Friday, November 30, 2012

Best Western Ilisia Hotel, Athens

I'm really enjoying my stay at the Ilizia Hotel. The location is excellent in a upscale part of town with easy metro access to downtown What I'm really liking is the helpful front desk personnel with excellent English language skills. The rooms are safe and clean and very well organized IMG 2006 2DSCN0066IMG 2001IMG 2002

Learning Dysfunction in Psychosis and Addiction, A. Heinz, Athens Conference

Dr. Heinz's presentation was excellent. The meat was in his slides. In my rough notes I included where he had published his imaging research but it really was interesting to see the graphs and images of the brain that were involved in each of the areas of research.  Fascinating cutting edge work. Remarkable privilege to be able to hear this man in person.  Great speaker.

(Note that Dr. Heinz has published in the world's most renown and adjudicated scientific, neurological and psychiatric journals - he presents his ideas so humbly and simply it's easy to be  lulled into not realizing what genius went into the original thought that has brought him such well earned respect in the  field of neuroscience research.)

Learning Dysfunction in Psychosis and Addiction
  1. Heinz - Germany
Prof of Psychiatry Berlin

Valence and Arousal - charting underlying substrated
Boundary between neurology and psychiatry
Dopamine discharge - schizophrenia and addiction
Noted in Pavlov dog studies
Schultz et al, 1997

Brain is mathematically computing reward stimuli

Reward anticipation and Central Dopamine Release
-Cue, delay, target ‘
Knutsen et al J, of Neuroscience 2001
Shultz Science 1996
Ventral striatal activation during reard anticipation and motor reaction time
-Heinz and Schlagenhauf Sz Bull
Shows on scans

Alcohol dependent, depressed, adhd, mania- alteration impaired
If you are impaired in expectation of reward may not be motivated

Schizophrenia - dopamine dysfunction

Alcohol detoxification - downregulating 
impairs learning
heinz et al, Am j. Psych

Impaired reward associated learning in alcohol dependence and schizophrenia
Park, Heinz J. Neuroscience 2010

Lack of feedback related Prefrontal Cortex modulation, in alcoholics and reduced learning speed

Reduced VS (Ventral Striatum) activation during informative error processing in schizophrenia

Outcome in monetary reward task
Wrase et al, Neuroimage 2007

Bold response in mPFC and ventral striatum in schizophrenia
- sz brain activated for failure
  • sz brain reacts to the negative

Severity of delusion negatively correlated with mPFC activent when successfuly versus non successfully avoiding loss
  • feeling they don’t have control in environment
  • Heiz - Biological Psychiatry 2009

-Psychiatric disorder as alterations of basic learning mechanisms that interact with individual and social/cultural experience
-computation approaches to gentotype-phenotype interactions

Psychiatrist as Clinical Neuroscientist, Dr. Tarek Okasha, Athens Conference

This was a particularly rewarding lecture by a truly brilliant man. His broad reaching eclectic presentation was so packed that I only caught a sentence here and there in my notes and from his slides. He speaks fast and succinctly. I expect he assumes that people are following him when he's miles ahead ideologically in the biological, psychological and sociological system world he inhabits so easily.

The Psychiatrist as a Clinical Neuroscientist; A Multidisciplinary Approach”  
Professor Tarek A. Okasha
Professor of Psychiatry, 
Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt

The problems that pscyhiatrists are facing are with identity ,as others are taking away from them core components of historic psychiatry or are they finding  a new identity - are pscyhiatrists an endangered species?

Psychiatry is the most artistic of Sciences and now is faced with advances in brain disease.

Henry Miller - 1967 - The psychiatrist must be first and foremost a physician

Challenges from inside
  1. Decreasing confidence about the knowledge ( diagnosis and classification)
  • 2 different international diagnosis codes -DSM and ICD
  1. Validity of diagnosis
-where is the line of demarcation between normal sadness and abnormal depression
  1. Lack of coherent theoretical basis
-ask 3 psychiatrists and get 4 answers

Challenges from outside
  • client, consumer, user, service user, - by replacing the word patient distancing ourselves  from the rest of medicine
  •  now confusing new words like ex-user, ex pateint
  • recovery as outcome or process?
  • wording confuses relatives, not just patients
Competition from other professionals
  • family physicians, neurologists, psychologists, clinical social workers
Negative Image
  • portrayal of pscyhiatrists in the media
  • people assume psychiatrist will treat them with medication despite the majority of psychiatrists recommend psychotherapy
Where is Psychiatry going
200,000 certified psychiatrists around the world
only one pschiatrist per 640000 in Pakistan and 1 in a million in Ethiopia
WPA task force discussed ‘brain drain’ of psychiatrists from developing countries.

Reasons for decline of recruitment 
-lack of intellectual challenge
-lack of status
-fear of violence

Strength of Psychiatry
  • needed by society
  • Traditional strengths
  • clinical experience, comprehensive knowledge of psychopathology, skills of communication with affected patients.
  • Prof Eisenburg - the one medical specialty with persistent interest in the patient as a person in an increasingly organ dominated era’
  • Interface between physical and emotional and  psychiatric
  • psychiatry and comorbidity
  • psychiatrist is uniquely placed to understand the big picture, biological, psychological and sociological
  • disorders of brain and disorders of mind
  • Physical effects of psychiatric therapy, both medications and psychotherapy
  • Disorders of the CNS
  • cerebellum and basal ganglia involved in thought and emotion
  • Recognition of psychosocial factors
  • Alzheimers and Neurodevelopmental disordrs
  • TWilight zone between neurology and psychiatry’ depression, autism, dementia
  • Medicalizing Psychiatry would help recruitment
  • Closer collaboration 
  • Psychiatrist shall prevail - 200 years as a speciality
  • 450 million people suffer from some form of psychiatric illness
  • 20 % of patients have a psychiatric illness
  • Psychiatrists should never retreat
  • Psychiatry is in a developmental crisis - lets stop blaming ourselves - we have a ‘unique niche’, we are best qualified to address and integrate biological, psychological and sociological 
  • Consider adopting the term ‘clinical neuroscientist’ for our profession’ 

Psychiatry and Related Sciences, Athens, Greece

The First Interdisciplinatry Congress "Psychiatry and Related Sciences, is holing it's conference at the Divani Caravel Hotel, Athens, Greece. It incorporate the World Psychiatric Association Thematic Conference on Intersectional Collaboration, "The Multidiscipliary Facets of Psychiatry" and the 4th European Congress of the International Neuropsychiatric Association: "Overlap and Integration in Neuropsychiatry". The Cosponsoring Organization is the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry with supporting Organizations including World Asociation for Psychosocial Rehabilitation, International Psychoanalytic Association, European Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies, and European Family Therapy Association, including another 30 National Scientific Organizations based in Cyprus, France, Greece, India, Russia, Turkey and the USA.

I left Vancouver in the rain and dark, took more than a 4 hour flight to snowy Montreal. I then flew 7 1/2 hours to Frankfurt and on a few hours more to Athens. The weather here is balmy to a Canadian though I see locals wearing coats and jackets, no doubt finding this chilly compared to the summer temperatures recorded here. I'm warm. The coffee is great. The Divani Caravel Hotel is truly a luxury hotel and the conference is extremely well organized with world renowned psychiatric speakers. It's a bit like going to a science rock concert in that regard.

