Wasdale – The Crucible Of Rock Climbing In The Lake District

The Lake District is one of the most important climbing areas in the UK. Climbers were attracted by the scale and majesty of the Lakeland crags and it was natural that the Valley of Wasdale beneath the greatest of the Lake District Mountains – Scafell Pike, Scafell and Great Gable – was the original hub for Lakeland climbing.

The ascent of Napes Needle on the flanks of Great Gable by William Haskett Smith in 1886 was a landmark in British climbing and is considered to be one of the first proper rock climbs in the country.

Although the summit of Scafell Pike is famed as the highest of the Lakeland Fells and therefore the highest point in England, it is Scafell along side, which has the more craggy features and which has always been the forcing ground for Lakeland Climbing.

It was on these crags that Bottrill made his ground-breaking ascent of the great unclimbed slab on Scafell Crag in 1903. Incredibly, in total extremis and seemingly climbing for his life, he was still able to raise his hat to a passing lady – history records that he was a true gentleman rather than a serial womanizer. In those days these hardened climbers used to ‘bivvy’ on the fells so they could get an early rise at the foot of the crags, how they must have longed for Lake District holiday cottages to come back to in the evenings for a bit warmth and a home cooked meal. If only they had been thought of back then!

There was another enormous step forward in 1914 when Siegfried Herford made the first ascent of the Central Buttress of Scafell Crag – This was by far the hardest climb in the UK at the time and it wasn’t superceded for many years.

Since then, three generations of Birkett’s have left their mark on climbing in the Lakes. Jim Birkett brought the extreme grade to the Lakes with his ascents on Castle Rock and the East Buttress of Scafell.

Don Whillans was at the forefront of Lakes Climbing in the fifties and early sixties and with ascents such as Extol in the Ullswater Valley, there was a short period where Scafell was usurped by the Eastern Crags.

Climbing standards in the Lake District were pushed through the extremes in the seventies and eighties by such brilliant climbers as Pete Bottrell, Pete Whillance and Pete Livesy. Then in the nineties Dave Birkett took up where his grandfather left off, pushing standards through the roof and putting the Lakes back in it’s rightful place at the top of the British Climbing. He set new standards throughout the Lake District – from Borrowdale to Langdale but his greatest contribution was naturally in Wasdale!

Rock Climbing can be great fun for all the family and if you are planning your own trip rock climbing, there are plenty of perfect Lake District cottages which make an ideal base camp!



Protective Surveillance for Executive Protection

Protective Surveillance

Protective surveillance is the creation of an unobtrusive security team around an individual or group. Normally composed of highly trained and experienced covert operators, this team forms a protective bubble around the client in a covert manner.

The protective surveillance team (PST) will carry out counter-surveillance by watching those that may be watching the client. Their main aim is to occupy or control spaces and areas that would be used by a hostile surveillance team. Allowing the team, through their expertise and experience, to identify them. Other roles are to act as a quick reaction force (QRF) and as protective intelligence.

This article will look at protective surveillance and its role in executive protection and high risk protection. It uses two real life case studies to identify how protective surveillance can be used as an extremely effective tool in executive protection.

Why would hostiles use pre-attack surveillance?

Hostile individuals or groups need to gather intelligence on their target. To increase the chances of a successful attack it is vital to know the comings and goings of a target, their habits and routines. What security they have, its strengths and weaknesses. What are the opportunities and threats? A hostile surveillance team will be trying to answer all these things and more. It is with this information that they can formulate a plan to attack their target more effectively and with a greater chance of success.

Identifying threats early is vital to ensure time to react. If one has time to react then the chances of a favorable outcome are increased dramatically. It is simply action vs. reaction. Any aggressive force with the advantage of surprise and tactical planning is more likely to succeed. Their action occurs at a time of their choosing. Very few aggressors will attack if they don’t feel they have the upper hand, this is probably the result of a planned operation and therefore the hostile team will likely be prepared accordingly.

