Saturday, September 29, 2018

Forging Islamic science

I am reminded that the Islamic world is an antique civilization, closer to Rome than to the modern world, just as China once was as well a couple of centuries back.  Now it confronts modernity by fabricating faux Islamic scholarship.   All that is and must change.

The West is a long way from Rome.  Its emergence is also remarkably unique as well.

All that comprising Islam will soon change and we will all shake our heads sadly at folly such as this. 

Forging Islamic science 

Fake miniatures depicting Islamic science have found their way into the most august of libraries and history books. How? 

Detail from a contemporary fake miniature, purporting to be from the 17th-century, depicting Ottoman-era scholars observing the night sky through telescopes. Allegedly from the Istanbul University Library. Photo by DEA/Getty
Nir Shafir is a historian of the early modern Ottoman Empire at the University of California, San Diego. He is editor-in-chief of the Ottoman History Podcast.

As I prepared to teach my class ‘Science and Islam’ last spring, I noticed something peculiar about the book I was about to assign to my students. It wasn’t the text – a wonderful translation of a medieval Arabic encyclopaedia – but the cover. Its illustration showed scholars in turbans and medieval Middle Eastern dress, examining the starry sky through telescopes. The miniature purported to be from the premodern Middle East, but something was off.

Besides the colours being a bit too vivid, and the brushstrokes a little too clean, what perturbed me were the telescopes. The telescope was known in the Middle East after Galileo developed it in the 17th century, but almost no illustrations or miniatures ever depicted such an object. When I tracked down the full image, two more figures emerged: one also looking through a telescope, while the other jotted down notes while his hand spun a globe – another instrument that was rarely drawn. The starkest contradiction, however, was the quill in the fourth figure’s hand. Middle Eastern scholars had always used reed pens to write. By now there was no denying it: the cover illustration was a modern-day forgery, masquerading as a medieval illustration.

The full image of the 21st century fake Ottoman miniature, purporting to be from the 17th century. Allegedly from the Istanbul University Library. Photo by DEA/Getty
The fake miniature depicting Muslim astronomers is far from an isolated case. One popular image floating around Facebook and Pinterest has worm-like demons cavorting inside a molar. It claims to illustrate the Ottoman conception of dental cavities, a rendition of which has now entered Oxford’s Bodleian Library as part of its collection on ‘Masterpieces of the non-Western book’. Another shows a physician treating a man with what appears to be smallpox. These contemporary images are in fact not ‘reproductions’ but ‘productions’ and even fakes – made to appeal to a contemporary audience by claiming to depict the science of a distant Islamic past.

A fake miniature depicting the preparation of medicines for the treatment of a patient suffering from smallpox, purportedly from the Canon of Medicine by Avicenna (980-1037). Allegedly in the Istanbul University Library. Photo by Getty
From Istanbul’s tourist shops, these works have ventured far afield. They have have found their way into conference posters, education websites, and museum and library collections. The problem goes beyond gullible tourists and the occasional academic being duped: many of those who study and publicly present the history of Islamic science have committed themselves to a similar sort of fakery. There now exist entire museums filled with reimagined objects, fashioned in the past 20 years but intended to represent the venerable scientific traditions of the Islamic world.

The irony is that these fake miniatures and objects are the product of a well-intentioned desire: a desire to integrate Muslims into a global political community through the universal narrative of science. That wish seems all the more pressing in the face of a rising tide of Islamophobia. But what happens when we start fabricating objects for the tales we want to tell? Why do we reject the real material remnants of the Islamic past for their confected counterparts? What exactly is the picture of science in Islam that are we hoping to find? These fakes reveal more than just a preference for fiction over truth. Instead, they point to a larger problem about the expectations that scholars and the public alike saddle upon the Islamic past and its scientific legacy.
There aren’t many books left in the old booksellers’ market in Istanbul today – but there are quite a few fake miniatures, sold to the tourists flocking to the Grand Bazaar next door. Some of these miniatures show images of ships or monsters, while others prompt a juvenile giggle with their display of sexual acts. Often, they’re accompanied by some gibberish Arabic written in a shaky hand. Many, perhaps the majority, are depictions of science in the Middle East: a pharmacist selling drugs to turbaned men, a doctor castrating a hermaphrodite, a group of scholars gazing through a telescope or gathering around a map.

Fake miniatures for sale in the Booksellers Market (Sahaflar Çarsısı) in Istanbul. Photo courtesy of the author.
To the discerning eye, most of the miniatures these men sell are recognisably fake. The artificial pigments are too bright, the subject matter too crude. Unsurprisingly, they still find willing buyers among local and foreign tourists. Some images, on occasion, state that they are modern creations, with the artist signing off with a recent date in the Islamic calendar. Others are more duplicitous. The forgers tear pages out of old manuscripts and printed books, and paint over the text to give the veneer of old writing and paper. They can even stamp fake ownership seals onto the image.

With these additions, the miniatures quickly become difficult to identify as fraudulent once they leave the confines of the market and make their way on to the internet. Stock photo services in particular play a key role in disseminating these images, making them readily available to use in presentations and articles in blogs and magazines. From there, the pictures move on to the main platforms of our vernacularised visual culture: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google. In this digital environment, even experts on the Islamic world can mistake these images for the authentic and antique.

The forger transforms a scholar raising a sextant to his eye into a man using a telescope
The internet itself has become a source of fantastic inspiration for forgers. The drawing supposedly depicting the Ottoman view of dental cavities, for example, emerged after a similar picture of an 18th-century French ivory surfaced on the internet. Other forgers simply copy well-known miniatures, such as the illustration of the short-lived observatory in 16th-century Istanbul, in which turbaned men take measurements with a variety of instruments on a table. This miniature – reliably located in the Rare Books Library of Istanbul University – is found in a Persian chronicle praising Sultan Murad III, who ordered the observatory built in 1574, and subsequently had it demolished a few years afterwards.

Even if its imitations look crude, they still find audiences – such as those who visit the 2013 ‘Science in Islam’ exhibition website at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. The site, which aims to educate secondary-school children, took the image from a similar site run by the Whipple Museum of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge – which in turn acquired it a year earlier from a dealer in Istanbul, according to the museum’s own records. Meanwhile, another well-respected institution, the Wellcome Collection in London, specialises in objects from the history of medicine; it includes several poorly copied miniatures demonstrating Islamic models of the body, written over with a bizarre pseudo-Arabic and with no given source.

A fake anatomical diagram with nonsensical, Arabic-like script, supposedly depicting an Islamic model of the veins and arteries of the body. Photo courtesy of the Wellcome Collection.
A few images, though, are invented from whole cloth, such as a depiction of a man with what appears to be smallpox, nervously consulting with a pharmacist and doctor. More troubling still are the images that artists alter to match our own expectations. The picture on the cover of the book I was going to assign my students, with men looking at the night sky through a telescope, borrows from the figures in the Istanbul observatory miniature. However, the forger easily transforms a scholar raising a sextant to his eye, to measure the angular distance between astronomical bodies, into a man using a telescope in the same pose. It is a subtle change but it alters the meaning of the image significantly – pasting in an instrument of which we have no visual depictions in Islamic sources, but that we readily associate with the act of astronomy today.

In the corner of Gülhane Park in Istanbul, down the hill from the former Ottoman palace and Hagia Sofia, lies the Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam (İslam Bilim ve Teknoloji Tarihi Müzesi). A visitor begins with astronomical instruments – astrolabes and quadrants (thankfully, no telescopes). As you move through the displays, the exhibits shift from instruments of war and optics to examples of chemistry and mechanics, becoming increasingly fantastical with each room. Glass cages of beakers follow alembics in elaborate contraptions. At the end, one reaches the section on engineering. Here, you find the bizarre machines of Ismail al-Jazari, a 12th-century scholar often called the Muslim father of engineering. His contraptions resemble medieval versions of Rube Goldberg machines: think of a water clock in the shape of a mahout, sitting on top of an elephant or other pieces.

There’s only one catch. All the objects on display are actually reproductions or completely imagined objects. None of the objects is older than a decade or two, and indeed there are no historical objects in the museum at all. Instead, the astrolabes and quadrants, for example, are recreated from pieces in other museums. The war machines and the giant astronomical instruments are typically scaled-down models that can fit in a medium-sized room. The intricate chemistry contraptions, of which no copy has ever been found in the Middle East, are created solely to populate the museum.