 I'm staying two blocks away in the Best Western Ilizia Hotel simply because I like them and am a member. It's a smaller hotel with great rooms and service.  Sitting in the chandaliered halls of the Caravel I am impressed with the location the organizers picked.

I enjoy the World perspective on my field of endeavour at this time in my career having benefitted from learning the Canadian and US insights for decades of study and conferences. The problems are very much the same but the insights are decidedly different at times.

 I've yet to see the Acropolis and am glad I'll have a few days to tour Athens and fly over to Crete since I'm in the vicinity. I studied Minoan and Mycenanean History in Classics during undergrad and have read Plato for years . In theatre I performed in Greek Tragedies and think it utterly marvellous to be where so much of Western culture began. It's truly a blessing. I'm looking forward too to visiting the church here in honour of St. Paul's mission.

Addiction and Pregnancy, Prof.F.Thibaut, Athens Conference

This doctor was a remarkable presenter of a very important topic.  (She not only provided a thorough and moving overview of the research but she also handled extremely well the many questions and positive comments that followed)

Addictions and Pregnancy
Professor F. Thibaut
University Hospital
INSERM, Rouen , France

Epidemiological data

Tobacco and Pregnancy
-25% of pregnant women smoke
-37% pregnant women smoke
-52% of pregnant women smoke

Alcohol and pregnancy
8-30% - 1 to 6% binge drinking
Australia - 14%
Russia 35%
Chile 57%
Ireland - 89% - 10% binge drinking
Sweden - 23 to 30% regularly
France - 53% not drinking
20-30% 1-4 drinks
14% 1 binge drinking episode during pregnance

Drugs and Pregnancy
USA 1996
 19% cannabis
5% daily
USA 2006
3 to41% 
4% cannabis, 2% cocaine, .3% both
Barcelona 2005
6% opioids, 3% cocaine, 1.5 % both
France 2006
3-10 % cannabis
3-5% cocaine

Consequences of exposure to children

Dose and pattern of use
Timing of exposure
Frequence and duration
metabolism of mother and infant

Consumption after delivery
Family environment - violence, personality disorders, psychiatric disorders

75% exposed versus 27% non exposed have medical problems at birth

Alcohol in utero

Fetal alcoholism
1.6 per thousand Sweden
2-7 per thousand USA
1-3 per thousand France
Fetal alcohol spectrum 1-5

FAS - 
Preventable mental retardation

45% of FAS go to committ crimes against persons

Tobacco in utero

Withdrawal at birth
-crying irritability, sleep and digestive disorders
 Cotinine in meconium or hair
-increased risk of sudden death
-growth impairment
-respiratory disorders
-cleft palate

  • cognitive disorders 
  • language impairment
  • dyscalculia
  • memory deficits, 
  • problem solving
  • attention deficit disorders
  • pscyhiatric disorders
  • addictive disorders

Cannabis in utero

Hypotrohy reduced head size
increased risk of sudden death
Withdrawal at birth ?
learnig impairments
Short term memory disorder
 language impairments
Attention disorders
psychiatric disorders - depression and anxiety

Cocaine in utero
in utero death
growht ipairment
Behaviour disorders

identification of at risk women

Addiction Severity Index
AUDIT, Fagerstrom, Cannabis Abuse Screen Tests
Mother’s consumption often underestimated by 2-3 factor

At Risk Women
low socioeconomic statu
low education
white women in us - alcohol and cannabis
black women in us - cocaine
psychiatric comorbidity


Avoidance of maternal consumption, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, during pregnancy is necessary

