Saturday, August 16, 2008

Music - Cinematic Orchestra


Just discovered this band in a Video Sift link, then went looking for more. Very cool music and diverse stuff.

Cinematic Orchestra - To Build a Home (live 2007)

Cinematic Orchestra - The Man With The Movie Camera

The Cinematic Orchestra 'Breathe' - Live At The Barbican

"Burn Out" by Cinematic Orchestra

Kay Redfield Jamison - Exuberance: The Passion for Life

From Channel N:
Keynote address at the 19th Annual Conference of Sarah D. Barder Fellows (Teacher Wellness Conference). Examines positive emotions often overlooked by psychology: how exuberance and passion influence society by affecting risk-taking, resilience, achievement, creativity, and teaching. Also looks at exuberance and mania: at what point does passion become pathological? Jamison's an excellent speaker. This talk is based on her book Exuberance: The Passion for Life. I encourage you to read it - I loved it, it's a fantastic and inspiring book!

Ab Training, The Next Level

[dynamic plank, one arm]

Two great articles posted at the Staley Training Systems newsletter, both of which offer alternative approaches to ab training (sit ups are so 1970).

The Next Level of Core Training: Dynamic Planks

By Jim Smith, CSCS

Author of "Combat Core - Advanced Training Secrets for Explosive Strength and Power"

When you think about the most basic abdominal exercise, the first one that pops into your head is probably planks.

Planks are where a person lays out into a push-up position but instead of being on their outstretched hands, they rest on their forearms. In this position, the athlete or lifter will remain for a specific length of time. If the time exceeds one and a half minutes that is considered pretty good.

The benefits of planks include rehabilitating a back injury, glute activation, developing proficiency for bracing the torso with intra-abdominal pressure and an isometric contraction of the abdominals and developing muscular endurance of the muscles that stabilize, support and engage movements of the torso.

But in accordance with the Principle of Overload and the Laws of Chaos, there is a progression for all resistance training means. Progression of an exercise will increase the difficulty, which increases the demand and work capacity of the lifter and in turn, provides more adaptation and benefits.

So what is the next training progression for planks? Here are some of the most common modifications...

Go read the whole article.

The next article is just as good . . . maybe better (these are personal favorite in my own workouts).

Flexed Arm Hanging Leg Raises To TRASH Your a GOOD Way....

By Nick Nilsson

The hanging leg raise is one of the most commonly used lower ab exercises you'll see in the gym. As tough as it is, it can be done much more effectively with a small modification. Instead of hanging down with your arms straight, do the hanging leg raise in the Flexed Arm Hang position!

This not only makes the exercise tougher, it has the added bonus of removing much of the tension from the lower back that can happen with the standard hanging leg raise.

All you'll need to do the exercise is a chin-up bar (or something else to hang on). The nice thing about this version is that the bar doesn't have to be as high as with the regular version. You can do it in a power rack using an Olympic bar. Just set the bar to a level just about at your forehead. The exercise itself will be done exactly the same.

So grab the bar about shoulder-width, with your hands in an underhand curl grip. Pull yourself to the fully-flexed arm position and hold your body there.
Read the whole post.

Watch a video: Windows Media or Quicktime. I feel obligated to say that I don't do the one-arm version, though now I'll have top try them.

All in the Mind - Pinker on Words, Lakoff on Brains and Politics

All in the Mind is doing an encore of the show with Stephen Pinker talking about The Stuff of Thought, "his latest forensic excavation of language and its evolutionary delights."

The Stuff of Thought with Steven Pinker

Why do we often avoid speaking our mind? Does swearing have an evolutionary function? What do linguistic taboos do to your brain? How are new words born? Acclaimed author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker is a self-confessed verbivore. To him language offers a window into the human mind and how it works. He joins Natasha Mitchell in a feature interview to argue there's nothing mere about semantics.

Natasha Mitchell also takes a look at the press response to George Lakoff's new book - The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century Politics With an 18th-Century Brain.

Go read what she has found

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Weight Lifting

This is the good stuff.

Olympic Weight Lifting, Day 3 -- All competitors
Olympic Weight Lifting, Day 4 -- All competitors
Olympic Weight Lifting, Day 5 -- US lifters

Wired - Cheats of Strength: 10 Next-Gen Olympic Doping Methods

Wired looks at the top 10 next-generation doping methods in sports.

Despite the title, this isn't really just about the Olympics. The testing ground for endurance athletes is pro cycling. The testing ground for strength athletes is body building. If you want to know where doping is going in the future, look at those sports.

Pro body building has been working with IGF-1 and insulin for years. I'm pretty sure they'll be the first to test myostatin inhibitors and selective androgen receptor modulators, if they aren't already.

Pro cycling has tried every conceivable method of increasing red blood cell levels, including blood doping with other people's blood. EPO and all of its next-gen variants have been around for years. And Id wager there are cyclists who will be willing to try vascular endothelial growth factor, despite the possible pain factor and unknown consequences.

Cheats of Strength: 10 Next-Gen Olympic Doping Methods

By Jim Feeley

Anti-doping officials hope to keep lab tests ahead of dopers' ability to create and hide new means of chemically augmenting their performances.

While the International Olympic Committee is busy trying to catch today's performance enhancers, athletes are already looking for the next big boost that will give them the edge in 2012.

Most of the positive doping tests in Beijing -- and the IOC president estimates there will be as many as 40 -- will likely be for steroids and the blood-boosting hormone erythropoietin, known as EPO.

But the future of doping could get a lot more complicated. Here are some of the most promising -- or threatening, if you're the World Anti-Doping Agency -- candidates for the next Olympics.

