Monday, May 31, 2010

Using ‘Prepared Scripts’ After Gaza Flotilla Seizure Perpetuates Hateful Rhetoric - Shalom Hartman Institute

By Donniel Hartman
As I and the rest of Israeli society awakened this morning we heard the tragic news that our attempt to stop the flotilla to Gaza ended with extensive loss of life. I don’t know the facts, and I imagine it will take some time until the details surrounding the events are clarified. However, Israeli airwaves are already filled both with Monday morning quarterbacks who are certain that if only the opinion they had failed to put forth in advance was listened to, the outcome would have been better, and with those justifying the action as a legitimate expression of self defense in the face of enemies masquerading as peace activists.
At the same time the international community and press are already filled with almost unanimous condemnation of the "murder," "massacre," and "disproportionate force" used by Israeli commandos during the operation. Whether the commandos were fired upon, beaten, or stabbed is completely irrelevant to them.
It is as if each side's spokesperson had their press releases and opinions prepared in advance, and each was simply waiting for the curtain to rise and the takeover to occur for their predetermined assessment of the facts to be promulgated.
As an Israeli and Jew who yearns for peace, for an end to bloodshed and hostilities, and who believes that the Israeli army must and in most cases does act in accordance with the highest standards of moral behavior, I am deeply saddened not only by the loss of life, but by the hateful rhetoric which will ensure that such loss of life will continue, by the rhetoric which will ensure that we will continuously politicize, radicalize, and insulate ourselves from each other, and from a rhetoric that guarantees the perpetuation of mutual vilification.
If it turns out that excessive force was used unjustly and without provocation, we Israelis need to take responsibility. One's moral standards are not a badge of honor to be worn, but a criterion of aspiration in whose light one must constantly evaluate and criticize one's behavior if necessary.
If on the other hand it turns out that the "peace activists" wantonly endangered the lives of Israelis and used excessive force in their "political demonstration," it will be time for honest representatives to stand up and take responsibility for their moral failures.
Belonging to an armed force or to the peace camp neither condemns one by definition as an immoral being nor conversely grants one blanket immunity, given the proclaimed nobility guiding one's actions.
Unfortunately, as always, it seems never to be about the facts; every side will spin a narrative which will ensure the perpetuation of the untenable status quo.
It is time for all those of decency to declare, "Enough." It is time to begin a new conversation, one in which legitimate acts of self defense on Israel's part are no longer labeled automatically as acts of aggression and war crimes. Nor should attempts to better the plight of Palestinians, including those affiliated with Hamas, be labeled by definition as anti-Israeli and political.
People of decency can disagree. Decent people can make mistakes. It is only, however, if we recognize that decency can be found on both sides that a different future will become possible. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Brodsky and Cahan honored on their birthday anniversaries

To read the article click here

Monday May 24th marked the birthday anniversaries of two Jewish-American immigrant men of letters; poet and Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, who would have been 70, was remembered by New York's Russian speaking community at at the Russian Samovar in midtown (the event was covered by the Russian service of the BBC), and journalist, novelist, and founder of The Forward Abraham Cahan was honored on the 150th anniversary of his birth at an exhibit about his life and work at The Forward's offices at 125 Maiden Lane between Pearl and Water Streets. That exhibit is open to the public.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Saudi Gazette - Moudhi riding on a donkey

Denied the right to drive a car or even ride a bicycle a Saudi woman resorts to riding a donkey.

To read the article click here

Moudhi riding on a donkey
By Abdullah Nasser Al-Fouzan

8 Comments have been posted. Post Your Comments
» Can This Be True? Okay, Ladies, you know what to do. | Robyn Graves posted...
Can this story really be true? It's too wonderful to be true. If it's true than I sincerely recommend that the Ladies of Saudi Arabia seriously consider investing in a donkey, horse, or camel and start travelling this way. It won't be very long before driver's licenses will be given. This is a brilliant protest. Such ingenuity can only be a harbinger of real change.

» More Like Moudhi - Please | Johaar posted...

Dear Moudhi, I applaud you. The ridiculous and chauvanistic attitudes of the authorities need to be exposed for all to see. Clearly they do not see that they are the laughing stock of this entire region with their outmoded ideas.

Given the way the Saudi men drive, the roads might in any case be safer with women behind the wheel. So more ladies like brave Moudhi please.