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turn Down Day

'Don't you know it's a turn down day, nothing on my mind, don't you know it's a turn down day, and I dig it" The Cyckle This was a song from my teen years. I liked the easy going melody. It got lodged in my brain to pop up any day when there wasn't much happening. It's a summer beach song but it may as well be a sabbath song when I look up the long forgotten lyrics: 'Things that are waiting to mess my mind will just have to wait till tomorrow'. I'm going to church this morning. That means I'll shower and dress. I've cross dressed at church a few times. I've worn scottish regalia and kilt. I just read that men dressed in women's clothes for jousting in medieval days but that it was forbidden for women to cross dress. I never realized how odd we were as a society about gender till I began working in the gender clinic. Women dressing as men to be taken seriously. Men dressing as women to be off the clock. Even time gets involved in gender with old men in some cultures revered while old women are in others. Here we have a youth culture despite the aging population. I noticed that many of us are catching our aging rockers concerts with an element of reverence. Mostly though we're looking for our own lost youth. No different than the fat beer swigging sports fan who watches a touchdown and remembers his high school exploits. Sports all have their own 'apparel codes'. Allan Fotheringham wrote a vastly amusing piece in MacLean's suggesting a main motivation of golfing was to wear funny clothing. Recently a Dane said that everyone biked in Denmark but they didn't wear 'funny biking clothes like Canadians'. Personally I have my hunting cammo wear and my yachting wear which I can argue are 'tools' like the steel toed boots I had for construction. It's just odd for me to see city types sporting the 'emblems' and 'totems' of my work. I hunt and I have a yacht and I also have a Harley so wear biker clothing protection as well. The hoi polo however wear this same gear as a reflection of their own unresolved 'identity crisis' or a reflection of the diversity of expression in a free society that goes well beyond gender. Alternatively it may reflect an escape from the all consuming demand in the workplace for a person to be a 'corporate logo' with the expectations of administration that you will talk, walk and dress as the government, administration or corporate headquarters would want. Everywhere individuals with the least liberty ever ,think that 'casual friday' is 'freedom' when their keystrokes are timed and spy cameras watch workers in every room and hall. Recreational identity then becomes a fantasy escape which at the other limits is 'medieval societies', "creative anachronism gatherings' and 'alt communities'. Individualism is reflected in clothing and at another level in tattoos and piercings. While society at large presses down from above individuals alone and collectively express individuality where they can. Once everyone wore white plain underwear, male and female, now all of us in whatever our work clothes are can have a many splendored secret life. Thanks for this Turn Down Day.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Beatitudes- Blessed are the poor in spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mathew 5, The Holy Bible) - I understand this to mean that if I am enjoying the garden of eden externally I can't really appreciate the real garden of eden internally. When I'm wholly fulfilled in the outer world, having sex, eating, basking in the praise of colleagues, appreciating the adulation of an audience, getting money, working desperately on a deadline, saving my life in a life crisis, saving another's life, being happy and cozy with family and friends - well all these 'worldly' things are fulfilling in themselves. There's no wrong in that either. Life is not to be shunned by enjoyed as Jesus enjoyed the wedding celebrations and walking, talking, eating and boating with his friends. The areligionist Spinoza celebrated nature. He encouraged we glory in the reality of the day and moment. He celebrated the material. In the celebration of the material we are fulfilled in and by the material. But when our 'innocence' is lost, when the 'world' fails to fulfill our expectations of it, when we experience loss or failure, when we become jaded by the very limitations of nature, then we are in a position to reflect on what is the ocean versus what is the wave. This is all transient. Only God is permanent. I never get over how buying something at the dollar store lifts me up for that moment but not long after this 'fix' in consumer world terms, is gone. It's like sex or eating or running a race. Not long after an orgasm I would like another. Sometimes I can hardly wait for my next meal. I love a cup of coffee and often have two. The reason 'pacman' was so popular was because it imitated reality. Even those high culture moments when I experience the bliss of love (see C.S. Lewis - the 4 loves) or cherish a grand performance, the 'feeling' and 'memory' linger on but over time there's a desire for more. Trungpa the great Buddhist teacher described westerners as 'spiritual consumers' and cautioned us against approaching the spiritual as a 'smorgasbord' to pick and choose from. Jesus said that " For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." "Righteousness" was the all encompassing word that referred to all aspects of our person and life. There were to be no secrets from God and we were not to be 'good' in the church and then have 'sharp' business practices or 'lie' when convenient in love, or any number of slippery slope ideas and actions. There was no place for 'cherry picking' in the gospels despite the tendency of this sort of activity in courts today and all to often in the "soundbite' media, especially the entertainment industry called "news". Everything was in context. Everything is the message. That is central to spirituality, the inclusivity of the very idea. We also can't rest on our laurels. Today is the summation of ourselves and how we are spiritually today is what is most important. Those who are blessed are poor in spirit today and know that the kingdom of heaven is nigh. It can refer also to the elderly or sick because then our spirit is naturally low compared to the very young whose spirit burns bright with zest and energy for life. In this sense spirit refers to 'life force'. This is something the scientists really still don't know. The word 'depression' gets a corner of the idea. To the ancients though it was a well understood term. To Jesus's listeners as opposed to us today the word 'spirit' was as clearly understood as the word 'blood' would be to us today. Kingdom of Heaven was another phrase that the listeners of Jesus understood in a way we might understand the term 'aeroplane'. The listeners of Jesus were raised in pious communities. There was spirituality in community and activities. Life and death were all about them. They were not aloof and apart like so many today protected in their high rise apartments with all manner of antiseptics and only friends of their own age with little experience of death or ideas different from their own. Life in Jesus's day was like a village or marketplace with countryside and animals and chickens underfoot. There was no deodorant and iPhones. Today in our cities we don't even see where our food comes from and don't know how many people died to build an airstrip. We are ignorant of the world and ignorant to a large degree of nature and spirit. Our knowledge is of the intellect, the ego. and the computer. Much of our days are lived in cartoon worlds. It's a thin slice of reality yet we have little humility, ego needing so little to puff itself up. In truth, I'm insignificantly significant and significantly insignificant. In the eyes of God I'm a son and a creation and God's love is infinite. That is the wonder of Grace. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That is a message of supreme hope and deliverance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter in law against her mother in law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." -Mathew 10:34-38 "There's a kind of complacency that passes for spirituality. This is best described as a spiritual materialism. Effete and pleasant, well mannered and inoffensive. Quaint, really. Yet it forgets well that all of the manners of chivalry came from fear and respect. We shake hands to show trust with clasping of weapons bearing right hands. There was always suspicion about the left handed for this reason. Long before the Jews and the Homosexuals we were suspicious about the left handed and even more so the devious twins. Worse were the hermaphrodites. And finally, the Christians. Christians are frightening awful people. They have a code of living and they alter the very nature of the community. When there's an orgy happening with all manner of drugs and alcohol and rape and pillage worst thing to bring to the party or have the party meet is a Christian. They're not a board room coffee clutch sort. It's not surprising to me that Emperor Constantine had an overnight conversion copied from the story of St. Paul, not even bothering to be original, because he needed the troops. The Roman army, these most disciplined and bloodthirsty of men had been infested with Christianity. Christians are in general "peaceniks". They're like the Buddhists right now warring with the Moslems and killing each other with rocket launchers and AK47's in Thailand and Cambodia. Everyone loves peace especially businessmen but not all the greatest families and countries of this world who make their money most from ammunition and guns. They're the drug pushers of war. And like Steppenwolf, I say, "Goddam the pusher man!" Still the English and allied troops of Great Britain saved us all from Hitler and Naziism. Christians rescued the jews and homosexuals and Poles from Auschwitz. It was the Dutch Christians who opened their attics to Jews and Christians who flew the spitfires in the Battle of Britain. It was Christian women who were the assassins in the French underground. They fought like St. Joan of Arc, that greatest of killing transvestite catholic saints. When the Communists of Russia killed 50 millions for their secular atheist regime, when the Chinese Communist atheists killed 80 million, and the Pol Pot atheist secular communist killed millions it was always Christians who intervened and put a stop to the slaughter of god hating men and women the world over.     And yes, we all love St. Francis. He's the most pleasant sort of Christian subversive. Long before Occupy Wall Street St. Francis with far clearer vision was offering the world an alternative to hoarding and fight. Sure we'd all like to talk to birds but as Christians when there's a job to be done we're the first one's to pick up whatever tools are needed to do the job. Christians are Martha and Mary. We meditate and pray but then we act. As Christians we are only required to turn our cheeks 70 times 70 times. There's clearly a limit to neglecting a problem. There is always a place for prayer but we are God's hands and feet. Christianity can be cozy and warm and sentimental. There's a Rockwell sort of picturesque quality to Christianity especially before Christmas when the lights are coming out. But the birth of Christ was followed by Herod massacring countless children under the age of 2. Telling the family that you are Christian is more disturbing and unsettling than saying you're planning on having a sex change. It's far more important than changing your vote from Liberal to Conservative or Democrat to Republican. It's a bit more than cutting your hair and getting your face pierced. Becoming a Christian is the most shocking disturbing event in a person's life. It's no wonder Christians are persecuted everywhere and laws are forever being enacted against them. Christians kick ass!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Teachings of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven

The Bible records the teachings of Jesus. The church is the fellowship of believers in Jesus who collectively and individually together have interpreted the teachings of Jesus. Historically, before Martin Luther only priests of the Catholic church 'interpreted' the teachings. Few read and Bibles were rare as well. Martin Luther began the protestant Christian movement though his intent was to reform the Catholic church of the day. It followed that the Holy Bible, later the King James Version and today the most recent of interpretations and research, the NIV or the New Jerusalem Bible, for instance, were read and today owned, by all Christians and Catholics alike. Prior to the formation of the state church, called the Roman Catholic Church, by Emperor Constantine and the Church Leader conference in Nicea that gave rise to the Nicene Creed, Christians, as individuals and their community churches, didn't have the 'whole' Bible as we know it. Often they only had a chapter or some letters by St. Paul, but this was sufficient to base their faith on. Fundamentally Jesus taught Love of God and that God was a loving God as evidenced by his being Jesus' father and sending Jesus to us. Jesus said "I and the Father are one". To Jesus and to his followers the teachings of Jesus are straight from God in the same ways as Moses brought down the 10 commandments written in stone as directly teachings from God, himself. Jesus taught, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." Now the early disciples burdened by the ruthless pagan invading Roman army and the corrupt Jewish authorities tended to think that 'near' referred to time. The idea of 'repenting' coming from the punishing time of the era was perceived then and often today as 'threat'. People , depite Jesus' teachings, continued to see God as a 'punishing father' rather than a 'loving father'. In this light, "Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is near" means not something political or historical or futuristic but rather that Heaven is "nearby". It's like saying to a thirsty man, the water is here, right here, the race is over and all you have to do is drink. The key was 'to repent'. Repent in Hebrew tends to mean 'to return' and 'to feel sorrow'. In the Greek of the day it meant a 'change of mind and heart' and a 'change of consciousness'. A common theme of the Bible is the idea of being 'lost' and repentance to me is that moment of realization when one changes direction and finally heads to the true destination. The regret is the waste of time and the loss of all the effort one put into what turns out to have been the wrong direction. The joy is found in the new heading though, as from walking towards the darkness lost, then turning about and realizing now with certainty one is walking towards the light. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near". This is a 'rallying cry' too. It's a direct message to carry on. Continue to 'seek' God, 'don't give up', 'of course life is wearying', of course we are all 'wounded' at times and the 'course is hard' but the "Kingdom of Heaven" is just around the next corner. Don't give up till the miracle happens. Indeed, the change of consciousness might simply be a realization that the Kingdom of God is not of this world and that looking forward or around oneself for it is the wrong 'direction'. The Kingdom of God is within and turning inward involves a change of consciousness. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near". Today we know that God is present and that we must seek God this day and not say God is a task to be put off till retirement or tomorrow or next week. "Repent for the Kingdom of God is near" is for today. It's a message of imminence. The Kingdom of Heaven isn't something we get as a reward 'after life' but rather it is 'near'. I don't think Jesus was saying "Repent, you're going to die". But the fact is we are all going to die and we live literally in 'denial of death'. Jesus was in conscious contact with God and he lived so I believe for that reason and others that "Repent the Kingdom of Heaven is near" is referring to the transcendent and omniscient omnipresent state of God's domain. Jesus wants us to focus on Heaven and not on this earth or even to think on Hell but rather to consider Heaven first. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near". Jesus also taught 'prayer', the Our Father prayer, being a model of prayer and our relationship with God as taught by Jesus. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near."

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Lord is my Light

Psalm 27 "The Lord is my light and my salvation;whom then shall I fear?" "Deliver me not over into the will of mine adversaries; for there are false witnesses risen up against me, and such as speak wrong." "wait upon the Lord" If God is with me and I am with God why fear. What worry is there when I seek the 'secret place of his dwelling'…."In time of trouble he shall hide me in his tabernacle". Surely this is a statement of outer and inner world. It speaks to my day to day existence as well as the meditation and prayer life I have. Thank you God for your unfailing presence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Runway for Recovery, Avalon Recovery Society, Nov 18, 20112

The Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside Hotel hosted a premier Vancouver Gala event. Avalon Recovery Society, ( begun over 22 years ago now has three sites in operation, North Vancouver, Kerrisdale and as of February this year, Avalon by the Sea, in White Rock. Avalon supports houses where women can drop in, attend recovery meetings, such as AA and Al Anon, have day care during meetings, and be greeted by women who welcome them with open hearts and non judgemental minds. Women who DSCN0030have known the shame of addiction can find the dignity of recovery with fellowship that goes on for a life time. I've been honoured to be asked by Avalon on occasion to share the medical and psychiatric perspective on women with alcoholism and addiction. To this end I have at times provided the information that underscores this 'brain disease' with the latest in genetic and MRI findings. sharing as well the great success rate women can find early with the support of organizations like Avalon where women a little ahead in recovery help those a few steps behind. The sad part for women is that they physically experience the effects of alcoholism at an accelerated rate compared with men. Further they are at greater risk for developing addiction with underlying depressions and anxiety that contribute to what has come to be known as dual diagnosis and concurrent disorders. Breast cancer is increased with alcoholism as is hypertension, heart disease and gastrointestinal ulcers and illness. Harm reduction programs are only recommended by the latest in World Health Organization Research if they are oriented to achieving abstinence. Women with alcoholism often speak to their doctor who will quite rightly advise them routinely as a first line treatment to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, still the foremost abstinence success based therapeutic approach. But AA meetings can be anywhere and often women new to recovery find safety in women's meetings. A Princeton College study of women there found 60% of those who had acquired a sexually transmitted disease had done so while intoxicated. The majority of binge drinking women regretted even this behaviour but alone couldn't seem to follow through on promises to themselves to change. This is where Avalon comes in famously, providing a safe and caring environment with ensured privacy and confidentiality in a holding environment where women can come, meet other women who once shared their same problems, experience meetings. Avalon is where women take back thDSCN0029eir lives. I have referred many women patients to Avalon only to hear repeatedly that their experience is all that they could have hoped for. Today Celeste, a beautiful university educated young woman and mother shared her tale of taking a wrong turn in life till one day she didn't know how to get back. Thanks to Avalon nearly a decade ago she broke free of the bondage of addiction and today is helping other women through the Avalon Society. Today's Fashion Show was 97% fun and only a very little touch of 'facts' about the orDSCN0045ganization, a very brief overview about addiction, and the story of hope found in Avalon. Otherwise it was fashion, fashion, fashion! Marilyn's, Christine's Lingerie, Charley and Lee, and Studio Farita provided a spectacular array of cutting edge creations I didn't know graced the likes of Vancouver, known more often for it's knapsacks than purses. This was a Paris, Milan and New York moment with even a touch of Bombay! The hundred or more women in the audience had come out dressed to the nines themselves so it really was a truly eye pleasing event. Great music, and a catwalk sensation with cameras flashing wildly. The models were a delightful mix of haute cputure professionals with a few, Avalon Society amateurs, having way too much fun. As one of only three men present I noticed there were no 'power tools' DSCN0062at the Silent Auction. The gifts instead were heavily weighted towards luxury and decadence with great weekend getaways, fine restaurant dinners, theatre and musical extravaganza and a whole lot of lotions, creams and spa experiences. My professional colleague, Dr. Barbara Harris was awed by the splendour of the event with all its offerings. This really was thanks to all the incredible staff at the Avalon Societies. Nancy Panchuck is executive director. Helen Burnham, cofounder with Virginia Giles was a glowing presence. Michelle, Heidi and Cindy all did their special parts but it really was a high light to be presentDSCN0080 and enjoy the joy and light that filled the room and think of the darkness that all these ladies have outshone together. DSCN0053 DSCN0081 DSCN0077 DSCN0083 DSCN0086 DSCN0090

