27 November 2008

Film: "Four Christmases"

Four Christmases Directed by Seth Gordon
Story by Matt R. Allen & Caleb Wilson
Screenplay by Matt R. Allen & Caleb Wilson and Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth with Jon Voight and Sissy Spacek
Theatrical Release Date: 26 November 2008
Date of Screening: 26 November 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Some Sexual Humor and Language)

Essentially, Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon make time for four Christmas gatherings--one each with their respective parents, all of whom are now divorced.  This is one of those films where the premise is really just an excuse to get on with the comedy.  You're not going to leave Four Christmases feeling surprised by the amount of character development or mulling over the emotional resonance of the film.  You're going into it to laugh, and you'll likely leave having done little more than just that.  Since that's all Four Christmases strives for, that's quite okay.

The cast is superb.  Supporting Vaughn and Witherspoon are Robert Duval (his father), Sissy Spacek (his mother), Mary Steenburgen (her mother) and Jon Voight (her father), along with Tim McGraw and Jon Favreau (his brothers), Kristin Chenoweth (her sister) and Dwight Yoakam (her mother's new pastor boyfriend).  We're asked to believe that Brad and Kate have been together for three years and have not only managed to avoid spending Christmas with their families the entire time, but that they've never even met one another's family.  This becomes harder to believe as the film progresses, and the film loses its appeal as it tries to expose Brad and Kate's relationship for its shallow emptiness.

Where
Four Christmases delivers, though, is in the situational comedy.  It's best not to think too much about things (such as when Brad and Favreau's Denver make it to their mom's, but no one says a word about their absent brother, McGraw's Dallas).  This isn't the must-see comedy of the Christmas season, nor is it a particularly bright feather in the cap of anyone involved.  Still, for those looking to inaugurate their Christmas season with a relatively undemanding 82 minutes, you could do worse.

24 November 2008

LIFE Magazine Photograph Archive


Through a partnership with Google, LIFE Magazine has published its archive of photographs online for free.  There are some killer pics in this collection, including this one of President John F. Kennedy in 1961.  You can search the collection by clicking here.  If you find something you really like, you can order it as a framed print.  The pricing is high, though.  Here is the pricing scale I've seen:

13"x16" $79.99
17"x21" $89.99
20"x25" $109.99

If you know someone who is a fan of celebrities or photography, this might be a great surprise Christmas gift idea.  Personally, I've put together a set of cool guys smoking cigars and holding drinks that would make for an awesome series for the bar for a man's man.  So far, the set includes the above image of President Kennedy, Pierce Brosnan with a stogie, President Clinton drinking water, Sean Connery at the piano and Peter O'Toole in his natural state.

I Hear the Train A-Comin'


Friday (21 November 2008) I kept my appointment with my GI clinic at U of L Hospital. They were typically overbooked, so I was delegated to one Dr. Lauren Briley. She spent the first two minutes apologizing for shuttling me around doctors and explaining the whole thing, to which I kept responding, "I'm fine with it." The truth is, when you visit a clinic and not a doctor's private practice, you really shouldn't get too excited about seeing different doctors at different times. It's part of the nature of the thing, and to be honest, I had only met the guy that passed me on to her once, anyway.

Until this October, when I was admitted to Norton Suburban for a couple of days with an obstruction, none of my GI's had been women. While I'm certainly above stereotyping, I also have to say that if these two are any indication, I actually prefer them to men. At Norton, I was seen by Dr. Shiela Rhodes, and she and Dr. Briley both exhibited the characteristics I look for in a physician--interest in whtiiI had to say about my condition, decisive action when a clear picture emerged and a dash of compassion. They would never make it as surgeons, who generally must be required to be condescending and self-absorbed, but they're wonderful GI doctors.

Anyway, Dr. Briley agreed with me that Imuran isn't cutting it and it's time to move on to biologics. I'm supposed to get a TB test and the usual blood work in the next week or so, and then I return to see her on 12 December. What sucks is that the social worker through whom I will be applying for financial assistance to pay for the Humira took off this entire week and was already out of her office when I finished seeing the doctor on Friday. That means it won't be until Monday (1 December) that I'll even have a chance to get that paperwork going. Still, we're hopeful that I'll have my first Humira injection by Christmas.

