Blog Archive

Sunday, November 30, 2014

When Hemophilia Prevents Vampirism*

I love reading books, and have already hit my target for 35 books this year. History, nonfiction, biography, exploration and rock bands seem to attract me the most. I hope to cram in about two more before the year is out. One I may try is Mari Mancusi's Blood Ties: A Blood Coven Vampire Novel. 

Our friend and colleague Richard Atwood sent me a synopsis and commentary on this "young adult" book, which includes a main character who has hemophilia. That fascinates me and makes me want to read it.  I can easily accept the fantasy part (vampires and fairies) but have a hard time when someone mangles the science. I mean, science is science.  Here's the rather convoluted plot:

Sunshine McDonald, or Sunny, a teenager with a freckled nose and long dirty blond hair, is enrolled in Las Vegas High School. Her formal name is Princess Sunshine of the Sidhe Light Court of Tir na nOg. Sunny is the royal daughter of Queen Shrinking Violet. Sunny has wings and can fly because she is a full-blooded fairy. She also has a twin sister named Rayne with black hair.  

Rayne, the only known vampiric fae in existence, wants to be a vampire slayer and recently attended a two-week vampire 12-step rehab program. (You gotta love that) Sunny was bitten by a vampire - she turned into one for six days due to mistaken identity with her sister and then became mortal again, or was cured, after drinking blood, whose antibodies help the human cells, from the Holy Grail in England. There she met Lord Magnus, Master of the Blood Coven. Sunny loves Jayden, a mortal with green eyes and black hair who earlier saved her life. Jayden has hemophilia. (How does that relate to the plot? I'm sure I don't know!)

Jayden is bitten by a vampire, and to save him, Sunny allows herself to be bitten again (who is doing all this biting?) to provide blood for the first time. Jayden is ill. Lord Magnus explains Jaydens condition to Sunny: Hes stable now,he replies. But I dont know for how long. I dont know if its because of the manner in which he was bitten or his hemophiliac blood disorderbut his human cells arent properly bonding with the vampire ones. Meaning hes not really a vampire. But hes not really human either.” Maybe hemophilia interferes with turning into a vampire?

 Jayden needs transfusions for his vampirism (not for his hemophilia). Sunny provides more of her blood using a syringe and blood bag (sadly Sunny did not follow universal safety precautions!), but the cure for Jayden is to drink from the Holy Grail. The trio set off to England but the Holy Grail is stolen and taken to Tokyo for the impending war with the vampire Consortium. In Tokyo Sunny rescues her abducted twin sister and prevents the war between the vampire factions. Good job, Sunny. Before the Holy Grail is blown up in the Japanese temple by the Consortium vampires, Sunny transfers to Jayden some of its blood by kissing him, thus curing him of being a vampire. Sunny asks Jayden how he is feeling once they return to Las Vegas: One hundred percent,he says, looking slightly bashful. Except for the fact that somehow in the transition my hemophilia went away.” What?!

Richard writes: This description of hemophilia is just as unrealistic and unbelievable as the rest of the story, but that will not deter its popularity with teen readers as they somehow relate to a romantic fairy princess who kicks butt. The YA novel is part of on-going series about these vampire and fairy characters, including the character with hemophilia. The Emmy Award winning author and television producer lives in Austin, Texas with her husband.

And I'd like to know: does Mancusi know anyone in Texas with hemophilia? Who's the real life model for Jayden? Inquiring minds want to know. I'm pretty sure Mancusi didn't read my book on hemophilia, which has no section on vampires. 

Maybe a good stocking stuffer for your young adult reader with hemophilia? Blood Ties: A Blood Coven Vampire Novel by Mari Mancusi, 2011, New York, NY: Berkley Books. 231 pages.

*Just kidding folks. Hemophilia does not protect against vampirism! Buy yourselves some garlic. 

