Saturday, November 29, 2008

Roger Ebert - Death to film critics! Hail to the CelebCult!

Roger Ebert takes on the death of the film critic -- and the rise of the celebrity cult -- as exemplified by the end of At the Movies, with Ebert and Roper. He mentions a new 500 word limit on AP writers in the entertainment beat, and a focus on celebrity "gossip"more than actual film criticism.

Key quote:
The celebrity culture is infantilizing us. We are being trained not to think. It is not about the disappearance of film critics. We are the canaries. It is about the death of an intelligent and curious, readership, interested in significant things and able to think critically. It is about the failure of our educational system. It is not about dumbing-down. It is about snuffing out.
Damn straight!

He doesn't talk about this, but maybe the internets can save the film critics?

Death to film critics! Hail to the CelebCult!

By Roger Ebert


A newspaper film critic is like a canary in a coal mine. When one croaks, get the hell out. The lengthening toll of former film critics acts as a poster child for the self-destruction of American newspapers, which once hoped to be more like the New York Times and now yearn to become more like the National Enquirer. We used to be the town crier. Now we are the neighborhood gossip.

The crowning blow came this week when the once-magisterial Associated Press imposed a 500-word limit on all of its entertainment writers. The 500-word limit applies to reviews, interviews, news stories, trend pieces and "thinkers." Oh, it can be done. But with "Synecdoche, New York?"

Demise of the ink-stained wretch

Worse, the AP wants its writers on the entertainment beat to focus more on the kind of brief celebrity items its clients apparently hunger for. The AP, long considered obligatory to the task of running a North American newspaper, has been hit with some cancellations lately, and no doubt has been informed what its customers want: Affairs, divorces, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals, who has been "seen with" somebody, who has been "spotted with" somebody, and "top ten" lists of the above. (Celebs "seen with" desire to be seen, celebs "spotted with" do not desire to be seen.)

The CelebCult virus is eating our culture alive, and newspapers voluntarily expose themselves to it. It teaches shabby values to young people, festers unwholesome curiosity, violates privacy, and is indifferent to meaningful achievement. One of the TV celeb shows has announced it will cover the Obama family as "a Hollywood story." I want to smash something against a wall.


In "Toots," a new documentary about the legendary Manhattan saloon keeper Toots Shor, there is a shot so startling I had to reverse the DVD to see it again. After dinner, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe leave the restaurant, give their ticket to a valet, wait on the curb until their car arrives, tip the valet and then Joe opens the car door for Marilyn, walks around, gets in, and drives them away. This was in the 1950s. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have not been able to do that once in their adult lifetimes. Celebrities do not use limousines because of vanity. They use them as a protection against cannibalism.

As the CelebCult triumphs, major newspapers have been firing experienced film critics. They want to devote less of their space to considered prose, and more to ignorant gawking. What they require doesn't need to be paid for out of their payrolls. Why does the biggest story about "Twilight" involve its fans? Do we need interviews with 16-year-old girls about Robert Pattinson? When was the last time they read a paper? Isn't the movie obviously about sexual abstinence and the teen fascination with doomy Goth death-flirtation?


The age of film critics has come and gone. While the big papers on the coasts always had them (Bosley Crowther at the New York Times, Charles Champlin at the Los Angeles Times), many other major dailies had rotating bylines anybody might be writing under ("Kate Cameron" at the New York Daily News, "Mae Tinay" at the Chicago Tribune--get it?). Judith Crist changed everything at the New York Herald-Tribune when she panned "Cleopatra" (1963) and was banned from 20th Century-Fox screenings. There was a big fuss, and suddenly every paper hungered for a "real" movie critic. The Film Generation was upon us.

Read the whole article.

Anthropology - Field Divided Against Itself

The field of anthropology is dividing into two different fields it seems, social and evolutionary. This could be a good thing in the long term.

This article is from the Times Higher Education blog.

The great divide

20 November 2008

The discipline of anthropology has split firmly into two factions - social anthropologists and evolutionary anthropologists. Hannah Fearn asks whether or not the warring sides can be reconciled

Renowned anthropologist Eric Wolf once described his discipline as "the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanistic of the sciences".

Perhaps he was attempting to capture the uniqueness of a subject that can talk to both academic camps but, by the time he died in 1999, his words articulated the growing split within the discipline.

Today, anthropology is at war with itself. The discipline has divided into two schools of thought - the social anthropologists and the evolutionary anthropologists. The schism between the two is simple but deeply ingrained. Academics in the subject clearly align themselves with one side or the other; once that choice is made it defines their career.

The division lies in the question of whether or not anthropology is a science, and if it accepts that Darwinian evolutionary theory guides research into human behaviour and the development of societies.

On one side are the evolutionary anthropologists. "(They believe) our behaviour is based on things that we did to find mates in our years of evolution," says Alex Bentley, a lecturer in anthropology at Durham University. "Then we have the social anthropologists. Some of them really strongly reject this kind of thinking. They consider it reductionist. They are focused on the specifics of culture."

Put crudely, social anthropologists describe and compare the development of human cultures and societies, while evolutionary anthropologists seek to explain it by reference to our biological evolution. The two sides of the one discipline are struggling to unite.

"They just do not see eye to eye. They don't see anything the same way," says Bentley. "It can be very difficult. In some departments they hardly speak. Professionally there is almost no overlap. One is more descriptive and the other is more analytical. It's a very clear dividing line in many departments. It often causes a lot of acrimony."

This division dates back to the 1970s, when eminent American anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon (now retired emeritus professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara) presented his work on the Yanomami tribes of Venezuela in the context of evolutionary biology.

At first, evolutionary anthropologists were considered the mavericks of the discipline and regarded with both amusement and disdain. But the popularity of the subdiscipline has grown over the decades, and universities now face a challenge in keeping their anthropology departments operating civilly. The divisions within the subject are even guiding the hiring process, with many recruiters ensuring a balance of interests when hiring new staff.

"(Departments) might say: 'We'll have a social anthropologist this time but next time we can have a biological anthropologist.' It's that much out in the open," continues Bentley. Even undergraduates are forced to select one route of study or another from the outset. The effect on the subject is obvious: "While the two sides aren't communicating (the discipline) is not working as efficiently as it could," Bentley concludes.

