Some fish, notably sharks, have a sense organ, the lateral line system, which picks up weak electrical signals in the water, alerting them to prey that would be otherwise invisible and possibly also helps with navigation. There's some evidence that this "organ" is ontogenetically related to the inner ear in humans.
Thought experiment: Say you're a shark, and a yummy snack is hiding just beneath that little pile of sand across the way. Your lateral line is going haywire, but you don't know from lateral lines because, hey, you're a shark, not an ichthyologist. So how do you feel? Off-balance? Out of whack? Or just hungry?
Over lunch today with a friend, as I was picking over ideas for a new novel, I realized I was dreaming up a mash note to psychoanalysis wrapped around a murder mystery. (Oh, come on -- what else could it be?) My friend pointed me to Fry & Laurie's psychiatric sketches. These guys sure had a lot of fun with psychoanalytic psychiatry. I see their sketch "Slightly Mad" as a riposte to the question posed in Freud's "On Creative Writers and Daydreaming": What is the difference between the "normal" work of the creative writer and the pathological productions of, say, a writer like Daniel Paul Schreber, on the one hand; and the work of the psychoanalytic psychiatrist, on the other? (The title image on that last link is emphatically NSFW, unless you work in a Dadaist art gallery. What was Penguin thinking?)
The crux is the business about writing letters to the paper, about 3 minutes in.
Freud kept the patient on the couch, kept himself out of view, and recommended only the occasional provision of interpretations. Modern face-to-face psychotherapies don't protest so much. Here's Fry & Laurie on the result -- the relevant bit starts at 0:57:
At 2:21 there's a playful reference to the "Bender Gestalt Test," which is real, but Fry's invitation to draw a line seems more like a request to play Winnicott's Squiggle Game. Laurie retorts that Fry is using "some sort of psychiatric jargon that you've picked up from the Reader's Digest," which at once notes the confusion and elides it, in a send-up of just the sort of incomplete repression Freud sees in jokes and parapraxes. At 3:00, the preamble ends on the word "masturbation," and the power struggle comes to the fore. "I'm the doctor, and you are the patient." The roles reverse dizzyingly. The question of names comes up at this point: Who is "Dr" and who is "Mr"? The rest of the session raises, only to deconstruct, every piece of stage business in the psychoanalytic psychiatrist's theater: the authority to summon the secretary, to make clinical notes, to prescribe medication, to end the session, to offer appointment times. By 4:53, the joke's on us -- but I won't spoil it. Take a look.
Saved for another day: Wikipedia entry on Schumann resonances, regular disturbances in the earth's electromagnetic field related to global thunderstorm activity. The maximum frequency of these resonances is about 60 Hz.
List of plates accompanying The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872):
Diagram of the muscles of the face, from Sir C. Bell; small dog watching a cat on a table; dog approaching another dog with hostile intentions; dog in a humble and affectionate frame of mind; half-bred shepherd dog; dog caressing his master; cat, savage, and prepared to fight; cat in an affectionate frame of mind; sound-producing quills from the tail of the Porcupine; hen driving away a dog from her chickens; swan driving away an intruder; head of snarling dog; cat terrified at a dog; Cynopithecus niger, in a placid condition; the same, when pleased by being caressed; chimpanzee, disappointed and sulky; photograph of an insane woman; terror; horror and agony.
"Cream is very nourishing, but, on account of its fatness, is difficult to be digested in weak stomachs. Violent exercise, after eating it, will, in a little time, convert it into butter." From the Universal Receipt Book of 1834.
In my Brooklyn office (that sounds so official), I sat next to a radiator with a little shelf on top of it. Used to keep my coffee warm in the winter, very convenient. Would you know, someone's come up with a product that does the exact same thing? Yep, you set this ceramic plate on top of the radiator, plop your drink and snacks on it, and, presto, your radiator is a hot plate.
History Not What You Think. Uh. Thought. Uh. Thunk!
I don't even know where to start with this YouTube gem. The idea that all of classical history is merely an early modern fabrication is stunning enough, but then there's the presentation: the monotonous-yet-urgent synthesized speech, the weird powerpoint transition that looks like some kind of masonic emblem, the repeated instructions to buy the book at Amazon... And what is that music playing in the background?
First LOLCats, now this. Life before the innernets was truly impoverished.
Of all the wonderfully strange media objects -- Hamster Dance, All Your Base -- for which we can thank the innernets, this one's got to be one of the best: a LOLcats version of "The Waste Land." Thanks for the laugh, ET.
"Finger" Cookies (use them for air quotes!) makes ~ 5 dozen Yield: 5 dozen Please note, this is not a nut-free recipe!
1 cup butter, softened 1 cup powdered sugar 1 egg 1 tsp almond extract 1 tsp vanilla 2 2/3 cups flour 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 3/4 cup whole blanched almonds raspberry jelly
In bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg, almond extract and vanilla. Stir dry ingredients together, then add to wet and stir thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Working with one quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remainder refrigerated, roll a scant tablespoon full (I used a 1 oz. cookie scoop) of dough into a thin log shape about 4" long for each cookie. Squeeze clost to center and close to one end to create knuckle shapes. Press almond firmly into the end of the cookie for nail. Using paring knife, make slashes in several places to form knuckle. You want them a bit thin and gangly looking, since they'll puff a little when you bake them.
Place on lightly greased baking sheets (or use silicone sheets or parchment); bake in 325F oven for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, melt jelly over low heat in a small saucepan.
Carefully lift almond off of each finger, spoon a tiny amount of jelly onto nail bed and press almond back in place so the jelly oozes out from underneath. You can also make slashes in the finger and fill them with "blood.
You can also form toes - just make the cookies shorter and a bit wider and only add one joint instead of two. No almonds for these, just indent where the nailbed should be and add a bit of melted jelly to highlight once they are baked.
Via TPM, I learned that while on vacation in Crawford, GWB went looking around for a book to read, and the First Lady recommended Camus' The Stranger. In which a callow French man murders an Algerian and is tried, not for his crime, but for his character. The trial, naturally, is a farce, and in the end, Merseault consoles himself that at least others will be happy about his execution.
I am a writer. I'm the author, with Jed Z. Buchwald (Caltech) of THE ZODIAC OF PARIS, about the fortunes of an
Egyptian antiquity smuggled into 19th-century Paris, forthcoming in 2010 from Princeton University Press.
As for fiction: I've just finished a novel, EASY JOURNEYS
TO OTHER PLANETS, about a group of friends hailing from the deceptive, complicated fastnesses of middle America,
who struggle to come of age during 1967's Summer of Love.
I've also got a compendium of obscenity masquerading as a book of short stories, called MALEDICTION (well, what would you call it?), and I'm working on a new book,
THE HAPPY ENDING PROVISION & SUPPLY CO., in which I retell certain beloved children's stories from unexpected points of view.
I also write about fun things to see and do in London and New York City for Metrotwin, a project of British Airways.
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Caveat lector: this blog's free, including free of advertising. Comments are open; we'll see how this goes. Email at ping DOT diane AT gmail DOT com.