Wednesday, May 9, 2012

One Hundred Years of Solitude

I hate the impracticality of magical realism.  It seems like hubris to swallow the laws of time and physics in poetry but expect a reader to care about the story.  And yet sometimes there is a phrase or paragraph of such power, such wisdom, that you feel gut-punched.  Your breath is gone.  For that reason a book like One Hundred Years of Solitude should be read.  Here is how it begins:
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.  At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs.  The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.
In the village (and later dazzling city of mirrors) Macondo, one can seemingly invent the world according to one's own perceptions.  It's a dizzying history, fragmented and timeless.  Ultimately, hubris and lack of self reflection lead to the downfall of the Buendia family and of Macondo.

This weekend, something terrible happened to Dr. Jack Kruse.  No innocent person should be summarily escorted off a cruise ship and dumped at Galveston harbor by Carnival security and the FBI.  I wouldn't wish such a thing on anyone.  In fact, six months ago I myself was questioned by Homeland Security, and for a while it seemed certain my computer was going to be confiscated by the feds, though the computer and myself were about 2000 miles away when the actual crime took place.  I was a bit shaken up; ultimately there was no way I could possibly end up in trouble, facing the accusation of the federal authorities was an awful experience.

Why am I writing about the Low Carb Cruise event?  Well, less than 24 hours after it happened, in a series of tweets and emails and blog posts and facebook posts (some of which are noted on Evelyn's blog), I had learned that *my* name was being circulated as a possible "perpetrator," though Evelyn's has been featured far more prominently and a woman from NY (who could only be Evelyn) was mentioned in a local news story by Kruse himself.  There was ugly finger-pointing.  "Perpetrators" were being threatened with 15-20 years federal prison time, civil suits, and other nastiness.

I did follow the parody twitter feed (whose tweet about explosives and legionnaire's disease and an "epic bio-hack" was apparently and very unfortunately misinterpreted by Carnival security, though it was obviously a reference to Jack's use of dynamite at his Paleo-Fx talk and his alleged self-injection with MRSA).  I even retweeted the feed several times.  I thought it was funny, and sometimes the quotes referenced me, for example one about how dangerous bananas can be.  I had guesses about who the owner of the feed might be, but did not know.  Nor do I have any clue who called (or emailed?  The reports differ...) Carnival and apparently pointed security in the direction of Jack Kruse.  That person is truly malicious.

How could a relatively mild-tempered psychiatrist who was minding her own business on a Sunday without much of a thought about neurosurgeons, cruises, or microbiology suddenly have her friends email her with forwards of alarming and threatening messages?

I opened the door.  I went to Free the Animal not too terribly long ago and engaged Richard Nikoley on his own turf.  I made it clear in no uncertain terms that I felt that injecting oneself with MRSA prior to surgery was a stupid and unethical thing to do.  Nor do I consider such a statement to be that far out on any limb, or to be that controversial.  I'm guessing that if you lined up 10 (non-biohacking neurosurgeon) surgeons and asked them about the incident, 10 out of 10 would say they thought the incident was made up or that the perpetrator was off his rocker.  Ultimately I felt that rendering my opinion on the subject was the right thing to do, as silence in the blogosphere is too often associated with approval or assent.

Thereafter things got uglier than usual over at Richard's blog.  He publically thrashed Melissa McEwen,  and I decided I was sick of the whole scene.  I thought I would stick to science and forgo any ranting for a while, and I unfollowed FTA on twitter and on this blog, just as I had previously unfollowed Kruse's twitter and facebook feeds.

A rather peaceful few weeks ensued.  But I opened the door.  And as much as one can seal it and try to block out any cracks of light, sometimes the door will burst open.  It's not the worst thing.  A psychiatrist should not shy away from aggression.  Aggression has to be met.  Actions do have consequences, and when something bad or unpleasant happens, the first thing one should do is reflect upon how one might change the situation, or whether one could have done something differently.  What a terrible situation, to be so polarizing and to have engaged in such behavior that someone would actively seek to have you removed from a cruise ship and searched and questioned by homeland security, for example.  So angry about what happened, which was indeed a terrible thing, no question, that you bring news cameras to your home and proceed to threaten and bluster even random commenters on David Csonka's website (linked above) who vaguely criticize, and list the telephone number on a public blog of the FBI agent who is investigating the case!  No thought of how other innocent people might be irresponsibly blamed or troubled, as it seems Jack was irresponsibly treated by the cruise ship security.

…in that flash of lucidity he became aware that he was unable to bear in his soul the crushing weight of so much past…he admired the persistence of the spiderwebs on the dead rose bushes, the perseverance of the rye grass, the patience of the air in the radiant February dawn.  And then he saw the child.  It was a dry and bloated bag of skin that all the ants in the world were dragging toward their holes along the stone path in the garden…The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants.

Truth sometimes is strange and awful.  Self-reflection can be painful, but helps us to grow.  If we do not see it in time, the world we thought we had vanishes, a mirage.  No matter how loud or threatening or how aggressive we are, ultimately we return to the earth, and we are only the measure of what people remember.

Dr. Kruse will always have his followers, his believers.  They will jump with him off the shore and into the icy waters, and pay the fees for what I consider to be very dubious writings, and all the best of luck to them.

I prefer more solid and boring ground: eat healthy, exercise, sleep, relax, don't invite too much drama upon oneself... though my morbid curiousity is a definite failing.  Another weakness to reflect upon, no doubt.  There are many.


  1. Well said. I think more people in this community need to take five minutes for self reflection, to realize that disagreeing on a few minute details isn't near a good reason to splinter a worthwhile movement.

    Conventional wisdom is about to air a four-hour HBO special on obesity. A dire article came out that says that more than 40% of the US will be obese in just over a decade. We in the 'paleosphere' know that there's a solution to our health problems, but we can't present a unified front if we're all bent over from kicking each other in the crotch over details.

    None of the leaders of the Ancestral Health movement are completely perfect or correct; treating any expert as universally correct is as lazy and ignorant as eating a Pop Tart. I really hope people reading have enough testicular fortitude to have that moment of introspection and realize that some people are just as dogmatic as the CW followers that we're sure are wrong.

  2. I'm sorry to hear about the trouble you were caused. You of all people? Really? That is off-the-charts ridiculous. The only common denominator between all of the people who have been named and harassed and speculated over in this thing is that they are Kruse's critics. Plain and simple.

    Is listing your name or various other names of people who just happened to criticize the guy going to help uncover who the wrongdoer is? Please, let's be rational about the limits and consequences of investigations. I don't know a single person who has every criticized him that would do that.

    And I tweeted at Dr. K yesterday that he might want to make a public post and suggest that people stop speculating and accusing and making wild remarks that they didn't have any business making, or making them himself, and it hasn't happened yet. No blog post doing the thing that you're supposed to do when this happens: tell people to let the police do their job and be modest about what they know.

    In fact earlier today he was still talking like there was some big conspiracy against him and many people are going to pay

    You can't say that. There is one person who made the call, who may have been a prankster and in that case should get what's coming to them, but let's be realistic about what can reasonably be uncovered in a situation like this: very little. The FBI agent even says that the owner of that twitter account couldn't be held culpable, they want to know who it is because they think it may provide a lead, but that is wishful thinking itself.

    And it is sad because people can get away with abuse but that doesn't mean run around like all hell is going to break loose and there will be multiple busts by the FBI because you want there to be.

    What a waste of mental energy this is. Depleting my magnesium stores. I was ready to forget about this and am going to do that in a minute but I was shocked that you were suggested as the perp and wanted to lend some support.


  3. Emily, I'm shocked that anyone could mention you as a possible perp. Absolutely ridiculous.

    I do have sympathy for Dr. Kruse. I can well imagine being grilled for hours on end by representatives of multiple three-initial government agencies. Must have been stressful and exhausting, even for an innocent bystander. I'm not surprised he turned down the cruise line's offer to fly him out to meet the ship at a later port.


    1. I was rather shocked myself. And yes, indeed, it must have been a dreadful experience, though my sympathy was rapidly eroded by the ensuing behavior.

  4. Having recently read Ben Goldacre's excellent 'Bad Science', I for one am very grateful for your 'solid and boring' (i.e. scientific) approach to paleo ideas. Much of the paleosphere is just speculation and outright pseudoscience. As with all fad diets and 'alternative therapies', far too much weight is placed on anecdote and "n=1" self-experiments. I think you and McEwan were absolutely right to call out Kruse on his nonsense. You make the paleosphere less embarassing.

    1. Agreed! I follow Emily because she is restrained. If I wanted to follow my whims I'd read Dr. Mercola.

      Dr. Deans could be slightly more succinct... But she is never boring!

  5. "Ultimately I felt that rendering my opinion on the subject was the right thing to do, as silence in the blogosphere is too often associated with approval or assent."

    Why would voicing your opinion about someone you consider to be a quack not be the right thing to do?

    The elephant in the room is the ridiculous paranoia that has continuously been ramped up since 9-11. It frankly makes me embarrassed to call myself American.

    I can't see how writing a satirical Twitter account ought to be considered remotely close criminal behavior, no matter what it said.

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    The problem with making terrorism some sort of special category is the same as making 'hate crimes' a special category: it warps the rule of law. And this silly incident is a mild example of the the result. Why should making a fake Jack Kruse Twitter feed be any more criminal than making a fake Hitler Twitter feed? Because Hitler is dead and it's obviously satirical?

    The Kruse Twitter feed was also obviously satirical to people in the paleosphere. DHS didn't get it? Too bad. The burden of proof OUGHT to be on the State.

    There are, of course, limits and gray areas when it comes to freedom of speech: violating privacy, yelling fire in a crowded theater, inciting violence, etc. The person who notified security that Kruse was a terrorist might, I say might, be considered to have stepped into such a gray area. I can see them being fined the cost of a plane ticket to fly Kruse down to rejoin the cruise, but not much beyond that. But that's just me, a crazy libertarian who takes the 1st amendment seriously and thinks civil liberties are actually important.

    Finally, I don't see why Melissa can write a contemptuously mocking post about Richard but he's a terrible person for firing back in kind. I think you've got a double standard going there.

    1. Hi Sean. I think there is always tension between being entirely positive and focused on the science versus calling a spade a spade (and in what terms we do so). I tend to give most folks the benefit of the doubt until things just go way too far, then I can be cranky. Should I be cranky publically? My mother, my mentors, and my friends might have completely different opinions about that...

      So far as a double standard between Melissa and Richard… eh, I thought his post was much crueler than hers, but she made some mistakes, no question. However, I find her general blog content to be very valuable. Richard's place was somewhere to go to let off some steam and have a good time. For me it just wasn't a good time anymore after that.

    2. What should the role of government be...

      How much effort and resources are we putting into finding false positives?

    3. Emily, yeah it can be mentally draining to get caught up in the whole east coast-west coast rapper thing.

      The thing is, when someone has to worry about being investigated by DHS (no matter how remotely possible) because they call someone a quack on a blog comment, well that's pretty messed up. The whole terrorist paranoia thing needs to be dialed down quite a few orders of magnitude in the US.

    4. Sean, oh I agree. As to the east coast west coast thing, well, typically what happens in these situations is I've made up my mind to steer clear, then I get a bunch of questions behind the scenes about things, and I decide it's probably easier just to make my opinion public. And for the MRSA thing, hey, not everyone has a molecular bio degree and a bunch of micro experience, and not everyone has seen people die from staph endocarditis and can really see what the bugs can do. So I think maybe my opinion can give some undecided or unsure folks some information they didn't have before.

  6. Emily, thanks for this post. Off subject: a few months ago you mentioned a ranch in Texas that you'd ordered lamb from. Recently I received a box of lamb from them and the whole experience, but especially the lamb loin chops, was truly outstanding. Thanks for the tip.

  7. Great post, Emily.

    And Sean, your comment is spot-on as well.

  8. I just deleted a comment by J Kruse without publishing it. Let him make his comments and arguments on his own forum and blog. He is not welcome here.

  9. Great, thoughtful post. I've stopped looking at many of the "paleo" type blogs in recent weeks because of the ridiculous levels of whipped up drama. Who has the most views? Who is the true truth teller? Who needs it? Depletes magnesium, yes, and that cortisol high takes a while to dissipate! And truthfully, this lovely line of yours is where it's at: "...ultimately we return to the earth, and we are only the measure of what people remember."

  10. I have just started reading your articles, Emily. It is very refreshing to have the calm, balanced, scientific approach after having read and dismissed so much proselytizing fanatical nonsense.


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