Although the debate may be hosted within academe, there is nothing considered about the war of words exchanged between the two camps. Today's anthropologists are certainly not afraid of a bit of mud-slinging.

"A lot of anthropologists are interpretivists; they are interpreting what they see. They're not working within the framework of the scientific method," says Ruth Mace, professor of evolutionary anthropology at University College London. "That's all well and good, but why should we be more interested in one person's interpretation over someone else's interpretation unless we have got some commonly accepted grounds for testing competing hypotheses?"

For Mace, the debate over whether to work within the "scientific method" is holding anthropology back. "If you're interested in making formal hypotheses about why people do what they do, we have to test those hypotheses," she says. "I'm a scientist - that's what I do. I think that evolutionary theory provides a very real framework for trying to understand that. If a discipline isn't saying anything that is of interest to any other discipline then that is a problem. The scientific method is a common currency across all scientific disciplines, most of the social sciences included. In that way, disciplines can speak to each other."

Mace believes that cultural anthropology is still very dominant, and that trying to work as an evolutionary anthropologist is difficult within a British university. "It's unfortunate that the discipline's divided," she says. "It's difficult to do science in a non-science department."

But Tim Ingold, chair of social anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, finds this view hard to accept. He says it is the biological anthropologists' refusal to compromise that is at the root of the split.

Read the whole article.

John Welwood - Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible

Shambhala Sun has made this excellent article by John Welwood available for free on their site. I cannot praise this piece -- and basically ALL of Welwood's work -- highly enough. This is the model of relationship so many of us are trying to acheive.

Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible


Living with someone we love, with all the joys and challenges, is one of the best ways to grow spiritually. But real awakening only happens, says renowned psychologist John Welwood, in the charnel ground where we acknowledge and work with our wounds, fears, and illusions.

While most people would like to have healthy, satisfying relationships in their lives, the truth is that everyone has a hard time with intimate partnerships. The poet Rilke understood just how challenging they could be when he penned his classic statement, “For one person to love another, this is the most difficult of all our tasks.”

Rilke isn’t suggesting it’s hard to love or to have loving-kindness. Rather, he is speaking about how hard it is to keep loving someone we live with, day by day, year after year. After numerous hardships and failures, many people have given up on intimate relationship, regarding the relational terrain as so fraught with romantic illusion and emotional hazards that it is no longer worth the energy.

Although modern relationships are particularly challenging, their very difficulty presents a special arena for personal and spiritual growth. To develop more conscious relationships requires becoming conversant with how three different dimensions of human existence play out within them: ego, person, and being.

Every close relationship involves these three levels of interaction that two partners cycle through—ego to ego, person to person, and being to being. While one moment two people may be connecting being to being in pure openness, the next moment their two egos may fall into deadly combat. When our partners treat us nicely, we open—“Ah, you’re so great.” But when they say or do something threatening, it’s "How did I wind up with you?" Since it can be terribly confusing or devastating when the love of our life suddenly turns into our deadliest enemy, it’s important to hold a larger vision that allows us to understand what is happening here.

Relationship as Alchemy

When we fall in love, this usually ushers in a special period, one with its own distinctive glow and magic. Glimpsing another person’s beauty and feeling, our heart opening in response provides a taste of absolute love, a pure blend of openness and warmth. This being-to-being connection reveals the pure gold at the heart of our nature, qualities like beauty, delight, awe, deep passion and kindness, generosity, tenderness, and joy.

Yet opening to another also flushes to the surface all kinds of conditioned patterns and obstacles that tend to shut this connection down: our deepest wounds, our grasping and desperation, our worst fears, our mistrust, our rawest emotional trigger points. As a relationship develops, we often find that we don’t have full access to the gold of our nature, for it remains embedded in the ore of our conditioned patterns. And so we continually fall from grace.

It’s important to recognize that all the emotional and psychological wounding we carry with us from the past is relational in nature: it has to do with not feeling fully loved. And it happened in our earliest relationships—with our caretakers—when our brain and body were totally soft and impressionable. As a result, the ego’s relational patterns largely developed as protection schemes to insulate us from the vulnerable openness that love entails. In relationship the ego acts as a survival mechanism for getting needs met while fending off the threat of being hurt, manipulated, controlled, rejected, or abandoned in ways we were as a child. This is normal and totally understandable. Yet if it’s the main tenor of a relationship, it keeps us locked in complex strategies of defensiveness and control that undermine the possibility of deeper connection.

Thus to gain greater access to the gold of our nature in relationship, a certain alchemy is required: the refining of our conditioned defensive patterns. The good news is that this alchemy generated between two people also furthers a larger alchemy within them. The opportunity here is to join and integrate the twin poles of human existence: heaven, the vast space of perfect, unconditional openness, and earth, our imperfect, limited human form, shaped by worldly causes and conditions. As the defensive/controlling ego cooks and melts down in the heat of love’s influence, a beautiful evolutionary development starts to emerge—the genuine person, who embodies a quality of very human relational presence that is transparent to open-hearted being, right in the midst of the dense confines of worldly conditioning.