By itself, this conjuring act isn’t necessarily a problem. Some of the pieces are genuinely rare, and others might not exist today but are useful to see recreated in models and miniatures. What makes this museum unique is its near total refusal to collect actual historical objects. The museum never explicitly addresses or justifies the fact that its entire collection is composed of recreations; it simply presents them in glass display cases, with no attempt to situate them in a narrative about the history of the Middle East, other than simply stating the dates and location of their originals.

Both the fakes and the museum are meant to evoke wonder in the viewers today
The origins of the bulk of the museum’s collection becomes clearer when you look at the photographs behind the displays: many objects were recreated from the illustrations of medieval manuscripts containing similar-looking devices. The most famous of these are the extraordinary images of al-Jazari’s contraptions, taken from his book The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. While the machines should work, in theory, none has been known to survive. It might even be that their designer didn’t intend them to be built in the first place.

Just what is the role of a museum, specifically a history museum, that contains no genuine historical objects? Istanbul’s museum of Islamic science isn’t an isolated case. The same approach marks the Sabuncuoğlu History of Medicine Museum in Amasya in northern Turkey, as well as the Leonardo da Vinci museum in Milan, which brings to life the feverish mechanisms that the inventor sketched out in the pages of his notebooks.

Unlike the fake miniatures, these institutions weren’t built with the purpose of duping unsuspecting tourists and museums. The man behind the Islamic science museum in Istanbul is the late Fuat Sezgin, formerly at the University of Frankfurt. He was a respected scholar who compiled and published multiple sources on Islamic science. But his project shares certain key qualities with the fake miniatures. They create objects that adhere to our contemporary understandings of what ‘doing science’ looks like, and treat images of Islamic science as if they are literal and direct representations of objects and people that existed in the past.

Most importantly, perhaps, both the fakes and the museum are meant to evoke wonder in the viewers today. There is nothing inherently wrong with wonder, of course; it can spur viewers to question and investigate the natural world. Zakariya al-Qazwini, the 13th-century author who described the world’s curious and spectacular phenomena in his book Wonders of Creation, defined wonder as that ‘sense of bewilderment a person feels because of his inability to understand the cause of a thing’. 

Princes used to read the heavily illustrated books of al-Jazari in this manner, not as practical engineering manuals, but as descriptions of devices that were beyond their comprehension. And we still look at al-Jazari’s recreated items with a sense of awe, even if we now grasp their mechanics – just that, today, we marvel at the fact that they were made by Muslims.

What drives the spread of these images and objects is the desire to use some totemic vision of science to redeem Islam – as a religion, culture or people – from the Islamophobia of recent times. Equating science and technology with modernity is common enough. Before the current political toxicity took hold, I would have taught a class on Arab Science, rather than Islam and Science. Yet in a world that’s all too willing to vilify Islam as the antithesis of civilisation, it seems better to try and uphold a message that science is a global project in which all of humanity has participated.

This embracing sentiment sits behind ‘1,001 Inventions’, a travelling exhibit on Islamic science that has frequented many of the world’s museums, and has now become a permanent, peripatetic entity. The feel-good motto reads: ‘Discover a Golden Age, Inspire a Better Future’. To non-Muslims, this might suggest that the followers of Islam are rational beings after all, capable of taking part in a shared civilisation. To Muslim believers, meanwhile, it might imply that a lost world of technological mastery was indeed available to them, had they remained on the straight path. In this way, ‘1,001 Inventions’ draws an almost direct line between reported flight from the top of Galata Tower in 17th-century Istanbul and 20th-century Moon exploration.

With these ideals in mind, do the ends justify the means? Using a reproduction or fake to draw attention to the rich and oft-overlooked intellectual legacy of the Middle East and South Asia might be a small price to pay for widening the circle of cross-cultural curiosity. If the material remains of the science do not exist, or don’t fit the narrative we wish to construct, then maybe it’s acceptable to imaginatively reconstruct them. Faced with the gap between our scant knowledge of the actual intellectual endeavours of bygone Muslims, and the imagined Islamic past upon which we’ve laid our weighty expectations, we indulge in the ‘freedom’ to recreate. Textbooks and museums rush to publish proof of Muslims’ scientific exploits. In this way, wittingly and unwittingly, they propagate images that they believe exemplify an idealised version of Islamic science: those telescopes, clocks, machines and medical instruments that cry ‘modernity!’ to even the most casual or skeptical observer.

However, there is a dark side to this progressive impulse. It is an offshoot of a creeping, and paternalistic, tendency to reject the real pieces of Islamic heritage for its reimagined counterparts. Something is lost when we reduce the Islamic history of science to a few recognisably modern objects, and go so far as to summon up images from thin air. We lose sight of important traditions of learning that were not visually depicted, whether artisanal or scholastic. We also leave out those domains later deemed irrational or unmodern, such as alchemy and astrology.

This selection is not just a question of preferences, but also of priorities. Instead of spending millions of dollars to build and house these reimagined productions, museums could have bought, collected and gathered actual objects. Until recently, for instance, Rebul Pharmacy in Istanbul displayed its own private collection of historical medical instruments – whereas the Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam chose to craft new ones. A purposeful choice has therefore been made to ignore existing objects, because what does remain doesn’t lend itself to the narrative that the museum wishes to tell.

The false miniatures are painted on the ripped-out pages of centuries-old manuscripts to add to their historicity
Perhaps there’s a worry that the actual remnants of Islamic science simply can’t arouse the necessary wonder; perhaps they can’t properly reveal that Muslims, too, created works of recognisable genius. Using actual artefacts to achieve this end might demand more of viewers, and require a different and more involved mode of explanation. But failing to embrace this challenge means we lose an opportunity to expand the scope of what counted as genius or reflected wonder in the Islamic past. This flattening of time and space impoverishes audiences and palliates their prejudices, without their knowledge and even while posing as enrichment.

We’re still left with the question, though, of the harm done by the proliferation of these reimagined images and objects. When I’ve raised it with colleagues, some have argued that, even if these works are inauthentic, at least they invite students to learn about the premodern Middle East. The sentiment would be familiar to the historian Anthony Grafton, who has observed that the line between the forger and critic is extremely thin. Each sets out, with many of the same tools, to make the past relevant according to the changing circumstances of the present. It’s just that, while the forger dresses new objects in the clothes of the past to fit our current concerns, the critic explains that today’s circumstances differ from those of the past, and retains and discards certain aspects as she sees fit.

Grafton ultimately sides with the critic: the forger, he says, is fundamentally ‘irresponsible; however good his ends and elegant his techniques, he lies. It seems inevitable, then, that a culture that tolerates forgery will debase its own intellectual currency, sometimes past redemption.’ As fakes and fictions enter our digital bloodstream, they start to replace the original images, and transform our baseline notions of what actually was the science of the past. In the case of the false miniatures, many are painted on the ripped-out pages of centuries-old manuscripts to add to their historicity, literally destroying authentic artefacts to craft new forgeries.

In an era when merchants of doubt and propagators of fake news manipulate public discourse, recommitting ourselves to transparency and critique seems like the only solution. Certainly, a good dose of these virtues is part of any cure. But in all these cases, as with the museum, it’s never quite clear who bears responsibility for the deception. We often wish to discover a scheming mastermind behind every act of forgery, whether the Russian state or a disgruntled pseudo-academic – exploiting the social bonds of our trust, and whose fraud can be rectified only by a greater authority. The responsibility to establish truth, however, doesn’t only lie in the hands of the critics and forgers, but also in our own actions as consumers and disseminators. Each time we choose to share an image online, or patronise certain museums, we lend them credibility.  Yet, the solution might also demand more than a simple reassertion of the value of truth over fiction, of facts over lies. After all, every work of history, whether a book or a museum, is also partially an act of fiction in its attempt to recount a past that we can no longer access.

