Answers from a Pandemic

100 years without a pandemic has made us stupid. It’s made me stupid, anyway.

So many questions about human nature that puzzled me, I now see answered. Why are we so tribal? Why does language change so quickly? Why are we so xenophobic – so fearful of people who look different from us even slightly?

Answer: communicable diseases.

The Andaman Islanders  had the right idea. They may or may not have known the missionary attempting to evangelize them was full of contagions that could kill them; but they had instincts, and culture, that protected them from infection.

Doesn’t it make sense, evolutionarily, that groups survived that shut out/fought off/killed outsiders? Doesn’t it make sense that language would fracture rapidly, to make ingroups and outgroups develop quickly? The fracturing of humanity protects it from diseases. “Civilization” doesn’t like that, but biology does. And our innate cultural instincts (like language) assisted us biologically.

Deadly communicable diseases are a part of life we’ve been alienated from in the 20th and 21st centuries. Antibiotics especially have transformed the world, allowing human population to explode, and also permitting factory farming on a grotesque scale. We know that antibiotics have a limited life that is ending soon, and our current viral pandemic is just a tiny taste of what’s to come once bacterial diseases return in force. But for over 100 years, we’ve merrily reproduced and exploited without the natural constraint of disease that was a former bedrock of biological reality.

Xenophobia is maladaptive for global civilization, but it’s perfectly adapted for keeping tribal cells of humans hygienically sealed off from each other. “Racism” is only a thing in Civilization, in which humans enslave each other for commerce and power. Without slavery and exploitation, there’s no racism, because there’s nothing pushing diverse groups of humans on top of each other. There’s only “others,” the in-group and the out-groups. The xenophobic aspects of human nature seem appalling in Civilization, but must have worked very well in prehistoric tribal life. Groups were no larger than 150 humans, and most much smaller than that, each with their own dialects, and similar physical traits.

Of course humans would mate outside the tribe, to prevent inbreeding, so curiosity about the “exotic” is another adaptive trait. The exotic is SEXY. Sexy, exploitable, and sadly aiding and abetting racism when repurposed in Civilization. But my understanding is that tribes had very rigid protocols governing permeation through inter-tribal breeding. They were not cosmopolitan. From a biological standpoint, cosmopolitanism = death. But Civilization loves cosmopolitanism: diversity means more markets and an extension of power. Open borders are a boon for global capitalism, but tribal intermarriages were anything but that.

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Nina’s Big Hysterectomy Adventure

At long last, I am on the other side of “hystery.” I’ve had a rough year, health-wise, culminating in this crisis. But on Wednesday I got my long-sought-after hysterectomy (ovaries stayed in, everything else removed). It was complicated, due to the location of the fibroid in my cervix, and the surgery itself took 4.5 hours, and the doctor tells me I can expect more recovery pain than a “normal” hysterectomy. But I’m recovering steadily and glad the wait is over.

Photos below, including one of the “specimen” the surgeon removed. If you are weak of stomach, do not scroll down.

