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A great pile of aluminum foil-wrapped sandwiches surrounds the manic mother who stands at her kitchen counter atop a pyramid of playing cards in beautiful suburbia. Bipolar I Disorder could topple her reality, perhaps smothering her in ham sandwiches, but there is a solution in Vraylar, a drug from Forest Laboratories Holdings Ltd, an Allergan affiliate. In a second video, a woman in her office on top of a similar stack of playing cards, madly posts “Post It Notes” to a window wall. Vraylar will calm her down. Bipolar Disorder is endemic in 21st Century America. If you’re going to have a mental health issue, this is a good one to have.
Celebrities have admitted to being bipolar, and “Silver Linings Playbook” portrays a bipolar man who falls in love with a depressed woman. Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the woman in this offbeat romantic comedy, won the Academy Award for Best Female Actor in 2013. The entertaining attention and the Vraylar commercials trivialize a serious mental condition. They make Bipolar I Disorder an attractive alternative if you are going to be crazy. Patients eager to improve their perceived or diagnosed screwed-up lives can ask their doctor to give them Vraylar. No more sandwich marathons. No more blizzards of “Post It Notes.” You can live happily ever after with the help of a pharmaceutical.
The trouble is that Bipolar I Disorder is a serious mental condition. Many afflicted with Bipolar Disorder commit suicide. Many engage in behavior that is extremely dangerous. Illegal drug use, extreme risk taking, violent irritability, and a grandiose sense of self can lead to living on the edge of disaster. The thrills of these behaviors are far more problematical than excessive “Post It Notes,” and creating too many sandwiches. The person who loves to be besieged with ideas or gets off in marathon lunch-making is but a tip of the iceberg. Bipolar Disorder people love the up of mania. They want to go even higher, which can lead to psychotic behavior and dangerous actions. Still they love the up. Unfortunately, I know. I have been there. The illness came close to destroying my life. The ups are followed by severe downs that are characterized by severe depression, isolation, and morbid thoughts of death. I call this the “Bipolar Coaster.” Once I attempted suicide but was saved in a hospital where my stomach was pumped. Many times, I have been close to killing myself. A particularly close encounter was the thought of jumping off a bridge into on-coming freeway traffic. Standing on the bridge, I decided I couldn’t risk someone’s else life by my body falling on or in front of their car. The Vraylar commercials fail to portray this other side of manic/depressive illness. The iceberg crushes the unwary.
This is not to say Vraylar is useless. I discussed Vraylar with my psychiatrist not to use, but to understand the effectiveness of the drug. She prescribes the drug for patients who have a combination of anxiety and depression. For these people, Vraylar has a calming effect. However, like all psychiatric prescriptions, one size does not fit all. What works for one person doesn’t for another, and could create conditions of undesirable side effects. I know because it took a long time for me, working with my doctor, to find the right drugs that worked long term and did not make me gain excessive weight or increase my manic behavior. Taking one of the first drugs prescribed for me, my weight escalated by 60 pounds. The Vraylar commercial doesn’t reveal that the use could be ineffective, or counter-effective.
The side effects of Vraylar can be catastrophic like: stroke in elderly patients with dementia, tardive dyskinesia, a condition in which the patient experiences uncontrolled movements of the body and face, muscle stiffness, or feelings of restlessness that can become permanent, problems with metabolism, Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS) (a potentially fatal condition in which high fever; stiff muscles; confusion; changes in pulse, heart rate, or blood pressure; or sweating that can lead to death. Per government regulation these side effects and more common ones are verbalized in the commercial, but they are quickly passed through as the benefits are extolled and visualized.
There is the question of cost. Vraylar is very expensive. A month’s supply is over $1,000. Contrast this with Lamotrigine, which costs about $7 a month with insurance. The high cost of Vraylar would force most health insurance companies to try to demand the patient take a drug of lower cost. Unless you have a good plan or are rich, Vraylar will set you back more than $14-1/2 grand a year.
Then there is the issue of “Big Pharma,” which may or may not be a problem for you.
