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I’m no fan of the corrupt bureaucrats at the FDA. In particular, I think drugs widely tested & prescribed in Europe but not vetted by the FDA should be available in the US with that caveat. Let the public decide for themselves.

An interesting case is the drug Survector, a novel tricyclic antidepressant which was marketed by Servier in France & widely prescribed in Europe. Unlike serotonin reuptake blockers like Prozac, Survector is a dopamine reuptake blocker & mild psychomotor stimulant. Among its effects: Clinical trials tested favorably against imipramine, Ludiomil, Elavil, & Prozac Its psychomotor stimulant effect resulted in a rapid onset of treatment, critical in severe depression, & a drawback of SSRIs & older tricyclics which can take 6 to 8 weeks for onset Of particular use in depression of the elderly Did not cause sexual dysfunction endemic to SSRIs (which can exacerbate depression), enhanced orgasms, & reported to cause spontaneous orgasms (!)

Because of the latter as well as its mild psychomotor stimulant effect, Survector was deemed to have abuse potential (hardly the case with side-effect rich drugs like Prozac). Pressured by the FDA, Survector’s EC license was withdrawn in 1999. Yet studies of dependence (here & here) showed that those most at risk were people with serious psychiatric disorders & histories of substance abuse (duh).

There were also cases of hepatotoxicity (perhaps due to genetic predisposition). Alcohol, of course, has abuse potential & causes liver damage, but don’t look for it to be withdrawn from the market. As it shouldn’t be: why should a minority of substance abusers set public policy?

The orgasm effect also engages America’s Puritanical pleasure phobia. MDMA is a valuable drug that’s been useful in PTSD & psychotherapy, but due its being scheduled is now almost impossible for scientists to study. Its misuse by kids doesn’t change its potential usefulness.

FOOTNOTE: Survector’s manufacturer Servier is now offering a related drug called Tianeptine, which shows promise, altho there are no plans to market it in America. It’s also self-evident that manufacturers of the multibillion dollar SSRI industry have a vested interest in keeping substances like Survector & Tianeptine off the US market.

(Survector’s not, however, completely unavailable.)

Posted by jeff at 01:51 PM

• Category: Science 
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Hong Kong pop star Faye Wong in upcoming sci-fi movie 2046; Ruan Lingyu, the Chinese Garbo: when she took fatal overdose in 1935 at age 25, 3 women committed suicide during 3-mile long funeral procession & NY Times ran front page story as ‘the most spectacular funeral of the century’

Mark Cousins has a sensational overview of Asian cinema, arguing that its current energy & artistry puts it reels ahead of world film. Michael Moore’s schlockfest may have copped the Palme d’Or, but this year’s Cannes was mesmerized by 4 Asian films: House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou’s sensual Hero followup; 2046, Wong Kar Wai’s Bladerunner-noir; Nobody Knows, an urban fairy tale from Japan; & Tropical Malady, a homoerotic Zen fable from Thailand.

Cousins details the 100-year panorama of Asian cinema – largely unknown in the West – & the influence of Buddhist, Tao, & Hindu aesthetics on the films of China, Japan, & India. Among the great directors profiled: Yuan Muzhi, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, Yasujiro Ozu, Mehboob Khan, Bu Wancang.

Predictably, Hollywood is turning Japanese, with 7 American versions of Asian hits in the works, including:• Tom Cruise in remake of Hong Kong horror hit The Eye
• Scorsese is remaking crime thriller Infernal Affairs, possibly with Brad Pitt
• Jennifer Connelly in remake of Dark Water, supernatural tale by Hideo Nakata (The Ring)
• Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham) is remaking Korean comedy My Wife is a Gangster with Queen LatifahCousin’s article makes me eager to read his brand new book, The Story of Film

Posted by jeff at 11:57 AM

• Category: Science 
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In Zhang Yimou’s Hero, last week’s #1 film in America, Hong Kong matinee idol Jet Li is Nameless, a mysterious stranger who engages a battle of wits with the Emperor. Li spins a series of pastel tales that open one into another, like Chinese boxes, as the Emperor & the audience try to puzzle out truth from lies.

