Book: “Man, the Manipulator: The Inner Journey from Manipulation to Actualization”

Man, the Manipulator: The Inner Journey from Manipulation to Actualization – 1967

All of us are to some degree manipulators. Whether for reasons of insecurity, fear, or an unwillingness to reveal our deeper feelings, we consciously or subconsciously use the tricks we have absorbed during our lives to conceal our true natures and thereby reduce ourselves and others into things to be controlled. But this book is more than just a description of the manipulators. The author shows clearly that when manipulation becomes a way of life we pay a price in boredom, anxiety, hostility – in broken lives and ruined careers. Out of his experience as a working psychologist, he reminds us that we have within us a positive potential which, if expressed, can lead us to know our true selves, trust our own feelings, communicate with and appreciate others, and mature into balanced, constructive, and realistic persons. This is “actualization.”

( and Richard Branam)

Aldous Huxley, Dying of Cancer, Left This World Tripping on LSD (1963)

Aldous Huxley put himself forever on the intellectual map when he wrote the dystopian sci-fi novel Brave New World in 1931. (Listen to Huxley narrating a dramatized version here.) The British-born writer was living in Italy at the time, a continental intellectual par excellence.

Then, six years later, Huxley turned all of this upside down. He headed West, to Hollywood, the newest of the New World, where he took a stab at writing screenplays (with not much luck) and started experimenting with mysticism and psychedelics — first mescaline in 1953, then LSD in 1955. This put Huxley at the forefront of the counterculture’s experimentation with psychedelic drugs, something he documented in his 1954 book, The Doors of Perception.

Huxley’s experimentation continued right through his death in November 1963. When cancer brought him to his death bed, he asked his wife to inject him with “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular.” He died later that day, just hours after Kennedy’s assassination. Three years later, LSD was officially banned in California.

By way of footnote, it’s worth mentioning that the American medical establishment is now giving hallucinogens a second look, conducting controlled studies of how psilocybin and other psychedelics can help treat patients dealing with cancer, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug/alcohol addiction and end-of-life anxiety. The New York Times has more on this story.

For a look at the history of LSD, we recommend the 2002 film Hofmann’s Potion (2002) by Canadian filmmaker Connie Littlefield. You can watch it here, or find it listed in our collection of Free Movies Online.

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Aldous Huxley Warns Against Dictatorship in America

Christian Pornographer Refuses To Film Sex Tape For Gay Couple

August 3, 2018 (

ATLANTA—Saying it would violate his deeply held religious beliefs, area pornographer Chet Kirkendall, a 57-year-old Christian who frequently films explicit amateur videos for his clients, confirmed Friday he had denied service to a gay male couple that wished to hire him to direct their sex tape. “I’ve been in this business 25 years, and I strongly believe rim jobs, facials, and other hardcore sex acts should only take place between one man and one woman, or one man and two women, or in some cases five men taking turns with one woman—but never two men,” said Kirkendall, who told reporters that after a career directing hundreds of gang bangs, scenes of “barely legal” teenagers, and a variety of stepmother-themed material, he wasn’t about to violate his traditional Christian values by filming man-on-man action. “I take my work very seriously and am always proud to capture on video the sacred union of a man thrusting deep inside a woman and then cumming on her tits, or sometimes her face. God condones such sucking and fucking, but in His eyes, filming homosexual men bringing each other to orgasm through anal sex or vigorous fisting would be an abomination. It’s right there in the Book of Leviticus.” Asked whether he also would have denied service to a lesbian couple, Kirkendall refused to give a definitive answer, saying it might be permissible to accept such a job “as long as it was two hot chicks.”

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change

Thirty years ago, we had a chance to save the planet.

Editor’s Note

This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it. Jake Silverstein


The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.

Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?

Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.

Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979. By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences. Compared with string theory and genetic engineering, the “greenhouse effect” — a metaphor dating to the early 1900s — was ancient history, described in any Introduction to Biology textbook. Nor was the basic science especially complicated. It could be reduced to a simple axiom: The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, oil and gas, humankind belched increasingly obscene quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Why didn’t we act? A common boogeyman today is the fossil-fuel industry, which in recent decades has committed to playing the role of villain with comic-book bravado. An entire subfield of climate literature has chronicled the machinations of industry lobbyists, the corruption of scientists and the propaganda campaigns that even now continue to debase the political debate, long after the largest oil-and-gas companies have abandoned the dumb show of denialism. But the coordinated efforts to bewilder the public did not begin in earnest until the end of 1989. During the preceding decade, some of the largest oil companies, including Exxon and Shell, made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions.

Nor can the Republican Party be blamed. Today, only 42 percent of Republicans know that “most scientists believe global warming is occurring,” and that percentage is falling. But during the 1980s, many prominent Republicans joined Democrats in judging the climate problem to be a rare political winner: nonpartisan and of the highest possible stakes. Among those who called for urgent, immediate and far-reaching climate policy were Senators John Chafee, Robert Stafford and David Durenberger; the E.P.A. administrator, William K. Reilly; and, during his campaign for president, George H.W. Bush. As Malcolm Forbes Baldwin, the acting chairman of the president’s Council for Environmental Quality, told industry executives in 1981, “There can be no more important or conservative concern than the protection of the globe itself.” The issue was unimpeachable, like support for veterans or small business. Except the climate had an even broader constituency, composed of every human being on Earth.

It was understood that action would have to come immediately. At the start of the 1980s, scientists within the federal government predicted that conclusive evidence of warming would appear on the global temperature record by the end of the decade, at which point it would be too late to avoid disaster. More than 30 percent of the human population lacked access to electricity. Billions of people would not need to attain the “American way of life” in order to drastically increase global carbon emissions; a light bulb in every village would do it. A report prepared at the request of the White House by the National Academy of Sciences advised that “the carbon-dioxide issue should appear on the international agenda in a context that will maximize cooperation and consensus-building and minimize political manipulation, controversy and division.” If the world had adopted the proposal widely endorsed at the end of the ’80s — a freezing of carbon emissions, with a reduction of 20 percent by 2005 — warming could have been held to less than 1.5 degrees.