» Excellent! | Lamees posted...

Saudi Arabia needs more women like her!

» Joha would be proud! | Robyn Graves posted...

During my years in Saudi Arabia I've heard again and again about Joha and his stories which teach a lesson...just as Aesop's fables that I grew up with. It's fantastic that this story was published on April 1st. For while the day may slip by to Gulf Arabs...for those of us from Western Culture... It's a day for pulling pranks on our friends...all connected to a "once upon a time" change to our calendar. This is absolutely the best argument for women's right to drive you'll ever see.Well Done

» | Mohammed Abdul Hadi Chowdhury posted...

Is it true? I really don't believe. "A change never comes without A bold step". Well done Moudhi!!

» Fake | Sultan posted...

what a made up story

» Men are afraid of the truth. | Andre posted...

Of course women should not drive, if a woman had a permit to drive, a bike, a car, a bus or truck, then the men would be force to realize women drive better, and men are bad driver.

» Date? | Anon. posted...

When was this article published,and is the author aware of the dates that the events took place? I'd like to know how recent this was.

Post your Comments

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4 Little Love Story Poems by Carol Novack | Metazen


Auntie was prone to say: “Cheese is best when sliced thin just like life.”  She always bit off a lot of less than she could chew and avoided more than a mot of mirth, even with dessert and a spot of port. “Take little and relish it, and you will be sufficient. But that’s just my opinion.”

When I was little, I ate too fast and choked at birthday parties.  Then I grew up a little and married the first man who’d overcome me, big with an eloquent tongue.  I nearly lost my breath till death might do us part.

“When I was little, I ate too fast and choked at birthday parties.”


At Auntie’s funeral, a weeping man hugged me so brutally he caught my breath. He was the man called Happy Henry Auntie had left at the altar.  As the attendees gasped, Auntie reversed herself with deliberation and panache, floating down the aisle towards the door.  “So sorry, I made a little mistake,” she spoke politely, waving her white-gloved hands.

His Heart

Carla wore his heart under her sleeve.  The heart he’d carved said “Carla and Carl forever,” as if her arm were a tree he’d planted on his property. An arrow with angel wings pierced the dead center of the heart, “a darling, thoughtful touch,” she exclaimed, turning as red as the heart’s aorta.  When Carl left for Majorca with Mabel, the wings turned black and blue.



Short, plump Lili longed for the man on the other side of the square, the one who sat on a bench reading “Sonnets to Orpheus.”  Everything about him was grand and aquiline.  Atop the man’s mane of white hair perched a black beret.  A black tie always relaxed on his lavender silk shirts; he seemed to have a menagerie of them. Was he always going to a Ball?

The man she called “the one” reminded Lili of what she wished to remember of her childhood:  a huckleberry sundae with dark chocolate chips. She wondered what color his eyes were.  She was an expressionist who loved Kandinsky.

“Lili took to wearing a black hat to cover her dull gray hair …”

Lili took to wearing a black hat to cover her dull gray hair and a long black silk scarf to adorn her parade of lavender blouses.   She started to make a habit of walking by him, winking her hips. Then she added an accessory, a book of poems by Rilke that poked ostentatiously from her mini-tote bag.  Lili did this for weeks, months, years, oh what is time?  But he never even glanced her way.  He was too busy mouthing poems, looked as though he was eating them. Yet he was ever looking up at the sky, into the sun, with his eyes closed. Lili tried wearing spiked heels to create noises to awaken him from his Rilkean reveries.  Nada. Niet. Rien du tout.  She tried tripping and ripped her purple stockings on several occasions.  Nada. Niet. Rien du tout.

One day, Lili set up an easel in front of the patisserie opposite “the one’s” bench.  She brought her most luxurious colors and began to paint him.  A crowd soon gathered to exclaim their praises in most colorful words.  When the crowd dispersed, “the one” walked cautiously up to the painting and asked Lili if he could suggest a “minor touchup.” “Although I cannot see, I can smell the color you used for my eyes,” he said.  “They are in fact absent of color, but perhaps I should say they were, as you’ve made them blush.  I can feel you are a warm woman of wit and refinement, the one I’ve awaited to take to the Ball.”

And so they went and that was the beginning.