I also reached the point where I knew it was time to do something about being depressed. I've dealt with depression for years, and for a while several years ago I was on Zoloft (after a deflating experience with Celexa). I'm not governed by popular opinion, but there is something disconcerting about telling a perfect stranger you think you need to be on an anti-depressant. Maybe it's a stygma that will die with my generation, but I'm still not fully comfortable discussing such things generally. (Yeah, I realize that's all in a public journal; just move along.)

To her credit, Dr. Briley's response when I asked about a Crohn's-friendly anti-depressant, she simply began consulting her electronic pharmaceutical guide. That was about the most sensitive thing she could have done for me, and I intend to let her know that I appreciate her doing that when I go back in December. So, by New Year's I should be feeling the effects of Humira and Prozac. Hopefully, this means I'll start actually feeling better, too.

21 November 2008

Film: "Role Models"

Role Models
Directed by David Wain

Story by Timothy Bowling & William Blake Herron
Screenplay by Paul Rudd & David Wain & Ken Marino
Starring: Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jane Lynch and Elizabeth Banks
Theatrical Release Date: 7 November 2008
Date of Screening: 21 November 2008
MPAA Rating: R (For Crude and Sexual Content, Strong Language and Nudity)


I forget who, but one movie mogul insisted years ago that he would only listen to story ideas that were concise enough to be written on the back of a business card.  Role Models fits that criteria: Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd are court-ordered participants in a mentoring program with misfits--that's the entire premise of the film.  Because of the simplicity of the plot (and the track record of the lead actors), it's easy to enter the film with virtually no expectations beyond laughing periodically.


Paul Rudd's Danny Donahue starts the film at his tenth anniversary in a job he hates, working with Seann William Scott's Wheeler, who adores the freedom the job affords his partying lifestyle.  As Danny's early-mid-life crisis mounts, he decides to propose to his girlfriend who responds by breaking up with him and moving out of their house.  One comedic set-up after another ensues and voila!  Danny and Wheeler are compelled to participate in a program bonding with young boys who, naturally, have their own issues.  Bobb'e J. Thompson's Ronnie Shields has a chip on his shoulder and a particularly vulgar mouth--he, of course, steals every scene he has.

The standout of the entire production is Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who absolutely shines as the nerd Augie Farks.  Augie isn't "real" enough for his mother and stepfather, and they ridicule his fantasy interests every chance they get.  His role playing becomes the backbone of the film's plot, uniting the four characters's threads.  While Danny is pleading with his girlfriend's voicemail to meet with him, Augie insists that he tell her he misses her "silent eye," which Danny does.  As soon as Danny is off the phone, Mintz-Plasse completely breaks up laughing, "It means 'vagina'!" which he repeats several times, finding it funnier each time.  It's terribly absurd, and that's what makes it brilliant.


I entered the film less than two weeks from my thirtieth birthday, and Danny's arc particularly struck me.  I found myself identifying with Paul Rudd's portrayal of Pete in Knocked Up, and again this time out.  As an actor, he does a great job with his eyes of conveying the frustration of someone who has a lot to say about something, but is too apathetic to find it worth the trouble to even speak up half the time.  I know that frustration and apathy, and I suspect I'm not alone.


The bottom line is that you should come for the obvious comedic value and stay for the completely over-the-top climax.  Other films might concern themselves with taking a stand on the issues of the manchild; Role Models is content to explore the fun of being one.

16 November 2008

Film: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace
Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini with Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench as "M"
Theatrical Release Date: 14 November 2008
Date of Screening: 15 November 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Violence and Action, and Some Sexual Content)

Favorite Line: "When someone says that they have people everywhere, you expect it to be hyperbole.  Lots of people say that.  Florists use that expression.  It doesn't mean that they have people in the bloody room!" - M

Daniel Craig returns as Ian Fleming's James Bond in Quantum of Solace, a direct sequel to 2006's Casino Royale.  And when they said it was a sequel, they meant it--the film starts roughly ten minutes after the end of its predecessor.  Bond works his way up the food chain of Quantum, the SPECTRE-like organization behind the events of Casino Royale.  Along the way, he uncovers a plot by faux environmentalist Dominic Greene to engineer a coup for a military general in Bolivia in exchange for a seemingly worthless chunk of land.  Everyone speculates that Greene is after oil, and no one bothers to consider that he is instead working to dam up water.

Historically, Bond films have always flirted with reality but have sidestepped real issues; according to many environmentalists, water resource management may well eclipse energy as our leading concern in the 21st century.  Ian Fleming's stories always sought to show us the hidden danger of a seemingly useful operation, and the idea of a world leading environmentalist conspiring to engineer a drought for profit is certainly up there with men like Hugo Drax in "Moonraker" (who created a rocket in the name of defending England, with the intent of instead levelling London).

