Sunday, May 12, 2019

Exposing America's Justice System (Plus a Survival Guide)

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The U.S. bar goes off the margins! 'Nuff said.  --->

PART I:  The Bare Facts

If you live in the U.S. you're probably not aware of JUST how scary our nation's prison system really is (unless you've been caught up in it yourself).  After watching A Survivor's Guide to Prison on Netflix this weekend, I was left even more disturbed than ever by just how shaky our entire justice system really is, from the police on the street all the way up to the judges & juries that determine the fates of thousands each year.

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Excellent documentary (Netflix)
This info is, of course, vital to every substance user and--as you're about to learn--law-abiding citizen as well.  According to the film, there are so many ridiculous laws on the books in this country that the average American unknowingly commits 2-3 felonies per day.  You read that right.  For instance, simply telling someone you're going to "beat their fucking ass" is considered a "terroristic threat" in many jurisdictions whether you touch them or not.  Whether you actually get arrested for saying an off-handed comment like that depends largely on who you are & who you say it to.  People of color are disproportionately targeted by police & tend to receive longer sentences for the same crimes as white & Asian people.  Class is another factor.  But we'll get to that in a minute.

The U.S. locks up more of its population than any nation on Earth.  That includes communist China, Russia, North Korea & any other place you can think of.  Our prisons outnumber our universities & colleges.  Do we REALLY have that many more dangerous criminals in the "greatest nation on Earth", or are our laws just more unfair?  To get more specific, America accounts for 1/3rd of all incarcerated women in the entire world.  Not 1 single state has use of force laws that meet even the most basic international standards.  Police aren't required to have any education beyond a high school diploma or GED.  Is this really reasonable for a position of such authority?  Worse, no independent organizations oversee police or prosecutors when issues arise--they are entirely responsible for investigating themselves.

Due to the insane backlog of cases in the courts, the vast majority of defendants are pressured to take plea bargains in which they plead guilty to a lesser charge whether they committed it or not.  Refusal to do so can result in lengthy prison stays if you can't afford bail (see: the tragic case of Kalief Browder who spent 3 years in Riker's Island awaiting trial for allegedly stealing a backpack).  95% of all cases are "resolved" by plea bargain in this country.  If you are brave/stupid enough to demand a trial, be aware that judges & juries are subject to authority bias--a phenomenon in which a person tends to believe an authority figure such as the police, government agency or media over an individual such as a defendant in a criminal trial.  This bias is inherent in humans so you can expect to face it no matter how good your lawyer is.

And that brings up another issue:  public defenders tend to be stretched thin & not have a great track record of winning criminal cases where the cards are stacked against them.  So unless you can afford Johnny Cochran or another member of the Dream Team, taking a case to trial can be very risky and the stakes are much higher than taking the plea deal.  If you lose, you get the whole sentence...whatever that may be.

Once you're actually IN prison, you can probably expect to do some time in solitary confinement.  Iran has a 2-year maximum limit on solitary confinement; California's average length of stay is 7.5 years.  Inmates may be placed in solitary for disciplinary purposes or for their own "protection" if deemed a target by gangs or other dangerous individuals.  And inmates in general population don't fare much better.  1 in 10 prisoners is sexually assaulted, to say nothing of physical & verbal assaults or other types of abuse such as medical neglect.

If you expect your jail time to be full of reading & relaxing, don't bank on it.  Approximately 1 million U.S. prisoners work for corporations behind bars for pennies a day.  There is no minimum wage & no benefits and organizing/unionizing is not allowed.  If you refuse to work you are put in solitary.  Prison labor is a multi-billion dollar per year industry.  Private prisons are paid to house inmates on a per-bed basis & taxpayers foot the bill even for empty cells.  This incentive to incarcerate citizens leads to exactly what you'd expect:  lobbyists pushing for tough-on-crime bills in Washington to guarantee a steady pipeline of inmates into these for-profit hell holes.  Immigration laws are also greatly affected by this system.  State prisons have an 80% recidivism rate, which proves how little effort goes into rehabilitating inmates.  And why would it?  The profit comes from keeping people incarcerated.  The word 'slavery' comes to mind...

But what about violent offenders like rapists, child molesters, murderers & domestic abusers you ask?  Don't they DESERVE the treatment they get in prison?  According to the Innocence Project, between 40,000 & 100,000 innocent Americans are estimated to be sitting in prison on wrongful convictions.  A majority are people of color & poor whites.  Some of these are on death row; others languish in solitary confinement indefinitely or face other atrocious living conditions.  Over half a million Americans are locked up for non-violent drug charges at any given time.  So while we all want to see violent psychopaths separated from society & punished, the way we're currently doing it is not making that happen.  Sentences for rape & child abuse are often disgustingly short compared to non-violent drug crimes in the first place.