A Perfect Romance

Once was girl without hind-fore-mid-up-down-side-ways-brain, just crows inside head: oy such an ache. Met boy with only worms inside head: oy such a tickle. So crows flew out of girl’s head into boy’s. She so whoopsy giddy fell off cliff into glacial lake, became duck. Boy followed; also became duck.


Carol Novack is the former recipient of a writer’s award from the Australian government, the author of a poetry chapbook, and publisher of Mad Hatters’ Review. She is also an erstwhile criminal defense and constitutional lawyer in NYC. Prose and poetics may or will be found in numerous journals, including American Letters & Commentary, Caketrain, Drunken Boat, Exquisite Corpse, Fiction International, Gargoyle, Journal of Experimental Fiction, La Petite Zine, LIT, Mississippi Review, Notre Dame Review, andWord Riot, and in many anthologies, including “The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets,” “Diagram III,” and “The &Now Awards: the Best Innovative Writing.” Writings in translations may or will be found in French, Italian, and Romanian journals. An illustrated collection of fictions and poetics "Giraffes in Hiding: The Mythical Memoirs of Carol Novack" will be published this year by Spuyten Duyvil Press. See her blog for further details and hurry to Metazen blog for an interview with Carol.

© 2010, Metazen. All rights reserved.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 at 2:00 am

If you liked the flash fiction/prose poems I quoted in my review of Alex Epstein's Blue Has No South you might also enjoy Carol Novak's "4 Little Love Story Poems."

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Don't ask until you repeal!

Jeff Sheng Photography

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© Jeff Sheng 2010 | Site Map | Powered by liveBooks

Photographer Jeff Sheng's series of portraits of closeted military men and women now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are a crystal clear window onto a sad state of affairs that one hopes will change in the coming weeks

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1st Festival of Israeli Jazz NY 2010

To read the article click here

New York's First Festival of Israeli Jazz, curated by Roberto Rodriguez, is taking place this week at John Zorn's club The Stone (Avenue C and E2nd Street in the East Village--all sets are $10).

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Nun Excommunicated for Moonlighting as Exotic Dancer By Vince Wylendifzt (Contributing Author)

The FarceHaven Tribune

Nun Excommunicated for Moonlighting as Exotic Dancer
By Vince Wylendifzt -- Contributing Author


By day, Sister Evangelina Corinthian, a demure, soft-spoken nun taught classes at the small private school adjacent to the Church of St. Ignatius Pasquale, ministered to parishioners in need, prayed with her fellow sisters, performed volunteer work in the community, and performed her daily duties within the parish. Like other nuns, Sister Evangelina wore the traditional nun�s habit, sans makeup or jewelry.

But baking communion wafers was apparently not the Sister�s only calling. In a scandal that sent shock waves through the small, conservative New England community, and rocked the very pulpit of the church, it was discovered that the Sister was, in fact, leading a double life: Nun by day. Exotic dancer by night.

According to Father Romeo Chacha, spokesperson for the Archdiocese, Sister Evangelina was moonlighting at the Upside Down Pussycat Club, a premiere men�s club in the downtown district where she was known as "Angel." In a statement to the press, Father Chacha denounced the nun�s actions saying, "We are shocked and saddened by this revelation. We do not condone the Sister�s immoral and sinful acts, and pray that she be delivered from evil. She has defiled herself in a most vulgar and unholy manner. In light of Sister Evangelina�s betrayal of her vows, and for conducting herself in a manner most unbecoming to a nun, our only recourse is to excommunicate her from the Church."

In an ironic twist, unconfirmed sources reported that Father Romeo Chacha was seen (without his collar) in a thinly veiled disguise at the Pussycat Club receiving a lap dance from the Sister, by another member of the parish who wished to remain anonymous. When asked by a reporter if there was any truth to the rumor, Father Chacha, who looked mortified, turned a lighter shade of red and belched. "Pardon me." he said.

"Father Chacha . . . ?" pressed the reporter for an answer. Father Chacha cleared his throat and sounded like Gregory Peck in the remake of Cape Fear, when he said, "Of course not, and I am deeply offended at the mere supposition of impropriety."

