“Murmur” by Rhiannon Conley

I just came across this poem by Rhiannon Conley, from the arresting opening image onwards it conveys something visceral and vital (all too literally) about parenthood.

As It Ought to Be

MURMUR
by Rhiannon Conley

“Did You Know? You can swim through the aorta
of a blue whale.” I watched as two children
swam, their soft hands like fins pushing themselves
out of the open chamber of the imagined whale’s
red ventricle and back into the museum showcase.
The heavy plastic held on to the throb of their laughter.

I could fit, I thought. I could be held in this heart
like blood. I could be pumped through the veins
and organs of the whale, let it take me, flowing,
my arms at my sides gliding head first
through the enormous animal’s body.

Your heart, just the size of your soft infant fist
which fits twofold into my own, holds a small
whispering defect. The pediatrician presses air
between his teeth – tsst tsst – to mimic the sound
he hears on the stethoscope. “It’s nothing,”
he says, “Just relax.” Tsst…

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Is the elderly scientist correct? Roy Sorenson on Arthur C Clarke

Following on from yesterday’s post, here is the answer from Roy Sorenson’s Cabinet of Philosophical Curiosities:

“The elderly scientist is certainly correct. The reason is that any assertion of an impossibility is equivalent to a statement of possibility. ‘It is impossible that p’ is equivalent to ‘It is possible that it is impossible that p’: ~ p ↔ ~ p. So Clarke would have to assign a low probability to the impossibility statement and a high probability to the possibility statement. It would be impossible for Clarke’s two probability assignments to be both correct.

Proof of the biconditional: ~ p ↔ ~ p. The left-to-right direction, ~ p → ~ p, follows from the principle that whatever is actual is possible.

The right-to-left side, ~ p → ~ p, follows from the principle that whatever is possible is necessarily possible: p → p. (This is the characteristic formula of the popular modal system S5.) The contrapositive of this formula is ~ p → ~ p To say something is not necessary, ~ , is equivalent to saying it is possibly not the case, ~. So the contrapositive can be rewritten as ~ p → ~ p.

Conjoining the two conditionals establishes the equivalence ~ p ↔ ~ p.

(from “A Cabinet of Philosophical Curiosities: A Collection of Puzzles, Oddities, Riddles and Dilemmas” by Roy Sorensen)

August in the first Antarctic Night

Through the First Antarctic Night”,  or to give it’s full title, “Through the First Antarctic Night 1898-1899: A Narrative of the Voyage of the Belgica Among Newly Discovered Lands and Over an Unknown Sea about the South Pole” by Frederick Albert Cook is an account of the first over-winter stay by human beings (known) in the Antarctic. Of course, an Antarctic Winter is also an Antarctic Night. Cook would later be disgraced and imprisoned for fraud, as well as having his reputation tarnished by a dispute with Robert Peary over who first reached the North Pole.

 

“The month of August was, on the whole, one of the greatest disappointments of our experience in the Antarctic. We expected low temperatures and bright, cheerful weather. With the coming sun we hoped to dispel our anaemia and make ourselves ready for a series of difficult tasks to be undertaken in September and October; but instead we failed more and more in strength, and developed alarming mental symptoms. One man was temporarily insane, and several others were nearing a similar condition. The weather was stormy, the atmosphere was charged with clouds of sand-like drift-snow, and the sun was almost constantly invisible, though it rose higher and higher and swept more and more of the horizon daily. For one month following sunrise, like the month preceding its departure, the conditions were in effect a part of the night. It is true we had a little misty grayness at noon which we called daylight, but this was counterbalanced by the never ceasing tempests which drove such a blast of cutting snow that life outside was impossible. The first glimpses of sunlight had aroused us to new ambitions, and to spasmodic spells of cheerfulness, but this hellish series of storms sent us again into the most abject gloom of the night.”

The Boy Who Never Saw Pictures – The Dabbler Blog, May 2014

Having just posted one of my favourite of my nthposition reviews, here is one of my favourite Dabbler pieces (along with the management secrets of the Manhattan Project one) I still wonder what happened to this boy.

A Medical Education

I came across the paper described in this piece in a book on the pictorial world of children. I also emailed one of the authors, with no reply. It was circulating around my mind for a few years and finally The Dabbler seemed like the right place to write it for.  It was literally only when writing the piece I realised what seems obvious; the authors of the paper were the parents of the boy described.