A broad international consensus had settled on a solution: a global treaty to curb carbon emissions. The idea began to coalesce as early as February 1979, at the first World Climate Conference in Geneva, when scientists from 50 nations agreed unanimously that it was “urgently necessary” to act. Four months later, at the Group of 7 meeting in Tokyo, the leaders of the world’s seven wealthiest nations signed a statement resolving to reduce carbon emissions. Ten years later, the first major diplomatic meeting to approve the framework for a binding treaty was called in the Netherlands. Delegates from more than 60 nations attended, with the goal of establishing a global summit meeting to be held about a year later. Among scientists and world leaders, the sentiment was unanimous: Action had to be taken, and the United States would need to lead. It didn’t.

The inaugural chapter of the climate-change saga is over. In that chapter — call it Apprehension — we identified the threat and its consequences. We spoke, with increasing urgency and self-delusion, of the prospect of triumphing against long odds. But we did not seriously consider the prospect of failure. We understood what failure would mean for global temperatures, coastlines, agricultural yield, immigration patterns, the world economy. But we have not allowed ourselves to comprehend what failure might mean for us. How will it change the way we see ourselves, how we remember the past, how we imagine the future? Why did we do this to ourselves? These questions will be the subject of climate change’s second chapter — call it The Reckoning. There can be no understanding of our current and future predicament without understanding why we failed to solve this problem when we had the chance.

That we came so close, as a civilization, to breaking our suicide pact with fossil fuels can be credited to the efforts of a handful of people, among them a hyperkinetic lobbyist and a guileless atmospheric physicist who, at great personal cost, tried to warn humanity of what was coming. They risked their careers in a painful, escalating campaign to solve the problem, first in scientific reports, later through conventional avenues of political persuasion and finally with a strategy of public shaming. Their efforts were shrewd, passionate, robust. And they failed. What follows is their story, and ours.

Part One1979–1982

Rafe Pomerance in 1983. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

1.‘This Is the Whole Banana’Spring 1979

The first suggestion to Rafe Pomerance that humankind was destroying the conditions necessary for its own survival came on Page 66 of the government publication EPA-600/7-78-019. It was a technical report about coal, bound in a coal-black cover with beige lettering — one of many such reports that lay in uneven piles around Pomerance’s windowless office on the first floor of the Capitol Hill townhouse that, in the late 1970s, served as the Washington headquarters of Friends of the Earth. In the final paragraph of a chapter on environmental regulation, the coal report’s authors noted that the continued use of fossil fuels might, within two or three decades, bring about “significant and damaging” changes to the global atmosphere.

Pomerance paused, startled, over the orphaned paragraph. It seemed to have come out of nowhere. He reread it. It made no sense to him. Pomerance was not a scientist; he graduated from Cornell 11 years earlier with a degree in history. He had the tweedy appearance of an undernourished doctoral student emerging at dawn from the stacks. He wore horn-rimmed glasses and a thickish mustache that wilted disapprovingly over the corners of his mouth, though his defining characteristic was his gratuitous height, 6 feet 4 inches, which seemed to embarrass him; he stooped over to accommodate his interlocutors. He had an active face prone to breaking out in wide, even maniacal grins, but in composure, as when he read the coal pamphlet, it projected concern. He struggled with technical reports. He proceeded as a historian might: cautiously, scrutinizing the source material, reading between the lines. When that failed, he made phone calls, often to the authors of the reports, who tended to be surprised to hear from him. Scientists, he had found, were not in the habit of fielding questions from political lobbyists. They were not in the habit of thinking about politics.

The reporting and photography for this project were supported by a major grant from the Pulitzer Center, which has also created lesson plans to bring the climate issue to students everywhere.

Pomerance had one big question about the coal report. If the burning of coal, oil and natural gas could invite global catastrophe, why had nobody told him about it? If anyone in Washington — if anyone in the United States — should have been aware of such a danger, it was Pomerance. As the deputy legislative director of Friends of the Earth, the wily, pugnacious nonprofit that David Brower helped found after resigning from the Sierra Club a decade earlier, Pomerance was one of the nation’s most connected environmental activists. That he was as easily accepted in the halls of the Dirksen Senate Office Building as at Earth Day rallies might have had something to do with the fact that he was a Morgenthau — the great-grandson of Henry Sr., Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire; great-nephew of Henry Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Treasury secretary; second cousin to Robert, district attorney for Manhattan. Or perhaps it was just his charisma — voluble, energetic and obsessive, he seemed to be everywhere, speaking with everyone, in a very loud voice, at once. His chief obsession was air. After working as an organizer for welfare rights, he spent the second half of his 20s laboring to protect and expand the Clean Air Act, the comprehensive law regulating air pollution. That led him to the problem of acid rain, and the coal report.

He showed the unsettling paragraph to his office mate, Betsy Agle. Had she ever heard of the “greenhouse effect”? Was it really possible that human beings were overheating the planet?

Agle shrugged. She hadn’t heard about it, either.

That might have been the end of it, had Agle not greeted Pomerance in the office a few mornings later holding a copy of a newspaper forwarded by Friends of the Earth’s Denver office. Isn’t this what you were talking about the other day? she asked.