What led to the Sister�s descent into the seamy, dark, underbelly of a smoke-filled nightclub where gratuitous sex and pole dancing are the name of the game, is anyone�s guess. "Nobody could work the pole like Angel," said the club�s manager, Butch, a beefy, fortysomething guy with a thick neck, greasy, slicked back hair, and a black mustache and goatee, wearing a gold chain, a bracelet, and a pinky ring. "She�s built like a brick shithouse with a triple D cup. Who can top that?" he said offhandedly, puffing on a cigar. "And limber . . . Jesus . . . she can twist her body into positions that would make a circus freak blush." A full page salatious spread (no pun intended) showcased the disgraced Sister�s hidden talents: In one picture she was topless, facing the audience spread eagle on the pole, in another she was spread eagle upside down on the pole, and in another shot she was bent over with her head between her legs, smiling seductively at the onlookers.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Israeli and Jewish movies this week in NYC

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Three events this week, tonight, Thursday, and Friday, in NYC will feature Israeli and/or Jewish themed movies and video...

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kissing Cousins - Opinionator Blog

Olivia JudsonOlivia Judson on the influence of science and biology on modern life.

The past comes to us in tantalizing fragments — a bone here, a footprint there. But of all the fragments yet discovered, perhaps none is so tantalizing as the one published in the journal Science last week: the Neanderthal genome.

Neanderthals have perplexed and intrigued us ever since the first bones were discovered in a cave in what is now Germany, in 1856. Who were they? Why did they vanish?

Neanderthal and human skeletonsJames Estrin/The New York Times A reproduction of a Neanderthal skeleton, left, and a modern Homo sapiens skeleton, right.

Over the past century and a half, our picture of them has become less blurry, more distinct. From their bones we know that Neanderthals were bigger and stronger than us “anatomically modern humans,” and they had larger skulls that boasted prominent eyebrow ridges. They appear to be the descendants of a lineage that separated from ours around 400,000 years ago, wandered out of Africa, and lived across Europe and central Asia. The last of the Neanderthals lived on the Iberian peninsula, dying out sometime between 37,000 and 28,000 years ago.

(Anatomically modern humans, in contrast, evolved in Africa, arriving at recognizably modern skeletons between 130,000 and 200,000 years ago. Some time later — 65,000 years ago or so — a group of them left Africa, wending their way through the Middle East and across Eurasia, the Pacific and the Americas. These were the ancestors of today’s non-African populations; and in Europe and central Asia, they coexisted with Neanderthals until the Neanderthals disappeared.)

What else do we know about Neanderthals? They may have decorated their bodies with ornaments; they certainly used tools like axes and spears. They hunted. Indeed, they mostly seem to have eaten meat — they are sometimes described as “top carnivores” — and because of their bigness, probably needed more calories per day than we do.

As our ability to retrieve and sequence ancient DNA has developed and improved, we’ve been able to paint in further details. Some Neanderthals may have had pale skin and red hair. Some of them could taste bitter flavors. They may have had a capacity for speech, though we can’t tell if they had much in the way of language.

And now, with the full genome sequence, we can start to answer many more questions, both about Neanderthals and about ourselves. The idea is that if you line up the sequences of humans, Neanderthals and chimpanzees, you can start to trace which genetic changes occurred when. Unsurprisingly, the data suggest that by far the bulk of our genetic evolution happened in the millions of years before humans and Neanderthals separated; the handful of known differences between us and Neanderthals occur in a motley ragbag of genes. (There’s no obvious stamp of rapid brain evolution, for example.)

The sequence is an amazing accomplishment. Yes, it’s preliminary and contains plenty of errors. But think of this: the DNA was extracted from bones that are tens of thousands of years old. Whereas the DNA in your cells is present in nice long strings, in ancient specimens it’s broken into tiny fragments, if it’s preserved at all. Then there’s the problem of DNA swamping. Which is to say that more than 95 percent of the DNA extracted from the bones belongs to microbes that lived on the bones in the subsequent millennia; this had to be stripped out. Ditto, the DNA from any humans who have handled those bones. As one of my colleagues remarked, the “methods” section of the paper reads like a molecular obstacle course. To have any useable DNA at all, let alone a full genome, is astonishing. Hats off.

And the results stoke the imagination, for they provide more evidence for something that has long been suspected: Neanderthals are not just a quirky sideshow in human evolution, but an intimate part of our own story. Many of us have Neanderthals in our family tree, just as some of us have Hottentots, or Aztecs, or Genghis Khan.

