Ballad of a teenage queen

She shouts for a reckoning with entire mouth and unspoilt heart. My friend Poodle (“Ursula”) from Christchurch NZ declares her joy, in love with these times. (rule for radicals: that’s why she’s a teacher and you’re not)

so thats me in the corner-thats me over there–was a hard arse interview 2 do-my dyslexia gets in the way some-times-just bear with it and it will show its beauty

Living With the Scars of Abuse

Source: Press, The Christchurch, New Zealand
Posted on: Wednesday, 1 October 2008, 15:00 CDT

New Zealand’s mental health system has a dark history, with hundreds of former patients alleging abuse in state hospitals. Kim Thomas tells the story of one woman who suffered abuse and explores what former patients are doing to try and take back their lives.

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Ursula spent her 22nd birthday huddling near naked in the corner of a bare room at Christchurch’s Sunnyside Hospital.

She was incarcerated at the now defunct mental-health hospital for slicing her arms from wrist to armpit with razors.

During her year-long stay at Sunnyside, Ursula (not her real name) was abused and humiliated.

For at least two months she was housed in an isolation room where she was stripped, sometimes by male nurses, and dressed in a thick woollen smock as punishment for her rowdy behaviour.

Her underpants and bra were taken from her and she was forced to use a pot as her toilet, in a room visible to staff and other patients.

More than 20 years later the scars of Ursula’s Sunnyside experience are still as visible as the razor marks lacing her arms. She is not alone.

Scores of former Sunnyside patients have disclosed abuse during their stay at the Gothic-style institution.

Nationwide, about 300 former patients claim abuse in mental hospitals during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Many were sent to psychiatric institutions because of behavioural difficulties but then treated as if they had serious psychiatric illnesses. Some were as young as eight.

Allegations include physical and sexual abuse, long periods of solitary confinement and the use of electro-convulsive (electric shock) therapy (ECT) as punishment.

In 2004, Attorney-General Margaret Wilson announced the establishment of a confidential forum where former patients, their families and hospital staff could tell their stories.

It recently announced a new forum, called the Listening and Assistance Service, for people who allege abuse or neglect during their time in state care in the health, child welfare or residential special education sector before 1992.

Justice and compensation is also being pursued in the law courts.

Wellington lawyer Sonia Cooper represents about 200 of 300 former psychiatric patients, including Ursula, seeking compensation for abuse.

They filed their first claims for compensation in 2004 but the matter remains unresolved. Cooper says she tried to negotiate with the Government out of court but failed.

In the latest chapter of this long running legal process, the Court of Appeal recently passed a judgment saying the Government had to prove that the actions former patients say was abuse was actually treatment, Cooper says.

“We want an acknowledgement that this abuse happened and an apology. If the Crown had been willing to deal with this out of the courts we wouldn’t be pursuing legal action,” Cooper says.

The Government has already made one large settlement to former psychiatric patients; in 2001, 183 former patients of Lake Alice’s adolescent unit received an apology and a share of $10.7 million compensation for claims including receiving ECT and injections as punishment, sexual abuse, ECT on the genitals in several cases, and one of being locked in a cage with a deranged adult.

About 240 civil cases are still pending.

A Crown Law office spokeswoman says it is reading the very complicated Crown Law judgement to decide what steps to take next.

Ursula says she would be dead had she stayed longer in Sunnyside. She sought legal counsel and had herself checked out of the hospital.

Ursula has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She says 20 years ago the disorder was poorly understood.

As a result, treatment for her self-harm and erratic behaviour involved being put into an isolation cell as punishment. Good behaviour was rewarded with treats such as winning her underwear back.

For a sexual abuse victim such as Ursula, being stripped was the ultimate in humiliation.

“I saw it as an extension of the brutality I had already had forced on me.”

She says she cannot believe the way people such as herself were treated in an environment that was supposed to be therapeutic.

Sunnyside was demolished last year. But even after its demise it holds a significant and sinister place in Christchurch’s collective conscience.

Christchurch theatre director Tony McCaffrey has recently secured Creative New Zealand funding to develop a play based on the goings on in the former mental-health hospital, which he hopes to open the stage curtains on next year.

As part of his research McCaffrey visited the ruins of the old hospital and pored over patient log books and photographs.

He also interviewed former nurses, superintendents and patients.

“I believe it’s important to acknowledge the huge role Sunnyside played in Christchurch’s history and craft a memorial to that,” McCaffrey says.

“Since I started this project almost everyone I talk to has some connection to the place, whether they knew someone who worked there or stayed there. Everyone has a story.”

McCaffrey says Sunnyside housed people from all walks of life and the way they were treated is an insight into the community’s psyche over the past century.

Sunnyside’s history also provides a window into the dark history of Christchurch because of some of the inhumane acts that happened there.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said abuse that occurred in institutions is a crying shame.

She says many staff from those times still feel ill at the things that went on.

However, they were often only doing what they were told or what was best practice at the time, Clements says. In time, people will probably look back at certain practices which occur in the mental health sector now, such as electric shock therapy, and condemn them as cruel or unnecessary.

I will be a good girl

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness — and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” Arundhati Roy

I’m deeply perplexed by this video making the rounds. Target: Women is an amusing poke at the marketing campaigns that attempt to manipulate modern women to ingest yogurt, yes, I said yogurt.

You know what else out there deserves our similarly sarcastic cultural criticism with or without alliteration? Crickets, you say. Yup. I’ve established cordial relations with the big feminist bloggers by stepping lightly in their comment threads, but I am enervated by the taboo on smacking down the PhRMA agenda as it pertains to women. If I had the wit and the skilz of the crew at Shakesville, Feministe or Pandagon I would do more than marvel at the opportunities missed, talent gone to waste, all the beautiful heads in the sand because it’s one thing to ridicule the merchandizinig of yogurt that makes women poop but to mock the marketing of female madness? Over the line, sparky!

Yogurt is very safe, antipsychotics are not. Truly not. And that’s the point. Maybe we just need a little inspiration.

(Rolling stone insert, originally uploaded at Soulful Sepulcher.)

Still think this is not a feminist issue?

The Academy:

One explanation offered is that physicians are influenced by gender stereotyping in pharmaceutical drug advertisements. It is argued that if drug ads display disproportionately more women than men, or if they portray women only as helpless, depressed, and incompetent, cultural stereotypes are reinforced, so that physicians may be likely to diagnose and treat women differently from men in sex biased ways.

The Pitch:

Abilify is the medicine that brings you to your senses.Purchase Abilify from understanding international online pharmacies and licensed US pharmacies at savings of up to 85% off of retail and cheap prices with no prior prescription needed. Using our complete online form you can Purchase Abilify through our online foreign pharmacy. Let us fill your prescription with our lower cost online prescription drugs and receive high quality medications.

These are not anti-depressants. They’re heavy-hitter atypical neuroleptics designed to treat psychosis; the manufacturers are merely expanding their market in an unrelenting campaign against insecure, anxious nailbiting women with garden variety moodswings and subclinical neuroses.

That’s the allure, isn’t it.

Hold on Hanna, see here. This is a typical atypical patient insert (typically unread), that your doctor won’t have time to go over with you:

“ABILIFY (aripiprazole) is indicated for the treatment of


Tell your healthcare professional right away if you have any conditions or side effects, including the following:

  • An increased risk of stroke and ministroke
  • Very high fever, rigid muscles, shaking, confusion, sweating, or increased heart rate and blood pressure. These may be signs of a condition called neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), a rare but serious side effect which could be fatal
  • Abnormal or uncontrollable movements. These may be signs of a serious condition called tardive dyskinesia (TD), which may be permanent
  • Diabetes, Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), in some cases serious and associated with coma or death
  • Lightheadedness or faintness caused by a sudden change in heart rate and blood pressure when rising quickly .
  • Elderly patients who are treated with atypical antipsychotic medicines includingABILIFY, are at an increased risk of death when compared to patients who are treated with a placebo (sugar pill).

Medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) can affect your judgment, thinking, or motor skills. You should not drive or operate hazardous machinery.

Since medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) can impact your body’s ability to reduce body temperature, you should avoid overheating and dehydration.

Medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) have been associated with swallowing problems (dysphagia). If you had or have swallowing problems, you should tell your healthcare professional.

If you have suicidal thoughts, you should tell your healthcare professional right away.”

Dangerous, disabling, permanent and beckoning. Inescapable really and we’re riffing on yogurt.

The snakepit is doing its job

Our officials do nothing while a flood of ink spills about the known atrocities taking place in Texas MHMR residential facilities. From my initial link three weeks ago on 800 disciplinary actions taken against Texas state schools, to the latest coverage of “choke holds, headlocks, torture, rape and death” in psych hospitals, perhaps our governor would like to revise his blithe summation that “the state is doing its job.” Meanwhile, accounts from the reality-based community beg to differ:

United Press International: Abuse Common in Texas Mental Hospitals.

Psych Central: Texas Mental Hospitals: A Haven for Abuse.

Furious Seasons: Article Exposes Injuries, Death at Texas Psych Hospital.

New York Times: Firings at Mental Hospitals Over Abuse.

Reason: One Flew Over the Lone Star State.

Rad Geek (must read): Texas Psychoprisons.

The Trouble With Spikol: Happy happy joy joy…uh…maybe not.

Houston Press: Mental Anguish at Texas West Oaks Hospital.

Reeves Law Blog: TX Psychiatric Patients Suffer Abuse, Neglect.

Hymes: Acceptance and Expectation of Abuse and Neglect in State Hospitals Are a Large Part of the Problem.

Texas Observer: Systemic Neglect.

Dallas News: Reports Show Systemic Abuse at Texas’ Psychiatric Hospitals.

Systemic is the operative word, systemic tells us the apple is rotten to the core, overall, built in, affecting an entire system, making it untenable in its totality. Documented systemic abuse, requiring swift and decisive action and impossible to ignore. You would think so. Who among us could ignore these published findings but the paid parasites who earn their professional cred by providing oversight of the system in question? The entities that are charged with getting hysterical over these facts will of course ignore them, and because that’s not surprising makes it no less unbearable. If you have any doubt that’s just what they’re doing, scour a few websites, and wait for the blackout:

Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Texas Department of State Health Services.

Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health Transformation. (pdf of May 6th agenda).

Texas Health and Human Services: May 12th “Stakeholder” hearing agenda.

Every front-page News brief at all 40 Community Psychiatric Centers, example: Austin-Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center.

Blackout, zip, zero, nada, not a word of acknowledgment from the mental health overlords charged with public accountability. Pretend it’s not happening, maybe the public won’t notice. 135 news articles. What’s that if not delusional? A complete break with consensual reality, there is a place to put people like that.

Faith healers

Over the last 4 years I’ve heard the term Evidence-Based Medicine™ invoked 20 times a day at the Capitol and named it gobbledygook from day one. Evidence-Based Medicine™ refers to interventions based on established criteria in the medical literature, involving steaming piles of horseshit from the academic domain that just happen to call for the most expensive procedures. But not til 2 weeks ago did I hear the first professional talk it down, in a committee on domestic violence, where “stop the bleeding” has become “drug the victim” since we live in an era that has medicalized what any reasonably empathic person should recognize as predictable aftermath. Meetings where victimization is the theme — battery, rape, child sodomy — this is domestic violence, while invited testimony is dominated by medical professionals. Fucking obscene.

After some six hours listening to her peers wank glowingly of Evidence-Based Medicine™ the representative from Texas Network of Abuse Prevention Services warned the senate to be wary of EBM terminology, said it is not a black and white seal of approval, that evidence-based appraisals are contested in the academy, due largely to bias in research, conflict of interest and the inherent difficulty of quantitative data-collection in human service research experiments. Evidence based services cost more, she said, agencies that make these investments need to know what an evidence based product is and how it is so denoted, and make sure that it is evidence based in substance and not in name only.

Speaking truth to power is always unexpected from that quarter, I’d say it’s a fluke but for what hit my inbox this week:

Why Evidence-Based Medicine Cannot Be Applied to Psychiatry

Co-written by Robert Levine, MD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and Max Fink, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry and neurology at Stony Brook NY, founding editor of The Journal of ECT and author of Electroshock: Restoring the Mind. Worthy opinion by the likes of dirty rotten scoundrels bears some looking into, and it goes without saying they’re going to get smacked down by their colleagues for publishing this in Psychiatric Times. Oh yes, it’s hard going, but anyone interested in EBM, this is the shit. (Sorry no linky, subscription only):

Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is rapidly becoming the norm. It is taught in medical schools and is encouraged by both government agencies and insurance plan providers. Yet, there is little proof that this model can be adapted to fit psychiatry.

EBM supposedly allows the clinician to offer the most effective treatment for each patient.1,2 This goal is laudable, but the model is not appropriate for psychiatry because precise and stable diagnostic criteria are lacking in our specialty. Treatment outcomes in psychiatry are not defined by remission or cure. Instead, fractional reductions in the number and severity of symptoms are accepted, as measured by rating scale scores. Evidence-based psychiatry (EBP) is an untested hypothesis; for this theory to be either useful or valid, 3 basic assumptions must be examined.

• Is the diagnostic system valid?
• Are the data from clinical trials assessing efficacy and safety sound?
• Are the conclusions in a form that can be applied in clinical practice?

Continue reading

Help make Austin a safe zone for artists

An action alert from Dr. John Breeding about the fifth annual Roky Erickson Psychedelic Ice Cream Social Celebrating Electroshock Survivors.

As someone who has been out of the closet in love with Robyn Hitchcock for half my life, it blew my mind to see his stand-up appearance midway through the video; now all his songs and my devotion make so much more sense. Michelle Shocked appears, as does REM’s Peter Buck, JT Van Zandt, and Roky his own self closes out with the 13th Floor Elevators classic You’re Gonna Miss Me. Visitor Robyn once called Austin the city of groovers, one look at this crowd will tell you why we live here.

You can vote everyday, by following these simple steps, or be non-linear and play around the site til you figure it out, but if you can take a minute to vote, throw us some love.

Background, in excerpts, by the honorable and rocking Dr. John Breeding:

In the last two years, our Coalition for the Abolition of Electroshock in Texas was very active, carrying on an initiative in Austin to challenge the use of electroshock at our area’s most prolific shock hospital, Seton Shoal Creek. As described on our website, we carried on with them quite a bit, including direct interaction with the hospital board and medical director, a series of protest rallies at the hospital, a resolution from the Texas legislature, and a hearing on electroshock with the Austin City Council.

In March 2007, we had a magnificent, unprecedented event–a concert featuring a number of terrific musicians and artists, a number of whom were also shock survivors now joining forces to call for a stop to this horrific procedure.

Now our own fantastic videographer, Mary Luker, known professionally as Mary Marvel, has created a short (20 minutes) documentary of our event. It is terrific, and we intend to use it to promote our effort to abolish electroshock, and to create safe haven for artists, who all too often suffer this horrific assault.

In support of our cause, Mary Marvel has submitted her documentary to an internet contest called Famecast. In order to have the greatest impact, we want to win this contest. In order to win, we need you to get on board and enjoy a ride, bringing music and a big message –END OF SHOCK– to the world.

1. Register on FAMECAST as a Voter or Fanatic. Click where it says ” The Audience Votes”
2. Click here to view our documentary
3. Click the “Video” tab to the right of the movie
4. Click the “Vote for me in the Open Round” link
5. Click the “Vote” button at the top right hand corner of the video

Steps 2 will take you to see our video. Steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 are necessary to vote.

P/S: Here is my favorite album by Robyn Hitchcock, this my favorite Soft Boys release, and this could be the most moving ode ever to hero worship.

Our overlord Foucault is at it again

A witfree friend of the mentally ill left a comment at ama’s blog, claiming that the SPMI have all but been abandoned by the “consumertocracy literati.” Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue. The myth that we are hippie pomo philosophy majors with no real world knowledge of what we denounce is standard low-hanging fruit, but for the sake of clarity I’ll have at it. I look for how oriented people are to this debate, and that’s the sort of comment I hope will someday be seen as instantly dismissible, but better to go over the ground again than wish you had. Too much at stake to leave potential allies lost in TEH bewilderness.

As I see it, our current location begins a few years back, when the president’s New Freedom Commission declared the US mental health system a shambles. Then came the SAMHSA Transformation grants, awarded to nine states, as a mandate of TRANSFORMATION, from decades of inertia to a “Consumer-Directed, Trauma-Informed Recovery-Based MH system.”

SAMHSA has a definitional page on Transformation:

The scale of desired change is large and will result in a significantly different enterprise

Reinvention implies “something tantamount to changing the very ‘DNA’ of public organizations”

It is complex and chaotic in nature

It requires years to complete, with multiple phases and stages of major changes

The rules of the game change, including the norms, guideposts, values, and guides to behavior.

Enterprise redesign is depicted as revolutionary rather than evolutionary.

Under the grant several US states have been charged with a five year project to overhaul their MH system, and create changes that will lead the nation’s TRANSFORMATION from abuse to empowerment. In other words, we are in process. Systemic Transformation is the mandate. What has been inert is now in motion. Change is difficult. Many will resist. Boo-fucking hoo, we will roll over you.

Vermont, for instance, has applied for a transformation grant, and its new State Commissioner of Mental Health is one of many public servants now talking the proper talk. The following excerpt is from the Winter edition of Vermont Counterpoint, an interview with consumer advocate Steven Morgan:

As the top leader of mental health services for the state of Vermont, Michael Hartman brings to the role a wealth of experience and keen vision for how the system should progress.

He sees a definite role for people with psychiatric diagnoses to be involved in the system and “shape what services look like,” whether through employment, voluntary organizations, or participation on influential committees.
“The mental health department really needs to be pushing the agenda that services by people who are or have been consumers is an important aspect for services and recovery, and for consumers.”
He said that in many cases, “peers hold
other peers responsible for things at a much higher level than other professionals do,” and they may push each other to achieve more than is traditionally expected.

On trauma-informed care, he noted, “the first step is getting people to recognize that you need it, (that) the system as a whole sees the need for trauma-informed care.”
Trauma histories often present as psychiatric illness, which complicates diagnosis and the ensuing treatment, he said.
“The trauma kind of weaves in and out of various areas,” he pointed out.
Further, without an awareness of and sensitivity to an individual’s history, care providers may unintentionally trigger and re-traumatize someone without recognizing why or how they are doing
so. There is a need for more awareness around these issues, and how involuntary treatment may play a damaging role for trauma victims, Hartman said.
“There’s likely no involuntary treatment that wouldn’t be a trigger to a trauma victim,” …and it isn’t an issue he takes lightly….the taking away of civil liberties is “least ideal.”
…“When we are not giving enough options and involuntary treatment is the outcome, that’s a need that the system has to try and create more options.”

So much for the fancy divisive head-in-the-cloud elitist consumertocracy. Of course there is a concerted and bankrolled attempt to polarize, silence, fragment and obscure. This Republican State Representative lays it out with kitchen table plain-speak in an op-ed entitled, hallo

Involuntary medication acts to divide

We have begun to recognize how much the pharmaceutical industry is driving medical decision-making, both through conscious marketing to us, and more subliminal impacts upon physicians. Those same companies provide substantial funding to national public advocacy groups as well as to political lobbyists.

…Instead of spending the time to work towards mutual agreement on a treatment plan, many more Vermonters would be forcibly injected with risky drugs to get them out of a hospital faster. Some of those same drugs are now known for such side effects as diabetes, a chronic, debilitating and expensive illness – one of those facts that pharmaceutical companies knew and hid and for which they are now paying out billions in damages.

…Instead of progressing on parity of treatment approaches and integration of care, we now look to divide further, and to conquer by force.

As David Byrne put it, don’t worry about the government, I know when it is on my side, now I can relax with my loved ones.

I see the states, across this big nation
I see the laws made in Washington, D.C.
I think of the ones I consider my favorites
I think of the people that are working for me

P/S: Steven Morgan is a name to watch. His open challenge to NAMI has been making the rounds, and can be read here in all its unwarranted, open-hearted and diplomatic goodness.

NAMI agenda still my ruling nightmare

And you know what, I’m gonna leave off this for awhile, I can’t handle it, there’s a lot of positive stuff going on in the movement and I’m gonna spend the next couple days drinking it in. But first let me show you my pain, from an email I sent to TMA yesterday, and we’ll call it tabled for now, and let things simmer while I get back on track.

Hey. I am still talking to the folks on that thread at Icarus, it’s calming me down. I’ve spent the last couple days researching NAMI and am seriously triggered, sobbing, grief trauma stuffings pouring out. It’s all so symbolic. I know you will understand, but I can’t put it straight yet. NAMI is deception, the embodiment of what I lived with, not in concrete details, but psychologically, this is an organization about hugely dysfunctional families that gang up on the weak link as expendable, all a ruse to keep from dealing with interpersonal violence, and they’re happy to destroy this person they denote as a loved one for whom there’s no exit once inside the psych system, no healing for the family unit because they’re avoiding the source of the real problem, the real interpersonal dysfunction. I discovered that NAMI attacks family therapy, just as it attacks all psychosocial intervention and critics of biopsychiatry. They’ve put themselves completely out of reach of the typical programs geared toward the typical family recognized as embroiled in typical domestic violence, because they’ve convinced everyone of their interpersonal innocence, their kids are delusional, have genetic diseases the ‘rents can’t be blamed for, it’s all smoke and mirrors, and the media buys it. NAMI is leading the culture around, held up as the authority on mental illness, and the public doesn’t understand the true focus of these anti-stigma campaigns is on abolishing prejudice toward families, not the “delusional, mentally ill who don’t know they’re sick”, family support groups are steeped in ideology and entirely funded by AstraZeneca, forcing drugs and ECT on their children, who are right now living in the Matrix, without due process, everyday, you step into the abyss and find it only comes up to your knees.

You know I am sympathetic to the violent mentally ill meme, my big brother, killed who knows how many people. I saw it, I saw us all decompensate over the course of our childhoods, I was there, he was in and out of psych wards and jail, sorrowful mom had him involuntary committed when he was 17 and who knows how much one thing has to do with the other, nothing helped, made him worse, didn’t it. And yes, he was a sadist, but he was beaten and molested as a child, we all have records of broken bones, he had sex with mom at four years old, this is a story, where does his story come in? I’m sorry, I’m just processing so much so fast, I know my thoughts aren’t organized. The thing is I knew all this, right, but it’s being in the same room with them, including the ex NAMI rep I feel attracted to, who is the worst really, and the chief of police, and even our protection and advocacy person kissing ass. We had to introduce ourselves, 20 people and no one identified as a consumer, at a Consumer Council meeting, it was all agency heads and law enforcement. When it was my turn I said I was a “community activist” and the police chief said, “that’s……………….okay,” I felt like such a joke. I’ve been on stage before, doing monologues and poetry readings and on the radio for ten years, I know I can push through the normal stage fright, this isn’t normal stage fright, it’s the assimilating that’s got me terrified. They represent something I don’t want to believe, and am on a mission to get to the bottom of it.

Also Teema, I learned at that meeting that our local MH Authority does not recognize PTSD as a legit mental illness, and do not treat people, including vets who present w/the PTSD dx. It’s like all my fears from 2002 are materializing, and you’d think I’d find that reassuring or something, but it’s crushing and stark, and I am not yet aware of the size of it.

So that’s all I got, but this is a link worth clicking, and y’all can draw your own conclusions.

Thank you for reading, in courage and valor.

Two UK studies show compulsory community treatment doesn’t work

An editorial in the November 2007 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry highlights 2 recent studies from Australia – as well as a systematic review of existing research – which have found that compulsory community treatment for people with mental disorders is unlikely to reduce revolving door care.

This finding illustrates how health policy remains determined by social or political factors as much as by evidence, they say.

In the meantime, the authors add, it might be more appropriate to acknowledge openly the limits of our knowledge, rather than rely on the illusion that evidence exists.

Click here and see the latest research to be ignored by the folks at the Treatment Advocacy Center, perhaps because it merely confirms what they most desire but can’t permit themselves to say.

Likewise, it’s to that busy contingent of mental health advocates I dedicate our music video of the week. Enjoy, TAC, it’s all about the hope.

Radiohead. Exit Music