Agle pointed to an article about a prominent geophysicist named Gordon MacDonald, who was conducting a study on climate change with the Jasons, the mysterious coterie of elite scientists to which he belonged. Pomerance hadn’t heard of MacDonald, but he knew all about the Jasons. They were like one of those teams of superheroes with complementary powers that join forces in times of galactic crisis. They had been brought together by federal agencies, including the C.I.A, to devise scientific solutions to national-security problems: how to detect an incoming missile; how to predict fallout from a nuclear bomb; how to develop unconventional weapons, like plague-infested rats. The Jasons’ activities had been a secret until the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed their plan to festoon the Ho Chi Minh Trail with motion sensors that signaled to bombers. After the furor that followed — protesters set MacDonald’s garage on fire — the Jasons began to use their powers for peace instead of war.

There was an urgent problem that demanded their attention, MacDonald believed, because human civilization faced an existential crisis. In “How to Wreck the Environment,” a 1968 essay published while he was a science adviser to Lyndon Johnson, MacDonald predicted a near future in which “nuclear weapons were effectively banned and the weapons of mass destruction were those of environmental catastrophe.” One of the most potentially devastating such weapons, he believed, was the gas that we exhaled with every breath: carbon dioxide. By vastly increasing carbon emissions, the world’s most advanced militaries could alter weather patterns and wreak famine, drought and economic collapse.

In the decade since then, MacDonald had been alarmed to see humankind begin in earnest to weaponize weather — not out of malice, but unwittingly. During the spring of 1977 and the summer of 1978, the Jasons met to determine what would happen once the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubled from pre-Industrial Revolution levels. It was an arbitrary milestone, the doubling, but a useful one, as its inevitability was not in question; the threshold would most likely be breached by 2035. The Jasons’ report to the Department of Energy, “The Long-Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Climate,” was written in an understated tone that only enhanced its nightmarish findings: Global temperatures would increase by an average of two to three degrees Celsius; Dust Bowl conditions would “threaten large areas of North America, Asia and Africa”; access to drinking water and agricultural production would fall, triggering mass migration on an unprecedented scale. “Perhaps the most ominous feature,” however, was the effect of a changing climate on the poles. Even a minimal warming “could lead to rapid melting” of the West Antarctic ice sheet. The ice sheet contained enough water to raise the level of the oceans 16 feet.

The Jasons sent the report to dozens of scientists in the United States and abroad; to industry groups like the National Coal Association and the Electric Power Research Institute; and within the government, to the National Academy of Sciences, the Commerce Department, the E.P.A., NASA, the Pentagon, the N.S.A., every branch of the military, the National Security Council and the White House.

Pomerance read about the atmospheric crisis in a state of shock that swelled briskly into outrage. “This,” he told Betsy Agle, “is the whole banana.”

Gordon MacDonald worked at the federally funded Mitre Corporation, a think tank that works with agencies throughout the government. His title was senior research analyst, which was another way of saying senior science adviser to the national-intelligence community. After a single phone call, Pomerance, a former Vietnam War protester and conscientious objector, drove several miles on the Beltway to a group of anonymous white office buildings that more closely resembled the headquarters of a regional banking firm than the solar plexus of the American military-industrial complex. He was shown into the office of a brawny, soft-spoken man in blocky, horn-rimmed frames, who extended a hand like a bear’s paw.

“I’m glad you’re interested in this,” MacDonald said, sizing up the young activist.

“How could I not be?” Pomerance said. “How could anyone not be?”

MacDonald explained that he first studied the carbon-dioxide issue when he was about Pomerance’s age — in 1961, when he served as an adviser to John F. Kennedy. Pomerance pieced together that MacDonald, in his youth, had been something of a prodigy: In his 20s, he advised Dwight D. Eisenhower on space exploration; at 32, he became a member of the National Academy of Sciences; at 40, he was appointed to the inaugural Council on Environmental Quality, where he advised Richard Nixon on the environmental dangers of burning coal. He monitored the carbon-dioxide problem the whole time, with increasing alarm.

MacDonald spoke for two hours. Pomerance was appalled. “If I set up briefings with some people on the Hill,” he asked MacDonald, “will you tell them what you just told me?”

Thus began the Gordon and Rafe carbon-dioxide roadshow. Beginning in the spring of 1979, Pomerance arranged informal briefings with the E.P.A., the National Security Council, The New York Times, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Energy Department, which, Pomerance learned, had established an Office of Carbon Dioxide Effects two years earlier at MacDonald’s urging. The men settled into a routine, with MacDonald explaining the science and Pomerance adding the exclamation points. They were surprised to learn how few senior officials were familiar with the Jasons’ findings, let alone understood the ramifications of global warming. At last, having worked their way up the federal hierarchy, the two went to see the president’s top scientist, Frank Press.

Press’s office was in the Old Executive Office Building, the granite fortress that stands on the White House grounds just paces away from the West Wing. Out of respect for MacDonald, Press had summoned to their meeting what seemed to be the entire senior staff of the president’s Office of Science and Technology Policy — the officials consulted on every critical matter of energy and national security. What Pomerance had expected to be yet another casual briefing assumed the character of a high-level national-security meeting. He decided to let MacDonald do all the talking. There was no need to emphasize to Press and his lieutenants that this was an issue of profound national significance. The hushed mood in the office told him that this was already understood.

To explain what the carbon-dioxide problem meant for the future, MacDonald would begin his presentation by going back more than a century to John Tyndall — an Irish physicist who was an early champion of Charles Darwin’s work and died after being accidentally poisoned by his wife. In 1859, Tyndall found that carbon dioxide absorbed heat and that variations in the composition of the atmosphere could create changes in climate. These findings inspired Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist and future Nobel laureate, to deduce in 1896 that the combustion of coal and petroleum could raise global temperatures. This warming would become noticeable in a few centuries, Arrhenius calculated, or sooner if consumption of fossil fuels continued to increase.