Close Protection

A normal close protection team (CPT) will have a multitude of tasks and duties to perform that require their undiluted attention. Their focus must be on the here and now, able to react at a second’s notice to the immediate threat. They provide the necessary ‘close’ protection. This however is also a potential weakness. Even highly trained operators will still need time to react to an action. This means they are immediately on the back foot and will be until they regain the initiative and win the fight. A number of factors and variables then come into play, the skill of the security team, the skill of the attackers, type of attack and even luck to name a few.

A CPT cannot be protective surveillance but they can carry out counter-surveillance and effect actions to determine whether they may be under surveillance. It is the author’s opinion however that effective counter-surveillance can only be undertaken as an entirely covert separate entity. To have complete separation to the CPT and be no way linked over time or by proxy to minimize the chance of being compromised. Further, counter surveillance is not easy and needs to be a focused effort. One cannot carry out effective counter-surveillance at the same time as focusing on close protection or bodyguard duties. Also it is far more likely a CPT will actually be carrying out anti-surveillance, not counter, the majority of the time.

What is the difference between anti and counter surveillance?

Anti-surveillance is when a person who suspects that he is being followed carries out certain actions in order to identify whether there is a surveillance team or individual following him and confirm that he is being followed, by drawing the team into a position where they can be identified.

Counter-surveillance is when a third party carries out actions in order to identify in a covert manner whether an individual is being followed and by whom. This can take place with or without the knowledge of the person being followed.

In a nutshell, anti-surveillance is what we would do ourselves to identify surveillance and counter-surveillance is when we would get someone else to help us identify it.

Hostile Surveillance Detection

Accurately and efficiently identifying surveillance, like all things comes down to a large number of variable factors. The skill of the surveillance team and the skill of the anti/counter surveillance operators are the major factors. It is very easy to look but actually quite hard to see. Many close protection officers have only done, at most a brief week or two of surveillance training. In most cases this is just not enough to have a comprehensive ability to identify organized surveillance teams. A trained hostile surveillance team should be able to identify anti-surveillance and avoid it. This is compounded even further if the people carrying out the anti-surveillance do not know what they are looking for, especially so if they are in a foreign environment.

Effective counter-surveillance on the other hand is hard to identify, let alone avoid. The hostile surveillance team will (if done correctly) never know they have been spotted. The PST should remain covert at all times and after identifying that a hostile surveillance team is showing an interest in the client, would aim to do the following:

• Inform the close protection team so that a covert removal of the client to a safe environment is carried out quickly but without highlighting that a threat has been identified.

• Aim to follow the surveillance team to gather intelligence on them so that the necessary authorities can deal with and extinguish the threat.

• If the threat is perceived as being imminent the PST can react accordingly as trained close protection officers.

High Risk

For a high-risk client protective surveillance is a necessity not a bonus. It is imperative a security team is pro-active and not reactive. Too many times history has shown that systems are put into operation too late. Shutting the gate once the horse has bolted is too often the phrase heard.

When it comes to high-risk clients, protective surveillance must only be used in conjunction with a close protection team. The two teams though separate are symbiotic. They work hand in hand towards the shared goal of keeping the client safe and secure. A PST on its own would be able to identify threats at an early stage and act accordingly, however, they would rarely be close enough to protect the client from an impromptu attack or act as a last resort. This is why the two teams work perfectly together, each with a different task yet entirely interlinked.

Let us look at a two real life scenarios, highlighting where protective surveillance would have fitted perfectly in conjunction with close protection to help engineer a very different outcome.

Assassination

The Colombian former interior minister Fernando Londono in Bogota was attacked during a vehicle convoy. His two car convoy were held at a set of lights (one free lane to its left, two free lanes to its right) A bus then joined the left lane followed by cars to the left and right. Then a man crosses the street approximately 20 metres behind the cars carrying a large object. He circles around the bus and approaches Fernando Londono’s car attaching a limpet mine to the left front side. Within 30 seconds the mine explodes leaving two dead and 48 injured. Fernando Londono was very fortunate to survive, his level 5-armored car played a significant part in this. Some of his security detail were not so lucky.