Use your genes to grow more muscle

Manipulating genes to block naturally occurring muscle-growth inhibitors could allow athletes to boost their muscle mass. A lot.

In tests on mice, blocking the protein myostatin gave the mice up to 60 percent more lean muscle mass. Even more promising, Johns Hopkins' Se-Jin Lee recently found that overproduction of one myostatin inhibitor pumps the mice up even more: up to 81 percent in females and a whopping 116 percent in males. Results of human clinical trials are pending.

Complicating the picture, particularly for WADA, is a small number of people with naturally inhibited myostatin who will have to be distinguished from the dopers somehow.

Pop a blood-boosting pill

Who wouldn't love a pill that delivers the same record-breaking benefits of synthetic EPO without the hassle of injections or getting caught?

Clinical trials are under way for a pill that tricks the body into thinking blood-oxygen levels have dropped, causing it to produce more red blood cells, thus improving muscle endurance.

When blood-oxygen levels drop, hypoxia-inducible factor, or HIF, kicks in to stimulate red blood cell production. Once oxygen is back to normal, the HIF breaks down and cell formation stops. The drugs, known as HIF stabilizers, stop the breakdown and keep blood production up.

Some suspect athletes may already be using HIF stabilizers, but the health risks are unknown.

Grow more blood vessels

If you don't mind injections directly into your heart and limbs, vascular endothelial growth factor may be for you. VEGF causes new blood vessels to grow, which in theory could move more oxygen and nutrients between muscles, lungs and the heart with less effort. So more effort could be expended on athletic performance. VEGF gene therapy could potentially help patients with heart and arterial diseases form new blood vessels, keeping them alive and avoiding amputation. But it's not a simple hack, and a failed gene-doping test isn't the only risk. Unregulated VEGF-induced vessel growth appears to also promote tumor growth and metastasis.

Feel less pain, get more gain

Athletes know how to suffer. Raise an athlete's pain threshold, and suffering will occur at a higher level of exertion.

Tests on rats suggest that injecting the beta-endorphin gene into spinal fluid through a spinal tap causes the body to release its own painkilling endorphins. Pain signals get blocked before they reach the brain, without the sleepiness and cloudiness associated with morphine and other painkilling opioids.

Raising an athlete's pain threshold may improve performance, but it may also cause them to ignore warnings of overexertion and injury.

Beef up specific muscles

Say you're a cyclist who wants powerful legs but a light upper body so you don't have to haul the extra weight when riding uphill. Or a tennis player who needs a bit more shoulder muscle. Injecting insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, into specific muscles sparks those muscles to grow while avoiding the full-body muscle growth usually associated with IGF-1. Physiologist H. Lee Sweeney at the University of Pennsylvania discovered this while looking for a treatment for muscle-wasting that avoids side effects from unwanted growth, such as cancer and heart enlargement. The targeted therapy may also make IGF-1 harder to detect in a doping test. Sweeney estimates that since his research was published, half of his e-mails are from athletes. He has worked with WADA, but others developing similar techniques may not.

Get more muscles, fewer zits

Want the muscle-building benefits of steroids without the testicle-shrinking, moob-growing, acne-popping side effects? That's the promise of selective androgen receptor modulators.

SARMs bind to specific tissues, such as muscle and bone. Unlike some steroids, they don't indiscriminately also bind to prostate, liver and other tissues. And SARMs come in a pill. No needles or skin patches.

These pills could be a boon to people suffering from muscle-wasting diseases and for athletes concerned about health risks associated with steroids. Sound too good to be true? Perhaps: A test to detect SARMs may be ready before the drugs are widely available. WADA won't tell until they catch an athlete.

Fill up with new blood substitutes

With EPO and blood transfusions increasingly detectable, athletes could return to blood substitutes for an extra hit of oxygen. Several athletes reportedly used substitutes in the past, and one cyclist may have almost died as a result.

Some new substitutes could have similar problems. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April criticized blood substitutes such as PolyHeme and Hemopure for causing heart attacks and deaths in test subjects. But there are alternatives. Oxygen Biotherapeutics claims their experimental substitute, Oxycyte, carries oxygen 50 times more efficiently than natural blood without the risks of older substitutes. And Dendritech patented a blood substitute built from 3-D nanoparticles that the company builds in precise oxygen-carrying shapes. At least some blood substitutes may be easy to detect, but there are rumors the test isn't regularly used.

Take a next-gen EPO

At the Tour de France in July, Ricardo Ricco got caught using a new EPO-like blood booster, CERA, recently released by Roche.

Before CERA was on the market, the pharmaceutical giant cooperated with WADA to have a test ready to trap cutting-edge dopers like Ricco, a sign that WADA is catching up to, and perhaps even staying ahead of, dopers.

Or it's a sign that WADA needs help developing tests to detect each EPO variant, a tall order considering EPO and related drugs make up a $12 billion market. There are also dozens of EPO-stimulating agents available or in the works around the world.

Pump up your muscle fiber

Athletes already have more fatigue-resistant muscle fibers than couch potatoes. But new research shows they may be able widen that gap further by boosting levels of the gene responsible for adding new fibers.

Recently, researchers at the Salk Institute in San Diego found that an existing medication, called GW1516, raises the levels of this gene, resulting in a 68 percent endurance improvement in fit mice.

The Salk researchers are working with WADA on a test to detect use of GW1516. But several other drugs are known to manipulate the muscle-fiber genes, and others are believed to do the same. A test to detect this type of gene doping would need to cover a lot of uncharted territory.