We need to work toward making prison a place ONLY for violent offenders who pose a real risk to law-abiding citizens; not a place to house those whose lifestyles we disagree with--the poor, sex workers, drug users & dealers, low-level thieves & the mentally ill.  These people deserve rehabilitation & counseling.  Medication in many instances.  Education.  And prisons themselves must be made more habitable even for the violent scum who stay there because the majority of inmates WILL be getting out one day.  It just makes good sense to offer rehabilitation & keep them out of solitary to prevent them from becoming more crazed while locked up.  Losing their freedom is the punishment.  Promoting rape & assault behind bars doesn't benefit anyone and makes us look as vile as the sick fucks who commit these acts to the rest of the developed world.

PART II:  Survival Tips You Can Use

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1.  Don't argue with an aggressive officer.  Calmly ask "Am I being detained?  Am I free to go?"  Pick your battles & don't do anything that could be perceived as a challenge to their authority, such as yelling, cursing or running.  If you're not being detained, leave immediately.  Say nothing else.

2.  Never answer police questions without a lawyer present.  Demand an attorney even if you're 100% innocent.  Your words can be used against you but never for you.  You have the right to remain silent for a very important reason.  Use it.  Cops will use many tactics to get you to talk--never do so without a lawyer present.

3.  If wrongfully convicted of a crime, send a preservation letter to the police department labs & courts asking them to save all the evidence in your case.  Do this as soon as possible to prevent evidence from being destroyed, which it can be within 30 days if you don't request preservation.

4.  Seek out an Innocence Project to take your case.  Unfortunately this can take years, so be prepared to wait.  Write as many well-worded letters to as many Innocence Projects as you can to increase your chances. 

5.  When entering prison, be quiet & observe the way things operate.  Find allies within your own race or from your neighborhood but keep a comfortable physical distance.  Don't accept commissary or other "gifts" from inmates or you'll be expected to pay them back later with interest.  (You can fill in the blanks as to what "interest" and "debt" are).

6.  Focus on your education & hobbies in your spare time.  Exercise, read & do other things to occupy your time & better yourself.  Don't get involved in drugs or prison drama.  Many prisoners become "professional inmates" & end up with more time tacked onto their sentence due to stupid choices made behind bars.

7.  If seriously confronted by another inmate, don't back down.  Physical violence is sometimes unavoidable in prison & the rules are different than on the outside.  Never pick fights but stand your ground & don't let anyone demean or mock you, steal your belongings or do other disrespectful things or your stay will be highly unpleasant.


Hopefully you'll never need this information, but better safe than sorry.  Nobody thinks this stuff applies to them until suddenly it does.  The horror stories are real & all too common nowadays.  Stay safe.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

[Review] - VLNT Kratom: Red Borneo & Red Sunda (2 kg)

Vendor:  VLNT Herb
Location:  Indonesia
Items:  Kratom (kilograms only)
Rating:  4.8 of 5 stars

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Since my long-time vendor Swirl Girl Inc closed up shop, I decided to branch out & try to find the best, most affordable kratom vendors to satiate my massive appetite for the good leaf.  There are countless Indonesian-based vendors on Facebook who contact me daily, but I prefer sticking with ones who have long-standing reputations in the community.  VLNT Herb is one such vendor.

Before the big 2017 crackdown on domestic vendors, VLNT was one of the most highly-praised suppliers for some of the most popular U.S. kratom sellers.  So why not just go directly to the source & cut out the middle man?  Well, many Indo vendors require a bulk purchase of 5-10 kg or more, which I definitely can't afford.  Luckily VLNT was willing to work with me & offer a 2 kg deal: 2 kg for $140 total including shipping.  Awesome!

Having tried several VLNT strains through another vendor in the past, I knew exactly which two I wanted--Red Sunda & Red Borneo.  The former is a darker brown & has a more relaxing effect while the Borneo is probably the most energizing red I've found anywhere...and potent.  The smell of both strains is somewhat like cherry Play-Doh, which I've always associated with high-quality leaf.  Sure enough, one tbsp of Red Borneo in some tea has me feeling warm & fuzzy and ready to stay up late fiddling around on the tubes.  I've not tried any of his white, green or yellow strains but really enjoyed my last order of his Red Maeng Da too.  It's a close third to the others.  He also has more exotic options like "White Bentuangie" and "Green OV".

I already transferred the Borneo to a Ziplock bag, so I didn't bother taking a photo.  But here's the Sunda in its original vacuum sealed package:

Shipping was faster than it's ever been for an overseas order of any kind.  Not sure why exactly.  It was sent April 24th & arrived May 3rd.  Perfect timing.  You can usually expect to wait 2-4 weeks depending on how fast the mail is moving though, so plan ahead.  Indo vendors are better for stocking up in advance--not emergency buys.  But the money saved is SO worth it, and the product passes through fewer hands so is theoretically safer & cleaner.