Consumption increased beyond anything the Swedish chemist could have imagined. Four decades later, a British steam engineer named Guy Stewart Callendar discovered that, at the weather stations he observed, the previous five years were the hottest in recorded history. Humankind, he wrote in a paper, had become “able to speed up the processes of Nature.” That was in 1939.

MacDonald’s voice was calm but authoritative, his powerful, heavy hands conveying the force of his argument. He was a geophysicist trapped in the body of an offensive lineman — he had turned down a football scholarship to Rice in order to attend Harvard — and seemed miscast as a preacher of atmospheric physics and existential doom. His audience listened in bowed silence. Pomerance couldn’t read them. Political bureaucrats were skilled at hiding their opinions. Pomerance wasn’t. He shifted restlessly in his chair, glancing between MacDonald and the government suits, trying to see whether they grasped the shape of the behemoth that MacDonald was describing.

MacDonald’s history concluded with Roger Revelle, perhaps the most distinguished of the priestly caste of government scientists who, since the Manhattan Project, advised every president on major policy; he had been a close colleague of MacDonald and Press since they served together under Kennedy. In a 1957 paper written with Hans Suess, Revelle concluded that “human beings are now carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future.” Revelle helped the Weather Bureau establish a continuous measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide at a site perched near the summit of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, 11,500 feet above the sea — a rare pristine natural laboratory on a planet blanketed by fossil-fuel emissions. A young geochemist named Charles David Keeling charted the data. Keeling’s graph came to be known as the Keeling curve, though it more closely resembled a jagged lightning bolt hurled toward the firmament. MacDonald had a habit of tracing the Keeling curve in the air, his thick forefinger jabbing toward the ceiling.

Charles David Keeling with the Keeling curve. From Special Collections & Archives, U.C. San Diego Library

After nearly a decade of observation, Revelle had shared his concerns with Lyndon Johnson, who included them in a special message to Congress two weeks after his inauguration. Johnson explained that his generation had “altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale” through the burning of fossil fuels, and his administration commissioned a study of the subject by his Science Advisory Committee. Revelle was its chairman, and its 1965 executive report on carbon dioxide warned of the rapid melting of Antarctica, rising seas, increased acidity of fresh waters — changes that would require no less than a coordinated global effort to forestall.

In 1974, the C.I.A. issued a classified report on the carbon-dioxide problem. It concluded that climate change had begun around 1960 and had “already caused major economic problems throughout the world.” The future economic and political impacts would be “almost beyond comprehension.” Yet emissions continued to rise, and at this rate, MacDonald warned, they could see a snowless New England, the swamping of major coastal cities, as much as a 40 percent decline in national wheat production, the forced migration of about one-quarter of the world’s population. Not within centuries — within their own lifetimes.

“What would you have us do?” Press asked.

The president’s plan, in the wake of the Saudi oil crisis, to promote solar energy — he had gone so far as to install 32 solar panels on the roof of the White House to heat his family’s water — was a good start, MacDonald thought. But Jimmy Carter’s plan to stimulate production of synthetic fuels — gas and liquid fuel extracted from shale and tar sands — was a dangerous idea. Nuclear power, despite the recent tragedy at Three Mile Island, should be expanded. But even natural gas and ethanol were preferable to coal. There was no way around it: Coal production would ultimately have to end.

The president’s advisers asked respectful questions, but Pomerance couldn’t tell whether they were persuaded. The men all stood and shook hands, and Press led MacDonald and Pomerance out of his office. After they emerged from the Old Executive Office Building onto Pennsylvania Avenue, Pomerance asked MacDonald what he thought would happen.

Knowing Frank as I do, MacDonald said, I really couldn’t tell you.

In the days that followed, Pomerance grew uneasy. Until this point, he had fixated on the science of the carbon-dioxide issue and its possible political ramifications. But now that his meetings on Capitol Hill had concluded, he began to question what all this might mean for his own future. His wife, Lenore, was eight months pregnant; was it ethical, he wondered, to bring a child onto a planet that before much longer could become inhospitable to life? And he wondered why it had fallen to him, a 32-year-old lobbyist without scientific training, to bring greater attention to this crisis.

Finally, weeks later, MacDonald called to tell him that Press had taken up the issue. On May 22, Press wrote a letter to the president of the National Academy of Sciences requesting a full assessment of the carbon-dioxide issue. Jule Charney, the father of modern meteorology, would gather the nation’s top oceanographers, atmospheric scientists and climate modelers to judge whether MacDonald’s alarm was justified — whether the world was, in fact, headed to cataclysm.

Pomerance was amazed by how much momentum had built in such a short time. Scientists at the highest levels of government had known about the dangers of fossil-fuel combustion for decades. Yet they had produced little besides journal articles, academic symposiums, technical reports. Nor had any politician, journalist or activist championed the issue. That, Pomerance figured, was about to change. If Charney’s group confirmed that the world was careering toward an existential crisis, the president would be forced to act.

 Hurricanes Cause Catastrophic Floods
When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas last summer, record rainfall caused catastrophic flooding. In six days, as much as 60 inches of rain fell, leaving at least 68 people dead and $125 billion in damage. One study found that climate change has made cataclysmic rain events like Harvey three times as common as they were. Harvey was a particularly slow-moving hurricane, making it significantly more destructive: The storm stood still and drenched already flood-prone areas. “There’s a good chance another event like Harvey will happen again,” said Adam Sobel, the director of Columbia University’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate. “This is the kind of thing we expect to see more and more, even if we stop emitting carbon today.” — Text by Jaime Lowe. Photographs by George Steinmetz for The New York Times.

