Thursday, November 11, 2004

Presentation, stutter 

This week has been one of those trainwrecks of poor timing and even poorer time management, the latter of which seems to be my character's most consistent deature. Whatever, it's worked out well enough and there weren't any big freakouts (you know, the kind where you're kneeling in the glow of your computer's monitor at four in the morning with pitted eyes, clasped hands and worried brow, pleading, praying, that, yes, Lord, I will force myself to develop religion if you just make this .pdf print).

Today I gave a presentation with a small group of very fantastic people, all of whom seem to be a bit in line with my slacker bent (which we decided is more accurately described with the identifier that we're "wing-it" types), and one of whom has a very quiet voice and a pronounced stutter. I wondered how this would fare for our presentation, but I never worried; it's quite obvious that having grown up with a stutter, though leaving her a bit shy, has instilled in her an impenetrable will and a fantastic sense of humor. Not only did our presentation sail smoothly (aside from a last-minute change in location by the University, resulting in the loss of a computer with which to display our not-too slaved over PowerPoint presentation), but it made me think about this awesome guy who used to come into the art store who stuttered. I remember seeing him blitzed to the point of flushed cheeks while at lunch one day at Vino's, when he, sitting his pitcher and an extra glass down beside me, confided that he noticed his stutter even more when he was drunk, something that he said he liked because it gave him a chance "to hear how other people hear me talk"

I've never known much about affectations of language, even though my best friend from childhood spent years in speech therapy to overcome an impediment that had him unable to vocalize hard "R" sounds as well as consonantal ellisions of "L" (for instance, his pronunciation of "bowl" was something like "bow" with an elongated "O" sound--earning him the nickname Brett-Bow--just as his version of my middle name "Kyle" ended up like "Cow"--earning me the nickname Jeffrey Cow). The range of disorders of vocalization seems to be pan-spectral in regard to the speech organs and neauro-muscular pathways involved, and I'm intrigued by research that explores such issues, probably because these observed expressions of communication provide some incredible insights into cognition, namely the interpretative, encoding, and transmittive parts of the process. Some seem to be easily overcome with specific skills, others require years of habituation, while an even greater number seem to be hard-wired permanent features of speech.

I read today an article from a few years ago describing how uttered speech signals, whether stuttered or non-stuttered, can aid stutterers in the completion of vocalized thought processes, suggesting that acoustic manifestations of stuttering, rather than a problem, may be a natural compensatory mechanism to bypass or inhibit the 'involuntary block' at the neural level. I hope to learn more. This stuff is fascinating.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Don't lick the brownie bowl 

I can't believe I hadn't heard of this before, but now that I have I find it equal parts funny, bizarre, and fearful, not that I have any reason to be fearful at the moment.

Salmonellosis associated with marijuana: a multistate outbreak traced by plasmid fingerprinting.


Monday, November 08, 2004

The future of healthcare 

Perhaps this image will clarify one of my subtle bases for distrusting (and disliking) physicians, especially the new ones. The edit was mine, mind you. You can't tell in the image, but where "Nov." is written, beneath the smudgy correction (this time credited to one of the medical students), is a shadow of "Oct." On a snippier note, look at that freaking scrawl--I hope it isn't indicative of scalpel steadihandedness.

Acomodate life changes that incorporate a lot of excercise and you will recieve noticable health benefits.


Sunday, November 07, 2004

Emerges from shadows, blinking with dark-adapted eyes 

I hesistate, even days after the election, to even mention the damned thing, as everyone I've encountered since (and not excluding myself)seems to be precariously balanced in a numb and blissful ignorance that is centered upon avoidance of acknowledgement. I caved in today, though, and have spent most of the morning reading over international commentary on our now not-in-transition government, the progress of political opinion, and the people who have made it so. I've still not allowed myself the poison of American media; on that I have given up entirely, and event the sight of the Washington Post's mechanical dispensor at the mouth of the Metro triggers a mixture of equal parts bitterness and gag reflex.