It seems highly likely that the attackers in this instance would have had to have put Londono under prior surveillance to establish his routes, what car he travels in, what security he has with him, does he have a pattern of life. Where best to carry out the attack and how to escape (the attacker ran down an alley to a waiting motorcycle). A multitude of questions would need to have been answered to carry out such an attack. Protective surveillance would have most likely identified hostile observations and highlighted the imminent attack planning. Further, a PST follows the client at distance to observe the surroundings. There is a good chance that the team would have spotted a car tailing the client and more so an individual carrying a large suspicious object purposefully walking towards the client’s vehicle. As mentioned earlier identifying threats early is vital to allow time to react.

To further delve into this case study, Londono survived and was removed from the vehicle (via the trunk) injured and dazed within 30 seconds. His surviving close protection officers did a great job of extracting him through the crowd. What if there had been a second wave attack though? Let us imagine that the attackers had mounted a small arms assault post explosion.

QRF

There is a good chance the surviving officers would have been overpowered due to their trauma and the focus on removing the principal. A PST also acts as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and would have been able to move in and work to win the fight to defeat any secondary or tertiary attack. Thus providing the necessary cover and support so the CPOs could withdraw to the protective surveillance’s vehicles and extract the client.

A QRF does exactly as its namesake; it is a force (in this case a PST) able to react quickly in case of emergency. The covert nature of the team would be disregarded at times of   extremis  to act as a suitable support team. Whether this be as an assault team, a medical support team, or an extraction team. The fact that they would be covert right to the last moment provides an extra level of surprise and advantage to the protection detail.

As can be seen, the PST’s main focus is pre-empting danger and providing time to react. Ensuring that nothing is a surprise. Its secondary focus is acting as a support team able to react accordingly in times of emergency.

Kidnap

The second case study is that of Edelmiro Manuel PĂ©rez Merelles. He was kidnapped after a number of assailants blocked his vehicle, killed his driver/bodyguard and fled with him in tow. This was by all accounts a planned and well prepared attack. They didn’t hesitate to kill his bodyguard and carried out the attack in front of witnesses.

The bodyguard had no time to react. If protective surveillance had been in place, there is a good chance the attack would never have happened. The assailants would have carried out some sort of surveillance to work out his routine, routes and vehicle. They would almost certainly have had to follow him to then block the vehicle in. These actions would have been identified prior to the attack and allowed the bodyguard and PST time to react accordingly to avoid the threat. Worst-case scenario, and the attack had already occurred, the PST would still have been able to react as a QRF and provide support to the bodyguard. The benefit of remaining covert; the PST would have the upper hand, an action vs. a reaction.

There is clearly a worthwhile case for the implementation of a PST, or at the very least effective counter surveillance. For high risk clients it is imperative that security teams focus on pre-empting danger, allowing time to react. If protective surveillance teams are utilized, when or if a client does attract the unwanted attention of hostiles focused on causing harm to the principal or their family it will significantly improve the chances of a favorable outcome.



Stark Still Has It – Iron Man 3 Movie Review

After the slightly disappointing sequel to the original Iron Man movie, Marvel needed to turn it up for Tony Starks’ third time going solo. Robert Downey Jr was seemingly made for this role and plays it to perfection, he just needs a great story to match his performance.

The movie begins in 1999, and to the tune of Eiffel 65. Tony is having an elevator ride with inventor Maya Hansen, the creator of   Extremis , and Aldrich Killian, who offers them both a place at AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics). Stark rejects the offer, and humiliates Killian. The movie then fast forwards you to present day with Pepper Potts running the company Stark built, while Stark spends his days building Iron Man suits. A string of bombings by a terrorist known as the Mandarin grabs Tony’s attention, who issues him a challenge. This backfires on Tony leaving him with nothing. The whole world thinks Tony is dead, so he decides to team up with a ten year old boy named Harvey to investigate the Mandarin and stop him before he causes even more mayhem.