A mile away from the museum of Islamic science in Istanbul, nestled in the alleys of the Çukurcuma neighbourhood, resides another museum of invented objects and tales. This one, though, is dedicated not to Islamic scientific inventions but to an author’s melancholic vision of love and, as it happens, Istanbul’s material past. The Museum of Innocence is the handiwork of the Turkish Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose collected and created objects form the skeleton upon which his 2008 book of the same name is built. Its protagonist, Kemal, slowly leads the reader and the museum-goer through his aborted relationship with his beloved, Füsun. Each chapter corresponds to one of the museum’s small dioramas, which exhibit a collection of objects from the novel. Vintage restaurant cards, old rakı bottles and miniature ceramic dogs to be placed atop television sets are delicately arranged in little displays, often with Pamuk’s own paintings as a backdrop.

Behind the museum, though, lies a fictional narrative – and that very fact destabilises our expectations of what the objects in a museum can and should do. Did Pamuk write the novel and then collect objects to fit it, or vice versa? It’s never entirely clear which came first. Pamuk’s opus confronts us with a question: do we tell stories from the objects we collect, or do we collect the objects to tell the stories we desire? The different approaches are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. We collect materials that adhere to our imagined stories, and we craft our narratives according to the objects and sources at hand.

The Museum of Innocence occupies a special place on a spectrum of possibility about how we interact with history. At opposite ends of this spectrum sit the fake miniatures and the fantastical objects of Islamic science, respectively. The miniatures circulate on the internet on their own, often removed from any narrative and divorced from their original sources, open to any interpretation that a viewer sees fit. By contrast, the constructed objects in museums of Islamic science have been consciously brought into this world to serve a defensive narrative of Muslim genius – a narrative that the museums’ founders believed they couldn’t extract from the actual historical objects.

Pamuk’s museum, though, strikes a balance. As one stands in front of Pamuk’s exhibits of pocket watches and photographs of beauty pageants, one slowly examines the objects, imagining how they were used, perhaps listening to a recording of Pamuk’s stories to animate them. It is through his display cases, paintings and writing that the objects come to life. Yet, viewers also see the bottles of rakı and other ephemera outside the confines of Pamuk’s narrative. He displays a commitment to the objects themselves, and lets them tell their tale without holding a naive belief in their objective power. This approach grants Pamuk’s museum an intellectual honesty lacking in Sezgin’s museum of Islamic science.

By neglecting actual historical objects, and championing their reimagined counterparts, we efface the past
What is ultimately missing from the fake miniatures, and from the Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam, are the very lives of the individuals that fill Pamuk’s museum. Faced with fantasy or forgery, we are left to stand in awe of the telescopes and alembics, marvelling that Muslims built them, but knowing little of the actual artisans and scholars, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. In these lives lies the true history of science in Islamic world: a midwife’s preparation of herbs; a hospital doctor’s list of medicines for the pious poor; an astrologer’s horoscope for an aspiring lieutenant; an imam’s astronomical measurements for timing the call to prayer; a logician’s trial of a new syllogism; a silversmith’s metallurgic experimentation; an encyclopaedist’s classification of plants; or a judge’s algebraic calculations for dividing an inheritance. These lives are not easily researched, as demonstrated by the anaemic state of the field. However, by refusing to collect and display actual historical objects, and instead championing their reimagined counterparts, we efface these people of the past.

Focusing on these lives requires some fiction, to be sure. A museum or book would have to embrace the absences and gaps in our knowledge. Instead of shyly nudging the actual objects out of view, and filling the lacunae with fabrications, it would need to bring actual historical artefacts to the fore. It might take inspiration from the Whipple Museum and even collect forgeries of scientific instruments as important cultural objects in their own right. Yes, we might have to abandon the clickbaity pictures of turbaned astronomers with telescopes that our image-obsessed culture seems to crave. We would have to adapt a different vision of science and of visual culture, a subtler one that does not reduce scientific practice to a few emblems of modernity. But perhaps this is what it means to cultivate a ‘sense of bewilderment’, to use al-Qazwini’s phrase – a new sense of wonder that elicits marvel from the lives of women and men in the past. That would be a genuinely fresh form of seeing; an acknowledgement that something can be valuable, even when we do not recognise it.

The writer wishes to thank the following people for their help in tracking down the origins of some of the fake miniatures: Elias Muhanna, the author of the book at the beginning of the essay; Josh Nall, the curator of the Whipple Museum of History of Science in Cambridge; and Christiane Gruber, a professor in the history of art at the University of Michigan.

The big empty

 This event continues to attract support as a spiritual experience first and as a physical trip to the desert to experience just that.

It would also be a good place to create a pilgrimage destination but that has not happened yet.  Otherwise the Luciferians have made their presence known.

Right now though it appears safe enough for the prepared camper...  .

The big empty 

How an impossibly flat expanse of absofreakinglutely nothing inspires creativity and transformation at Burning Man

Burning Man festival, Black Rock City, Nevada, 2002. Photo by Cristina Garcia Rodero/Magnum Photos

Graham St John

is an anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. He is the executive editor of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. His latest book is Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT (2015).

Pushing beyond exhaustion, I’m enveloped by a fog of white dust unsettled from the flat expanse beneath my pedals. My head is wrapped in goggles and bandana – the mask de rigueur in this carnival at the edge of the known. Hitched on opposite sides of my utility belt are items of equal weight, albeit disparate utility: an aluminium corkwood water bottle and a pink toy vacuum cleaner. Suddenly, through the thick curtain of this reverie appears another rider, likewise begoggled, and blanketed in fine alkaline particulates. Encountering another self, we share an unspoken revelation: ‘…and to dust we shall return.’

A cumulus of such encounters – some pragmatic, others absurd – reveal our coordinates: the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles from Reno, Nevada. More decisively, we are in this desert’s 200-square-mile salt pan, or playa (Spanish for beach). Intimacy with this extraordinary space enhances the perception of boundary dissolution, the blurring of outlines, a sensation mediated by the powdery surface dust animated, even under a gentle breeze, into a pervading white noise. This tangible fuzziness is familiar to denizens of Black Rock City, the annual gathering known as Burning Man. On my virgin encounter with the crescent-shaped city in 2003, the playa showed clear signs of habitation. It had been occupied for weeks by dust-encrusted volunteers manifesting a city amid white-outs and withering heat; it also exhibited the labours of dedicated stalwarts assembling an ‘ephemeropolis’, co-creating epic works of art, and most often reducing them to ash, year in and out. The Black Rock playa, I discovered, had been hallowed by a significant populace calling the place ‘home’.

But ‘home’ is complicated here since Burning Man resists simple classification. A week-long fire-arts gathering. A temporary city that, in 2018, had a total population of nearly 80,000. A non-profit organisation. The Burning Man Project oversees a cultural movement with a network of more than 85 regional events in 35-plus countries. It is a land steward that, in 2016, purchased the 3,800-acre Fly Ranch, Nevada. Perhaps foremost, Burning Man is a place that is no place at all. The ephemeral and otherworldly qualities of this dust-filled desolation bear heavily on the status Burning Man has earned as a benchmark in ‘transformational’ events

The sublime quality of the playa is integral to the story of Burning Man. Home to a seasonal fire ceremony culminating with the incineration of a towering effigy called ‘the Man’, Burning Man is a frontier settlement imagined as a tabula rasa, Petri dish, blank canvas. These ideas reveal a founding paradox: abundance and possibility are propagated in one of the driest open expanses in North America.

The paradox was unpacked by Larry Harvey, Burning Man’s primary founder, during a lecture in Minneapolis in 2000. He asked the audience to imagine ‘a place that is no place at all apart from what we choose to make of it’. It was Harvey, the landscape gardener and one-time taxi driver, who had, with his carpenter buddy Jerry James and friends, lugged an eight-foot wooden statue onto San Francisco’s Baker Beach, summer solstice, 1986. They weren’t the first to draw a crowd to a flaming object on that beach. Nor was Harvey the first to torch an anthropomorphic figure as a means to catharsis. He didn’t start the fire, but in the three decades before he died on 28 April 2018 following a stroke, Harvey sure kicked up some dust. The newly-built statue was razed annually at Baker Beach until 1990, when it was deemed a public safety hazard destined to be razed somewhere else.