It is for me. Allergan, the company marketing Vraylar, is the world’s 20th largest pharmaceutical company with revenue at $15.9 billion in 2017, an operating income of $5.9 billion, and a net income of $4.4 billion a year. This translates into 27.6% profit per year. Pharmaceutical Companies are very profitable. Allergan’s most important drug now is Botox, the beauty treatment popular from Hollywood to Bollywood. Sales were $3.2 billion, and Botox’s market share is 70%, but the drug is under pressure. A new competing drug is coming to market, and its effects last longer. The treatment, called RT002, lasts six months compared to three or four months for Botox. Thus, Allergan is seeking new money makers.
Vraylar is one of the new money makers. Vraylar’s net revenues grew 72.2% in the second quarter of 2018 to a $114.2 million increase from the prior year’s second quarter. Allergan, an Irish-headquartered corporation, with its affiliate Forest Laboratories, licensed Vraylar from Gedeon Richter PLC, who developed Cariprazine for the treatment of schizophrenia. Allergan, renaming the drug, is looking to expand the use and develop a large American market, of which the television advertisements are an important part. However, the corporation’s reputation is not very good.
Allergan ranks in the middle of the twenty best and worst pharmaceutical companies according to the Reputation Institute. Its Rept Trak score is 71.8. Its affiliate Forest Laboratories, headquartered in New York, was sued for systematic gender unfairness. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York found Forest Laboratories guilty, after six years of litigation, of discrimination against its female employees. This is the court in which Michael Cohen (Trump’s lawyer) pleaded guilty. I guess his pockets were not deep enough to sustain six years of lawyers’ fees. In 2018, Allergan, along with several other drug manufacturers and distributors, was sued by several municipalities and states in the U.S. owing to the company’s manufacture of opioids. After Trump’s tax cut, Allergan’s Board of Directors authorized repurchase of its stock. No benefits were given to its employees. Allergan is driven to strong growth, i.e. profit. Vraylar patients beware.
Acre, India, 2015
I am not an economist, nor a philosopher. I am an observer seeking a way to understand what I see in the world around me. Everywhere I look I see evidence of the penetration of some form of electrical system in everyday life. The newest and fastest growing is the cell phone. No one can take a picture in any part of the world where people are gathered to do things, discuss things, or record things, where you won’t find humans with cell phones to their ears, in their hands looking at its screen, or raised to their heads to record an image. They populate the pictures you are about to take yourself. This fact, I believe, surpasses the technology becoming the seminal marker of the lived reality. The world lives in Electricalism and is steeped in its ethos, which shapes its economics, culture, government, and human interactions. The saturation is so complete we don’t see it; and we don’t understand the degree to which it has changed how the world works.
Perhaps humans are rediscovering their alignment with the universe’s fundamental truth. The stars we see are light rays penetrating through the dark. The light that heats and allows life on earth is an electrical pulse emanating from the sun. The earth itself is an electrical force field, where currents flow here and there through it ground and out into its ionosphere. This force is wireless, and humans exist in a cavity filled with electricity. We have traveled time from a place where Electricalism was a mystical reality that could only be defined as lightning or God. Think of Benjamin Franklin and his kite. Today we inhabit a planet enriched by Electricalism’s benefits, warped by its human utilization, and badly damaged by its results.
Electricalism, I posit, began primitively with Thomas Edison’s creation of a commercially reproducible light bulb in 1879. This first stage of electricalism lasted nearly 100 years, when Motorola made the first cell phones. The physical reality of electric technology altered the world. Think of electric lamps, electric motors, illuminated signs, movie projectors, televisions, computers, power plants, and transmission lines. Electricalism at this stage is Proto-electricalism. The prefix “proto” denotes fossil in Greek, and so I name it thus because this era has been powered by fossil fuels and uses physical forms. There is an ironic sense to my use of the term. The fossil era created as many negative results as positive outcomes.
Today’s phone is still an object powered by hidden batteries that get their charge through a connection to the grid. Nonetheless we have moved into a new age. The cell phone morphed into the smartphone, and it’s wireless interconnections swept over the world. Wireless power is not new. Nicola Tesla, the mystical engineer and inventor of the alternating current system that became the world’s standard, was able to create balls of light without form. Not long after Edison’s creation of the light bulb, Tesla proposed the development of wireless electrical power, but his financial backer, J.P. Morgan, wouldn’t fund the idea. No one was able to recreate Tesla’s “Q balls” again. Wireless telephone communication awaited the cell phone. Humans stepped into new era of Electricalism, which I call Anthro-electricalism. The prefix “anthro” represents human in Greek. This age has barely begun. Its fruition could mean a whole new relationship to the earth and its occupants. Understanding the physical record of Proto–electricalism provides insight into what happened and what could come next.