Lastly, use mustard?

Athletes turned off by the latest biotech breakthroughs can try this recipe: Strip down and rub mustard oil all over your body.

While exploring the role skin plays in the production of red blood cells, Randy Johnson's team of researchers at UC San Diego found that rubbing mustard oil on mice caused spikes in natural EPO production, and that led to increased red blood cell levels.

It's unclear how much mustard oil a human athlete would need to enhance performance, or how much mustard oil could lead to strokes and heart attacks.

With all the crazy, complicated doping schemes out there could the journey to the top of the podium simply require a trip to the grocery store?

I support legalized doping, and part of that support comes out of the hope that if athletes can dope with things we know will work, and not kill them, then they might not risk the methods that are seriously dangerous or that might have unknown long-term consequences.

Life Optimizer - How Personal Growth Can Uncover a Toxic Relationship

JoLynn Braley, guest-posting at Life Optimizer, recently posted a nice article on how individual personal growth can reveal to us that we are in an unhealthy ("toxic") relationship.

How Personal Growth Can Uncover a Toxic Relationship

By Donald Latumahina, August 13, 2008

Note: This is a guest post by JoLynn Braley from The Fit Shack

The human potential is limitless and when you consciously choose to work on your personal growth you will not only improve your life but also benefit the entire world. Every bit you do to raise your own consciousness contributes to the level of global consciousness.

Personal Growth Can Uncover Toxic RelationshipWhen you look at your personal growth path like this you might not think that your self-improvement could result in uncovering some unwelcome issues in your life, however this can and does occur for many people.

One result of improving yourself is that you will begin to see your relationships with new eyes. Either you will come to appreciate the people in your life even more than you used to because you will see how truly loving and supportive they are, or you will wake up and see that you have some people in your life who do not have your highest good in mind.

Uncovering a Toxic Relationship

Let’s take a common area of personal growth, a place where many begin their path to improvement: the physical self. I’m a strong believer that if you truly desire to ascend the scale of consciousness that the overall health of your physical being plays a large role in this, so the physical is a great place to start your personal growth process.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at things!), beginning a weight loss and fitness regime can quickly uncover a toxic relationship if you weren’t already aware that you were in one. And even though we’re talking about building a healthy lifestyle in order to gain fitness in body, mind, and spirit, even people who are solely focused on weight loss to improve their looks can uncover toxic relationships.

Go read the whole article. She includes some examples and good advice.

In my own experience, a healthy relationship puts each person's psychological, emotional, and spiritual health as the priority in the relationship. Sometimes, that means the relationship is given up on behalf of being healthy or loving our partners enough that we want them to be healthy. It's a tough thing to do, but it's "true" compassion.

Uncommon Knowledge - Surprising Insights from the Social Sciences

An interesting article from the Boston Globe over the weekend. The article looks at some recent research articles and what they might tell us about who we are.

One of the obvious, but annoying, studies shows that Olympic events that involve women in bathing suits (swimming, diving), bikinis (beach volleyball), and leotards (gymnastics) get more air time than other events. I guess this is why I never get to see weight lifting.

(Wesley Bedrosian for the Boston Globe)

Uncommon Knowledge

Surprising insights from the social sciences

By Kevin Lewis August 10, 2008

Why innovation is getting harder

OUR NATION DEPENDS on innovation. It's so important that the Constitution specifically encourages Congress "to promote the progress of science and useful arts." According to one economist, however, there may be a crisis looming: The frontier of knowledge is becoming very hard to reach, making innovation more difficult and costly, and narrowing the window of opportunity in a prospective innovator's (limited) life span. His analysis finds that the average age for a first invention, the degree of specialization, and the teamwork required for innovation have all been climbing rapidly.

Jones, B., "The Burden of Knowledge and the 'Death of the Renaissance Man': Is Innovation Getting Harder?" Review of Economic Studies (forthcoming).

It's expensive to be poor

BEING POOR IS bad enough. Now a study reports that even basic groceries are more expensive in poor neighborhoods. The study thoroughly cataloged prices - and surveyed customers - at stores selling grocery items in various neighborhoods around Buffalo. Prices for the same items were about 10 to 15 percent higher in poor neighborhoods relative to affluent neighborhoods. The cause? Competition. In wealthier neighborhoods, there are more chain stores, and customers are more likely to have cars, making it easier to price shop. This drives down prices. Moving the nearest chain store closer by 1 mile to a particular neighborhood store brings the neighborhood store's prices down by 1-3 percent, the author found.

Talukdar, D., "Cost of Being Poor: Retail Price and Consumer Price Search Differences across Inner-City and Suburban Neighborhoods," Journal of Consumer Research (forthcoming).

When a meritocracy isn't

IN A MERITOCRACY, performance is supposed to determine success. To achieve this goal, many organizations have instituted formal processes to review employee performance. But a process is only as good as the people who run it, and some people may not be entirely objective. A sociologist at MIT was given access to internal records on 8,898 support staff at a large high-tech service-sector company (management didn't allow access to their own records). He found that, while women and minorities could expect the same starting salaries and performance ratings for doing the same job, they could not expect to get the same raises. The effect was quite small, but real: For a given performance rating, raises were 0.4 percent smaller for women, 0.5 percent smaller for African-Americans, 0.5 percent smaller for Hispanics, and 0.6 percent smaller for foreign-born employees. Moreover, for African-Americans, performance ratings were less predictive of a raise. The source of the bias appeared to be the fact that the managers who gave the performance rating were not the managers who determined the size of the raise. The latter were subject to less accountability and transparency, such that no one at the company seemed to be aware of the bias.

