Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Aaron Alexis Report: Possible Error?

Reports circulating quickly in the shock of the Navy Yard shootings contained at least one line which needs checking.  The New York Times treated this line with caution, reporting:

"Mr. Alexis’s father has told the authorities that his son had been among the first responders at the World Trade Center and that he believed that Mr. Alexis suffered from post-traumatic stress and had difficulty controlling his anger. It was not known whether he was involved in any rescue effort."

These words appear in the article "Naval Yard Gunman Is Said To Have Had Mental Ills for a Decade," by MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, SARAH MASLIN NIR and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS; published: September 17, 2013.

By contrast, the UK Daily Mail Online appeared to cut to the journalistic chase with this headline:

"Revealed: Washington gunman who murdered 12 had 'anger issues' after rescuing victims of 9/11 and had been kicked out of the Navy after gun charge," by JAMES NYE, LOUISE BOYLE, DAVID MARTOSKO IN WASHINGTON, MEGHAN KENEALLY and PAUL THOMPSON IN WASHINGTON; PUBLISHED: 08:11 EST, 16 September 2013 | UPDATED: 07:12 EST, 17 September 2013. (Highlighting supplied by this writer.)

The contrast between the two claims may be checked by consulting 9/11 Research: World Trade Center Survivors, which reveals: 

"Here we focus on a much smaller group of people who either escaped or were rescued from Ground Zero after being trapped by the Towers' falls. Just 20 people are known to fit this description. Four of those were trapped and rescued by Ground Zero workers. The rest found their way out of that scene of incomprehensible destruction."

These two reports demonstrate the disturbing circumstances of both events: the 9/11 attack in Manhattan and 9/16 attack on the Navy Yard in Washington, DC. Journalists chasing the story cannot be faulted for being traumatized, too.

In this context, however, this critical question arises: Does the public remember the particular horror of First Responders' experience at Ground Zero on 9/11? There was almost no one to rescue: the destruction had been that thorough. Almost 3,000 people had been incinerated.

Complicating this entire experience on both occasions is acknowledgement that the public, including journalists, are not observers—they are participants, and every report must be vetted and vetted repeatedly, just as thoroughly, indeed, as the resumes and credentials of those seeking security clearances.

For additional reading:

9/11 Research: World Trade Center Survivors is available here: <http://911research.wtc7.net/sept11/victims/ wtcsurvivors.html>.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mylie Cyrus: The "Me" Girl

In a recent interview, Mylie Cyrus revealed the secret of her ambition, if not success. Supposedly, reversals had bedeviled her life. As she admits here (http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/09/16/arrogant-much-miley-cyrus-says-taking-over-world/ )

she felt like an adult when she was a child, so she considers it her privilege to reverse the usual process. Perhaps that explains her kinky movements in public: She's just trying to jerk herself back in time. If she wriggles enough, will she be able to shed her new skin, and get back into her old one?

Somehow, she also believes that "every girl" focuses on fashion. Just where has this "girl" traveled to know so much about the young females of Iran, Somalia, Serbia, Kosovo, Latvia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tibet, Cameroon, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and, of course, Syria?

Mylie, dear, the first lesson that healthy babies learn is that the world doesn't revolve around them. There really are children out there who yearn for education. There really are girls in the world who grow up instead of down. Yes, Mylie, there are women, too, who contribute to the enterprises of finance, law, architecture, engineering, medicine, psychology, literature, peace and understanding, just as good men do. 

Social Media Policies: Not a Funny Joke

Recent statements of social media policies which appear here (http://www.fastcompany.com/1668368/corporate-social-media-policies-good-mediocre-and-ugly) assume that the media are objective, and have the public's interest at heart, but is this assumption true and demonstrable?

What media with the public's interest in mind would keep celebrating Hollywood's celebrities?

What purpose do reports of celebrities' arrests, divorces, extended wardrobes, make-up decisions, hair-style changes, and flirtations serve other than public relations to support celebrities' careers?

What purpose do reports of celebrities' drug problems, alcoholism, addictions, mental illness, and their children's drug problems, alcoholism, addictions, and mental illness serve other than to suggest the public's children follow suit?

Certainly, every celebrity does not need to be a model of decorum, with cameras catching them attending parent-teacher meetings and cutting their grass while wearing full-length jumpsuits. Nevertheless, it would be a relief to see the media TCB, instead of hyping the next movie. 

Ziva David, Where Are You?

