Deeply Shallow

There’s nothing more annoying to me than someone who is intentionally ignorant or oblivious. Especially when that person thinks it’s amusing or charming. You were given a brain. Use it.

At this particular time in our nation’s history, as the bumper sticker says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Yeah, I know. Outrage is no fun at all. It’s exhausting, to be honest. It is understandable that you need to take a break from the news now and again. But to intentionally block it out as a matter of course, all while sitting on your hands and doing nothing, is unconscionable.

For God’s sake, vote. And take the time to educate yourself before doing so. If you don’t vote in 2018 and then complain about your healthcare being taken from you, I reserve the right to personally slap the white off your teeth.

I know it’s tempting, and rather comforting, to just tiptoe through the tulips while humming quietly to yourself, but while you are doing that, important things are happening all around you. And a lot of it, lately, is a threat to those very tulips that you’re treading upon.

Don’t brag about your ignorance. It’s not a good look. And it’s actually becoming a hazard to the health and safety of everyone on this planet.

Wake up.

tulips

Claim your copy of A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude today and you’ll be supporting StoryCorps too! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Becoming Forgetful

When I was young and I’d hear an older person say they were getting old and forgetful, I used to smile and say I couldn’t wait to have that excuse for my absentmindedness. I’ve always been easily distracted. Flaky, even.

But now I’m starting to get it. As I age, it’s getting much, much worse. And that’s terrifying. It is no fun, no fun at all, to know you can no longer rely on your own brain. Especially when you live alone.

Today I accidentally left my to-do list at home, and I’m a bit freaked out. I’m fairly certain that I’m forgetting to do something that’s time-sensitive and important, but for the life of me, I can’t recall what it is. That’s a helpless feeling. I don’t like it. That’s why I created the to-do list in the first place.

And I’m starting to forget words. I know what I want to say conceptually. It’s on the tip of my tongue. I just can’t always verbalize it. “Please pass me the… the… you know. That thing.”

Do you have any idea how scary it is for a writer not to be able to come up with a word? And since I’m not currently in a nice comfortable relationship where the other person can finish my sentences for me, odds are that the person I’m talking to doesn’t know what thing I’m referring to.

The older I get, the more I feel like I’m traveling in a land where I don’t speak the language and I don’t have a map or an itinerary. And while I do love to travel, I love to be able to communicate even more. This is a confusing place. I’d like to go home now.

Forgetful

Claim your copy of A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude today and you’ll be supporting StoryCorps too! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Alien Hand Syndrome

I caught the tail end of an NPR story during my commute. It was about Alien Hand Syndrome, and it sent me scampering off to Google, because stuff like that fascinates me. Imagine having a body part with a mind of its own. (Okay guys, get your mind out of the gutter.)

First of all, lest you panic, this syndrome is very rare. There have been less than 100 cases documented. And thank goodness for that, because it sounds like a living hell.

It usually crops up in individuals with epilepsy so severe that they have to have their left and right brains surgically separated in order to stop the constant seizures. Needless to say, there are bound to be side effects when you take such extreme measures.

As most of us know, the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and vice versa. The left side also is the verbal side. So when you separate the brain in two in this manner, you are leaving the right side of the brain and the left side of the body with no way to communicate, and no way to express themselves logically. Apparently that pisses them off, and the left hand, in particular, tends to act out.

People with this syndrome are often unaware of what their left hand is up to, and it’s often up to no good. There have been stories of people being beaten by their own hand, or choked, or stabbed. The left hand will sometimes try to steer their cars off the road. Or your right hand turns the page of a book you are enjoying, and your left hand decides to tear all the pages out. Or “you” want to get dressed, and “it” wants to get you naked in public. How mortifying!

For some reason this reminded me of the Cymothoa Exigua, which is a parasite that causes the tongues of fishes to atrophy, and then pretends to be that fish’s tongue for the rest of its life, robbing it of nutrition. That something like that even exists freaks me out. I think it’s the lack of control over your own body that does it for me. And it makes me wonder what is actually going on inside our skulls. And not in a good way.

Take a quick inventory. If all your body parts belong to you and cooperate, give thanks to the universe.

Cymothoa Exigua says hello.

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

If Our Thoughts Were on Intercom

As I was walking around doing routine maintenance on my drawbridge today, I decided to keep track of the things that were going through my head.

  • The song Cover of The Rolling Stone by Dr. Hook.

  • The idea for this blog entry.

  • I should have worn a jacket. I was wishful springing.

  • Wow, he was good looking.

  • He’s also young enough to be my son. Get a grip.

  • People don’t say hello in this town.

  • Let’s try not to get mowed down in the crosswalk for a change.

  • Traffic in this town is out of control.

  • A conversation I had with a friend recently in which I laughed inappropriately. I really need to learn to control myself. But I’m laughing even now, just thinking about it.

  • I wonder if I’ll ever be able to buy a house here.

  • I miss my dog. He’s probably home playing poker or something.

  • Hostile work environments.

  • Did I remember to bring my lunch?

  • Outstanding stuff on my to-do list that I know I’ll never do.