Robert Downey Jr is outstanding, as always in the role he seemed destined to play. He delivers the one-liners with elegance and is extremely entertaining to watch. I think the franchise would be nowhere near as successful without Downey in the title role, he very much makes it his own.

I was surprised by Ben Kingsley, although his character didn’t turn out quite what I was expecting, he was thoroughly entertaining to watch.

I was slightly disappointed with Gwyneth Paltrow. I liked her in the role of Pepper Pots, but I thought she took up far to much screen time. It was all a little dull, and uninteresting. I think they were trying to meat out a thin character, and it didn’t come off too well. If they had went into her backstory, a little more, or even fleshed out her character over the previous two movies, then this would have bought me into her character more this time round, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I struggled to connect to her story.

I thought Guy Pearce was well cast as Killian, he seemed to perfectly fit the character, being an intellectual genius and extremely slimey at the same time. He created a character that I instantly wanted to hate, which is an excellent character trait for a bad guy.

The movie excels with its special effects and super hero action. The CGI seemed to blend into the movie perfectly for me, as I sometimes find to much CGI a great distraction, this seemed to blend and balance it perfectly for me. I would not say that this has as much Iron Man action as previous outings, but still more than enough to wet your action apetite. A special mention needs to go to War Machine/Iron Patriot, who I felt got a great crack of the whip. One thing about the Iron Man franchise that I have always liked is that it gives War Machine a nice amount of screen time, as I like the character.

The movie had a great mix of action, humor and story development that makes the movie extremely entertaining, as well as marching along the Marvel Universe timeline nicely. The movie tries to restrict the seriousness, and plays to Downey’s charismatic humor which comes over on screen so well. The only down point for some fans may be the lack or Iron Man, and the over exposure of Stark, but I thought it was OK.

Overall though, this movie is great superhero fodder that will no doubt continue the trend of box office super hero movies and do extremely well. Although it does not measure up to The Avengers, it is not far behind, and in my opinion the best Iron Man movie to date.

**Note: Stick around after the credits to see an entertaining scene with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner a.ka. The Incredible Hulk.



Wu Shu and Kung Fu Massage for Performance Improvement!

The underlying principles of Wu Shu/ Kung Fu Massage are explained and some key examples and exercises presented which enable practitioners to make health and strength gains that will improve their martial arts in a number of surprising ways. Ways in which External Qigong activity aids body-conditioning are also outlined.

Introduction

“After Wu Shu Training Wu Shu Massage!” runs a well-known martial maxim. Dynamic techniques, often performed at breath-taking speed, at full extension may need to be performed time-and-again in day-long competition and will have been rehearsed many times, in preparation. Wu Shu Massage describes the process of putting everything back in its proper, ideal place so it can be safely drawn upon ‘in extremis’ at the next time of asking. Wu Shu massage can also be performed before Wu Shu exercise, in preparation for such exertions.

This process also includes ensuring that arteries and veins remain at their proper depth and that their course in an appropriate linear one. In general, it usually brings about improved resilience of the skin and enhances the quality of underlying muscles.

Examples

Shoulders

With your right hand massage the top of your left-shoulder 30x anti-clockwise then do the same to the front-facing portion of the same joint. Repeat the exercise with your left hand on your right shoulder.

Shoulders are notoriously weak spots in martial-arts training and by systematically strengthening and improving these in advance you can save yourself a lot of future grief. In terms of kinesthesia or ‘muscle-memory’, this helps programme your shoulder muscles to stay ‘dropped’ when punching and increases punching power accordingly.

Arms

Use your left arm to massage the outside your right anticlockwise from top to bottom and back 30x, then do the same to the inside before repeating the exercise on your left arm with your right for the same number of times.

