Blog War?

Remember my post down below feeling flattered to be called a nice liberal blog by ‘neoconservative’ Joe Katzman? Katzman represented the blogging world as a human tide from the right in reaction to the alleged disenfranchisement of their viewpoint in the mainstream media. Well, perhaps I should have been offended instead. Although I assume Katzman isn’t consciously part of any grand conspiracy, it’s clear he’s sensitive to the zeitgeist. And here’s a New York Times piece, A Rift Among Bloggers, which may place Katzman’s stance in the following context:

Thanks in part to the participation of some prominent journalists and academics, the pundit-style blogs quickly reached a level of public and media recognition that other blogs had never achieved. As a result, some latecomers now think Weblogs are inherently political. That has perturbed some Weblog veterans, who say the war bloggers are rewriting history and presenting a distorted view of blogs. They say the diversity of Weblogs is being overshadowed by the attention-getting style of war blogs… (T)he war bloggers say they represent the evolution of a medium that might have languished in obscurity without them.

Along with Kottke, this site, Blogroots, a collaboration among ‘old-school bloggers’ Meg Hourihan, Matt Haughey and Paul Bausch, is at the forefront of the backlash against the pundits. The three are the latest to jump into the weblogging-book craze, with the forthcoming We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs. One question for the warbloggers. If they think they invented the politicization of weblogging after Sept. 11th, what would they make, for example, of the tide of reaction in the weblogging world to the 2000 Presidential dys-election?

Katinka Matson’s Twelve Flowers:

“When I saw Matson’s images I was blown away. Erase from your mind any notion of pixels or any grainy artifact of previous digitalization gear. Instead imagine a painter who could, like Vermeer, capture the quality of light that a camera can, but with the color of paints. That is what a scanner gives you. Now imagine a gifted artist like Matson exploring what the world looks like when it can only see two inches in front of its eye, but with infinite detail! In her flowers one can see every microscopic dew drop, leaf vein, and particle of pollen—in satisfying rich pigmented color. (From the Introduction By Kevin Kelly)” The Edge

Man Who Headed Emergency Site in Oklahoma Accused of Being Impostor:

“The man wearing a green beret and camouflage fatigues called himself Capt. William Clark from the Army’s Special Forces. He arrived two hours after an interstate bridge collapsed and said he was in charge.

Some emergency workers listened to him for a few days until he disappeared from the site. Authorities said Friday that the man is an ex-convict from Missouri who impersonated an officer to get free food, lodging and a pickup truck.” Tampa Bay Online

Global Warming Blamed for Melting Everest Glacier

“A glacier from which Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay set out to conquer Mount Everest nearly 50 years ago has retreated three miles up the mountain due to global warming, a U.N. body says.”

A team of climbers, backed by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), reported after their two-week visit last month that the impact of rising temperatures was everywhere to be seen.” Yahoo! News

Did anyone get to see the crescent setting sun? We’re out of luck here on the East Coast of North America, where it was already after sunset when the eclipse happened…

Fibromyalgia Pain Isn’t All In Patients’ Heads, New Brain Study Finds

A new brain-scan study confirms scientifically what fibromyalgia patients have been telling a skeptical medical community for years: They’re really in pain.

In fact, the study finds, people with fibromyalgia say they feel severe pain, and have measurable pain signals in their brains, from a gentle finger squeeze that barely feels unpleasant to people without the disease. The squeeze’s force must be doubled to cause healthy people to feel the same level of pain — and their pain signals show up in different brain areas.

The results, published in the current issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, the journal of the American College of Rheumatology, may offer the proof of fibromyalgia’s physical roots that many doubtful physicians have sought.

As one of the first psychiatrists to pay attention to the then-new entity of fibromyalgia, I wrote and taught about it from two perspectives — both the importance of recognizing the reality of mysterious mind-body complaints and the suffering they cause, as this study points out; and the nondiscriminating way these diagnoses become fads and are applied broadly by clinicians jumping on a bandwagon and by patients invested in the diagnoses as explanations of their vague malaise. Fibromyalgia is one of the more recent entities to occupy what is a perennial niche for controversial syndromes at the interstices of various medical specialties. Some go on to be dismissed as passing fads, others go on to gain scientific veracity, and others linger for quite a long time in a never-never land between those two extremes. So, while the present study makes sense — if the fibromyalgia patients are carefully selected to be a homogeneously, rigidly-defined sample, there will be some objective findings — I would also assert that this probably applies only to a very small subset of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia in the ‘real world’, and should not be used to legitimize the indiscriminate, ever-broadening application of the label to patients whose suffering should more properly be understood in different (psychological, usually) terms.

