If you haven’t listened to my review of Burzynski: The Movie on The Movie Film Show, stop reading this right now and go listen to it now by clicking here (I am “Mr. Movie”). It is an excellent documentary about one visionary physician who is successfully treating cancer with what he calls antineoplastons–and often with greater success than tradition methods, such as chemotherapy. Unfortunately, Dr. Burzynski has had to overcome many obstacles in the development of his treatment–the worst being our own US government in the form of the FDA.
Now, director Eric Merola has returned to present his follow up documentary: Burzynski: Cancer is Serious Business Part II. In it, he upates us on the current state of antineoplaston therapy, as well as chronicles another breakthrough method of treating cancer being performed by Dr. Burzynski: targeted gene therapy.
With target gene therapy, Dr. Burzynski uses pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA, but used in an “off label” way, i.e.,in a way not approved by the FDA. His methods are personalized based several factors including the type of cancer the patient has, and gene testing. (“Off label” prescribing is a legal practice and most doctors prescribe some drugs to their patients in this way.)
The movie follows several patients and their experience with the Burzynski clinic, including the many governmental obstacles they have to face with their own health care systems. Several of these patients are UK based, so we get some good concrete examples of what full-blown socialized medicine looks like in practice.
The presentation style is similar to the previous movie, including the voice over narration and how written documents are illustrated and highlighted to tell help tell the story. They were effective in Part 1 and so it is natural to follow that format for Part 2. However, the film more closely follows real patients as their treatments are happening and ends up being more about their personal stories. It also shows us exactly how antineoplastons are administered and what a patient has to go through, both physically and financially, to get this treatment.
These details make for a much more personal feel, as well as a few tear-jerking moments when we see some patients who lose their battles with cancer, despite Dr. Burzynski’s treatments. All of the patients, whether successful or not, are shown to be extremely grateful to have had the chance to try the treatment they thought gave them the best chance for survival. The documentary also shows us, sadly, that not everybody gets that chance (even if they have the means to pay for the treatment).
What is made clear by the documentary is that the greatest obstacles to make great leaps forward in cancer treatment is not the science itself, but our own US government and the FDA. The FDA and conventional drug companies do not like that Dr. Burzynski is proceeding with his own patented drug outside the tradition method for bringing it to the market–and for that Dr. Burzynski and his clinic have faced several unjustified investigations by the FDA and the Texas medical board (and he has never been found of any wrongdoing and has been exonerated of all accusations made against him).
This film does a good job of illustrating this point, and the many punitive actions taken by the FDA as a result (such as currently refusing to allow terminal patients to participate in antineoplastons clinical trials). For example, antineoplastons are currently approved for phase 3 clinical trials. Merola makes an extremely effective point that some traditional drug makers have had their drugs approved prior to being required to enter phase 3 trials based on various criteria. He then demonstrates that antineoplastons have met this criteria, yet the FDA has still refused to approve it.
And before you go thinking “crazy conspiracy theory,” stop for a moment and think about the abuses recently revealed about the IRS, and how they targeted groups unfavorable to the government. It’s not hard to draw a few extra dots and assume that other agencies are also abusing their power in similar ways, especially in light of how the FDA has treated Dr. Burzynski (this point is not in the documentary–it was finalized before the IRS story broke out, so it is my own conjecture).
The picture isn’t without its drawbacks. The last third feels a little rushed and some of the stories told are incomplete. I understand the desire to release the film sooner than later, since this is an advocacy documentary–and I would have done the same thing had I been in Merola’s shoes–but it is rushed none-the-less. If anything, it is a motivator to keep up to date with current events. In fact, the movie’s official website has rebranded itself “Burzynski: Documentary Film Series” so perhaps other chapters will be developed as this story unfolds.
A more serious flaw is in how Merola attempts to explain some of the motivations behind the drug companies and the FDA. Too much emphasis is placed on the “profit motive” instead of where it is deserved: crony capitalism and a fascist system that is corrupt by nature. The problem with attacking the profit motive is that Dr. Burzynski himself has a for-profit enterprise and has even took his company public. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, and if anything this only shows that the profit motive is not to blame, thus undermining this line of argument.