I give this order from VLNT a 4.8 out of 5 stars for shipping time, quality & price: all of which were stellar.  I was given a tracking number as soon as it went out which allowed me to watch it progress through the postal system.  The only downside was his dysfunctional website, which has some major kinks to work out.  It's best to contact VLNT via his Facebook page (Google it) or through email.  Will definitely be ordering again.

Swirl Girl Inc: 2012-2019

It is with much sadness I announce the closing of one of my favorite long-time vendors, Swirl Girl Inc.  They were my go-to source for kratom, CBD, hemp buds & a whole host of ethnobotanicals for years.  It appears they narrowed their available payment options & then just closed up shop altogether some time in March.  Whether they'll be back one day is unknown, but it was a great run while it lasted.  From talking with the owner it sounds like a happy decision to move on; nothing ominous.  Just not profitable any longer & too much work.

On to new horizons!  🌅

Friday, May 3, 2019

[Double Review] - Blue Dream CBD Shatter: Phytodabs & Extract Labs

Vendor:  Phytodabs / Phyto Family
Location:  Colorado, U.S.
Items:  CBD Shatter, drops, dabs, vapes.
Rating:  4.4 of 5 stars

For funzies, I bought two orders of Blue Dream CBD shatter from two vendors to see which I liked better.  After my bad experience with Steve's Goods I'm shopping around for a full-time affordable source of CBD shatter.  Coincidentally I've never smoked actual Blue Dream weed but always liked the sound of its effects, so that's why I chose it for a double review.  I also picked up 5 new replacement coils for my vape so I'd be sure & get some clean hits.  (Yeah, bitches.  I'm goin' all out).  Keep in mind the opinions on things like flavor, aroma & smoothness are totally subjective.  My favorite thing lately has been to binge-watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt while vaping CBD and laughing my ass off so I should be set for a while with this double purchase.  😎

First up is Phytodabs Blue Dream 99% High Terpene Isolate 2.0.  I grabbed the half-gram ($24.99 + $4.99 Priority shipping) since I wasn't sure I'd like the flavor.  Some terps irritate my GERD severely, and with this being a high-terp product I didn't wanna go all-in with a whole gram until I knew if I liked it.  It's described on the website as "Blue Dream, originating in California, epitomizes the easy daydream of a West Coast weekend."  Sounds delish, if a bit non-specific.  I'm definitely getting Snoop Dogg vibes.  It smells of pine mostly, but not very strong.  There's an underlying sweetness too.  

Phytodabs Blue Dream High-Terp Dabs

Phytodabs uses custom-blended terpene mixes derived from plant sources in their shatter, and their CBD comes from Colorado-based hemp farms.  This product is technically a "dab" rather than "shatter" so I'm not sure how it'll work in my vape pen.  I've never used dabs, wax or anything other than shatter in my life.  Guess we'll see...

First impression:  The flavor, like the aroma, is primarily pine-y.  Not overwhelmingly, but that's really the only smell or taste I'm picking up.  The strength of the terps seems to be irritating my eyes & nose a bit.  The hits are smooth af & each "bowl" lasts a really long time.  I really dig the texture of these dabs--they're much harder & thinner than the waxy/flaky shatter I'm used to.  Much easier to handle with my little vaping tool & don't leave residue all over it.  This stuff tastes truer to actual cannabis terpenes than the previous shatter I've used, though the Steve's Goods Blueberry OG has it beat in the flavor department for me.  But this one isn't really comparable because it's not blueberry-flavored at all.  It's more like a sweet pine forest on a snowy morning.  Subtle flavor but potent effects.


Vendor:  Extract Labs
Location:  Colorado, U.S.
Items:  CBD shatter, softgels, crumble, topicals.
Rating:  4.7 of 5 stars

Next day I pack the Yocan with some Extract Labs Blue Dream CBD Shatter.  Because the price was right I went ahead & got a whole gram ($30).  The website claims this is their best seller for "mood elevation" which is right up my depressed alley.  The terpene profile is shown on the website, which is pretty cool.  Myrcene & pinene dominate at 26% each, with beta-caryophyllene & limonene coming in a distant second.  I must say the price is very attractive compared to what I've been paying for a gram.  Steve's Goods charged me $58.99 for a gram of Blueberry OG w/ shipping which is what prompted me to look elsewhere (among other things).  I've already gone through that whole gram.  Extract Labs uses CO2-extracted hemp & all-natural terpenes in their shatter, which contains 0% THC.