Castilla, E., "Gender, Race, and Meritocracy in Organizational Careers," American Journal of Sociology (May 2008).

The personalities of nations

COUNTRIES DON'T JUST differ in their traditions and values. One of the more intriguing patterns in psychology is that different cultures are characterized by different personality types. A team of psychologists has proposed a new explanation: the legacy of disease. They matched the personality scores of people to historical data on the prevalence of major diseases in each country. They found that a history of disease in a country corresponded to a personality characterized by a less promiscuous orientation - especially for women - and by less extraversion and openness to experience. The idea is that more inhibited personalities evolved to prevent the spread of disease by minimizing risky social contact.

Schaller, M. and Murray, D., "Pathogens, Personality, and Culture: Disease Prevalence Predicts Worldwide Variability in Sociosexuality, Extraversion, and Openness to Experience," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (July 2008).

Fewer clothes = more coverage

AS YOU WATCH the Olympics this week, try to put yourself inside the minds of the network executives who get to decide what to broadcast. Given that you've spent billions on licensing and production costs - meaning that you need the most people from the best advertising demographics to watch - which events and athletes do you highlight? A study out of Clemson University analyzed videotapes of all prime-time Summer and Winter Olympic programming since 1996. Although the Summer Olympics covered men's and women's events about the same, the Winter Olympics was significantly biased toward men's events. The author notes that prominent coverage of women in gymnastics, swimming, diving and, lately, beach volleyball is consistent with the notion "that the Summer Games (offering many events that involve women athletes in swimsuits and leotards) will yield higher clock-time totals than the Winter Games (offering many events that involve women athletes in parkas and other less sexually charged apparel)."

Billings, A., "Clocking Gender Differences: Televised Olympic Clock-Time in the 1996-2006 Summer and Winter Olympics," Television & New Media (September 2008).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at

Vanity Fair - The Once and Future Kathmandu

Vanity Fair offers up a great article on the history and politics of Kathmandu, the secluded Himalayan kingdom that has long been an important buffer between China and India.

This is a fantastic look at the culture and attempts to preserve the culture -- and the photos make me wish I were there.

Bansagopal Temple, from the 17th century, in Kathmandu

Bansagopal Temple, from the 17th century, in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. Photographs by Robert Polidori.

The Once and Future Kathmandu

After a glorious efflorescence as the link between Hindu India and Buddhist China, Nepal was isolated from the world until 1950. The result: Kathmandu Valley, where a medieval past is vibrantly present, architectural marvels are part of everyday life, and the sacred is pervasive. Amid thousands of temples, pagodas, monasteries, and other hallowed structures, the author salutes preservation efforts to bring Nepal’s magic into a third millennium.

by Lucinda Lambton WEB EXCLUSIVE August 12, 2008

Where does the magic of the Kathmandu Valley come from? The answer, I think, is that there can be few other places in the world today that still march to the rhythm of medieval life; where literally thousands of sacred structures, including pagodas, temples, stupas, shrines, monasteries, votive pillars, fountains, and wells, as well as houses and palaces, all of them serving both God and man, are still vibrantly alive with their original cultural and spiritual significance.

Geography must take some of the credit. Nepal, lying between China and India—the “yam between two rocks,” as it has been called—was for centuries an important trading route between the two countries. With snow blocking the mountain passes to the north (negotiable only in summer on swaying rope bridges that made one Tibetan lama “tremble more than quicksilver”) and the threat of malaria in the jungles to the south in summer, all the traders, travelers, ambassadors, artisans, pilgrims, scholars, and students had to spend months in the three towns of the Kathmandu Valley—Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur—thereby creating the cauldron of culture, sophistication, and wealth which produced these architectural marvels.

Four ruling dynasties—the Licchavis, Mallas, Shahs, and Ranas—blazed the building trail from the fourth century onward, and today it is not uncommon to come upon a small Licchavi holy stone—a lingam dating from the 300s—covered with votive offerings and still playing a vital role in everyday life. There it is, deep in a rough hole in the road, showing how much the street level has risen since the fourth century.

Hinduism and Buddhism have coexisted here since earliest times in an atmosphere coursed through with a myriad of spirits, all subsumed into daily life. There is no division between the sacred and the profane; it is said that there are as many gods as there are people in the valley, and as many temples as there are dwellings; nearly every house has a shrine to the family god.

With a multitude of holy structures at every turn, amid a dense and ancient network of interlocking courtyards and narrow lanes filled with shops and workshops the size of broom cupboards, the sense of the medieval is palpable.

A detail of the Patan Royal Palace.

How could it be otherwise? It is an extraordinary story. Nepal was cut off from the rest of the world until 1950, when the first airplane arrived. With no influences from the outside world, the country’s traditions had remained the same for hundreds of years, progressing with a continuum of culture and craftsmanship that flourishes to this day.

In the 1970s architects, academics, town planners, preservationists, anthropologists, and historians from all over the world poured into this tiny valley. As their contemporaries worldwide banged the drum for soul-less modernism, Nepal represented a dream of safeguarding humanity from change. Earthquakes and neglect had taken their toll, but with craftsmen descended from generations of craftsmen before them, Nepalese restoration meant seamlessly perpetuating the traditional styles.