A certain wry scepticism about experimental psychology is evident here.

As this piece deals with child development, I thought it was an interesting place to start.

Originally published at The Dabbler

Here it is:

Imagine if, in infancy, your parents made every effort to ensure that you never saw a picture. This is what happened to the anonymous subject of Julian Hochberg and Virginia Brooks’s 1962 paper “Pictorial Recognition as an Unlearned Ability in…

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Review of An Odd Kind Of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage. Nthposition. Mid-2004

This review is one of my favourites from my nthposition days. The book itself is a salutary reminder of how the story of cience, too, is full of legends and just-so stories. And in the years since I wrote this, the rise of the TED talk and viral video and clickbait Easy Answer To All questions renders Macdonald’s work near prophetic

A Medical Education

This piece is no longer actively on nthposition. Fortunately I had previously preserved a copy on a precursor of this blog, with an entertaining typo in the heading.

I ended up having some correspondence with Macmillan subsequently – specifically about the lyrics to the Slackdaddy song (although I don’t think he like the word “primly”) His book is availble here. I think this book marked a point where I began to exhibit a certain reserve and scepticism about similarly pat, anecdotal stories.

I find that Jackson Beatty’s book seems to be rather obscure – one of the textbooks from my medical education that was perhaps less directly helpful in getting me through exams but did help provide a good quote illustrating the Official Version of Gage’s story.

jackson

Review of “An Odd KinD of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage” by Malcolm Macmillan

At 4.30pm on 13 September 1848, the foreman…

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Francis Poulenc : “Dialogue des Carmelites” – on the feast of the Carmelite martyrs

It is the feast of the Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne: 16 Discalced Carmelite nuns executed by French revolutionaries on this day in 1794, after refusing to accept state control over the Church. Perhaps appropriate so close to Bastille Day in the Calendar.

Our_Lady_of_Mount_Carmel_Church,_Quidenham,_Norfolk_-_Windows_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1084822
via Wikipedia – Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Quidenham, Norfolk –

 

Here is the magnificent finale of Francis Poulenc’s “Dialogue des Carmelites”:

 

The lost world of Enno Aare

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/aoifenichorcorain/playlist/74KqlNzk7NMTChonWbOC75

Continuing from my profiles of the work of Amity Cadet and Ana Olgica , I thought I would focus on another artist, once legendary, now only known by a fraction of their life’s work.
Unlike Amity Cadet, there exist some non-Spotify online traces of Aare’s existence, an interview in which he refutes the absurd and insulting thesis that he does not exist, that he is some kind of “fake artist.” Aare articulates a purist approach to a musical career in the age of streaming playlists:

So the excess trappings of the music industry are social media, websites, CDs, records, and live performances? You take a hard line on this.

EA: I see some of these guys at the farmer’s market selling CDs out of their cars, and I’m like, pfff, this guy is a sellout, a complete fraud. I knew this one guy in college who made a tape and spent, I don’t know, an hour designing a cover for it? With a band photograph and a logo? And he listed his email address on the back? Like, ooh, I’m so important I think people should email me. Man, I just shake my head. What a waste of energy.

CP: And so the only appropriate venue for music is a Spotify playlist?

EA: Basically. Yeah, when you get down to it. Put me on a playlist, and that’s all I need. That’s music in its purest form. I never even considered putting my music online anywhere, but these Spotify curators are just relentless in their pursuit of creating the best playlists. I was so stupid I didn’t even know you could “curate” music – I thought that was like an art thing. But when they told me my four songs could exist in a free-floating, context-less, non-corporeal environment for the benefit of people falling asleep with their earbuds in, I couldn’t say no. I told them, “This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is my moment. Sign me up.”

Unlike Amity Cadet, however, Enno Aare is represeneted on Spotify by not one, but four works. On YouTube we find three:

In my previous posts I showed how Amity Cadet and Ana Olgica were both profound, emblematic artists, whose presence on playlists entitled “Classical Chillout” and such may mask their visionary artistrry. A hint to the importance of Eeno Aare comes in the interview linked to above – the phrase “for the benefit of people falling asleep with their earbuds in.” For Eeno Aare was a psychonaut, a surfer of the extreme waves of human consciousness, whose surfboard was a piano, and whose Jaws was that most secret, most  private act, sleep. 