Basically, if my brain were on an intercom, it would be spouting trivia that no one would really care to hear. But lest you act all superior, that’s most likely the case with you, too. Can you imagine walking down a crowded sidewalk, having to listen to the minutiae of everyone’s daily life? It would be maddening.

It would also force us to be honest. That would be interesting. And potentially dangerous. Because while those shorts don’t make you look fat, c’mon. Plaid is soooooo 1972.

intercom

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Homunculus II

Now, doesn’t that sound like the name of a really bad horror movie sequel? Au contraire. Yesterday I wrote about the 16th century concept that a man’s sperm consisted of microscopic fully-formed humans. Called a homunculus, one of these little guys was said to get planted inside the woman, where it would grow.

Okay, that’s weird enough, but when reading up on the subject, I came across something even more bizarre. As scientists began to figure out that some parts of the human body have more motor control and/or more sensation than others, and those parts of the body are controlled  by various parts of the brain, they drew a representation of how the human body figures in the brain, and since it was a fully formed (albeit very warped) human body within the body, they remembered the story of the homunculus, and decided to name their concept the Cortical Homunculus. They drew it like so.

1.images_brain_map_final_MotorSensoryCortex-L

And then, someone got the bright idea, based on this information, to draw what a body would look like to our brain, based on the values imposed upon it by our motor cortex and our sensory cortex, and this is what they came up with.

2.images_Cortex_Man_topographical_map_brain_Motor_sensory

Now, if that doesn’t freak you out, nothing will. I for one now feel as if my brain isn’t me, and I can’t relate to it at all. I think I need a hug.

Self-Deprecation — Your Brain Hears You

I have this theory. There’s a part of your brain that takes in what you hear and assumes it to be fact. My theory is that that goes double for what it hears coming out of your own mouth. Sure, what you say is generated by your brain, but the choice to actually say it is kind of a form of validation. In other words, if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

For some reason many of us think it’s charming to be self-deprecating. But I’m telling you, your brain hears you when you put yourself down. You might be laughing as you say, “I’m so stupid,” or “Women are just not into me,” but a little part of your head is just hearing the words and taking them in as reality. In the long run, that is going to hurt you.

We are often more cruel to ourselves than we would ever be to others. That’s not funny. That’s not charming. It’s just wrong. Self-abuse is still abuse. Why don’t you deserve as much courtesy and kindness as you would afford a loved one, a guest, or a stranger in distress? You can, should, and MUST become your own cheerleader!

That’s my theory for the day.

self-deprecating

My Brain on Cruise Control

With an 8 hour drive ahead of me from Seattle, Washington to Missoula, Montana, I wondered what my brain would do with all that “down time”. So I decided to take a digital recorder with me and whenever I started to think about a new subject, I’d take note. I have no idea whether I’m typical or completely out there on the lunatic fringe, but I thought it would be an interesting little experiment. So what follows is a look into my idle brain.

In between long periods where my mind seemed to simply hum along with the sound of my tires, I recorded these thoughts:

  • Did I leave burners on? I’m sure I checked… But did I?
  • Have I forgotten anything?
  • I hope my dog Devo doesn’t pee in the car.
  • I wonder if I’m passing Bill Gates on the highway?
  • It’s so nice to see something different for a change.
  • Why is my GPS not speaking to me?
  • Raining so hard I can’t see out the window. Wish I could afford a car with a working defogger.
  • Devo insisted I stop to let him pee less than a half hour down the road. I suppose it would be worse with small children.
  • After listening to an NPR story, I need to add The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat to my “must read” list, which is becoming so long that I fear I’ll never catch up.
  • My windshield wipers refuse to turn off. Great.
  • Do dogs’ ears pop when we come down from the mountains like mine do?
  • Devo is sitting beside me. He’s my best friend. Blue is sound asleep in the back.
  • Heading into Big Sky country. I can breathe again. I never realize I’m not breathing until I start breathing again.
  • Drove for 2 hours before I remembered I have cruise control. It’s not something I can use in the gridlock of Seattle.
  • I wonder what farming life is like? Lonely. Fulfilling. Hard.
  • I took this same route in reverse a year ago when I drove across country from Florida. I was so different then. What a year it has been.
  • Lots of talk about the forest fires on the radio. A sign outside of someone’s house: “Firefighters, it’s only a house. Take care of yourselves.”
  • Ideas for blog entries.
  • After seeing an out of date billboard on the subject: There’s a TESTICLE festival? Seriously?
  • You know you’re in trouble when the only radio stations you can get are gospel and traditional Mexican folk music. Radio is now off.
  • I begin humming “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. Over and over and over and over…
[Image credit: larryrebich.com]
[Image credit: larryrebich.com]

Silly Thoughts

Quite often I have too much time on my hands and my mind wanders. I never quite know where it will go. You might say I suffer from a preponderance of ponderings.

After a while I’ll wind up with so many unanswered questions rattling around in my brain that they cause me to lose sleep. What follows are three of my typical trains of thought that seem to have recently jumped the tracks.

