Saturday, April 21, 2018

Can't Live Without 'Em

Sleeping Beauties is the first new-ish Stephen King book I've read in some time. It's actually a collaboration between King and his younger son, Owen. But the prose remains Stephen King-like, which is to say pretty basic. Given that it's about 700 pages long, this is a practical choice.

King pere and fils feel engaged, in tough with the times. A mysterious woman wanders into a small Appalachian town and causes chaos. Women all over the world are falling asleep and being enveloped in thick cocoons. If anyone tries to cut the cocoons open, the women kill them. There's a certain amount of symbolism inherent in this premise, but the effect is material. What women used to do is just not being done, with cataclysmic effects.

Stephen King has been pretty open in recent years about being a recovering addict, and an intervention from his family had a lot to do with his becoming sober. So it's kind of hilarious that in this book, any woman who wants to stay awake has to do massive amounts of speed. Or for that matter that a male doctor pretty much on the side of good is a heavy meth user.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Yankee Doodling

As you can see, there's a statue/sculptor of songwriter and dramatist George M. Cohan in Providence. It's on Wickenden in the Fox Point neighborhood. I confess that Cohan to me is mainly the character that Jimmy Cagney won an Oscar for playing in Yankee Doodle Dandy. What kids who don't know who Cagney is either make of it I don't know. Nearby is George M. Cohan Boulevard, right on the edge of India Point Park. It feels much like a border street.

Another son of Providence, H. P. Lovecraft, has a marker in Wayland Square, near his birthplace. No statue, though. If there were, could they resist working tentacles into it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Pretty sure spring is about to show up. The true spring, that is. Sunday it snowed some. Yesterday it was just rain, but felt cold nonetheless, especially with the epic winds. Today was a nice balance: coolish, getting a little wintry after sundown. A subdued, restrained day, which I like.

This is a college town. When it gets truly warm we'll start seeing - and more crucially, hearing - the college party kids. It'll be an adjustment. Well, many things are.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A deeper tan

As another example of the limbic circuit interacting with the wider body, consider the case of Rita Hoefling, a forty-year-old white South African housewife. Surgeons removed Hoeflings adrenal glands in the early 1970s after diagnosing her with Cushing's syndrome, which occurs when the adrenals release too much cortisol. The surgery stopped that problem but stirred up other trouble The adrenals check the activity of the pituitary gland, and with nothing holding the pituitary gland, and with nothing holding the pituitary back now, it began to churn out hormones that increase the production of melanin inside skin cells. Melanin changes the color of skin, and Hoefling began to turn bronze, then light brown, as a result. This well-known side effect of removing the adrenals (Nelson's syndrome) wouldn't have caused much of a stir - except in apartheid South Africa. Hoefling started getting thrown off whites-only buses. Her husband and son abandoned her. She was even barred from her father's funeral. After her ostracism, the colored community magnanimously embraced Hoefling, and she later spoke out against the evils of Apartheid.
That's just part of one of the endnotes from Sam Kean's The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery. It's a treasure trove of fascinating stories about human cognition and behavior. I mean, there's some depressing stuff like how the neuroscientist who first diagnosed kuru in Papua New Guinea turned out to be a massive pedophile, but on balance it's more interesting than anything else.

As for Mrs. Hoefling, what can one say? You never know what you'll wind up learning lessons from.

Friday, April 13, 2018

At root

Regardless of what Wikipedia - or anyone else - tells you, parsnips are not much like carrots. They look very much the same, except off-white instead of orange. The flavor is a little in between carrot, raw potato, and ginger. The texture is where the difference really comes in. Carrots are crunchy. You can just bite into them with a snap and eat them raw. With parsnips your chewing this fibrous stuff that doesn't quite taste right. They seem like they'd be better for soups and stews, absorbing the flavor of the broth.

They'd also make capital snowman noses, almost as pale as the snow itself. Something to think about when winter, just now departing us, rolls around again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Smoothing out

Something I just recently learned. You get a much better night's sleep if you can make sure that your fitted sheet covers the whole mattress. Not just the sliver you sleep on, that is.

Of course if I weren't single I'd have figured that one out a long time ago. Or had it driven into my skull. But if I weren't single a lot of things would be different. Maybe better, maybe not, but definitely different.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Now hear these

This has always been one of my Platonic ideals of an absolutely gorgeous song. I never thought of such a radical reworking, though, the whole a capella thing. Kudos to whoever thought of the whole "Frere Jacques" opening.

Just to compare with the original. I'm guessing there was a little Talking Heads influence, but they were already their own thing.