This stimulates Qi flow along a number of meridians and, if persisted with will increase arm strength and blocking abilities in particular.

Pectoral Muscles

With you left hand massage your right pectoral 50x anti-clockwise, then use the base of your left-fist to strike it three times, firmly. Repeat the exercise with you right hand and fist and left pectoral similarly. The massage orients the muscle-fibres correctly and the pounding then compacts them.

Anti-clockwise Massage

This literally helps to turn back the clock and keep the body’s surface healthy and relatively young- looking. It also facilitates the elimination of stale Qi (a process as vital as the assimilation of fresh Qi) via what is known as ‘Qi-Breathing’. This is part of External Qigong (Wei Gong) and will lead to increased success in Internal Qigong (Nei Gong) practice if the two approaches are practised together.



So You Want to Put on a Show – The Prop’s Person

This is the sort of job taken on by a real enthusiast. I requires the utmost patience and attention to detail because no matter the length of the list you start with, it will have doubled by the time you go before an audience. Do not believe the Director who says. ‘There’s hardly any prop’s in this one’ because something will have been missed.

So, what are ‘prop’s’? The word is short for ‘properties’ and means anything needed in the show by the actors which cannot be screwed down and is not constantly on the stage. So handbags are prop’s, Little Red’s basket is a prop, the champagne glasses are prop’s and sometimes a scarf can be a prop as well as part of a costume. This would be in the case of it being needed quickly sometime during the show.

Prop’s are kept on one or two prop’s tables, at the back of the stage or on each side, depending on where the actors need to pick them up from. They go missing. Actors are begged to return them whence they came, but it doesn’t always happen.

A good Prop’s Person goes through the script with a fine tooth comb for the list of things needed. It is also necessary to attend a rehearsal or two to see if other things, not mentioned in the script, have come up. For an example, in ‘Seussical, the Musical’, circus skills are referred to in one scene, but not the specific skills, so until we saw who was doing what we did not know what to provide. It proved to be a lot of juggling balls which we were able to get several matching sets of, some stilts, some recorders and some balloons. None difficult to source, but without watching the rehearsal it would not have been clear.

A list then needs to be posted where everyone can see it, so that people can indicate if they have, or can get hold of, any of the items. That usually takes care of about half of what is needed. That leaves the Prop’s Person the job of sourcing the rest. Local museums can prove useful, helpful and free for an advertisement in the programme. eBay is amazingly good for sourcing odd things, and organisations like Freecycle – a local recycling organisation which has groups throughout the UK – is wonderful for finding that odd thing. As each thing is sourced the list needs to be updated so no-one busts a gut getting something someone else has already sorted out.

  In  real  extremis  you may have to go to a theatrical hire company – but remember that there is never enough money put aside for prop’s – tell me something new – and the more you can borrow the easier it will be to afford those things you simply must buy.

The Prop’s Person must keep a list of where things came from so that it is known where to return them to afterwards. People don’t help twice if they don’t get their stuff back pretty promptly. Your show insurance will cover any little accidents – but it really is better not to borrow something of any value unless it is desperately important to the show. In ‘Me and My Girl’ three identical fob watches are required. The person I borrowed from was, to my relief, very relaxed about the one which had its chain broken. I felt very lucky.

So, it’s not difficult – just hard and time-consuming. And the Prop’s Person needs to be present at the Dress Rehearsal and every performance to oversee the use and return of the prop’s. If that doesn’t happen something vital will go missing. Oh, and of course the prop’s tables have to be set up each night before the show, and checked item by item. Then it will all run smoothly.



Sara Foster’s Come Back to Me – Book Review

The story takes place in two countries; Australia and England. The story revolves around four main characters. These characters are Alex, Chloe, Mark and Julia. The story starts off in London with a couple, who are Alex and Chloe. They have organized a dinner and have invited Mark and a friend. Mark is Chloe’s ex boyfriend and Chloe is surprised that Mark has a date who is attending the dinner.