2.The Whimsies of The Invisible WorldSpring 1979

There was a brown velvet love seat in the living room of James and Anniek Hansen, under a bright window looking out on Morningside Park in Manhattan, that nobody ever sat in. Erik, their 2-year-old son, was forbidden to go near it. The ceiling above the couch sagged ominously, as if pregnant with some alien life form, and the bulge grew with each passing week. Jim promised Anniek that he would fix it, which was only fair, because it had been on his insistence that they gave up the prospect of a prewar apartment in Spuyten Duyvil overlooking the Hudson and moved from Riverdale to this two-story walk-up with crumbling walls, police-siren lullabies and gravid ceiling. Jim had resented the 45-minute commute to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan and complained that such a gross waste of his time would soon be unsustainable, once the Pioneer spacecraft reached Venus and began to beam back data. But even after the Hansens moved within a few blocks of the institute, Jim couldn’t make time for the ceiling, and after four months it finally burst, releasing a confetti of browned pipes and splintered wood.

Jim repeated his vow to fix the ceiling as soon as he had a moment free from work. Anniek held him to his word, though it required her to live with a hole in her ceiling until Thanksgiving — seven months of plaster dust powdering the love seat.

Another promise Jim made to Anniek: He would make it home for dinner every night by 7 p.m. By 8:30, however, he was back at his calculations. Anniek did not begrudge him his deep commitment to his work; it was one of the things she loved about him. Still, it baffled her that the subject of his obsession should be the atmospheric conditions of a planet more than 24 million miles away. It baffled Jim, too. His voyage to Venus from Denison, Iowa, the fifth child of a diner waitress and an itinerant farmer turned bartender, had been a series of bizarre twists of fate over which he claimed no agency. It was just something that happened to him.

Hansen figured he was the only scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who, as a child, did not dream of outer space. He dreamed only of baseball. On clear nights, his transistor radio picked up the broadcast of the Kansas City Blues, the New York Yankees’ AAA affiliate. Every morning, he cut out the box scores, pasted them into a notebook and tallied statistics. Hansen found comfort in numbers and equations. He majored in math and physics at the University of Iowa, but he never would have taken an interest in celestial matters were it not for the unlikely coincidence of two events during the year he graduated: the eruption of a volcano in Bali and a total eclipse of the moon.

On the night of Dec. 30, 1963 — whipping wind, 12 degrees below zero — Hansen accompanied his astronomy professor to a cornfield far from town. They set a telescope in an old corncrib and, between 2 and 8 in the morning, made continuous photoelectric recordings of the eclipse, pausing only when the extension cord froze and when they dashed to the car for a few minutes to avoid frostbite.

During an eclipse, the moon resembles a tangerine or, if the eclipse is total, a drop of blood. But this night, the moon vanished altogether. Hansen made the mystery the subject of his master’s thesis, concluding that the moon had been obscured by the dust erupted into the atmosphere by Mount Agung, on the other side of the planet from his corncrib, six months earlier. The discovery led to his fascination with the influence of invisible particles on the visible world. You could not make sense of the visible world until you understood the whimsies of the invisible one.

One of the leading authorities on the invisible world happened to be teaching then at Iowa: James Van Allen made the first major discovery of the space age, identifying the two doughnut-shaped regions of convulsing particles that circle Earth, now known as the Van Allen belts. At Van Allen’s prodding, Hansen turned from the moon to Venus. Why, he tried to determine, was its surface so hot? In 1967, a Soviet satellite beamed back the answer: The planet’s atmosphere was mainly carbon dioxide. Though once it may have had habitable temperatures, it was believed to have succumbed to a runaway greenhouse effect: As the sun grew brighter, Venus’s ocean began to evaporate, thickening the atmosphere, which forced yet greater evaporation — a self-perpetuating cycle that finally boiled off the ocean entirely and heated the planet’s surface to more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit. At the other extreme, Mars’s thin atmosphere had insufficient carbon dioxide to trap much heat at all, leaving it about 900 degrees colder. Earth lay in the middle, its Goldilocks greenhouse effect just strong enough to support life.

Anniek expected Jim’s professional life to resume some semblance of normality once the data from Venus had been collected and analyzed. But shortly after Pioneer entered Venus’s atmosphere, Hansen came home from the office in an uncharacteristic fervor — with an apology. The prospect of two or three more years of intense work had sprung up before him. NASA was expanding its study of Earth’s atmospheric conditions. Hansen had already done some work on Earth’s atmosphere for Jule Charney at the Goddard Institute, helping to develop computerized weather models. Now Hansen would have an opportunity to apply to Earth the lessons he had learned from Venus.

Jule Charney, the father of modern meteorology. From the M.I.T. Museum

We want to learn more about Earth’s climate, Jim told Anniek — and how humanity can influence it. He would use giant new supercomputers to map the planet’s atmosphere. They would create Mirror Worlds: parallel realities that mimicked our own. These digital simulacra, technically called “general circulation models,” combined the mathematical formulas that governed the behavior of the sea, land and sky into a single computer model. Unlike the real world, they could be sped forward to reveal the future.

Anniek’s disappointment — another several years of distraction, stress, time spent apart from family — was tempered, if only slightly, by the high strain of Jim’s enthusiasm. She thought she understood it. Does this mean, she asked, that you’ll able to predict weather more accurately?

Yes, Jim said. Something like that.

3.Between Catastrophe and ChaosJuly 1979

The scientists summoned by Jule Charney to judge the fate of civilization arrived on July 23, 1979, with their wives, children and weekend bags at a three-story mansion in Woods Hole, on the southwestern spur of Cape Cod. They would review all the available science and decide whether the White House should take seriously Gordon MacDonald’s prediction of a climate apocalypse. The Jasons had predicted a warming of two or three degrees Celsius by the middle of the 21st century, but like Roger Revelle before them, they emphasized their reasons for uncertainty. Charney’s scientists were asked to quantify that uncertainty. They had to get it right: Their conclusion would be delivered to the president. But first they would hold a clambake.