The aroma is more well-rounded with this Blue Dream shatter by far--less pine & more of a floral, minty undertone.  Much truer to actual cannabis or hemp than the Phytodabs even.  Oddly enough, the smell is stronger than the Phytodabs despite the latter being a "high-terp" product.  The hits are also smoother.  No burning in my eyes or nose on the exhale, though I'm not sure I'd call the taste "yummy" like Steve's Goods shatter.  Perhaps I need to look for something that's actually berry flavored instead.  These both taste like straight-up Christmas trees, lol.  This stuff is the exact same texture as the dabs--thin slabs that break off cleanly & easily.  Produces nice fat clouds but each bowl doesn't last as long as the Phytodabs stuff.

I feel mostly mellow after finishing a bowl.  Not drowsy but not stimulated either.  I've been extra run down lately due to Springtime fatigue & a flare up of my bladder issues, so it's hard to judge the effects properly.  But no negative side effects are noted with either product after lots of vaping.  Sometimes I'll get a mild headache or acid reflux after a vape session but not this time.  The Phytodabs stuff did irritate my eyes noticeably, which I've had happen before with terpsolate.  But it's nothing bad enough to put me off using it.

Extract Labs Blue Dream CBD Shatter

In conclusion, I give the Phytodabs High-Terpene Dabs a 4.4 for potency, texture & shipping time and the Extract Labs Shatter a 4.7 for price, aroma & flavor.  I appreciated being able to pay with a secure, preferred payment method with Extract Labs and the price was super affordable so I'll definitely be using them again.  Both companies shipped my orders out the day after ordering, and I got tracking numbers with both.  Phytodabs arrived a day earlier so extra points for them in that department.  Both orders came from Boulder, CO.  I look forward to testing out more products from these companies since they each have a long line of vape-able CBD shatter, dabs & crumble: all of which are said to work in my vape pen.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fatal Familial Insomnia "Trip Report"

While in one of my weird internet rabbit holes, I stumbled upon the single most interesting & chilling medical study ever.  But first, some background.

Fatal Familial Insomnia story

Fatal insomnia is an exceedingly rare disease that occurs when a mis-folded protein called a prion causes other proteins in the sleep center of the brain (the thalamus) to self-destruct, becoming filled with holes like Swiss cheese.  This results in days, weeks & finally months of sleeplessness until the affected individual eventually dies a horrific death from a combination of brain degeneration & the secondary effects of sleeplessness.  Though it appears death is primarily caused by the physical degeneration of the brain, as other cases of long-term total insomnia have been reported without the patient dying (see:  Thai Ngoc).

Like all prion diseases, Fatal Insomnia is 100% fatal with no known treatments or cures.  Most cases are inherited ("Fatal Familial Insomnia") while a tiny portion happen for unknown reasons ("Sporadic Fatal Insomnia").  I stress again for all you hypochondriacs out there:  this is an exceedingly rare condition, with the sporadic form affecting about 24 people worldwide ever.

Afflicted FFI sufferer known only as "Silvano" who offered himself for recording in the 1980s

While Googling this horrific condition, I came upon a Reddit post with a link to a study in which a man with the inherited form of the disease self-treats his condition with a vast array of supplements, stimulants, tranquilizers & anesthetics...some exceedingly rare or even obsolete in America.  This is hands-down the most bizarre & unconventional case study I've ever read about in more ways than one.  The case took place in the U.S. in 2001 & was conducted by doctors Schenkein and Montagna

Here is an excerpt from the study:

Shortly after his diagnosis, patient "DF" received vitamin therapy at the Clymer Institute for Alternative Health in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.   DF took a combination of niacin, antioxidant powder (comprising vitamins A, C, E, and D), blue-green algae, brewer's yeast, B complex, zinc (sublingually), magnesium, inositol, PABA, grape seed extract, CoQ-10, cholineTiger's Milk nutrition bar, highly concentrated wheat germ oil, tryptophan, and 2 g of melatonin. He also injected a gelatinous form of ± 2 into his nasal cavity.  Within 30 minutes of this treatment, DF reported that he fell into a natural and restful sleep. On this regimen, he experienced 5 out of 6 consecutive nights of sleep, ranging from 5 to 6.5 hours per night. 
However, this regimen only worked for so long before the patient became restless & delusional.  He even suffered a stroke.  Time to up the ante with some anesthetics then:
By month 15, vitamins alone failed to induce sleep. Following 5 consecutive nights of insomnia, DF became intensely irritable and delusional. An evaluation at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, found that he had suffered a minor stroke; he was anesthetized until he fell asleep.  In later months, DF continued the strategy of anesthesia. Ketamine and nitrous oxide induced short (15-minute) periods of restful sleep, and were reapplied to offer more prolonged relief. Chloral hydrate in a light alcohol mix and/or chloroform also worked.
Intriguing.  Around this time he also added a hefty load of tranquilizers, including the obsolete ethchlorvynol (Placidyl) as well as diazepam & zolpidem to his regimen.  He claimed that the ethchlorvynol doubled as a "mood elevator".  I'll bet.  
His condition continued to deteriorate severely despite these valiant interventions.  By month 16 he decided it was time to try some stimulants & brought out the big guns...  
By the 16th month of his illness, DF spent much of the day as an akinetic mute with terrible headaches, confusion, mood swings, and myoclonus of the left arm (treated with levodopa). Despite his outward “dementia,” he inwardly pondered approaches to his condition, and, when again able to speak, he requested a regimen of stimulants.