Spirituality and Sensuality

There is a fine line between living a spiritual and a sensual life. Clearly if God thought humanity was wholly awful the holy would not inhabit the profane as did Jesus. Further if the light were less than the darkness it would not be able to cast out light.
Jesus appears to have lived and loved being in this body despite the tendency of some to see only the 'suffering of the cross' rather than appreciate the childhood, work, friendships, weddings and suppers. Clearly most Christians 'believe' Jesus was 'celibate' but the fact remains 'erotica' and 'pornography' were not part of the 'tale'. The Essenes, the sect with which John the Baptist was thought to have been associated knew celibacy but the traditional Jewish wisdom said "a man without a woman is not a man'. It wasn't surprising to think that Jesus and Mary were 'romantically' attracted and perhaps were it not for the Romans the young carpenters son might have married and had children. However it would be wrong to think they had an illicit relationship as some have suggested. Jesus was truthful and would not have committed adultery and maintained the respect of his community. Indeed he said a person's 'thoughts' could be a sexual transgression in a day when only 'actions' were held to be accountable. Yet he did not talk about sex in detail.
His 'mission' in contrast to St. Paul's emphasized wholly different matters than the 'sexual'. St. Paul on the other hand and St. Peter actually argued over genital mutilation. The divisions in the 'church' were present from the earliest, not just with Judas. In the history of Christianity there have been those like the early church father Origen who castrated himself to avoid sexual thoughts. Women in contrast never were terribly discouraged from ribald thinking by the church. They were supposed to be fecund with their husbands but as to whether they physically enjoyed sex and sensuality was a different matter.
The church was full of gluttons. Fat ladies and fat old men were a part of all churches that I've ever been in and fat is the external expression of gluttony no diffent than bastards were an external expression of adultery. Yet this 'excess' of sensuality was tolerated as was 'avarice' .
Jesus spoke directly about the rich man not getting into heaven. Yet the church is full of wealthy people who don't see a need to give away their wealth yet might expect their gluttonous friend to forego a second helping. They certainly would frown on their neighbours mistress but would remain 'mum' if their wealth involved some 'shady' or 'clever' business practice. Jesus talked a lot more about material acquisition and fear than he did about sensuality.
Yet there was a long debate in the church whether Jesus was God, or half god half man, or whether his flesh was real flesh or sacred flesh. There's been those who rejected all 'pleasure' and 'scourged themselves' in the early Desert Father movements. Some spiritual people feel guilty about enjoying 'the taste of food'. They acknowledge they must eat but 'enjoying the taste' is unspiritual.
The same was true of sex, making babies was necessary and unavoidable but should one enjoy it. No doubt some of the quickness and lack of sensuality in the 'wham bang thank you ma'am' scenario came from this 'defecatory' approach to matters sensual. Spirituality is about matters of the sense but love appears distinguished from 'lust', enjoyment of a fine meal from hoarding food and stuffing twinkles in the wee hours of the night.
Addiction theories are principally concerned with what is 'healthy' and what is 'unhealthy' in behaviours where sensuality is so obsessively indulged as the spiritual is lost. C.S. Lewis cautioned us not to look for the Architect in the wall of the building. To this end a whole movement of Christian gentility and yuppies in the 30's to 90's felt the whole idea was 'balance' and 'moderation'. This 'middle road' approach was aimed at much as the hedonists and epicureans had countered the tenets of the stoics in their 'attitudes' to this 'world'. One was to be in the world but not of the world.
I listen to Christian shows and read Christian and spiritual writings and this is commonly at the centre of modern day discussion though often the participants seem unaware that such discussions predated Christ and were certainly a major concern in the church. The nature of Jesus is a whole area of study because clearly a half man, half god would make Jesus something akin to the Greek godmen half animal half human chimera creatures. Not at all what Jesus was, so what was he. And how can we become homo spiritus without losing 'homo sapiens' or are we indeed to leave the 'homo sapiens'behind. Why then would St. Francis refer to his body in old age affectionately as 'Brother Ass'.  There are those whose 'holiness' is a 'hot house' plant and they seem to have 'left this world' when I wonder what if God has given this world to us to live in as Adam and Eve but not to be lost in as the Tower of Babble story suggests. Certainly we don't want to be living as they did before Noah. But what was that?
 Redemption speaks to this as well. But the Spiritual and Sensual are not opposites as the some religionists would have us believe. In Celtic Christianity the world is "Gods Creation' as are we. But always in the background I see the beautiful picture by Rembrandt of the Prodigal Son. I wonder what picture Rembrandt would paint if there had been a Podigal Daughter story in the Bible.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wicked and Godly

Psalm 26 "I have not sat with vain persons; neither will I have fellowship with the deceitful. I hate the congregation of the wicked, and I will not sit among the ungodly."
"I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, and so will I go to thine altar"

There is clearly throughout the Bible a distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. We are asked to make judgements and follow the ways of the Lord.  I may in work be with a dangerous criminal but believe that I am meeting them where they are moving towards the light.  In my personal and recreational life I have more choice however how to spend my time. This psalm makes clear that I am to walk in the light.
Note the 'congregation of the wicked'.  I might have individual friends and meet with them knowing they continue to have addictions for instance but I don't join in their gatherings. It was noted in early AA that when a man went to see another on a 12 step call, hoping to help him stop drinking, it was as common as not that that man began drinking again himself.  For this reason, it was recommended that 2 sober people do a 12 step call rather than one alone.
It's been a long time since I sat with wicked men and listened to their conversations about work, government and women but I remember how their negativity and cynicism was infectious. Today I still am concerned, only a bit, about the television and books I read because all to often the message is 'revenge' and 'quick sex'. Still I am looking forward to seeing the latest James Bond movie and hope I can watch it as the fantasy it is.
I remember dinner with a  colleague and how sitting at his table was always about him bragging to all about his exploits that week, which colleague he bested, how he was proved right, always that sort of one upmanship theme. It wasn't until I stopped going to his house that I realized that he was such a vain and shallow man. We had all only been invited to be audience in his court.
Another doctor's table was a complete contrast. This humble Christian man encouraged everyone at the table to share and talk and we all joined together in the laughter and fellowship that was there always.

