Monday, December 31, 2012

Michael Buble vs. Josh Groban



Michael Buble impersonating Josh Groban while Josh surprisingly appears on stage. Funny!



Guide to Knives

Friday, December 28, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dirtiest Place on the Planet


We went to the single most polluted place on earth, the coal-mining town of Linfen in Shanxi Province, China, where kids play in dirty rivers and the sun sets early behind a thick curtain of smog.

We went to the single most polluted place on earth, the coal-mining town of Linfen, China. In part 2, we check out illegal coal mines and find out what what makes China the world's leading polluter.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crazy Road Rage

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Penn & Teller: Mysteries of Magic

This magical trilogy is a history of magic and reveals many secrets behind the common tricks, illusions, and myths of magic. Teller, the silent half of the Penn & Teller comedy/illusionist duo, gives his first onscreen interviews in this series

Penn & Teller: Off the Deep End


Penn & Teller: Off the Deep End is a two-hour special that premiered on NBC on November 13, 2005. It featured magicians Penn & Teller performing a variety of illusions in various locations around the Caribbean, most of which were done underwater or involved marine animals. It also featured a performance by musician Aaron Carter.

Penn & Teller Magic and Mystery Tour


Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour is a 2003 television documentary miniseries starring Penn & Teller. The program was created by the CBC in association with Channel 4 Film.

The show focuses on street magic, and the subjects of each of the three shows are China (Chinese Linking Rings), India (Indian Rope Trick), and Egypt (Cups and Balls, Gali-Gali men). Unusually for Penn and Teller, Teller speaks in the Egypt episode, even though part of their trademark performance is that Penn does all the speaking.




Monday, December 17, 2012

I Am Adam Lanza's Mother

Source
posted by LIZA LONG on SAT, DEC 15, 2012 at 10:51 PM


Michael with a butterfly.
This has been reposted from The Blue Review.

Three days before 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn't have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what's wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he's in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He's in a good mood most of the time. But when he's not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30 a.m.-1:50 p.m. Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, "Look, Mom, I'm really sorry. Can I have video games back today?"

"No way," I told him. "You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly."

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. "Then I'm going to kill myself," he said. "I'm going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself."

That was it. After the knife incident, I had told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.

"Where are you taking me?" he said, suddenly worried. "Where are we going?"

"You know where we are going," I replied.

"No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!"

I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. "Call the police," I said. "Hurry."

Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—"Were there any difficulties with... at what age did your child... were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced.. does your child have..."

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You'll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, "I hate you. And I'm going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here."

By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I've heard those promises for years. I don't believe them anymore.

On the intake form, under the question, "What are your expectations for treatment?" I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza's mother. I am Dylan Klebold's and Eric Harris's mother. I am Jason Holmes's mother. I am Jared Loughner's mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho's mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

When I asked my son's social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail," he said. "That's the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges."

I don't believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael's sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.

With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011.

No one wants to send a 13-year-old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I agree that something must be done. It's time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That's the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

Liza Long is an author, musician, and erstwhile classicist. She is also a single mother of four bright, loved children, one of whom has special needs. To read more from the Blue Review, click here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How Do You Raise a Prodigy?

Source

Published: October 31, 2012



Photo illustration by Peter Yang for The New York Times

Drew Petersen didn’t speak until he was 3½, but his mother, Sue, never believed he was slow. When he was 18 months old, in 1994, she was reading to him and skipped a word, whereupon Drew reached over and pointed to the missing word on the page. Drew didn’t produce much sound at that stage, but he already cared about it deeply. “Church bells would elicit a big response,” Sue told me. “Birdsong would stop him in his tracks.”

Kit Armstrong at 5; he graduated from high school at 9.

Sue, who learned piano as a child, taught Drew the basics on an old upright, and he became fascinated by sheet music. “He needed to decode it,” Sue said. “So I had to recall what little I remembered, which was the treble clef.” As Drew told me, “It was like learning 13 letters of the alphabet and then trying to read books.” He figured out the bass clef on his own, and when he began formal lessons at 5, his teacher said he could skip the first six months’ worth of material. Within the year, Drew was performing Beethoven sonatas at the recital hall at Carnegie Hall. “I thought it was delightful,” Sue said, “but I also thought we shouldn’t take it too seriously. He was just a little boy.”

On his way to kindergarten one day, Drew asked his mother, “Can I just stay home so I can learn something?” Sue was at a loss. “He was reading textbooks this big, and they’re in class holding up a blowup M,” she said. Drew, who is now 18, said: “At first, it felt lonely. Then you accept that, yes, you’re different from everyone else, but people will be your friends anyway.” Drew’s parents moved him to a private school. They bought him a new piano, because he announced at 7 that their upright lacked dynamic contrast. “It cost more money than we’d ever paid for anything except a down payment on a house,” Sue said. When Drew was 14, he discovered a home-school program created by Harvard; when I met him two years ago, he was 16, studying at the Manhattan School of Music and halfway to a Harvard bachelor’s degree.

Prodigies are able to function at an advanced adult level in some domain before age 12. “Prodigy” derives from the Latin “prodigium,” a monster that violates the natural order. These children have differences so evident as to resemble a birth defect, and it was in that context that I came to investigate them. Having spent 10 years researching a book about children whose experiences differ radically from those of their parents and the world around them, I found that stigmatized differences — having Down syndrome, autism or deafness; being a dwarf or being transgender — are often clouds with silver linings. Families grappling with these apparent problems may find profound meaning, even beauty, in them. Prodigiousness, conversely, looks from a distance like silver, but it comes with banks of clouds; genius can be as bewildering and hazardous as a disability. Despite the past century’s breakthroughs in psychology and neuroscience, prodigiousness and genius are as little understood as autism. “Genius is an abnormality, and can signal other abnormalities,” says Veda Kaplinsky of Juilliard, perhaps the world’s pre-eminent teacher of young pianists. “Many gifted kids have A.D.D. or O.C.D. or Asperger’s. When the parents are confronted with two sides of a kid, they’re so quick to acknowledge the positive, the talented, the exceptional; they are often in denial over everything else.”

We live in ambitious times. You need only to go through the New York preschool application process, as I recently did for my son, to witness the hysteria attached to early achievement, the widespread presumption that a child’s destiny hinges on getting a baby foot on a tall ladder. Parental obsessiveness on this front reflects the hegemony of developmental psychiatry, with its insistence that first experience is formative. We now know that brain plasticity diminishes over time; it is easier to mold a child than to reform an adult. What are we to do with this information? I would hate for my children to feel that their worth is contingent on sustaining competitive advantage, but I’d also hate for them to fall short of their potential. Tiger mothers who browbeat their children into submission overemphasize a narrow category of achievement over psychic health. Attachment parenting, conversely, often sacrifices accomplishment to an ideal of unboundaried acceptance that can be equally pernicious. It’s tempting to propose some universal answer, but spending time with families of remarkably talented children showed me that what works for one child can be disastrous for another.

Children who are pushed toward success and succeed have a very different trajectory from that of children who are pushed toward success and fail. I once told Lang Lang, a prodigy par excellence and now perhaps the most famous pianist in the world, that by American standards, his father’s brutal methods — which included telling him to commit suicide, refusing any praise, browbeating him into abject submission — would count as child abuse. “If my father had pressured me like this and I had not done well, it would have been child abuse, and I would be traumatized, maybe destroyed,” Lang responded. “He could have been less extreme, and we probably would have made it to the same place; you don’t have to sacrifice everything to be a musician. But we had the same goal. So since all the pressure helped me become a world-famous star musician, which I love being, I would say that, for me, it was in the end a wonderful way to grow up.”

Drew Petersen began lessons at 5 and was playing Carnegie Hall within a year.

Natasha Paremski at 12, rehearsing Ravel.

While it is true that some parents push their kids too hard and give them breakdowns, others fail to support a child’s passion for his own gift and deprive him of the only life that he would have enjoyed. You can err in either direction. Given that there is no consensus about how to raise ordinary children, it is not surprising that there is none about how to raise remarkable children. Like parents of children who are severely challenged, parents of exceptionally talented children are custodians of young people beyond their comprehension.

Spending time with the Petersens, I was struck not only by their mutual devotion but also by the easy way they avoided the snobberies that tend to cling to classical music. Sue is a school nurse; her husband, Joe, works in the engineering department of Volkswagen. They never expected the life into which Drew has led them, but they have neither been intimidated by it nor brash in pursuing it; it remains both a diligence and an art. “How do you describe a normal family?” Joe said. “The only way I can describe a normal one is a happy one. What my kids do brings a lot of joy into this household.” When I asked Sue how Drew’s talent had affected how they reared his younger brother, Erik, she said: “It’s distracting and different. It would be similar if Erik’s brother had a disability or a wooden leg.”

Prodigiousness manifests most often in athletics, mathematics, chess and music. A child may have a brain that processes chess moves or mathematical equations like some dream computer, which is its own mystery, but how can the mature emotional insight that is necessary to musicianship emerge from someone who is immature? “Young people like romance stories and war stories and good-and-evil stories and old movies because their emotional life mostly is and should be fantasy,” says Ken Noda, a great piano prodigy in his day who gave up public performance and now works at the Metropolitan Opera. “They put that fantasized emotion into their playing, and it is very convincing. I had an amazing capacity for imagining these feelings, and that’s part of what talent is. But it dries up, in everyone. That’s why so many prodigies have midlife crises in their late teens or early 20s. If our imagination is not replenished with experience, the ability to reproduce these feelings in one’s playing gradually diminishes.”