This morning's shootings at the Naval Yard in Washington, DC, call attention to the departure of the character Ziva David from NCIS. The show's audience can easily imagine the drama inside the Naval Yard from numerous scenes where special NCIS agents search for suspects, scooting along hallways, their profiled bodies acting in concert like an ensemble of ballet dancers—with Ziva David in the lead, her courage and aim leading the charge. When this episode from the news hits the series, let's hope that the show, as well as its source, has found a worthy replacement. Who could that be? Sometimes reality is too much like fiction now. Gibbs always lauded this recruit to NCIS. He was hardly alone. Well, she hasn't exited from the show YET. Putin may ridicule events at the Naval Yard for demonstrating that the US is NOT "exceptional." Ziva David's fans would argue that their favorite champion of American justice IS EXCEPTIONAL every time she appears. Stay tuned. This episode began at 8:20 EST this morning. It's only 1:59 EST now. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tigers, Twitting, and Cultural Exchanges

A Rolling Eyes Column! ((0) (0))

Recent events trigger exciting possibilities of more cultural exchanges between Russia and the US. Soon, will we be able to read Vlad the Wicked Pen's take on what to wear—or not—while twerking? Russia probably has its own experts on which is worse—winter in Siberia or Buffalo, NY. And what exactly is the Russian diet, aside from borscht? Can we replace videos of Obama's golf swings with Vlad's performances in arm-wrestling and tiger-taming? And, so long as Edward Snowden has absconded to Russia, could we have Garry Casparov in return?

Maybe Putin and John McCain have discovered the perfect solution to international crises. When the political weather gets too hot in one region, just chopper in and switch leaders. That will teach the local population to complain. Try explaining jury trials to a citizen of a dictatorship. Or try justifying lobby groups to leaders whose population dies off by the millions for lack of food. The intellectual challenges alone might set whole new standards in education and research. Tendencies toward isolationalism and Tea Party Hats would be nipped by the proverbial Buddy System.

Meanwhile, check out Garry Casparov's availability for speeches and exhibitions worldwide. Maybe he would agree to stay in the US? From Twitter, Casparov has twitted Putin for daring to discover God, among other extraordinary claims. Casparov's official website notes the launch of the Casparov Chess Federation in New York City in 2002—as well as its contributions to curricula. More than once, this chess champion has played the best computers to a draw. He has also launched a political career. Interested parties may contact Casparov at http://www.kasparov.com/contact/

America's Real Problem with Sarah Palin

A Rolling Eyes Column! ((0) (0))

Sarah Palin's problem with America begins with their knowledge of Alaska—which remains nearly nonexistent. Do Americans even conceive of Alaska as a state? They take world-class cruises there, but how many would choose to live there? Polar bears are more than photo ops. How many Americans from the mainland have met a moose, and would know what to do with it, if they did? Grizzlies remain a mainstay of horrific journalistic reports about being savaged. Californians don't want to negotiate with cougars. What would they do in Alaska?

This comparison comes to mind as we await the coming winter in Western New York State. Last winter was a push-over, meaning there was little snow here to push anywhere. That observation has been true, though, for only the last two winters here. In far winters past, I used to watch the weather reports here, right along with those from Canada and Alaska. There was remarkably little difference. I still stock up on parkas, and am well accustomed to listeners from other regions sneering at my accounts of winter snowfall in Cassadaga, NY—beyond their wildest dreams, democrat or otherwise.

Inevitably perhaps, I have been accused of exaggeration, melodrama—the usual for natives of The Land of the Snow Queen, where winter once lasted from Halloween to Easter. But who else has taken a fly-over in a tiny plane which landed on skiis in their front yard? Have they started out for college—and found their trip lasted three days, not three hours, due to a blizzard? Have they tried to get out their front door—and found the snow meeting midway between roof and ground? Americans need to know their national neighbors, even those in Alaska—or Dunkirk, wherever that may be, if the Farmer's Almanac prediction is accurate this year.

And, yes, bears have been seen in Cassadaga. ((0) (0)) 

Going Rogue Not Easy Now in America

A Rolling Eyes Column ((0) (0))

When Senator McCain announced his desire to write a column for Pravda, I nearly fainted. Okay, so Vladimir Putin is not content with big game hunting. He's set his eyes on Hemingway's prize: the Nobel. I'm sure glad that word is not spelled "Noble." Then, Putin would have to put on this big show, roll his eyes, and wink. ;-) Nobility isn't allowed in the Land of Brothers, which seems to be where we are now in America—brothers with everybody, so long as it isn't the original rogue.

McCain's chance to write a column for Pravda terrified me: He would tell everybody what he was really thinking—and then where would we be? He remembers that spurned subject: History. He'd start rolling down the list of events that propagandists have wiped off their hard drives' memories: the Cold War, the Vietnam War, American MIAs, Jane Fonda, and that little kink in the Brothers' story: the KGB. The good senator's possible international writing career must have scared DC, too.