Relationship as Charnel Ground

To clarify the workings of this alchemy, a more gritty metaphor is useful, one that comes from the tantric traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism: relationship as charnel ground. In many traditional Asian societies, the charnel ground was where people would bring dead bodies, to be eaten by vultures and jackals. From the tantric yogi’s perspective, this was an ideal place to practice, because it is right at the crossroads of life, where birth and death, fear and fearlessness, impermanence and awakening unfold right next to each other. Some things are dying and decaying, others are feeding and being fed, while others are being born out of the decay. The charnel ground is an ideal place to practice because it is right at the crossroads of life, where one cannot help but feel the rawness of human existence.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche described the charnel ground as "that great graveyard, in which the complexities of samsara and nirvana lie buried." Samsara is the conditioned mind that clouds our true nature, while nirvana is the direct seeing of this nature. As Trungpa Rinpoche describes this daunting crossroads in one of his early seminars:
It’s a place to die and be born, equally, at the same time, it’s simply our raw and rugged nature, the ground where we constantly puke and fall down, constantly make a mess. We are constantly dying, we are constantly giving birth. We are eating in the charnel ground, sitting in it, sleeping on it, having nightmares on it... Yet it does not try to hide its truth about reality. There are corpses lying all over the place, loose arms, loose hands, loose internal organs, and flowing hairs all over the place, jackals and vultures are roaming about, each one devising its own scheme for getting the best piece of flesh.
Many of us have a cartoon-like notion of relational bliss: that it should provide a steady state of security or solace that will save us from having to face the gritty, painful, difficult areas of life. We imagine that finding or marrying the right person will spare us from having to deal with such things as loneliness, disappointment, despair, terror, or disintegration. Yet anyone who has been married for a long time probably has some knowledge of the charnel ground quality of relationship—corpses all over the place, and jackals and vultures roaming about looking for the best piece of flesh. Trungpa Rinpoche suggests that if we can work with the "raw and rugged situation" of the charnel ground, "then some spark or sympathy or compassion, some giving in or opening can begin to take place. The chaos that takes place in your neurosis is the only home ground that you can build the mandala of awakening on." This last sentence is a powerful one, for it suggests that awakening happens only through facing the chaos of our neurotic patterns. Yet this is often the last thing we want to deal with in relationships.

Trungpa Rinpoche suggests that our neurosis is built on the fact that:
…large areas of our life have been devoted to trying to avoid discovering our own experience. Now [in the charnel ground, in our relationships] we have a chance to explore that large area which exists in our being, which we’ve been trying to avoid. That seems to be the first message, which may be very grim, but also very exciting. We’re not trying to get away from the charnel ground, we don’t want to build a Hilton hotel in the middle of it. Building the mandala of awakening actually happens on the charnel ground. What is happening on the charnel ground is constant personal exploration, and beyond that, just giving, opening, extending yourself completely to the situation that’s available to you. Being fantastically exposed, and the sense that you could give birth to another world.
This also describes the spiritual potential of intimate involvement with another human being.
Read the whole article at the Shambhala Sun site.

Bernard Baars - A Conscious Brain - Meanderings on Human Sentience...

Bernard Baars is a cognitive (neuro)scientist interested in consciousness and related topics like volition and self, their brain basis and evolution, and ethical questions related to them. He's also interested in altered and “higher” states. See Wikipedia entry.

This is a new blog, hosted by Nature Network, but it is off to an interesting start.
A Conscious Brain - Meanderings on Human Sentience...

The very word “consciousness” used to be something of a taboo in the scientific world. But today a growing number of well-known scientists have joined the quest to understand it. The list includes Nobelist Gerald Edelman, Christof Koch, Rodolfo Llinas, Antonio Damasio, and many others. A specialized journal has been running for a decade-and-a-half. A scientific organization, the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, has been holding international conferences for almost as long. Mainstream journals in psychology, brain science, neurology and neighboring fields have joined in.

Twelve years ago Francis Crick published an introductory article in Nature, saying that "the problem of the neural basis of consciousness looks ever more tractable as neurobiologists delve into the process of visual perception."

Crick spent the last decades of his productive life pursuing the notoriously tricky problem of the conscious brain. It was Crick who strongly encouraged pioneering studies on visual consciousness, notably by Nikos Logothetis and his team, using binocular rivalry in macaque monkeys. That continues to be a very productive stream of work today.

Binocular rivalry is an attractive paradigm for the following reason. Try this experiment: Hold one pencil (or another small object) in front of your right eye, and an identical pencil in front of your left eye, both at the same distance, a few inches from each eye. Now see if you can “fuse” the two identical pencils into a single conscious pencil. That simulates binocular vision in nature: We constantly fuse nearly identical views of the same objects in the world around us. We do it so smoothly that we rarely even realize which of our two separate eyes is the dominant or “conscious” one.

But now try a variation. Hold a pencil in front of one eye, and a pen with a different color and shape in front of the other. Do they fuse into a single conscious percept? Not if the experiment is done carefully. The two images will compete with each other if they cannot be perceptually fused.

When two images compete, one tends to be conscious for some time, while the other is suppressed. What happens to the suppressed input? We have good evidence that the unconscious stimulus is still processed to quite a high level in the brain.

Thus the brain receives two nearly identical stimuli, one of which is conscious, the other unconscious. We can now ask the question, “What is the difference between two very similar brain events when only one is reportable as conscious?” Binocular rivalry is the double-slit experiment in the experimental study of consciousness.

Experiments like this have put visual consciousness on the map. Many other methods have now been added. But it’s not just visual awareness alone; we can study consciousness as a state via sleep versus waking, coma and general anesthesia. Or we can study medical conditions like narcolepsy, and the brain chemistry of new “wakefulness” drugs like provigil. We can explore profound puzzles like “blindsight,” the ability of patients with damage to the first visual cortex to spot certain visual events and still hotly deny that they ever really saw them. Other patients lack emotional feelings, or bodily sensations, or the ability to see motion or certain kinds of objects. There are dozens of conditions that dissociate conscious from unconscious brain events. Those natural and experimental dissociations make it possible to study consciousness “as such.”

Today, a PubMed search for “consciousness” brings up 23,142 articles. Not all of them are about consciousness as the major focus, but many are. Then there are the scientific synonyms like “explicit” vs. “implicit cognition,” “supra-” vs. “subliminal stimulation,” “aware” vs. “unaware” conditions and many more. As Science magazine wrote in its 2005 anniverary issue, the “biological basis of consciousness” is now often considered one of the top unsolved problems in science. Unsolved, but not necessarily unsolvable.

Consciousness is back, after a long absence.

This blog - A Conscious Brain - turns the spotlight on a number of recent discoveries and ideas, in a really fun and fast-moving field of science. There is now marked empirical progress, and theories are emerging. It’s still early days; when it comes to the conscious brain we may be living in the early age of science. Yes, we are collecting better evidence, but without a Newton or Copernicus to show how it makes sense. Yet consciousness science is finally back on track. New findings appear every month, testable issues are debated, and normal, healthy science is beginning to grow.

We don’t know that human (or animal) consciousness can ever be understood - but we’ll never know unless we try.

That’s what A Conscious Brain is about.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Clint Fuhs - An Essential Introduction to the Integral Approach

Another free offering from Integral Life.