When Chloe and Alex meet Mark in the restaurant, Mark is first to introduce his date. Alex, Chloe and Mark are all acquainted with each other, so Mark’s date is the only stranger to the group.

From here is where the audience is left with Chloe’s point of view. She feels that there is an obvious reason that Alex knows Marks date, who Mark introduces to both Alex and Chloe as Julia.

Chloe feels confused, and Mark feels cruelly suspicious. After the introduction, Julia leaves the dinner half way through. Mark knows there is definitely something going on between Alex and Julia. Chloe is left trying to understand why Alex choked when he saw Julia.

“Did they have an affair or are they having an affair right now? Is this another cruel joke made by Mark again?”

I love the way the book is put together. I thought at first that this book was going to be a scary complicated love triangle, but it was not. There is not just one love triangle, there are two. Alex is there fighting for Chloe and Julia. And Chloe is fighting for Alex, but Mark is showing up to being more supportive than ever.

The story is set in both the past and present for each character. And even though this seems sophisticated, it really isn’t. It is simple to follow. When you get introduced to each of the characters story, you begin to judge them at first and start to choose who you like more than others. But the author makes you fall in love with all of them.

It was hard to like all the characters at first, but when each of their stories is expressed, you slowly have to understand and realise that is the way they behave.

And here is a funny thought, when you start to place the pieces into a whole puzzle, so does the characters as well. You also go on the journey with them. Feeling what they cannot and can express emotionally.

It was a great read, and I recommend it for both males and females. There are no prince charming, frog princesses, castles and midnight calls. Just two everyday couples, with pasts that all of them have left, and have now to make up and face it again.



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Kill the Code – And Save the World

Apparently the national Libertarian Party is   in   extremis  financially. This is unfortunate. I hope they pull through.

I have been thinking that their problem is the lack of connection between what they (the Libertarian Party) offer at the national level, and solution to life’s most pressing problems. In other words: What is the path to freedom?

To some extent that is un-knowable. We don’t know what solutions unshackled people will come up with. But there has to be a catalyst. What starts the process toward freedom? I cannot accept that we just pull the plug on 70 years of legacy structure, and let the chips fall where they may, as some have suggested.

In my opinion, we’re never going to be able to turn off programs like Social Security and Medicare until people no longer need them. But that will take time. Many years in fact. And until then… what?

Hence my proposal, which I call Kill the Code… and Save the World.

The most hated, most pernicious of all Leviathan’s horrors is the IRS and its three-plus million words of rules and regulations. How does that gum up the wheels of progress? In ways we cannot ever imagine!

And most people agree that continuing to pump carbon into the atmosphere is eventually going to cause problems – maybe big problems.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard my old political mentor Jack Kemp say, “If you tax something, you’ll get less of it, and if you subsidize something, you’ll get more of it.”

Think of all the things we tax in this country. Good things. Things like income, capital Gains, profits, and payroll.

My idea is simple and hopefully revolutionary. It is to completely scrap the Internal Revenue Code. (Perhaps a popular idea as we enter tax season. At least to everybody except accountants and lawyers.) When it’s that long and that complicated, you know the game is rigged against you, and in favor of the fast operators with their Washington lobbyists.

I propose chucking it all and replacing it with a single tax on the one thing that practically everybody agrees is a problem:

Carbon.

My proposal is: Immediately enact a carbon tax of $1000 per ton of coal, $10 per gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel, and $25 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas.

However… this cannot be done Unless the Internal Revenue Code is fully scrapped. This is not a tax “in addition to”; it is a tax “to replace”. It replaces the personal income tax, the corporate income tax, the payroll tax, the capital gains tax, the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax and all the rest. No more 1040s. No more 1120s. No more Schedule C’s. You make it, you keep it. No other taxes will be levied.