The movement to preserve the valley’s architectural wonders has gathered momentum ever since. In an act of astonishing bravura, in 1969, to celebrate the wedding of King Birendra, the German government backed the restoration of the Pujari Math, a Hindu priest’s house, and later undertook the restoration of more than 200 buildings in the town of Bhaktapur. In 1972, unesco began restoring the vast Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace, in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. There have subsequently been heroes aplenty, but here I must reserve my plaudits for the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust, founded in 1991 by Harvard professor emeritus of architecture Eduard Sekler and American architect Erich Theophile, on whose heads I place glistening laurels; for, to date, the trust has saved, or helped to save, some 50 buildings. The most prominent supporter of the cause is Prince Charles, who helped launch K.V.P.T.’s plans for Patan’s Royal Palace complex by hosting a fund-raiser at Clarence House and making a donation from his personal trust. Restoration of the complex began in May of this year.

Krishna Mandir, a 17th-century temple in Patan’s Durbar Square, is the most revered stone monument in Nepal.

Go read the whole, very interesting article. In the meantime, here are the rest of the pictures from the article, which I think are just amazing.

Sundari Cok, a 17th-century courtyard of the Patan Royal Palace.

The Mahadev Temple, in Indra Cok, Kathmandu, rebuilt after the great earthquake of 1934.

A back lane outside of the Patan Durbar Square World Heritage site, where urban farmers still live in dilapidated buildings.

Lucinda Lambton is a writer, photographer, and broadcaster.

Along with Bhutan, Nepal is definitely one of the places I want to see before I die.

Neuroscience of Conflict Resolution

Dr. Jeff Schwartz does a little "parts work" here, in taking on various parts of the brain to explain their role -- he is interviewed by "Radio Neuro."

Watch the video.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Humor - Green-Clad Olympic Archer Steals Gold Medals From Rich, Gives Them To Poor

Olympic news from The Onion.

Green-Clad Olympic Archer Steals Gold Medals From Rich, Gives Them To Poor

August 14, 2008 | Onion Sports


BEIJING—Chinese Olympic officials say they are no closer to catching the swashbuckling, green-uniformed archery competitor who has disrupted every single medal ceremony of the Games by bursting in, stealing the gold medal or medals in the name of the poor in an archery-related fashion, striking a triumphant pose, and then disappearing without a trace.

"Good people of the world, take heart!" the mysterious figure said in his most recent appearance, when he burst into the medal ceremony for the Men's 200 Meter Freestyle. "Truly, these are good men, doughty and true; and their swimming has won the day. First place in the very world may they rightly claim, but in the name of the poor, the sickly, the lonely old, and the weak without voice, I hereby claim this gold that with it I may do greater good!"

The archer then shot a goose-feathered arrow through the ribbons holding the gold medals around the necks of the U.S. team, causing their medals to fall to the ground. The archer himself proceeded to leap from the rafters, alight on the podium's top step, collect his prize, and disappear through a nearby window.

Since entering China last month by using a forged Sherwood Forest passport under the name Robert Huntingdon, the archer has appeared at more than 70 medal ceremonies, escaping with the gold every time. In almost every case, archery-related schemes were used to secure the medals, although some were more difficult for him to obtain than others.

An epic four-way fencing match broke out during the Women's Saber medal ceremony, with the archer taking on the three American women in a clash of blades that spilled out onto the balcony and across the Beijing rooftops. Germany's Ole Bischoff, winner in the Men's 81kg judo event, threw the archer through a nearby table and down a flight of stairs before his feet were nailed to the ground by arrows. And the Chinese women's gymnastics team was almost impossible for the archer to catch.

The athletes themselves are divided in their opinion of the bow-weilding outlaw. Although many regard him as annoyance at best, and still others as a dangerous menace, a considerable faction has voiced sympathy for his cause.

"Put it this way—that guy has some stuff of mine, but he's welcome to it," said U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. "I mean, I'm not political, really, but I've had a lucky life. If my gold medals can help someone get a hot meal and a place to sleep for a few nights, that's okay. It doesn't mean I didn't win."

Phelps confessed his admiration that, although the archer had burst into the ceremony for the men's 400 Meter Relay, the team had been allowed to keep a single medal, as the archer praised the "epic performance by four doughty good men and true, who soundly defeated the Norman French, uplifted the hearts of all who saw, and enriched the very World thereby."

Chinese officials have been less charitable. "His disregard for our culture, our laws, and these Games will not go unpunished," a statement from the Chinese Olympic Committee read in part. "We demand he turn himself in, return the medals to the rightful winners, and face his punishment for these thefts, as well as for his repeated demands that we free Tibet and his continued poaching of deer in Yu Nan province."

Law enforcement officials, acting in liason with the Nottingham Sheriff's Department, have also concocted a scheme to capture the elusive archer by staging an archery contest with an especially large and valuable gold medal as the prize, an event already underway. The contest is currently in the semifinal rounds and is being led by Britain's Rob Enhood, a mysterious eyepatched figure with a penchant for archery so accurate that he routinely splits the arrows of his competitors.

Patrick Lee Miller - Psychoanalysis as Spirituality?

Patrick Lee Miller, at The Immanent Frame, posted this interesting article on "Psychoanalysis as Spirituality." He argues that psychoanalysis, like spirituality, allows us to know who we are, organize our lives in service of our needs and desires, and that this allows us to be more creative and compassionate in our lives.

He is essentially arguing against Charles Taylor (A Secular Age), who denies that psychoanalysis is a genuine spirituality. Taylor comes from a Christian perspective in his rejection of psychoanalysis.

Here is the crux of Miller's argument with Taylor (which is actually quite long and detailed):
The hermeneutic delves into the unavoidable, deep psychic conflicts in our make-up. But these have no moral lesson for us; the guilt or remorse points to no real wrong. We strive to understand them in order to reduce their force, to become able to live with them. On the crucial issue, what we have morally or spiritually to learn from our suffering, it is firmly on the therapeutic side: the answer is “nothing.”