They gathered with their families on a bluff overlooking Quissett Harbor and took turns tossing mesh produce bags stuffed with lobster, clams and corn into a bubbling caldron. While the children scrambled across the rolling lawn, the scientists mingled with a claque of visiting dignitaries, whose status lay somewhere between chaperone and client — men from the Departments of State, Energy, Defense and Agriculture; the E.P.A.; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They exchanged pleasantries and took in the sunset. It was a hot day, high 80s, but the harbor breeze was salty and cool. It didn’t look like the dawning of an apocalypse. The government officials, many of them scientists themselves, tried to suppress their awe of the legends in their presence: Henry Stommel, the world’s leading oceanographer; his protégé, Carl Wunsch, a Jason; the Manhattan Project alumnus Cecil Leith; the Harvard planetary physicist Richard Goody. These were the men who, in the last three decades, had discovered foundational principles underlying the relationships among sun, atmosphere, land and ocean — which is to say, the climate.

The hierarchy was made visible during the workshop sessions, held in the carriage house next door: The scientists sat at tables arranged in a rectangle, while their federal observers sat along the room’s perimeter, taking in the action as at a theater in the round. The first two days of meetings didn’t make very good theater, however, as the scientists reviewed the basic principles of the carbon cycle, ocean circulation, radiative transfer. On the third day, Charney introduced a new prop: a black speaker, attached to a telephone. He dialed, and Jim Hansen answered.

Charney called Hansen because he had grasped that in order to determine the exact range of future warming, his group would have to venture into the realm of the Mirror Worlds. Jule Charney himself had used a general circulation model to revolutionize weather prediction. But Hansen was one of just a few modelers who had studied the effects of carbon emissions. When, at Charney’s request, Hansen programmed his model to consider a future of doubled carbon dioxide, it predicted a temperature increase of four degrees Celsius. That was twice as much warming as the prediction made by the most prominent climate modeler, Syukuro Manabe, whose government lab at Princeton was the first to model the greenhouse effect. The difference between the two predictions — between warming of two degrees Celsius and four degrees Celsius — was the difference between damaged coral reefs and no reefs whatsoever, between thinning forests and forests enveloped by desert, between catastrophe and chaos.

In the carriage house, the disembodied voice of Jim Hansen explained, in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone, how his model weighed the influences of clouds, oceans and snow on warming. The older scientists interrupted, shouting questions; when they did not transmit through the telephone, Charney repeated them in a bellow. The questions kept coming, often before their younger respondent could finish his answers, and Hansen wondered if it wouldn’t have been easier for him to drive the five hours and meet with them in person.

Among Charney’s group was Akio Arakawa, a pioneer of computer modeling. On the final night at Woods Hole, Arakawa stayed up in his motel room with printouts from the models by Hansen and Manabe blanketing his double bed. The discrepancy between the models, Arakawa concluded, came down to ice and snow. The whiteness of the world’s snowfields reflected light; if snow melted in a warmer climate, less radiation would escape the atmosphere, leading to even greater warming. Shortly before dawn, Arakawa concluded that Manabe had given too little weight to the influence of melting sea ice, while Hansen had overemphasized it. The best estimate lay in between. Which meant that the Jasons’ calculation was too optimistic. When carbon dioxide doubled in 2035 or thereabouts, global temperatures would increase between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius, with the most likely outcome a warming of three degrees.

The publication of Jule Charney’s report, “Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment,” several months later was not accompanied by a banquet, a parade or even a news conference. Yet within the highest levels of the federal government, the scientific community and the oil-and-gas industry — within the commonwealth of people who had begun to concern themselves with the future habitability of the planet — the Charney report would come to have the authority of settled fact. It was the summation of all the predictions that had come before, and it would withstand the scrutiny of the decades that followed it. Charney’s group had considered everything known about ocean, sun, sea, air and fossil fuels and had distilled it to a single number: three. When the doubling threshold was broached, as appeared inevitable, the world would warm three degrees Celsius. The last time the world was three degrees warmer was during the Pliocene, three million years ago, when beech trees grew in Antarctica, the seas were 80 feet higher and horses galloped across the Canadian coast of the Arctic Ocean.

The Charney report left Jim Hansen with more urgent questions. Three degrees would be nightmarish, and unless carbon emissions ceased suddenly, three degrees would be only the beginning. The real question was whether the warming trend could be reversed. Was there time to act? And how would a global commitment to cease burning fossil fuels come about, exactly? Who had the power to make such a thing happen? Hansen didn’t know how to begin to answer these questions. But he would learn.

More at:

Archie Shepp / Bill Dixon Quartet: “Somewhere”

A friend recently drew my attention to this piece:

• Personnel:

Tenor saxophone:  Archie Shepp;
Trumpet:  Bill Dixon;
Bass:  Don Moore;
Drums:  Paul Cohen.

• Commentary:

First, here’s something from musicologist/saxophonist Ekkehard Jost, quoted from his book, Free Jazz (1974), by YouTube poster postmeback:

“On this Shepp-Dixon LP one striking interpretation stands apart from all the others: the rendition of a hit tune from Leonard Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story.’ Actually, the fact that Shepp and Dixon took, of all things, ‘Somewhere’ as a basis for improvisation is not at all surprising. (Many jazz greats have shown a special liking – at which some of their listeners have shaken their heads in disbelief – for rather hackneyed tunes. We need only recall Miles Davis’ ‘Some Day My Prince Will Come’, Monk’s ‘Just a Gigolo’, or Colemans’ ‘Embraceable You’.) What *is* astounding is what Shepp and Dixon do with ‘Somewhere.’ They play the tune nice and straight, without giving it the remotest semblance of a jazz piece by rhythmic recasting. The result is heightened banality, with a strong touch of irony. This underplayed humour becomes even more evident in Shepp’s chorus. Sticking very closely to the thematic material in his improvisation, he adds occasional growl flourishes which take the mickey out of the tune, while at the same time confirming its insignificance.”