The film also argues that the profit motive pits companies against each other so the cooperation needed for the kind of cancer treatment Dr. Burzynski does with targeted gene therapy is impossible to get approved by the FDA because the companies will never work together to test these kinds of things.
While that is true, the problem is not the profit motive or competition, but the fact that the government has created a crony system that only allows one way of developing drugs–and working outside of that framework is not only frowned upon but often illegal. Further, that Dr. Burzynski himself is putting these drugs together for patients with individualized cancer cocktails shows that the profit motive is alive and well and what is getting in the way is government interference–not the profit motive.
Despite being confused about the profit motive, if you were inspired as well as infuriated with Merola’s first Burzynski movie, you will want to follow up with Part 2. The picture gives us a more personalize experience of Dr. Burzynski’s work and the impact is has on his patients, and allow us to appreciate the work of a real hero in medicine: Stanislaw Burzynski.
Burzynski: Cancer Is Serious Business Part II is currently available on-demand on many cable networks in the US, and on Amazon and iTunes, and will be available for purchase on DVD starting July 1.
This film was screened at my home on a Blu-ray disc given to me by the director.
That last point is not necessarily a good thing. Some of the driving scenes play out like a Grand Theft Auto video game, much of the extravagant parties are set to hip-hop music from decades into the future, and the 3D adds little to the experience. Some will love it, some will not. But consuming an adult beverage just prior to viewing the film is recommended, regardless.
Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann clearly sets his mark, and if you like his style you will likely enjoy Gatsby. Leonardo DiCaprio works well in the lead role as the mysterious Jay Gatsby, and the script keeps us intrigued as it slowly reveals new information about Gatsby–some of it is seemingly contradictory at times, which adds to the pleasure of having it all make sense in the end.
The other players are fine in their roles–nobody really stands out as fantastic–but Carey Mulligan as the love interest is the least compelling. She is too melancholy and her slouchy posture detracts from her sex appeal. (On the other hand, DiCaprio’s love for Mulligan’s character is convincing, which saves the flick from being a bore.)
Ultimately the film works because it portrays the extent to which a man will go for love. That is something most of us can identify with. There are also two or three scenes that are well set up, dramatically written and you will be close to the edge of your seat anticipating what is going to happen next. (Note I didn’t say “on” the edge of your seat, but “close” to it.) The costume design is fantastic and the best thing about the movie.
While the picture’s theme, which is the tragic nature of pure love in an impure world, is ultimately a false dichotomy and not one I personally identify with, it is well and clearly portrayed none-the-less.
In the end, Gatsby is not all that great. But it is pretty good. If you are a big DiCaprio fan, love a spectacular party and a good plot, and like to get a little inebriated before a trip to the theater, then The Pretty Good Gatsby is worth a watch.
A husband and wife bought a new puppy. The husband worked at home during the day while the wife was off to work. The following are text messages that the dog sent to the wife … with a little help from the husband:
Hi Mommy. I am waiting patiently for you. Will you take me for a walk tonight? I miss you so much! Can we play this weekend? Can we can we can we?!?!?!!
Hi Mommy! I made big poopie on my walk with Daddy this morning. It was such a big and firm poopie you’d be so proud of me! I wish I could have shown it to you. I miss you and can’t wait to see you tonight at puppy class!
Hi Mommy! It was so windy on my walk today, I just loved jumping through all the windy air!!
I am adding “parenting” to the range of topics here, and this is an introductory post on the subject.
About a year ago my wife and I became parents, and one of our goals early on was to find a parenting philosophy or approach that was compatible with our own values.
As Objectivists (Objectivism being the philosophy of Ayn Rand), we wanted an approach that was aligned with our goal of raising a child to become an independent, productive and ultimately happy human being. We want our child to have a vast array of chosen values and pursue them passionately. We want him to become independent, think for himself, and have the ability to become successful in his chosen ventures. We want him to be in touch with his emotions and know how to deal with them effectively, and we want him to be able to think rationally.