That elsewhere, it turned out, was an absolute nowhere. Devoid of vegetation and wildlife, typically insect-free, the great expanse of the Black Rock Desert playa holds traces of an ancient inland sea. Covering much of present-day Nevada for about 2 million years, the Pleistocene epoch Lake Lahontan has long since vanished. Seasonal water returns as runoff from the Calico and Jackson mountain ranges, forming a shallow lake that normally evaporates by August, exposing an impossible plane of encrusted alkali dust, its surface sun-cracked in hexagonal patterns. Conditions are scorching by day (with highs soaring to 120°F, or nearly 49°C), and not-uncommonly freezing at night. Relocated from the edge of the Pacific Ocean to the farthest beach on the continent, past the hamlet of Gerlach, Nevada (where the sign reads ‘Where the pavement ends and the West begins’), Burning Man was promoted as ‘an opportunity to leave your old self and be reborn through the cleansing fires of the trackless, pure desert’. The line is from the promotion for the inaugural desert burn dubbed “Bad Day at Black Rock (Zone Trip #4)” by the surrealist inspired San Francisco Cacophony Society, who’d colluded with Harvey to burn the statue on the Black Rock playa over Labor Day weekend 1990.

In his photographic homage to Burning Man, Playa Fire: Spirit and Soul at Burning Man (2017), Stewart (brother of Larry) Harvey described his initial exposure to the space: ‘It looked like a place people go to vanish.’ The sentiment is understandable, given the distinct possibility of getting lost, becoming mired in instant clay, and caked in dry chalky particulates that ghost one’s being (and permeate equipment) out beyond the shoreline. Yet, the vanishing point turned out to be an epic threshold on the path to a new homeland. ‘The desert opened itself to us, and we succumbed to its sprawling embrace,’ wrote Stewart Harvey.

For artists drawn to the playa, the value of the alkaline flats lay not in salt, minerals or precious metals, nor in the testing of experimental weapons. From the first desert burn, this other Nevada Test Site (not the site of 928 nuclear tests 360 miles to the south) became an experimental site for mining the riches of the imagination. The playa would become a proving ground for large-scale art projects designed, built and burned by cohorts of volunteers. An inhospitable place, and yet a haven for monuments to impermanence, like the effigy that now towers up to 100 feet, or the 65-ft-high cluster of lighthouses that appeared to me in 2016 like an impossibility sprouting from a Dr Seuss pop-up book. The topography was an exacting teacher and harsh taskmaster, but its occupants expressed gratitude for a space possessing a ‘spirit’ that has permeated their lives, not unlike its fine alkali particulates.

Astonishing natural events such as vast waterfalls, the star-filled night sky and great deserts instill an ‘aesthetic-moral relationship’ with nature, explains the environmental ethicist Emily Brady, author of The Sublime in Modern Philosophy (2013). ‘We feel insignificant, humbled by the greatness of nature rather than masterful over it,’ she writes. The appreciation can feed into new forms of self-knowledge and potentially ground respect for nature’s scale and power. As pivotal to her case, Brady focuses on the mix of exhilaration and anxiety in the human response to nature — especially that perceived as infinite and limitless (the vast featureless desert is a case in point) or dynamic (as in a raging storm). For nature to be sublime, she says, it must be immediate and challenging, causing us to feel defeated and exalted at once. It is a mixed cocktail of experience, not unlike that on which seasoned Burners would grow intoxicated, the extreme conditions of the open playa routinely laying waste to the best of intentions and showing no quarter to even the hardiest of pilgrims. Over recurrent odysseys, playagoers have cultivated a relationship with a radically other space upon which one cannot make an impression without becoming vulnerable, dissolving ego, taking risks.

Photo courtesy John Curley.William Fox, director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, sees Black Rock City through the eyes of a geographer. Attendees are inspired, he says, by ‘cognitive dissonance in isotropic spaces’ – spaces with features uniformly distributed in all directions. For a species that has evolved in temperate forests and savannas, where humans ‘developed a sense of scale based on the size and spacing of trees relative to their own size’, writes Fox, the ne plus ultra of deserts distorts hard-wired perceptual expectations. No stranger to Burning Man, in his book Playa Works: The Myth of the Big Empty (2002) Fox observed that, in such spaces, ‘you can feel as if, by being radically diminished in size, you are more properly scaled to the planet. It seems as if your mind expands to fill the space around you, an eerie and very nearly hallucinogenic experience.’ This disorienting experience, Fox adds, is ‘probably related to why so many religions, in particular monotheisms, were birthed in the deserts of the Middle East’.

The cognitive dissonance is so perilous that all participants assume the risk of serious injury or death

Transiting on to the Black Rock Desert is like being transported to another dimension, an experience long described by disoriented travellers through the Nevada emigrant trail. The playa’s eponymous Black Rock, a 400-ft-high promontory of dark sedimentary and volcanic rocks, would become a distinctive landmark for the explorer John C Frémont on his 1843-44 expedition to the desert in search of the mythical San Buenaventura river. Frémont called the country ‘a perfect barren’ and said it was ‘so forbidding, that I was afraid to enter it’.

This kind of spatial estrangement is arguably more dramatic today, when most visitors arrive directly from the bustling urban chaos. Combined with moisture-sapping heat, say the organisers, the cognitive dissonance is so perilous that ticket holders have been traditionally warned that they ‘assume the risk of serious injury or death by attending’.

But such extreme, otherworldy environments as this also foster awe and humility. Attending this event for the first time ‘takes someone to a new mental space’, writes Fox, who sees Burning Man as a ‘cognitive neurophysical event’ that ‘has literally changed the minds of many of its participants’. Among those transformed was the photographer William Binzen, who orchestrated the Desert Siteworks events at hot springs near the playa in the early 1990s. ‘Just walking around with open eyes is sufficient to transport one into an altered something,’ he said. ‘I think of this as “desert trance”. The heat, light, dust, vast space and hive-mind of endless activity and relentless socialising produce altered states naturally.’

Will Chase, who spent a dozen years working in communications for Burning Man, adds that: ‘Something happens to you when you first set foot on the impossibly flat expanse of absofreakinglutely nothing that is the Black Rock Desert – especially when you’re the only ones out there. It’s like your cells … shift. Your bearings go as flat as the horizon line … You’ve never actually stood on a blank slate of truly limitless possibility and had to face what you’re going to do with it.’

Over the course of three decades, the collective hallucination that is Burning Man has become an experiment in augmented impermanence. To accommodate the human flotsam and jetsam washing up on the shores of this desolation each year, Burning Man’s Department of Public Works (DPW) makes Black Rock City from nothing. And, pivotally, it unmakes it as well, for the playa, a National Conservation Area, must be returned to its pre-event status – making Burning Man the largest Leave-No-Trace event in the world. From the moment one sets foot on its surface, everyday life on the playa is a devotion to eliminating what Burners call ‘moop’ (‘matter out of place’). Every carpet fibre, detached sequin, stray woodchip and flake of dried paint, let alone all city infrastructure, every abandoned bike and all humans, must be removed.

After the majority have made ‘exodus’, it becomes the task of the DPW’s Playa Restoration (or Resto) crew to line-sweep the seven-square-mile city in meticulous detail, effectively restoring the sublime. All that should remain in the wake of this mobilisation … is dust. This annual effort permits playanauts to meditate on the permanence of impermanence. Burning Man’s paean to impermanence is the Temple, a structure that, like the Man, has become integral to the playascape. Residents of the temporary city celebrate the burning of the Man on Saturday night, and reduce their cathedral to ashes on Sunday.

It is from dust that we come, and to dust that we shall return: a sobering lesson for me in 2016 when, hunkering with friends amid the charred remnants of the Temple, my hands gently sifted through the warm blackened dust that likely held the remains of countless loved ones. While this sacred detritus is removed from the playa by the Temple crew, the ashes of the departed, deposited by mourners in the Temple in the week before its destruction, are effectively distributed across the playa in plumes of black smoke. The dead merging with the dust.

In the aftermath of Larry Harvey’s death, more than one observer has compared the ephemeral nature of life to Black Rock City. According to Buck AE Down: ‘An entire city – with all its noise and bustle and teeming humanity, its monumental works of art, humans being and humans doing – is only in full flower for a week, and then is quickly and anonymously whisked away, an analogue for life itself. It’s a temporary, albeit noisy blip that gives way to the great nothingness in a relative blink of an eye.’

Has Burning Man lost its transformative potency by diluting the geography of the sublime?