Second, here are the thoughts of postmeback him- (or her?) self: 

“Jost’s argument here recalls LeRoi Jones’ famous description of John Coltrane’ deconstruction of banal showtunes (‘My Favorite Things’, ‘Chim Chim Cheree’) as aggressive signifying practice. What both Jost and Jones neglect, of course, is the possibility that musicians actually had a fondness for these tunes; hence their puzzling (to white European critics) recurrence. Of course, whenever Shepp takes on a piece like this (at least in his 60s days – the deployment of old standards and blues from the 70s on becomes part of a historical tribute project, maintaining and paying homage to a particular tradition, with little sense of irony), one is unsure as to the play between ‘sincerity’ and subversive, sardonic humour: certainly, his takes on Ellington are not designed to mock, and even his version of the ‘Girl from Ipanema’ seems designed more to take the music back to its Brazilian roots, as part of a reclamation of colonized culture (viz. the Tropacalia movement, or Shepp’s own use of South American tinges on ‘There’s a Trumpet In My Soul’) with a rougher and more defiant (though still very much woozily emotional) edge – reclaiming bossa nova from Stan Getz, perhaps… Shepp has famously declared himself to be “a sentimentalist”, and it is precisely that combination of declamatory emotional playing, out of Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins, with a rough and sometimes jolting bark and bite, that gives this music its unstable and multi-dimensional power: a refusal to occupy only one emotional territory, to be ‘read’ and contained in one particular category – the ability to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve while carrying a knife up that sleeve at the same time, if that analogy makes any sense. There’s a sense here, it must be said, of the band deliberately reining themselves in for the melodic statements, allowing themselves little eruptions at the tune’s climax, which eventually burst out in Shepp’s solo, only to die back down again – a kind of implied, simmering discord all the more powerful for being only occasionally and briefly emergent.”

Finally, some of my own thoughts: 

This may be reading too much into things, but Shepp and Dixon are both African-Americans, so of course, as outsiders, they’d be attracted to a song with lyrics like: “There’s a place for us / Somewhere a place for us…” (read full lyrics of here).  Also, “Somewhere” is taken from West Side Story , which was composed by Leonard Bernstein, who was both Jewish and Gay, so doubly an outsider (plus he was totally fuckin brilliant, which probably makes him thrice and outsider), however “establishment” the position he occupied in the world of music.  Add to this the fact that the lyricist of “Somewhere” (and of the entirety of West Side Story), Stephen Sondheim, is also Jewish and Gay (plus pretty damned brilliant himself), which adds another dimension to the outsiderness.  On top of all that, there’s the fact that West Side Story deals extensively with ethnic strife.

Also, the music of West Side Story is heavily influenced by Jazz, and makes extensive use of Lydian Mode, which is the basis of Jazz-based music theorist and composer George Russell‘s book, The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal OrganizationWest Side Story also derives much of its rhythmic language from Jazz.  Further, the music Bernstein put together for West Side Story plays with and expands (one might even say gently and subtly subverts…) the conventions of the Great American Songbook – something Jazz musicians have been doing from the start, though in their own way.  So, whatever their differences, it’s entirely possible that Shepp and Dixon could have sensed in Bernstein and Sondhiem a couple of kindred spirits.

For me, whatever validity Jost’s and postmeback’s interpretations may have (and I think they’ve got plenty, but more on that some other time…), this interpretation of “Somewhere” comes across as a song of yearning, which is how Bernstein and Sondheim obviously conceived of it, but mixed with heart-wrenching anguish – a combination that strikes me as more than appropriate.  And, to expand a bit on, and/or paraphrase, something postmeback said above, the expression of anguish in this version of “Somewhere” is rendered all the more poignant by its understatement.

Three big questions still remain in my mind – and perhaps in that of the readership(?) – all of which are begged or otherwise raised by the commentary by Jost and postmeback above, and to which I can, for the moment, give only the most provisional of answers:

  • First, does “Somewhere” really  deserve to be categorized as “hackneyed” and “banal”, and thrown in among such songs as “Some Day My Prince Will Come”, “Just a Gigolo”, “Embraceable You”, “My Favorite Things”, and “Chim Chim Cheree”?  (Provisional answer: Hardly!)
  • Second, do any of these songs truly merit the monikers “hackneyed” and “banal” in the first place?  (Provisional answer: Highly doubtful…)
  • Finally, what is the nature and cause of the fascination of so many Jazz greats with so many such songs, whatever their quality?  (Provisional answer: This is a matter for huge and lengthy, though very interesting, speculation, and worthy of a real doorstopper of a book, which would have to address the relationship between art music, folk music, popular music, street music, church music, and much else.)

I’d love to address these three questions in greater detail, but all that, sadly, will have to wait for some other time, some other post – and/or maybe for that real doorstopper of a book, should I live so long…

Part of This Boy’s Brain Was Removed. The Rest of His Brain Made Sure He Wouldn’t Notice

Part of This Boy's Brain Was Removed. The Rest of His Brain Made Sure He Wouldn't Notice.

Credit: Shutterstock

Four years ago, a young boy had a large part of his brain removed. In the years that followed, he showed neuroscientists, once again, how adaptable the brain can be.

The boy — who is referred to as U.D. in the medical literature — had one-third of his right hemisphere removed, including a part of the brain responsible for sight. But according to a new case report about U.D., the left side of his brain started to take on the visual tasks normally reserved for the missing part of the right side of the brain.

The case report was published today (July 31) in the journal Cell Reports.