An Essential Introduction to the Integral Approach

What is the Integral Map?

The Integral Map is nothing less than a map of the human experience - a composite framework that honors the key insights of the world's greatest traditions and distills them into five simple factors, five keys to unlock and facilitate your growth and development. Sound too daunting and complex? Well, that's the thing. Life is complex enough as it is, so we’re sharing this map with you as a means to help you find your way. And what you’ll find, with just a little perseverance and a willingness to learn and "not know," is greater understanding and love for yourself, others and the world you live in. Watch this introductory e-learning program to begin the journey and find out how to better navigate your life.

(This presentation is available to everyone, absolutely free. Email this presentation to a friend!)

George Crane - Papa Christos

A great article from Shambhala Sun, offered earlier than normal (this issue is still on newstands).

Papa Christos


A village priest/shaman enters into spiritual battle with the demons who haunt the soul of Zen cynic George Crane.

The sun was warm through the windshield. He drove fast and recklessly. He took curves on the wrong side of the road, passed in no-passing zones, pushed the little Fiat to its limits.

He pointed to a roadside shrine.

“Many people crash and die here.”

Aristotle Dimas was concerned about the state of my soul. And with that in mind he had offered to drive me two hours north of Athens to meet his spiritual father and confessor, Papa Christos, a charismatic village priest, an ecstatic healer and prophesier who spoke in tongues.

It was almost half past twelve, with the first shadows stretching silent and the water violet in that light. A brilliant, end-of-December afternoon. The sky was translucent. Pure azure. Tissue thin air. In Konstantinos we stopped for a snack at a taverna fronting the Aegean—the slow sea lolling, so calm, tepid, and flat it seemed barely alive, silent as a mime lapping the shore. The fried-cheese pies we ate, oily and heavy as lead, the Greek coffee we drank, two rounds of doubles, the cigars we smoked, black Backwoods aromatics, left me ready to meet God and all his minions.

Dark trees lined the road leading into Platistomo, a long corridor. And slowly the light changed. Above and behind us, as seen through the eyes and mind of a dreamer, reclining beneath the sky, snow-covered Parnassos, like the body of a woman—white shoulders, white breasts, white hips, white thighs.

The village was empty and still except for the chickens in the yards, a barking dog, and the sweet smell of composted manure. The café on the square, where we were to meet Papa Christos, was nameless. Its glass door and windows faced the church, the lovely old almond tree that spread its branches over a bench and the war memorial; a brass plaque engraved with the names of local boys lost to last century’s various wars and revolutions. Not many. Platistomo was, after all, a very small place. The door of the café was warped and scraped against the floor, so that you had to push hard both to open and close it with a great screech. The floor was worn. The ceiling very high. The tables and chairs, haphazardly placed, were all different, an odd mix of styles and colors. There was a dusty case displaying the candy and sodas for sale, cigarettes. The afternoon sun poured through the flat windows. Squares of sunlight that floated.

The place was almost empty. One coffee drinker with a burning cigarette hanging from his lips—a man so old and frail that he must no longer be living his life in years, seasons, or even days, but in moments, each one long and perilous—and the alarmingly thin proprietress, smoke escaping her mouth, sat close to the wood stove at the center of the large yellowed room. They didn’t talk. It was as if everything had been said, and there was nothing left to say. Nothing left to do, but wait. It was painful to watch, this quiet waiting for death. Even now, when I think of them, a sack of bricks fills my chest, pressing down.

The priest, a man of punctilious discipline, took his coffee in that café every afternoon, at three, after his nap. While waiting for him, we each had a coffee. Aristotle had a candy bar with his. There was the rich odor of coffee, sweet chocolate, and tobacco. There were silences filled with secrets, stories I ached to know and tell.

At three, on the dot, the door to the café scraped open. Dressed in priestly black, Papa Christos, a dark knight, made his entrance, cut the air, commanded and filled the space. His heavy, black, bulbous-toed working man’s shoes were dusty, the leather cracked. He was a heavyweight. Defrocked, he would have passed as a dock worker or a hit man, a bully or a mean drunk; a hard-looking man except for his soft eyes. He had an enormous permanently reddened nose with the branches of broken capillaries that heavy drinkers get. His fingers were crude, thick and spatulate. His face—fierce, passionate—was square cut and not exactly coarse but close; his neck thick and muscular. He looked as if he’d slept in what he wore and he smelled unwashed, as did his crusty hair and beard. They kissed the hand he held out limply, an oddly effeminate gesture, I thought. They kissed it in turn. When he offered it to me, I shook it.

Papa Christos sat heavily. He blew his nose, a vigorous honk, lit a cigarette and inhaled greedily. Grabbed his cup of coffee, enveloping it in a meaty paw, chugged it, slapped it dramatically down on the table. He began speaking straightaway, staring into me with unblinking blackbird eyes. I stared back not sure if I liked this guy, loathed him, or both. I am suspicious of anyone tied too closely to God. I have no use for the orthodox, bowing their heads before authority. I love what Lucifer, the most beautiful of the angels, loves in man—his independence, his courage; his desire for knowledge, for beauty, for freedom. If God wanted obedience, he should have created man in the image of a hard drive.
Go read the whole article.

Michael E. Zimmerman - My Way to Integral Thinking

A good article from Enlighten Next magazine, on one man's journey to an integral ecology.

My Way to Integral Thinking

An integral ecologist’s personal and philosophical confrontation with modernity.

by Michael E. Zimmerman

When I was about seven years old, I would occasionally play in a delightful forest with a stream running through it. On one visit, my last, I discovered bulldozers tearing up the site to make way for the first shopping center in northeastern Ohio. I’ve never forgotten the dismay and puzzlement I felt that day, and I often trace my awakening as an environmentalist to that incident. A few years later, we moved to a small Ohio town, where I played for many hours in nearby woods, creeks, and fields. I had no words for the pleasure I took in the outdoors. Only in college did I discover Wordsworth’s poetry, which gave incomparable voice to how youthful joy and exuberance entwines with wooded glen and high blue sky.