This is the nut of Taylor’s criticisms of psychoanalysis as a spiritual source, but it is just an elaboration of the second of those canvassed above: even if analysis involves a conversion, a growth in wisdom, a new, higher view of the world, this wisdom will be an effect rather than a cause of the therapy. After all, he thinks, there is nothing morally or spiritually to be learned from our suffering itself. Taylor discounts psychoanalysis as a spiritual source because whatever growth of wisdom occurs in it is not among “the hinges of healing.” A spiritual source, in sum, must change someone by some new wisdom it generates in those who step into its waters.

This seems to me a very good definition of a spiritual source. Accepting it, then, we should count psychoanalysis as a spiritual source only if a growth in wisdom is among the causes of the transformations it effects.
I'm not a Christian, but I reject psychoanalysis as a true spirituality as well, for quite different reasons. And in making this argument, we'll ignore the fact that there is very little resembling traditional Freudian psychoanalysis still being practiced.

My argument against is based in the fundamental goal of psychoanalysis -- stabilizing the self. While I think this is crucial to any "true" spiritual development, it is only a beginning point, after which we will want to transcend the concerns of the relative self as we seek more expansive and less egoic experience in our practice and lives.

Wisdom (which is generally rational) also should be distinguished from spirituality (generally trans-rational), which I think Taylor gets and Miller does not. Of course, this all depends on how we define spirituality. In this case, I think we are talking about practices that offer a technology of transcendence.

Buddhism and Suffering

Taylor is arguing that psychoanalysis converts "sin" into "illness," and that sin can be transcended through submission and faith, illness cannot:
The therapeutic suffers from three related problems, he argues, all reducible to a shift from the notion of sin to the notion of illness. First of all, Christianity sees sin as a normal condition with a certain dignity, since it is the preference for an apparent, albeit illusory, good. By contrast, in illness there is no apparent good, only “pure failure, weakness, lack, diminishment.” Secondly, whereas Christian redemption is achieved by conversion, therapy’s “healing doesn’t involve conversion, a growth in wisdom, a new, higher way of seeing the world; or at least, these are not the hinges of healing, though they may be among its results.” Thirdly, whereas the Christian conversion from sin, like the original fall into it, must be freely chosen, illness and then its cure may arise without any choice at all. “The original fall,” when it is a fall into illness, “is entirely in the nature of compulsion, or modes of imprisonment.” In sum, Taylor argues that secular humanism’s effort to rehabilitate the body and everyday life ends with the therapeutic triumph denying it a dignity it once had. “What was supposed to enhance our dignity has reduced it,” he concludes; “we are just to be dealt with, manipulated into health.”
Miller attempts to refute these arguments point by point. But in the end, as quoted above, Miller contends that our suffering offers no moral or spiritual lesson for us, which, to me, confirms Taylor's rejection of it as a spirituality.

Perhaps, as a Buddhist, I am biased. In Buddhism, suffering is the foundation of the path toward enlightenment (however one wants to define that ambiguous term). Dukkha, which is often translated as "suffering," is the truth of our relative existence -- the central idea of Buddhism:

The Buddha discussed three kinds of dukkha.

  • Dukkha-dukkha (pain of pain) is the obvious sufferings of :
  1. pain
  2. illness
  3. old age
  4. death
  5. bereavement
  • Viparinama-dukkha (pain of alteration) is suffering caused by change:
  1. violated expectations
  2. the failure of happy moments to last
  • Sankhara-dukkha (pain of formation) is a subtle form of suffering arising as a reaction to qualities of conditioned things, including the
  1. skandhas
  2. the factors constituting the human mind

It denotes the experience that all formations (sankhara) are impermanent (anicca) - thus it explains the qualities which make the mind as fluctuating and impermanent entities. It is therefore also a gateway to anatta, selflessness (no-self). Insofar as it is dynamic, ever-changing, uncontrollable and not finally satisfactory, unexamined life is itself precisely dukkha.[5] The question which underlay the Buddha's quest was "in what may I place lasting relevance?" He did not deny that there are satisfactions in experience: the exercise of vipassana assumes that the meditator sees instances of happiness clearly. Pain is to be seen as pain, and pleasure as pleasure. It is denied that happiness dependent on conditions will be secure and lasting.[6]

Dukkha is also listed among the three marks of existence, and the Buddha taught with his first three Noble Truths that it exists, has discernible causes, of which there is an account, and that there is a path for release from it. The final Noble Truth is his path.[7]

Dukkha is often seen as our best teacher, the experiences in our life that can point us toward the cessation of suffering. As such, it has incredible moral and spiritual value, and is not in any way void of meaning.

Which Definition of Spirituality?

Psychoanalysis certainly can remove some of the obstacles to a more spiritual experience of our lives, but as Ken Wilber has pointed out (in Integral Psychology), the Freudian approach tends to deal with issues of development in the first two or three stages of our lives (basically up to age 8). This period of life is essentially pre-egoic, lasting up to the beginning of a more solid an rational ego structure.

If you read the Freudian and neo-Freudian literature, they are dealing most explicitly with the traumas of early childhood (attachment, early trauma, object relations, and so on), when the ego is raw and in its early formation. They are not dealing with post-existential issues at all (even the Jungian approach only works with the existential).