But let’s back up. U.D. had his first seizure when he was 4 years old. The seizures got increasingly worse, and when medications and other treatments failed to work, he had a lobectomy, or surgery to remove a lobe of the brain. During the surgery, which took place when U.D. was almost 7 years old, doctors removed one-third of the right hemisphere of his brain, which included the right side of his occipital lobe (the brain’s vision-processing center) and most of his right temporal lobe (the brain’s sound-processing center). [3D Images: Exploring the Human Brain]

U.D. is now nearly 11 and seizure-free — but he can’t see the left side of the world.

Between the moment light hits our eyes and the time we see an image of the world, the brain does a lot of work.

Both sides of the brain process vision, but the left hemisphere is responsible for the right side of our visual field, and vice versa. When we stare straight ahead, our brain stitches together visual information from both sides of our vision fields into a unified image.

But U.D., without the right side of his occipital lobe, needs to move his eyes and his head to get information from the left side of his world to the remaining vision-processing parts of his brain, said senior author Marlene Behrmann, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. Imagine taking a panoramic image and moving the camera to capture the entire scene — that’s what U.D. needs to do.

But there’s nothing wrong with his eyes, Behrmann told Live Science. U.D. can still “see” in the sense that both of his eyes pick up light information from the left side of his world. But because the right side of his brain lacks a processing center, there’s nowhere for that information to go. So it gets lost, she said.

“I suspect that he doesn’t have obvious awareness that he is missing that information,” Behrmann said. “It’s a little bit like, everybody’s got a blind spot,” but we aren’t really aware of it, she added.

Behrmann and her team wondered how U.D. would see and process his world in the absence of a big chunk of his vision-processing system.

So, in the three years that followed his surgery, the team conducted behavioral tests and took images of U.D.’s brain using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, all funded by the National Institutes of Health. The behavioral tests included asking U.D. to find specific objects in cluttered images and seeing whether he could detect subtle changes between the images.

Aside from U.D. not being able to see the left side of his world, the team found that he functions just as well as others his age in cognition and vision processing.

His ability to recognize objects and scenes remained unchanged after his surgery and matched the ability of other children his age. “There are some regions of the visual system that mature early and remain stable overtime,” Behrmann said. Both hemispheres have the ability to detect objects and scenes, and the left continued to do so even without the right. What’s more, his reading proficiency remained above average for his age both before and after surgery.

Still, while both sides of the brain process most aspects of vision, “the right and the left side of the brain have slightly different visual functions, [and] they’re sort of weighted a little bit differently,” Behrmann said. While the right is dominant in detecting faces, the left leads in processing words, or reading.

It turns out, in the absence of the right vision-processing center, the left steps in. The left side of U.D.’s brain began to detect faces just as well as the right would have, without having to give up its prowess in detecting words. In fMRI images, both of these functions began to pop up side by side in regions of the brain’s left hemisphere, Behrmann said.

This is another striking example of brain plasticity, or how the brain adapts and changes. Neurons, or brain cells, begin to form new connections in the brain and, in doing so, take on new tasks. But the size of the brain doesn’t change, so how does the same size area of the brain manage to take on an extra task, without trading off part of its ability to process words? [Slicing of the Brain of Patient H.M.]

“I wish I could answer at the cellular level,” Behrmann said. It’s unclear at this point, but neurons “can interact with neighboring neurons in new ways, [they] can sprout new connections,” she said.

It also remains unclear whether U.D.’s young age factored into the extent of his brain plasticity. It’s well established that a child’s brain has a greater ability to change than an adult’s, Behrmann said. So if the researchers had observed an adult who had a similar lobectomy, the results might have been different, she added.

U.D. isn’t the first patient to give neuroscientists a glimpse of what happens when parts of the brain are missing. Perhaps the most famous such patient, Henry Molaison — who was known only as H.M. for many decades — lost his memory after a lobectomy. In the five decades that followed, he provided neuroscientists with an unprecedented view of how memory works in the brain and, some might argue, defined modern neuroscience.

Originally published on Live Science.

Your Horoscopes — Week Of July 31, 2018 (

Leo | July 23 to Aug. 22

Betrayal, treason, and vile calumny will be the order of things next week, which you must admit, sounds a lot cooler than the light office work you’re used to.

Virgo | Aug. 23 to Sept. 22

Although you always thought you’d be forced to mature when you had children, it turns out you fathered a son years ago and nothing’s changed.

Libra | Sept. 23 to Oct. 22

You’ve always described yourself as someone who hates long goodbyes, but you’ve been standing on the edge of that bridge for three days now.

Scorpio | Oct. 23 to Nov. 21

While it’s true only God can judge you, you’re making it pretty easy for Him to decide you’re a jackass.

Sagittarius | Nov. 22 to Dec. 21

Your deep-seated belief that there is meaning and purpose to the universe will be sorely tested this week, but only by the usual crap that always happens.

Capricorn | Dec. 22 to Jan. 19

Trying to eat healthier and exercise more is admirable, but only when combined with not running blindly into traffic out of sheer depression.

Aquarius | Jan. 20 to Feb. 18

After pondering what truly separates man from the animals, you’re pretty sure that whatever it is should really be between you and the slavering wolverine.

Pisces | Feb. 19 to March 20

You’ll be reduced to a caricature this week, but at least it’s the cool one where you smash through a glass coffee table while coked out of your mind.

Aries | March 21 to April 19

You may not be an expert on which snakes are poisonous and which aren’t, but damn it, you know a cuddly one when you see it.

Taurus | April 20 to May 20

Mars rising in your sign this week means it’s already November, and you’ve spent the past four months in an alcoholic haze.

Gemini | May 21 to June 20

You’ll learn a valuable lesson about sharing this week, proving the effectiveness of hiring a top-rated sharing instructor.

Cancer | June 21 to July 22

A shocking revelation will shake you to the core of your being this week, which is odd, because it’s merely the fact that the Doobie Brothers aren’t actual brothers.

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