Enno Aare, born in Estonia in 1960, emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel with his parents in 1975 . They were in Israel only a few months before relocated to Rochester, New York. There Aare’s parents took up roles in The University of Rochester’s Medical School; his mother as a clinical lecturer in anaesthetics, his father as an associate professor in physiology. The Aares both had an academic interest in sleep. They associated themselves with the radical sleep researcher Pietro Corriola. Corriola is one of those figures ignored by the internet , who were highly influential in their day.

physiology-of-sleep-and-eeg-for-undergraduates-19-638

Corriola, born in Ravenna, was based in the Northeast Ohio Medical University   Here he devoted himself to whole-hearted opposition to the work of William C Dement and his creation, The American Sleep Disorders Association. Corriola was implacably opposed to Dement’s focus on REM and classifying sleep stages with electroencephalography.  Corriola was not opposed to the physical investigation of sleep per se. Indeed, he proudly identified himself as one of the “Moruzzi school of physiology”. , having trained under the Italian neurophysiologist who connected sleep and wakefulness to the reticular activating system

 

Gray690

Despite this, for Corriola,sleep was to be considered metaphysiocally as much as physiologically. Sleep was not to be considered some kind of pathological deviation from normality, but an arena in which the mind floated free of the tyranny of wakefulness. Corriola was horrified by the reductionist approach to dreams and dreaming. For him, the prevalence of sleep disorders was a mass revolt against the medicalisation of sleep.

The Aares enthusiastically took up this cause. In a series of pamphlets, papers, monographs, letters to journals and book chapters they argued for a metaphysical science of sleep which would move beyond a merely neuroscientific paradigm. Corriola, following years of intellectual isolation in the USA (although his ideas had a warmer reception in Europe) was delighted with this sudden upsurge in interest. AS the 1980s dawned, and Corriola’s career entered its twilight, it seemed his legacy was secure. On a April 23rd 1980, this changed.

That day’s edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle revealed that the Aare parents were not in fact doctors of either medicine or physiology. It was implied that their credentials were Soviet forgeries, and the possibility of KGB infiltration was left hanging unspoken

This was officially discounted, although questions were also asked about the rapidity of the Aare’s move from Israel to the USA. In any case, their careers at Rochester were over. Suddenly, 21 year old Enno, freshly graduated Eastman School of Music, was the provider for his parents. He played piano in hotel bars, in wine bars, in cocktail bars, in piano bars, in leather bars, in singles bars, in racetrack bars. He played piano in what non-bar venues he could find work in. He did some work as a session musician. He played on jingles and on children’s TV shows. He played weddings, funerals, Bar Mitzvahs and any other ceremony in which a pianist could conceivably be required.

The 1980s wore on. Enno Aare played piano every day of every week, with no break. He began to despise the world of music, the so called “industry” but also the so called “art.” He began to despise the egotism, the narcissism, the celebration of the self. He recalled his parents’ lofty, idealistic work on sleep – the entry into a purer world, one without the stifling, corroding influence of the ego.

He despised the studio, despised the production of physical recorded music. He dreamt of a way his music could be untethered from the apparatus of the logistics of the industry he despised. He also began working with his parents on ways of using music to ease the passage into the blissful world of sleep. His parents were now spending 20 to 23 hours asleep a day, waking only for some nutrition, hydration, and relief of bodily functions. In a few snatched moments he would show them his music, written in a notation of the family’s own devising, for their approval.

When, years later, the MP3 file ruptured the link between a piece of music and a definite, physical object, Aare took note. This was not quite his dream, as there still was a physical infrastructure required for the file, to be “downloaded” and “shared”, words which captured the inherent physical nature of the file. But it was a start.

It could not be said that Spotify is the complete realisation of Aare’s dream of a pure music untethered by any physical reality, lulling the listener into the world of sleep. For one thing, a physical instrument is still required, and physical apparatus still required to stream the song. It was, however, a significant advance. And, sadly, the day Spotify was launched in Sweden – 23rd April 2006, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle story which changed their lives for ever – Eeno Aare’s parents died in their sleep.