Spirituality can have four definitions, according to Wilber:
In Integral Psychology, I suggest that there are at least four widely used definitions of spirituality, each of which contains an important but partial truth, and all of which need to be included in any balanced account: (1) spirituality involves peak experiences or altered states, which can occur at almost any stage and any age; (2) spirituality involves the highest levels in any of the lines; (3) spirituality is a separate developmental line itself; (4) spirituality is an attitude (such as openness, trust, or love) that the self may or may not have at any stage.[20]
For the most part, I think we have been talking about spirituality as a separate developmental line, or possibly, the highest level of any and all lines. Taylor and Miller might be talking about two different things, which could be part of the disagreement (without reading Taylor's book, I cannot be sure of this, but it's my suspicion).

It's an interesting article, but I think he fails to make his case that psychoanalysis is a true spirituality. I'd be curious to hear if anyone else agrees or disagrees with Miller's arguments.

Britain is Repossessing America - I'm John Cleese, and I approved this Message

This piece has been floating around for quite some time, but I just noticed it again at Ben Witherington's blog. It's funny, so I am reposting it -- and I totally agree with this on the topic of beer (Budweiser and Miller and Coors are NOT beer).

This is just one of many variations on this piece, which in itself is quite interesting, the ways in which it has mutated over time (see link below).

Britain is Repossessing America--- I'm John Cleese, and I approved this Message

Britain is Repossessing the U.S.A. ----A Message from John Cleese

To the citizens of the United States of America:

"In light of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately."

"Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas ,which she does not fancy)."

"Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed."

"To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. "You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary, then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. "The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix -ise. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary').

3. "Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize. You will relearn your original national anthem, 'God Save The Queen'.

4. "July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday."

5. "You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

6. "Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. "All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

8. "All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

9. "The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline)-roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

10. "You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

11. "The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of British Commonwealth - see what it did for them.

12. "Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie McDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

13. "You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will,in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don't try Rugby - the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.

14. "Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

15. "You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

16. "An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

17. "Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season."

"God save the Queen."
Of course, this wasn't really John Cleese, at least according to the Snopes Report. In fact, this isn't even the original version of the meme.

The Philosophical Lexicon, New Edition



Copyright © Daniel Dennett and Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen.




The 2008 Edition of The Philosophical Lexicon is the first edition to be published since the Eighth Edition appeared in 1987. The Seventh Edition was published in 1978, while the earlier editions circulated in unpublished, mimeograph form. On the occasion of this edition, The Philosophical Lexicon has migrated from its former dwelling with Blackwell to its present online location.

The Lexicon began one night in September of 1969 in the hands of Daniel Dennett, who was writing lecture notes and found himself jotting down as a heading "quining intentions". He saw fit to compose a definition of the verb. In the morning he was ill prepared to lecture, but handed a list of about a dozen definitions together with the Introduction to his colleagues at Irvine. Joe Lambert promptly responded with several more definitions and sent the first batch to Nuel Belnap and Alan Anderson at Pittsburgh. Almost by return mail their first entries arrived, and within a few months they together prepared a second edition, then a third, and so it continued.

The editions have been cumulative, but along the way a few entries have either been dropped as sub-standard or replaced by better definitions of the same term. Originally, only twentieth-century philosophers were considered eligible, but how could the pronoun "hume" be resisted? The one strict rule is that no one has been permitted to define him or herself - editors included.

During the 21 years that have past since the publication of the last edition in 1987, Daniel Dennett received almost two hundred new entry proposals. These were all passed on to me along with the editorship in May 2008. 56 of the proposals have been selected for the 2008 Edition and added to the 245 entries from the Eighth Edition. Henceforth, a new edition of the Lexicon will appear annually.

For this edition, as for the previous, all (living, locatable) definienda were given the opportunity to delete the entry on them if they wished. I am happy to say that philosophers have proven to be good sports about being satirized, even when the satire is quite rude and unfair! My thanks go to all our eponymous colleagues, and my apologies to all the illustrious members of the profession who deserve to be included but have so far failed to inspire a suitably pungent definition.

Also thanks to all of those who have contributed to The Lexicon with entry proposals. Over the years, The Lexicon has benefitted from the wit of Kathleen Akins, Brian Barry, Devon Belcher, Nick Bellorini, Andrew Belsey, Simon Blackburn, George Boolos, Stewart Candlish, Ronald Carrier, Jordan Cates, Timothy Chappell, John Cronquist, Bill de Vries, J.A. Durieux, Peter Forrest, Jack Fortune, Jeff Foss, Jurg Freudinger, Don Garrett, Stephen Glaister, Soren Haggqvist, Martin Hollis, Gary Iseminger, Philip Kitcher, Carsten Korfmacher, Bill Lycan, Penelope Mackie, John MacKinnon, Hugh Mellor, Elijah Millgram, Robert Nozick, Panos Parissis, Hilary Putnam, Dan Radcliffe, David Sanford, Eric Schliesser, Mark Schroeder, George Sher, Harry Silverstein, Edward Stein, Steve Stich, Philip Turetsky, Steve Wagner, David Weinberger, Roger White, Jennifer Whiting, and Jamie Whyte.