As Burners have returned to the scene of the sublime, the Big Empty has grown familiar and predictable. This is troubling for Fox, who says that the ‘normalisation of space, the repeated motifs of the artworks, and the increasing number of visitors who are more spectators than participants has begun to erode the dissonance, thus the ability of the event to spark unexpected responses’. For detractors, the rule-bound and regulated event now caters to a population of pleasure-seekers whose encounter with the Black Rock playa hardly resembles that naked confrontation with terra incognita of years past. Life on play a enjoyed from the confines of a luxury trailer is so sheltered and domesticated that it repudiates, for some, the rationale for travelling out to the desert to begin with. Instead of an exposure to the other, they lament, the new aesthetic just replicates the modernity from which they had hoped to depart.

Others, meanwhile, have sought to take lessons learned in Black Rock City out into the world. Emissaries trekking what Marian Goodell, the CEO of the Burning Man Project, calls the ‘Grand Playa’ carry jars of vintage playa dust and ashes to locations worldwide, the bouquet quaffed like an exotic spice. Reflecting on this global culture of dust junkies, Fox astutely wonders ‘whether a habit of mind borne of cognitive dissonance on a playa is robust enough to survive the transition’. The question is worth asking: does Burning Man become increasingly dispossessed of its transformative potency the further it migrates from its sublime origins?

All this said, routinely exposing a population of 80,000 to a perfect barren in relatively safe circumstances should be seen as an ingenious experiment. After all, philosophers from Edmund Burke to Arthur Schopenhauer have recognised that qualities in nature can be appreciated as sublime only if they fall just short of absolute threat. This is the circumstance in which this frontier arts community continues to flourish: a remarkably hospitable place in a most inhospitable space.

There are more microbial species on Earth than stars in the galaxy

<p>Diatoms. <em>Photo courtesy NASA</em></p>

The sheer number actually put the whole problem of labeling beyond access and ensures unlimited diversity.  Now this all relates to assembling a complex life form remains an open question.   It is really astonishing just how much speciation exists.

We always had large numbers, but targeting DNA has really opened up the field.  Yet it does make sense.  We only need to calculate the number of potential combinations to generate massively large numbers to choose from.

All good to know this question can simply set aside along with counting stars.
There are more microbial species on Earth than stars in the galaxy 

Jay T Lennon  is professor of biology at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Kenneth J Locey is a faculty member at Diné College, of the Navajo Nation, in Arizona.
Diatoms. Photo courtesy NASA

For centuries, humans have endeavoured to discover and describe the sum of Earth’s biological diversity. Scientists and naturalists have catalogued species from all continents and oceans, from the depths of Earth’s crust to the highest mountains, and from the most remote jungles to our most populated cities. This grand effort sheds light on the forms and behaviours that evolution has made possible, while serving as the foundation for understanding the common descent of life. Until recently, our planet was thought to be inhabited by nearly 10 million species (107). Though no small number, this estimate is based almost solely on species that can be seen with the naked eye.

What about smaller species such as bacteria, archaea, protists and fungi? Collectively, these microbial taxa are the most abundant, widespread and longest-evolving forms of life on the planet. 

What is their contribution to global biodiversity? When microorganisms are taken into account, recent studies suggest that Earth might be home to a staggering 1 trillion (1012) species. If true, then the grand effort to discover Earth’s biodiversity has only come within a 1,000th of 1 per cent of all species on the planet.

Estimating microbial diversity even in the most ordinary of habitats presents a unique set of challenges. For more than a century, scientists identified microbial species by first culturing them on Petri dishes and then characterising cellular properties, along with aspects of their physiology such as thermal tolerances, the substrates they consume, or the enzymes they produce. Such approaches dramatically underestimate diversity, not only because it is difficult to grow the vast majority of microorganisms, but also because unrelated microbial species can perform similar functions and are unlikely to be distinguished by their appearance.

During the mid-1990s, a growing number of microbiologists began to abandon cultivation techniques in favour of identifying organisms by directly sequencing nucleic acids – DNA – from ocean water, leaf surfaces, wetland sediments, and even the biofilms inside of showerheads. Over the past decade, these methods have been dramatically refined so that millions of individual microbes can be sampled at once. With this high-throughput approach, we have learned that a single gramme of agricultural soil can routinely contain more than 10,000 species. Similarly, we know that nearly 10 trillion (1013) bacterial cells make up a human’s microbiome. These microbes not only aid in their host’s digestion and nutrition, but also represent an extension of its immune system. Looking beyond ourselves, microbes are found in Earth’s crust, its atmosphere, and the full depth of its oceans and ice caps. In total, the estimated number of microbial cells on Earth hovers around a nonillion (1030), a number that outstrips imagination and exceeds the estimated number of stars in the Universe. Naturally, this begs the question of how many species might actually exist.

Long lists of species have been made for nearly every ecosystem on Earth, with nearly 20,000 plant and animal species discovered each year. Many of these species happen to be beetles, but reports of rodents, fish, reptiles and even primates are not uncommon. While exciting to biologists and the public alike, new plant and animal species contribute only around 2 per cent per year to the total number of species, a sign that we might be approaching a near-complete census of those organisms on the planet.

In sharp contrast, deep lineages containing untold species are being described at a rapid rate in the microbial world. A few years ago, from a single aquifer in Colorado, scientists found 35 new bacterial phyla; a phylum is a broad group containing thousands, tens of thousands or, for microbes, even millions of related species. The phyla discovered in that one aquifer amounted to 15 per cent of all previously recognised bacterial phyla on Earth. To put this in context, humans belong to the phylum Chordata, but so do more than 65,000 other species of animals that possess a notochord (or skeletal rod), including mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and tunicates. Such findings suggest that we are at the tip of the iceberg in terms of describing diversity of the microbial biosphere.

Ideally, there should be agreement on what constitutes a species if we are to achieve an estimate of global biodiversity. For plants and animals, a species is generally defined as a group of organisms that are able to mate and produce viable offspring. This definition, unfortunately, is not very useful for classifying microbial species because they reproduce asexually. (Microorganisms can transfer genes among closely related individuals through processes known as ‘horizontal gene transfer’, which is akin to the recombination that occurs in sexually reproducing organisms.)

Nevertheless, there are ways of categorising organisms based on shared ancestry, which can be inferred from genetic data. The most commonly used technique for delineating microbial taxa involves comparisons of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequences. This gene is involved in building ribosomes, the molecular machines that are required for protein synthesis among all forms of life. By comparing the similarities among sequences, scientists can identify groups of taxa without needing to grow them or painstakingly characterise their physiology or cellular structure. Of the many caveats associated with this rRNA-based classification of microbial taxa is the fact that it likely underestimates the true number of species. If so, then the recent prediction that Earth might be home to as many as 1012 species could, in fact, be a conservative estimate, despite its incredible magnitude.

Knowing the number of microbial species on Earth could have practical implications that improve our quality of life. The prospect of yet-to-be harnessed biodiversity might spur development of alternative fuels to meet growing energy demands, new crops to feed our rapidly growing population, and medicines to fight emerging infectious diseases. But perhaps there is a more basic reason for wanting to know how many species we share the planet with. Since the predawn of civilisation, the survival of our species depended on trials and errors with plants, animals and microbes that we attempted to harvest, domesticate or avoid all together. Our interest in biodiversity also reflects an intrinsic curiosity about the natural world and our place within it. Whether to admire, protect, transform or exploit, humans have never sought to be wholly ignorant of the species that inhabit Earth.

One is the loneliest number: the history of a Western problem

I personally am happiest when i am alone.  It is then that i can immerse myself in contemplative meditation.  It is there that i explore the universe. Our present external communion is a pale imitation of that experience.

The fact that becomes obvious though is that loneliness is a notion that many obsess over.  Yet it is a notion.  Mental health is strengthened by interaction with a supportive community in particular and not just a small group such as family. Been alone is a choice even if it is an unwelcome separation from community.

Learning to best use your alone times needs to be properly taught, instead we abandon ourselves instead.  Personally i always have had a book to hand.  Today folks have their phone and access to unending material and real loneliness has essentially ended. 

One is the loneliest number: the history of a Western problem

Fay Bound Albertiis a writer, historian and consultant. She co-founded the Centre for the History of  Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, where she remains an honorary senior research fellow in history. Her books include This Mortal Coil (2016) and A Biography of Loneliness (forthcoming, 2019). She lives in London.