This morning—Whoop!--all problems solved! Kerry and his Russian counterparts have agreed: Syria's no longer a problem. So, Americans are left with Sarah Palin: the one good girl that democrats can't stand. She isn't a frumpy fake blonde with a philandering husband. She governed ALASKA, home of grizzlies, a unique bull moose population, and OIL AND GAS RESERVES. Time to pull out that pen, Sarah. Putin hasn't hunted bull goose loonies in America—YET. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Octopi and Bettas: The Strangers Among Us

Michael Gruber's blogspot posts remind writers to investigate the mystery at hand, wherever we are. Of course, I can easily note my cats chasing down spiders, or my dog's insistence on filling the role of office manager, reminding me that a ginger ale bottle does not belong on the floor of the bedroom. Bark, bark! Let's get organized, that canine shouts at me in the dining room. You know, Meg, where ginger ale belongs!

But how does that dog know where ginger ale belongs? He must be able to conceptualize after seeing ginger ale in the refrigerator, along with its friends, the juices and milk containers. But even more, how does he conceptualize his place in this household? Where did he get the IDEA of being an office manager when the equipment he brought with him points in another direction, as in long coat, long ears, perfect nose to scent rabbits—and bound just like them?

Gruber's story of interacting painfully with an octopus in his online interview also provokes us to question how wild animals, too—not just domestic—figure out their place in relation to us. While I know my dog talks to me, and even talks back, a betta (Siamese fighting fish) has no capacity with his fish lips to form words. Nonetheless, the bettas I've kept in glass bowls on my writing desk engaged me in conversation. They didn't need words or computers, either.

Just like my dog, my bettas bossed me around. Don't they know I pay for their residence? Do they care? NO! They started by nodding at me, just as a new acquaintance might—nod, nod, got that, Meg? I'm here. You are, too. What are we going to do about it? Well, for a start, there's that jar over there, with my food. Nod, nod. I can see you're busy typing away, but, nod, nod, that jar's not going anywhere unless you lend a hand. Nods escalated to wriggling.

Before long, the hand reached for the food jar, unscrewed the lid, shook the flakes down into Betta's Water World. The fish flashed with happiness, just like a sailor signalling from a ship in the night. This stranger from another environment had made contact and accomplished his mission. The waitress brought the food right to his table. The fish curled over after consumption. Time for a nap. The writer puzzled: Where is the sign for the restaurant?

Body language alone does not explain how this fish KNEW the hand of another species had the capacity to save him from starvation. From his perspective, what did I look like—an instagram blown to life? He was an inch long, without fins. Nevertheless, he figured out how to establish contact, and engage another life form in a relationship. There wasn't room in that body of his for a brain even the size of a pea, yet he demonstrated that life seen through glass is pure mystery. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock, Birds, and Terrorism

Did Hitchcock offer a primer on terrorism in his classic film about birds attacking a small town? First, with all due respect to that incomparable director, The Birds proves contrived from start to finish. 

Yesterday, while watching the fliers swoop in from all directions on the screen, this movie-fan enjoyed the freaky experience of knowing the birds have been swarming in Dunkirk, NY, for a week now, chirping and screeching in whole choruses as they leap from flickering tree to flickering tree. Occupied trees bobble with their movement, but the birds are clever enough to carry on their political conventions behind leaves until they wish to be seen.

When they gathered right outside this writer's residence, the area became a sound chamber, exaggerating sound effects as each chirper's song multiplied and echoed the identical contributions of his winged relatives, friends, and colleagues in the equivalent of music festivals held regularly across the country. 

When barred owls practice this habitual behavior in West Virginia, they appear to be holding their very own hoot-nannies—so loud that their wing-flapping functions as both applause and intimidation. Bird-lovers know, however, that barred owls are the most loquacious members of their tribes, maximizing the experience summarized in the film Beyond the Sea with those immortal words: "We see what we hear."

So, this blogger entered another world as the birds' clamor for God-knows-what reason—scientists still cannot fully explain why the impulse to swarm sets birds to chattering and singing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir—echoed all around her. Inside her dwelling, the movie The Birds was unrolling its devilish plot, while outside the local birds were swarming closer and closer to her porch. 

She leaned over the railing, as if she might interview these chirpers, and discover at last their perspective on human and avian interaction. Politics, too, was much on her mind as the birds' clamor increased to extraordinary decibel levels. This experiment in psychology and cinematic techniques suddenly ended more swiftly than it had begun.

With a single bark, the writer's dog ended that political gathering. As soon as that dog opened his mouth, the birds vanished—as if the writer herself had decided: Begone, you loud-mouthed bickering oracles of deviltry! The dog then resumed his faithful position at the writer's feet, his mouth placed on the floor between his feet, satisfied that he had dispersed the latest menace to peace and safety in the small town of Dunkirk, NY. 

Peering through the porch screens, though, the cats were NOT satisfied. They had just missed their golden opportunity to demonstrate what cats will do with birds and cuisine and happy landings. So, Hitchcock's impressive classic owes a little debt to a critical omission: Get those cats on the case, and the birds will discover their very own Cinema Realite.