Musicians often talked to me about whether you achieve brilliance on the violin by practicing for hours every day or by reading Shakespeare, learning physics and falling in love. “Maturity, in music and in life, has to be earned by living,” the violinist Yehudi Menuhin once said. Who opens up or blocks access to such living? A musical prodigy’s development hinges on parental collaboration. Without that support, the child would never gain access to an instrument, the technical training that even the most devout genius requires or the emotional nurturance that enables a musician to achieve mature expression. As David Henry Feldman and Lynn T. Goldsmith, scholars in the field, have said, “A prodigy is a group enterprise.”

Some prodigies seem to trade on a splinter skill — an ability in music that occupies their whole consciousness, leaving them virtually incompetent in all other areas. Others have a dazzling capacity for achievement in general and select music from among multitudinous gifts. Mikhail and Natalie Paremski held comfortable positions within the Soviet system: Mikhail with the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Agency; Natalie with the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. Their daughter, Natasha, born in 1987, showed a precocious interest in the piano. “I was in the kitchen, and I thought, Who is playing?” Natalie recalls. “Then I saw: it’s the baby, picking out nursery songs.” By the time she was 4, Natasha had played a Chopin mazurka in a children’s concert.

When Marc Yu was 8, he was flying from California to China for lessons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Mikhail emigrated to California; the family followed in 1995. Natasha entered fourth grade, two years younger than her classmates. Within months, she was speaking English without an accent and coming in first on every school test. The family couldn’t afford a good piano; they finally found a cheap one that “sounded like cabbage,” Natasha recalls, and she began performing Haydn concertos, Beethoven sonatas and Chopin études. “Everyone would say, ‘You must be so proud of your daughter,’ ” Natalie told me. “I used to say that it’s not for me to be proud; it’s Natasha who does this herself — but I learned that this is not the polite American way. So now I always say, ‘I am so proud of my daughter,’ and then maybe we can have a conversation.” Natasha agreed. “What did they do to make me practice?” she asked when I first interviewed her, at 16. “What did they do to make me eat or sleep?”

Natasha graduated with top honors from high school at 14 and was offered a full scholarship by Mannes College the New School for Music in New York. Her mother worried about a deficit of soul in New York. “There is no time for vision! People are just struggling to survive, like in Moscow,” Natalie said — to which her daughter replied, “Vision is how I survive.” In those early New York days, Natasha and her mother spoke by phone constantly. Nonetheless, Natalie said, “that was my present to her: I gave her her own life.”

In 2004, when Natasha was 16, I went to her Carnegie Hall debut, for which she played Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. She’s a beautiful young woman, with cascades of hair and a sylphlike figure, and she wore a sleeveless, black velvet dress, so her arms would feel free, and a pair of insanely high heels that she said gave her better leverage on the pedals. Her parents were not there. “They’re too supportive to come,” Natasha told me just before the concert. Afterward, Natalie explained, “If I am there, I am so worried about every single note that I can’t even sit still. It’s not helpful to Natasha.”

Natasha later said she saw nothing strange in a musician’s ability to express emotions she has not experienced. “Had I experienced them, that wouldn’t necessarily help me to express them better in my music. I’m an actress, not a character; my job is to represent something, not to live it. Chopin wrote a mazurka, Person X in the audience wants to hear the mazurka and so I have to decipher the score and make it apprehensible to Person X, and it’s really hard to do. But it has nothing to do with my life experience.”

After the English lawyer Daines Barrington examined the 8-year-old Mozart in 1764, he wrote: “He had a thorough knowledge of the fundamental principles of composition. He was also a great master of modulation, and his transitions from one key to another were excessively natural and judicious.” Yet, Mozart was also clearly a child. “Whilst he was playing to me, a favorite cat came in, upon which he immediately left his harpsichord, nor could we bring him back for a considerable time. He would also sometimes run about the room with a stick between his legs by way of horse.”

Every prodigy is a chimera of such mastery and childishness, and the contrast between musical sophistication and personal immaturity can be striking. One prodigy I interviewed switched from the violin to the piano when she was 7. She offered to tell me why if I didn’t tell her mother. “I wanted to sit down,” she said.