Hal Rager, of the weblog blivet, wrote to point out to me that he was a fibromyalgia sufferer. Here’s his take on the same research report:

I was extremely ill six years ago, and fibromyalgia was one of the constellation of things I was diagnosed with. I accept that there may well be a psychosomatic component to fibromyalgia, but I resented like hell the implications by some that my pain was fabricated. If the brain is registering pain, it’s pain. It may be being caused by problems with brain chemistry, but the pain was as real as pain gets.

By the way, there are far broader implications of this study. The assessment of subjective complaints of pain against some objective standard has long been a Holy Grail across disciplines of clinical medicine, for obvious reasons. Longtime FmH readers will know how excited I have been with the developments we’re seeing with functional brain imaging such as fMRI. If it finally allows us to verify and perhaps grade pain experiences (by watching brain regions involved with noxious experiences), we may yet drink from the Grail. Not only could this give guidance to the bitter problems of both the overmedication and undermedication of pain, but might we more readily empathize with neurological analogues to fMRI patterns that indubitably entail pain in humans when we see them in non-human species? On the other hand, how brightly a signal lights up on some objective scale on an fMRI reading doesn’t tell the whole story. By a sort of physiological “Peter Principle’, the subjective experience of pain probably expands to fill every bit of the space allocated for it, and is that any less real?

Decline and Fall (cont’d.):

Three shot to death at Missouri abbey: “Three people died and one was injured Monday when a gunman opened fire at a Roman Catholic monastery in a remote area of northwest Missouri, the Missouri Highway Patrol reported.

It was not known if the gunman was still on the grounds of the Benedictine monastery and seminary, where about 45 monks live…” CNN No one’s commenting on a motive yet. Tempting to speculate that this relates to the opening floodgates of long overdue attention to rampant sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Or was this just the latest variant on the — now becoming sickeningly mundane — American epidemic of workplace slaughters, e.g. yesterday’s murder of three in a Rhode Island newspaper plant?

A high school friend who reads my weblog wrote to remind me that Forest Hills HS’s other claims to a place in rock ‘n’ roll history include Paul Simon, former centerfielder for our baseball team (he met Art Garfunkel, also an FHHS student, in detention after school); and Leslie West, lead singer-guitarist for Mountain (anyone remember them?). [thanks, Jerry!]

I also seem to recall that Walter Becker — or was it Donald Fagen? — of Steely Dan supposedly graduated from my high school.

Quark Soup: this weblog by David Appell, who is a PhD in physics and a writer, was recommended by an FmH’er who wrote:

“I just discovered this very well-informed & well-written science-oriented weblog by a science journalist. He’s been clarifying global warming in great detail these past two weeks, and has some rather sharp things to say about the pretensions of the punditocracy in such matters.”

U.S. Arrests American Accused of Planning ‘Dirty Bomb’ Attack: ‘Attorney General John Ashcroft said today that American authorities had arrested a home-grown terrorist — an American citizen who became an Al Qaeda member — and thereby thwarted a radioactive-bomb attack on the United States.

“We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or `dirty bomb,’ in the United States,” Mr. Ashcroft said in a televised announcement from Moscow,’ emphasizing the close cooperation between the CIA, FBI and Defense Dept. in disrupting the plot — only it is not really clear there is a plot. The information leading to his arrest apperas to come primarily from Abu Zubaydah, the reputed ‘top Al Qaeda official’ arested in Pakistan in March. The suspect, who is reportedly a former Chicago street gang member who converted to Islam after a prison term, has some expertise in bomb-making and some interest in radiological dispersion weapons, and the assumption that Al Qaeda has interest in such weapons has been corroborated by Abu Zubaydah, but officials report “there was not an actual plan.” NY Times [By the way, how likely do you think it is that there is only one such man in the US with such a mission and expertise? -FmH]