Both negative and positive can be surmised from looking at the picture of smartphone users in Acre, India. Phones can now connect everyone to everything — the world’s knowledge, the world’s materials, and the world’s groups. Conversely the phone isolates its users. In the midst of a business thoroughfare, the operators are not fully present in the immediate environment. The Acre man with the phone to his ear is dangerously close to the passing tourist bus. He is in another elsewhere. Users become separated individuals. They are susceptible to the influence of the seductive forces connecting them through the wireless. The consumers can be become addicts of the manipulators. Power that could be vested in anyone’s grasp is given away. The unwired force, like the force of Yoda in Star Wars, can be deflected and dissipate into nothing. Some science fiction devotees call it the “Q” force. I call it the “Q balls,” after Tesla, and imagine his wireless light orbs forming and disappearing from his hands. We need this energy back and to evolve into a fully realized positive Anthro-electricalism. The evidence needed for change is printed on the world around us. The “Q balls” can be in our hands.
Tesla’s “Q balls”
I declare myself an Earth Citizen. One Planet, One People, Seven Principles.
- Freedom of Travel, Trade, Location, & Assembly
- Dissolve All International Borders
- Equality of Every Human Being
- Preservation of the PLANET
- Respect for Each Religion
- Universal Human Rights
- WAR ABOLISHED
I am not a nationalist. I do not believe in obliterating other people. The world has seen enough of this kind of thinking. Share with others. Come join me in Citizenship. I have given myself citizen number 1001.
Contemporary Art is a farce. Most of it is meaningless and boring to view. Note that the artists who make it aren’t important. Who is important are the curators. They, carefully trained at Universities to know what is worthy of our attention, are the arbiters of cultural significance. It is they who are mentioned first in any reviews.
I find I can say this without concern because artists like me will never get the attention of the curators, the mainstream galleries, the art market, or the museums. Therefore I have nothing to lose. There is no reason to hold my tongue or kiss ass.
Why? Perhaps it’s because I am a lousy artist? That I can’t measure, but I can measure these factors: I am too old. The art world feeds in the young, whom the market devours in new batches every year. Most of whom are forgotten within a year of discovery. At 72, it is presumed, I have nothing new to add to the art dialogue. New is lexicon of selection. There is always a new, even if it is really old, because if it looks different, utilizes a weird material, technique, or context. It is new at least to the selectors. What I do is not new. I draw in an old way. I do not have an art degree. I came to art after first being an architect.
Art schools are what produce contemporary artists. They are professionals, and art is now a profession. It is the place that is patrolled for the next versions of the viable for the art market’s needs. This deplorable situation, which to me leads to phony and pompous intellectualism from the teachers, most of whom aren’t intellectuals, but probably read the current art rags. and the students, most of whom weren’t smart enough to get into medical school or business or management school. This wasn’t always the case. Many of the acclaimed modern masters weren’t trained artists. Henri Matisse was first a lawyer.
Then there is size. Contemporary art should be big. The size inflation, I think, began with Abstract Expressionism. Some of the Pollock’s are really big. Size seems to have grown over the decades. I remember going to the old Whitney Museum in New York in the 1960s and 70s; the Poons’, Oliski’s, and Morris Lewis’ were huge. I was impressed with this stuff and bought into it as a definition of the avant-garde. James Rosenquist, an artist I liked who just died in 2017, had a painting that spread over more than one wall. I was blown away by this appropriation of billboards into art.
Every year big kept getting bigger. This could of course have to do with the expansion of the art market to contemporary work. In this market that equates cultural value with economic value, it could be said, that art is best appreciated by its square footage. For whom then, but a rich man or a museum, could have the wall space to display and the wallet to acquire huge art? But as art got bigger, it seems to me, content faded away.