Published in association with The Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions 

Girl sitting alone in the Sea Grill, a bar and restaurant in Washington, DC, 1943. Photo by Esther Bubley/Library of Congress

‘God, but life is loneliness,’ declared the writer Sylvia Plath in her private journals. Despite all the grins and smiles we exchange, she says, despite all the opiates we take:
when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter – they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long.
By the 21st century, loneliness has become ubiquitous. Commentators call it ‘an epidemic’, a condition akin to ‘leprosy’, and a ‘silent plague’ of civilisation. In 2018, the United Kingdom went so far as to appoint a Minister for Loneliness. Yet loneliness is not a universal condition; nor is it a purely visceral, internal experience. It is less a single emotion and more a complex cluster of feelings, composed of anger, grief, fear, anxiety, sadness and shame. It also has social and political dimensions, shifting through time according ideas about the self, God and the natural world. Loneliness, in other words, has a history.

The term ‘loneliness’ first crops up in English around 1800. Before then, the closest word was ‘oneliness’, simply the state of being alone. As with solitude – from the Latin ‘solus’ which meant ‘alone’ – ‘oneliness’ was not coloured by any suggestion of emotional lack. Solitude or oneliness was not unhealthy or undesirable, but rather a necessary space for reflection with God, or with one’s deepest thoughts. Since God was always nearby, a person was never truly alone. Skip forward a century or two, however, and the use of ‘loneliness’ – burdened with associations of emptiness and the absence of social connection – has well and truly surpassed oneliness. What happened?

The contemporary notion of loneliness stems from cultural and economic transformations that have taken place in the modern West. Industrialisation, the growth of the consumer economy, the declining influence of religion and the popularity of evolutionary biology all served to emphasise that the individual was what mattered – not traditional, paternalistic visions of a society in which everyone had a place.

In the 19th century, political philosophers used Charles Darwin’s theories about the ‘survival of the fittest’ to justify the pursuit of individual wealth to Victorians. Scientific medicine, with its emphasis on brain-centred emotions and experiences, and the classification of the body into ‘normal’ and abnormal states, underlined this shift. The four humours (phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, melancholic) that had dominated Western medicine for 2,000 years and made people into ‘types’, fell away in favour of a new model of health dependent on the physical, individual body.

In the 20th century, the new sciences of the mind – especially psychiatry and psychology – took centre-stage in defining the healthy and unhealthy emotions an individual should experience. Carl Jung was the first to identify ‘introvert’ and ‘extravert’ personalities (to use the original spelling) in his Psychological Types (1921). Introversion became associated with neuroticism and loneliness, while extroversion was linked to sociability, gregariousness and self-reliance. In the US, these ideas took on special significance as they were linked to individual qualities associated with self-improvement, independence and the go-getting American dream.

The negative associations of introversion help to explain why loneliness now carries such social stigma. Lonely people seldom want to admit they are lonely. While loneliness can create empathy, lonely people have also been subjects of contempt; those with strong social networks often avoid the lonely. It is almost as though loneliness were contagious, like the diseases with which it is now compared. When we use the language of a modern epidemic, we contribute to a moral panic about loneliness that can aggravate the underlying problem. Presuming that loneliness is a widespread but fundamentally individual affliction will make it nearly impossible to address.

For centuries, writers have recognised the relationship between mental health and belonging to a community. Serving society was another way to serve the individual – because, as the poet Alexander Pope put it in his poem An Essay on Man (1734): ‘True self-love and social are the same’. It’s not surprising, then, to find that loneliness serves a physiological and social function, as the late neuroscientist John Cacioppo argued: like hunger, it signals a threat to our wellbeing, born of exclusion from our group or tribe.

‘No man is an island,’ wrote the poet John Donne in a similar spirit, in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624) – nor woman either, for each one formed ‘a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’ If a ‘clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind’ . For some of us, Donne’s remarks take on special poignancy in light of the UK’s departure from Europe, or the narcissism of Donald Trump’s US presidency. They also return us to medical metaphors: Donne’s references to the body politic being destroyed is reminiscent of modern loneliness as a physical affliction, a plague of modernity.

We urgently need a more nuanced appraisal of who is lonely, when and why. Loneliness is lamented by politicians because it is expensive, especially for an ageing population. People who are lonely are more likely to develop illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and depression, and 50 per cent more likely to die prematurely than non-lonely counterparts. But there is nothing inevitable about being old and alone – even in the UK and the US where, unlike much of Europe, there isn’t a history of inter-familial care of the aged. Loneliness and economic individualism are connected.

Until the 1830s in the UK, elderly people were cared for by neighbours, friends and family, as well as by the parish. But then Parliament passed the New Poor Law, a reform that abolished financial aid for people except the aged and infirm, restricting that help to those in workhouses, and considered poverty relief to be loans that were administered via a bureaucratic, impersonal process. The rise of city living and the breakdown of local communities, as well as the grouping of the needy together in purpose-built buildings, produced more isolated, elderly people. It is likely, given their histories, that individualistic countries (including the UK, South Africa, the US, Germany and Australia) might experience loneliness differently to collectivist countries (such as Japan, China, Korea, Guatemala, Argentina and Brazil). Loneliness, then, is experienced differently across place as well as time.

None of this is meant to sentimentalise communal living or suggest that there was no social isolation prior to the Victorian period. Rather, my claim is that human emotions are inseparable from their social, economic and ideological contexts. The righteous anger of the morally affronted, for instance, would be impossible without a belief in right and wrong, and personal accountability. Likewise, loneliness can exist only in a world where the individual is conceived as separate from, rather than part of, the social fabric. It’s clear that the rise of individualism corroded social and communal ties, and led to a language of loneliness that didn’t exist prior to around 1800.

Where once philosophers asked what it took to live a meaningful life, the cultural focus has shifted to questions about individual choice, desire and accomplishment. It is no coincidence that the term ‘individualism’ was first used (and was a pejorative term) in the 1830s, at the same time that loneliness was in the ascendant. If loneliness is a modern epidemic, then its causes are also modern – and an awareness of its history just might be what saves us.

Friday, September 28, 2018

CIA MK Ultra Assault on Supreme Court?

The pattern of facts been observed supports the conjecture that these purported witnesses are plausibly victims of CIA mind control methods.  Particularly since Ford reports entering therapy about the same time that Trump became a real threat to the DEEP STATE.

Implanting false memories is no great trick and this is easily linked into real memories as well and has been practiced effectively by the CIA.

In fact i suspect this was the plan to originally eliminate JFK jr that was thwarted by JFK jr faking the whole scenario and exiting the stage.  Two months later, the planned assassin and pilot took down another plane in order to dispose of himself.

All the stories are fuzzy and devoid of testable facts as one must be if it is implanted.  We now have three such slanders been waltzed out.

Another important question that also needs to be asked.  Just why does this woman hold a job or any job as Stanford?  Just why did Obama get any teaching job at the university level?  What exactly is going on here?  It is my experience that this indicates parking by the CIA.  She even reminds me of Sirhan Sirhan as well and certain other noted events.

Full transcript: Christine Blasey Ford's opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee


09/26/2018 06:22 PM EDT

Christine Blasey Ford's opening statement for a scheduled hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as prepared for delivery:

Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, Members of the Committee. My name is Christine Blasey Ford. I am a Professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University and a Research Psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina and earned my degree in Experimental Psychology in 1988. I received a Master’s degree in 1991 in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. In 1996, I received a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California. I earned a Master’s degree in Epidemiology from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2009.

I have been married to Russell Ford since 2002 and we have two children.

I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school. I have described the events publicly before. I summarized them in my letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, and again in my letter to Chairman Grassley. I understand and appreciate the importance of your hearing from me directly about what happened to me and the impact it has had on my life and on my family.

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I attended the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, from 1980 to 1984. Holton-Arms is an all-girls school that opened in 1901. During my time at the school, girls at Holton-Arms frequently met and became friendly with boys from all-boys schools in the area, including Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga High School, country clubs, and other places where kids and their families socialized. This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me.

In my freshman and sophomore school years, when I was 14 and 15 years old, my group of friends intersected with Brett and his friends for a short period of time. I had been friendly with a classmate of Brett’s for a short time during my freshman year, and it was through that connection that I attended a number of parties that Brett also attended. We did not know each other well, but I knew him and he knew me. In the summer of 1982, like most summers, I spent almost every day at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland swimming and practicing diving.

One evening that summer, after a day of swimming at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Chevy Chase/Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember being there: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth, and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I remember my friend Leland Ingham attending. I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur of the moment gathering. I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place, and so forth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.

When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.

During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. The last time he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door. I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairs, pin-balling off the walls on the way down. I waited and when I did not hear them come back up the stairs, I left the bathroom, ran down the stairs, through the living room, and left the house. I remember being on the street and feeling an enormous sense of relief that I had escaped from the house and that Brett and Mark were not coming after me.

Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in a house without any parents present, drinking beer with boys. I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened. Over the years, I told very few friends that I had this traumatic experience. I told my husband before we were married that I had experienced a sexual assault. I had never told the details to anyone until May 2012, during a couples counseling session. The reason this came up in counseling is that my husband and I had completed an extensive remodel of our home, and I insisted on a second front door, an idea that he and others disagreed with and could not understand. In explaining why I wanted to have a second front door, I described the assault in detail. I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the U.S. Supreme Court and spoke a bit about his background. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh.

After that May 2012 therapy session, I did my best to suppress memories of the assault because recounting the details caused me to relive the experience, and caused panic attacks and anxiety. Occasionally I would discuss the assault in individual therapy, but talking about it caused me to relive the trauma, so I tried not to think about it or discuss it. But over the years, I went through periods where I thought about Brett’s attack. I confided in some close friends that I had an experience with sexual assault. Occasionally I stated that my assailant was a prominent lawyer or judge but I did not use his name. I do not recall each person I spoke to about Brett’s assault, and some friends have reminded me of these conversations since the publication of The Washington Post story on September 16, 2018. But until July 2018, I had never named Mr. Kavanaugh as my attacker outside of therapy.

This all changed in early July 2018. I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the “short list” of potential Supreme Court nominees. I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh’s conduct so that those considering his potential nomination would know about the assault.

On July 6, 2018, I had a sense of urgency to relay the information to the Senate and the President as soon as possible before a nominee was selected. I called my congressional representative and let her receptionist know that someone on the President’s shortlist had attacked me. I also sent a message to The Washington Post’s confidential tip line. I did not use my name, but I provided the names of Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. I stated that Mr. Kavanaugh had assaulted me in the 1980s in Maryland. This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but I felt I couldn’t NOT do it. Over the next two days, I told a couple of close friends on the beach in California that Mr. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted me. I was conflicted about whether to speak out.

On July 9, 2018, I received a call from the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo after Mr. Kavanaugh had become the nominee. I met with her staff on July 11 and with her on July 13, describing the assault and discussing my fear about coming forward. Later, we discussed the possibility of sending a letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, who is one of my state’s Senators, describing what occurred. My understanding is that Representative Eshoo’s office delivered a copy of my letter to Senator Feinstein’s office on July 30, 2018. The letter included my name, but requested that the letter be kept confidential.

My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient to allow the Senate to consider Mr. Kavanaugh’s serious misconduct without having to make myself, my family, or anyone’s family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy we have faced since my name became public. In a letter on August 31, 2018, Senator Feinstein wrote that she would not share the letter without my consent. I greatly appreciated this commitment. All sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves whether their private experience is made public.

As the hearing date got closer, I struggled with a terrible choice: Do I share the facts with the Senate and put myself and my family in the public spotlight? Or do I preserve our privacy and allow the Senate to make its decision on Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination without knowing the full truth about his past behavior?

I agonized daily with this decision throughout August and early September 2018. The sense of duty that motivated me to reach out confidentially to The Washington Post, Representative Eshoo’s office, and Senator Feinstein’s office was always there, but my fears of the consequences of speaking out started to increase.

During August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain. His allies painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. I believed that if I came forward, my voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters. By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the Committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me.

Once the press started reporting on the existence of the letter I had sent to Senator Feinstein, I faced mounting pressure. Reporters appeared at my home and at my job demanding information about this letter, including in the presence of my graduate students. They called my boss and coworkers and left me many messages, making it clear that my name would inevitably be released to the media. I decided to speak out publicly to a journalist who had responded to the tip I had sent to The Washington Post and who had gained my trust. It was important to me to describe the details of the assault in my own words.

Since September 16, the date of The Washington Post story, I have experienced an outpouring of support from people in every state of this country. Thousands of people who have had their lives dramatically altered by sexual violence have reached out to share their own experiences with me and have thanked me for coming forward. We have received tremendous support from friends and our community.

At the same time, my greatest fears have been realized – and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats. I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying to receive and have rocked me to my core. People have posted my personal information on the internet. This has resulted in additional emails, calls, and threats. My family and I were forced to move out of our home. Since September 16, my family and I have been living in various secure locales, with guards. This past Tuesday evening, my work email account was hacked and messages were sent out supposedly recanting my description of the sexual assault.

Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television, in the media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me. I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives. Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed. It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.

I understand that the Majority has hired a professional prosecutor to ask me some questions, and I am committed to doing my very best to answer them. At the same time, because the Committee Members will be judging my credibility, I hope to be able to engage directly with each of you.

At this point, I will do my best to answer your questions. 

Two men tell Senate that they, not Kavanaugh, assaulted Ford

By Joe Tacopino September 27, 2018


Two men have come forward to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to claim that they are the ones who actually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford during a house party in 1982 — and not Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Republicans on the committee released a timeline of events late Wednesday, which included details about their interactions with the two men who admitted to the attacks.

On Monday, the timeline recounts GOP staff members interviewing “a man who believes he, not Judge Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Dr. Ford in 1982.”

The “encounter” refers to an episode in which Ford claims that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in a bedroom at a Maryland house party.

They had a follow-up interview with that man, and he provided more detail about the assault.
Then on Wednesday, the committee staff said they spoke with a second man who said he assaulted Ford in 1982.

The committee did not release any more details about the men, or why both were coming forward with the claims.

What Is Fasting? A Guide to the Different Types of Fasts

All fasting demands planing and particularly so if you are diabetic.  

My personal approach evolved into fasting on Monday Wednesday and Friday for at least 18 hours. This allows your small intestine to void and then rest for at least twelve hours, thus eliminating a day and one half from your normal food intake.  Considering that we naturally consume nine days of food every week and that this supports an inevitable thirty percent excess fat base, losing that day and one half allows the body to approach your proper natural weight.  In my case i dropped from 230 pound range to the 180 pound range which is twenty pounds under my best levels for most of my adult life.  Better yet i have sustained this for over three years easily.

What is important is to allow sleep to initiate the fast.  It all voids and becomes dormant.  Then by not restarting it, you will not have cravings.

I also do occasionally run a full out three day fast in order to retool my immune system to the max and to counter any bad habits sticking their heads up.  Every few months is more than enough for all that.

This is pretty sound and it is very safe.  Working it around diabetic issues is another matter and not something that i can comment on yet even though it is certainly were every diabetic needs to end up.  Getting to that place is the challenge. ..


What Is Fasting? A Guide to the Different Types of Fasts

A fast is a voluntary practice in which people go for extended or structured periods without eating and drinking for spiritual, medical, or weight loss reasons. Others fast to protest or raise awareness for causes. Fasts vary widely depending on the type you’re following. Some fasts allow water, tea, coffee, or other fluids during the fasting period, but dry fasts go without. A fast may be intermittent, or it may extend for multiple days.
Fasting is not starvation. For those who fast for health reasons, fasting is just a more structured way of eating. Fasting is sometimes followed by feasting, especially around religious holidays. Some people may find fasting challenging, but there are many types of fasting regimens and protocols from which to choose.
Many of the world’s major religions and cultures have a rich history of fasting. Fasting has long been promoted as a natural means to boost health and deepen spiritual awareness. In some sects of Buddhism, fasting is a regular part of the monastic lifestyle and enhances meditation. In the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic religious traditions, fasting is an act of observance, atonement, penance, self-control, or preparation for rituals or holidays. Therapeutic fasting dates back to Hippocrates, who prescribed it for many ailments. At the time, it was the only successful way to reduce seizures in epileptic children and remained so until the 20th century.[1]

Health Benefits of Fasting

Although much of the clinical research related to fasting is limited to animal studies, the abundance of first-hand accounts from people who fast is remarkable, exciting, and encouraging. Many people find that fasting sharpens their mind and provides mental clarity. Interestingly, many of the benefits of fasting don’t result directly from fasting itself, but from the effects of reduced calorie intake, decreased fat composition, better sleep, less diet-related inflammation, and lower intake of salt.