What we had all heard going into the film was that it eschewed the Bond formula, that it had the shortest running time of any Bond film and that it ran at a quick clip.  Most importantly, though, the buzz on QoS (its Bond-fan shorthand) was that Bond would work through the aftermath of the events of Royale.  Previous "This one's personal" Bond movies are a mixed bag--often the death of an ally has simply been an escalation of violence along the way rather than effective character-developing storytelling.

Daniel Craig has spoken the classic line, "Bond...James Bond" once in his two films--it was the final line of dialogue in Casino Royale.  Nor has his Bond continuity included a Miss Moneypenny or Q.  For that matter, if they ever reintroduce the latter, they ought to consider calling him (or her) "S" instead, because the only technology present have been items commercially produced by Sony.  What matters, though, is that Quantum of Solace manages something that too many moviegoers may not appreciate: the 22nd film in the series proves that James Bond is not defined by the Bond formula.

Quantum of Solace's run time of 106 minutes makes it the briefest 007 outing to date (previously, the shortest was Tomorrow Never Dies at 119 minutes), and saying that it moves quickly is like saying Michael Phelps can swim.  When the end credits began to roll, my freinds and I were able to count three scenes in the entire film that we thought may have lingered for perhaps as many as five or ten seconds.  Was this an example of catering to an increasingly short attention span, or was it simply the style of storytelling favored by director Marc Forster?  Ian Fleming's original novels rarely reached 200 paperback pages in length and were meant to be read on a train.  That being the case, then, Quantum of Solace does perhaps the best job of the entire cinematic series of conveying that sense of working quickly while disbelief is suspended.

12 November 2008

Trailer Response: "Quantum Of Solace"

Originally published 30 June 2008

After waiting all year for anything official from the forthcoming James Bond film Quantum of Solace, Sony has finally complied and put up the first trailer on Moviefone.com today.  I've watched it thrice already, and it appears to me that it's less Casino Royale II and more Casino Royale Again.  We all knew that QoS was going to be a direct continuation of CR; there is a sense from the trailer, though, that we're going to get much the same film this time, however.  M chastises Bond about setting out for revenge; laments, "I thought I could trust you" and orders him grounded....  It's fine for M and Bond to not be on great terms all the time, but it seems that ever since Robert Brown took over the role in The Living Daylights there's been an increasing amount of almost hostility between the characters and a lot less mutual respect.  Fleming's M and Bond got on fairly well; Bond found his boss a bit of a social bore, yes, but would have gladly gone to hell and back for the guy.  For his part, Fleming's M had nothing but respect for Bond's talents and abilities and made sure not to waste them, or to risk Bond unnecessarily.  This cinematic trend of a lack of any kind of relationship between them has gotten tiresome, and it's sad to think that Tomorrow Never Dies is the only entry in the Bond series since 1987 in which the relationship is pretty consistent with Fleming's world.

Having said all that...the rest of the trailer appears to be about what we had in mind for this picture.  It opens with Mr. White (the guy Bond tracked down just before the credits rolled at the end of CR) being interrogated, baiting Bond.  The rest of the clip is a quick montage of Bond-on-the-run-again set to the aforementioned M-doesn't-trust-Bond-and-wants-him-restricted voiceover and ends with a shot of Bond hoisting an assault rifle as he walks across what appears to be the desert.  Looks fun, looks intense, looks...like the last movie.

I know I sound disappointed with this trailer, and the only reason I actually am disappointed with it is because of the emphasis on the Bond/M tension about which you've already grown tired of reading me complain.  I am greatly relieved that, from the trailer at least, they've kept the tone of this film consistent with its predecessor and haven't gone Roger Moore on us.  No outrageous gimmicks, no slapstick humor, just good ol' fashioned gritty spy stuff.  It remains to be seen, of course, how Fleming-esque the film actually is, but it appears to be a candidate for Bond "best" lists.