Chloe Yu was born in Macao and came to the United States to study when she was 17. She married at 25, and her son, Marc, was born a year later, in Pasadena, Calif. While she was pregnant, Chloe played the piano to him. When Marc was almost 3, he picked out a few tunes on the piano with two fingers; within a few months, Chloe had found him a teacher advanced enough to respond to his emerging talent. At 5, he added the cello to his regimen. “Soon he asked for more instruments,” Chloe told me. “I said: ‘That’s it, Marc. Be realistic. Two is enough.’ ”

Chloe gave up on the master’s degree she was working on. She had divorced Marc’s father, but because she had no money, she and Marc ended up living with her ex-in-laws, in a room over the garage. Marc’s grandparents did not approve of his “excessive” devotion to the piano. “His grandmother loves him a lot,” Chloe said. “But she just wanted him to be a normal 5-year-old.” When Marc was in preschool, Chloe felt he was ready to perform, and she contacted local retirement facilities and hospitals to offer free recitals. Soon the papers were writing about this young genius. “When I began to understand how talented he is, I was so excited!” Chloe said. “And also so afraid!”

At 6, Marc won a fellowship for gifted youth that covered the down payment on a Steinway. By the time Marc was 8, he and Chloe were flying to China frequently for lessons; Chloe explained that whereas her son’s American teachers gave him broad interpretive ideas to explore freely, his Chinese teacher taught measure by measure. I asked Marc whether he found it difficult traveling so far. “Well, fortunately, I don’t have vestigial somnolence,” he said. I raised an eyebrow. “You know — jet lag,” he apologized.

Marc was being home-schooled to accommodate his performance and practice schedule. At the age of a third-grader, he was taking an SAT class. Chloe serves as his manager and reviews concert invitations with him. “In America, every kid has to be well rounded,” Chloe said. “They have 10 different activities, and they never excel at any of them. Americans want everyone to have the same life; it’s a cult of the average. This is wonderful for disabled children, who get things they would never have otherwise, but it’s a disaster for gifted children. Why should Marc spend his life learning sports he’s not interested in when he has this superb gift that gives him so much joy?”

At their home in California, I asked Marc what he thought of a normal childhood. “I already have a normal childhood,” he said. “Do you want to see my room? It’s messy, but you can come anyway.” Upstairs, he showed me a yellow remote-controlled helicopter that his father had sent from China. The bookshelves were crammed with Dr. Seuss, “Jumanji” and “The Wind in the Willows” but also “Moby-Dick”; with “Sesame Street” videos and also a series of DVDs on the music of Prague, Vienna and so on. We sat on the floor, and he showed me his favorite Gary Larson cartoons, and then we played the board game Mouse Trap.

Then we went downstairs, and Marc sat on a phone book on the piano bench so his hands would be high enough to play comfortably and launched into Chopin’s “Fantasie-Impromptu,” which he imbued with a quality of nuanced yearning that seemed almost inconceivable in someone with a shelf of Cookie Monster videos. “You see?” Chloe said to me. “He’s not a normal child. Why should he have a normal childhood?”

A parent is the progenitor of much of a child’s behavior, telling that child repeatedly who he has been, is and could be, reconciling accomplishment and naïveté. In constructing this narrative, parents often confuse the anomaly of developing fast with the objective of developing profoundly. There is no clear delineation between supporting and pressuring a child, between believing in your child and forcing your child to conform to what you imagine for him. If society’s expectations for most children with profound differences are too low, expectations for prodigies are often perilously high. “When you have a child whose gift is so overshadowing, it is possible for parents to be distracted and lose track of the child himself,” says Karen Monroe, a psychiatrist at Boston’s McLean Hospital who works with prodigious children.

If you dream of having a genius for a child, you will spot brilliance in your child, sometimes even when it isn’t there. Such children, despite being the subjects of obsessive attention, can suffer from not being seen; their sorrow is organized not so much around the rigor of practicing as around invisibility. And yet, accomplishment entails giving up the pleasures of the present moment in favor of anticipated triumphs, and that is an impulse that must be learned. Left to their own devices, children do not become world-class instrumentalists before they turn 10.

When I spoke to the mother of one musical prodigy on the telephone to set up an interview, I invited her and her daughter to dinner, but she said, “We have a family of fussy eaters, so we’ll eat before we come.” The girl and her parents, whom I’ve granted anonymity for their own protection, arrived wearing coats, and I offered to hang them up. “That won’t be necessary,” the mother said, and they sat holding them through the interview. I offered them something to drink, but the woman said, “We are so used to our schedule, and it’s not time for a drink right now.” In three hours, none of them had a sip of water. I had put out homemade cookies, and the daughter kept glancing at them; every time she did, the mother shot her a look. Whenever I asked the daughter a question, her mother jumped in to answer on her behalf; when the daughter did reply, she did so with an anxious glance at her mother, as if worried that she delivered the wrong response.

The daughter was holding her instrument case, so I invited her to play. “I think I’ll play the Bach Chaconne,” she said. Her mother said, “How about the Rimsky-Korsakov?” She replied, “No, no, no, the Chaconne is better.” The daughter had told me that she chose her instrument for its resemblance to her voice; now it provided her only chance to be heard over her mother. She played the Chaconne. When she finished, her mother said, “Now you can play the Rimsky-Korsakov.” The daughter dutifully launched into “Flight of the Bumblebee,” the proof of every virtuoso. “Vivaldi?” her mother said, and she played “Summer” from “The Four Seasons.” She played with a clear, bright tone, although not with such brilliance as to resolve the question of why a childhood had been sacrificed for this art. I had hoped this child would light up when her bow met the strings, but instead she brought out her instrument’s searing melancholy.

Throughout much of history, prodigies were thought to be possessed; Aristotle believed that there could be no genius without madness. Paganini was accused of putting himself in the hands of the devil. The Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso said in 1891, “Genius is a true degenerative psychosis belonging to the group of moral insanity.” Recent neuroscience demonstrates that the processes of creativity and psychosis map similarly in the brain, each contingent on a reduced number of dopamine D2 receptors in the thalamus. A continuum runs between the two conditions; there is no sharp line.

The parents of children with disabilities must be educated to see the identity within a perceived illness, but the parents of prodigies are confronted with an identity and must be educated to recognize the prospect of illness within it. Even those without a sideline diagnosis like A.D.D. or Asperger’s need to mitigate the loneliness of being peerless and of having their primary emotional relationship with an inanimate object. “If you’re spending five hours a day practicing, and the other kids are out playing baseball, you’re not doing the same things,” Karen Monroe says. “Even if you love it and can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, that doesn’t mean you don’t feel lonely.”

If Chloe Yu scorned the idea of a normal childhood, May Armstrong simply had to bow to the reality that no such thing could be achieved with her only son, Kit. Born in 1992, Kit could count at 15 months; May taught him addition and subtraction at 2, and he worked out multiplication and division for himself. While digging in the garden, he explained the principle of leverage to his mother. By 5, he explained Einstein’s theory of time dilation to her. May, an economist, was frankly bemused: “By nature, every mother wants to be protective, but he didn’t need protection. I can’t say that was easy.”

May had left Taiwan at 22 to study in the United States and spent holidays by herself. “I knew what loneliness was all about, and I thought he needed a hobby he could enjoy on his own,” she says. So she started him on piano lessons when he was 5, even though she had no interest in music. After three weeks of lessons, Kit started composing without an instrument on staff paper: the written language of music had come to him whole.

When Kit was 3, a supervisor of his play group told May that he let other children push him around. “I went in one day and saw another child snatch a toy away from him,” May said. “I told him he should stand up for himself, and he said: ‘That kid will be bored in two minutes, and then I can play with it again. Why start a fight?’ So he was mature already. What did I have to teach this kid? But he always seemed happy, and that was what I wanted most for him. He used to look in the mirror and burst out laughing.” May enrolled him in school. “His teacher told me that she wanted her other kids to grow up in kindergarten,” she said. “She wanted mine to grow down.”

By age 9, he had graduated from high school and started college in Utah. “The other students often thought it was strange that he was there,” May says, “but Kit never did.” His piano skills, meanwhile, had advanced enough so that by the time he was 10, he appeared on David Letterman. Shortly after, Kit toured the physics research facility at Los Alamos. A physicist said that, unlike the postdoctoral physicists who usually visited, Kit was so bright that no one could “find the bottom of this boy’s knowledge.” A few years later, Kit attended a summer program at M.I.T., where he helped edit papers in physics, chemistry and mathematics. “He just understands things,” May said to me, almost resigned. “Someday, I want to work with parents of disabled children, because I know their bewilderment is like mine. I had no idea how to be a mother to Kit, and there was no place to find out.”

May moved them to London to pursue Kit’s musicianship, and he soon met the revered pianist Alfred Brendel; he took Kit on and refused payment for lessons. When he learned that Kit was practicing at a piano showroom, he had a Steinway delivered to their apartment.

“I have no ear to be any help to Kit,” May said. “All I can do is remind him that he is very lucky to have been born with those talents. I’d have preferred that he be a professor of mathematics. It’s an easier life.” Then she added, “But Kit has decided that mathematics is his hobby, and the piano is his work.” At 18, Kit was pursuing an M.A. in pure mathematics in Paris; he said he did it “to unwind.” I asked May if she ever worried that Kit, like many young people of remarkable ability, might have a nervous breakdown. She laughed. “If anyone’s going to have a nervous breakdown in this setup,” she said, “it’s me!”

There is no federal mandate for gifted education. But if we recognize the importance of special programs for students whose atypical brains encode less-accepted differences, we should extrapolate to create programs for those whose atypical brains encode remarkable abilities. Writing in Time magazine in 2007, the educator John Cloud faulted the “radically egalitarian” values underlying the No Child Left Behind Act, which provided little support forgifted students. Once again, it falls to parents to advocate for their children’s needs, often in the face of a hostile or indifferent educational system. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, himself a conductor and a former wunderkind, remarked dryly, “If Beethoven were sent to nursery school today, they would medicate him, and he would be a postal

Growing up gay in the 1970s, I encountered prejudice from the world at large that often crossed into disdain. My parents were never derisive, but they were uncomfortable with the ways I differed from them and encouraged me to try to be straight. I began researching children of difference in a quest to forgive my mother and father for pressing me to be untrue to myself. I wanted to look at the process through which parents reconcile themselves to children who throw up significant challenges. I found that many families come to celebrate children with characteristics they initially found incomprehensible — just as my parents did. Having seen how hard it was for other parents, I decided, with considerable relief, that mine had actually done a pretty good job and realized that I was ready to be a parent myself.

My research on prodigies echoed my study of children with other differences. Sue Petersen compared her experience to having a child with a wooden leg; May Armstrong saw common ground with parents of disabled children; and I realized that parenthood always entails perplexity and that the valence of that perplexity matters less than the spirit with which parents respond to it. Half the prodigies I studied seemed to be under pressure to be even more astonishing than they naturally were, and the other half, to be more ordinary than their talents. Studying their families, I gradually recognized that all parenting is guesswork, and that difference of any kind, positive or negative, makes the guessing harder. That insight has largely shaped me as a father. I don’t think I would love my children more if they could play Rachmaninoff’s Third, and I hope I wouldn’t love them less for having that consuming skill, any more than I would if they were affected with a chronic illness. But I am frankly relieved that so far, they show no such uncanny aptitude.

Andrew Solomon is a lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell. His book “Far From the Tree,” from which this essay is adapted, will be published this month by Scribner.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Self-taught African Teen Wows M.I.T



15-Year-Old Kelvin Doe is an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely self-taught, Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts news and plays music under the moniker, DJ Focus.

Kelvin became the youngest person in history to be invited to the "Visiting Practitioner's Program" at MIT. THNKR had exclusive access to Kelvin and his life-changing journey - experiencing the US for the first time, exploring incredible opportunities, contending with homesickness, and mapping out his future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This is so sad and beautiful

Source







She was only 31 and I would have preferred her hair less 'matronly'. I needed photos from every angle though so I had to use photos from our wedding day when her hair was up with orchids in it.


Not sure if you get an orangered for an edit, but I was thinking about being called pathetic, and I wanted you to understand what I just went through. Sorry for the wall of text, but I wanted to get it off my chest.

I had to be strong three years ago when my wife began to have strange symptoms that the doctors couldn’t explain.

I had to be strong when they called me from the emergency room to tell me that my wife’s panic attack was actually a huge brain tumor in her frontal lobe.

I had to be strong when they told me, but not her, how serious it was.

I had to be strong during the eight hour operation when the doctors told me she probably wouldn’t walk or talk normally afterwards.

I had to be strong when I fed her in intensive care.

I had to be strong while we waited for the biopsy.

I had to be strong when she got worse this year. The tumor was in the frontal lobe, so her personality changed dramatically. She refused to work or doing anything in the house so I manned up and just did fucking everything - shopping, cooking, cleaning etc...

I had to be strong when she started going insane and telling me about the great sex she had that day with her imaginary lovers, or that our little dog had satan in her.

I had to be strong when the physical symptoms started showing up.

I had to be strong when I sent her home so her folks could see her again.

I had to be strong when her doctor told me there was nothing to be done and she would be dead in a month.

Actually, to be honest, I wasn’t strong here, I cried like a child in his office.

I had to be strong when I called her folks to say she was going to die.

I had to be strong when I flew to be with her. I was worried her parents might blame me. ‘Did I do everything I could?’, ‘Did I fail as a husband?’. ‘If your wife dies isn’t that somehow automatically your failure as a husband?’. Her father was a regional director for her country's secret service, not the kind of man you want to think that you were somehow responsible for his daughter’s death.

I had to be strong when a day later she could no longer move or talk or open her eyes.

I had to be strong when the last time I was with her, her hand started trembling uncontrollably under her blanket. I though maybe she was too warm, so I pulled the blanket down. For five minutes her little hand trembled as she brought it up to her mouth and extended her finger.

She was asking me for a kiss.

I had to be strong when the most beautiful creature I had ever seen died. Here is a picture of her.



She was like a little cross between Audrey Hepburn and Sofia Lauren. As well as being incredibly intelligent and so full of life.

I had to be strong when the first dead person I ever saw was my 31 year old wife.

I had to be strong when the first coffin I ever saw go into the ground was my wife’s.

I had to be strong during the 5 day funeral, when 700 guests came to pay their respects to me and her family.

Now its all over. I’m alone in our house. I am so sick of being strong. Fuck being strong. Being strong got me fucking nothing. We don’t have kids I need to be strong for. It’s just me and the dog. She sits in my wife’s spot on the couch and whimpers. So were being pathetic together.

People keep saying ‘your wife would want you to be happy’. Bullshit! I know my wife, she loved her life, wherever she is now I bet there is a part of her that is fucking pissed off that she was cheated this way and she would damn well want me to be miserable right now and to mourn her and mourn her hard. Not forever, but for a reasonable amount of time. We were given everything and then had it take from us. It is horribly tragic. I should be sad.

My request for music is not to dwell in sadness though. This is art's great moment for me. This is when art steps up. Listening to these artists makes me feel less alone in my grief. It reminds me that others have gone through what I'm going through.

That I'm really not as alone as I feel right now.




Sunday, November 18, 2012

Recent Meme Followups


James Bond


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

McGyver in Prison - 9 Objects Turned into Weapons

Source

Prisoners improvising weapons out of everyday objects like sociopathic MacGyvers are a staple of every movie that takes place inside a prison. However, real inmates aren't limited to just the sharpened toothbrushes and Nicolas Cage fleshmasks Hollywood gives them credit for.
#9. Melted Chocolate

Some prisoners melt down chocolate bars and throw the boiling hot confection over their enemies, which sticks like napalm and causes severe burns. We figure this must have been an idea the killer from Se7en kicked around during his gluttony planning phase.


At least you'll be a delicious burn victim.
#8. Chair Leg Nunchucks

Lorenzo Pollard built a pair of nunchucks in his cell out of bedsheets and a chair. Like Michelangelo imprisoned for accidentally killing a stripper on Donatello's birthday, he beat the hell out of a dozen guards and vaulted the prison walls to freedom (although he was quickly recaptured, which was decidedly less radical).


#7. Matchstick Anime Swords

One prisoner in Wales spent his time building matchstick replicas of weapons from both the Final Fantasy series and the anime Bleach, presumably because being surrounded by unshaven men terrified of taking showers reminded him too much of Comic-Con. Incredibly, the blades were all razor sharp and perfectly capable of gutting some skinhead in an epileptic flurry of strobe flashes and floating cats, so the guards confiscated them.

The Sun
#6. A Toilet Paper Shiv

Short on toothbrushes (those old standbys) and razors, one inmate made a papier-mache shank out of toilet paper. This is officially the worst possible way that a person can be stabbed short of honing a petrified turd into a dagger.

Offbeat Earth via Corrections One
Final Fantasy swords and now Klingon knives. We never thought imprisoned nerds could be this terrifying.
#5. Spears

The inmates at San Quentin carve blades from the metal frameworks of their beds and then tie them to poles formed of tightly bound magazines to make spears. This seems to suggest that either all of the guards were blinded by the same transformer explosion or there is a serious tiger infestation in the jail that nobody's doing anything about.

Gizmodo
#4. A Bomb

One convicted murderer built an incendiary bomb out of batteries, electrical wire and matches, and then mailed it to the judge who sentenced him. The package made it all the way to the judge before it was disarmed, because apparently nobody at any stage of prison administration thought this was suspicious. After all, it might have been cookies.


"Yeah, that seems on the level."
#3. A Bedpost Shotgun

In 1984, two German prisoners made a shotgun out of bedposts with "buckshot" composed of lead flakes and matches. Despite being in a fortress full of people with real, actual guns, they managed to take a guard hostage with it and steal a car to escape.

Marc Steinmetz
#2. Coffee Creamer Flamethrowers

In the past, inmates routinely made flamethrowers (yes, that sentence contained both the word "routinely" and the plural "flamethrowers") out of coffee creamer. They would take a tube of some sort, hold a lighter at one end and blow creamer through it from the other. The granules would pass through the flame and ignite like a Rammstein concert, so most prisons nowadays cruelly force their inmates to drink their coffee black.