Tempers Blood Pressure and Fluid Balance

Blood pressure tends to fall during the fasting state, primarily during the first week of fasting. This effect seems to result from a lower salt intake and a detoxification of accumulated salt through the urine. Since excess sodium causes your body to retain water, lower sodium levels lead to better fluid balance in your tissues.[1]

Encourages Normal Blood Sugar Levels

Since you don’t need as much insulin while you’re not ingesting sugar, your body’s production of insulin drops during fasting.[2, 3]

Protects the Brain

Fasting and calorie restriction inhibits the production of free radicals and irritating proteins like inflammatory cytokines. Interestingly, evidence suggests that free radical and inflammatory cytokine production slow down during fasting and protective cytokine production increases and protects the brain from oxidative damage.[3]

Moderates Appetite

Fasting causes leptin levels to drop. However, as you lose weight, your response to leptin signaling increases, making it easier to eat healthier foods and smaller portions since you’ll feel more satisfied after a meal.[3] Some weight loss authorities think leptin resistance might be a factor that prevents people who are significantly overweight from dropping pounds because they don’t get that hormonal signal telling them that they’re full.

May Help You Live Longer and Healthier

There is an evolutionary theory that may explain why animals that are fed low-calorie diets tend to live longer than their “well-fed” counterparts. The leading idea holds that when an organism endures challenges like famine, it responds by dedicating more resources to survival.[4] This is kind of like a factory shuffling equipment and labor around to produce a different product while also finding new ways to be more efficient.

Helps Burn Fat

Alternating windows of fasting and eating with regular resistance training leads to greater fat loss than either alone.[5]

Promotes Healthy Immune Function

Fasting triggers the recycling of old white blood cells—the cells that comprise much of your immune system. Recycling these immune cells leads to a more competent immune system. It works by triggering the regeneration of the stem cells that become your platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells when you begin eating again.[6]

May Increase Resistance to Mental Stress

In animal models, researchers found that the effects of fasting on blood sugar and insulin levels also improves the brain’s response to mental stress and protects it from stress-related damage.[7]

Different Types of Fasting

Fasting methods and protocols vary widely depending on the specific fast. Even within the fasts described below, there are at least a couple of ways of conducting the fast. When deciding which to pursue, consider your goals and which will help you get there.

Diagnostic Fast

This fast may be a bit more difficult because it’s not something most people elect to do. Your doctor may prescribe a fast before a medical procedure such as surgery or a blood test. It’s important to stick to the recommended protocol for safety and accurate test readings.

Dry Fast

Arguably the most straightforward kind of fast, dry fasting involves not eating or drinking anything during the fasting period. A diagnostic fast may also be a dry fast. I do not advocate dry fasting for extended periods of time. Beyond making you feel lousy, dehydration can have serious side effects on your blood volume and tissues, making it difficult for your body to detoxify itself.

Liquid Fast or Water Fast

When liquid fasting, you only drink fluids and avoid eating solid foods. Liquid fasts can include broth, water, or concoctions made with water, like the Master Cleanse. Water fasts only permit water during the fasting period. These fasts can last anywhere from a day to several days.

Juice Fast

Juice fasting, or juice cleansing, is a type of liquid fast lasting 3-5 days. It’s usually conducted with detoxification or weight loss in mind. Juice fasts include organic, cleansing fruit and vegetable juices.

Partial Fast

There are two kinds of partial fasting. The first type is similar to liquid fasting except you may eat small amounts of solid food for the duration of the fast. The second type excludes certain foods for an extended period. Many people give up carbohydrates, alcohol, or red meat during this fast.

Intermittent Fast

Intermittent fasting is alternating periods of fasting and eating during the same day. This pattern may persist every other day, a few days at a time, or you may choose to adopt this style of fasting into your everyday life for an extended period. The food you eat while intermittently fasting may not change at all, or people may feast during the eating window. Some people simply eat all their meals within a small window of time in the afternoon or evening.
There are many ways to conduct an intermittent fast. Religious intermittent fasts typically prohibit eating between dawn and dusk, and meals are only taken in the evening. Athletes, dieters, and bodybuilders tend to customize their intermittent fasting schedule to their daily schedule to get the most out of their fast. Some evidence indicates that longer periods of fasting increase weight loss and produce better results in blood glucose and insulin balance.[8]

Alternate-day Fast

Alternate-day fasting is a much more intense fasting regimen than other fasting methods. This fast seems to be especially helpful for losing weight and maintaining weight loss progress. To qualify as an alternate-day fast, you must fast for at least 24 hours. Some people choose to extend alternate-day fasts up to 36 hours. Make sure to drink plenty of water or tea during an alternate-day fast.

Extended Fasting

Extended fasts are usually 48 hours without eating, but they can last up to a week or longer. People may conduct this fast a few times a year or every month. These fasts are usually only conducted by people who have a high body mass index or who have trained their metabolism to adjust to long periods of fasting. Depending on the length of the fast, it may be necessary to add nutritional supplements to your water to keep your vitamins and minerals in balance.

Ketogenic Fast

Ketogenic fasts push your body into the fat burning state known as ketosis. A ketogenic fast is similar to a partial fast in that it includes a small amount of food. The two differ in the types of food consumed. On a ketogenic fast, you only consume fatty foods to shift your body into ketosis. Check out my ketogenic fast for a vegan take on this fast. You can try it for five days to begin to feel the benefits or go as long as three weeks.[9]

Important Considerations While Fasting

Fasting takes planning and preparation. Before beginning any fasting regimen, you must get a handle on your schedule, stress, and nutrition. Be realistic about your goals when conducting a fast. Inadequate sleep, unhealthy or emotional eating patterns, and insufficient stress management can impede weight loss or undo any advances you make.[3]
Stay hydrated while fasting. Before your body adjusts, you may experience mild but unpleasant symptoms for the first three days. Hunger, irritability, slight headache, and disorientation are common while you’re adjusting. Around day four on a restrictive fast, you should begin to feel significantly better than you normally do when not on a fast.
Some people should not fast. Children, pregnant and lactating women, and diabetics should avoid fasting unless instructed to do so by their trusted health care advisor. It’s also a good idea to converse with them and get an informed opinion that’s personalized to your needs and situation before radically changing your diet or going on an extended fast.
Do you fast regularly? What kind of fast do you conduct and to what end? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Article Sources:
  1. Kerndt, Peter R. et al. “Fasting: The History, Pathophysiology and Complications.” Western Journal of Medicine 137.5 (1982): 379–399. Web.
  2. Schless, Guy Lacy, and Garfield G. Duncan. “The Beneficial Effect Of Intermittent Total Fasts On The Glucose Tolerance In Obese Diabetic Patients.” Metabolism 15.2 (1966): 98-102. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
  3. Martin, Bronwen, Mark P. Mattson, and Stuart Maudsley. “Caloric Restriction and Intermittent Fasting: Two Potential Diets for Successful Brain Aging.” Ageing research reviews 5.3 (2006): 332–353. PMC. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
  4. Adler, Margo I., and Russell Bonduriansky. “Why Do The Well-Fed Appear To Die Young?” BioEssays 36.5 (2014): 439-450. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
  5. Hayward, Sara et al. “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Markers of Body Composition and Mood State.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 11.Suppl 1 (2014): P25. PMC. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
  6. Wu, Susan. “Fasting Triggers Stem Cell Regeneration Of Damaged, Old Immune System.” N.p., 2017. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
  7. Anson, R. Michael et al. “Intermittent Fasting Dissociates Beneficial Effects Of Dietary Restriction On Glucose Metabolism And Neuronal Resistance To Injury From Calorie Intake.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100.10 (2017): 6216-6220. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
  8. Fung, Jason, and Jimmy Moore. “The Complete Guide To Fasting.” 1st ed. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing. Print.
  9. Kerndt, Peter R. et al. “Fasting: The History, Pathophysiology and Complications.” Western Journal of Medicine 137.5 (1982): 379–399. Print.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.