Thanks, JOEM

An article arried in the most recent publication of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has calculated the cost to employers of having an employee with Crohn's disease.  The study took into consideration everything from short term disability costs to absenteeism, from hospitalizations to out-patient emergency room visits.  Want to know how much costlier us Crohnies are?
Annual medical expenses for Crohn's disease patients were $18,963 versus $5,300 for a matched comparison group. Ulcerative colitis patients' annual medical expenses were $15,020 versus $4,982 for the matched comparison group.
That's just for having Crohn's or colitis.  Now, add in surgery and those figures become unimpressive altogether.
Annual medical costs for patients with a gastrointestinal surgery were $60,147 for patients with Crohn's disease and $72,415 for patients with ulcerative colitis.
I would love to know why us Crohnies are more expensive than colitis patients except in the case of surgery.  The only thing I can figure is perhaps, since colitis is strictly located in the colon (whereas Crohn's can present literally anywhere along the digestive tract) that the colon is slower to heal and/or some Crohn's patients need surgery in more resilient areas?

Regardless of why there is a differential, what is plain to see is that no human resources director will read this information and want any part of hiring a Crohn's or colitis patient.  I cannot fault the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine for publishing these findings, nor can I fault the authors of the article for conducting the research.  The facts are what they are.  Still, as a Crohn's patient who has been out of work entirely too long already, I cannot help but wonder what impact these findings will have on the already limited employment opportunities available to my digestively challenged brethren.

Note: Clicking on the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine title in the first paragraph will link you to a Market Watch article detailing the findings of the original article.  Medical trade journal articles are not regularly made available to the public, so this is the best I can do for those who would like to review the information for themselves.

10 November 2008

Operation: DVD

For years, we've been asked to support the troops.  That has often translated into little more than adorning one's pick-up with a bumper sticker saying, "Support Our Troops."  It's November, and that means that even if we weren't on the verge of re-living the Great Depression, charities would all be competing for your donations for the rest of the year.

Not only are Afghanistan and Iraq hot and full of armed terrorists, but they're relatively dull for our soldiers.  Baseball emerged as our national pasttime in large part to its popularity among soldiers on both sides of the Civil War as a distraction from the bloodshed.  Today's troops lack even that luxury, because there are so few safe places where they are that will accomodate something as simple as playing catch.

A safer form of entertainment, though are DVD's.  Operation: DVD is a project designed to collect and distribute DVD's to deployed soldiers.  Their target goal is to collect one million DVD titles, and to maintain a rotating supply of 200-250 DVD's per base.  All you have to do is send your DVD(s) to:

Operation: DVD
31337 Huron Street
Temecula, CA 92592

You're not being asked to buy new DVD's.  They'll take used DVD's (though, obviously, make sure they're not things your brother borrowed and returned so scratched up it won't play).  So, the next time you're cleaning up around the house and you find yourself putting away the last DVD you watched, take a moment.  Look at your library and see if there's anything you really aren't that into anymore.

For more information, visit the Operation: DVD website.

Forget "Proud," Be Grateful

Late last night, I tuned into Prime Minister's Questions on C-SPAN. For those who don't know, every week the British Prime Minister has to go in and answer questions from the House of Commons (along with the House of Lords, it's part of their Parliament). I sincerely wish our president had to do the same with Congress, because I do feel that the British have a stronger sense of who's doing what for whom as a result of these televised meetings.

Anyway, I was struck by how many different speakers took a moment to congratulate Barack Obama and to comment on the significance of the election. We're so used to our politicians calling us things like "a beacon of hope for the world" that it becomes little more than a bumper sticker slogan. Hearing the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom--and his political opponents agree with it--is a striking reminder of the truly awesome power we have.

I recently posted in the Planet Garth main forum about an episode of Charlie Rose interviewing Garth that's available on YouTube. I finally watched it, and Garth insists that, once an election is over, even if you didn't [I]vote[/I] for the winner, you [I]elected[/I] him or her, and you have an obligation to support him or her.

One thing that President-Elect Obama's opponents need to realize is that he comes to office hip deep in a world of problems, few (if any) of his own making. Had Senator McCain won, he, too, would have inherited this perfect storm of problems. These are not small problems with quick fixes, and I sincerely believe things will get even worse before they begin to get better. I also believe that they will get better long before most of us can feel that they've gotten better.

And, yes, it will be time for those celebrities who have fawned over the President-Elect this past year to "man up" and pay those higher taxes they have insisted they would support. I know Garth Brooks was not one of those, but I don't mind saying as a fan of his, and as someone who has spent quite a lot of money on his commercial music and home video releases, as well as a concert and memorabilia purchased there, that he has worked very hard for what he has. No one should take that away from him. At the same time, there is something to be said for acknowledging that what he did was to do the most with the opportunity given to him by our society, and there's nothing wrong with paying back a little bit in gratitude for that opportunity.