  • Who was the first person who thought it would be a good idea to put a tiny little umbrella in a cocktail? Why? Did they want to keep the ice cubes cool? Why did they think this would be more attractive than, say, a flower? There must be companies out there that do nothing but make little tiny umbrellas all day. Do they have a special holiday for the inventor of this frivolity? Is his or her picture on their factory wall? How many acres of rain forest have been destroyed so we can have tiny little umbrellas?
  • On several occasions I’ve read mystery novels or seen movies in which the detectives notice that there’s a knife absent from the victim’s knife block, so surely that must be the missing murder weapon. If that’s the case, if a detective ever visits me, he’s going to think there’s been a massacre. My knife block has several empty slots, which I’ve filled with knives from other incomplete sets. Am I the only one who has a knife block deficit? What do other people do, throw out the whole set when one knife goes missing? Wouldn’t that provide the general populous with even more murder weapons?
  • The other day I was packing my suitcase and it occurred to me that suitcases must have originally been cases for suits. I can only think of one occasion in which I’ve packed a suit in a suitcase. I suppose people must still do so when they are going on business trips, but thank God the concept of formal wear in office environments seems to be slowly going the way of the dodo bird. As I stuff my sweat pants and jeans and t-shirts into my suitcase, I get a little thrill that I’m misusing this handy device, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I don’t need hat boxes, and will never have to worry about gloves, high heels, panty hose, and corsets.

Now, get out of my head. It’s already crowded enough. Here. Have a cocktail.

[Image credit: myrtlebeachholidayinn.com]
[Image credit: myrtlebeachholidayinn.com]

Doin’ Time in Uncanny Valley

I’ve never been afraid of clowns, but I’ve known a lot of people who are quite terrified of them. Since I could never relate to this, I thought I’d research it to try to understand it, and that’s when I stumbled into Uncanny Valley.

For some reason it never occurred to me that people would do scientific studies about what we humans find to be creepy, but sure enough, they have created this graph.

 uncanny-valley

It seems that we can find recognizable things that aren’t anything like us to be cute, such as ET, and we can find things that are exactly like us to be cute. But when something is almost like us, but not quite, that’s when it falls into that valley in the graph and it freaks us out. It’s like our brain just about recognizes something, but also senses that there’s a quality about it that is a tiny bit off. Just enough to want to assume humanity, but not enough to be able to do so, and that’s when your brain starts sending you that “Danger, Will Robinson!” signal.

Apparently clowns fall into that Valley for a lot of people. For me they don’t because I can discern the facial features and the real expression beneath the makeup. But there have been instances where I’ve found myself in Uncanny Valley, and once you’re there, you never forget it.

One time when I was about 5 years old I was at the neighborhood Girl’s Club and I went down the stairs in search of a bathroom. I opened a door, only to find several armless mannequins staring back at me. I still have the occasional nightmare about that.

I can get lost in the Valley when people make strange movements as well. One that always gets to me is seeing that girl scuttle down the stairs upside down and head first in The Exorcist.

exorcist-girl-stairs

For me, the Valley is also a place where people do the unexpected and impossible. I remember vividly a scene from The X Files in which a man who can shape shift decides to hide. Mulder is looking for him inside this hospital, and he leaves an examining room and the camera zooms in on this one shallow little medical instrument drawer, and it slides open, and there’s the guy. Well, there are his blinking eyes embedded in a drawer-shaped entity, anyway. I actually had to stand up and pace around the room after seeing that.

In my search for photos to include with this entry, I literally camped out in Uncanny Valley for hours. Now I feel a little queasy. Don’t say I don’t make sacrifices for you, dear reader!

So here, for your viewing “pleasure”, are some images that give me the willies.

creepy baby jake Creepy doll creepy faceNightmare_Valley creepy shoes creepy sodahead

Don’t Panic

Our basic instincts haven’t had a chance to catch up with the modern world. There are many things we are forced to do in our own best interests that go against every fiber of our being, like turning into a skid when driving on a slippery surface.

When the flight attendant does the safety speech and gets to the part about oxygen masks and says, “If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” I always think, “Yeah, right. That’s gonna happen.” I mean, it makes sense when everything is calm, cool, and under control, but what parent isn’t instinctively going to go for their child’s mask first?

Then there are relationships. I stayed in a 16 year relationship that made me miserable because it felt safer than taking the risk of spending the rest of my life all alone. Back when women had to depend on men for their very survival, this was a logical choice, but in this modern era it was just a 16 year waste of my precious time.

Road rage, I’m convinced, is simply a misdirected reaction to being chased by some ancient saber-toothed tiger. I mean, honestly, blowing your stack because you’re stuck in traffic is a little over the top, don’t you think?

And what must the most ancient part of your brain think when we actually SEEK fear? When we ride a roller coaster, for example, it must feel like we are attacking ourselves on the most basic level. Our hippocampi must want to run for the nearest exit.

In this modern world, full of school shootings and traffic jams and artificial anxieties, it is very important to sit yourself down every now and then and seek a little bit of perspective. It’s going to be all right. It really is.