St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Selective Serotonin Retraction Enhancer

OK maybe I was trolling the audience a tiny bit there. Or myself.  Mostly I found the prospect of duelling inhibitors and enhancers to be hilarious, but reality is never so neat, as several interlocutors of fine taste and discernment quite rightly commented.

In fact, while the SSRIs do inhibit serotonin reuptake, this is probably not how they actually work; hell, it's not entirely clear that they work significantly better than sugar pills. Similarly, if you followed the link to the article on tianeptine, you saw that it's now thought to act via glutamate receptors, not serotonin.

Finally, while rational drug discovery has led to some very silly situations in psychopharmacology, it's been very successful in other areas, and psychopharmacology is really mindblowingly difficult, so it's not really fair to attack it the way I did.

Also I am a big dumb head. But I still think the pixie joke was good.

St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Selective Serotonin Rewait what

The SSRIs--selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors--are a class of drugs commonly used as antidepressants. They 'work' by keeping neurons from absorbing serotonin from the synaptic cleft back into the cell, increasing the amount of available serotonin. This is good because serotonin is made of tiny pixies who want to be free, so keeping it out of the cells makes them happy, and that makes the patient happy by the magickal principle of contagion.

Well, that's about as close to the truth as any other version, and closer than the popular 'chemical imbalance' non-explanation, which is just updated humoralism. You need more serotonin, or black bile, one of the two.

If you don't believe me, consider tianeptine.  Tianeptine is a selective serotonin reuptake enhancer--it encourages the neurons to suck more serotonin out of the synaptic cleft, reducing the amount of available serotonin.

Yep, it's an antidepressant. Apparently a pretty effective one.

What the hell is going on?  Well, either:

  • Nobody actually knows how the hell these things work, or...

  • Tweaking serotonin in either direction can treat depression.

Actually, the first option is pretty much true regardless. Do SSRIs actually work directly via serotonin, or by indirectly promoting neurogenesis, or what? Last I checked (which I admit was a few years ago) it seemed very much up in the air.  But the second option appeals to my interest in dynamical systems, and my own 'punching the TV set' hypothesis of psychopharmacology.  You youngsters may not remember such things, but when an old CRT TV set was on the blink, hitting/shaking it would often knock its components back into their sockets and get it to work again.  By analogy, some psychiatric disorders may amount to getting stuck in a pathological stable orbit of a dynamical system, and perturbing the parameters of the system may knock it back into a healthy orbit*.

*: Yes, this is super-waffly, things are vastly more complicated than that, and it's unlikely that this is a fruitful metaphor for treating most illnesses. On the other hand, look at bipolar disorder.  What is that but an eigenvalue wandering into the right half-plane**?

**: This is also a super-waffly metaphor but perhaps slightly less so***.

***: Note also that there's a separate medical application for this metaphor where it works quite well: cardiac arrhythmia. Perturbing the system to knock it back into a healthy orbit is precisely what a defibrillator does.
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

T. Rev and Random's Guide to Lovecraftian Drinking

rfrancis informs me that this essential document from ancient days is in the process of falling off the edge of the Internet. For posterity's sake, then:

T. Rev and Random's Guide to Lovecraftian Drinking


  • 1 part kahlua

  • 1 part vermouth

  • 1 part Yoo-Hoo

The drink that belongs at the bottom of the ocean locked in a tomb.


  • 9 parts Everclear

  • 1 part vodka

Makes you sit at the center of the universe and gibber.


  • 1 part NyQuil

  • 1 STP Oil Treatment

Puts you to sleep, kills you, then takes over your body and makes you drive
to Arkham. Okay, not really.


  • 1 part Chambord

  • 1 part beet juice

Need we say more?



St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Understanding Zhuangzi

Want to write this down while it's on my mind.

Some very smart and insightful people I know have bounced off Zhuangzi with the impression that the book is full of self-contradictory nonsense. This is in some sense true, but misleading.

Most philosophical works seek to make deep points via extended argument, building up ideas over whole pages or chapters, leading to some capstone idea. Looking for that kind of thing in the Zhuangzi will do your head in. If most philosophical works are like textbooks, the Zhuangzi is like a cookbook.

Zhuangzi's usual mode plays out like this: "Here's something interesting to consider. What does it mean? Hmm..." If you're expecting a conclusion or thesis, this is very disorienting, because a lot of the time there is none! Zhuangzi constructs situations and turns away from them ambiguously, often leading the reader in one direction and then undermining them. Zhuangzi isn't presenting a point, Zhuangzi is presenting a point of view.

Compare these passages on death:

From chapter 18:
When Zhuangzi's wife died, Hui Zi went to mourn with him, but found Zhuangzi sitting on the floor with his legs stretched out in front of him, banging on a drum and singing.

Hui Zi said: "You lived with this woman, raised your children with her and got old together. That you don't cry about someone dying is one thing, but to be banging on a drum and singing shows complete lack of affection for her!"