Yimou drenches – some would say smothers – the movie in sensual poetry: sheets of arrows riddling a garrison, Maggie Cheung’s swirling many-colored silk sleeves, a balletic duel across the surface tension of a lake, raindrops, blood-red leaves. Images crowd out the characters, & only Tony Leung, with his heartbreak eyes, & scene-thief Zhang Ziyi manage to hold their own.Is it a fascist movie? In the film, an assassin aborts a plot against the Emperor, concluding that the kingdom needs a strong hand. Yimou: “My idea was to convey the message of peace.” Li: “It talks about how violence is not the only solution.” It does? This is a movie made in Communist China, a totalitarian state where only ghosts bear witness to Tienanmen Square, & filmmakers can only comment on society via metaphor & the panorama of antiquity.

The message of the film isn’t pacifist, it’s passivist (much like America’s confused ‘antiwar’ crowd), its rebels finally endorsing the iron fist of the Emperor, a brutal warlord with imperial ambitions. No wonder Beijing likes this message of peace. American movie reviewers – one hesitates to call them critics – who previously gushed all over Agitprop 9/11, have been just as forgiving to Hero. Notable exceptions:

Joshua Tanzer, OffOffOff: “A beautiful parchment on which is written, in the most elegant calligraphy, a manifesto for evil.”

Andy Klein, LA Citybeat: “The moral of Hero supports all the worst aspects of Chinese communism, disguised as support for the ‘benevolent despotism’ of the First Emperor.”

Jeffrey Chen, Window to the Movies: “If we follow this logic through, we could find ourselves pitying any fascist-leaning dictator who believes peace is only available through forced submission.”

J.Hoberman, Village Voice: “There’s more than a bit of Leni Riefenstahl. Hero’s vast imperial sets, its glorification of ruthless leadership and self-sacrifice on the altar of national greatness, are all redolent of fascinatin’ fascism.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing artistry, & I tend to Oscar Wilde’s view: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well-written, or badly written.” Hero is well-crafted propaganda. It’s also a wrenching love story. CAST:

Jet Li: Born Beijing 1963. Began studying wushu in 1st grade. Won 1st martial arts gold medal at age 11. Performed for Richard Nixon on White House lawn in 1974. Paid 12¢ a day for 1st movie 25 years ago. Manager shot to death by organized crime. Pissed off Jackie Chan with High Risk, which featured no-talent sellout actor played by ‘Jacky Cheung’. Turned down lead in Crouching Tiger because wife pregnant. Next up: Unleashed, aka Danny the Dog, with Morgan Freeman.

Maggie Cheung: Born Hong Kong 1964. Family moved to England in 1972. Runner-up 1983 Miss Hong Kong. Has made over 80 films. Best Actress, Cannes 2004 for Clean, directed by ex-husband Olivier Assayas. Memorable movies: Irma Vep, In the Mood for Love. Next up: sci-fi 2046.

Tony Leung: Born Hong Kong 1962. Quit school at 15 to work as paper boy. Tempestuous tabloid love life. Best Actor Cannes 2000 for In the Mood for Love (with Maggie Cheung). Played gay expatriate in Buenos Aires in Happy Together (Cannes Best Director 1997) with Cantonese pop star Leslie Cheung (Farewell My Concubine), who committed suicide last year. Also memorable: Infernal Affairs, Chungking Express. Next up: sci-fi 2046 (with Maggie Cheung & Gong Li).

Zhang Ziyi: Born Beijing 1979. Trained as dancer, joined Beijing Dance Academy at 15. Zhang Yimou cast her in first movie The Road Home. Rumors of affair led Chinese press to dub her Little Gong Li, after Yimou’s previous dalliance/protege Gong Li. Ang Lee passed over more well-known Hong Kong actresses to cast her in Crouching Tiger (Best Actress, Toronto Film Festival). Next up: Memoirs of a Geisha with (gulp) Gong Li.