See, that's the thing that modern conservatives have gotten away from. It used to be that their argument was that you work hard, earn what you get and if you make good, show some gratitude. Today, it seems that they don't mind the work (in fact, for some of them, there is nothing outside of work in their lives), and they certainly don't mind earning what they have. When you lose the gratitude part, though, you create unadulterated greed and that's what we've seen run corporate boardrooms these past eight years.

Gratitude. It's healthy.

07 November 2008

The Promise of Obama

Now that Election Day has ended media speculation of whether Barack Obama can win, it has turned its attention to what he might try to accomplish in office once inaugurated.  Even ESPN is reporting on the impact of Mr. Obama on sports, from off-season baseball signings to luring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago to boosting the strength of Title IX.  Chief on everyone's mind is what Obama can or will do about the economy, which appears to die more each day despite the $700B bailout measures approved before the election.  First and foremost, though, is the hiring of a cabinet.

For the average voter, a president-elect's cabinet making process is little more than the media having nothing better to cover now that an election is over.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  "He's going to be the president; he'll be in charge," you think.  And, yes, the buck stops at the presidency.  However, those top-level government positions serve two functions that should never be underestimated.  First, remember that a president does not legislate--he executes the law.  These men and women are his lieutenants, overseeing the various components of the government that make policy reality.  You wouldn't want the Secretary of State to be too antagonistic of the Pentagon and you wouldn't want the Surgeon General to be too friendly with pharmaceutical companies.  You wouldn't want these things because then you risk a military finding ways not to cooperate with the presidency and a greater push on doctors to write unwarranted prescriptions.

Secondly, no president is an expert in every field.  Some have favored economics, others warfare.  He must rely on those around him to guide him through the nuances of these important issues.  In his Eyewitness to Power, former presidential speechwriter and advisor David Gergen describes the influence of the White House Chief of Staff and cabinet members on Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.  Nowhere is the significance greater than in his perspective of what went wrong with the Nixon presidency.  Gergen identifies White House Chief of Staff H. Robert Haldeman as the man who daily worked to insulate the president from any dissenting opinions, provoking Nixon's paranoia and firing at will anyone who threatened his carefully cultivated bubble.

Make no mistake about it: with whom a president surrounds himself is of the utmost importance to the American people.  Many feel that President George W. Bush's neo-conservative cabinet betrayed the "compassionate conservative" image on which he ran for office in 2000, and might not have cast their ballot for him had they known the kind of people that would hold such important positions in the federal government.

Speaking as a Crohnie, I read with great interest an Associated Press article speculating what impact the Obama administration will have on the Food and Drug Administration.  Under President Bush, the FDA has repeatedly been caught with its pants down, approving and quickly having to recall several dangerous pharmaceuticals as well as food contamination issues.  Critics believe that these are the direct result of Bush's de-regulatory policies, which have greatly curtailed government agencies's effectiveness in monitoring public safety.

The final paragraph of the AP article conjectures that "industry officials expect the Obama administration to work with Congress to create a legal framework for the FDA to review and approve generic versions of biologic drugs."  For those who are unaware, biologics are a class of drugs crafted by medical scientists in labs to target and treat very specific conditions.  They are also so expensive that they are practically unattainable for uninsured patients.  A recent Washington Post article reports that 25% of those on the market have been issued safety warnings, indicating an alarming rate of patients experiencing harmful side effects.

A more conscientious FDA should translate into safer medications, and generic biologics will definitely improve treatment options for Americans suffering from various conditions from Crohn's disease to rheumatoid arthritis.  Even if Mr. Obama fails to deliver on his campaign pledge to compel insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, even if he does not find a way to offer more affordable health care for those of us without, these two areas have the potential to vastly improve the health of millions.

04 November 2008

Congratulations, Mr. Obama

28 August 2008
Senator Barack Obama accepts the presidential
nomination of the Democratic Party in Denver, Colorado

4 November 2008
President-Elect Barack Obama declares victory in Chicago, Illinois

20 January 2009
President Barack Obama will be inaugurated the 44th
President of the United States of America in Washington, D.C.