Proposals for new entries may be sent to: submissions[at]

Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen


Department of Philosophy

Aarhus University


The pantheon of philosophy has contributed previous little to the English language, compared with other fields. What can philosophy offer to compare with the galvanizing volts, ohms and watts of physics, the sandwiches, cardigans, and raglan sleeves of the British upper crust, the sado-masochism of their Continental counterparts, or even the leotards of the circus world? We speak of merely platonic affairs, and Gilbert Ryle has given his name to a measure of beer (roughly three-quarters of a pint), but the former is inappropriate to say the least, and the latter is restricted to the patois used in certain quarters of Oxford. There are, of course, the legion of pedantic terms ending in "ian" and "ism", such as "neo-Augustinian Aristotelianism", "Russellian theory of descriptions", and such marginally philosophic terms as "Cartesian coordinate" and "Machiavellian", but these terms have never been, nor deserved to be, a living part of the language. To remedy this situation we propose that philosophers make a self-conscious effort to adopt the following new terms. With a little practice these terms can become an important part of your vocabulary, to the point that you will wonder how philosophy ever proceeded without them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The D'Ark Night Film Festival

I know a few of my readers are film makers, so I thought I'd post this for y'all -- it came as email addressed to Elegant Thorn Review, my poetry and photography blog.
WCMR PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT* The D'Ark Night Film Festival , from the West Coast Midnight Run, for lovers of indie short films

Summer is here and sooner or later everyone heads to the theaters for a break. All the big blockbusters are already out save for one. Once you are done regaling yourself at the movies and you find yourself bored and restless do look in the newest independent film festival, the D'Ark Night Film Festival, courtesy of the West Coast Midnight Run, the newest kid and possibly the most independent magazine there is yet. Never heard of us? I just got through telling you we are the most independent media outlet there is.

So if you are feeling like patronizing struggling artists, taking a break from boredom, and looking up some of the best film and video shorts around, give the D'Ark Night Film Festival a look over.

If you are an amateur lover of Cinema and feel you have your own film and/or video clip that might be worthwhile sharing at the festival, there are a few entry guidelines that you should review. Contact details for submissions are listed at the festival. Film entries will be accepted all year until next summer.

We are trying to make this enjoyable for everyone. Feel like adding your comments, there is a blog section just for the occasion but please keep it clean and appropriate. We'd like everyone to be able to have a good time with this program.

Jim Davis,
Press Relations Manager
on behalf of the editorial team
The West Coast Midnight Run
D'Ark Night Film Festival URL:
* As an eco-friendly publication we resist the temptation of distributing press release on printed trees. Please join us in helping reduce the load on the environment and in responsibly using the internet.

Scientific American Mind - High-Aptitude Minds: The Neurological Roots of Genius

A very cool article from the new issue of Scientific American Mind, which is sitting on my floor waiting to be read. Fortunately, Arts & Letters Daily pointed it out for me.

High-Aptitude Minds: The Neurological Roots of Genius

Researchers are finding clues to the basis of brilliance in the brain

By Christian Hoppe and Jelena Stojanovic

Within hours of his demise in 1955, Albert Einstein’s brain was salvaged, sliced into 240 pieces and stored in jars for safekeeping. Since then, researchers have weighed, measured and otherwise inspected these biological specimens of genius in hopes of uncovering clues to Einstein’s spectacular intellect.

Their cerebral explorations are part of a century-long effort to uncover the neural basis of high intelligence or, in children, giftedness. Traditionally, 2 to 5 percent of kids qualify as gifted, with the top 2 percent scoring above 130 on an intelligence quotient (IQ) test. (The statistical average is 100. See the box on the opposite page.) A high IQ increases the probability of success in various academic areas. Children who are good at reading, writing or math also tend to be facile at the other two areas and to grow into adults who are skilled at diverse intellectual tasks [see “Solving the IQ Puzzle,” by James R. Flynn; Scientific American Mind, October/November 2007].

Most studies show that smarter brains are typically bigger—at least in certain locations. Part of Einstein’s parietal lobe (at the top of the head, behind the ears) was 15 percent wider than the same region was in 35 men of normal cognitive ability, according to a 1999 study by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario. This area is thought to be critical for visual and mathematical thinking. It is also within the constellation of brain regions fingered as important for superior cognition. These neural territories include parts of the parietal and frontal lobes as well as a structure called the anterior cingulate.

But the functional consequences of such enlargement are controversial. In 1883 English anthropologist and polymath Sir Francis Galton dubbed intelligence an inherited feature of an efficiently functioning central nervous system. Since then, neuroscientists have garnered support for this efficiency hypothesis using modern neuroimaging techniques. They found that the brains of brighter people use less energy to solve certain prob­lems than those of people with lower aptitudes do.

In other cases, scientists have observed higher neuronal power consumption in individuals with superior mental capacities. Musical prodigies may also sport an unusually energetic brain [see box on page 67]. That flurry of activity may occur when a task is unusually challenging, some researchers speculate, whereas a gifted mind might be more efficient only when it is pondering a relatively painless puzzle.

Despite the quest to unravel the roots of high IQ, researchers say that people often overestimate the significance of intellectual ability [see “Coaching the Gifted Child,” by Christian Fischer]. Studies show that practice and perseverance contribute more to accomplishment than being smart does.

Read the whole article.

One of their conclusions hits home with me:
Whatever the neurological roots of genius, being brilliant only increases the probability of success; it does not ensure accomplishment in any endeavor. Even for academic achievement, IQ is not as important as self-discipline and a willingness to work hard.
As a wee lad, I was identified as having one of those uniquely high IQs. I couldn't read until second grade, but then, seemingly all of a sudden, I was reading at a 10th grade level and doing advanced math (age 7). That all got derailed when I discovered that drugs and alcohol could numb the pain after my father died (age 13). Self-discipline and motivation disappeared for anything other than getting high (and, strangely, playing soccer).

As the integral folks might say, intellect is necessary but not sufficient for success in life. There are a great many brilliant artists, inventors, scientists, and other successful people who got there with hard work and dedication, not superior intellects.

I think we place too much emphasis on brain power.