Zhuangzi said: "Not at all. When she first died, how couldn't I react to it! I thought back to the time before she was born. Not only before she was born, but to the time before she had any shape whatsoever. Not only before she had any shape, but to the time before she had any spiritual essence. So many different pieces blended together between the time when she was nothing at all and the time when she came into existence. As they evolved, so did her spiritual essence. As her spiritual essence evolved, her shape arose. As her shape evolved, she was born, and now the evolution has resulted in her death. Just like there are spring and autumn, summer and winter, the four seasons naturally progress from each other. For the time being she is lying down and appears to be sleeping in a huge room, and I started out rushing around trying to follow her while crying my eyes out. Then I realized I was simply trying to obstruct destiny, so I stopped."

Chapter 24:
Zhuangzi was taking part in a funeral procession when he passed the grave of Hui Zi. He turned around to face those behind him and said:

"There was a man from Ying who had a speck of plaster on the tip of his nose sitting there like the wing of a fly, so he requested that Carpenter Shi chop it off. Carpenter Shi swung his ax making a sound like hissing wind and chopped off the piece of plaster without causing any harm at all to his nose while the man from Ying just stood there without losing his composure. When Duke Yuan of Song heard about this feat, he summoned Carpenter Shi and said: 'I'd like you to try doing that on me.' Carpenter Shi said: 'As your servant I'm able to carve things. However, what I used as the substance for doing that particular feat died long ago.'"

"My own dearest friend has died. I no longer have any substance to act upon! I no longer have anyone I can share in discussions with!"

Chapter 18 again:
On his travels through the state of Chu, Zhuangzi noticed a hollow skull. Even though it was old and covered with dirt, he could still make out its shape. Zhuangzi poked it with his riding crop and then asked it:

"My friend, was it because you lost your principles and were corrupt in your life that you ended up this way? Or was it because you had no loyalty to the affairs of your country and your head was chopped off that you ended up this way? Or was it because your behavior was so horrendous you brought shame to your parents and wife that you ended up this way? Or did you end up this way simply because you found yourself cold and hungry out here in the wilderness? Or did you just die a natural death when your time was up?"

When he was finished speaking, he went to sleep using the skull as a pillow. In the middle of the night the skull came to him in a dream and said: "It's obvious from what you said that you're an eloquent and educated speaker. Everything you said shows the ways people exhaust themselves while they're alive. After you're dead, there's no need for all that. Do you want me to tell you about what it's like to be dead?"

Zhuangzi said: "Yes."

The skull said: "In death there's no ruler above you nor a servant below. Also, you're not affected by the four seasons. You can be as spontaneous as the heavens and the earth, and simply flow along naturally. Even the happiness of the highest king couldn't be any better than this."

In disbelief, Zhuangzi said: "If I could control destiny and bring you back to life again in your previous body with bones, flesh and skin, and you could return to your parents, wife, friends and neighbors, would you like that?"

The skull gave an angry glare and said: "Why in the world would I want to give up happiness comparable to the highest king and return to the toils of human life?"

(All translations by Nina Correa:

What's the Zhuangist philosophy of death? That's something interesting to consider. What does it mean? Hmm...
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Rev's Law

This seems like it ought to be a well-known principle, but I can't find it set down anywhere, so I am claiming it for myself.
Rev's Law: Given sufficient inferential distance, wrong and confident is more convincing than correct and hedged.
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Goodbye Tumblr

Made a Tumblr account about a week ago.

Using Tumblr was like eating a cake and slowly realizing it had been made with spoiled eggs.

Just deleted the account. I know nobody's using LJ any more but this is home.
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Upside Down

On one fateful day in 1986, Army veteran Steven Down’s (Matthew Tompkins) life was turned upside down, when an assignment in Nicaragua led to his capture at the hands of a paramilitary unit who beat and tortured him within inches of his life.

When Eva (Thora Birch) secretly adopts a mischievous capuchin monkey, her life turns upside down in this slapstick family comedy.

50 Cent stars as gifted college running back Deon in this touching drama. Deon’s world turns upside down when an unexpected crisis jeopardizes his professional ambitions — and causes him to look at himself and his life in a new way.

Tangie the Tangerine Bear has a problem: His smile was sewn on upside down at the factory, and nobody wants to buy a toy bear with a frown.

A Chicago couple’s perfect life is instantly turned upside down when a kidnapper with an elaborate scheme abducts their little girl.

Single politician Melissa has her life turned upside-down when she is made guardian of her niece, Lennox, and nephew, Ryder.

Two teens turn a staid convent upside down with their youthful glee and zany antics.

A magic Christmas ornament turns two men’s lives upside down when homophobic Tony starts preferring men two weeks before his wedding and his gay co-worker Steve finds himself blossoming into a ladies’ man.

History and legend are both turned upside-down as Lincoln tracks the creatures of the night.

Our best guess for you: ***

Based in your interest in: Maverick Cop: the Motion Picture, Firefly, and Ponyo.
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Chronicles of the Handsome Stranger

When her boyfriend dumps her just before the holidays, aspiring artist Trudie desperately kidnaps a handsome stranger named David.

A fiercely independent girl sticks it to her conservative parents by hooking up with a handsome stranger passing through town.

When the handsome stranger they’ve invited to join them for a cruise aboard a luxury yacht suddenly disappears, a trio of spoiled young friends begins to become unhinged as they discuss how to resolve the situation.

Mystery lurks in the shadowy corners of a luxurious ocean liner as a young woman traveling on her own enters into a romantic liaison with a handsome stranger who may be an accomplished art forger and a cold-hearted killer.

But the more Donovan learns about this handsome stranger, the more she begins to wonder whether love is in her future.

At a lavish European hotel, a handsome stranger tries to convince a lovely young woman that they had a passionate affair a year ago.

When Mo-rae goes shopping to buy an anniversary present for her beloved husband, she meets and has a sudden fling with a handsome stranger named Du-re — only to discover that her new lover is her husband’s friend and business associate.

It’s Handsome Stranger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to the rescue!

Our best guess for you: *1/2

Based on your interest in: Maverick Cop: the Motion Picture, Two-Fisted: the Movie, and Ponyo.
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Two-Fisted: the Movie

Friday Foster (Pam Grier) turns into a two-fisted avenger when her subject becomes the target of an assassination attempt.

Two-fisted trucker Jack Burton and sexy attorney Gracie Law must navigate a shadowy world filled with supernatural creatures and spectacular action to capture the culprit.

Set in the Pacific Theater during World War II, this two-fisted military series follows the exploits of the famed Black Sheep Squadron.

When a Phantom Cat that had defected and was assisting Total Security in a raid is kidnapped, it’ll take rip-roaring explosions, terrifying chase scenes, and lots of two-fisted fighting to save the country -- and the cat -- in this anime actioner.

From the director of Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture comes an action-packed adventure in the two-fisted tradition of Ultra Man!

Get ready for rip-roaring explosions, terrifying chase scenes, and lots of two-fisted fighting action!

Mickey Spillane’s private eye character, Mike Hammer (Stacey Keach), is a two-fisted detective who’s tough and honest.

This fascinating documentary profiles some of Mexican soccer’s two-fisted stars — ferocious players who struck fear into the hearts of opponents thanks to a well-placed push or sharp kick.

Two-fisted, Motor City cop Jericho Jackson (Carl Weathers) locks horns with Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson), an auto tycoon who’s methodically eliminating the union’s big wheels in a political power grab.

With a group of tourists as his unwitting posse, Law must punch and kick his way through the San Francisco underworld, putting his kung fu skills to the test. Can this two-fisted antihero survive the onslaught?

Ann Fay and Shirley Palmer co-star in director Mack V. Wright’s two-fisted Western.

Two-fisted communist hunters Jim McLain (John Wayne) and Mal Baxter (James Arness) discover that there’s a bigger conspiracy afoot than they ever imagined in this vintage Cold War thriller.

Our best guess for you: ***1/2

Based on your interest in: Maverick Cop: the Motion Picture
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Maverick Cop

Continually in the doghouse with department brass, maverick detective Azuma puts his badge further at risk when he sets his mind on revenge after a fellow cop turns up dead at the hands of a yakuza enforcer.

Maverick cop Sean Riley is still grief-stricken over the death of his young son when he’s paired with a rookie partner to investigate a string of brutal murders that leads to an old friend who’s involved in a terrifying conspiracy.

A sordid tale of police corruption involving real-life New York City detective Bo Dietl (portrayed by Stephen Baldwin), a maverick who -- on top of his daily battles with street thugs -- must fight crooked cops within his unit.

Aikido master Steven Segal stars as Gino Felino, a maverick cop raised on the mean streets of Brooklyn who generally demands respect from both sides of the law.

With the help of a maverick cop, Graver and Alexa must face Mahler and his army of elite assassins -- and only the strongest will survive.

After getting suspended from the police force, maverick cop Sam Garrett (Treat Williams) joins a reality show that includes a treasure hunt and a $10 million prize.

Aided by a maverick cop (Ken McLeod) and a femme fatale (Susan Byun), Prince tracks his quarry deep into Chinatown, where rival gangs are on the verge of all-out war.

Two lawmen try to shut down a cyborg manufacturing plant, and a maverick cop battles a high-tech murdering machine in this sci-fi double bill.

Released from prison four years after taking the rap for a heist she didn’t commit, a vengeful woman teams with a hard-drinking maverick cop to nail the culprit: her former boyfriend, who left her for dead at the scene of the robbery.

James Belushi stars as maverick vice cop Thomas Dooley, who’s been fervently pursuing an elusive drug dealer (Kevin Tighe) for two years.

A maverick Irish cop whose daughter was slain by the IRA, tough-as-nails detective Tommy Murphy (James Nesbitt) wages war against London’s crime world by going undercover and taking down blackmailers, thieves, money launderers, drug dealers and killers.

I like to think this is all one movie.