Growing up had been difficult at times, with seven siblings, an understandably distracted mother, and a demanding father whose disciplinary methods were occasionally modeled on nineteenth-century practices. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate in chemical engineering, he helped to produce a very useful but rather toxic plastic called polyvinyl chloride, the notorious PVC. When I graduated from college in 1968, I condemned industrial modernity, and capitalism in particular, for destroying the natural environment. But my attack on modernity was motivated not merely by ideology and love of nature. Hostility toward my father, and by association toward his belief system, played an important role as well. What was that belief system? That industry was good because it brought material well-being, greater health, and longer life spans to millions of people, many of whom had known firsthand the deprivations of the Great Depression and World War II. For friends of industry, pollution was just the cost of doing business that was good for everyone. After all, an engineering professor told me, humans are very adaptable animals!

All the same, I bristled righteously at modernity’s polluting factories and its gross exploitation of labor. As a budding academic in the 1970s, I was attracted to philosophical views that depicted modernity as an enormous mistake that was destroying the biosphere and divorcing humanity from its true possibilities. Drawing on the work of German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who argued that modern industry’s treatment of nature as nothing but raw material could be seen as the culmination of the West’s long slide into nihilism, I began publishing scholarly articles criticizing our misguided efforts to dominate the planet. My writings put me in touch with Bill Devall and George Sessions, whose book Deep Ecology helped to define an environmental movement of the same name. Deep ecologists claimed that in order to reform a completely unsustainable civilization, people needed to think more “deeply” about the source of environmental problems instead of approaching them piecemeal. To me, their strong bias against modernity seemed consistent with Heidegger’s thought, and I published several papers interpreting Heidegger as one of deep ecology’s conceptual forerunners.

But this is only the first half of the story. You see, in high school and college, I had also become committed to one of modernity’s brightest lights, the civil rights movement, which ended Jim Crow laws and finally made available to black people (in principle at least) the rights of all other U.S. citizens. The United States Constitution—a central achievement of modernity—made possible movements demanding the fulfillment of its promise of equal rights for everyone. Along with civil rights, other movements followed: rights for women, for gays and lesbians, for Native Americans, for animals, and—yes—even for trees, rivers, and ecosystems! This expansion of rights beyond those who initially benefited from them—property-owning white men—has been a striking feature of the past two centuries of modernity, and the fact that they were being extended to nature as well as to marginalized peoples gave me pause when thinking about my own smug antimodernism.

At the time, however, I was not yet able to find a way out of my ambivalence toward modernity. My quandary was made worse by the fact that I was appreciatively reading Karl Marx at the same time that I was reading Heidegger. Marx was an archmodernist who regarded industrialism as a necessary stage along the way to a postcapitalist society, where material plenty would free people to pursue their creative interests, and he dismissed as weak-minded those who felt nostalgia for premodern ways of life. I was greatly attracted to socialism, yet I could not accept its uncritical commitment to industry, and I eventually turned to Herbert Marcuse, a socialist thinker who had studied under Heidegger but who maintained that capitalism and socialism alike were both driven by a lust for domination.

Marcuse offered no plausible alternative to the industrial and technological “system,” but it was my hope that deep ecology might—that it might, in fact, provide the beginnings of a postmodern, postindustrial culture that could heal nature and humanity alike. Then in 1987, a book came along that changed my life. In Heidegger and Nazism, historian Victor Farias argued that Heidegger’s infamous affiliation with national socialism was not a political error that ended in 1934 but rather an expression of his very own philosophy. Although Farias’s criticisms went too far, he forced me to recognize that Heidegger was critical not only of modern industrialism and its destruction of the environment but of modern social institutions as well, including the American and French Revolutions that had promulgated the very human rights I regarded as such important achievements. The same fascist ideology responsible for Auschwitz, I discovered, had also provided the justification in the early 1930s for the most sweeping environmental legislation the world had ever seen. As a famous Nazi slogan put it, “pure land” and “pure blood” went hand in hand.

So I asked myself, if Heidegger’s thought was somehow compatible with national socialism and if his work could also be read as anticipating deep ecology, then to what extent was deep ecology itself compatible with fascist antimodernism?

There was no simple answer to that question, but I found enough reason to be troubled by the connections that I had to develop a different attitude toward modernity—an attitude that could acknowledge its dark side (the domination of nature) while simultaneously affirming its noble side (the promise of rights for all humankind). I had been moving in this direction ever since reading Ken Wilber’s book Up from Eden in 1981. Here and elsewhere, Wilber offers an integrative reading of human history, in which he argues that it is appropriate to both integrate and transcend modernity rather than either dismissing it altogether as a mistake or uncritically embracing it as the pinnacle of human development. I was well on my way to realizing an integral perspective, but one more step, perhaps the most difficult, remained for me to take.

In the mid-1980s, I visited my father in his office at what was then the world’s largest PVC plant, near Baton Rouge. I asked him to show me around and tell me something of what he did there. I wanted him to know that I appreciated the remarkable contributions that he and his generation had made to improving human well-being, despite the problems with PVC and a number of other industrial products. But I also wanted to thank him for the contribution he had made to me in his role as my father. By then, he knew that toxic emissions were a real problem that had to be minimized and dealt with appropriately. He wasn’t yet willing to give up on PVC, but we had come to respect each other’s points of view; and in all my years of attempting to attain an integral outlook, nothing was more important than healing my relationship with him. In the end, the personal and the philosophical were intimately related; only by integrating the debt I owed to my father could I truly integrate the debt I owed to modernity.

Michael E. Zimmerman is professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His next book, Integral Ecology, is due out in March 2009.

Brain Science Podcast #50: Neuroscience 2008

Another great Brain Science podcast from Ginger Campbell. This time she catches us up with some of the presentations from the recent Neuroscience 2008 Conference.

Brain Science Podcast #50: Neuroscience 2008

Episode 50 of the Brain Science Podcast is a change of pace from our usual format. In this episode I share a few highlights from this year’s Neuroscience 2008, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, which just concluded in Washington, DC.

Listen to Episode 50

Go to Brain Science Podcast website for links and show notes

Thursday, November 27, 2008

John Rowan - What is Integral Psychotherapy?

A great introduction to integral psychotherapy by John Rowan, a British psychotherapist and a well-known author (including two great books on subpersonalities). This article comes from IntegralBuddha.
This article is featured on: AQAL & SDi & Psychology
By Dr. John Rowan

In this previously unpublished paper, leading Integral/Transpersonal psychotherapist and counsellor Dr John Rowan outlines his approach to Integral psychotherapy.