As such, there's much more fruitful material to be found out there, and I will always lead with the French who, instead of fuming under the sheets while demonstrating a publicly complacent tone, are always apt to analyze. L'Institut des Hautes Etudes sur la Justice are presenting a seminar entitled "Terrorism, counter-terrorism: the treaty of perpetual war?" whose investigation in part serves to explore the seemingly inherent conflict between combatting external threats and in the process drawing an intentiaonally alienating line in the sand. As the organizers have phrased it, is democracy in this self-motivating conscript not risking the loss of its essence? Further addressing the logic of criminal classification, how is it that we have seemingly elevated the act of terrorism from a crime of an individual or a discrete group to a new kind of "hyperterrorism" that is now declared an act of war?

Furthermore, the world pattern seems to be duplicating the moral regression of the past several years in the United States, where anti-intellectuallism is experiencing an upsurging in popularity that hasn't been seen since the Stevenson-Eisenhower power struggle, perhaps buttressed by an as-yet inexplicable swell in the global popularity of overt religion as a force of the state. Theo Van Gogh's recent murder stands as an indicator, an obtuse juxtaposition of a simple act of public participation (the product of the art-maker, a commentary) as justification for severe repudiation (the product of the moral enforcement, a transmittied divine judgment if you will); this act has brought the Netherlands to its knees, culturally, and the tension is obvious. Among the first articles I read after Von Gogh's murder, which I unfortunately can't locate now, featured a quote by an anonymous Dutchman that essentially expressed that "this is almost enough to mke someone a racist." Secularism is suddenly demonized in strange, incongruent fashions. In the United States, the liberty of democracy and freedom of choice are touted daily, while the separation of religious affairs from duties and responsibilities of the government are consistently eroded. The most unfortunate example of this takes the form of the modern Lysenkoism that is American sexual health policy, which emphasizes, by law, abstinence-only education (which notoriously results in increased rates of STD transmission) whilst vocally declaring condoms ineffective against preventing HIV and other STDs, obviously violating the necessity of sound science in policy for te sake of religio-political consistency. In France in recent years, the fair secularism of the state has been increasingly damned as racist for attempting to limit the extent to which religious affects are permitted to permeate the public sphere, in spite of the fact that the motivations are clear. In june, Prime Minister Raffarin very lucidly explained the rationale:

"Certain religious signs ... are multiplying in our schools," he said, adding that such signs [as muslim head scarves, christian head scarves and jewish yarmulkes] "take on a political sense and cannot be considered a religious sign. ... I say with force, religion must not be a political project."

I think of this quote often when I hear American radio-show participants, obviously ignorant of the function of policy, valiantly and vocally supporting Candidate X because "he is a godly man, and we need god in the [insert location of particular candidate's employment]."

France and Holland are, at the very least, actively discussing their domestic problems. What have we got? We have the fucking Neoconservative right in control, whose war cries perpetually ignored the job to be done. I read Human Events Online every day to remind myself of the numb mindlessness that prevails in American legislation and reportage these days. I feel like I'm in junior high again, nervous that the basketball team will see me reading my book at lunch and decide to do something humiliating en masse with no motivation necessary. I see a cruel, deaf and blind prevailing sentiment, and I don't know what to do to better it.

I'm open to suggestions. I will say that at least this double whammy of same president/eleven new states on the don't visit list have convinced me to return to the civil disobedience of my college years. Simple acts of subversion, paste-ups, rallying cries, and, of course, constructive criticism at every wrong turn. I've got plans in the works to organize a Gays Make Out campaign in front of the White House (or other such tourist mecca) with the simple goal of forcing those busloads of Midwest Tours participants, frantically taking pictures of the place where their ostensibly Christian president lives, to watch the appalling spectacle of two dozen homosexuals, in person no less, not even on t.v., kissing. Once my student loans come through, I'll be getting some stencil-cutting materials and sticker-producing implements. These are all low-brown solutions, true, but I am low brow. Hell, I think we've seen that well planned and intelligent responses to the voting right are interpreted as esotericism, so it seems spot on.

I suppose that's the moral of the story. Now that this election has passed, I recognize that it is better that nothing changed here, else I would have likely bought in to the fairytale opposite of my current disillusion. Now I can stop focusing on these temprary (and relatively frequent) landmarks of political change and instead direct my energies at the more important task of changing the climate, piece by piece, slowly but steadily, so that the swing of the pendulum may be hastened.

This all deserves much more attention, but even devoting the time to write about this is still exhausting, disheartening. But be encouraged, for just as time heals all wounds, time destroys everything. Find peace in the null.


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