney walks in to take his own wizz before the debate). Sarah Palin is as stupid and dangerous as you think she is. And John Edwards is the sleaziest man alive.

I knew most of these things. But Hielemann and Halperin unravel this gripping tale like a thriller, getting into the plots and planning, the revelations and the underhanded deals with a gusto that draws you completely in. I found myself alternately laughing, shaking my head in amazement and being quite disturbed by what I read.

Let's focus on John Edwards for a moment. I have always hated (yes, hated) Edwards. He is a scheming, soulless, hypocritical a-hole. Or, your typical plaintiff's attorney. (No surprise he got his millions suing doctors on bogus medical malpractice cases). The authors eviscerate Edwards in the book, much to my delight. His judgment, from the people he hired to his ridiculous affair and resulting love child, was consistently appalling. He was willing to put his own ambition above the fortunes of the Democratic Party in shocking ways. He was well aware that his private life could destroy the Party during an election year, but he stayed in the race anyway. Much to the dismay of his closest advisors, who one by one, abandoned him. It was interesting how Edwards knew he was out of the race pretty early, but remained in as long as possible to secure a prestigious government position for himself. A funny series of phone calls between the Edwards and Obama camps show an increasingly desperate Edwards haggling for a spot on the Obama train. First he offers to drop out if Obama picks him for VP. Obama refuses. Then he offers to drop out if he can have the Attorney General spot. Obama still refuses. Finally one of Obama's allies counsels Edwards to give it up, "This is ridiculous. It's going to be ambassador to Zimbabwe next." But it is Edwards' own bizarre affair with an insane documentary filmmaker that proves his undoing, and the authors detail this sordid story in all of its fascinating detail.

ABOVE: John Edwards is even more of a sleazy bastard than you thought he was

Hillary Clinton is the real tragic figure here. She and her team are so convinced that she is destined for greatness and the White House that they are thoroughly unprepared for Obama. Unsuprisingly, some of the funniest moments involve Bill Clinton working as a rogue agent against the wishes of Hillary's campaign team. When they ask her to control her husband, she incredibly tells them that she is unable to, and delegates the job of corralling Bill to people in her campaign. It turns out, though, that Bubba's instincts were correct. Hillary's team had no clue how to handle Obama, and had they listened to Bill, we might have had a different result. Some of the best moments are when Bill Clinton becomes apoplectic with rage when his former black constituency (remember Clinton being the "first black president") turns against him. He can barely comprehend what is happening as he bumbles through South Carolina and lashes wildly out at Obama.

As most intelligent people know, Sarah Palin was completely out of her depth. As the book recounts the sometimes hilarious debate prep for Palin, the reader is shocked that this woman might have been a (very old) heartbeat away from the presidency. Her behavior is truly bizarre. The McCain team hardly vetted her at all, so desperate were they for a game-changer in the race, and they are as shocked as the rest of us as she reveals her true deficiencies.

ABOVE: Turns out that John McCain didn't really give a shit

Obama's frustrations with Joe Biden after he is picked as running mate are great fun, as well. I loved when Obama's team was briefing Joe on Obama's tax policy in preparation for Joe's appearance on Meet the Press, and Joe erupts, "That's our policy? That's our policy? Well, it's your campaign. I'll say what you want me to say. But after Election Day, all bets are off." But Joe doesn't wait until Election Day. Later on his plane, he tells a gaggle of journalists that in fact, he is much more qualified than Obama to be president. And after Biden's infamous comment that Obama would be "tested" within six months internationally because he was so green, Obama shouts to his team "How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?"

Everyone in this book takes harsh hits, but unsurprisingly, Obama comes out looking the best while Hillary is a sad figure who made many crucial mistakes. McCain comes across overall as an honorable man, but one who's time had passed and who really should have been elected president in 2000. (Although the verbal assaults launched between John and Cindy McCain are somewhat shocking. "F*ck you! F*ck you! F*ck you!" McCain screams in Cindy's face in front of a stunned campaign staff when she dares to interrupt him). This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the inner workings and personalities of politics. If I have a complaint, it is that the authors do not ever really name their sources for all of this great info. Most of that is due to necessity, as they explain. In order to get important people to talk, it had to be on deep background. But I have faith in their methods, and they double and triple checked their facts and episodes wherever possible. Fascinating read.

**** out of *****