Friday, April 20, 2012

Cruel Science

It is an unanswered question how specific the cries of the human neonate may be, although some mothers are confident they can distinguish different types of cries from their infants.

One method of answering such a question would be to record a sample of the cries of a neonate during its first week. Then, at moments when the infant was not crying, subject it to a distributed series of playbacks of its past cries, and record the fresh crying which the infant emitted in response to hearing itself cry. The infant should cry to the sound of its own cry, since the cry is a quite contagious response. One could then examine the degree of correlation between each cry which was used as a stimulus and the contagious response to that cry. If the neonate does emit distinctively different cries, then it should respond differentially to its own distinctive cries; therefore the variance between pairs of cries should exceed that within pairs of cries. To our knowledge such a test method has not yet been employed.(7-8)
Frings and Jumber tape-recorded the distress cries of a starling which it uttered when caught. They then played this at high volume over a loudspeaker in a town where there were many starlings. The effect was to drive the starlings away permanently.

There are also distress cries of birds which have exactly the opposite effect on the parent bird who hears them. In species of birds in which the mother does no feeding, the cries of the infant birds bring the mother and prevent their getting lost.

The extraordinary specificity of such responses was shown in a study by Bruckner who found that the domestic hen responds only to the sound of the distress call of the chick. When he fastened a chick to a peg behind a screen, the mother would come to its rescue when she heard the chick crying. But when he put the chick under a glass dome so that the mother cuold see it struggling but could not hear its distress cry, she was entirely indifferent.(15-16)
-Silvan Tomkins, Affect, Imagery, Consciousness

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sick Rose

By William Blake 1757–1827(code from the Poetry Foundation)

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sex Sentence

"...impure Ganimeds, Hermaphrodits, Neronists, Messalinists, Dodecomechanists, Capricians, Inventors of newe, or revivers of old leacheries, and the whole brood of venerous libertines, that know no reason but appetite, no Lawe but Luste, no humanitie, but villanye, noe divinity but Atheisme.”
-Gabriel Harvey, 1593, on the bad company kept by satirist Thomas Nashe (1567-1601)
...But good, my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven
Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
And recks not his own rede.
-Ophelia to Laertes, Hamlet I. iii, 49–4)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Affect explosion

...The characters are into emotional laceration for fun. They are verbal, articulate, self-absorbed, selfish, egotistical, cold and fascinating. They've never felt an emotion they couldn't laugh at.

..."Margot at the Wedding" may not be based on Noah Baumbach's own family, but it demonstrates a way of looking at families he must have learned somewhere. Both of his parents were writers and, to one degree or another, film critics; I recall Gene Siskel telling a friend at dinner that film critics eventually became critical of everything: For example, "your tie is hideous." In revenge, the friend went to Marshall Field's and asked to buy their ugliest tie. Two salesclerks helped him in a spirited debate to select the tie that qualified. My friend wore it the next time they met. Siskel identified the brand of the tie correctly and said: "If you like that tie, it shows you have better taste than 99 percent of men."

So it goes with the family in this movie. All of its members are engaged in a mutual process of shooting one another down.
-Roger Ebert

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

Said on Theory

Theory, in short, can never be complete, just as one's interest in everyday life is never exhausted by simulacra,models, or theoretical abstracts of it. Of course one derives pleasure from actually making evidence fit or work in a theoretical scheme, and of course it is ridiculously foolish to argue that "the facts" or "the great texts" do not require any theoretical framework or methodology to be appreciated or read properly. No reading is neutral or innocent, and by the same token every text and every reader is to some extent the product of a theoretical standpoint, however implicit or unconscious such a standpoint may be. I am arguing, however, that we distinguish theory from critical consciousness by saying that the latter is a sort of spatial sense, a sort of measuring faculty for locating or situating theory, and this means that theory has to be grasped in the place and time out of which it emerges as part of that time, working in and for it,responding to it; then, consequently, that first place can be measured against subsequent places where the theory turns up for use. The critical consciousness is awareness of the differences between situations, awareness too of the fact that no system or theory exhausts the situation out of which it emerges or to which it is transported.
It may seem an abrupt conclusion to reach, but the kinds of theory I have been discussing can quite easily become cultural dogma. Appropriated to schools or institutions, they quickly acquire the status of authority within a cultural group, guild or affiliative family. Though of course they are to be distinguished from grosser forms of cultural dogma like racism and nationalism, they are insidious in that their original provenance -- their history of adversarial, oppositional derivation -- dulls the critical consciousness, convincing it that a once insurgent theory is still insurgent, lively, responsive to history. Left to its own specialists and acolytes, so to speak, theory tends to have walls erected around itself, but this does not mean that critics should either ignore theory or look despairingly around for newer varieties. To measure the distance between theory then and now, there and here, to record the encounter of theory with resistances to it, to move skeptically in the broader political world where such things as the humanities or the great classics ought to be seen as small provinces of the human venture, to map the territory covered by all the techniques of dessimination, communication, and interpretation, to preserve some modest (perhaps shrinking) belief in noncoercive human community: if these are not imperatives, they do at least seem to be attractive alternatives. And what is critical consciousness at bottom if not an unstoppable predilection for alternatives?
Edward Said, "Traveling Theory"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Never sleep...

It's the birthday of Nelson Algren (1909) (books by this author). Born Nelson Algren Abraham to working-class parents in Detroit, he grew up in Chicago's immigrant neighborhoods. He wrote his first story, "So Help Me," during the Great Depression, while he was working at a gas station in Texas. His life — and work — changed dramatically after he was caught stealing a typewriter and spent five months in jail. His later novels and stories would feature the down-and-out, the loser, and the reject. He became known as a writer of Chicago; he wrote: "If a writer could write the truth about one Chicago street, that would be a good life's work."

