When the American History edition of the Intellectual Devotional was released in 2007, the entry on Michael Jackson included a brief parenthesis, “(1958-).” Now, sadly, the second part of that time line has been filled in.
Jackson died on June 25 of this year, at the age of 50. The last years of his life were dominated by bizarre scandals, but if there was any upside to his passing, it was the renewed focus on his remarkable body of work, from performing with the Jackson 5 from the age of 6 to creating such extraordinary albums as Off the Wall and Thriller in the years that followed.
Tomorrow, the holidays start in earnest. Before they begin, a look back at one of the great losses of the year:
Michael as a child: already a master dancer.
The Moonwalk: Michael’s most innovative dance move.
Thriller: the music video that changed music videos for ever.
Until recently, scientists believed that there were only two types of twinning: identical or monozygotic twinning (which results when a single sperm fertilizes a single egg, which splits in half into two embryos) and fraternal or dizygotic twinning (which occurs when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm). As such, identical twins are always the same sex and share the same placenta, while fraternal twins can either be the same or the opposite sex and each have their own placenta.
In March 2008, doctors at the Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle shocked the medical community when they announced the first known case of semi-identical, or half twins. Semi-identical twinning appears to occur when both twins inherit exactly the same genes from their mother, but different genes from their father. While the exact fertilization mechanisms are not completely understood, semi-twinning can occur when two sperm cells fertilize one egg—an event assumed to be very rare—which then splits into two embryos. Thus, each sperm contributed a different set of genes to each twin.
Thus, semi-identical twins are more genetically similar than typical siblings or fraternal twins (who are only as similar as other siblings), but they do not share 100% of their DNA like identical twins do. It is estimated that semi-identical twins share roughly 75% of their DNA with one another. Before this discovery, scientists were aware that it was possible for two sperm to fertilize a single egg, but it is only estimated to occur in roughly 1% of human conceptions. Moreover, most embryos created this way do not become viable.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a psychological disorder that can sometimes afflict people who have experienced traumatic or life-threatening events and/or situations, such as military combat, violent criminal attacks, sexual assaults; serious accidents and life threatening natural disasters.
There is no standard timetable with respect to how soon an individual may begin to present symptoms of PTSD; some people immediately begin to manifest signs of the disorder, while it may take others several weeks or even months to display symptoms.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV-TR), describes PTSD as including the following diagnostic criteria:
Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma (e.g. avoidance of experiences that they fear will trigger flashbacks and reexperiencing of symptoms fear of losing control);
Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger and hypervigilance);
Duration of symptoms for more than 1 month; and
Significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (e.g. problems with work and relationships).
A number of promising new treatments have been advocated for trauma-related problems such as PTSD, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a highly specialized form of psychotherapy that is specifically tailored for treating patients with PTSD. EMDR relies on a set eight-phase approach that attempts to address the patient’s past, present and potential future manifestations of the negative memories of the traumatic event.
During the initial “processing” phase of EMDR, the patient addresses a negative memory that they associate with their trauma in brief and repetitive sets of approximately 15-30 seconds, while concurrently focusing on the dual attention stimulus (e.g., therapist-directed lateral eye movement, alternate hand-tapping, or bilateral auditory tones). Following each set of such dual attention, the client is asked what associative information was evoked during the exercise. This new information is then incorporated into the next set of processing, in an effort to gradually desensitize the patient to the harmful affect of the negative memory.
Advocates for EMDR claim that it helps patients with PTSD process dysfunctional and negative memories and thoughts that have become ‘imprinted’ in the nervous system by the shock engendered by the triggering traumatic event. While EMDR seems a bit unorthodox at first glance, a number of well-respected studies have reliably demonstrated its efficacy.
Yup his painting looks pretty unconscious to me....
The modern artist… is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces. -Jackson Pollock
Cultural icon and American painter Paul Jackson Pollock was a major founding father of the abstract expressionist movement, and he stands as one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century. His radically abstract works evoked passionate admiration and scorn in equal measure, and he was derisively nicknamed “Jack the Dripper” by his detractors, a slight that did not go unnoticed by the sensitive painter.
Despite the considerable fame he achieved during his lifetime, Pollock regularly suffered from severe bouts of depression and alcohol abuse, and his friends eventually pressed him to enter psychotherapy to help him get his drinking under control. While therapy appeared to be of little assistance in helping the troubled artist curb his self-destructive impulses, Pollock became fascinated with Jungian concepts that he was exposed to in treatment.
Pollock embraced Jung’s theory that art originates from the unconscious and seeks expression through concrete representations of cultural symbols and archetypes. Pollock’s interest in these concepts occurred at a time when psychoanalysis was beginning to have a major impact on people’s understanding of the human psyche and the construction of the self.
Jungian symbols and archetypes can be seen in Pollock’s pioneering “action paintings,” which he worked on during the late 1940’s. These “action paintings” represented a radical deviation from the norms of classical European art, as they were not intended to portray specific objects or elicit specific emotions in the observer. Instead, these paintings were intended to penetrate the subconscious of the observer and tap into the primal drives that motivate the creation of universal archetypal symbols. Pollock strove to create these paintings “unconsciously” and spontaneously, so that he could better evoke a sense of raw emotion and primal action in the observer.
Don DeLillo is the author of Underworld, a massive, sprawling look at Cold War America that takes in everybody and everything from J. Edgar Hoover to Lenny Bruce and Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Being concise isn’t often listed among DeLillo’s virtues. Even that brilliant opening to Underworld, the Dodgers/Giants pennant game with “The Shot Heard Round the World” at the end, was long enough to merit separate publication as a novella: Pafko at the Wall.
But nestled deep into Underworld, at page 227, is a little masterpiece of brevity, a veritable prose poem about the Challenger disaster, as told by “Bronzini.” (You’ll have to read the whole book to learn about him.) Here it is:
“Space burial. He thought of the contrails on that blue day out over the ocean, two years ago if that’s when it was–how the boosters sailed apart and hung the terrible letter Y in the still air. The vapor stayed intact for some time, the astronauts fallen to sea but also still up there, graved in frozen smoke, and he lay awake in the night and saw that deep Atlantic sky and thought this death was soaring and clean, an exalted thing, a passing of the troubled body into vapor and flame, out above the world, monogrammed, the Y of dying young.
“He wasn’t sure people wanted to see this. Willing to see the systems failure and the human suffering. But the beauty, the high faith of space, how could such qualities be linked to death? Seven men and women. Their beauty and ours, revealed in a failed mission as we haven’t seen it in a hundred triumphs. Apotheosis. Yes they were god-statured, transformed in those swanny streaks into the only sort of gods he cared to acknowledge, poetic and fleeting. He found this experience even more profound than the first moonwalk. That was stirring but also a little walkie-talkie, with ghosted action, movements that looked computerized, and he could never completely dismiss the suspicions of the paranoid elite, the old grizzled gurkhas of the corps, that the whole thing had been staged on a ranch outside Las Vegas.”
A nearsighted person sees close objects clearly, but distant objects appear blurry because their eyes are unable to focus correctly. Nearsightedness occurs when the length of the eye is greater than the optical length. As such, it is common amongst rapidly growing children and teenagers. Once a child becomes nearsighted, the condition continues to progress while they are still growing, which requires frequent changes in glasses and contact lenses. Luckily, the condition usually stops progressing once a child reaches their mature height. Nearsightedness tends to run in families and is equally prevalent in men and women.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent nearsightedness, and no known contributing external factors of the condition. Parents should arrange an appointment with an ophthalmologist for an eye examination if their child exhibits the following signs and symptoms of the condition:
Difficulty reading the blackboard at school or faraway signs on the wall;
Holding books very close to their face while reading;
Sitting too close to the Television;
Complaints that distant objects appear blurry;
Persistent squinting in order to see more clearly; and
Regular complaints of headaches caused by eyestrain.
A general eye examination is used to diagnose nearsightedness, and ophthalmologists usually prescribe glasses or contact lenses to treat the condition. In recent years, laser vision correction surgery is also becoming an increasingly popular option for correcting nearsightedness.
Mizuko kuyō, or “fetus memorial services”, is a popular ceremony is Japan for those who have had a miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion. The practice of Mizuko kuyō has existed in some form in Japan for at least two centuries, and is generally included among Shinto practices involving ancestor worship. Mizuko kuyō ceremonies traditionally make offerings to the bodhisattva Jizō, who is believed to protect children.
Historical upheavals, overpopulation and shifting values have contributed to the widespread practice of abortion in Japan. Abortion became particularly widespread after the ravages of World War II, in response to acute poverty and the need to control a growing population in a country with limited living space and no system of adoption. Moreover, while abortion is widely accepted in Japan, parents still express concern for the souls of their unborn babies. Thus, the practice of Mizuko kuyō reflects an effort to resolve parental grief, comfort the soul of the fetus and/or prevent retribution from the vengeful spirit.
Men and women of all ages and socio-economic classes practice Mizuko kuyō. At each temple, a notebook is provided in which parents can write messages to their babies. It is common for these temples to offer Jizo statues for a fee, which worshippers dress in red bibs and caps and display in the temple yard as a representation of their lost child. Some prominent Japanese figures have spoken out against Mizuko kuyō, claiming that the practice has become too commercial and that these temples advertise in a manner that exploits people’s fears of retaliation by the dead. However, many defend the practice on the grounds that it addresses important emotional needs of the people.