Move fast, do it now, don’t phase it in. Take the pain and move on.

Think of how much innovation there will be. People will be scrambling to figure out how to save on their fossil fuel emissions.

Some winners: city dwellers, people in small self sufficient towns, people with fuel efficient autos.

Losers: owners of McMansions in the sterile exurbs, SUV and big truck owners.

Cities would be revitalized. People would want to live close to work. Or would even telecommute. Mass transit would be rejuvenated. R&D on green technology would get the biggest shot in the arm in history.

Over time, people would use less. Tax revenues would fall. Coincident with that gradual decline would be the wind-down of Social Security and Medicare.

Then in 50 years… maybe America’s second name will be Galt’s Gulch.



Clinical Empathy in Extremis

As has long been known in the field of undercover law enforcement, some information is easier to gather secretly than overtly.

In late 2008, three psychiatric nurses had themselves admitted as “pseudopatients” to a Dutch psychiatric hospital. In collaboration with an acting coach and a psychotherapist, they developed fictive biographies for their characters–“back stories”–much as do undercover cops. One of the players was admitted to the psychiatric hospital by his “brother” after a suicide attempt that was part of his back story; a history of aggressiveness was also part of his backstopping. Family members, played by professional actors, came to visit them while they lived in the psychiatric hospital as a patient would. Following the lead of a famous covert investigation of the patient experience by David Rosenhan in 1973–“Being Sane in Insane Places”–these undercover investigators were trying to understand the conditions under which psychiatric patients experience their illnesses. Understanding the patient experience from the inside has become part of some medical schools’ training programs. The University of New England medical school sent (young) medical students in geriatrics for two-week stints as “patients” in regional nursing homes where they could experience the anomie, the longing for human contact, and the challenge of navigating often insensitively designed environments: what their patients live every day. While it was of course impossible to be in any way in deep cover at 50 years younger than the target population, there was still much for participant-observers to learn. Shower bars, for example, were too high for people in wheelchairs.

How far does a doctor have to go in feeling or experience to treat her patient effectively? And, practically, how close can a doctor get to experiencing what her patient feels without running the risk of being sucked into the morass of the patient’s suffering? Isn’t there also a peril of projecting her own experience of suffering upon her patient and blinding herself to the suffering that is truly the patient’s own?

All this is at the middle of an ongoing debate in medical practice and training–at least in the places where patient experience is considered part of the clinical picture. Some say, just recognizing, identifying, being able to label the experience the patient is “presenting” is enough to treat an illness well. Others demand that, in addition to the awareness of the patient’s state, the health-care provider’s being able to respond in the moment, with real emotional savvy, is what constitutes true clinical empathy. They posit that, not only are so-called clinical outcomes better when doctors and nurses experience and convey clinical empathy, but their own satisfaction in their work rises when they allow themselves to be moved by patients.

Some concerned with these issues have been using theatre training to improve physicians’ observational and receptive skills, helping them to listen for subtext, values, and strengths, and their performance skills, coaching them to express themselves fully and clearly through their voices and bodies and to use eye contact, breathing rhythms, and body positions to foster rapport with their patients. They distinguish between a surface-level and a “deep” acting, in which these skills have been internalized and become more automatic.

Yet the bodies of others are not only relational and physical, they are also cultural, and there’s evidence that physicians who fold all these elements into a treatment plan see better outcomes. Just as in On Killing, the book featured in Skin in the Game’s January issue that examines the conditions that make it easier for soldiers to kill, it is harder for doctors to feel empathy for those whom they perceive as being different from themselves-whose bodies and selves they perceive as “other.” The next phase of development in the humanization of the medical professions so that they become professions of healing is the encompassing of how the perspective of someone one may initially perceive as foreign, other–and, thus, inevitably “less than”–can transform into a collaborative relationship of inquiry, with two body-selves linked in a common humanity.