From the car, headed to SIU St. John's Hospital, Springfield IL.
From the car, headed to SIU St. John’s Hospital, Springfield IL.
Before the surgery. Phone picture is blurry, but my head still wasn't. I just wanted to get on with it already!
Before  surgery. Picture (taken on SpecialManFriend’s tiny phone) is blurry, but my head still wasn’t. I just wanted to get on with it already.
After surgery, which took 4.5 hours. I was under for longer than that, as actual surgery started kind of late. Last thing I remember is being wheeled out of the pre-op room, around 1:45pm. Next memory is being spoon-fed ice chips by a nurse, around 8:30pm.
After surgery, which took 4.5 hours. I was under for longer than that, as actual surgery started kind of late. Last thing I remember is being wheeled out of the pre-op room, around 1:45pm. Next memory is being spoon-fed ice chips by a nurse, around 8:30pm.
THE MONEY SHOT! I photographed it off the surgeon's phone (and added the labels later) since he can't share this photo because it's locked with a HIPA-compliant app. He will try to get me a print of it for my post-op appointment in a couple weeks. As you can see, the fibroid stuffing my cervix is not only bigger than my cervix, but bigger than my whole uterus. There is actually another fibroid in my uterus there, but it's obviously smaller.
THE MONEY SHOT! I photographed it off the surgeon’s phone (and added the labels later) since he can’t share this photo because it’s locked with a HIPA-compliant app. He will try to get me a print of it for my post-op appointment in a couple weeks.
As you can see, the fibroid stuffing my cervix is not only bigger than my cervix, but bigger than my whole uterus. For reference, here are diagrams of normal uteruses (uteri?) and cervixes (cervices?).
There is actually another fibroid in my uterus there, but it’s obviously smaller.
The next morning, after several hours of drug-induced haze (not exactly "sleep"). I had a catheter and didn't move my legs at all for about 16 hours. When I finally did, I had episodes of shaking and teeth-chattering, and later puking. Probably after-effects of anasthesia. In spite of a few setbacks, I got on my feet a few times and started peeing normally. The effects of the drugs seemed worse than the pain itself.
The next morning, after several hours of drug-induced haze (not exactly “sleep”). I had a catheter and didn’t move my legs at all for about 16 hours. When I finally did, I had episodes of shaking and teeth-chattering, and later puking. Probably after-effects of anesthesia. In spite of a few setbacks, I got on my feet a few times and started peeing normally. The effects of the drugs seemed worse than the pain itself.
I ended up staying 2 nights at the hospital. We'd only planned for one, but I wasn't stable enough to go home the day after surgery. Here's my bed right after I was discharged Friday morning.
I ended up staying 2 nights at the hospital. We’d only planned for one, but I wasn’t stable enough to go home the day after surgery. Here’s my bed right after I was discharged Friday morning.
Home at last! Momz got me this lap tray to protect my belly from the cats, and it was useful instantly. I look much, much better in this photo than I feel! But I can get up and walk, my 5 abdominal incisions are healing, and the brain fog isn't too bad since I stopped the presecription painkillers and am only taking OTC Naproxen.
Home at last! My Momz got me this lap tray to protect my belly from the cats, and it was useful instantly. I look much, much better in this photo than I feel! But I can get up and walk, my 5 abdominal incisions are healing, and the brain fog isn’t too bad since I stopped the prescription painkillers and am only taking OTC Naproxen.

Reviewing these photos, it doesn’t look like such a big deal. But it was at the time! And is now, to be honest, as I spend most of the day sleeping and dreaming very weird dreams, like having to eat my way out of a giant bathtub of lentil soup. Right now is my big morning at my ol’ computer, feeling semi-normal for a few minutes. I’m supposed to be mostly recovered in 2 months, at which time I am allowed to bicycle again. Until then, my posts may be stranger than usual.

#ff0000;">UPDATE MONDAY JULY 2: I’m still getting better. My biggest challenge is coughing, which I can’t do without bad abdominal pain. But I have to cough to clear the crud from my throat, which is still recovering from the breathing tube I had in me for many hours. It’s quite a conundrum. Fortunately, laughing is not nearly as painful.

I had my first walk outside today, about a quarter of a mile. Everything looked amazing: flowers, trees, blue skies, clouds. I’m grateful to be alive.

#ff0000;">UPDATE JULY  15: at my 2-week post-op appointment, the surgeon said the biopsy revealed the cervical fibroid was 7cm. My cervix also contained a 2cm polyp. And there were multiple fibroids in my uterus. Neither cancer nor endometriosis were detected.

My recovery continues to go well. I can now walk up to 3 miles a day, and don’t need any painkillers, even over-the-counter ones.

#ff0000;">UPDATE SEPTEMBER 19: Today marks 12 weeks since my hysterectomy. I officially deem it a success! No more constant low-level abdominal pain. No more periods! And…I can have sex again without becoming violently ill. That’s right, I was facing a future of no more sex ever, because I got so sick from it (including vomiting, the last time before my fibroid was discovered). Turns out you’re not supposed to have a tennis-ball sized tumor rammed up in there! Now that it’s gone (along with its numerous sister fibroids and polyps, and the cervix and uterus they grew in) I feel MUCH better. A+ would recommend.

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Is There A Doctor In The House?

#ff0000;">Note: updated below
I NEED HELP. I have an orange-sized fibroid in my cervix, among other problems. The local hospital system is dysfunctional and corrupt – doctors don’t communicate with each other, or with patients (it is, however, one of the most PROFITABLE systems in the country! Isn’t that nice). My so-called “primary care physician” hasn’t seen me in 3 years, though not for lack of trying on my part. I visited the emergency room in great pain last year and since then have gotten bumped from specialist to specialist, and then dropped – it took 4 months to get a referral from the useless rheumatologist for the gynecologist, because someone somewhere dropped the ball and didn’t feel like it was important. Surgery that was supposed to happen this month or next, now won’t even start to be scheduled until July. Maybe. Every time Carle says they’ll do something by a certain time, they don’t – like I said, they took 4 months for a simple referral (and I had to get on their case to do anything about it at all). So even if I absolutely knew surgery was what I needed, there is an enormous trust problem at this point. Do I want these corrupt clowns cutting me?