Great Book I Just Read
The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A fable developed during the real-life crash in the desert of Saint-Expury's plane, this story has become a beloved classic. The little Prince is a visitor from another planet who appears in the desert, keeps the aviator company until he is rescued, and dispenses worldy wisdom with simple observations and visits to other planets, each small and occupied by only one person or animal. Lessons include:  to think outside the box, look at the world and its people with your heart, and my favorite, "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed".  Five/five stars. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bill Cosby: Who Knew?

In the 27 years I've been in the hemophilia community, I've seen us searching for celebrities with ties to hemophilia. For spokespeople, supporters, to help us raise awareness. We've come close a few times, but no celebrity we know of actually has hemophilia or has a child with hemophilia.

Last week we showed how the Beatles had a brush with hemophilia. Now our friend Richard Atwood has uncovered another connection: Bill Cosby. Who knew?

Richard writes a review of a book on Cosby:  William Henry Cosby Jr., or Bill, was born in Philadelphia on July 12, 1937. He was the eldest of four children, one of whom was epileptic, born to Anna and William Cosby. The sometimes fatherless family lived in the projects in a poor district of North Philadelphia. As a child, Bill was shy and used humor to gain acceptance. Though he was admitted to a high school for gifted students, Bill did not fit in and transferred. After being held back for the 10th grade, Bill dropped out of school and later at 19 joined the navy. While serving as a hospital corpsman, Cosby earned his high school diploma. Older and more serious, Cosby next enrolled at Temple University where he ran track and played football. He also started earning enough as a stand-up comic to drop out of school. In 1963, he met Camille Hanks, a psychology major at the University of Maryland, and the couple married on January 25, 1964. 

Cosby also performed for the first of many times on The Tonight Show in 1963. Both live on stage and recorded on vinyl, Cosby presented his comedic monologues that created a mythical childhood blending fact and fiction. Beginning in 1965 for three years, the television series I Spy was groundbreaking, and Emmy award winning, for the young actor. That same year, the first of his five children was born Erika was soon followed by Erinne, Ennis, Ensa, and Evin. Cosbys interest in teaching children through documentaries and television programs led to his enrollment at the University of Massachusetts to earn masters and doctorate degrees in education in 1976. More television series, cartoon series, commercials, records, movies, and books, plus his stand-up comedy tours, increased his celebrity status, income, and awards, but not without some controversy. His humor offended some, and Cosby could not please others for his perceived lack of involvement in the civil rights movement. Richard notes that this friendly biography of Cosby glosses over any personality difficulties, such as being irritated by continual questions about race. 

As a celebrity, Cosby helped raise funds and served on advisory boards for organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the Black Film Foundation. Sometime before 1971, Cosby was also chairman of the National Hemophilia Foundation. (pp. 91-92).

Representatives of NHF could neither confirm nor deny that Cosby once held the title of chairman of NHF. The December 4, 1969 issue of Jet magazine reported that Cosby was named honorary chairman of the National Hemophilia Foundation, a more likely distinction for his fundraising role.

The book is by Ronald L. Smith, 1986, Cosby. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 181 pages. Celebrity is a double-edge sword. Now, with allegations of sexual misconduct and rape by Cosby flooding the media, it's probably a good thing there are no ties with NHF any longer. 

Great Book I Just Read
It's So Easy and Other Lies [Kindle]
Duff McKagan

McKagan tells the interesting, shocking and even poignant story of his rise from obscurity to incredible fame as a founder of Guns N'Roses in 1984, when he answered an add for a bass player by someone called Slash. Only 20 years old, naive and shy, he was thrust into the world of music industry sharks, massive egos, crazed fans, brutal travel schedule... and drugs. It's hard to overestimate the impact the band had on his life: dubbed the most dangerous band in the world, headed by a seemingly ego maniacal front man, Guns N'Roses would sell more than 100 million albums. What makes this story so different than the ones I read by Slash himself and Chuck Negron recently, is the tone and the obvious depth McKagan has. He is a sensitive soul who loves his mother. He grieved when fans were crushed during one of their concerts. He isolated himself when he became addicted, sought help, and soon became clean; he buried himself in reading the Classics, shunned women, took up mountain biking (great section to read), became a devout martial arts student, and most amazingly, went to community college, then college to complete his degree with the enthusiasm of a child. It's hard not to love this guy and applaud his amazing come-back and story. Wonderful read. Four/five stars just for heart.

Monday, November 10, 2014

With a Little Help from My (Hemophilia) Friends

While I'm on vaction this week, please enjoy this fascinating bit of hemophilia rock trivia from our colleague Richard Atwood of North Carolina!

During their 1964 tour of America, the Beatles stayed in Los Angeles for five days. The band rented a mansion at 356 St. Pierre Road in the Hidden Hills neighborhood of Bel Air. They held a sold-out concert on Saturday, August 23 for almost 19,000 paying fans seated inside the Hollywood Bowl, plus another 10-15,000 gate-crashers in the trees outside the amphitheater. Capitol Records planned to record the live concert but the continual shrieking by the audience prevented a good sound recording. After their performance, the band members partied until dawn at their gated house with about 30 starlets, including Peggy Lipton, Joan Baez, Billy Preston, and Ray Hildebrand and Jill Jackson (known as Paul and Paula).

Then on Sunday afternoon, Brian Epstein and the Beatles attended a charity garden party hosted by Alan Livingston, the president of Capitol Records, in the Brentwood backyard of Livingstons mother-in-law. The party was a fundraiser for the Hemophilia Foundation of Southern California. Livingstons wife, the actress Nancy Olson, was a foundation board member. Hollywood celebrities were charged $25 each to bring their children. This event, held on August 24, 1964, raised $10,000.

At the party, Livingston went to great lengths to accommodate the Beatles, who, after being cold-shouldered by the label, had rocketed Capitols profits into stratosphere. No expense had been spared to stage a Hollywood-style spectacular. A festive striped tent had been set up in the spacious backyard, where vendors dispensed soft ice cream and lemonade to a litter of gorgeously groomed children. There were pony rides and games. Security was unparalleled, befitting a presidential visit, with a fully armed riot squad stashed in the garage, just in case. The guest list was a whos who of local dignitaries, complete with a selection of hand-picked celebrities, each of whom was required by the hosts to bring a child: Edward G. Robinson had in tow his granddaughter, Francesa; Lloyd Bridges, his son Jeff; Rita Hayworth, her daughter, Princess Yasmin Khan; Donald OConnor, his son, Freddy, and daughter, Alicia; Jack Palance, his daughter, Holly; Eva Marie Saint, her son Darrell, and daughter, Laurie; Barbara Rush, her son Christopher; Jeanne Martin brought five of Deans children a few feet in front of Jerry Lewis, who bolted as soon as he saw them, leaving his son, Gary, behind rather than risk an encounter with his estranged partner.(pp. 527-528).

The Beatles were not impressed with the fundraiser. We saw a couple of film stars,John [Lennon] relented, but added: We were expecting to see more.(p. 528).

Richard writes: The hemophilia fundraiser was just a minor event in the definitive biography of the Beatles. Captured on news footage and reported by Saul Halpert, the hemophilia fundraising event has since been posted on YouTube. Other celebrity guests who reportedly attended but were not recognized in the biography included John Forsyth; Groucho Marx; Jack Benny; Jack Lemmon; Rock Hudson; Dean Martin; Richard Chamberlain; Hayley Mills; Shelly Winters; Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper; Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty, his wife, and his son, Bill; and Kenneth Hahn with his daughter, Janice. A multitude of teenage fans and press reporters remained outside the mansion gates that Sunday afternoon. 