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Brain scans of Fatal Insomnia sufferer
He was prescribed phentermine HCl 37.5 mg (time-release), which he took twice daily and eventually 3 times daily (before meals and no later than 6:00 pm). The drug had immediate and dramatic effects, promoting not only alertness during the day, but apparently a sleep-inducing rebound when it wore off.  For 4 consecutive nights, DF slept 5 hours each night, was able to drive, and returned to his daily routines, which included writing a novel. 
During his last months, DF received a new stimulant protocol and he took these on a daily rotating basis: diethylpropion + propoxyphene-acetaminophen (for headaches), methylphenidate, phentermine, modafinil, and a benzedrine inhaler (which is illegal in the United States, but which he was nevertheless able to obtain). Benzedrine enabled him to successfully drive 500 miles alone (on several occasions) during the 24th month of his illness. DF believed that the diethylpropion + propoxyphene-acetaminophen combination restored his function to that of a far earlier stage of the disease....In the 26th month, DF began taking time-released benzphetamine (90 mg) and a small amount of methylphenidate to reduce the stress on cardiovascular and renal systems.
Other therapies tried included electroconvulsive therapy, exercise, sensory deprivation, GHB & meditation.  Ultimately, the patient ended up outliving others with the same genetic variant of the disease by an entire year, though it's not known which treatments were responsible due to the total lack of scientific rigor in the experiment.  The fact that he was able to communicate, drive (bad choice) and write a book as his brain was being ravaged by this disease has to be a first in the annals of medicine.  Most sufferers are rendered unable to speak or function at all shortly after the disease sets in.


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But perhaps the most chilling part of the study is the description of what this man felt & experienced while approaching sleep.  I've never seen anything like it in a scientific study or medical journal, as it definitely borders on the spiritual/supernatural.  Keep in mind, this is a disease that eats away at the brain's physical structures & usually renders patients totally unable to communicate.  From the outside, they look a bit like zombies in great physical distress due to the tortuous lack of sleep.  
The section is titled simply "Serenity of FFI" {Emphasis mine}:
Unlike the typically mute FFI patient whose subjective serenity is unknowable, DF described his oneiric sleep as extremely gentle and pleasant — like entering a room filled with everyone who he would want to encounter, including deceased friends and relatives who would tell him that everything will be all right. In his words, “to the outside world, I am dead and gone, but to myself I'm still here, in this wonderful place and it is they who have disappeared.”
His “waking REM” was multisensory and included images, voices, and scents. It was experienced as a form of knowing everything about himself, with no more hidden secrets. As might be expected from a sustained “handshake” between the right and left hemispheres, DF's conscious mind experienced himself in a global way. He described his unconscious as filled with “wounded children” who bore “poor witness” to events that had injured them — unable to logically evaluate or rise above these damaging experiences. His FFI put him in the unique position to soothe these children with adult insight, which he often did in the form of written letters when he was “off-line.” 
The door that admitted DF into this other world became best defined after long periods of insomnia and was so inviting that he believed others who have been in this place simply gave into it and allowed themselves to die. In fact, DF's fight against FFI specifically centered on this arena, with the wish to surrender to its serenity as opposed to his real life of handicap and degeneration.

Holy hell.  That's some insight you don't hear every day.  Sort of like being stuck in a near-death experience for months & being able to come back to describe it in great detail over & over.  I've read hundreds of psychedelic trip reports & nothing comes close to the spine-tingling creepiness of this account.  Excuse the pun, but this man did NOT take his death lying down.

While I heavily disagree with his decision to drive a motor vehicle in his impaired state, I give him major respect for fighting this disease to the bitter end & providing scientists with this treasure trove of intriguing data, not just about FFI but about the dying process as well.  Maybe this is what other dementia sufferers experience to a degree?  Many Alzheimer's patients speak of going "home" & claim to see dead relatives in their rooms shortly before dying, so perhaps there is at least some degree of serenity & hope in the dying process with dementia.  

It does raise some questions though.  Where did he get the Placidyl & Benzedrine inhalers from?  And what doctors knowingly let him use these illicit substances without a prescription while agreeing to do a study on him?  I understand he was dying anyway, but no scientific protocol was followed whatsoever and some of the substances administered were extremely rare (chloroform), discontinued for many decades (Placidyl & Benzedrine) or were administered in a way that could've been dangerous (i.e. injected directly into the nasal cavity).  And that's a metric buttload of drugs, maan.