• For a remarkably stupid take, see Liza Bear’s interview with Yimou, in which she’s not just oblivious to fascist overtones, but tries to connect red, white, & blue color sequences to American ’empire’.

• Also see detailed report on Human Rights Violations in China, and interesting Taiwan blog A Better Tomorrow: “Hero is a complete sop to the Chinese Communist Party.”

Posted by jeff at 07:08 AM

• Category: Science 
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Supermodel/Oxford PhD Olivia Judson

Godless Capitalist generously invited me to post something on GNXP, as my blog, Beautiful Atrocities is very similar, since I’m primarily concerned with soap operas, innuendo, Ann Wilson, low-rent pop culture, septicemic humor, & asthmatic prose. Here then is what I learned from the delightful Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, by Olivia Judson, the world’s most pneumatic Oxford Phd.

• Hyena scats are white because they’re mostly bone powder; unlike most carnivores, hyenas can digest bone.

• Lionesses have a clinical sex mania, requiring so much stimulation – hundreds of romps – to become fertile that, by some estimates, less that 1% of copulations produce litters. Why such inefficiency? If the males of a pride are defeated, the new males kill all the cubs, which stops lactation, which brings the females back into heat. It’s possible that the uber-virility required of males is a test to make sure they’re strong enough to defend the pride.

• Male redback spiders have a unique fetish for being cannibalized: a male will snatch rivals from the jaws of death and leap into the meat grinder, during which process he slips her his pedipalp, thus fertilizing more eggs than if he’d survived. This curious ritual does not seem to have caught on in evolutionary circles.

• Contrary to John Derbyshire, sex is not congruent with reproduction, but refers to any process by which individuals exchange genes. Bacteria reproduce by cloning, but have sex to swap genes. Viruses can’t reproduce, but still have sex & swap genes, which is why we need a new flu vaccine every year.

• A human male typically has enough sperm for 1½ ejaculations; a ram has enough for 95.

• Female sagebrush crickets drink the blood of their mates, who have evolved a pair of useless fleshy hindwings for this purpose. The female climbs on the male’s back & chews on them while copulating. But since females don’t like used goods, males have evolved a brutal countermeasure: when a female climbs onto a male cricket to check out his hot wings, an extra set of teeth on the male’s back stabs her in the belly & holds her fast, whether she wants it or not.

Banana slugs are hermaphrodites whose gigantic phalluses sometimes get stuck during the deed. The organ is then gnawed off, & doesn’t grow back, making the slug a female. Foreplay for the European giant garden slug consists of sitting on a branch oozing mucus for an hour. Then they wrap themselves together and bungee jump, hanging by a mucus rope, unfurl their penises (from the side of their heads, who knew?), and dangle.

• Black vultures are not just faithful, they’re prudes, & won’t tolerate sex anywhere but the privacy of the nest. If a young randy tries to get laid at a roost, the others will flame him.

• Male scorpionflies are scavengers who present females with dead insects as a bribe. If they can’t find any, they’ll steal from a spider, which is dangerous to say the least. Fortunately they have a huge member with which they whack! the spider if caught. (If they’re such a loser that even spider-filching doesn’t work, they secrete a large gelatinous blob of saliva, which is better than nothing.)

• Spotted hyenas live in matriarchal packs led by a dominant female. Females have an enormous clitoris, capable of erection. The lips of the vagina are fused shut in a sort of pseudo-scrotum, so that urination, copulation, & birth occur via the clitoris. Thus 10% of females die in birth when the clitoris rips. How could this be an advantage?

Possible explanation: High exposure to androgens in the womb makes hyenas extremely aggressive (& in humans, gives females a huge clitoris). Hyenas are usually born in litters of 2, upon which one will immediately kill the other. Such siblicide is most common among pairs of females. The offspring of dominant females survive at twice the rate of their less aggressive peers, possibly offsetting the lethal cost of the phallic clitoris.

Posted by jeff at 06:53 PM

• Category: Science 
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