Wednesday, August 15, 2012

James Holmes Scares Us

By Meg Curtis

James Holmes doesn’t need a Joker suit to scare us. Readers might expect a graduate student in neuroscience to understand this apparent revelation. He ranks right up there with tornadoes and earthquakes on a fear seismograph. He appeared set to head in one direction; then, like a subatomic particle, he zigged when we expected him to zag, performing clustered destruction.

A series of his projects, in hindsight, seem to lead in the direction he took. Working backwards, these include a statement on his University of Illinois application that our minds are “the primary source of all things….” Think about that assertion. Is it true? Or was that statement the creation of a sophisticated writer who knew exactly how to tap his audience, hit them in their central nervous system, and win their approval?

If he knew just what to say, how do we differentiate between James Holmes and successful authors, on the one side, and conmen, on the other? If he did con the search committees of his chosen graduate schools, how do we draw a line in the laboratory between researcher and subject? Too many ifs begin to accumulate the minute we consider the downward spiral of this aspiring scientist.

Most tellingly, however, we have to wonder at what point did he become one of the most startling subjects of his own research field? It’s supposedly easy to tell the difference when the subject is hummingbirds, which Holmes had studied.  It’s easy, too, when research delves into the behavior of wolves, chimpanzees, or rats, that animal with a built-in double entendre.

When did this rat become a RAT of the worst kind, turning on his own species? When he expressed interest in the subjective nature of experience, in statements reported by CNN in “Colorado shooting suspect’s writings offer Insight as student, aspiring scientist”? When he worried his psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton? 

The turning from good to evil stands forth at the font of both Theology and Psychology. It features especially in Shakespeare’s Othello. It stars now in our news, which perplexes readers like Genesis.

So long as his destructive timeline remains unknown, we shudder a bit more at our neighbors. We wonder about their capabilities when we turn the other cheek. Worst of all, we wonder about the fragile nature of sanity itself and brotherhood and even cinema, which, until young James went on his rampage, seemed clearer than they may now. Thus, much of what we read about this boy named James concerns him little, but us a great deal, for it is not his face we see at all.

It is the face of the Unknown, not an abstract whatsoever, but a person with a biography which went off on an unanticipated trajectory–exactly like the latest American experiment in Mach 6 space flight. He could have been, as Barrack Obama might have said, our relative, our neighbor, our friend. But he wasn’t. He was our enemy, and we didn’t even recognize him, not from his photos or essays or signature. For better or worse, that is true—and frightening from beginning to end. 

Paul Ryan: Leading the Body Fat Brigade

By Meg Curtis, PhD

Forget birth certificates and tax returns. Let’s get on to releasing the body fat percentages of America’s political candidates. Paul Ryan easily takes the lead in that sweepstakes. ABC has announced his body fat stands at 6 to 8%.

No lawsuits or court orders are needed on this score. ABC News fronts that information in “Rumors of Paul Ryan’s 6-Pac Abs Make Internet Swoon” (par. 1).

The same source identifies a correlation between physical and fiscal fitness when they write: “The latest [addition] to the presidential ticket may pack a hefty punch on the policy side, but at 162 pounds and 6 to 8 percent body fat, Paul Ryan is as fit and trim as his budget plan.”

What this campaign needs has arrived, and its schedule couldn’t be clearer. Readers can access “P90X Workout Schedule – Classic Doubles Lean” for the P90X workouts favored by Congressman Ryan. The work-out schedule provides the foundation for the program, and takes “from 3-6 weeks” (par.3).

This is the stated goal of that time period: “The first phase of P90X2 is the foundation phase which is designed to last from 3-6 weeks. To prepare you for the rest of the program and for a higher level of intensity, it focuses on developing balance and strengthening your core.

Now, to which “core” does this passage refer? Possibilities loom galore:

1.   The center of the human body.
2.   The solid base of a political party
3.   The House of Representatives

In the latter, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chair, already has bipartisan Representatives huffing and puffing to slim down and sleek up fiscal waste. Under his leadership every morning, they go through those paces, with him leading the way.

Now, Internet usage reveals that Ryan’s leadership has expanded astronomically. ABC News records: “The term ‘Paul Ryan P90X’ went from zero people searching it on Friday afternoon to tens of thousands of searches on Saturday, according to Google trends” (par. 5).

While Barrack Obama jokes about Michele forbidding his indulgence in fried Twinkies, work-out fans are marshalling their brigades, and the numbers couldn’t be more impressive. This is no joke to these folks, who relish conquering all tomfoolery in the coming election.

Where is the “core” of America? Does it consist of fiscal flabbies or strenuous gym-rats, determined to bring voters up to speed on bottom lines, budget ceilings, and every single exercise required to make those two far-fetched limits collide?

By the time the election arrives in November, how many highly disciplined athletes will have morphed into fiscal fanatics? Count the weeks for the P90X2 foundation workout: 3-6. No matter how the math proceeds, Ryan’s body fat brigade will be ready! 

Barrack Obama: The Birds and Bears Speech

By Meg Curtis, PhD

Loose lips sink ships—and bears, too. Is American manufacturing under siege from the American presidency? Ever since the infamous “You Didn’t Build That” speech, questions arise about what those words mean.

Must this writer’s granddaughter now accept as fact that she didn’t build her Build-A-Bear buddy? She certainly thought she did, and her parents gave her that impression, too. Now, must they issue a retraction, and set about an Obama plan for re-education?

How does this first “Birds and Bears” speech go?