In A Walk on the Wild Side (1956), set in the world of pimps and prostitutes in New Orleans, Algren gives his three rules for life: "Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own." The novel is, in many ways, about the contempt of a nation for its dispossessed, and in it he wrote: "When we get more houses than we can live in, more cars than we can ride in, more food than we can eat ourselves, the only way of getting richer is by cutting off those who don't have enough."

Nelson Algren, who said, "A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery."
--The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor, March 28, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Weird Recipes: Sea Sludge Stew

Stew of Sea Cucumber and Hasma

补肾益精  润肺养阴  病后虚弱  肺痨咳嗽  吐血  盗汗  妇女性功能低下  更年期综合症  

“Some people call hasma frog fat, others call it frog ovaries, still others refer to it as frog cream or frog oil. All are wrong as hasma is moist, has many hormones, and a high lipid content, but really it is a combination of fat and part of the reproductive area.” -- Flavor and Fortune
Even if it wasn’t what I would actively have desired to eat half an hour after getting out of bed, it was wonderful – the fresh springiness of the sea cucumbers; the tender, transparent gelatinousness of xue ha, the delicate broth, the freshness of the coriander. -- Fuchsia Dunlop

I write. I write you.

I write. I write you. Daily. From here. If I am not writing, I am thinking about writing. I am composing. Recording movements. You are here and I raise the voice. Particle bits of sound and noise gathered pick up lint, dust. They might scatter and become invisible. Speech morsels. Broken chips of stones. Not hollow not empty. They think that you are one and the same direction addressed. The vast ambiant sound hiss between the invisible line distance that this line connects the void and space surrounding entering and exiting.

They have not questioned. It is all the same to them. It follows directions. Not yet. They have not learned the route of instruction. To surpass overtake the hidden even beyond destination. Destination.

I have the documents. Documents, proof, evidence, photograph, signature. One day you raise the right hand and you are American. They give you an American Pass port. The United States of America. Somewhere someone has taken my identity and replaced it with their photograph. The other one. Their signature their seals. Their own image. And you learn the executive branch the legislative branch and the third. Justice. Judicial branch. It makes the difference. The rest is past.

You return and you are not one of them, they treat you with indifference. All the time you understand what they are saying. But the papers give you away. Every ten feet. They ask your identity. THey comment upon your inability or ability to speak. Whether you are telling the truth or not about your nationality.

They say you look other than you say. As if you didn't know who you were. You say who you are but you begin to doubt. They search you. They, the anonymous variety of uniforms, each division, strata, classification, any set of miscellaneous properly uni formed. They have the right, no matter what rank, however low their function they have the authority. Their authority sewn into the stitches of their costume. Every ten feet they demand to know who and what you are, who is represented. The eyes gather towards the appropriate proof. Towards the face then again to the papers, when did you leave the country why did you leave this country why are you returning to the country.

You see the color the hue the same you see the shape the form the same you see the unchangeable and the unchanged the same you smell filtered edited through progress and westernization the same you see the numerals and innumerables bonding overlaid the same, speech, the same. You see the will, you see the breath, you see the out of breath and out of will but you still see the will. Will and will only espouse this land this sky this time this people. You are one same particle. You leave you come back to the shell left empty all this time. To claim to reclaim, the space. Into the mouth the wound the entry is reverse and back each organ artery gland pace element, implanted, housed skin upon skin, membrane, vessel, waters, dams, ducts, canals, bridges.

Composition of the body, taking into consideration from conception, the soil, seed, amount of light and water necessary, the geneology. Not a single word allowed to utter until the last station, they ask to check the baggage. You open your mouth half way. Near tears, nearly saying, I know you I know you, I have waited to see you for long this long. They check each article, question you on foreign articles, then dismiss you.
--Theresa Cha, Dictee

Sticky Songs

...during some songs, listeners never seemed to change the radio dial. Among DJs, these songs are known as “sticky.” Meyer had tracked hundreds of sticky songs over the years, trying to divine the principles that made them popular. His office was filled with charts and graphs plotting the characteristics of various sticky songs. Meyer was always looking for new ways to measure stickiness, and about the time “Hey Ya!” was released, he started experimenting with data from the tests that Arbitron was conducting to see if it provided any fresh insights.

Some of the stickiest songs at the time were sticky for obvious reasons—“Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé and “Señorita” by Justin Timberlake, for instance, had just been released and were already hugely popular, but those were great songs by established stars, so the stickiness made sense. Other songs, though, were sticky for reasons no one could really understand. For instance, when stations played “Breathe” by Blu Cantrell during the summer of 2003, almost no one changed the dial. The song is an eminently forgettable, beat-driven tune that DJs found so bland that most of them only played it reluctantly, they told music publications. But for some reason, whenever it came on the radio, people listened, even if, as pollsters later discovered, those same listeners said they didn’t like the song very much. Or consider “Here Without You” by 3 Doors Down, or almost any song by the group Maroon 5. Those bands are so featureless that critics and listeners created a new music category—“bath rock”—to describe their tepid sounds. Yet whenever they came on the radio, almost no one changed the station.

Then there were songs that listeners said they actively disliked, but were sticky nonetheless. Take Christina Aguilera or Celine Dion. In survey after survey, male listeners said they hated Celine Dion and couldn’t stand her songs. But whenever a Dion tune came on the radio, men stayed tuned in. Within the Los Angeles market, stations that regularly played Dion at the end of each hour—when the number of listeners was measured—could reliably boost their audience by as much as 3 percent, a huge figure in the radio world. Male listeners may have thought they disliked Dion, but when her songs played, they stayed glued.

--Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit