Tragic Farce is three years old this week.
Esquire magazine has a long article (available online for $1.99 for non-subscribers) in the August issue by Luke Dittrich investigating the claims of Eben Alexander, a so-called “Harvard neurologist” whose book Proof of Heaven purporting to describe his “near death experience” has been on the best-seller lists for almost a year. (I wrote about the Newsweek article that preceded the book last year.) Of course Dittrich was unable to verify or falsify the central claim, that Alexander actually went to heaven while he was in a coma during a bout of bacterial meningitis. However, Dittrich did uncover a number of awkward facts about Alexander’s career as a neurosurgeon, including a history of malpractice suits (five in ten years) that eventually deprived him of his license to practice neurosurgery and which suggested to Dittrich a possible motive for Alexander to write the book besides a reportorial one.
Over at Huffington Post, Paul Raeburn has written a blog that admirably summarizes Dittrich’s article:
Dittrich comes as close as one could, without access to Alexander’s private thoughts, to showing that the book was a cynical effort to provide a new career — as a prophet! — for a neurosurgeon whose career was being consumed by malpractice suits. He was, Esquire‘s editors write in the deck, “a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention.”
One of Dittrich’s most damning revelations (so to speak) concerns the story of one of Alexander’s own doctors who says, in contradiction of Alexander’s claim that the e. coli bacteria that caused his meningitis also caused his coma, that she chemically induced the coma because Alexander’s involuntary movements made it impossible to operate on him. This would give the lie to Alexander’s contention that his brain had ceased all activity and that he essentially died on the gurney. It would also suggest (though Dittrich doesn’t mention the drug used to induce the coma–one major shortcoming of the Esquire piece) a likely chemical source for Alexander’s ecstatic vision.
Of course, believers will continue to believe, and as evidence of that, you need only look at the comments section on Raeburn’s blog. Continue reading
In last week’s Room for Debate, the question the New York Times posed was this:
Would it be fruitful for atheists to pray? For believers and others, what is the point of prayer?
I suppose the Times should be applauded for asking a question that seems to take atheism seriously, even if they allowed just one self-identified atheist into this “room ” to answer the question.
The simple answer, from this atheist’s perspective, is a great big fat obvious no. Prayer is by definition something asked of someone (or something), and it seems ludicrous to ask people who don’t believe in the supernatural to close their eyes, put their hands together, bow their heads and concentrate on asking something that might theoretically hear their sublingual thoughts for anything. What is the point? Leave prayer to the believers! Continue reading
The following is based on a post I made three years ago at MUBI.com, of all places. I happened to be rereading old posts there this morning, and I wanted to put this one down here so I could think more about it. I was in conversation with someone who had asserted that believing in God can be compared to belief in the future, which, even though it doesn’t yet exist, we believe in anyway. I begged to differ with the aptness of the comparison.
I’d love to hear what others think about all this. Please leave a comment below if you’re so moved:
I’ll tell you what I like about this new look: I think the posts are more readable. It had been bothering me for a long time that the block quotes were low-contrast. It was even difficult for me to read them. With this design, the type is at least a bit larger. I just don’t want it to look too Sally, Dick and Jane, if you know what I mean. You’d tell me if it did, wouldn’t you?
I’m not crazy about the background color. Don’t be surprised if it goes from very dark purple to very light yellow in the click of a mouse. I’m going to tend to want it very light so the text in the margins is readable.
Any other comments you’d care to share, I’d be delighted to entertain.
Here’s just a little taste from 1995 of the late great Texan rockabilly king Ronnie Dawson, with Lisa Pankratz (on drums) and High Noon. If you like country, rock, punk rock, and just plain party music, you’re probably going to love Ronnie Dawson. He began in show biz in his teens, changing his name briefly to Commonwealth Jones in the early 1960s to avoid confusion with another Ron Dawson. He died too young, in 2003. No doubt now he owns the name.
I was reading today’s paper, looking at the obituary of George Jones, when I glanced across at a photo of someone who looked familiar. I realized it was Dean Drummond, an American composer, musician, teacher and acolyte of Harry Partch, whose musical instruments and scores Drummond assembled as founder of the Harry Partch Institute at Montclair State University in New Jersey. I was wondering what an arts piece was doing in the front section of the New York Times, when I realized, shocked, that I was looking at an illustration for Drummond’s obituary. Continue reading
Last night I was having a twittersation with someone named Simon Albert, a nonconforming, conservative Ron Paul supporter who refuses to go along with the Romney Republicans, about something entirely unrelated (at least in obvious ways) to politics: the nature of cosmic reality and what human minds can know about it. It’s not easy to have conversations of such weight in so ephemeral a format, but, of course, that rarely stops “tweeple” from trying.
What an awesome image this photo is! (To get the full effect, click on it.)
The Twin Towers were not terribly beautiful when they stood over lower Manhattan for the thirty years of their lives: just two big awkwardly long rectangles on their sides stretching far above everything in their surroundings. They were iconic, of course, but they achieved their stature cheaply, just by virtue of being the tallest things around.
In death, however, the Towers’ architecture has achieved a powerful iconicism of chaos and doom. The twisting, torn shards of its wrecked lattices look like ghostly hands reaching weakly for help, or bombed-out miniature cities–in a way, fractals of the larger destruction around them. How utterly ruined they were on that day! How totally devastated was their straight, clean sharpness!
The man in this photo, according to its official AFP caption, is calling out to see if any survivors answer. Patriots will quickly note the most alive looking object in the image: the American flag yet waving in the smoky sunlight. Eleven years on, you have to wonder what became of the land and home it represents.
Thanks to John Perr over at Crooks & Liars for rounding my last post up along with Nevada Progressive, Kevin Drum and The Political Carnival. I’m flattered and honored to be included in such distinguished company.
Some of you may have encountered me before over at Democratic Underground, where I went by the handle Burt Worm. For the rest of you, I’ve been keeping this blog for a little over a year, sometimes with more attentiveness than others. If you look at the word cloud down the right margin a ways, you’ll get an idea of my interests. As of today, #OccupyWallStreet is still my most covered topic (tangentially, usually, these days anyway). But I also obsess over Ron Paul, libertarianism and “anarcho”-capitalism because the ideas at the heart of their philosophies, which I tend to argue with, I think are essential for understanding what’s going on in the US and the world today. I’ve also been a bit obsessed with justice lately. And I won’t even mention my dabbling in theories about the face-eating Miami “zombie.”
I hope you’ll have a little look around the joint, and if you like what you see, you’ll come back and engage with me here. Otherwise, maybe I’ll be seeing you on Twitter.