“Okay, dear, do you remember what we told you about building a bear?”
“And, remember how your bear was special because nobody else made one quite like it?”
"And remember how your bear looks really cute because it’s different from all the others?”
“Well, that may not be true.”
“We want to tell you this ourselves because that is a parent’s responsibility.”
“You didn’t build that bear. I’m sorry, honey, but we got this straight from the president.”
“It’s my bear! Yes, I did!”
“No, honey, it’s not your bear because you didn’t build it, really.”
“I built it, and I can take it apart, too!”
“Stop, honey, stop tearing that bear up!”
“It’s my bear! I’m gonna tear it up, and make it again tomorrow!”
“Wait! Wait! You don’t need to do that—“
“Yes, I do! I can prove this bear is mine and nobody else’s!”
“You better go to bed, honey. We can talk about this tomorrow.”
“No, I’m not going to bed!”
“We’ll read you your favorite story—“
“No, no, no, no, no! You can’t have my bear!”
“It’s about Goldilocks and the three bears—”
“Well, who made those bears?”
“Gosh, I don’t know. The White House hasn’t put out a statement on that yet.”
“Well, they can’t have those bears, either!”
“Shhh. Just let us tuck you in. It’ll be all better tomorrow.”
*  *  *  *  *
“Should we tell her?”
“She’s too young to understand, dear. It’ll just upset her if we explain the government made her, too.”

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan: Reformer

By Meg Curtis, PhD

Representative Ryan of Wisconsin hits the national campaign as a Congressional force. With seven terms in the House—and an eighth underway—he can be expected to give Vice President Biden a run for a gaffe-free debate. As Mitt Romney’s choice for Vice President, Ryan offers expertise in rhetoric, budget reform, and sportsmanship, too.

This prophetic article from The Wall Street Journal asked the key question:  “Why Not Paul Ryan?” http://online.wsj. com/article/SB10000872396390 443404004577577190186374230.html

According to this opinion piece, Ryan raises the specter of that Republican favorite in an updated version: “As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way. He doesn't get mad, or at least he doesn't show it. Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity.”

Democrats may run from Ryan’s assault on entitlements, but, as Joe Louis famously said: “They can’t hide.” Future generations cannot keep paying down the road for fiscal irresponsibility now. As famous for his athleticism as his budget-cutting, Congressman Paul Ryan brings a breath of fresh air to the muggy swamp of Foggy Bottom, which even air-conditioning won’t cure.

At last, can the nation get to the big issues which demand voters’ attention? Without a strong national economy, America is going in only one direction—down. All the other issues—including military strength, immigration policy and education reform—depend on this country’s financial stability and progress. Paul Ryan has attacked these issues for seven terms in the House. It is time for all the candidates to attack them, too, instead of each other. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

James Holmes Case: Fresh Perspective

By Meg Curtis, PhD

China Daily offers fresh perspective on the James Holmes case. Speakers on a video featuring a Chinese moderator and residents of New York and China dismiss the central argument over guns in the USA. The Chinese resident mocks the claim that people kill people; guns don’t. Without guns, he observes, people can’t commit the mass killings which occurred at Aurora, CO; Virginia Tech and Columbine.   

Please see the complete video at htm for this fascinating discussion.

The American viewer may gasp at the realization that all three participants in this video speak so intimately of all three locations, as if they lived in their jurisdiction, and walked by them every day. Of course, via the worldwide media, maybe they do. This, this is the reputation which precedes the United States everywhere she goes: a gun-toting people who sacrifice safety to an obsession with weapons; a society so gun-crazed that wild men can reduce crowds to corpses.  

On this video, the New Yorker’s testimony, however, proves more shocking than the Chinese accusations. The citizen of the Big Apple practically shrugs his shoulders as he admits that he wasn’t shocked over these mass murders. In fact, he’s come to accept such horror, since mass gun killings have occurred repeatedly in the US, and no trend appears to be developing to suggest the future will be any different than the past in the Wild West.

Facts are at his command as he reviews the history of such incidents, too, noting they started at U.S. Post Offices, apparently. Then, with atrocities at Columbine and Virginia Tech, the bursts of gun violence spread to academic campuses. Now, with the James Holmes case, they have spread to movie theaters. His analysis climaxes with a challenge to account for this pattern: Can Americans account for this shifting blood trail, which moves across maps for all the world to see?


Colonoscopy Blues

By Meg Curtis, PhD

The real horror of current American culture does not turn up on the news. Stephen King doesn’t touch it, either, in his bestsellers. It begins with a little ditty which rang out on the radio all last week.

Before listeners could even down a bagel or pour their first cup of coffee, nosy singers had to insist that they schedule a colonoscopy! Don’t say these raconteurs were trying to save lives. They were contributing to an endless round of medical tests which raise costs sky high.

They were institutionalizing a medical way of life. Who asked for their assistance? Who asked for their intrusion? If medical ethics require confidentiality between doctors and patients, how about those ethics starting right before breakfast and continuing until a late night snack?

The commercialization of medicine means privacy no longer exists for American patients. They can’t even escape the psychological assaults by Big Pharma in the privacy of their own home, sitting before their own very own PC, where endless emails offer discount Viagra to women.

As if that horror weren’t enough to promote serious abdominal chaos, ads continue to assault the subconscious through the day. These commercials promise relief from vaginal sculptures. They also list the serious side-effects which all too often include premature death.

The same kinds of ads apologize for mistakes of the past. They come close to promising eternal life, thanks to the medical industry. They manipulate fears, contribute to anxiety, and then insinuate they offer the cures for the maladies they list in catalogues from dawn to dark.

If what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, why can’t what happens in a doctor’s office stay there, too? Or do Americans have to go to Vegas to find a doctor who comprehends this truth: Colonoscopies do not belong on listeners’ breakfast tables. Raspberries and yogurt do!