Friday, May 11, 2012

The Resurrection Men

"Grave robbing was not a criminal offense. Stealing a pig or a goose was punishable by death, but in the eyes of the law a body was not property and therefore couldn't be stolen. The body-snatchers were careful to leave the shroud and clothes behind in the coffin because they were property."

                                                                    -- Smoking Ears & Screaming Teeth
                                                                          by Trevor Norton, p8

This is a true account of the medical trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Bodies were needed in order for surgeons to learn their craft. This got exactly as ugly as you can imagine. It led to no less than outright murder in order to obtain another cadaver.

There are accounts of criminals being hanged while surrounded by surgeons and those who supplied bodies to surgeons, and they would fight, tug-of-war style, over the fresh corpses. In one instance, the jostling over the the body was rough enough to actually resuscitate the condemned!

Some people were 'specialists' in retrieving corpses from fresh graves. Sometimes they were able to retrieve the bodies before the funeral, which in reality was being held around a casket full of stones. These experts in corpse acquisition were known as "Resurrection Men."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Text Buffering

Like everybody else, I have rules and 'buffers' for sending text messages. You know what I mean, you receive a text and you don't respond right away for no particular reason other than to appear 'cool' or something.

Say you've just met someone and the two of you are planning a date. Of course you don't respond to a message right away, or else you'll seem too eager or desperate, or both. Not only that, you have to decide how long to wait before texting once you've gotten their number. Things get even more complicated when you've 'met' someone through an online dating site like OK Cupid because the other person can see when you log in and can assume when you've received their message, and thus their number.

I can understand the dating head games. Those are nothing new. The movie Swingers summed up the rules for calling girls in the '90s (three days, for those interested), and I'm sure there have been unwritten rules ever since the introduction of the telephone. Hell, I'll wager a cool hundred that even in the days of telegrams there were rules about how quickly to respond to 'callers' both gentleman and lady. Surely there must be some yellowing  pamphlet with rules for courtship by telegraphy out there somewhere?

It's not just dating, though. I buffer everyone. Everyone. Everyone else seems to do it, too. I have one friend who is epically terrible at texting, who literally takes days to respond to the simplest queries. And of course, like an idiot, I always wait days to respond back. All of this is for no reason whatsoever; maybe the two of us are trying to seem cool to each other? As if we're too busy to, basically, acknowledge someone else's -- a friend's! -- attempt to get our attention. Objectively, though, we're morons. I know exactly what both of us are doing: mostly nothing (I can see your Facebook posts, you dunce!).

In fact, I'm betting that's the impetus behind most text buffering. We have all this technology to make our lives simple, so that we have more free time, and these gadgets are supposedly so amazing for communication, yet in reality we mostly use them to pretend at being too busy for communication.

This leads to another bane of my existence: neverending text conversations. I can't stand this, it's my main gripe about texting. I feel like I'm constantly involved in at least three conversations that never, ever end. If a person takes days to respond, then we've destroyed the general rule for knowing when an interaction is "over": when no one is talking, the convo has ended. Not so with texts! I mean, obviously you can't say "goodbye" because neither of you are present someplace where you can leave. Even chat rooms are more natural than texts. It also has the effect of making everybody seem like autistic children who can't read body language. For instance, if I type "Ha!" and nothing else in response to something, I feel like I'm making it clear that I'm through with my half of this transaction. In the real world, everyone picks up on this cue. If I laugh at something someone says, that person almost never expects me to say anything else.

Le sigh. On and on it goes. Welcome to the future, where a conversation that should take no more than two minutes on the phone is now stretched out over days because we have so little to do with ourselves and don't want anyone to know. Nothing gets done efficiently. It's like waiting for a god damn carrier pigeon.

Me: What was the name of that band you told me to check out?

Three days pass...

"Friend": Goodbye Bikini Island.

Three days...

Me: What the hell are we talking about?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I once read an article that was titled something like "Advice for DIY Musicians for Brand Building" or some other bullshit like that. Anyway, I swear one of the pieces of advice was:

7. Have a unique style in your fashion choices.
 Yeah, thanks a lot asshole!

Here's one I'll add to "DIY Music Brand Building for Dummies":

11. Always remember to plug in those amplifiers, kids! lololol You're all great.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

You know how when you're reading a book your mind will sometimes wander? Only realizing after a few paragraphs that your eyes have just been going over the words while you've been thinking about something else. Everyone has done this, I'm sure.

Today, it happened to me but with a strange twist. In the middle of the page I realized it was happening, but still I let my mind wander. Then after a second, I went back to the top of the page because I thought I had read something I wanted to get. Something I wanted to remember. After I couldn't find it on the page, I realized it had been something I was thinking that I wanted to remember. A thought, as my internal dialogue meandered, I wanted to come back to.

It wasn't a brief confusion. I was wholly convinced that I read what turned out to be something I was thinking. I really searched for it. In my mind I saw the words written in the same font as the book. I read the damn page three times. The words were not there.

This was a first. I had mixed up my mind and my media. 

Maybe when my mind flits off while I'm reading my eyes are on autopilot, but since my thoughts aren't about the book, my eyes can't possibly be processing the words on the page. Besides, my mind is what processes stuff, the eyes only receive light. So in effect, I think my eyes were reading my thoughts. I'm guessing if a person's eyes are continuing along the page while his mind is elsewhere, they are still performing the muscular task of reading. What are they "reading?" Only the mind can process letters, know where to jump between words, notice where the page ends in order to tell the eyes when to go down and to the left (for those of us who read in the Western fashion), and realize that neither your eyes nor your mind have been paying any attention to this book.

Maybe it just happened to you reading this record of my wandering thoughts.

Perhaps it's all just a muscular habit. Your eyes keep doing what they do, no matter what your mind is up to. Put a book in front of them, they go into "read activation mode!" It could be that we aren't as in control of our actions as we intuitively feel we are. Although it's hard to believe something as complex and recently developed as reading comprehension could be much like an animal instinct. It wouldn't explain why I was convinced I had read something that in reality I had only thought.