Which isn’t surprising. To be sure, Neanderthals were more genetically distinct from us than any living humans are from one another. But they are still our close relatives — kissing cousins, if you will—and when closely related beings meet, they often take a shine to each other. Coyotes, for example, sometimes cavort with dogs or wolves. Geoffroy’s cat, a south American pussy, sometimes gallivants with another local wildcat, the oncilla, even though their lineages separated a million years ago — much longer ago than ours split from Neanderthals. And ducks of many kinds seem to like mating with one another. Our ancestors, it seems, were no different.

All the same, the idea of Neanderthal ancestry brings a vividness to the distant past. Were the men exotic and sexy? What were half-Neanderthal, half-human children like? Were they extra-beautiful, as people with mixed ancestries often are? Did they have an unusual hungering for red meat? Did we learn Neanderthal customs, or languages?

And it brings a greater poignancy to that other mystery — why did the Neanderthals vanish?

Here, lots of ideas have been put forward — a sure sign that no one knows. Perhaps they died of mad Neanderthal disease, owing to a habit of feasting on one another’s brains. (This has been put forward as a serious hypothesis.) Perhaps they were victims of a changing climate. Perhaps they were “inferior” beings, unable to match our capacity for innovation in the face of adversity. Perhaps their populations became too small, and too sparse, for them to find mates. Or — and this is the most haunting possibility — perhaps they were eventually murdered by their puny cousins. That is, us.


For the Neanderthal genome (and a complex lesson in how to extract Neanderthal DNA), see Green, R. E. et al. 2010. “A draft sequence of the Neandertal genome.” Science 328: 710-722. This paper also provides evidence for human-Neanderthal interbreeding. For a more detailed look at human-Neanderthal differences, see Burbano, H. A. et al. 2010. “Targeted investigation of the Neandertal genome by array-based sequence capture.” Science 328: 723-725.

For a fascinating account of Neanderthal bone structure, see Sawyer, G. J. and Maley, B. 2005. “Neanderthal reconstructed.” Anatomical Record 283B: 23-31.

Working out what happened when in human history is a complex and approximate business. I took the date of 400,000 years since the separation of humans and Neanderthals from the Burbano paper mentioned above. Exactly when Neanderthals disappeared from Europe is disputed. For the 28,000 years ago claim, see Finlayson, C. et al. 2006. “Late survival of Neanderthals at the southernmost extreme of Europe.” Nature 443: 850-853. For the claim that the real date is 37,000 years ago, see Zilhão, J. et al. 2010. “Pego do Diabo (Loures, Portugal): dating the emergence of anatomical modernity in westernmost Eurasia.” PLoS One 5: e8880. The dates I give for anatomically modern humans are approximate, but within the range that is generally accepted; see, for example, Fagundes, N. J. R. et al. 2007. “Statistical evaluation of alternative models of human evolution.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104: 17614-17619; see also the references listed therein.

Whether or not Neanderthals wore jewelry is vigorously contested; for evidence that they did, and a discussion of why some people think they didn’t, see, for example, Zilhão, J. et al. 2010. “Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107: 1023-1028. For evidence that Neanderthals mostly ate meat and count as “top carnivores,” see Richards, M. P. and Trinkaus, E. 2009. “Isotopic evidence for the diets of European Neanderthals and early modern humans.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106: 16034-16039. (These authors also suggest that an inability to switch diets might somehow have led to the Neanderthal extinction.) For Neanderthals and tools, see for example SantaMaría, D. et al. 2010. “The technological and typological behaviour of a Neanderthal group from El Sidrón Cave (Asturias, Spain).” Oxford Journal of Archaeology 29: 119-148.

For red-headed Neanderthals, see Lalueza-Fox, C. et al. 2007. “A melanocortin 1 receptor allele suggests varying pigmentation among Neanderthals.” Science 318: 1453-1455. For their ability to taste bitterness, see Lalueza-Fox, C. et al. 2009. “Bitter taste perception in Neanderthals through the analysis of the TAS2R38 gene.” Biology Letters 5: 809-811. For a possible linguistic capacity, see Krause, J. et al. 2007. “The derived FOXP2 variant of modern humans was shared with Neanderthals.” Current Biology 17: 1908-1912.