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Benzedrine inhaler, discontinued in 1959
Most importantly:  WHO in the bloody hell cleared this guy to operate a vehicle while dying of a dementia that impairs the ability to think, stay alert & react to stimuli?  And so late into his disease with no sober sitter present?  It's a doctor's job to report dementia patients to the DMV if their families don't take away their vehicles to ensure they don't cause a wreck (I know; I had to report someone myself for a similar reason) so this is extremely troubling.  Under no theory should someone in this state be driving, period.  

Despite all this, I give this report a 10/10 for its insanity & insight.  I hope you other medical nerds enjoyed reading it as much as I did.  Maybe it'll make death slightly less scary for those of us who don't have to face something as agonizing as Fatal Insomnia.  

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Sweet dreams.

Gilda Radner: A Life Cut Short By Bad Medicine

With the 2018 documentary Love, Gilda by Lisa D'Apolito out on various channels, there's been a resurgence in interest in the famous comedienne.  But I've always been a tad obsessed.  For those who are too young to remember, Gilda was a member of the original cast of Saturday Night Live from 1975-1980 (the show's most groundbreaking & drugged out years) alongside John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman & Bill Murray.  She quickly became the show's breakout female star alongside Chevy Chase, who is now known mostly as a notorious asshole.

Gilda was beloved by everyone who knew her, including Chase, who cites her & Aykroyd as "the only talented people to come out of SNL" presumably besides himself.  Ouch.  This is a man who thinks Will Ferrell & Tina Fey are unfunny hacks, so that's a huge compliment coming from him.  Indeed, she was a fan favorite as well & was even offered her own variety show by the network execs at one point.  And she won an Emmy for her work on SNL in the '70s.  Still, she's not a household name today the way many of her contemporaries are which is a crime considering what a multi-talented trailblazer she was.

Gilda brought us lovable, hilarious characters like the brash Roseanne Rosannadanna, hard-of-hearing Emily Litella, the extremely Jewish Rhonda Weiss & nerdy Lisa Loopner, setting the stage for all future female SNL performers who would follow.  (I specify "female" because in Gilda's time, women were not treated with respect by many men in the cast.  John Belushi, for instance, actively tried to sabotage skits involving women & outright refused to participate in sketches written by female writers, claiming "women just aren't funny.")  What we take for granted today--a diverse cast of multi-ethnic performers of all different genders & backgrounds--was definitely NOT the norm in 1975 when the show premiered or for quite a while afterward.

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After SNL, Gilda had her own brief one-woman show on Broadway & starred in 3 relatively bad movies with hubby Gene Wilder before being diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer in her late 30s.  She wrote a heroic & moving book about her cancer struggle called "It's Always Something" which everyone who cares about their health (particularly women) should read.  Gilda struggled to get doctors to take her seriously even as she knew something was very wrong, which is a common experience for many of us when dealing with the medical profession. But more on that later.

The Love, Gilda documentary was touching but pretty surface-level, skimming over uncomfortable issues like Gilda's relationship with her mother, who fed her Dexedrine at age 10 to lose weight, & barely touching on her eating disorder or her whirlwind relationships with numerous men.  (Gilda had a lot of boyfriends, y'all).  One is also left to wonder whether & how often she used drugs with her castmates or when partying at clubs like Studio 54.  I can find no documented proof of her so much as smoking a joint, but I think it's safe to assume she at least dabbled during her manic days of performing with some of comedy's biggest heads in the '70s.  She even lived with John & Judy Belushi for a while so it's likely that drugs made an appearance.

Even so, she clearly didn't let it become a problem the way castmates Laraine Newman or Belushi did.  (Newman snorted heroin to stay stick-thin while Belushi was a poly-substance abuser who died of a cocaine/heroin overdose in 1982).  The hectic pace of doing a weekly show required an immense focus & energy that lead most of the original cast to turn to substances to perform, party after the show, or a combination of both.  Belushi once snorted actual cocaine on live TV while dressed as Beethoven in a skit, with the excuse of "Well I'm not going to sniff FAKE coke!"

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At Studio 54...looking a bit off-kilter ;)

Having been overweight as a child, Gilda's biggest vice was always junk food.  Lots of it.  To stay thin she developed a habit of binging & purging which didn't even have a name in those days.  Her weight ping-ponged from 160 down to a scary 93 lbs at various times through her life.  It's said that there's a "god-like feeling of cleanliness" that follows a large binge & purge, though I don't recommend anyone try it to find out.  Being emetophobic myself the idea terrifies me on principle alone, but the health risks of bulimia are potentially worse than those of anorexia--long considered the most deadly of all mental illnesses.  She did several food-joke skits on SNL over the years which are painful to watch now in hindsight.