3 am

I've woken at 3 am. it's a Paul Simon and Garfunckel Record cliche. Kirk sent me a picture of Dan Donahue playing guitar in Winnipeg. I was wafted back too many decades to Viscount Alexander and Vincent Massey High School. Facebook has that way about it. Lifting one out of the present and casting them up on distant shores. Memories jarred. Bits of flotsam and debris. Post tsunami and Sandy's. Someone poked the middle east again to give Obama a head start. 300 missiles and 3 dead. 300 million dollars and these are 'poor people'. Our dead here in Canada die for lack of a hospital bed. They go for a thousand dollars a day in some places. My patient that jumped in front of a bus was sent home. No doubt I'll see the bus driver for PTSD and how many passengers. I saw the man on the street an hour later. St. Paul's Hospital was always chilly since the nuns no longer were in charge but that was even more chilling than normal. And they speak of global warming. Maybe God wants us to have the heat to soften our heart. It wasn't nightmares that woke me from my sleep. I've been graciously saved from apparitions. None of the ghosts of faces that died in my hands have haunted me some time. I'm no longer screaming and waking lovers. It's best to sleep alone. I still thrash at time, waking tangled in sheets. I'm thinking of going through the ice on the frozen river on the tundra in the ski foo that mercy mission, the terror of submersion, walking miles and hours in frozen clothes, polar bears. Funny how that memory should come back. It's not particularly fighting. I wasn't alone. Not like the storms at sea or the charging wounded animals intent on murder and self defence. I've made myself a coffee. Coffee is good in the wee hours. It's from Starbucks. Fine ground for the Italian stove top expresso. Lying in bed thinking of boats and motors I remembered Dad and his boat and his motor. Fishing. Was it an Evinrude or Johnson he had? 5 hp or something more. There was the canoe in later years. Orphans. Gilbert jumped up on the bed feeling my restlessness. He's an intuitive little guy. Big hearted and comforting. Licked my ears of course. Lay close, pushing his little body next to mine. Made me think of "Jesus in Disquise" the song I've been enjoying of late on the Message, Sirious Satellite Radio 63. Hard to believe Third Day's album is out at week and I've not got a copy. There last one I had first day off the stands. Maybe today I'll drop into a Christian store and buy a copy. House of James is always a great place to buy music. But they're way out in Abbotsford. I thought of writing a steaming sex scene for a detective novel that's long in coming. A chapter a season it seems, these last few years. The mind playing peek a boo in the bed till I got up and made some coffee. She undid the button on her blouse, half unconsciously at first, but sure he would notice in time. He was standing in the squad room by the copy machine, dressed in black slacks and blue unbuttoned jacket, reading the file of their latest death. Together, that morning, they'd seen the body. Again the same mo. This one a knife, like the other, but there'd been a shooting as well. She didn't like men looking at her in general. In particular she'd appreciate the attention she so often got unwanted. He looked up from the file and glanced her way. A long drink of a man, her grandmother would say. A tired half smile. He returned to reading. She wondered if he was waiting for her. Sitting at her desk, she felt her thighs touching as he looked her way. On the phone she was still waiting for a human to answer. A stream of robotic messages inviting her to punch one number or another but none yet announcing how to connect to a human. She couldn't very well expect a machine to remember when it last saw a young girl. No matter how beautiful. There I've added another bit to the ongoing novel. And they've kept their clothes on. I've got several bodies stacked in the wings in other bits. I especially like the one in the dumpster. I don't think my unconscious woke me at 3 am to write steamy detective bits. Better than nothing though. I thought of Hep C too, the patient I saw tired with the disease. In passing I thought of writing a medical review of the disease. So many at the methadone clinic have hepatitis though few have cirrhosis. The disease of alcoholism among other things. Now there's treatment but a couple of my patients have had to go back for a second round while most respond immediately. What I don't understand is why some are selected for treatment and not others. There's a criteria based on viral load and liver enzymes that's new to me. It's a staging system that's become prevalent the last year. Before the concern was overall health but now there's a new specificity with experience. I remember watching colon cancer and cervical cancer advance till they could predict who and what would give the best results when. Amazing to meet the fellow with HIV for the last 26 years, looking young and robust and healthy. Amazing what modern medicine has done. I hear luddites daily and yet can't get over the miracles I've been blessed to see this last quarter of a century. How quickly the government forgets. More screw the doctor news out of the east with governments voting themselves more and more money. Administration always thinks its all about them. Step 4 and resentments. Time for 'institutions' again. There's always the old 'anti authority' adolescent shit creeping into one's thoughts. Forgiveness. That's what's needed and amends. Prayer for sure. Meditation. Did that yesterday. Sitting alone, quiet time, listening for God, giving God a space to reboot the soul. Meditation - giving God space to reboot the soul. It's been a while since I've wanted to talk to aliens. This planet must be feeling safer this week. I don't walk about naked with a blanket as much. Not waiting for an improbability drive this day. Getting tired. Eyes drooping. Little guy went back to sleep. He has his own schedule. Likes to go to bed at 10 and get up at 6 or 7. If I wake before he licks me I sometimes see him sitting and watching me, waiting for me to wake up. If I try to sleep in that's when I get the tongue in the eye or ear. I'm fading. Back to bed. Maybe I'll get a few more hours sleep. Waking in the night isn't the terror it was when I was a gp and had no idea when I'd sleep again and a hundred people to see. This is Saturday. Disrupted sleep a luxury with a Saturday morning. Bed calls though. Gratefully. Thank you God for sleep and wakefulness.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul

Psalm 25 "Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul; my God, I have put my trust in thee" I am a spiritual being on an earthly sojourn. There is a loving God whose concern is his creation. I am a significant part of God's creation though insignificant in this world. I am by this token significantly insignificant and insignificantly significant. I am today awake and alive in God. In prayer I talk to God. In meditation I listen to God. God is greater than I am. God be with me, in me, leading me, showing me. May I be one with you. May I know you are with me in all difficulties. "O let me not be confounded, neither let mine enemies triumph over me.' I need you Lord to discern the truth. I need your guidance in all my study, research and activity. I would ask you to be my eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet. The Devil is called the Great Deceiver. Satan is known by his lies. Heaven is truth. Hell is deceit. Let me know the positive and not be tricked by the negative. Let me see the light in the darkness. There is spiritual warfare and I would be with thee, O Lord. Let me fight and stand by thy side. St. Theresa described those distractions that kept one from the Inner Castle. Let me know them as distractions and move past them to the source of joy and peace that is you, O Lord. Let me not be caught by the reasoning of zombies or bitten by the tainted ideas of soul sucking vampires. Keep the demons of ignorance, fear and hatred from me. Let me feel thy peace and comfort every nano second of my day. Alone I am weak but with you I am strong. With you always I will succeed. Even in death I would walk with thee, O Lord. "For all they that hope in thee shall not be ashamed; but such as transgress without a cause shall be put to confusion." You are my pole star, O Lord. You are the Way, the Truth and the Light. I have given you my life and know your sacrifice. I may be ridiculed but I will not be ashamed. I may be humbled but I will not be humiliated. In you is all learning. I come before your majesty on bended knee, my head bowed low. I am Yours O Lord. May I do Thy Will. "Show me thy ways, O Lord, and teach me thy paths."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gratitude for Gilbert

DSCN0045 I am thankful for Gilbert. He was a long suffering dog today. We didn't get time for a walk this morning but he sat under my desk all through the morning's busy clinic with only a brief break to pee. Then we had to go to a lunch meeting where he was friendly with everyone. He was a real asset to the meeting visiting with his favourite friends and leaning up against my leg affectionately when he wasn't getting pets from those around us. Lots of smiles came his way. Then he peed on posts on the way back to the car only to have to get into the next office where he was ensconced until 7:30 pm. Everyone was so busy there was little time for him though he went about his job of greeter unperturbed by the long hours and stressful day. At night we drove to the open dog park where a couple of under socialized big dogs growled and barked and chased him with nasty intent. With his lightning speed and incredible agility he outpaced the murderous dog whose owner later said she had an 'electric leash' to keep him in line. Gilbert, being a good sport came back to play only to have the low brow insecure dog again make a lunge at him. We left and met a marvellous springer called Molly. Sweetest little dog you could ever imagine. Returning Gilbert played with another great big 8 year old dog.  His very pleasant owner said the fellow was 120 lbs and liked to stretch out in bed, pushing the humans off. I said Gilbert just lies down on my head and in the morning is a wet alarm clock. We laughed at our dogs, big and little playing together. Good fun. Back in the car I came home and Gilbert was just a great dog today. It was 9 when we got to dinner and that's more common than not but Gilbert braved the day and was a perfect little companion. I felt sorry for that girl whose dogs need an 'electric collar' . She probably shouldn't have them off leash but at least she has taken precautions. However if Gilbert wasn't so smart and fast he might have been chomped. So I really am all round grateful for Gilbert today. He's a really great little dog and I am truly thankful for him in my life. Thank you Lord for Gilbert!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