He challenges therapists to reach up and include realms even beyond the 'Subtle' level, and also to include not just the left-hand quadrants, but also the right-hand, in their work.

"This integral approach seems to me to open up an exciting prospect for the future of psychotherapy", concludes John.

Dr Rowan is a founder member of Ken Wilber's Integral Institute, and is a renowned pioneer in Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology (and therapy). He is also the author of The Transpersonal: Spirituality in Psychotherapy and Counselling. Ken Wilber was one of the contributors to John Rowan's festschrift, along with Tom Greening, Ian Gordon-Brown, Peter Reason, Petruska Clarkson and others.

John gave a presentation 'Extensions to AQAL' based on the ideas in this paper to the London Integral Circle in February 2006.

A radically edited version of this paper appeared in Drew, J and Lorimer, D (eds.) Ways Through the Wall: Approaches to citizenship in an Interconnected World.

Here is the beginning of the article.


John Rowan


To write a full introduction to this essay, explaining the whole evolutionary approach of Ken Wilber, would be too lengthy and perhaps not necessary. Wilber's basic idea is quite well known by now. It can be found in all of his books. In its simplest form it says that in the process of our psychospiritual development, there are three main stages which we go through, which he labels the prepersonal, the personal and the transpersonal. The prepersonal is all that part of our development prior to the emergence of a separate self, which normally happens in or around adolescence. It is well described in all the standard literature. The personal is the main part of our development, taking place in adulthood, and culminating in the mature ego. Most of psychology, and most of other literature too, deals with this stage of development, and again there is a mass of data about it. The transpersonal is the realm beyond that, which we only reach by an intentional process, because society does not help us with it – at this point there is no escalator taking us onwards, so to speak. It is more controversial, although Maslow started writing about it fifty years ago, but Wilber's great achievement has been to describe it in full detail, and to map it with the help of writers from many countries and many centuries (Wilber 2000).

If we look at his quadrant diagram, first described in his 1995 book, and reprinted many times in his later books, we can see at once that he has taken this basic thought (which originally only applied to the upper left quadrant, the individual interior subjective, or I) and applied it to three other realms, which he describes as the lower left (the social exterior subjective, or We), the lower right (the social exterior objective, or They), and the upper right (the individual interior objective, or It). Within each of these he has a set of numbered levels.

If we think in terms of the three broad sections which we have labelled as prepersonal, personal and transpersonal, everything up to and including level 11 is prepersonal, level 12 he calls the personal, and everything including level 13 and beyond he calls the transpersonal. One of Wilber's most insistent themes is that we tend to suffer from the pre/trans fallacy - that is, we confuse what is prepersonal with what is transpersonal. Some do it (like Freud) by saying that the transpersonal does not really exist - it is just a projection from the prepersonal; others do it (like Jung) by saying that the prepersonal does not really exist - anything beyond the personal must be transpersonal.

In Figure 1, point 13 in the upper left quadrant is a particularly important level, which we shall have a good deal to say about. On the diagram, it looks as if development was linear and unified – in other words, it looks as if we go up the line in one piece. But Wilber warns that this is not so. We have to take into account that there is more than one line of development. He says: "These developmental lines include: morals, affects, self-identity, psychosexuality, cognition, ideas of the good, role taking, socioemotional capacity, creativity, altruism, several lines that might be called "spiritual" (care, openness, concern, religious faith, meditative stages), joy, communicative competence, modes of space and time, death-seizure, needs, worldviews, logico-mathematical competence, kinesthetic skills, gender identity, and empathy – to name a few of the more prominent developmental lines for which we have some empirical evidence." (Wilber 2000, p.28) And he says that development may often be uneven. Hence a great guru may be spiritually highly developed but morally suspect, for example (Anrhony et al 1987).

By integral psychotherapy I mean any kind of psychotherapy which tries to do justice to the All Quadrants All Levels approach laid down by Ken Wilber. However, it has to be said that Wilber has not said nearly enough about the higher levels in relation to the quadrant model. We need far more on this for the purposes of psychotherapy. To stop at the Centaur level (level 13) is not good enough when it comes to psychotherapy, since a great deal of interesting work by people like Jung, Assagioli, Houston, Hillman and others goes well into the Subtle (level 14), and work by people like Almaas, Epstein, Brazier, Rosenbaum and others goes also into the Causal (level 15).

So what I am trying to do in this paper is quite ambitious. Firstly there is the attempt to expand the upper left quadrant beyond what Ken Wilber has laid down in his diagram. He goes up to level 13, and I want to talk also about levels 14 and 15. Secondly there is the attempt to restrict myself to talking about psychotherapy, and in this respect there is no need to discuss the very early levels which mainly refer to the prepersonal, the developmentally immature levels of psychospiritual development. So I shall start at level 11, which is the magic/mythic level sometimes found, especially when working crossculturally. Thirdly there is the attempt to make more sense of the upper right than can be found in Ken Wilber. He says: "In the Upper–Right quadrant, as evolution moves into the human domain, I have indicated states marked by SF1, SF2, and SF3. These are the structure–functions of the human brain that correspond with concrete operational, formal operational, and vision–logic. These are currently being mapped using PET and other sophisticated instruments, and I am simply indicating the correlation, whatever it turns out to be, with these symbols. Everybody agrees that mental states and structures have some sort of correlates in brain physiology, and this is all I mean by the symbols SF1, etc. " (Wilber 1995, p.192) I want to expand this account, and also to say something about the further levels I have labelled 14 and 15.

Read the whole article.

Meditation May Protect Your Brain

Another good reason to meditate, as if you need more?

Meditation May Protect Your Brain

By Michael Haederle, Posted November 22, 2008.

Research is confirming the medicinal effects that advocates have long claimed for meditation.

For thousands of years, Buddhist meditators have claimed that the simple act of sitting down and following their breath while letting go of intrusive thoughts can free one from the entanglements of neurotic suffering.

Now, scientists are using cutting-edge scanning technology to watch the meditating mind at work. They are finding that regular meditation has a measurable effect on a variety of brain structures related to attention -- an example of what is known as neuroplasticity, where the brain physically changes in response to an intentional exercise.