Friend & castmate Laraine Newman tells of hanging out at Gilda's house and snorting heroin while Gilda binged on ice cream & went to puke, exclaiming "I'm so full I can't hear."  Neither judged the other for her illnesses or vices which is pretty cool.  Gilda checked herself into a hospital in 1978 & was able to mostly get her problem under control, thankfully.  She always stayed on the low end of a healthy body weight even into her mid-30s but seemed to improve upon meeting her husband Gene.

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Gilda in at her thinnest in '78 
Ahh yes, who can forget the lovely pairing of Gene Wilder & Gilda Radner.  Two neurotic Jewish stars adored for their kooky-but-lovable personas & crazy hair.  Apparently Gilda was too needy & clingy at first, which scared him right off.  They broke up & got back together and eventually married after starring in 2 forgettable movies together.  Radner badly wanted a baby.  After a couple miscarriages, they tried in vitro fertilization only to have that fail too.  It was after the 3rd flop of a movie, Haunted Honeymoon, that Gilda developed vague but persistent symptoms that would eventually lead to her cancer diagnosis.

One major detail that's rarely discussed beyond a casual mention is the fact that Gilda had an illegal abortion as a teen, which is why she was infertile to begin with.  I will spare you the pro-choice rhetoric but here is a real-life example of what happens when this common medical procedure is not legally available to women who seek it.  Her life course could've gone very differently if not for that one event.  IVF that doesn't result in a pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk for several types of cancer including the ovarian cancer that killed Gilda.  A 1/3rd increased risk is nothing to sneeze at.  Her cancer symptoms set in immediately after her IVF treatments too.  Even if the IVF played no role in her cancer, nobody deserves to be rendered infertile by a back-alley procedure done in desperation.

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Gilda's illegal abortion rendered her infertile

However, the biggest topic the documentary skims over is Gilda's fight to be taken seriously by doctors for nearly a year after becoming ill.  She's repeatedly patted on the head & sent home with instructions to "relax" and try not to worry so much, as if her symptoms are nothing more than the product of a hysterical female mind.  Cancer is a time-sensitive disease and if they'd have done imaging tests as soon as she complained of symptoms, perhaps they could've saved her life.  Or at least prolonged it significantly.  Instead it wasn't found until Stage IV.  Ovarian cancer is the most deadly gynecologic cancer & the symptoms are very vague:  bloating, fatigue, brain fog, pelvic pain, constipation & leg cramping; which means it's often not discovered until late in the disease.  BUT when a patient is telling you they're in too much pain to walk or too tired to get out of bed, you need to take that seriously & investigate.  Especially if there's a family history of cancer.  Here's what Rolling Stone said about Gilda's family history of cancer in 1989:

"Her grandmother died of stomach cancer shortly before Gilda’s birth. When she was twelve, her father, the prosperous owner of a Detroit hotel, developed brain cancer and died two years later. Then the disease claimed her aunt. Her mother was stricken much later with breast cancer, although she recovered. But it was her father, not her mother, to whom Gilda was closest. His lugubrious, unfathomable death haunted her adulthood. Although she occasionally suspected she had outwitted cancer — by talent, by stardom, by goodness, by hilarity — her confidence was always temporary.
“I’ve been having cancer premonitions since I was twelve,” she said."
That's 4 close family members with cancer.  What wasn't known at the time is that Gilda likely carried the mutation of the BRCA gene that is responsible for the higher rate of ovarian & breast cancers in Ashkenazi Jewish women.  This mutation wouldn't be discovered for another few decades, so nothing could be done about that.  But her instincts were on point.  Sometimes "family curses" are actually the manifestation of real medical phenomena arising from genetics.  The doctors were wrong, and she paid for it with her life.

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With one of the creators of The Wellness Community cancer support group

Why is this important now?  Because Gilda's poor treatment--both the illegal abortion & patronizing doctors who refused to take her seriously--is a real & present threat to women today.  I had a friend in a similar position; brushed off by doctors 3 times before a 22-cm ovarian tumor was discovered (thankfully it wasn't malignant but we didn't find that out until several weeks AFTER the surgery--and she lost her ovary in the process).  This is not uncommon, and I wish Love, Gilda would've included more about this aspect of her journey since it was such a big part of why she didn't survive.  There was also a "computer error" that prevented doctors from realizing her cancer had spread to her lung & brain near the end of her life.  All they could say was "Oh shit."  No apology.  No nothing.  She was so disgusted she decided to forego all conventional treatment & spend her last days on a macrobiotic diet at home.  I don't blame her one bit.  They'd failed her at every step of the process.  But Gilda was determined not to die until the very end.  And even that end was a horrific violation of her bodily autonomy. 