CAA-West Coast Branch - Nov.14, 2012

CAA - West Coast Branch - monthly meeting Arts and Cultural Alliance Centre, Howe Street Nov. 14, 2012 I arrived and right off hugged Margot Bates, Jean Kay then Margaret Anne Hume and thought there was a time I would have been awed to 'touch' real live published authors. Later I sat with Anthony Dalton and Bernice Lever. What a treasure it is to be a member of this organization that brings us all together. Surely our motto 'writers helping writers' sums up this organization well. What follows are my rough notes (unedited) taken while listening to the nights offerings. (I just wish I knew Douglas's last name. His reading and writing were amazing! addendum? Thank you Margot Douglas's name is Douglas Cameron Aitken, and now I won't feel badly years hence when someone says 'aren't you the guy who didn't know Margaret's last name was Atwood) Jean Kay announced that the Anthology of writing and poetry has gone to the printer. Copies will be available for sale at meetings and on line. Bernice Lever announced her poetry and picture appearing in BC Bookworld, an excellent source for publishers for free. Goes to all the libraries. Robert Mackay, author of Soldier of the Horse, announced he was awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in Navy and with Veterans. Dec. 8 is the annual Christmas meeting. James McWilliams won first place Edith Hanning (sp) won second place Ed Griffin and Georgia Hunter were tied for third place. Alan Twig is presenter at the January meeting. February's meeting is an open mike night and readers are invited to put their names forward. Readings from French Canadian Bed Time Stories - Douglas - included men working in wilderness logging camp, Jean Baptiste, the bunkhouses, canoes, argument with the devil, blizzards, day before Christmas, letters from loved ones, birth of twins, father trying to force a daughter to marry a known philanderer, invitations to come and rescue the fair French girl, cookhouse, camp boss, fields of snow glizzening white under the full moon, a strange little man, dressed in Indian buckskin, a proposition, flying canoes, crystal waves of the moon, celestial palace, Milky Way, Indian shaman, church steeples, Trois Rivieres, bright red pom poms, high pitched little chants, little people, bears awoken from their dens, Voyageurs, enticing music, people dancing, true love - a delightful ingenius tale of fantasy and charm Heidi Greco Poet, Writer, Editor, SFU instructor Surrey's Resident Poet, commissioned to write a poem of the city Heidi's blog "Out on the big limb" Blond bespectacled pleasantly attractive woman dressed in slacks, grey turtleneck and button vest sweater, round blue white shell medallion necklace: "I billed this with Margot as a conversation." "All of us have our own story of how we came to writing and committed ourselves to pursuing it.....mine is not that different from many of you.....I learned to read from an early age....I was the child with the proverbial flashlight under the blankets....when I was about nine there are the earliest fragments of my writing......summer holidays there were kids everywhere and all the backyards were open to all of summer I wrote a play....I have the surviving 2 pages....all very corny and resolving happily ever after....I would direct these plays and star in these plays and there'd be dancing .....I moved along to writing stories for my girlfriends, heavy romances, putting their names and their current flames names sex of course because we were all very innocent.....I had a poem published at 13....I got a dollar for it and it was a very important dollar .....I did get more serious about writing university I sent out poems....different small literary magazines in Canada....then absurdly....I had someone who was important to me....said not very kindly, this is should not waste your time....I didn't write for 25 years....I was in my 20's at the time and only took up writing again when I was in my 40's. I was a single parents and this was a male and a writer and I had no self esteem....for a man to authoritatively say this , well he must know....and I didn't write....I did other things....I did crafts....I found other ways to be creative ....I crochetted and tie died....I thought then it was ridiculous I was doing all this needle work....I had everything I could make and had given gifts to everyone who I could and I turned back to writing.....I think so many women like poetry because it's a thing you can enclose in a space of can do it in a don't have sub plots and such to carry around." At this she read a poem: from one of her several books of published poems Shrinking Violets - Quattro Books A: American Poems Rattlesnake Plantain Siren Tattoo About her mother. Next she read a poem "Hype" Listening to her I found her voice resonant, expressions engaging, lilting, words accented, ablaze with intonations , musical, deep, soft and wildly civilized An amusing moment occurred when her reading set off the building alarm which took seconds to subside. She described reading a poem at a Surrey forest saving event "Begin with a single tree.....notice the waiting hand to cup the rain.....ways it bends around itself stretching.....contemplate .....listen to it's branches tips so fine in green.....a mystery....a much more than the sum of its trees......" New online magazine, Cascadia Review - poets are always looking for place for their poems.....they put a series of my poems last week. Regarding Obama election she said "It seems as though the better choice was made." Following this she read: "Faithful" "I didn't mean this just to be about poetry. I also write book reviews," she said. "The Pacific of the publications that still runs reviews, has published my reviews.....Subterranean Review....another which has published my reviews." Why book reviews are important, 'just remember when you write a book, you will hope someone will write a review of your book and now we can all go on Amazon and write a paragraph saying why we think a book should be read." "I never say I teach things, I lead groups.... I don't know if I have anything to teach but I like working with writers....I had a group which wanted to produce a 'chatbook'....our group is putting out it's 8th chat book" "I was in good company one of the Eco an old growth forest in Seattle..we gave a workshop after the readings." This one, "Beatitudes for the 21st Century" , I'd like to read. I've found God creeping into my work recently and this one was inspired by Matthew." "This was published by Lipstick Press back when they were in Abbotsford....I've always been fascinated by Amelia Erhart....conspiracy theories are my real attractions...unsolved mysteries....I dive off the deep end in the middle of the theory is she crashed, alright, but she was supposed to crash, on a spy mission for the US, she ditched where she was supposed to, but they decided she was somewhere else, allowing her to be imprisoned on a tropical island....these are theories many have....that she was given a false idea....I take it s step further....saying she ended her life in an insane asylum in New Jersy...this was a kind of crazy can do anything you want with poems 'especially when they are researched'. "Amelia Erhart did write some poems". "I'll read one of these when she was in the asylum "Joan of Arc lives down the hall". "I'd like to shift gears ...I'm speaking about different genres....Shrinking Violet is more a friends Steve describes a novella as taking a canoe down a narrow canyon and just seeing what it is the idea is of a snowball ...not much room for subplots...this book started as a 3 day's an interesting have to be ready to not answer the phone.....when I started all I knew it was a young woman who had bright orange hair....I just sat down on a Friday night and wrote till my fingers bled....that 3 day novel did not went into that drawer...everyone has that drawer....then in 2010 a friend had a really sad cancer and I couldn't write....but if I don't write I get kind of crazy so I pulled this thing out and it went through a complete revision and entered it in a novella won and that's why it was published." With that Heidi read from her novella. (A fascinating read) "It's not very happy at home with Randy" "her body is soft and flabby and not what he expected" "she dreams" "the baby starts to cry" "I had a hard time with that book. It took me to places I didn't know I could go. I thought of pulling it ." Asked by the audience about the contest and why she went in "I just did and didn't know I could write 30,000 words....the contest has gone on for 30 years." Discussion in the group about the 3 day novel....."Anvil press had it....Pulp had started it in the late 60's...then another outfit jumped up and they continue to call themselves the 3 days novel." "Were you at SFU and have a child in daycare?" someone asked and they then waxed poetic about the day care at Simon Frazer...."there was so much cultural enrichment...there was always something great going on...these little kids would traipse on over to the theatre at noon." Room - is a vancouver based publication - here is a poem I'd like to end with "The Poem I am not going to write". The poem I'm an not going to write excuses herself daily........ Questions and answers followed. Break the meetings over.