Copyright Sara K. Schneider 2010



"Iron Man 3" Versus "The Avengers"

“The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” are the two biggest superhero films of the past year, with the possible exception of “The Dark Knight Rises.” However, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a DC property involving Batman, whereas the other two are Marvel-based titles, both of which have been critically acclaimed and approved by fans. Despite the similarities between “Iron Man 3” and “The Avengers,” the films differ in many ways. It’s worth bearing in mind that all the Marvel films, except for the “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” franchises exist in the same shared universe, so the stories build on one another.

“The Avengers” is an ensemble film that blends drastically different heroes into a single story. Thor, the extradimensional Asgardian and Norse god of thunder, a super-soldier unfrozen from World War II, a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, and a scientist with a dark side are all expected to bring their different skillsets and backgrounds to the table. It works and makes a coherent storyline, but viewers familiar with the source material may not be amused with the changes. “I.M. 3,” meanwhile, features characters from a single continuity line who all have relatively similar backgrounds. Therefore, it doesn’t take too much character alteration to make the story work.

“The Avengers” is a great deal more action driven than is “Iron Man 3.” Although “The Avengers” offers character development, “Iron Man 3” showcases more character-based drama. It turns out that since “Iron Man 2,” Tony Stark has begun a relationship with Pepper Potts, his secretary. Tony’s been teaching her to better defend herself, and it’s clear that he cares a great deal about her, certainly more than he did any character in “The Avengers.”

In “The Avengers,” Tony Stark is practically invincible in the Iron Man suit, and he’s able to take on hordes of Chitauri. Therefore, in “I.M. 3,” the writers contrived more situations that required Tony to act and fight when not in his armor, giving him the chance to prove himself capable in this regard. He takes martial arts training, learns free-running skills, and makes some gadgets to use outside of his armor.

No superhero film can work without a quality villain. “The Avengers” has Loki, working with an alien race called the Chitauri, as the main villain. The aliens come across more like an extraterrestrial biker gang than anything, and they serve as adequate Mjolnir, shield, and arrow fodder. Loki, on the other hand, appears even more insane and menacing than he did in his debut in “The Mighty Thor.” His fall through space and encounter with aliens probably sped along his descent into madness. “Iron Man 3” features Iron Man’s iconic nemesis, the Mandarin. Rather than being a mysterious agent, this version of the Mandarin was once a CEO-like Tony Stark-before he became insane and superpowered from the Extremis formula that he helped develop. Instead of having explicitly supernatural or alien powers like Loki’s, the Mandarin has his powers, including healing and fire breathing, due to genetic engineering. He also has superb martial arts training.

The version of Tony Stark in “Iron Man 3” and the one in “The Avengers” have slightly different personalities. In “The Avengers,” Tony Stark is more flippant and sarcastic, especially when dealing with Captain America. However, Cap’s idealism and heroic attitude start to influence Tony. At the end of “The Avengers,” Tony has a near-death experience in the Iron Man suit. “I.M. 3” takes place after “The Avengers,” and Tony Stark is suffering from nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD from his near-death experience. He is notably more serious in “Iron Man 3” and attempts to think more highly of his colleagues and friends. “I.M. 3” also sees the end of Tony Stark’s career as Iron Man. He destroys all his armor and undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel from his chest. In “The Avengers,” Tony treats the threat to the world as just a job to take care of, whereas in the third “Iron Man” film, it’s more personal. The Mandarin has directly targeted Tony Stark for shunning his ideas and disfiguring him several years back. He ends up putting some of Tony’s subordinates in a coma and destroying his home.

Overall, both flicks are similar films, and they share the ultimate goal of bringing a superhero story to the big screen. However, where the former is an ensemble story with drastically different characters, the latter is more tightly knit. ” Iron Man 3 ” is faster paced but more focused on character development. “The Avengers” does, however, display some interpersonal dynamics, particularly in Captain American’s interactions with Thor and Iron Man. Ultimately, Marvel fans are sure to enjoy both films.