For earlier suspicions that Neanderthals and humans interbred see, for example, Trinkaus, E. 2007. “European early modern humans and the fate of the Neandertals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104: 7367-7372; and Herrera, K. J. et al. 2009. “To what extent did Neanderthals and modern humans interact?” Biological Reviews 84: 245-257.

For coyotes cavorting with wolves, see Kays, R., Curtis, A. and Kirchman, J. J. 2010. “Rapid adaptive evolution of northeastern coyotes via hybridization with wolves.” Biological Letters 6: 89-93. For coyotes and dogs, see Adams, J. R., Leonard, J. A., and Waits, L. P. 2003. “Widespread occurrence of a domestic dog mitochondrial DNA haplotype in southeastern US coyotes.” Molecular Ecology 12: 541-546. For hanky-panky in south American cats, see Trigo, T. C. et al. 2008. “Inter-species hybrization among Neotropical cats of the genus Leopardus, and evidence for an introgressive hybrid zone between L. geoffroyi and L. tigrinus in southern Brazil.” Molecular Ecology 17: 4317-4333. A an overview of similar goings-on in ducks can be found in Muñoz-Fuentes, V. et al. 2007. “Hybridization between white-headed ducks and introduced ruddy ducks in Spain.” Molecular Ecology 16: 629-638.

The suggestion that mad Neanderthal disease caused their demise has been put forward several times; see, for example, Cooper, J. H. 2000. “Did cannibalism and spongiform encephalopathy contribute to the demise of the Neanderthals?” Mankind Quarterly 41: 175-180 and Underdown, S. 2008. “A potential role for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in Neanderthal extinction.” Medical Hypotheses 71: 4-7. The notion that Neanderthals were culturally inferior to us — and that this caused their extinction — is pervasive; see, for example, Klein, R. G. 2003. “Whither the Neanderthals?” Science 299: 1525-1527. For the possibility that small, sparse populations was the eventual problem, see Hublin, J.-J. and Roebroeks, W. 2009. “Ebb and flow or regional extinctions? On the character of Neandertal occupation of northern environments.” Comptes Rendus Palevol 8: 503-509. (This paper is also my source for the claim that Neanderthals needed to eat more calories than we do.) For other hypotheses, see Herrera, K. J. et al. 2009. “To what extent did Neanderthals and modern humans interact?” Biological Reviews 84: 245-257.

Many thanks to Thiago Carvalho, Mike Eisen, Gideon Lichfield and Jonathan Swire for insights, comments and suggestions.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

In search of the perfect short-term contraceptive (maybe safe for work but probably TMI)

I'm wrote what follows, but Shoshana read it and approves its publication. A little over a year and a half ago Shoshana's gynecologist switched her oral contraceptive from Triphasil to Yaz as a lower dose intermediate step before menopause. A month ago her gynecologist told her to go off oral contraception entirely so she could tell when menopause actually occurs (at which time hormone replacement--at much lower doses than contraception--is available if needed). That required us to find an interim form of contraception. Though the chances of Shoshana conceiving at age 51 are slim they are not zero. Because Shoshana is close to menopause a long term contraceptive such as an IUD (which can last up to five years) is not called for. 

Shoshana's gynecologist suggested either barrier methods or spermicides. We don't mean to brag, but male condoms don't suite us, because with male condoms coitus ends with ejaculation, and since I can remain aroused and erect for several minutes after ejaculation, and Shoshana is multi-orgasmic, a form of contraception that requires us to stop before we want to would cramp our style. Even if that were not a factor, Shoshana is allergic to latex, and polyurethane condoms don't stretch, are available in only one size, and (again, I don't mean to brag) that size is narrower than the girth of my erect member. Spermicidal gels and foam containing paraben (which has been linked to breast cancer) are disqualified. That leaves contraceptive sponges, female condoms,  spermicidal ovular shaped capsules, and spermicidal film; we tried all four. 

The contraceptive foam is a polyurethane cervical cap smeared with spermicide and covered with a mesh fabric. On the plus side the spermicide is effective immediately; you put it in and you're good to go. But I found the mesh fabric irritates my penis, and Shoshana found that the spermicide caused discomfort urinating for three days after using it. One down, three to go.