Female Transvestism

All Western European and North American women are by definition "transvestic". They have been cross dressing with abandon however only in the last century. In the delightful movies about Coco the "sensation' caused by the great French designer Chanel's 'pants', the emblem of manhood in the Age of Rationalism, is well depicted.
It's not that women never were 'transvestic'. Female saints of medieval times were often caught without skirts. St. Joan of Arc was perhaps the most famous sainted cross dresser.
Early psychoanalytic writers argued, as commonly was the case ,from their ethnocentric persective, that women dressing as men 'increased their power." This interpretation derived from the social communism of early feminism which defined women as 'proletariat' and men as 'bourgeosie'. The leading feminists of that era commonly priviledged upper class women, defined themselves in traditional Marxist Leninist terms as the 'intellectuals' who indeed 'dictated to the proletariat'. Bra burning was only ever popular with women wealthy enough to afford an excessive amount of clothing.
However, in the same token, these self styled "social scientists' overlooked the obvious history of Scottish men wearing skirts. For blokes to wear frocks indeed took huge balls when the English low landers were outlawing, and putting to death, all highlanders wearing 'kilts' or sporting the 'tartan'.
In the Middle East the Arabian culture has long worn 'gowns' and 'same sex' or 'unisex' attire has prevailed around the world at various times without it having much significance from a 'status' perspective. Just as the great play, "The Hospitality Suite" by Roger Rueff later made into a movie, The Big Kahuna with the most memorable performance by Danny De Vito, contained the line "Jesus had nothing to say about women in business suits", so Jesus himself never wore pants.
Today, Dr. Ray Blanchard's work on transexual men has been underscored by recent MRI neuroscience studies. Dr. Blanchard speculated that there was a difference between homosexual men seeking early transexual surgery and later age transexual m-to-f patients who were predominantly heterosexual. MRI studies support the greater gender deviation in the younger homosexual population as opposed to the older population. Both groups have similiar outcomes post surgical 'revision", though the older group tend to have higher IQ's, greater education and more likelihood of what Dr. Blanchard coined "autogynephilia" (sexually attracted to the thought of themselves as women rather than the younger group which was more sexually attracted to men themselves.) (Dr. Ray Blanchard's typology has been politically questioned and may not have significance except historically as tens of thousands of transexual operations continue to change the diversity of the once familiar and limitted landscape.) Indeed Brazilian transexuals not so affected by western dichotomy see themselves as a 'third' alternative. In this regard they are like some aboriginal and polynesian aboriginals who granted distinct status to the 'twin spirited' who often held healing or leadership roles in their communities.
Transvestism has been greatest in the heterosexual population and as evidenced by female transvestism may or may not be essentially related
to sexuality. Gender as indicated in Ivan Illich's book of the same name is a 'multi varied' matter. It's certainly far more than the reductionism of either Marx, Lenin or Freud.
MRI studies do indicate differences in brain development but this seems to reflect to a large degree the influence of hormones.
It seems quite unlikely that there will be any similiar research or evidence of distinctive differences in female brains given the universality of transvestism in this population. Given the capacity for hormonal induced beard growth transexual men (f2m) 'pass' easily in the outer culture . A man dressed even in a 'kilt' draws attention more than even the young 'metro' men keen on make up and waxing off body hair. Surgically transexual men (f2m) have greater problems with 'bottom' surgery, though advances continue to be made. The men who initially have greater difficulty with outward appearances have today relatively satisfactory 'bottom surgery' solutions that allow them to 'pass' in the bedroom. One day, and as parents define the gender of their children earlier, these concerns immunologically and surgically will be moot points.
Heart bypass surgery was considered science fiction 50 years ago as were kidney transplants. There are rarely limits to science where there is interest. If transexual 'conversion' could somehow be shown to have military benefit or related to global warming then the researchers would have the funding to make the advances which might one day make the whole matter academic.
No one today views female transvestism with the horror it occasioned when I was on a high school student council executive and put forward the motion that women in Winnipeg should be allowed to wear pants to school in winter. It was so controversial in it's day that I personally was threatened in all manner. I shudder to think what controversy must have arisen when some silly boy or girl suggested we need not wear 'uniforms' to school.
Today transvestism and cross dressing by women is decades ahead publicly of the private behaviour of men in general. Personally I'm thankful that it's been decades since I was shot at from a passing car as a 'long haired' hippy. No doubt pant wearing women faced similiar issues even before they donned 'business' suits.
Brain research on 'gender' has acknowledged an evolutionary basis following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin who really was merely the imitator of that great eccentric Alfred Russell Wallace. "We are born this way" is a main proponent of the political platform of the Rainbow community and no doubt some 50% of influence as in most matters may have a genetic basis. However despite the monopoly of Darwinism, Lamarkian ideas still have a role with increasing evidence supporting some combination of the two.
Were 'politics' not the mainstream influence on science that it is, research into the differences of female transvestites comparing say, 'lipstick' lesbians that at first were such an offence to the 'butch' lesbians of an earlier era. MRI evidence might well suggest differences which follow rather than precede changes as the neuroplasticity of the brain becomes increasingly apparent. Patients with head injury have major 'shifts' anatomically as do those who do drugs for long term, alcohol for one long known to cause dementia with the damage shown on MRI.
Diversity doesn't suggest 'disease' though there are always those who would have everyone like them, fearing difference as genetically as those who embrace change.
From a purely 'fashion' perspective there seems to be every element of historical presence today from the age of Egypt to the Rennaissance to the 30's and 60's. Cosmetic surgery and cosmetic 'medicine' and even 'cosmetic' psychiatry are already well established. No one really can speculate whether these areas will remain termed 'cosmetic' as the 'serious' medicine and surgery continues as 'necessary' only as a product of 'life style' 'choices' of the population. A respiratory surgeon says his department might never have developped were it not for 'tobacco'.
It remains possible that women might revert to hooped skirts and gays return to the closet and students dress collectively in uniforms, Perhaps as William Gibson speculates in his genius novels camouflage may represent the gold "fashion" of the future where 'armies' become the principal outlet for youth.
For now female transvestism is the new normal.

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- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad