Mind Shadows

10/10/06

The Seige of Vicksburg and The Velocity of Time

The Seige of Vicksburg and The Velocity of Time

I am cursed and blessed by memory. When two and a half years old, I rode in the back seat as the Ford passed farms and climbed the hill. I got out with my parents and walked into the Old Stewart Place to see my uncle sweeping gravel out of the living room, as the house had been abandoned and used to stable horses. Max, my uncle, had Down's Syndrome in today's parlance. In those times he was mongoloid. He looked at me, smiled, went on sweeping. The house had been owned by an ancestor, Doctor David Stewart, captain in the 28th Iowa Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. He fought at Vicksburg and returned home to take a seat in the Iowa State legislature. Uncle Max passed away years ago. Doctor Stewart died long before I was born. They fell out of time into memory and I now have an ancient reprint of a picture taken in 1863 of Captain Stewart in uniform with epaulettes and brass buttons.

I touch the picture, feel the edges, note the sepia and white, and wonder about a light that captured it like this, froze it into a minor immortality before the years work at the edges, fade the tones, blur the features. There is decay in this thing I hold and I seem to feel it under my fingers, indiscriminate of flesh or paper, a rot impartial to all, except the picture knows nothing about it while I do. Then TS Eliot comes to mind—"I will show you fear in a handful of dust." That is an unsettling thought, so I tell myself that the paradox is merely one of concepts—emotion and matter. Still, concepts are what we have.

I also have Dr. Stewart's medical accounts book. It is a big book, bound in heavy, brown, padded leather, its pages ruled and columned. "March 10th, 1879. Set Abe Gentry's broken arm," one entry says, then explains, "He paid in ten bushels of corn and promised to work the South Forty next spring." Another states simply, ""Will Langtree's son, Jake, knocked on the door in the middle of the night. I dressed and grabbed my bag while Jake hitched Bess to the buggy. Hurried to the Langtree place. Delivered the wife of an eight pound girl. Came home, too tired to arrange accounts." When a boy, I imagined the doctor and his family on Sunday morning, his wife and children climbing into their surry, and the horses trotting to church in the village. Try as I might, though, I cannot summon much today. Instead, I think of the mystery that enfolded them as it does me. The world feels solid, real. We awaken to the sunrise, then we warm to summers, chill into winters, and suddenly we are gone.

Instead, I sometimes think of the sky that hovered over them like a mask, veiling the black infinitude of space, making the day warm and bright, as if it were the way the world was, and make no mistake. As they rode off to church, a Turkish regiment attacked an Assyrian village, a Chinese peasant drowned in the Yangtze, a prostitute in London felt Jack The Ripper's knife. Here is God's plenty as well.

We live by lies, some of them useful. We live by memories, all of them reminders. The best reminders are not the sieze-the-day sort, but those which tell us something there is that no photograph can explain. As I look at this picture I know that light, travelling at 186,000 miles per second, captured the Doctor's eyes as he gazed into the camera lens, expecting that somehow the future would be better than the past. I can use scientific datum to explain the event, but how can I render the person? The War of The Rebellion would one day be over and school children would read about it as the Civil War. He would return home. He would marry and father children. He would grow old gracefully. How is it that he reaches me on this distant shore of time, this Twenty First century while he remains in the Nineteenth? He touches me with his hopes, his tribulations, his genes. I am his bridge to the future. I live in a time beyond his ken; he, in one beyond mine.

That mystery serves like TS Eliot's paradox. For me, it is what we have in place of the certitude of data. We are all incessantly hurled out of the past into the future, despite our self-reminders to live for the day. Our Earth spins its equatorial girth 25,000 miles every 24 hours. We don't sense it. This planet orbits the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, and yet we feel a different kind of change, that which moves our muscles, ages our skin, dims our hopes. How can we judge magnitudes when death is more calamitous than a major shift in the solar system? We are caught up in our own velocities, which numbers cannot explain.

Perhaps memory itself is orbital, and we always cycle through the same life, committed to time's strange entropy. We await disorder, the uncertain future, and leave patterns in our wake. Perhaps we loop through time and space in an eternal return. That would be fine so long as I experience no déjà vu. I would like that. Captain Stewart lays down his rifle, returns home, and resumes his medical practice. The Ford stops at the Old Stewart Place, I get out, and see Uncle Max. You read about me holding the picture and once again it is all new.

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10/9/06

We have lost the deterministic thread of the universe right here, inside ourselves (Michael Frayn)



  • "Psychoanalysts see dreams as the working out of some inner conflict. And one can imagine how they might be used as texts into which such interpretations could be read. But then random ink blots can be used in the same way without anyone, even a psycho-analyst, thinking that the meaning read into it by the patient was unconsciously put there by the person who scattered the ink. You might think, likewise, that when a dream seems to offer a practical solution to a conscious problem, it's because the dreamer reads a solution arrived at by other means, even if unconscious ones, into the ambiguous material on offer.

    Psychologists have proposed various mechanistic explanations, usually by analogy with computer practice. They have suggested that it is a kind of mental housekeeping, in which the brain sorts the day's information, deleting unwanted files and backing up others. Some elements in dreams, it's true, do seem to relate to the experiences of the day just ended. Most (of mine, at any rate) don't. They relate, if to any experience at all, to events in the remote past. Usually they seem more like pure fiction. And far from suggesting any parallel with orderly filing, dreaming seems much more like the breaking open of files, both familiar and unfamiliar, and the chaotic scattering of their contents."

  • "Isn't there, at the point of origin of all our actions, all our thoughts, some such element of autonomy? The moment of creation always occurs a fraction of a second before the conscious mind discovers the created material, takes it over, and organises it into coherence."

  • "This is the heart of the mystery, this is what is so difficult to examine: the moment when the action takes shape inside your head. Often at this very point, in fact, just as the plot delivers the great scene, the dream seems to lose interest in itself and peter out. The important events that have been set in motion never quite materialise. We fall from the high building--but never hit the ground. In the brief instant of terror before I awoke, in that dark courtyard off Marylebone Road, I had time to note, with surprise and interest, that in the midst of all this overwhelming mass of sensation I couldn't locate any actual physical pain."

  • "To Descartes the 'cogito' seemed apodictic--so much so that it could serve as the foundation stone for the construction of a world. But the word begs all the questions we have been looking at; the first-person construction conceals more than it reveals. Even if it's certain, from the act of doubting (which is what constitutes the thinking in cogito), that thinking of some sort is occurring, the authorship of that thinking remains an open question. My thoughts think themselves, and from that thinking the author has to be constructed, as dubious an entity as the argument suggests that everything else might be. The life of the family is the life of its members, but the lives its members lead are their own. Without the family--no members. Without the members--no family."

  • "Then again, maybe there is an element of pure randomness in the apparently unlocatable deciding force at the heart of dreaming (and of all our thinking). Maybe this generative principle, which is both I and not-I, stems from the quantum behaviour of individual particles in the system, deflecting and shaping the throughput of information from external sources as fundamentally and massively as the random release of the beta-particle affects the state of Schrödinger's cat."
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    Citizens & Frogs; Media & Government




    If you put a frog in a pan of hot water, it will jump out. If you put it in a pan of lukewarm water, then slowly turn up the heat it will boil to death.

    We are no different. In Shakespeare's Richard II, the tragic king observes that man's capacity for adjustment seems infinite. Infinite, yes. We are frogs, all of us. The only response is, Do we want to be?, and in that question lies our difference. We can jump out before the water boils.

    Not that we will. Only that we can.

    Where am I going with this? Here—In the last post, I noted that most media are ignoring the military build-up in the Middle East. The reason is obvious. It's called big business. The media are big business. For news anchors, the build-up story does not scream. People might flick the remote to the next channel. Besides, if war erupts, why that would be a real screamer, attracting many viewers. Never mind all that B.S. about the public interest, say the media. A buddy of media executives, former FCC Chairman Michael Powell said he did not know what the public interest is. He was not kidding.

    You and I are the public, and we know what it is. Our vital interest lies with knowing that massive military build-ups have occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. We are already like frogs, our troops in the scalding water of Iraq. Without public knowledge, without public debate, we may be plunged into a caldron. Mainstream news got us into Iraq because corporate profit margins rule out investigative journalism. Instead, the news anchors just parroted the White House buzz words. Weapons of Mass Destruction. Saddam Hussein linked to terrorists. Lies, all of them, we now know, but no thanks to the media's sense of public interest.

    There went more frogs into Iraq. In the Nineteenth Century soldiers were openly called cannon fodder by the power elite. Those in power did not understand what we now call Spin, or Propaganda. This explains why recent polls reveal that public trust in government is far lower than in 1981.

    The only way to stop being frogs is to understand what is happening to media in this country. Not only to understand it, but to make our voices heard before the water boils.

    Think about this.

  • Could a few media conglomerates overwhelm smaller competing voices? Voices that have news and information vital to the public interest? Quite obviously, they have. A 2004 report identified 6 media conglomerates that owned 94 percent of the media market; (1) Viacom-CBS-MTV; (2) Rupert Murdoch's Newscorpt (FoxTV, etc.) (3) GE-NBC-Universal-Vivendi; (4) Time-Warner-CNN-AOL; (5) Disney-ABC-ESPN; (6) Comcast. In 1981 there was great worry because ownership had shriveled to 15 conglomerates.

  • Be clear on this. The news media is not in bed with big business. The news media is big business. The State of the News Media 2004 report produced by the Project for Excellence in Journalism in March found that most sectors of the news media have seen clear cutbacks in newsgathering resources. The number of newspaper newsroom staffers shrunk by 2,000 between 2000 and 2004, a drop of 4% overall. Some major online news sites saw much deeper cuts, such as MSNBC, which cut around a quarter of its staff between 2001 and 2003. Radio newsroom staffing declined by 57% from 1994 to 2001. After an up-tick in 1999, network staffing began to drop again in 2000. Since 1985 the number of network news correspondents has declined by 35 percent while the number of stories per reporter increased by 30 percent.

  • The 1996 Telecommunications Act further deregulated the Federal Communications Commission, paving the way for more take-overs. During the senate debate Senator John McCain said, "You will not see this story on any television or hear it on any radio broadcast." All together the 3 major network news shows aired a sum total of only 19 minutes of coverage of the Telecommunications Act, over the course of NINE MONTHS.

    Now, tell me that the media makes sure the public is well-informed.

  • These conglomerates are not answerable to the people although they use public air waves free of charge, tax free, thanks to the coziness between their lobbyists and Capitol Hill legislators, who need their campaign contributions. Soon only one voice will remain. Only one truth. Theirs.

    Oh, we will still have freedom of choice. We can select many different programs to watch. We have great variety in entertainment. Like a frog, we can sit contentedly while the water heats.

    But our understanding of our world, the way we see it, that is a different matter. It will be shaped by how big businesses want us to see it. There is a pattern to the way certain stories are covered, then dropped. The level of secrecy, of news distortion, or non-coverage has reached a historic low.

    Charles Lewis of the Center for Pubic Integrity was a producer for CBS Sixty Minutes until he concluded that the public simply never learned much of important news. Lewis has this to say of his own organization, Center for Public Integrity:
  • They don't investigate and report on the media because none of their findings would ever be reported by the media. They found that the most powerful special interest in Washington is the media. The National Association of Broadcasters has lobbyists. The public is entitled to seats in committee hearing rooms, but lobbyists hire place holders, poor people who stand in line holding their position, then slipping out when the lobbyist shows up as doors open for the hearing. The National Association of Broadcasters has nearly 300 paid lobbyists who give away tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions. And they control whether a politician gets on the air all over America. Not only that but the Fairness Doctrine has been abolished. No more free time for politicians. They must pay, which accounts for one third of media news budget, and the huge rise in campaign expenses.

    That's power.

    How much power do we have? One thing is certain. Our power will be limited to that of a frog in heating water unless we make ourselves heard.
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    Source: Orwell Rolls in His Grave at Information Clearing House
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    10/7/06

    The Winds of War: A Military Build-Up Most Media Ignore



    I take this threat quite seriously and so have chosen to alert my readers, although it is off-topic for this blog. I hope that others take it as seriously as I do.

    It may or may not happen, and if it does, it will probably be months or even a year or two, but solid evidence is abundant that contingency war plans are being implemented with a military build-up, probably against Iran, perhaps Syria. Consider what follows, from Global Research. Notice what Sam Gardiner says below. I have watched and listened to Gardiner, an analyst on the Lehrer news hour as well as on the commercial main stream networks. He is very credible. These are only snips from a very long document.
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    The March to War: Naval build-up in the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

    October 1, 2006. Editor's note. We bring to the attention of our readers, this carefully documented review of the ongoing naval build-up and deployment of coalition forces in the Middle East.

    The article examines the geopolitics behind this military deployment and its relationship to "the Battle for Oil."

    The structure of military alliances is crucial to an understanding of these war preparations.

    The naval deployment is taking place in two distinct theaters: the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

    The militarization of the Eastern Mediterranean is broadly under the jurisdiction of NATO in liaison with Israel. Directed against Syria, it is conducted under the façade of a UN peace-keeping mission pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1701. In this context, the war on Lebanon must be viewed as a stage of a the broader US sponsored military road-map.

    The naval armada in the Persian Gulf is largely under US command, with the participation of Canada.

    The naval buildup is coordinated with the planned air attacks. The planning of the aerial bombings of Iran started in mid-2004, pursuant to the formulation of CONPLAN 8022 in early 2004. In May 2004, National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 35 entitled Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization was issued. While its contents remains classified, the presumption is that NSPD 35 pertains to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East war theater in compliance with CONPLAN 8022.

    These war plans must be taken very seriously.

    The World is at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. The US has embarked on a military adventure, "a long war," which threatens the future of humanity.

    In the weeks ahead, it is essential that citizens' movements around the world act consistently to confront their respective governments and reverse and dismantle this military agenda.

    What is needed is to break the conspiracy of silence, expose the media lies and distortions, confront the criminal nature of the US Administration and of those governments which support it, its war agenda as well as its so-called "Homeland Security agenda" which has already defined the contours of a police State.

    It is essential to bring the US war project to the forefront of political debate, particularly in North America and Western Europe. Political and military leaders who are opposed to the war must take a firm stance, from within their respective institutions. Citizens must take a stance individually and collectively against war.
    ------------------------------------------
    Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 1 October 2006. The probability of another war in the Middle East is high. Only time will tell if the horrors of further warfare is to fully materialize. Even then, the shape of a war is still undecided in terms of its outcome.

    If war is to be waged or not against Iran and Syria, there is still the undeniable build-up and development of measures that confirm a process of military deployment and preparation for war.

    The diplomatic forum also seems to be pointing to the possibility of war. The decisions being made, the preparations being taken, and the military maneuvers that are unfolding on the geo-strategic chessboard are projecting a prognosis and forecast towards the direction of mobilization for some form of conflict in the Middle East.

    In this context, people do not always realize that a war is never planned, executed or even anticipated in a matter of weeks. Military operations take months and even years to prepare. A classical example is Operation Overlord (popularly identified as “D-Day”) . . . but the preparations for the military operation took eighteen months, “officially,” to set the stage for the invasion of the French coast.

    With regard to Iraq, the “Downing Street memo” confirms that the decision to go to war in 2003 was decided in 2002 by the United States and Britain, and thus the preparations for war with Iraq were in reality started in 2002, a year before the invasion. The preparations for the invasion of Iraq took place at least a entire year to arrange.

    Time Magazine and the “Prepare to Deploy Order” of the Eisenhower Strike Group

    The latest U.S. reports provide details of preparations to go to war with Iran and Syria. Time magazine confirms that orders have been given for deployment of a submarine, a battleship, two minesweepers, and two mine-hunters in the Persian Gulf by October 2006. There are very few places in the world where minesweepers would be needed or used besides the Persian Gulf. There also very few places where anti-submarine drills are required , besides the Persian Gulf.

    Award-winning investigative reporter and journalist Dave Lindorff has written;

  • [Retired]Colonel Gardiner, who has taught military strategy at the National War College [of the United States], says that the [U.S. Navy] carrier deployment and a scheduled Persian Gulf arrival date of October 21 [2006] is “very important evidence” of war planning. He says, “I know that some naval forces have already received 'prepare to deploy orders’ [PTDOs], which have set the date for being ready to go as October 1 [2006]. Given that it would take about from October 2 to October 21 to get those forces to the [Persian]Gulf region, that looks about like the date” of any possible military action against Iran. (A PTDO means that all crews should be at their stations, and ships and planes should be ready to go, by a certain date—in this case, reportedly, October 1.) Gardiner notes, “You cannot issue a PTDO and then stay ready for very long. It's a very significant order, and it’s not done as a training exercise.” This point was also made in the Time article.

  • "I think the plan’s been picked: bomb the nuclear sites in Iran," says [Colonel] Gardiner. "It's a terrible idea, it's against U.S. law and it's against international law, but I think they've decided to do it He says that while the United States has the capability to hit those sites with its cruise missiles, "the Iranians have many more options than we [the United States] do.

  • Of course, Gardiner agrees, recent ship movements and other signs of military preparedness could be simply a bluff designed to show toughness in the bargaining with Iran over its nuclear program. But with the Iranian coast reportedly armed to the teeth with Chinese Silkworm anti-ship missiles, and possibly even more sophisticated Russian anti-ship weapons, against which the [U.S.] Navy has little reliable defenses, it seems unlikely the Navy would risk high-value assets like aircraft carriers or cruisers with such a tactic. Nor has bluffing been a Bush [Administration] MO [tactic] to date.

    Click for the full article at Global Research
  • 10/6/06



    Home_____The Method of Political Intolerance: Roger Scruton's Hatchet Job on Noam Chomsky

    Noam Chomsky (born 1928) is a linguist who gave to the world the theory of generative grammar, the most significant 20th Century contribution to theoretical linguistics. He sparked the revolution against B.F. Skinner’s behavioral psychology, dominant until Chomsky’s critique, wherein he challenged the study of mind and language as merely observable behavior rather than something inherent within mind. Chomsky is widely known for his analysis of how media works, for his political activism, and for his criticism of the foreign policy of the United States and other governments.

    British philosopher Roger Vernon Scruton (born 1944) is broadcaster, journalist, and composer. He seeks to popularize philosophical thought and to defend the institutions of Western culture. Politically, he is a conservative, and not always a thinking one, as his article on Chomsky reveals. He has a deep interest in aesthetics, particularly music.

    A 26 September 2006 Wall Street Journal article by Scruton, begins thus: "Noam Chomsky's popularity owes little or nothing to the eminent place that he occupies in the world of ideas. That place was won many years ago in the science of linguistics, and no expert in the subject would, I think, dispute Prof. Chomsky's title to it."

    After a few back-handed opening compliments Scruton then buries his axe deep in Chomsky's skull. Most notable in his piece is that Scruton does not understand Chomsky, has not read Chomsky, or simply chooses to lie.

    In many ways I don't agree with Chomsky, in particular his political philosophy, but I always find his intellect powerful. Anyone who listens with an open mind and without preconceptions must allow Chomsky as an extremely important speaker on American foreign policy. He will cause you to think, whether you agree with him or not. You cannot merely dismiss him as a ranter, as Scruton does.

    I wrote a comment to the Journal article, which the WSJ did not print. They allowed a few mindless comments from the cheer leaders and one from a thoughtful writer who also saw through Scruton, and then they stopped posting responses. I suspect they did so because the response from both left and right was overwhelmingly critical of Scruton's shallow and mindless piece.

    Here is my comment not published in the WSJ. It is addressed to Scruton's claim that Chomsky alleges a high-level conspiracy in America:
  • "If Scruton read Chomsky carefully he would find that the professor repeatedly insists that no US government or media conspiracy is involved. Instead, Chomsky says that like-minded people honestly (at least to themselves) serve like-minded interests. As for any rage, listen to Chomsky. Watch him. There is nothing but sober intellect. He is low key, self-effacing and has a marvelous ability to cite facts. Scruton apparently does not know his man.

    Mr. Scruton has his own agenda, which is obvious to anybody familiar with him. If he wants to serve that agenda, he should do his homework before simplistically rendering such a complicated man."

    Here, is somebody who read the WSJ piece and has a similar problem with Scruton's anger against Chomsky.
  • "In Tuesday's Wall Street Journal Roger Scruton—Philosopher and hired hand of the tobacco industry launched a feeble attack on Noam Chomsky. Entitled 'Who Is Noam Chomsky' the piece runs through the usual litany of lies and half truths with even less skill than is usual in this type of ad hominem assault. . . ." Doherty indicates that Scruton is a paid hit man, certainly for big tobacco. His final comment says this: "In an email leaked in 2002 Scruton asked his paymasters at Japan Tobacco if they could raise his payments from £4,500 monthly to £5,500. Presumably they are getting rather better value for money than the Wall Street Journal if this pitiful attempt at character assassination is anything to go by." By Alex Doherty

    I am especially sympathetic to Chomsky’s insightful analysis of main stream media. Among other works, he is known for his book with Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of The Mass Media. Here is an excerpt: Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media
  • 10/4/06



    Home_____What’s Happening to Us?: Charles Carl Roberts & The Amish Murders

    We live at a time when things seem to be falling apart. Everywhere we look, the old truths have given way to new fictions, and the last has become first. The worst are filled with a passionate intensity; the best lack all conviction. In his fine poem, "September 1, 1939" W. H. Auden sat in a bar on New York's 52nd Street. As narrator, Auden looked at the tense, desperate people around him, trying to forget the Second World War, about to unfold in Europe. Today, in October 2006, we are not like those people on bar stools, faces gazing into a mirror. We have no headlines announcing a fateful and disastrous change like that day long ago. Instead, the change is happening slowly, but for all that it is dangerous and real. In a bar today, people might toss back their drinks, afraid to look at the other faces in the glass—all of them blankly turned to their drink as they swish it between their hands before swallowing another. Something is happening in the world, in their lives They just aren't quite sure what.

    On 2 October 2006 armed with shotgun and pistol, a milk truck driver named Charles Carl Roberts IV entered an Amish school room in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and killed five girls from six to thirteen years of age. He did so because he was carrying out a grudge from a past that haunted him—something he claimed to have done twenty years before. Charles Roberts committed a tragedy that scarred and seared the Amish and other township parents, and it is something they will not shake, carrying it with them to the grave. Still, it was no great historical event. Here was no World War III, no earthquake, no tsunami, no meteor smashing into Earth. Because it was not, we must be like the faces in the mirror above the bar. The tragedy is ours, not only theirs. We must not avoid looking into what we see in the mirror. We must study ourselves carefully in it so to learn what we were and what we have become.

    The Amish are peaceful, deeply religious people, who do not believe in violence. They have no telephones or televisions. They do not drive cars but get about in horse and buggy. They wear nineteenth century clothes, the women often in bonnets and blue dresses, the men in straw hats for summer, and plain trousers with broad suspenders. They want nothing to do with our century, yet it has caught up with them.

    Charles Roberts had nothing against the Amish. He wasn't one of them, and he found no fault in them as a people. He simply needed objects for his revenge. The girls weren't merely Amish to him. They were creatures of a world in which he was alone. They were out there; he was inside himself. A lone individual in a highly fragmented, individualistic society, the furniture of his mind had only one chair, and he sat in it. He was supreme in his own mind. Supreme in his fantasies, in his grievances. Nothing was superior to that. Nobody else counted against that.

    Many explanations can be made for his actions, and one is that he was a creature of individualism taken to its present extreme. In Habits of The Heart, Robert Bellah, et al., writes of what has been lost to individualism. A respect for tradition. A sense of duty and obligations to others. A continuity with the past. A belief in pubic virtue. The book reveals how these have been surrendered to a corporate commercialism whose ads seek to mold minds into unthinking lone appetites bereft of any collective defiance against mass consumption. Corporate executives quite naturally justify the needs of a corporation—what best serves the free market economy best serves the country. Isolated individuals are not intended as results of the economy, nor is the economy solely responsible, but it does offer a legitimate way of looking at what has happened to society.

    The Amish God is loving. He binds the Amish together into love, into community, into a people filled with one another.

    Charles Roberts was modern man at his most desperate. To his wife, he said, "I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself, hate toward God, and an unimaginable emptiness." There is only a quarter inch between that and what Corporate America would have a consumer society believe, as bumper stickers declare, that the one who has the most toys when he dies wins. Toys cannot serve meaning. They could not feed Roberts' unimaginable emptiness.

    Oh, of course we can find the usual explanations. Here was an evil man bent on evil designs. Or he was wacko and good thing he killed himself too. Or schools need better protection. Each in its own way is plausible but only superficial. The main stream media reported what happened in Pennsylvania but never got to the serious questions because that would have taken too many sound bites and eaten into time for the next commercial. In the main stream media you never hear any explanation why public killings are on the increase. If the explanation cannot fit into a five or six sentence response, the audience may become bored, so goes the thinking. Nobody asks why is this happening now? What has made the difference? Quite simply, recurrent and widespread attacks against innocents didn't happen in the past. So what has changed?

    One could say that they are copy-cat killings fostered by media that uses lurid details to attract audiences, and one copy-cat breeds another. People like Charles Roberts have a chance for the spectacular, for fifteen minutes of fame, as Andy Warhol put it. The killer is a nobody in a media society that vaunts power barons and celebrities. Like a movie star, he can go out in a blaze of glory which vanquishes his unimaginable emptiness. In a single act of violence, he has the power he lacked throughout life. Fair enough as analysis. But, apart from the role of media, what is happening in the world to cause such people?

    Nobody is asking you to adopt Amish religion, nor do I recommend a public return to religion or think it possible. But think about this. The Amish believe in the collective, not the individualistic. Independent of consumer society, they don't own telephones or televisions. They don't drive cars, but get about in horse and buggy. They have security in this, a sense of peace. Their society is more important than the individual desires and whims of each member. They have a long history and sense of who they are. They live their lives together. They believe in their value to one another. They have meaning in their lives that shapes them in a manner wholly unlike the form taken by American and Western society. Their lives are entwined by a deep religious conviction. They have sustained that social fabric because they turned away from what outsiders valued. They share their joys, their hopes, their frustrations. They plan together, and in that one room Pennsylvania school house five young girls died together.

    In his Bowling Alone Robert Putnam observes that the number of bowling leagues has decreased in the United States although the number of bowlers has increased. Putnam links the decline in leagues to a decline in civic consciousness—to a loss of community. He distinguishes between two kinds of capital, monetary capital and social capital. While the economy has increased, social capital is on the wane. As each year passes, people feel less connected to one another. Today, each person, each family, sits inside its suburban box in the living room watching television, while people in the box next door do the same. They don't speak to one another and instead relate to phosphate images on the back of a cathode ray tube, broadcast from thousands of miles away. They laugh at their favorite sit-com character; they identify with the handsome or pretty news anchor; and in a few hours they flick the remote to turn off the TV, then they go to bed. They are electronically connected to the media power elite who use focus groups to decide what will be broadcast to them while they may not even know the first or last name of their neighbors in the house next door.

    Charles Roberts, had he lived, should have faced a life sentence or execution for his murders. That is beside the point. The point is to understand what has happened to society to create the Charles Roberts within it. I have raised the question but have only made some comparisons between the Amish and our mass consumer society. I have not answered it, and cannot do so alone. The question must be a public one resolved by the people. It is a question well worth profound public debate. We must know what is happening to us and nobody will help us. The media will see the next tragedy as a reason to attract viewers, but will not answer why. Experts will be interviewed who will give expert answers. Better security, etc. But that is a band aid, not a diagnosis.

    The issue will not be raised on Capitol Hill or in the White House. Certainly, corporate board rooms do not find it in their best interests. We have no town hall meetings anymore. Don't expect a reply from the media. It is up to us.

    9/27/06


    Home_____Temple Grandin, PhD, on Her Autism

    Grandin was described by Oliver Sacks in his book, An Anthropologist on Mars. Sacks' title approximates how Grandin feels around so-called normal people. Dr. Grandin has been featured on ABC's Primetime Live, the Today Show, and Larry King Live and appeared in a BBC Horizon documentary, broadcast 8 June 2006 as "The Woman Who Thinks Like A Cow." She has been written about in periodicals, including Time, People, Forbes, and the New York Times.

    "I think in pictures," she writes. "Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures. Language-based thinkers often find this phenomenon difficult to understand, but in my job as an equipment designer for the livestock industry, visual thinking is a tremendous advantage.

    Visual thinking has enabled me to build entire systems in my imagination." (Autism and Visual Thought)
    "People who aren't autistic always ask me about the moment I realized I could understand the way animals think.

    They think I have had an epiphany.

    But it wasn't like that. It took me a long time to figure out that I see things about animals other people don't. And it wasn't until I was in my forties that I finally realized I had one big advantage over the feedlot owners who were hiring me to manager their animals: being autistic. Autism made school and social life hard, but it made animals easy.

    I had no idea I had a special connection to animals when I was little. I liked animals, but I had enough problems just trying to figure out things like why a really small dog isn't a cat. That was a big crisis in my life. All the dogs I knew were pretty big, and I used to sort them by size. Then the neighbors bought a dachshund, and I was totally confused. I kept saying, "How can it be a dog?" I studied and studied that dachshund, trying to figure it out. Finally I realized that the dachshund had the same kind of nose my golden retriever did, and I got it. Dogs have dog noses.

    That was pretty much the extent of my expertise when I was five.

    I started to fall in love with animals in high school when my mother sent me to a special boarding school for gifted children with emotional problems. Back then they called everything "emotional problems." Mother had to find a place for me because I got kicked out of high school for fighting. I got in fights because kids teased me. They'd call me names, like "Retard," or "Tape Recorder."

    The called me Tape Recorder because I'd stored up a lot of phrases in my memory and I used them over and over again in every conversation. (Animals in Translation)

    Dr. Temple Grandin's Web Page

    9/15/06


    Home_____Poppa Neutrino Update & Chronology of Events

    "The road to the mystical is triadic. To get through the doorway is nomadic." (Poppa Neutrino)

    David Pearlman borrowed his more colorful name from quantum physics. In his usage, a neutrino is a subatomic particle forever in motion. That certainly applies to Pearlman, aka Poppa Neutrino, who is 73. He is forever in motion with a new idea, project, or adventure. He and his family, the Neutrinos, have built ten rafts, each almost entirely from salvaged and recycled materials. With crew, he and his wife sailed from New York across the Atlantic and then back again. They did it on a raft that they made, in a word, from junk. National Geographic, The New Yorker and many others have covered his adventures and life. Pearlman has also made a 1800 mile journey down the Mississippi River, from Fridley, Minnesota, past New Orleans, across the Gulf of Mexico to Cuba.

    He and his wife, Captain Betsy, have already left their children with an inheritance. As an example, take the two oldest kids, Ingrid Lucia and Todd, who took over the Flying Neutrinos band in 1994 and went on to successful careers as recording and performing artists. (See link at bottom of post)

    Open, easy to make friends, the man’s personality was partly revealed when he was asked the name of one raft. He replied that it would be called Absolute Absolution. When asked why, Neutrino replied, "What I want in my life is total forgiveness, being able to forgive others for whatever it is that they do or have done against me, or anyone else. To be free from the entrapments of anger, holding grudges, living in old vendettas or resentments. Absolute Absolution allows me to live totally in the present moment. I want to learn to give without asking for a reward. To make this kind of a change, I must remind myself daily of what it is I am trying to become. Therefore I have chosen to name the raft Absolute Absolution."

    Absolute absolution: there is certainly a spiritual element in his outlook. He speaks of living "totally in the present moment" and being "free from entrapments of anger" and other negative feelings. This can be traced to his background as a student of Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1872-1949), a Greek-Armenian mystic and self-professed "teacher of dancing" who claimed to teach the truth found in ancient religions such as Islamic Sufism, Zen Buddhism and Hindu Advaita. Gurdjieff's teachings relate to daily self-awareness and our place in the cosmos. His book is titled Life is Real Only Then, When I Am.

    Neutrino has built several rafts, each connected to a different project. The raft Town Hall has this description: “Built between 1988-90 in Provincetown, MA, from a condemned barge, discarded floating docks, and driftwood from the beach, the Town Hall was powered by a set of paddlewheels driven by the recycled generator motor from Provincetown's Town Hall, hence the raft's name. It served as the traveling home and stage for the Flying Neutrinos Family Band, as they traveled from Massachusetts to New York City, arriving in August 1991. Here it remained anchored at Pier 25 in the Hudson River in Manhattan, within sight of the World Trade Towers, the home base for all the Neutrinos. It was also here that the Son of Town Hall was built, incorporating pieces from the Town Hall for continuity. After the Son of Town Halll left New York in 1995, the Town Hall continued to serve as rehearsal, relaxation and living space for the younger generation of Neutrinos, and other artists and musicians. On May 8, 2000, it was destroyed at the hands of the Hudson River Park Trust.”

    Another raft named Unstoppable Force is described thus: “The Flotsam Follies Variety Show & Floating Stage! The first scrap raft vaudeville stage! Home of the Has Been Circus! A multi-leveled, multi-media Art Machine!" Volunteers are needed to perform on the raft.

    A raft named June’s Barn: “This idea gradually evolved into the building of a pushboat/floating sawmill/raft as a joint project together with the Dows Historical Society and local volunteers of Dows. Initially this was to be called the Dows Iowa, but was renamed June's Barn, in honor of June Hanson, whose barn supplied most of the lumber for the vessel, and to emphasize the recycled nature of the raft.”

    As for The Vilma B, it floated down the Mississippi from Minnesota to Galveston and Arroyo City, Texas. It apparently awaits completion of Neutrino's other projects before its long voyages in its mission as an orphan asylum.

    Of The Vilma B, this was written, she “will be an Orphanage Raft.” The kids will be “street orphans from third world countries such as Brazil, African countries, and India. The children will be those who are living in and surviving on the streets, with literally no one looking out for them or taking responsibility for them. We will get to know them and their situation thoroughly before they ever come to the raft. . . .First let me emphasize that the children we are talking about are children who are living between the cracks of any laws or systems within their country of origin. If this were not the case, if there were any laws or systems covering them, they would not be living in the streets in the first place. So there are no responsible parties in their countries of origin. . . . The children will certainly be better off than they had been before.”

    Between voyages, construction, and humanitarian efforts, he seems to enjoy having several irons in the fire, each in a different stage, although I am unsure if completion is his real aim. As in his ocean travels, for him the journey seems more important than the destination.

  • Here is a chronology, first of his past voyages, then of present and future events. The chronology makes no claim to scholarly thoroughness and documentation. It simply represents my brief attempt to make sense of the many sites about Poppa Neutrino.

  • 14 August 1998. Of Son of Town Hall, The Cape Cod Times reported the raft’s arrival in Europe. “The Floating Neutrinos, Provincetown's unsinkable washashores, tied up in Ireland yesterday after a two-month trip on a raft constructed from plywood, foam and tennis netting.” The account continues: “The Neutrinos, originally a family of street musicians, vowed to cross the Atlantic in their hand-built boat. With the children left safely ashore in the United States, Pearlman, 65, his wife Betsy Terrel, 46, Ed Garry, 37, Roger Doncaster, 44, two Rotweilers and one mutt made the trip. With the Gulf Stream's help they cruised from Newfoundland to Castletownbere, a town on the southern tip of Ireland. The craft arrived yesterday at 6:30 a.m. escorted by the Irish Navy and confronted by hundreds of curious eyes.”

    “No one who has seen the boat, Son of Town Hall, could believe it.”

    " ‘It looks like a garden shed patched together with nails, knots and rope,’ said freelance journalist Barry Roche after watching Son of Town Hall pull into the small port yesterday.”

    Son of Town Hall is a raft made of tree trunks strapped together with planks on top. A rectangular cabin sits on top of the planks. Styrofoam padding surrounds the bottom for stability and buoyancy, said Dwight Raymond, owner of Performance Marine, a boatyard in Kennebunk, Maine. He worked on "The Son" in the winter of 1997, despite the consternation of many yacht owners in Kennebunkport.”

    The Times reported that Neutrino took the Rotweilers because he was mad at the way the Cape Cod harbor master treated them. "They deserve to be treated like everyone else," said Neutrino.

    "The raft arrived in Provincetown in 1995 powered by a four-horsepower outboard motor, with four family members living inside. There are five children in the family. One night, during a snow storm, it tipped over on its port side, dunking all the Neutrino's possessions and nearly drowning their dogs and cats."

    Pearlman’s message to a Provincetown resident: "That you can live your dreams if you have enough determination."

    The Times explained that rigged like a Chinese junk, “the vessel's sail was woven on tennis netting the Neutrinos found in New York City and layered like Venetian blinds.”

    “The Neutrinos first came to Provincetown as street musicians in 1987. They left after their original houseboat, Town Hall, was condemned by the Board of Heath in 1990. After spending four years on a pier in Manhattan, they returned in 1995. Pearlman kept saying he was heading to Europe. Few believed him.”

    An interviewee told the reporter, "I thought they could make it if they were lucky," and "they were."

  • April 2000. The Vilma B was begun in April of 2000, at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in the Minneapolis area. It made its way down the Mississippi. "Much work still remains ahead before the Vilma B finally becomes a 128’ sea-going vessel, ready to travel the high seas, picking up orphans in Brazil and other Central and South American countries, then on to Africa and India, traveling throughout the world, raising and educating the street orphans along the way."

  • 31 January 2006. Poppa Neutrino teamed with Riley Books to use eBay Auctions to gain sponsors for his raft trip to China. "You Decide Travel Guide," an imprint of Riley Books joined with Pearlman to find sponsors for his China voyage.

    The eBay auction offers voyage sponsorships, with sponsors' logos on the boat. The auction is listed as "Sponsor an epic sea voyage of adventure; Poppa Neutrino sails for China on a scrap raft."

    In January the raft Island Rooster was tested for final modifications in Baja California, Mexico.. The big leg will be across the Pacific to China. Poppa Neutrino was just south of San Felipe, Baja Mexico, on his raft. It underwent final test floats near Playa Percebu. The Island Rooster was to voyage south through the Sea of Cortez to the tip of Baja California, then into the Pacific for China.

  • July 2006 A site states about the Island Rooster project that, “the current status of the voyage is unknown but we are looking into it. The Island Rooster is bobbing near the shore in Puertocitos [Baja California, Mexico] which is just over an hour south of San Felipe by car.”

  • 6 July 6 2006. At a site, we encounter a new project of Neutrino, what he has termed the Common Ground Navy. “Common Ground Navy has begun construction of their first raft.” Under way in Red Wing, Minnesota, Poppa Neutrino with two young people, June Kellum and Eric Hyde, was reported as building a raft. They intend to “float the Mississippi and ultimately to send Common Ground Navy rafts all over the globe.” In New Orleans, and probably because of Hurricane Katrina, Neutrino has something called Common Ground Relief in New Orleans. There, he has “an ongoing project to build rafts for hurricane rescue and shelter.”

    Apparently, the Island Rooster voyage won’t start from Mexico, but instead in Minnesota. The voyage may shift to the raft Island Rooster in Mexico, but the voyage, on a different raft, started at the headwaters of the Mississippi. This comment indicates as much. “Poppa Neutrino, founder of Common Ground Navy, is issuing an invitation to come rafting down the Mississippi, across the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific to China; or any part of this itinerary.”

    There is a Common Ground Air Force, also humanitarian, its purpose is to "bomb" “countries in need with seeds, information, tools, and other useful and helpful items.” Neutrino calls on volunteers “for all aspects of its operation.” It “especially needs donations of equipment and supplies, and computer savvy bloggers and fund raisers.”

    As for Neutrino’s work ethic, "We work two hours a day, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.," he said. This explanation is provided: “Poppa Neutrino is not into speed. He's into joy and appreciation. He lives for the moment.”

  • August 2006. This date seems to introduce a report on the Neutrinos from Guatemala on Lago Izabal. (Much geographic distance lies between the various Neutrino projects, which is logistically puzzling .) From the Buoyant Neutrino web site, two raft projects are named as currently underway “in various stages.” One is the sailing a catamaran raft, the Absolute Absolution. There is this comment: “We are again raising funds for the Absolute Absolution project in Europe, but are looking forward to returning to Guatemala in September, when Ed will be supervising the launch of the Absolute Absolution back into the water, and resuming his boat building school.” The school is to help local fisherman. The site refers to a Tom who left Switzerland, “to live an eco-friendly life on Lago Izabal,” and to “our friend Bryan, the Jungle Medic," who "has recently taken delivery of a school bus which has been converted into a mobile clinic, so he will now be able to make more visits to Punta Caimanes and surrounding villages.”

    The site names a second project, the Island Rooster, the raft already mentioned, which Poppa Neutrino says is intended for a voyage from Baja California, Mexico to China.

    Guatemala, Baja California, Minnesota, New Orleans. Hmmmm. With this division of his humanitarian energies he may not be sailing to China any time soon.

  • Also August 2006. The Common Ground Navy was reported as under way, headed down the Mississippi. Accompanying the crew was Neutrino’s Boston Terrier, Betty Boop.

    "The ramshackle flotilla floated down the Mississippi River to tie up off Winona, Minnesota.

    Captained by 73-year-old Poppa Neutrino, the lashed-together navy includes a raft with tents on it, a deck house and three fishing boats, one of which is used to propel and steer the raft.

    Neutrino (born David Pearlman), his traveling companion June Kellum and dog Betty Boop arrived Wednesday and plan to stay in Winona for one week.

    The raft Neutrino and Kellum built in Red Wing will accumulate donated parts and, by the time it reaches New Orleans, will be able to weather an ocean crossing, he said.

    Neutrino, of San Francisco, plans to use his flotilla to visit Cuba again where he has a daughter, then he's off to China.”

  • 13 March 2007. The Happiest Man in the World: An Account of the Life of Poppa Neutrino by Alec Wilkinson. This title will be released on 13 March 2007. ____________________________________________________________

    Links.
    Random Lunacy
    Floating Neutrinos
    Poppa Neutrino Speaks
    The New Yorker article
    Common Ground Navy
    The Flying Neutrinos (The children who became musicians)
  • 9/12/06


    Home_____Popular Mechanics Magazine, Feb. 1950: The World In 2000

    Transportation. Passengers may fly from New York to San Francisco in rocket ships.

    The network of aerial transportation will have an effect on population distribution. People will commute from Chicago to New York, for example.

    Huge aerial busses will carry 200 passengers from city to city.

    Highways will have few curves, and run fairly straight. Highways will be double-decked. The upper deck carries fast traffic.The lower deck will be like a business avenue, with stop lights and shops. This will be the deck for shoppers, trucks, and other business vehicles.

    Cars will be teardrop shaped for better economy and will run on cheap, denatured alchohol.

    Families will go for Sunday outings in helicopters.

    Environment. The air will be clean because it is against the law to burn raw coal and pollute the air with smoke and soot. (The word smog, a blend of smoke with fog, has not yet been coined.)

    Factories burn gas generated in sealed mines. The tars are removed from the gas and sold to chemical industries.

    Cities will be lit by electric "suns" suspended from steel towers 200 feet high. Light will draw from atomic energy.

    Weather will be predicted with the Zworykin-Von Neumann weather forecaster. The machine will calculate thousands of separate equations a minute. Storms will no longer be a problem. It will be easy to spot a budding hurricane off the coast of Africa.

    Urban planning. The airport will be the heart of any town. Surrounding the airport will be businesses, factories, and hotels. In concentric circles behind these one will find residential districts.

    Homes. Houses will be built in a few days by pouring concrete into standard forms.

    Cities will grow into regions, and it will be hard to tell where one stops and the other begins.

    Housewives will dump dirty dishes down the drain. Cheap plastic will melt in hot water. Thus, no dishwashing machines. Two dozen soluble plastic plates will cost a dollar.

    Houses will cost $5000 and will be built to last only twenty five years.

    Housewives will not vacuum or sweep. They will use a water hose. Furniture, rugs, draperies, are made of synthetic fabric or waterproof plastic. They will dry the house with blasts of hot air.

    Men will not shave. They will use depilatories, just as women use on legs. They will apply a chemical and wash it off with water.

    4/24/04

    White Slavery & The Dark Continent: Lady Florence Baker, 1841-1916

    White Slavery & The Dark Continent: Lady Florence Baker, 1841-1916

    A European orphaned at four years old, abducted into an Ottoman harem, and raised to become a concubine, Barbara Maria Szasz stood at a white slave auction in 1859, ordered to turn so that men could look at the turn of her buttocks, the shape of her breasts, the dimple of her cheek, the depth of her eyes. Renamed Florenz, at fourteen she was a fetching prize for the highest bidder, the Pasha of Viddin. She would lead a comfortable life as a toy for his nightly visits until her breasts began to sag and her cheeks wrinkled. After that she would train other maidens to become good concubines, living and dying within the walls of the harem.

    That might have happened had Sam Baker, a wealthy English adventurer, not been at the auction. Broken-nosed, bushy-bearded, he had accompanied Duleep Singh. Singh was the maharajah who so desperately wanted Queen Victoria to make him a prince that he gave up the entire Punjab region and and the marvelous Kohinoor diamond for the title. Baker, his minder, had been on a Danube hunting trip with him.

    Baker caught her eye, and couldn't turn away. He wanted her, and badly. She was very beautiful and she appeared very angry. He was attracted to her but was also moved by compassion and empathy for her plight. Unwilling or unable to outbid the Pasha, he undertook a very dangerous adventure. He stole her from the auction and smuggled her out of Ottoman territory and into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Their chemistry was immediate and they became intimate during the journey, deepening over the years into lasting love. More

    Labels: , , ,

    3/20/04

    Mexico Fought In WWII: 201st Fighter Squadron

    Mexico Fought In WWII.