A team of Emory University scientists reported in early September that experienced Zen meditators were much better than control subjects at dropping extraneous thoughts and returning to the breath. The study, "'Thinking about Not-Thinking:' Neural Correlates of Conceptual Processing During Zen Meditation," published by the online research journal PLoS ONE, found that "meditative training may foster the ability to control the automatic cascade of semantic associations triggered by a stimulus and, by extension, to voluntarily regulate the flow of spontaneous mentation."

The same researchers reported last year that longtime meditators don't lose gray matter in their brains with age the way most people do, suggesting that meditation may have a neuro-protective effect. A rash of other studies in recent years meanwhile have found, for example, that practitioners of insight meditation have noticeably thicker tissue in the prefrontal cortex (the region responsible for attention and control) and that experienced Tibetan monks practicing compassion meditation generate unusually strong and coherent gamma waves in their brains.

"There are a lot of potential applications for this," said Milos Cekic, a member of the Emory research team and himself a longtime meditator. He suspects the simple practice of focusing attention on the breath could help patients suffering from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other conditions characterized by excessive rumination.

Meanwhile, a meditation-derived program developed at the University of Massachusetts called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is gaining popularity for treatment of anxiety and chronic illnesses at medical centers around the U.S.

As far back as the 1960s, Japanese scientists who used electroencephalograms (EEG) to measure the brain waves of Zen monks found characteristic patterns of activity. But the advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the 1990s gave researchers a chance to see brains functioning in real time. Functional MRIs measure the blood flow in different parts of the brain, which correlates with how active they are.

The Emory team, which also included Giuseppe Pagnoni and Ying Guo, wanted to see whether Zen meditators were indeed better than novices at controlling the flow of thought, as meditators themselves report. Cekic and Pagnoni asked a dozen seasoned Zen meditators -- including several monks -- and a dozen control subjects to perform a simple cognitive task while undergoing an fMRI scan. The Zen practitioners all had at least three years of daily practice experience, while the control group members had none.

Inside the scanner, the subjects were all asked to follow their breathing while looking at a screen on which words or wordlike combinations of letters were flashed at irregular intervals. Students had to decide whether they were seeing a real word or a made-up word and signal by pressing a button and then return to focusing on their breathing.

Read the whole article.

What Happens To Your Body Within An Hour Of Drinking A Coke

While indulging in all the good food available today, you might want to rethink having a Coke, Pepsi, or some other cola beverage.

From the Nutrition Research Center:

What Happens To Your Body Within An Hour Of Drinking A Coke


Don’t drink cola if you want to be healthy. Consuming soft drinks is bad for so many reasons that science cannot even state all the consequences. But one thing we know for sure is that drinking Coke, as a representative of soft drinks, wreaks havoc on the human organism. What happens? Writer Wade Meredith has shown the quick progression of Coke’s assault.

The main problem is sugar. It’s an evil that the processed food industry and sugar growers don’t want people to know about. Even dietitians, financially supported by sugar growers and sugary product manufacturers, are loathe to tell us the truth.

When somebody drinks a Coke watch what happens…

  • In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.
  • 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)
  • 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
  • 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
  • >60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
  • >60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
  • >60 minutes: As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.

So there you have it, an avalanche of destruction in a single can. Imagine drinking this day after day, week after week. Stick to water, real juice from fresh squeezed fruit, and tea without sweetener.
Primary Source: by Wade Meredith

15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will

Kurt Vonnegut is one of my heroes. From A.V. Club. This is a great collection of quotes by one of the wittiest and most compassionate authors we have ever known.
15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will

By Scott Gordon, Josh Modell, Noel Murray, Sean O'Neal, Tasha Robinson, Kyle Ryan
April 24th, 2007

1. "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"

The actual advice here is technically a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's "good uncle" Alex, but Vonnegut was nice enough to pass it on at speeches and in A Man Without A Country. Though he was sometimes derided as too gloomy and cynical, Vonnegut's most resonant messages have always been hopeful in the face of almost-certain doom. And his best advice seems almost ridiculously simple: Give your own happiness a bit of brainspace.

2. "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."

In Cat's Cradle, the narrator haplessly stumbles across the cynical, cultish figure Bokonon, who populates his religious writings with moronic, twee aphorisms. The great joke of Bokononism is that it forces meaning on what's essentially chaos, and Bokonon himself admits that his writings are lies. If the protagonist's trip to the island nation of San Lorenzo has any cosmic purpose, it's to catalyze a massive tragedy, but the experience makes him a devout Bokononist. It's a religion for people who believe religions are absurd, and an ideal one for Vonnegut-style humanists.

3. "Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?' Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand."

Another koan of sorts from Cat's Cradle and the Bokononist religion (which phrases many of its teachings as calypsos, as part of its absurdist bent), this piece of doggerel is simple and catchy, but it unpacks into a resonant, meaningful philosophy that reads as sympathetic to humanity, albeit from a removed, humoring, alien viewpoint. Man's just another animal, it implies, with his own peculiar instincts, and his own way of shutting them down. This is horrifically cynical when considered closely: If people deciding they understand the world is just another instinct, then enlightenment is little more than a pit-stop between insoluble questions, a necessary but ultimately meaningless way of taking a sanity break. At the same time, there's a kindness to Bokonon's belief that this is all inevitable and just part of being a person. Life is frustrating and full of pitfalls and dead ends, but everybody's gotta do it.

4. "There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."

This line from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater comes as part of a baptismal speech the protagonist says he's planning for his neighbors' twins: "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind." It's an odd speech to make over a couple of infants, but it's playful, sweet, yet keenly precise in its summation of everything a new addition to the planet should need to know. By narrowing down all his advice for the future down to a few simple words, Vonnegut emphasizes what's most important in life. At the same time, he lets his frustration with all the people who obviously don't get it leak through just a little.

5. "She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing."