Baseball & Presidents

The polls have just begun to close on Election Day 2008, and I am just now getting to this little curiosity of mine.  I wondered during the World Series what relationship, if any, might exist between crowning the Major League Baseball champion shortly before voting a president into office.  The World Series began its modern incarnation in 1903, near the end of Theodore Roosevelt's first term of office.  While 1904 was an election year, the second annual World Series was boycotted by the New York Giants.  This year, then, marks the 100th anniversary of the first time that a World Series was played during an election year.  You can look up the particulars for yourself, but this is the relationship between leagues and parties winning their contests:

Major League Baseball
American League: 17 wins
National League: 8 wins

Presidential Politics
Democratic Party: 12 wins
Republican Party: 13 wins

By Combination
American League & Democratic: 7 wins
American League & Republican: 10 wins
National League & Democratic: 5 wins
National League & Republican: 3 wins

As the polls roll in, it bears noting that the 2008 World Series was won by the National League's Philadelphia Phillies.  Just sayin'.

Edit: Democratic nominee Barack Obama has won the 2008 Presidential Election.  The revised totals now read:

Major League Baseball
American League: 17 wins
National League: 8 wins

Presidential Politics
Democratic Party: 13 wins
Republican Party: 13 wins

By Combination
American League & Democratic: 7 wins
American League & Republican: 10 wins
National League & Democratic: 6 wins
National League & Republican: 3 wins

03 November 2008

To Vote or Not to Vote

"I never vote for anyone; I always vote against."
--W.C. Fields

Each year since 2001, I have polled my closest friends about the songs that stand out to them for the year.  I won't go into the particulars, but know that in the interest of variety, we only admit one song per artist to our year-end list.  There have been about ten of us each year, and I have to tell you that organizing a democratic process is not easy.  It's also not something that you can control.  I remember in 2004, it seemed that Toby Keith's "Beer for My Horses" was going to be unanimous until another voter cast a ballot for "I Love This Bar."  "Beer" was a six-week, number one hit that dominated the summer of '04.  Yet, our dissenting voter argued that he had spent a lot of that year hanging out in clubs that resembled the lyrics of "Bar."

There have been songs that made the final year-end list that surprised me, and several more that didn't that surprised me even more.  I never can tell who will vote for what songs or artists, and each year that we do this, I find the end result fascinating.  When you put the outcome of anything in the hands of individuals, control goes entirely out the window.  Trust me: there may well be election officials who interfere with tallying each vote, but no one can influence who shows up and votes.

Maybe "Beer for My Horses" will still make the final list, but it doesn't have to be unanimous if you find something else to vote for this year.  You can't control who votes for, or against, your candidate.  What you can do, and what you should do, is cast your ballot.

David Garrard: Friend or Foe?

David Garrard, quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, has recently begun appearing in a television commercial for Centocor.  Centocor is a medication used to treat Crohn's disease, the chronic digestive disorder from which yours truly (among others) suffers.  In the commercial, a smiling Garrard is seen on a bright, sunny day tossing the pigskin on the gridiron with his teammates.  In a voiceover, he informs us that Crohn's disease has not stopped his pursuit of living his dream as a professional athlete.  The commercial directs us to websites for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, as well as for Centocor.

As a Crohnie, I have very mixed feelings about this commercial.  On the one hand, it is certainly encouraging that Garrard can continue to play ball competitively with Crohn's.  I maintain a MySpace profile dedicated to meeting Crohnies and discussing our shared experiences, and I frequently do the same on WeAreCrohns.org (a social networking website dedicated to Crohn's and colitis patients).  What Garrard does is shine a beacon of hope for all of us.  I mean, there was never any danger of me going pro, but others out there who have that dream will certainly be encouraged to believe they can still realize it.

On the other hand, the single most frustrating part of having Crohn's disease is the lack of understanding about it.  Treatment options are quite limited, because medical science does not currently know enough about what causes Crohn's to know what to do about it.  The general public's knowledge about Crohn's is practically nonexistant.  I fear that Joe Six Pack's entire understanding of Crohn's will be like his understanding of most things--entirely informed by television.  He will get the idea that Crohn's disease is as easily treated as, say, "restless leg syndrome," and that those of us who aren't playing ball are whiners.

I think Garrard's message is well-intentioned, and is powerful for Crohnies.  I also think it has the potential to really complicate matters for the rest of us as we try to connect with a normal, healthy lifestyle.  It's hard enough for many of us to find teachers and bosses who tolerate our condition and its impact on our reliability to be somewhere on time, to stay the duration and to be productive the entire time.  It won't get any easier now that their perception of Crohn's is that it's quickly and easily controlled by a pill.