A doctor in my family recommended someone at Loyola Medical Center who looked promising. So I called, and while they accept Medicaid, they don’t accept Medicaid managed by Meridian, which is what I have. So I called Illinois Medicaid and asked if I could switch to Molina, and they said no, I’m locked in until April of next year. So I called Meridian, who put me on hold for half an hour and then gave me numbers of nearby medical establishments which aren’t Carle. One of them was a disconnected number, the other, Kirby Med Center in Monticello, has no gynecologists at all. I called an affiliated gynecologist in Peoria, but his office is booked until at least July – and that would just be for an initial appointment.

What I REALLY want is a doctor that actually pays attention and can help me figure out what I should do. I won’t get that through my local med system. I probably won’t get that anywhere. But here’s my last-ditch effort before I resign myself to a life of pain and permanent celibacy (I can’t have sex without getting violently ill; celibacy is how I’ve been managing at all):

Are there any gynecologists among my fans? Any? I will travel to your state. I just want someone who will actually pay attention to my case. I am desperate.

#ff0000;">Update 5-18: Due to help found through my cry of despair here & on fecebook, I have an appointment Monday with a gynecologist at SIU Med Center in Springfield IL. I was advised that teaching hospitals are eager for patients like me, and so far that seems to be the case. I called this morning, they were very helpful, and called back within 4 hours with said expedited consult appointment.

Then all I had to do was get my records released from Carle. Carle doesn’t accept emails for this (“they take too long,” they said on the phone). You have to visit their new vortex-of-evil administrative hell-plex on Staley road at Curtis, on the outside of town. Fortunately, SpecialManFriend(tm) was kind enough to take me there. I filled out the form, talked to the clerk, and came back after lunch. “Here are your records!” they said, handing me a big envelope. I almost walked off with it, but then decided to read through them first. Good thing, too – they’d neglected the most important, recent, and pertinent records of my MRI and ultrasound. They also neglected to include images, which I specifically requested. I politely asked for these things and they said, “oh, sorry, we’ll print those out now,” and “oh, ok, we’ll burn you a disc.” I’d be disgusted but I’m feeling too hopeful about getting a new doctor in a completely new, totally non-Carle system.

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Who is Producer X?

Astute observers of Seder-Masochism will notice one “Producer X” on the poster:

Poster_ProducerX

This is consistent with the film’s opening credits:

Moses_ProducerX_edit

and end credits:

Endcredit_ProducerX_edit

Why? Who? WTF?

I made Sita Sings the Blues almost entirely alone. That caused an unforeseen problem when it came time to send the film out into the world: I was usually the only person who could represent it at festivals. Other films have producers who aren’t also the director. Other films also have crews, staff, multiple executives, and money. As SSTB’s only executive, I couldn’t be everywhere at once. Often I couldn’t be anywhere at once, due to having a life that includes occasional crises. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I could send an actor like Reena Shah, or musician like Todd Michaelesen, or narrator like Aseem Chaabra, or sound designer Greg Sextro. But most of the time it meant there was no human being representing the film when it screened at film festivals.

I’m even more hermitic now, and made Seder-Masochism in splendid isolation in Central Illinois. This time I worked with no actors, narrators, or musicians. I did try recording some friends discussing Passover, but that experiment didn’t make it into the film. Greg Sextro is again doing the sound design, but we’re working remotely (he’s in New York).

I like working alone. But I don’t like going to film festivals alone. And sometimes, I can’t go at all.

Such as right now: in June, Seder-Masochism is having its world premiere at Annecy, but I have to stay in Illinois and get surgery. I have an orange-sized fibroid in my cervix, and finally get to have my uterus removed. (I’ve suffered a lifetime of debilitating periods, but was consistently instructed to just suck it up, buttercup; no doctor bothered looking for fibroids over the last 30 years in spite of my pain. But now that I’m almost menopausal, out it goes at last!)

Film festivals are “people” events, and having a human there helps bring attention to the film. The reason I want my film in festivals is to increase attention. The more attention, the better for the film, especially as a Free Culture project. So I want a producer with it at festivals.

Fortunately, Producer X has been with Seder-Masochism from the very beginning. After Sita’s festival years, I knew that credit would be built into my next film.

So who is Producer X?

Whoever I say it is.

She’ll see you in Annecy!

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