A couple of pages into Cat's Cradle, protagonist Jonah/John recalls being hired to design and build a doghouse for a lady in Newport, R.I., who "claimed to understand God and His Ways of Working perfectly." With such knowledge, "she could not understand why anyone should be puzzled about what had been or about what was going to be." When Jonah shows her the doghouse's blueprint, she says she can't read it. He suggests taking it to her minister to pass along to God, who, when he finds a minute, will explain it "in a way that even you can understand." She fires him. Jonah recalls her with a bemused fondness, ending the anecdote with this Bokonon quote. It's a typical Vonnegut zinger that perfectly summarizes the inherent flaw of religious fundamentalism: No one really knows God's ways.

6. "Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'"

In this response to his own question—"Why bother?"—in Timequake, his last novel, Vonnegut doesn't give a tired response about the urge to create; instead, he offers a pointed answer about how writing (and reading) make a lonesome world a little less so. The idea of connectedness—familial and otherwise—ran through much of his work, and it's nice to see that toward the end of his career, he hadn't lost the feeling that words can have an intimate, powerful impact.

Read the rest of the list.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NYT - 100 Notable Books of 2008

The New York Times releases its yearly and influential 100 Notable Books list for 2008.

Here's the beginning of the list:

Fiction & Poetry

AMERICAN WIFE. By Curtis Sittenfeld. (Random House, $26.) The life of this novel’s heroine — a first lady who comes to realize, at the height of the Iraq war, that she has compromised her youthful ideals — is conspicuously modeled on that of Laura Bush.

ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES. By Rivka Galchen. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24.) The psychiatrist-narrator of this brainy, whimsical first novel believes that his beautiful, much-younger Argentine wife has been replaced by an exact double.

BASS CATHEDRAL. By Nathaniel Mackey. (New Directions, paper, $16.95.) Mackey’s fictive world is an insular one of musicians composing, playing and talking jazz in the private language of their art.

BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN. By Charles Bock. (Random House, $25.) This bravura first novel, set against a corruptly compelling Las Vegas landscape, revolves around the disappearance of a surly 12-year-old boy.

BEIJING COMA. By Ma Jian. Translated by Flora Drew. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.50.) Ma’s novel, an important political statement, looks at China through the life of a dissident paralyzed at Tiananmen Square.

A BETTER ANGEL: Stories. By Chris Adrian. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) For Adrian — who is both a pediatrician and a divinity student — illness and a heightened spiritual state are closely related conditions.

BLACK FLIES. By Shannon Burke. (Soft Skull, paper, $14.95.) A rookie paramedic in New York City is overwhelmed by the horrors of his job in this arresting, confrontational novel, informed by Burke’s five years of experience on city ambulances.

THE BLUE STAR. By Tony Earley. (Little, Brown, $23.99.) The caring, thoughtful hero of Earley’s engrossing first novel, “Jim the Boy,” is now 17 and confronting not only the eternal turmoil of love, but also venality and the frightening calls of duty and war.

THE BOAT. By Nam Le. (Knopf, $22.95.) In the opening story of Le’s first collection, a blocked writer succumbs to the easy temptations of “ethnic lit.”

BREATH. By Tim Winton. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) Surfing offers this darkly exhilarating novel’s protagonist an escape from a drab Australian town.

DANGEROUS LAUGHTER: Thirteen Stories. By Steven Millhauser. (Knopf, $24.) In his latest collection, Millhauser advances his chosen themes — the slippery self, the power of hysterical young people — with even more confidence and power than before.

DEAR AMERICAN AIRLINES. By Jonathan Miles. (Houghton Mifflin, $22.) Miles’s fine first novel takes the form of a letter from a stranded traveler, his life a compilation of regrets, who uses the time to digress on an impressive array of cultural issues, large and small.

DIARY OF A BAD YEAR. By J. M. Coet­zee. (Viking, $24.95.) Coetzee follows the late career of one Señor C, who, like Coetzee himself, is a South African writer transplanted to Australia and the author of a novel titled “Waiting for the Barbarians.”

DICTATION: A Quartet. By Cynthia Ozick. (Houghton Mifflin, $24.) In the title story of this expertly turned collection, Henry James and Joseph Conrad embody Ozick’s polarity of art and ardor.

ELEGY: Poems. By Mary Jo Bang. (Graywolf, $20.) Grief is converted into art in this bleak, forthright collection, centered on the death of the poet’s son.
Read the whole list.


Hat tip to the TED blog for the link. A hilarious bit of satire from McSweeney's.



- - - -


"Damn it, Dagny! I need the government to get out of the way and let me do my job!"

She sat across the desk from him. She appeared casual but confident, a slim body with rounded shoulders like an exquisitely engineered truss. How he hated his debased need for her, he who loathed self-sacrifice but would give up everything he valued to get in her pants ... Did she know?

"I heard the thugs in Washington were trying to take your Rearden metal at the point of a gun," she said. "Don't let them, Hank. With your advanced alloy and my high-tech railroad, we'll revitalize our country's failing infrastructure and make big, virtuous profits."

"Oh, no, I got out of that suckers' game. I now run my own hedge-fund firm, Rearden Capital Management."


He stood and adjusted his suit jacket so that his body didn't betray his shameful weakness. He walked toward her and sat informally on the edge of her desk. "Why make a product when you can make dollars? Right this second, I'm earning millions in interest off money I don't even have."

He gestured to his floor-to-ceiling windows, a symbol of his productive ability and goodness.

"There's a whole world out there of byzantine financial products just waiting to be invented, Dagny. Let the leeches run my factories into the ground! I hope they do! I've taken out more insurance on a single Rearden Steel bond than the entire company is even worth! When my old company finally tanks, I'll make a cool $877 million."

Their eyes locked with an intensity she was only beginning to understand. Yes, Hank ... claim me ... If we're to win the battle against the leeches, we must get it on ... right now ... Don't let them torture us for our happiness ... or our billions.

He tore his eyes away.

"I can't. Sex is base and vile!"

"No, it's an expression of our highest values and our admiration for each other's minds."

"Your mind gives me the biggest boner, Dagny Taggart."

He fell upon her like a savage, wielding his mouth like a machete, and in the pleasure she took from him her body became an extension of her quarterly earnings report—proof of her worthiness as a lover. His hard-on was sanction enough.

"Scream your secret passions, Hank Rearden!"



"Credit-default swaps!"

"Oh, yes! Yes!"

"Collateralized debt obligation."


Read the rest.