The female condom is like a XXXL size polyurethane male condom with a polyurethane cervical ring and optional lube (which has paraben so we used our paraben free silicone lube instead). Shoshana really dislikes the female condom. Neither of us succeeded in positioning the cervical ring over her cervix, maybe because the cervical ring comes in one size that does not fit all cervixes (a polyurethane motif). Without the cervical ring it's like a super large male condom (one that actually fits), but we don't care for male condoms (see above). Two down, two to go.

That leaves the spermicidal capsules and spermicidal film, each of which requires a waiting period before it's effective. The capsules become effective ten minutes after insertion. Ten minutes of foreplay is not a problem, but upon commencing intercourse the spermicide began to burn both of us. Ouch!  Three down, one more to try.

That leaves the contraceptive film, a thin tissue that is folded, inserted, and becomes effective 15 minutes after insertion. Perhaps because intercourse works so well for us, 15 minutes is longer than our usual foreplay, but stimulating each other with our fingers and mouths for 15 minutes is not a bad thing either. During intercourse the spermicide is warm but not unpleasant. We think we have a winner! The only possible drawback to contraceptive film is that if we want to have intercourse a second time we have to insert another contraceptive film and wait another 15 minutes. 

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Health update: second biopsy

This is a follow-up to my January and February posts. In January I reported that an increase in my PSA would necessitate a prostate biopsy and in February I reported that the biopsy was inconclusive and would require another biopsy in April. In March at the suggestion of our friend Jeff Marker, who has been living with prostate cancer for several years, I had a 3-D Doppler ultrasound of my prostate taken by the only radiologist in North America who does them. The radiologist told me I had a non-active prostate cancer of insignificant size and suggested I adopt a strategy of watchful waiting/active surveillance including eliminating dairy from my current pescetarian diet, taking nutritional supplements that are beneficial to the prostate and having the 3-D Doppler ultrasound again in six months. There are treatments for small prostate cancers, however, that can target the tumor in a way that does not impair the entire gland, have fewer side effects than treatments that might be required later if the tumor grows larger, and unlike those other treatments can be repeated should other tumors develop. But to have the option of such targeted treatments required I undergo the second biopsy scheduled for April. The radiologist advised against the biopsy warning that biopsies can actually spread cancer. My urologist said that the radiologist was mistaken and probably basing his opinion on outdated research (the urologist also expressed the opinion that the reason no other radiologist uses 3-D Doppler imaging of the prostate is that it is inaccurate). My own on-line research on biopsies indicates that if the cancer is as small and inactive as the radiologist said it is then it could not survive outside the host organ. Thus having the biopsy posed little risk and would give me more options.

The January prostate biopsy took 12 samples; the April biopsy took 14 samples and was more painful than the first one both during the biopsy and in the weeks since. Only one of the 14 tissue samples had cancer, cancer was found in only 5% of that one sample, and the cancer cells in question are moderate (3 on a scale of 5) and not lethal. Three other tissue samples showed pre-cancerous growths. Prostate cancers are measured on the Gleason Scale (2-10): anything under 7 is considered favorable and non-lethal, and my Gleason score is 6. By and large my April biopsy confirmed the radiologist's scan the previous month, but it also gave me additional information. My Gleason 6 makes me a candidate for what is known as a male lumpectomy (targeting part of the prostate instead of the entire gland). The method that most accurately targets the tumor with the fewest side effects, High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), is available abroad (for about $20K in Toronto) but is not yet FDA approved. If my prostate gland were a bit smaller (25 mm or less) than it is (32mm) my urologist could get me into a local HIFU clinical trial. Another form of male lumpectomy is Partial Cryosurgery (freezing half the prostate and leaving the other half intact), but that would destroy one of the two nerves responsible for sexual function. So I decided I will adopt a strategy of active surveillance which includes PSA tests every three months, biopsies every six months, following the no animal fat diet mentioned above, and continuing to take meds and nutritional supplements that may shrink my prostate sufficiently to qualify me for a HIFU clinical trial or in a best case scenario may shrink the tumor itself so that treatment other than continuing active surveillance becomes unnecessary. Active surveillance can continue for decades and has no side effects. I prefer giving up dairy cheese and ice cream and enduring the biopsies to over-treating an as yet non-lethal condition.

Monday, May 10, 2010