    When German U Boats attacked and sank two Mexican ships, Mexico joined the Allies against the Axis in 1942

    But, because of inadequate equipment and material, not until 1944 did President Camacho decide to send a Mexican military unit into battle. Under Col. P.A. Antonio Cardenas Rodriguez (1905-1969) the 201st Fighter Squadron was formed.

    Squadron 201 was an elite, all-volunteer unit composed of the best military pilots and ground personnel in Mexico, recruited from all branches of the service.

    Known as "The Aztec Eagles," the squadron flew P 47 Thunderbolts, powerful and fast, affectionately known by pilots as jugheads, and was assigned to the Pacific Theater. They flew 59 combat missions.

    Here are links for information.

  • Military.com
  • US Latinos & Latinas in WWII
  • Misiones: los miembros de la Fuerza Aerea Expedicionaria Mexicana
  • Labels: , , , ,

    3/19/04


    Home_____Chevy Si, Cuba No

    Take 12 Cubans. Give them one 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck. Let them mount it on 55 gallon oil drums and attach a boat propeller to its drive shaft.

    Call up the US Coast Guard, which intercepts them 40 miles (65 km) from Florida, over half the distance from Cuba.

    Then repatriate them back into Fidel's arms, nine men, two women, and one child.

    The pickup was spotted by a US plane and intercepted by the Coast Guard. It had been traveling at eight miles per hour (13 km/hr).

    They were sent back under United States law, which requires that passengers must be returned home if on vessels stopped at sea. (This was a vessel? I suppose.)

    They were quite resourceful, these Cubans, having driven the truck to the beach, and making it "sea-ready" in six hours. They chose a forecast of calm seas and clear skies.

    Perez Gras told the Associated Press that if they had gotten to Key West, they could have driven it onto the sand. (Perhaps, even to Miami, after refueling, of course.)

    The Coast Guard stopped it after they had been at sea 31 hours. One Official said that the sailors couldn't believe their eyes.

    He explained that the drive shaft had been dropped from the rear axle so that it could reach into the water to turn the propellor.

    Several of the men sat atop the green truck and others were apparently under the bright yellow canopy that covered the back of the vehicle.

    One of the Cubans expressed disappointment, saying, "We thought that they would let us in because it was so outrageous."

    It had suprised the Coast Guardsmen, but not enough. The migrants were sent back to Cuba and the Chevie was sent to the bottom.

    The US Coast Guard deemed it "a hazard to navigation."

    (Derived from BBC News, 24 July 2003)

    1/28/04


    Home_____Gunslingers, Eastern Europe Style

    In the classic Western, Shane, Alan Ladd rides off into the sunset,wounded, after clearing a valley of its evil men. Little Joey, Brandon de Wilde, runs after him, shouting, "Shane! Come back Shane!" But the honorable gunman has already told the boy a man is what he is and you can't break the mold. He did what any brave man had to do, save good settlers from Ryker, the rancher-baron who would drive them off their land.

    In A Polish dictionary Shane yields this definition: a psychologically credible personification of goodness.

    In parts of communist-ruled Poland the posters billed the movie as The Man From Nowhere, escaping the censors because nowhere was code for a country overrun by aggressors for hundreds of years; it meant a nation become lost in history.

    In High Noon, as Sheriff Will Kane, Gary Cooper can't get any townsmen to stand with him on main street against the guys in black hats. He nervously checks his ammunition, looks at the clock, sees it nears high noon and his rendezvous with fate. In this 1952 classic the stakes are clear, good against evil, honor against dishonor, community against villainy.

    In Poland, out of nowhere, a lone electrician rode into town one day, name of Lech Walesa. He wore a white hat and turned his smoking oratory against the bad guys. Unlike Shane, or Sherrif Will Kane, he was a member of a community rather than a lone gun slinger. Solidarity became a mass movement.

    The image of Gary Cooper became a metaphor for the many, not the one. He strides courageously forward, ballot in hand, supported by the banner of Solidarity, headed for a showdown with the old regime at high noon.

    It was all classic black and white, them against us, good versus evil, the underdog fighting the overdog. After Solidarity, things were never again that clear. Lech Walesa assumed shades of gray and stands in dirtier hues, founding new injustices to replace those he came to remove.

    The Western itself has faded into the sunset, and is regarded as a bit corny, too unsophisticated, rather simplistic. It can't sustain itself against a post-modern world of moral compromises, deep ambiguities, and existential uncertainties.

    At one time in Poland, Western movie posters were coded emblems of subversive dissent. After 1989, newer and brighter Hollywood tales have made their way into the East, these without the mythic implications of American beliefs and values in their hey day. They reflect a new American myth, of people out for a good time, a good kill, a good snort, a good f**k, but not an America that holds anything truly dear.

    Today in Poland and the East, people like Lech Walesa would perhaps have a harder time finding suitable Hollywood counterparts in American movie posters because the posters would reveal both them and Hollywood as morally uncertain as they truly are.

    1/24/04

    Here Lies The Heart: Mercedes de Acosta and Ramana Maharshi



    Descended from the legendary Dukes of Alba, daughter in a wealthy Cuban family, Mercedes de Acosta was born in 1893 in New York, raised near Fifth Avenue, and had a beautiful sister Rita de Acosta who was a model for artists John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini. Married to painter Abram Poole, Mercedes was socialite, poet, playwright, Hollywood set and costume designer as well as script writer. She knew many of the greats of her day: Bessie Marbury, Rodin, Edith Wharton, Stravinsky, Sarah Bernhardt, Elenora Duse, Picasso, Cecil Beaton, Elsa Maxwell, and Krishnamurti. Near the end of her life, she met and befriended Andy Warhol, and introduced him to many of the people who would count in his career.

    Consuelo (Hatmaker) Sides, whose husband had been the World War I French flying ace Charles Nungesser, accompanied Mercedes on her passage to India. After arriving, de Acosta met former President Woodrow Wilson's daughter, Margaret, a devotee at Sri Aurobindo's ashram.

    In 1960, she published an autobiography, Here Lies The Heart, dedicated to Maharshi, in which she wrote, To Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, the only completely egoless, world-detached, and pure being I have ever known. She spent three days with him and remembered them as the most significant of her life.

    At a dinner party she became interested in Maharshi after she met Paul Brunton, an Englishman who had spent time with the sage, and had published A Search in Secret India, chronicling his transformative experiences at Arunachala.

    She later read Brunton's book and of it, she wrote that it "had a profound effect on me. . . . It was as though some emanation of this saint was projected out of the book to me. . . . Nothing could distract me from the idea that I must go and meet this saint. . . . . I felt I would meet the Maharshi and that this meeting would be the greatest experience of my life."

    As the car neared Maharshi's home she says,"the driver explained he could take me no farther. I turned toward the hill of Arunachala and hurried in the hot sun along the dust-covered road to the abode about two miles from town where the Sage dwelt. As I ran those two miles, deeply within myself I knew that I was running toward the greatest experience of my life."

    "When, dazed and filled with emotion, I first entered the hall, I did not quite know what to do. Coming from strong sunlight into the somewhat darkened hall, it was, at first, difficult to see; nevertheless, I perceived Bhagavan at once, sitting in the Buddha posture on his couch in the corner. At the same moment I felt overcome by some strong power in the hall, as if an invisible wind was pushing violently against me. For a moment I felt dizzy."

    "Then I recovered myself. To my great surprise I suddenly heard an American voice calling out to me, 'Hello, come in.' It was the voice of an American named Guy Hague*, who originally came from Long Beach, California. . . . " [*Some say Guy Hague is Somerset Maugham's Larry Darrell in The Razor's Edge. The Wanderling says his mentor was Maugham's inspiration.]

    After I had been sitting several hours in the hall listening to the mantras of the Indians and the incessant droning of flies, and lost in a sort of inner world, Guy Hague suggested that I go and sit near the Maharshi. . . . I moved near Bhagavan, sitting at his feet and facing him. . . ."

    "He moved his head and looked directly down at me, his eyes looking into mine. It would be impossible to describe this moment and I am not going to attempt it. I can only say that at this second I felt my inner being raised to a new level-as if, suddenly, my state of consciousness was lifted to a much higher degree. . . ."

    "[I asked Maharshi,] tell me, whom shall I follow--what shall I follow? I have been trying to find this out for years by seeking in religions, in philosophies, in teachings."

    "Again there was silence. After a few minutes, which seemed to me a long time, he spoke. 'You are not telling the truth. You are just using words--just talking. You know perfectly well whom to follow. Why do you need me to confirm it?' "

    "You mean I should follow my inner self?" I asked.

    "I don't know anything about your inner self. You should follow the Self. There is nothing or no one else to follow."

    I asked again, "What about religions, teachers, gurus?"

    "If they can help in the quest of the Self. But can they help? Can religion, which teaches you to look outside yourself, which promises a heaven and a reward outside yourself, can this help you? It is only by diving deep into the spiritual Heart that one can find the Self."

    "He placed his right hand on his right breast and continued,

    Here lies the Heart, the dynamic, spiritual Heart. It is called Hridaya and is located on the right side of the chest and is clearly visible to the inner eye of an adept on the spiritual path. Through meditation you can learn to find the Self in the cave of this Heart. . . ."

    "Bhagavan pointed out to me that the real Self is timeless. 'But,' he said, 'in spite of ignorance, no man takes seriously the fact of death. He may see death around him, but he still does not believe that he will die. . . .' "

    "To write of this experience with Bhagavan, to recapture and record all that he said, or all that his silences implied, is like trying to put the infinite into an egg cup. . . . On me he had, and still has, a profound influence. . . .I definitely saw life differently after I had been in his presence, a presence that just by merely 'being' was sufficient spiritual nourishment for a lifetime. . . ."

    "I sat in the hall with Bhagavan three days and three nights. . . . I wanted to stay on there with him but finally he told me that I should go back to America. He said, 'There will be what will be called a "war," but which, in reality, will be a great world revolution. Every country and every person will be touched by it.' You must return to America. Your destiny is not in India at this time.' . . . ."

    "Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi died on April 14,1950. He had said, 'I am going away? Where could I go? I am here.' By the word 'here' he did not imply any limitation. He meant rather, that the Self 'is.' There is no going, or coming, or changing in that which is changeless and Universal. . . . millions in India mourned the Maharshi. A long article about his death in the New York Times ended with, 'Here in India, where thousands of so-called holy men claim close tune with the infinite, it is said that the most remarkable thing about Ramana Maharshi was that he never claimed anything remarkable for himself, yet became one of the most loved and respected of all'."

    Her meeting with Maharshi was perhaps most remarkable in view of her life that preceded it. Alice B. Toklas once said of her, "you can't dispose of Mercedes lightly, she had the two most important women in US., Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich." Other lovers of Mercedes included the great actresses Alla Nazimova and Eva Le Gallienne and the legendary innovator of dance, Isadora Duncan. "I can get any woman away from any man," she liked to tell her friends. But what de Acosta eventually wanted more than anything was the 1938 interview with Ramana Maharshi. A woman of great appetites, she sought somebody who taught the quenching of appetites.

    Mercedes de Acosta moved to a 68th Avenue apartment and died in relative poverty in 1968. In her autobiography she had revealed too many secrets about her friends, who then cut her out of their circles.

    Her book, Here Lies The Heart

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    1/21/04


    Home_____Sex Crimes In The Distant Past

    In Sex Crimes: From Renaissance to Enlightenment, William Naphy reveals that kinkiness has a long history. In 16th century Geneva, despite the effort of John Calvin to settle a repressive pall over the city, people looked for prurient pleasure wherever they could find it. Drawing on official court reports, Naphy shows the reader that sex crimes took a rather bizarre turn even then.

    About 10,000 in population, Geneva had its morality presided over by about a dozen elders and the same number in ministers, always looking for behavior "tending towards fornication." This included somebody singing a bit too bawdily, even if only to themselves. A Genevan could be charged with a sex crime if dancing at a wedding. If an individual smiled too boldly at a stranger, he or she could be brought before the tribunal. Citizens were encouraged to spy on one another and report anything that even seemed like odd behavior. This must have been the hey day of busy bodies and voyeurs. Those who held grudges or were downright malicious also had wonderful opportunities. Court records show many situations in which spite, greed, and unrequited love were the causes of innocent people being charged with sex crimes.

    Unmarried pregnant girls often wound up in court. They could not claim they were raped because they had to have an orgasm in order to conceive--so went the thinking. Thus, even if forced, a pregnant girl must have enjoyed it. If she named a long-time lover as the father, both risked probable imprisonment.

    Adultery was also taken seriously as it threatened the marriage with a false heir to property. In Calvinist Geneva, money and business matters were taken seriously indeed, so much so that both the woman and her partner were likely to be executed. Given their choice, the condemned usually chose drowning. If a male servant committed adultery with his mistress, he frequently was executed because he had robbed his master of a valuable asset. The effect of economics went far to lessen a crime if the male adulterer was equal in social and economic stature to the cuckolded husband. He would be flogged and banished. (Eventually authorities realized that some people found flogging as sexually exciting, and they stopped it as punishment.)

    Homosexuals were officially nonexistent. Acts of sodomy occurred, and were punishable by death. Even though homosexuality was not recognized, defense would take the form of one person pointing out that he had a wife and four children. The prosecution would argue that the offender had habitually committed offenses with other men.

    In 1551 Jean Fontanna and Francois Puthod were arraigned before court for "wrestling in the nude." Fontanna explained that their relationship began when he noticed Puthod "had an enormous member." Much younger, Puthod tearfully pleaded that he hadn't realized he did anything wrong. He was banished from the city. Fontanna, with a wife and child, had a long history of nude wrestling and was chained to a large stone for a year and a day.

    Despite the stern godliness of John Calvin, 16th century Geneva was no bastion of high morality. Overcrowded quarters meant that children regularly witnessed parents engaged in sex. Single men shared beds. Peasants lived intimately with animals. In 1660 a cowherd told the court he wasn't having sex, but had merely urinated over the cow's behind to rid it of parasites. He was acquitted.

    In 17th and 18th century Britain, homosexuality had effeminacy as its characteristic. Fops paraded it and even heterosexuals adopted the pose as entree to certain artistic or thespian cliques. Effeminacy became camp. In the early 18th century Margaret "Mother" Clap became proprietress of a molly house, and she left her name as a lasting sign of those venereal times. In Samuel Stevens' testimony at her trial he stated he saw, "40 and 50 Men making Love to one another, as they call'd it. Sometimes they would sit in one anothers Laps, kissing in a leud Manner, and using their Hand[s] indecently. Then they would get up, Dance and make Curtsies, and mimick the Voices of Women."

    Homosexuality had moved into the open, and unlike Geneva, had to be officially recognized. Sodomites were put in stocks and blinded with cow dung.

    In our relatively more enlightened times, the public and the authorities still struggle with how to define and legislate such matters.

    Sex Crimes by William Naphy at Amazon.co.uk

    1/20/04


    Home_____It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's Angle Grinder Man

    As Andy Warhol Said, Everybody Gets His Fifteen Minutes of Fame. Now It's Angle Grinder Man's Turn.

    Some people call him a Clark Kent lookalike. You can tell the difference, however. He has an AGM logo on his chest, not an S. He also helps damsels in distress. He certainly has a sense of humor.

    In a 7 October 2003 New York Times article, the masked man gave an interview. Calling himself Angle-Grinder Man, he comes to the rescue of those whose car wheels have been booted by police for illegal parking. The New York Times reporter described him as dressed in cape and gold lamé underpants.

    He has become a folk hero of sorts among frustrated South London motorists. He takes his name from an Angle Grinder, a power saw that cuts through wheel boots, Whenever he turns on his loud saw, people know he's around, but he always insures the police are absent. No matter--in less than a minute he can liberate a wheel from the clutches of authority and earn the undying gratitude of drivers who escape their fines.

    Just like Superman and The Lone Ranger, he accepts no money for his deeds, as he is merely on the side of the little guy. He hides his identity behind his mask, and the public doesn't know, much as nobody suspected the mild mannered reporter Clark Kent. Like the Lone Ranger, he strides off into the sunset and townsmen turn to one another and ask, Who was that masked man?

    A damsel in distress, Petite Tendai, found a boot on her illegally parked car. ("No signs saying `no parking,' " she declared.) She felt the weight of injustice and authority almost bringing her to tears when suddenly Angle-Grinder Man appeared.

    Since then, he has become Ms Tendai's hero.

    Ms Tendai said of him, "Basically, he jumped out of his car in his outfit and said, `If anyone can, Angle-Grinder Man can,' " She added, "Then he just started sawing it off. It was wicked."

    He was brought to his noble duty by a boot clamped onto his own car wheel, and insult was added to injury by a £95 fine (a little over $150) to remove it. He did what any Robin Hood would do, renting a circular saw for about £30. Unemployed, he saved himself a hunk of change.

    An extremely sensitive nature

    He taped a photograph of the sawed-up clamp to his windshield, along with a note saying, "Please don't clamp me because I've got an extremely sensitive nature."

    From that day forward, Angle-Grinder Man had found his calling. "There was so much injustice out there," he said.

    A champion of the downtrodden must look the part. He worked hard on his appearance, but finally settled on blue and gold. He bought a fabric roll of gold lamé at a flea market after holding the material around himself to ask the salesgirl how he might look in it.

    He spray-painted a pair of cowboy boots gold. The underpants are a pair of bikini briefs covered with the flea-market lamé. The gloves came from a piercing-and-fetish shop. Angle-Grinder Man designed the logo himself, including the letters AGM glued on his costume. "I wanted to have a balance between the political side and the comedy side," he explained.

    "I'm a heterosexual superhero," Angle-Grinder Man told the reporter, "although I have no problem being a gay icon."

    As he left the interview his gold cape glittered in the afternoon light. Unknowingly he had smitten the heart of another damsel who had been watching him. A sales clerk said she was a great fan of his.

    "I think he's extraordinarily attractive," she said. "Especially the golden knickers."

    12/24/03

    Feral Children: John Ssabunnya to the Wild Boy of Averyon

    Mind Shadows Home
    Feral Children

    Found in 1991, John Ssabunnya (pictured here) was reared by apes in the jungles of Uganda. Seeing his mother murdered by his father, John escaped into the jungle as a toddler, where Green monkeys adopted him and thereby saved his life. John learned their mannerisms, climbed trees, lived on fruit, nuts, roots, and berries.

    To protect themselves, John and his monkey family made racket, and hurled sticks at John's would-be rescuers. When the villagers got the boy down from a tree, they found him covered with dirt, his eyes and body filled with fleas.

    Raised in a Christian orphanage, John learned again how to speak and told his story. For those who were skeptical, he demonstrated behavior that put their doubts to rest.

    The BBC tested John by taking him to the Uganda Wildlife Education Center. With a group of visiting children who harassed Green monkeys, John behaved differently. Crouched, and reaching an open hand toward the monkeys, he made a series of oblique glances and guttural sounds that left the humans in awe. In less than two hours he had been accepted by the monkeys.

  • The Hessian wolf-boy, found in the woods of Hesse, Germany, in 1341 and raised thereafter by local monks whose records indicate he was about 7 years old and kept by wolves. He soon died after capture but a second boy, about 12, was captured in the same region in 1344. This boy apparently died soon after being captured, but a second wild boy — this time a 12 year old — seized three years later (1344) in the same region but the woods of Wetterau this time and lived to the age 80. Records indicate both children as wild and immune to cold and discomfort, besides not being able to stand upright, consequently having to move around on all fours.

  • The Wild Boy of Hesse, captured in the woods near Hameln, Germany 27 July 1724, about 12 years old. He could not speak and ate only vegetables and grass and sucked the juice of green stalks; at first he rejected bread. Summoned to King George I (also Hanoverian King), he was briefly court favorite, dying in 1785.

  • The Wild Boy of Aveyron, captured near Lacune, France, 1797 and taken, kicking and screaming, by local peasants then displayed in the village square. He escaped and was recaptured in 1798. A widow fed and clothed him for a week, but he again escaped to the forest. Less wary of humans, in the 1800 winter, hungry, he wandered into Saint Sernin and was captured again. Dirty, inarticulate, he moved on all fours, grunting like a beast. He became known as Victor. Bonaparte's brother, Lucien, ordered Victor to Paris and exhibited him in a cage, wherein he rocked back and forth, dull, lifeless, apathetic. Jean-Marc Gaspard tried to educate him. Victor learned how to read, say a few words, and obey simple commands, but never spoke properly. He died in 1828.

    Interestingly, this was Rousseau's age, the epoch of nature as pure and civilization as degrading. The boy put to the test such beliefs. Victor was no Garden of Eden child.

  • Kamala and Amala. Kamala, 7 or 8 years old, and Amala, about 1 and a half, were two girls supposedly discovered in 1920 living with a family of wolves in a cave-like den in the base of a huge abandoned termite hill in India. In an orphanage, they preferred the company of cats and dogs, and like wild animals, slept days and prowled nights on all fours. They bit and attacked other children if provoked. With acute sight, hearing and smell, they enjoyed raw meat. In 1921 Amala died. Kamala would not leave her sister's body and had to be removed from the coffin. Kamala learned a small vocabulary and died in 1929.
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    12/21/03

    Jesus' Face Reconstructed


    With the aid of computers, forensic anthropologists input the best data available for Jesus in his time and place. This representation differs markedly from the European version of him as lithe, long-haired, light-skinned, and delicate-featured.

    Israeli and British scientists worked with computer programmers to create the face for the December 2002 Popular Mechanics magazine.

    They used archaeological and anthropological science rather than an artistic interpretation. Following a model of a skull found near Jerusalem that dates to the first century, they performed CAT scans and forensic muscle reconstruction to recreate the face. They acknowledge that without Jesus' skull, theirs is not the actual face, but it does come much closer than previous artist renderings, which were filtered by the culture of the painter.

    It is a broad, peasant's face, dark olive skin, short curly hair, and a prominent nose. People were much shorter in Jesus' time, so he would have stood about 5 foot 1 inch tall (1.55 m) with a weight of 110 pounds (50 kg).

    Unlike paintings, his hair is short. The researchers found that in the Bible long hair was not customary, and was frowned upon. In the New Testament Paul wrote "If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him."

    It may not be great art, but is less misleading as to the appearance of the true face.

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    12/19/03

    Chris Langan & His IQ



    Chris Langan is one of the smartest people in America—his reported IQ is said to be off the charts. Yet, if it's a criterion of anything at all, he has not made it big in the business world. At the time this is written he’s in his mid 40’s, works as a part-time bouncer at a bar and lives in a one room home. He claims that he manages to support himself on only $6000 a year.

    From a modest background, Chris had an abusive father. His exceptional intelligence only seemed to heighten the problems in their relationship.

    Langan says that being a genius does not necessarily make life easy. Although he has never cared much about money, he explains that his lack of a consistent and professional career path is a result of negative experiences in school.

    The following is excerpted from On 20/20 Downtown, no date given, in which Cynthia McFadden moderated for Langan, who answered questioners. The account states that he is working on a mathematical and philosophical book that will present his theory of the universe.

    As an online chat Langan answered posted questions.

    Questioner--How do you think you can prove the existence of God using mathematics?

    Chris Langan--You have to prove that the universe is a self-referential system. Then you have to examine the attributes of this system, analyze the system to determine how it behaves. It turns out that in certain ways it behaves mentally like a mind. The natural question to ask then is: whose mind are we talking about? The answer to that question is the mind of God.

    Questioner--What is the correlation between genius and IQ? between motivation and IQ?

    Chris Langan--There appear to be aspects of motivation in intelligence. Whether or not these show up in IQ depends on the test that is taken. For some tests, motivation is a factor; for others it isn't. The ones for which motivation is not a factor, are those that tend to measure mental reflexes. However, even mental reflexes can be depressed for a variety of reasons. So if one's motivation is lacking, one should always be retested when it's high.

    Questioner--What is the extent of your education? Did you ever go to college? Why or why not? If you did, how did your relationship with other people change?

    Chris Langan--I graduated from high school. I got an academic scholarship to college which lasted for one year. Lost it due to a bureaucratic oversight, and paid my own way back to college for a little under 2 quarters after that. By that time, I'd had a sufficient number of negative experiences in academia that I didn't want to go back. However, although I remain disappointed with academic bureaucracy, I understand that it's a system from which some people have much to gain.

    Questioner--Have you read any Hindu or Buddhist texts relating organization of the universe? I've read that similiar texts have inspired Tesla.

    Chris Langan--Yes I have read such texts, and have found remarkable insights in them, and yes I have been inspired by them.

    Questioner--Are you a member of MENSA?

    Chris Langan--No. I never joined Mensa. The first high IQ society I joined was the Mega society, with a much higher cutoff than Mensa's. Whereas Mensa has a cutoff of 1 in 50, the Mega society has a cutoff of 1 in 1 million. Subsequently I joined the Prometheus Society which has a cutoff of 1 in 30,000 and the Triple 9 Society which has a cutoff of 1 in 1,000. Together, these and other high cutoff societies form what is called the Superhigh-IQ Community. The Mega Foundation is working to develop the Superhigh-IQ Community on a global level.

    Questioner--Does language limit our thought?

    Chris Langan--Most people think that a language must be a natural, spoken or written language like English, French or German. But in mathematics and logic, the definition of language is far more general. Reality itself can be viewed as a language, and the language of thought is closely related to that of reality at large. So we might just as well say that the language of thought, rather than limiting our ability to understand reality at large, facilitates it. However, if one's mental language is artificially constrained, then one's insight and creativity may indeed be impaired. The surest proof against this is an open mind and a desire to learn. Samuel--Hi Chris, you mentioned that the universe behaves in certain ways like a mind. Can you elaborate on this?

    Chris Langan--The mind works according to the principals of mathematics, including inductive and deductive logic. This goes back to Kant who held that the human mind has categories of perception and cognition. These categories are constraints on phenomenal reality. But phenomenal reality is the only reality we can know. Therefore, constraints on mind function as constraints on reality and systems that function according to similar constraints are similar in function.

    Questioner--Chris, Do you believe in creation science or evolution?

    Chris Langan--I believe in the theory of evolution, but I believe as well in the allegorical truth of creation theory. In other words, I believe that evolution, including the principle of natural selection, is one of the tools used by God to create mankind. Mankind is then a participant in the creation of the universe itself, so that we have a closed loop. I believe that there is a level on which science and religious metaphor are mutually compatible. Questioner--Do you play an instrument, draw, paint, etc??

    Chris Langan--Yes I do. My main instrument is the guitar. I own several electric guitars including a Les Paul, and a Gibson bass guitar. I've also played the piano, although I took it up too late to be especially good at it. I own a synthesizer, that is an electronic keyboard. In fact, I've even played the drums! Most recently I've been into composing music on my computer. There are now a number of good programs that will let you do this. In addition, I draw and occasionally sculpt. I've also written a novel or two, now molding in the bottom drawer of my desk and I love to write songs and poetry. I guess I'm just a romantic at heart.

    Moderator of questioning--Chris do you have any final thoughts?

    Chris Langan--I'm very concerned about helping others who face some of the problems that I faced when I was growing up. That's what the Mega Foundation [an organization he founded] is about--gifted people helping gifted people. The profoundly gifted are the greatest and most cost effective resource that we as a species possess, and we should do everything in our power to see that they are not wasted. At the same time, every human being, regardless of IQ, has a microcosm in his or her mind and the abilities of ordinary people are in a sense as important as those of the gifted. If we all work together to solve the world's problems, future generations of mankind will have a much healthier planet to inherit

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