From Bob Spitz, 2005, The Beatles: The Biography. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. 984 pages.The 984-page biography of the band includes 32 pages of photographs, 4 pages for Acknowledgments, 87 pages for Notes, 11 pages for a Bibliography, 3 pages for a Discography, and 21 pages for an Index. The author lives in Connecticut.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Blood: From Vitalism to Vampires

Halloween has passed, and though it’s fun to see our friends’ and family’s children dressed in costumes on Facebook, there are plenty of “shock” photos circulating on the internet of dummies smeared with blood—one even prompted a 911 distress call, so realistic was it. Halloween conjures up images of Friday the 13th movie characters as well as vampires.

Transfusion: Now that's scary
Our business in hemophilia is blood. Blood at once attracts and horrifies; it is the stuff of legends and tales, myths and medicine. I recently read the classic Dracula [read the book review below] and was amused to read how Dr. Van Helsing wanted to help the young Lucy, a victim of a vampire, by giving her a transfusion of blood. “Is it you or me?" he asks Dr. John Steward, about who will roll up their sleeve to donate; Steward who replies, "I am younger and stronger, Professor. It must be me."
Steward offered his blood based on the concept of vitalism, that blood contains the traits of the being in which it flowed—a concept that was unchallenged for fifteen hundred years. Later in the book, Van Helsing says to Lucy's fiancé Arthur, “John was to give his blood, as he is the more young and strong than me…. But now you are here, you are more good than us, old or young, who toil much in the world of thought. Our nerves are not so calm and our blood so bright than yours!"

Not so picky: Any old blood will do
So Arthur becomes the better blood donor because he is calm and not scholarly! Of course, this is nonsense, but author Bram Stoker fell for the widespread belief in vitalism when he wrote his book. Dracula isn’t so picky; he pretty much would drink anyone’s blood.

Douglas Starr tells us in his book Blood that the Egyptians saw blood as the carrier of the vital human spirit, and would bathe in it to restore themselves. Roman gladiators were said to have drunk the blood of their opponents to ingest their strength. “Our own culture attaches great value to blood, with the blood of Christ as among the holiest sacraments, blood libel as the most insidious slander, the blood-drinking vampire as the most odious demon.”*

Vampires… which are repelled by garlic and crucifixes (the two seemingly have nothing to do with one another). Yet rather than secure eternal spiritual life by consuming wine that has been transformed into Christ’s blood during Christian mass, Dracula drinks human blood to extend his physical life. 

The only thing scarier than vampires is the proliferation of teen movies about vampires!

*Starr, Douglas (2012-09-05). Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce (Kindle Locations 97-101). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Great Book I Just Read
Dracula  [Kindle]
By Bram Stoker

I haven’t read this book since high school, and forgot how wonderful and visionary it is. A classic, as it has spawned an entire genre of books and movies. Jonathan Harker, a young English lawyer, is summoned to Castle Dracula in Transylvania to finalize a real estate transaction with the eerie Count Dracula, who is purchasing property in London. Harker is warned by local peasants, who give him crucifixes and other charms against evil. As a guest, Harker soon notices strange things: the Count has no reflection, is never present in daylight, and scales the castle walls downward, like a lizard. Unable to escape, Harker is soon a prisoner, until the Count reaches London, with 50 boxes of earth. The novel is told only through letters and diary entries of the main characters, including: Harker’s fiancée, Mina Murray; her friend Lucy Westenra, who is bitten by Dracula and slowly turns into a vampire; Dr. John Seward, Lucy’s doctor and once beau. Harker reappears in Budapest and eventually returns to London. Dr. Van Helsing, an expert on vampires, is called in from Holland to help save Lucy. Everyone realizes Dracula’s scheme to populate London with the “Undead”—vampires. When Mina is bitten, and begins to turn into a vampire, the men sterilize the boxes of earth, set about London. Dracula, having no haven to stay when dawn comes, flees back to Transylvania, while the men pursue him. This is a fantastic story, though the language is not lofty or even that clever, with memorable characters, and cleverly told in letters and diaries. Perfect Halloween reading. Five/five stars.