Morris Lewis, Tet 1958, 12’ by 8’, Whitney Museum of Art
Pop Art was the precursory to meaninglessness because, in my thought, the less content the more art was avant-garde. Andy Warhol, the artist who is the icon of the importance for Pop Art, established the idea that art was not the arcane territory of the historians and the cultural elite, but should be accessible to all. He, whom I neither dismiss nor dislike, initiated the slide into vacuousness of contemporary art. To see an Andy Warhol is to get it. It is a fast transfer of meaning. You don’t stand in front of one of his self-portraits and contemplate. You look and move on. Warhol was no intellectual. He liked money, and money was what he achieved. He was a perfect fit to the needs of the art market — Easy to comprehend and ultimately expensive to buy. That is once it was declared culturally acceptable.
Others might argue it was Marcel Duchamp, who began this process. I would argue that this is not true. Duchamp, a French intellectual, changed the idea of what art could be with his fountain, the urinal displayed under the name R. Mutt at the Armory show in the early 20th Century. Ever since then artists have been searching for meaning in different way. Duchamp with his room, his boxes, and his spinning wheels created the precursor of most of them. Conceptual art was becoming the mode, where meaning had its last gasp.
Thus art traveled down the lane to irrelevance. Each movement: Op Art, Minimalism, Neo-expressionism, and others descending ever further into the cave of nothingness. I look at the current rages in art: feminist outrage, black backlash at exclusion, LGBT expression, climate change awareness and description, as important issues, but do they do more than point the finger at cultural problems? Most, like Warhol’s work you get by a quick take, and move on. Why linger and look? They are visually uninteresting, and these issue-oriented works are the best of the lot. All, perhaps not all, (John Baldessari is a prime example) are pure rubbish for art market consumption. Dare I say balloon dogs and stuffed sharks in tanks?
Thus, I not being a member of a identifiable movement, not much of a maker of beautiful objects, nor someone who does big all the time, and who doesn’t hew to the model of making consistent things as if I were a light manufacturer serving the market of oligarchs, corporate elites, or financial manipulators, have no chance in this world. I strive for something meaningful, visually and comprehensibly, that is outside the established new parameters, (Perhaps it is conservative of older values?), and I am not alone. I know artists who follow this same course and feel the same frustration. Video artists in general suffer the same fate. They don’t attract the same fervor of hip curators. Most museums aren’t audio-visually set up to display the work. For example a recent show at the Whitney on portraiture displayed a large photograph augmented by video of rippling water by Corey Arcangel, called Diddy/Lakes, 2013. It was a wall work that explored none of the greater possibilities of video. I found it pretty but thoroughly meaningless. The Whitney has become the warehouse of contemporary cultural vacuity. I shall explore more on this situation in a second article about why make art and three subsequent articles about the artistic, social, and economic value of art.
Corey Arcangel, Diddy/Lakes, 2013, Whitney Museum of Art
Cairo, (pronounced Kay-ro), Illinois, lies at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This town was murdered. White right wing racism killed it. The ruin is testament to the negative forces of American history. What I saw, quite by accident, reminds me of our situation in 2016 with the candidacy of the demagogue Republican Donald Trump.
We were lost after crossing the two bridges between Missouri and Kentucky on our trip across the United States in April. After visiting the Kentucky mounds of the ancient Indian civilization from long before there was an American republic, we took the wrong road toward our destination of Harrodsburg in bourbon country. Our backtrack landed us in the southern tip of Illinois, in an area called Little Egypt, where we saw four wrecks of 19th Century buildings off the main highway at the intersection of Commercial and 7th Streets. Elegant old street lamps lined the streets. The biggest structure, the Famous-Barr building, was vacant. A large pile of bricks could be seen through an open doorway and the destroyed back wall. The second building, its ground floor boarded up, had two old battered air conditioning units projecting from upper story and an older model panel truck parked at the curb. The third building was a seedy looking nightclub, its exterior painted pale blue. The gap of a demolished building separated the nightclub from the fourth, a three-story empty structure. We drove over to have a closer look. I was shocked. Neither side of street that extended six blocks north had any buildings, yet the lovely old street lamps remained in place on a broad sidewalk in front of grass or rubble-covered properties. I photographed the ruins while elderly man in a power-operated wheelchair rode down the eerily empty street.
