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CULTURA VOLUME XVI

THE UNSPEAKABLE ODYSSEY OF THE MOTIONLESS BOY / MODERN TECHNOLGY IS ENDING A 15 YEAR SILENCE ALSO The Everglades Crisis (One of America’s most diverse biosphere’s is threatened.) IN ANTHRO A study of Steinbeck’s Modern Paisanos (Realistic Portraits of Povererty or Discriminating Racial Stereotype?) ATTENTION! 10 of America’s most beloved national parks are in serious trouble. HONORING Carl Sagan. A tribute to his series Cosmos and why his contribution to the promotion of sciences is unrivaled. AND In Atmos. Images of hauntinglly beautiful forests from all around the world.


FEATURES This month in Cultur:

11

THE UNSPEAKABLE ODYSSEY OF THE MOTIONLESS BOY A boy who has been trapped in his body for 20 years, and how modern science ended his silence.

17

CHERNOBYL PROPORTIONS An over view of the affects this nuclear meltdown has on modern day Russia.

23

THE GODFATHER It was a pretty good movie don’t you think?

30

THE EVERGLADES CRISIS One of America’s most important natural biospehre is threatened. 4-12 / PAGE I


DEPARTMENTS In this issue of Cultur:

5

ATMOS (IMAGES OF THE ATMOSPHERE) Forests.

7

ENVIRO (EARTH HAPPENINGS) The end of the Space Shuttle.

9

ANTRHO (PEOPLE/PEOPLE) A study of Steinbeck’s Paisanos.

27

SOCIUS (UMAN INTERACTIONS) Honoring Carl Sagan

35

SOLARIS (PLANETARY PROBLEMS) Military vs. Space

37

ACTIVUS (ATTENTION REQUIRED) The National Parks dilema.

4-12 / PAGE II


AT M O S /

images in this atmosphere

Recent Studies conclude that the Black Forests of Germany are not actually all black.

FORESTS A look at forests from around the world.

Black Forest / Germany


Glacier National Park is my friend E v a n ’s m o s t v e r y favorite of all time place on this earth

Glacier National Park / Montana 4-12 / PAGE V


ENVIRO /

earth happenings

the end of the

SPACE SHUTTLE America's space shuttle program, which saw triumph and tragedy over its 30 years, came to an end this morning when Atlantis and its four-member crew touched down at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after nearly 13 days in space. Atlantis landed in the pre-dawn dark just before 5:58 a.m. ET.

We live-blogged as it landed. Listen at


Update at 5:41 a.m. ET. NASA says that “Atlantis is encountering a plasma of super-heated air as it moves through the thickening atmosphere.” The shuttle’s “plasma trail” has been spotted by the crew high above in the International Space Station, NASA adds. Update at 5:42 a.m. ET. Less Than 15 Minutes To Landing. Update at 5:49 a.m. ET. Over Florida: Atlantis just crossed over Florida near the city of Naples on the Gulf Coast. Update at 5:50 a.m. ET. Two Minutes “Late?” It looks like touchdown will be around 5:58 a.m. ET, NASA says. That’s after 200 Earth orbits this mission. Update at 5:52 a.m. ET. On Camera: NASA TV now has an image of Atlantis on its approach. Update at 5:54 a.m. ET. Sonic Booms: “Atlantis announces its arrival” with twin sonic booms, NASA reports. Update at 5:58 a.m. ET. On The Ground: And Atlantis has landed. Update at 6 a.m. ET. Marking The End: As Atlantis rolled to a stop, NASA marked the end of the shuttle program with word that it had “fired the imagination of a generation.”

4-12 / PAGE VII


ANTRHO /

people people

a modern

TORTILLA FLAT A restrospective analysis of Steinbeck’s controversial novel Tortilla Flat. Who are the so called “paisanos.”


In his first commercially successful novel, Tortilla Flat (1935), John Steinbeck creates his own modern day version of Camelot and King Arthur’s roundtable; it is “the story of Danny and Danny’s friends and of Danny’s house”.  Tortilla Flat records semi-mythic events from the lives of the paisanos from Monterey County.  Episodic in nature, the tales recount the escapades of Danny and his group of ragged and drunken friends as they drink, fight, engage in random acts of petty theft and, occasionally, do good deeds.  Throughout their many adventures and misdeeds, the one thing that remains as constant as their desire to avoid doing any real work or live respectable lives, is their loyalty to one another.  Steinbeck creates a story about epic friendship, and yet, just like the original round table, “this story deals with how the talisman was lost and how

How three sinful men, through contrition, attained peace. How Danny’s friends swore comradeship.”

CHAPTER 5, To r t i l l a F l a t

Ortego also charged that Mexican Americans do not speak as Steinbeck's characters do, either in Spanish or English. Arthur C.Pettit was equally clear: "Tortilla Flat stands as the clearest example in American literature of the Mexican as jolly savage... This is the book that is most often cited as the prototypical Anglo novel about the Mexican American..the novel contains characters varying little from the most negative Mexican stereotypes."In his essay, Steinbeck's Mexican Americans, Charles Metzger largely defended the writer's views of the paisanos but observed the following: "Steinbeck's portrayal of paisanos in Tortilla Flat does not purport to do more than present one kind of Mexican-American, the paisano errant, in one place, Monterey.”

4-12 / PAGE IX


ERIK CAN'T MOVE. HE CAN'T BLINK HIS EYES. AND HE HASN'T SAID A WORD SINCE 1999. BUT NOW, THANKS TO AN ELECTRODE THAT WAS SURGICALLY IMPLANTED IN HIS BRAIN AND LINKED TO A COMPUTER, HIS NINE-YEAR

At about nine o’clock in the evening on November 5, 1999, Erik

The collision sent the minivan’s engine flying out of its chas-

Ramsey punched out of his after-school job at Arby’s and went

sis. The car Erik was in, a late-model Camaro, careened into a

to see The Sixth Sense with a friend. They were driving home on

curb and flipped end over end before landing upside down in

a two-lane highway in Duluth, Georgia, a suburb about

a grove of small pine trees. The driver escaped with a chunk of

twenty-five miles northeast of Atlanta, when a minivan tried to

metal embedded in his skull. Firefighters had to use the Jaws of

make a U-turn from the oncoming lane. Erik’s friend was

Life to extract Erik. He was sixteen.

speeding, and they never saw the other vehicle’s headlights.


When Erik’s father, Eddie, arrived at the Gwinnett Medical Cen-

communicating.

ter, he found his son lying on a table in the emergency room,

Eddie walked into Erik’s hospital room and looked at his son.

screaming and writhing in pain. His first thought was simply, This

Erik’s eyes were wide open. He stared straight back at his father.

is bad. Real bad. Erik’s leg was dangling at a right angle from his

The only muscles over which Erik still had any voluntary com-

torso. His head was perforated like a pincushion with pine straw.

mand were the ones that control the up-and-down movement

His spleen had been lacerated, his diaphragm had ruptured,

of his eyes. Unlike Jean-Dominique Bauby, the locked-in author

and his left lung had collapsed. He wasn’t yet under anesthesia,

of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Erik couldn’t blink. Even

so the doctor asked Eddie to help keep his son pinned to the

moving his eyes left and right was beyond his capability.

table. Even as he gasped for air, Erik’s six-foot, 180-pound frame managed to rip free from his father’s grasp. BOTTOM LINE IS HE

For the next three weeks, Erik lay in the intensive-care unit,

HAS NO CONTROL OVER H I S M U S C L E S . H E ’ S E S S E N T I A L LY A

awake but unresponsive. Once his condition stabilized, a neu-

P R I S O N E R I N H I S B O D Y.

rologist finally gave Eddie and his wife, Sandra, the diagnosis. A blood clot had formed in a part of their son’s brain stem called the pons, causing a stroke right at the juncture where his body

However, very soon after the accident, a speech therapist

met his mind. Erik was suffering from an extremely rare and per-

discovered that there remained one peephole in the otherwise

manent condition known as locked-in syndrome. “Bottom line

impenetrable wall that kept Erik sequestered in his cell of flesh

is that he has no control over any of his muscles,” the doctor

and bones. Because he could still look up and down, he could

told them. “He’ll never move and he’ll never speak.” Other-

still say yes and no. “Up for heaven, down for hell,” the thera-

wise, the accident had spared virtually all of Erik’s conscious

pist told him.

and unconscious processing systems. His memory, his reason,

“Erik, are you deaf?”

and his emotions were all intact. He could see and hear and

That was the first question Eddie asked him, because until then

feel--and feel pain--but he would never again have any way of

no one was sure. Erik looked down.

4-12 / PAGE XIII


IT TOOK 5 YEARS TO DEVELOP THE TECHNOLOGY T H AT L I N K E D E R I K ’ S B R A I N TO COMPUTERS.


THE FMRI PRODUCED A MAP GUIDING THEM TO THE PRECISE AREA OF ERIK’S BRAIN THAT WAS ACTIVATED WHEN HE TRIED TO SPEAK.

4-12 / PAGE XV


“ERIK, ARE YOU DEAF?”


HE LOOKED UP AND OPENED HIS EYES EMPHATICALLY. THAT WAS NINE YEARS AGO. The Office of Neural Signals, Inc,. is located in a single-story yellow clapboard building in a professional park in Duluth, only a few miles from the Ramseys’ home. Three engraved patents hang on a wall near the door, including US 7275035 B2, “System and Method for Speech Generation from Brain Activity,” granted September 25, 2007, to Dr. Philip Kennedy, a pioneer in the field of brain-computer interface (BCI) research. On the opposite wall there is a small poster that reads: In the largest room of the dark, cluttered office, tables are stacked with computer monitors and electronics equipment, and a web of cables drapes between dislodged ceiling tiles. In the center of the room, Erik Ramsey is sitting in his wheelchair, wearing a blue sweat suit and slippers, with a bundle of wires coming out the back of his head. He’s staring at a wall onto which Kennedy has projected a matrix of six words: heat, hid, hat, hut, hoot, and hot. They represent each of the major English vowel sounds. Kennedy, tall and stately at sixty, asks Erik to think about making the sound uh-ee. As he does, a green cursor jitters across the wall from hut to heat, and a booming vibrato pours out of the speaker: “uuuhahuuuuhaheeeeeeee.” The sound is coming straight from Erik’s brain. Kennedy is trying to help Erik become the first human being ever to have his thoughts

4-12 / PAGE XVII


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