Gilda Radner passed away at the tragically young age of 42; or the "middle of the middle of my life" as she wrote in her autobiography.  She died after being sedated against her will, fearing she'd never wake up if they put her under.  Again, she was right but ignored by the "professionals".  She went kicking & screaming on the gurney for some tests, begging Gene to not let them sedate her for fear she would die.  Her last conscious moments were spent in abject terror. 

All I could think about during my friend's ordeal was Gilda's story & how horrifically it ended.  That book opened my eyes to the ways the medical establishment underestimates women's pain & chalks serious problems up to psychosomatic symptoms or wastebasket diagnoses like "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" or "Chronic Fatigue".  My own endometriosis took 11 years to be diagnosed & I still fight to get adequate pain management for it.  We've got to do better, both about not downplaying our symptoms & insisting that doctors take us seriously.  Our lives depend on it.  Gilda's talented co-star & friend Madeline Kahn (another Jewish woman) died of the same disease, advanced ovarian cancer, in 1999...10 years after Gilda.  She was only 57.

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Gilda with Madeline Kahn: another ovarian cancer victim
After Gilda's death, Gene Wilder finished her book & opened several 'Gilda's Club' cancer centers around the country in 1995.  He battled lymphoma himself in 1999 & survived with the support of his 4th wife Karen, living to the ripe old age of 83 and finally succumbing to Alzheimer's disease in 2016.  Gene & Gilda were only married for 5 years but their love story endures, largely because of the hell they went through together.  "In sickness and in health" is a trying vow to live up to, especially when your partner is already a bit needy & neurotic.  But Gene did so until the very end, even though he admittedly lost his temper at times.  Who wouldn't though?  Cancer is such an unfair disease that seems to strike the nicest people at the worst times.  Fuck cancer.

We miss you, Gilda.


O.J. Simpson -- the second athlete to host "Saturday Night Live" -- posing with Radner and Curtin in 1978 during the show's third season.

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““Jane Curtin and Gilda Radner, c. late-1980′s
” ”

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

[Review] - Steve's Goods: Blueberry OG CBD Shatter

Vendor:  Steve's Goods
Location:  Colorado, US
Items:  CBD isolates, tinctures, CBG solution.
Rating:  2.3 of 5 stars

Complementary decal

Well, here it is.  The review I never wanted to write.  I've ordered from Steve's Goods on several occasions with varying results each time.  The previous order, I waited several weeks to receive my stuff & was compensated (generously) with $300 worth of FREE merch, which pretty much guaranteed further business.  Even though they raised their prices noticeably, I decided to pick up more of their mouth-watering Blueberry OG CBD shatter.  I really can't say enough good things about the flavor & smell of this stuff.  It's just amazing.  So calming as well.  Much smoother to vape than plain isolate too.

Steve's famous Blueberry shatter

So I get to checkout & realize that Paypal isn't an option.  They're asking for my debit/credit card info right at the checkout page.  This is different if I recall correctly.  No problem, I've recently obtained a debit card & bank account so I had no problem using it to complete my order.  The total was a tad ridiculous:  $58.99 with shipping included for 1 gram of shatter.  There are no cheaper shipping options.  Still, I was stoked to be getting some more of this yummy stuff to kick off the Spring/Summer.

1 gram of shatter, extra juicy
By chance I went to check my bank account that evening.  Lo & behold, there were three charges that I absolutely unequivocally did not make.  Charges to a MORMON DATING SITE called in the amounts of $16.99, $3.99 & $5.99.  Not an excessive amount, but the charges say "pre-authorized, recurring" which means they're likely to repeat.  Not fucking cool.  In a panic & with my local bank closed for the weekend, I called an 800-number to have my debit card cancelled.  They were able to stop the charges before they went through, but it was a bitch having to go get a new card & all that.  I called the number for LDSPlanet & told them what happened; they agreed to remove the charges, but that doesn't prevent whoever stole my card # from using it elsewhere so it's a good thing I went ahead & shut the card off.

Never in all my days of buying online have I encountered fraud like this.  I can't prove 100% that Steve or his employees were responsible, but the charges appeared on the same day only a few hours after using my card to order from him, and I didn't use my debit card to order anywhere else recently.  Steve's Goods is based in Colorado which is home to quite a few Mormons (compared to many other states at least).  Someone within the company likely used my card to sign up for that dating site would be my guess.

Overall I give this order a 2.3 out of 5 stars.  While the product is awesome, I've simply run into too many snags with this company to recommend anyone use them.  Unfortunately.  With the recent price hike & inability to use Paypal for checkout, things have officially become not worth it for me.  And the debit card charges put it over the edge.  If by some weird chance they're not responsible, I apologize.  But I don't see any other possibility.  This was definitely not the review I wanted or planned to write.  Sorry, Steve.

Exposing America's Justice System (Plus a Survival Guide)

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