Cairo, Illinois, in the 1970s already an nearly dead city
After reaching our final destination in Pennsylvania, I researched the history of Cairo. What I found was a devastating history. Cairo was destroyed by racism. The town’s commercial buildings and industries were owned by white people who refused to hire the black population of the city. In the 1960s, Little League baseball was canceled to keep black children from playing. By 1969 black people were not allowed to gather for sports, to march, or to congregate in local parks. A racist white man rammed his pickup truck into a demonstration protesting a whites-only swimming pool, severely injuring a young girl. The vigilante group called the White Hats policed the town. In 1969 the African-Americans formed the United Front of Cairo to end segregation and boycott white businesses. The white business owners refused to give in, choosing instead to close up their shops. They abandoned their businesses and fled town. Slowly most of the idle buildings were demolished. By 2010 the population was 2,800 persons of whom 72% were black.
Civil rights protesters in the 1960’s
White marchers barring the stores
This sad story typifies the long history of a city that was once, before St. Louis arose, the main terminal of shipping and crossing on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. In 1838 Cairo was booming, growing to 15,000 at its largest by 1900. A grid of four by six blocks defined the center of this metropolis-to-be located on land near where Lewis and Clark first camped to begin their exploration of the upper reaches of the Louisiana Purchase. A quay along the Ohio River edge serviced the ferries and the steamboats that paddled up from New Orleans and across the two big rivers. During the Civil War General Grant used Cairo as his supply and troop headquarters for the invasion of the South. During this period slaves sought freedom by escaping to the protection of the Union stronghold at Cairo. The town was an important transfer point on the Underground Railway.
. Plan of 1838
Postcard of mid-20th Century with automobile bridges
This was the beginning of a large African-American population in the city, much to the annoyance of the white inhabitants. The railroads finally killed the boom in Cairo when the Eads Bridge, completed in 1874 and the longest arch bridge in world at the time, crossed the Mississippi, directing river traffic north to St. Louis. In 1905 the decline was complete when a new railroad bridge crossed the Mississippi at Thebes, a town northwest of Cairo, ending the ferry traffic. After the automobile bridges bypassed the city in the 20th Century, the capitol of Little Egypt became an isolated backwater controlled by a white majority. Yet throughout the late 19th and 20th Centuries Cairo had a large African-American population that was routinely discriminated against. The population of Cairo by 1909 was approximately 13,000 of which 5,000 were African American, a high percentage for a small town that considered itself a place with white traditional southern white heritage.
November 11, 1909 Lynching of Will “Froggie” James
On November 11, 1909, tensions exploded, a lynch mob hung two men. The first was the African-American Will James, accused of murdering Alla Pelly, a young white woman. The mob strung him up below the arch of new electric lights on Commercial Street at the corner of 8th, one block down from the surviving remnants of the town. Will “Froggie” James didn’t die as intended. The raging population pulled the hung, but still living, James, down from the rope strung across Commercial Street. They burned him, dismembered him, and mounted his head on a pole. James, before he died, implicated another man whom the town pursued without success. They did find a white man, Henry Salzner, who had been on the run for nearly a year for slaying his wife. The mob strung him up too, but didn’t inflict the savagery on him that they did to “Froggie.” He was white, after all.
Will “Froggie” James, November, 1909
101 years have passed since the racially inspired slaughter. “Kayro’s” KO-ed center is a total ruin. What’s left is an outlying ring of poor black people’s homes, a few imposing monuments of the past glories: the United States Customs House, the mansion Magnolia Manor of 1872, and a sad commercial strip on the highway north. Donald Trump would probably call this a ghetto, as he famously referred to African-American neighborhoods in bigger, more northern American cities. However the last time a grassroots conservative Republican presidential candidate with southern states’ rights and anti-civil rights views visited Cairo in Little Egypt, there were a lot of white people still around. They have mainly gone now to warmer, more hospitable places, like the aptly named Phoenix, Arizona. Here racists rising from Cairo’s ashes can rail against “Mexican rapists.”
Barry Goldwater in Cairo, Illinois, 1964