Friday, April 22, 2011

This I Believe - Part 3

Edward R. Murrow once said, in addressing the impossibility of absolute objectivity, "We are all the prisoners of our own experience, of our reading, or our indoctrination, and our travels." This is just as true of teachers as it is reporters. It therefore seems fitting that, in full disclosure, I express something here about my background and beliefs. So, here are a few more things I know to be true.

7. Actor and Rapper Joaquin Phoenix suffered a very public nervous breakdown.

How do I know this? I saw the documentary.

The first signs that Academy Award Winning actor Joaquin Phoenix might be in emotional distress was a disquieting and uncomfortable appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" on February 11, 2009. Disheveled and befuddled, he announced his retirement from acting and his desire to begin a new career as a rap artist.

Phoenix's brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, bravely chronicled the actor's tragic decline in a documentary titled "I'm Still Here."

Luckily for all concerned, Joaquin Phoenix made a miraculous and somewhat sudden recovery.

8. In 2000, psychologist Dr. Abigail "Abbey" Tyler used hypnosis to recover suppressed memories of alien abductions from residents of Nome, Alaska.

In the course of using hypnotherapy to treat patients with sleep disorders, Dr. Tyler recovered disturbing repressed memories from three patients suggesting that they had been abducted by aliens. These terrifying session were videotaped, and were included in a feature film telling Dr. Tyler's fantastic story.

For those who might be skeptical, the internet has proven to be a treasure trove of substantiating information. The Alaska Psychiatry Journal Online lists Dr. Abigail Tyler and has published an article on sleep disorders by her. Dr. Tyler has a Twitter account at!/drabigailtyler. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has posted an obituary for Dr. William Tyler, Abigail Tyler's late husband, who died under mysterious circumstances. Suspiciously, most of these internet postings have been removed since the film debuted.
An apparent cover-up of the truth of this story resulted in Universal Pictures paying over $20,000 to the Alaska Press Cub and a Calista Scholarship Fund to settle claims that the studio "created a number of Web sites purporting to be 'news archives'" in their viral marketing campaign for their new alien abduction thriller The Fourth Kind.

9. And finally, two words -


It's coming. How do I know? The news.

On April 25, 2005, the BBC World Edition reported on a "small outbreak of 'zombism" in a small town near the border of Laos in North-Eastern Cambodia." According to the esteemed institution of journalistic integrity, mosquitoes native to the region were spreading a new strain of 100 percent fatal Malaria. After death, the virus was able to restart the heart of its victims for up to two hours, during which the recently departed behaved violently from a theorized combnation of brain damage and chemical hysteria.

Then, on April 30, 2009, The BBC reported on a similar outbreak in London "due to the mutation of the H1N1 virus into a new strain: H1Z1."

In an all-to-familiar cover-up, visitors to the web site that first posted the reporting are greeted by the following message:

For those of you that got the joke, please feel free to breed in hopes that some of your offspring with the very rare trait of "common sense" will mix with the throngs of senseless idiots that now crawl the web.

For those of you that *didn't* get it, go home and slap your father for not making you shovel character building snow when you were a child.

So, what's the takeaway?

We don't just want to believe, we need to.

Only a small portion of what we believe to be true we have empirically perceived ourselves. We must rely on sources of information, whether they be traditional news sources, or new media sources, or our online community, or our teachers, or our political leaders, or our religious leaders, and we must decide which we trust, and why we trust them, and the minimum number of independent sources needed to convince us, and what is and is not reasonable to believe.
And no matter how careful we may be, we are still likely to be occasionally deceived.

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."

Optimistic words from our 16th president.

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