Scam School
For everyone not in prison, truck stops just got a lot more interesting.
#1. A Crossbow

One prisoner in solitary confinement in Manitoba, Canada, spent his time in the dark assembling an incredibly intricate crossbow, sort of like if Tony Stark had been imprisoned by Saxons and tasked with building them a fiefdom-leveling catapult. Seriously, check out the list of components -- 10 toothbrushes (they should really just limit inmates to rigorous Scope rinsings), tongs, string, a lighter and darts made out of tinfoil and cotton swabs. It's almost like a ghost dared him to kill his captors using only Piccadilly Cafeteria and the personal hygiene aisle of Rite-Aid.

Can Crime
Behold: The Crapbow.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Real Life Superhero Fight




Recorded live on my iPhone on 11/9/12 at 1:56 AM PST

Phoenix Jones, Midnight Jack, Red Falcon, Bishop and Westlake Drake are on a routine patrol of the University District when they come across a man yelling at a car. The suspect, out side of the car in the orange shirt, starts punching the window of the car scaring the passengers of the vehicle. Phoenix steps in, stops the assault while Red calls 911.

The suspect in orange then changes his target to Phoenix and begins using racial slurs. After 8 minutes of trying to de-escalate the situation the cops arrive (this is a the 2:32 mark of your condensed video). Phoenix Jones tells the officer that he would like to leave and would like a police escort to the team's car. The cop agrees and then the suspect in orange says "F**k you ni**er! I'll bring this to your house!"

At this point Phoenix agrees to mutual combat, the two shake hands and the fight commences. Right before Phoenix knocks out the suspect in orange, the suspect says "You know you don't want none of this". His friends confuse this with him trying to stop the fight and begin another verbal attack on Phoenix.

The police officers move in and tell the suspect's friends that the suspect agreed to fight and in Washington that is legal but if either of them touch Phoenix without consent they will be arrested for assault. With the suspect in orange still unconscious Phoenix and his team continue patrol.

"I RESPECT EVERYONE'S RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH. THE ONLY REASON I CONSENTED TO A FIGHT WAS BECAUSE HE SAID HE WOULD COME TO MY HOUSE. I TAKE MY FAMILY'S SAFETY VERY SERIOUSLY."

On the way home Phoenix was contacted by 911 who said the original victims the man in orange had assaulted would like to press charges. Phoenix agreed to give them the video of their assault and not to play it for the public until the Seattle police could review it.

**UPDATE** Phoenix Jones wants to remind you that while this video is funny, entertaining, and justified, it is most importantly legal: Seattle Municipal Code 12A.06.025.

"My goal is to keep the people safe and to uphold the law. That is why I called the official authorities to report the crime and then later, under the SPD's supervision, engaged in legal mutual combat. I spend time studying the laws applicable to my nightly activities in addition to the time I spend in the gym training in combat." - PJ

Sunday, November 4, 2012

True Size of Africa


Friday, November 2, 2012

Behind The Scene Photos of Hit Movies


Back to the Future

Leon: The Professional

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Godfather

Planet of the Apes

Some like it Hot

Gone with the Wind

Star Wars

Robocop

Silence of the Lambs

Titanic

The Lord of the Rings

Star Wars 

Alien

Inception

Jaws

E.T

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

A Clockwork Orange

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Ghostbusters

The Birds

Planet of the Apes

Superman

Jaws

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Batman (1966)

Star Wars

Raging Bull

Conan the Barbarian

Alien

Star Wars

The Shining

The Goonies

The Dark Knight

Terminator 2

The Matrix

Star Wars

Predator

Ghostbusters

Star Trek

independence Day

Gladiator

Star Wars: Episode 1

Superman

Gremlins

Terminator

Star Wars

The Basketball Diaries

Casablanca

Kill Bill

Kill Bill

Alfred Hitchcock directing MGM Lion

The Dark Knight

Terminator 2

Jurassic Park

Back to the Future

Ghostbusters

The Godfather

The Shining

Titanic

Inglorious Bastards

The Departed

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Avengers

Terminator 2

Lord of the Rings

Jaws

Terminator

The Dark Knight

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back

Rocky

Superman IV

Requiem for a Dream

Godzilla

Tron

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Star Wars

Edward Scissorhands

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

The Fifth Element

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

 Pulp Fiction

Rocky II

Saving Private Ryan

Scarface

The Exorcist

IT

The Shining

Halloween

Carrie

Night of the Living Dead

The Dark Knight

Child's Play

Pet Sematary

Frankenstein

Nightmare on Elm Street

Critters 3

The Omen

Scream

The Fly

The Incredible Shrinking Man

The Gate

IT

SAW

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Silence of the Lambs

Lord of the Rings

Lost in Translation

Reservoir Dogs

Raging Bull

Star Wars

The Good Son

Valkyrie

Kill Bill



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