Luckily, we found an approach that meets much that criteria with Magda Gerber (191?-2007), founder of RIE and author of such books as Your Self Confident Baby and Dear Parent. RIE is the name she gives her approach and is the name of her organization.
What is RIE? RIE is a parenting framework for infants and toddlers (up to about two years old–after that, not all of the principles apply, but many do). Its core tenant is “respect,” which means respecting a baby as an individual, and as a human being.
What does that mean in practice? It means not treating babies as objects. It means always telling your baby what you are going to do to him before you do it. It means not expecting your baby to do more than he can—nor less than he is able. It means talking to your baby as a person, not a baby. It means not forcing your child to “share.” It means providing your child with an environment he can engage in on his own terms and at his own pace. It means looking at the world from his perspective and taking full account of his context in all your interactions with him.
RIE does not have an explicit philosophy, which can lead to different interpretations of Magda Gerber’s ideas (even the core idea of “respect” can mean different things depending on whether one is an altruist or an egoist, for example). Any misrepresentations of Gerber and RIE are, of course, my own.
For explicit philosophy I turn to Ayn Rand, and in this context I recommend starting with her views on self-esteem.
It is with this post that I wanted to set some context for future posts to come. Hopefully a father’s perspective in the parenting blogosphere will be refreshing, and I hope my thoughts on parenting–as both an advocate of RIE and as an Objectivist–will prove intriguing.
Two documentary shorts exhibited at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (both from Focus Forward Films) share a similar narrative: both are about kids who made an amazing discovery that, according their respective films, will hugely benefit mankind. Yet one discovery has been widely disproven while the other has gone relatively unnoticed (until now).
In The Secret of Trees (click here to view the short), director Albert Maysles tells how thirteen-year-old Aidan Swyer discovered a new way to collect solar energy that improves efficiency. You may have seen this story in the media and making the social network rounds last year. In the short we see Aidan explaining his hypothesis that tree-shaped solar panel collection is more efficient than traditional solar panel placement. Swyer is shown receiving many accolades in the short, including prizes, encouraging parents and teachers, and even meeting the president of the United States.
There is nothing wrong with the story as presented, except for the one fact omitted from the documentary: his experiment doesn’t actually work (a simple Google search will explain the details). Now, there’s nothing wrong with a failed experiment–history is filled with wonderful inventions that preceded failed experiments (think: the lightbulb, for starters). But what is alarming is that nobody seems to care that it doesn’t work. And that this story has been repeated over and over–this time as Sundance–without anyone doing a simple fact check.
Apparently, what more important is some kid trying to make some advance in “green energy.” Doesn’t really work? Who cares–it’s a feel good story on a politically correct subject, so how dare we let something like the fact that it doesn’t really work “ruin” this kid’s self esteem.
The second documentary, which seems to be all but ignored by the media, is You Don’t Know Jack (click here to view the short), by director Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me). It shows how a high school sophomore, Jack Andraka, hypothesized and then discovered a new test for pancreatic cancer that should save thousands of lives. And it seems his quest wasn’t so easy: his parents made fun of him for it, he was rejected hundreds of time after trying to secure a lab to conduct his experiments, etc. This kid’s persistence and passion for his subject is amazing.
One has to wonder, after watching these videos, whether Aidan Swyer even understands what he is saying at times. He appears to be reading his talk without much comprehension. He is uncomfortable in his own skin.
It’s hard to fault a thirteen-year-old for being a little awkward. But compare Swyer’s presentation with Jack Andraka’s. He is awkward at times, yes (and granted, two years older), but it’s clear he has mastered his subject, and he portrays the confidence that can only come from following one’s passion and achieving real, actual, proven success in the world.
I don’t mean to be overly critical of Aidan Swyer. There is nothing wrong trying something and failing in the process. It is an important life lesson. But what lesson are we sending him if we continue to praise his “achievement” if it isn’t even real? And what lesson are we sending Jack Andraka and the rest of the world when we treat them both as equals?
The lesson that is lost is that actual success matters. And that is the real tragedy.