Argh, Kingston's holding its St Pat's Day parade today, and the drumming is really getting on my nerves. St. Pat's is only fun for me when I'm drunk. When I'm not, it's obnoxious and pointless. (See George Carlin's take on Irish/ Whatevs Pride in It's Bad For Ya.)
Recently finished reading Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely, and Jeebus, but human beings are predictably irrational. Some of the experiments detailed in the book--why expensive medicine works better than modestly priced or even cheap medicine--come to conclusions I've drawn on my own. But it also made me think about other irrationalities humans are prone to: why people can enjoy a beer with balsamic vinegar in it . . . unless you tell them there's vinegar in it beforehand. Why the word "free" short circuits what passes for rational thought in many people, making us more likely to grab three of something crappy and free, at the expense of one that's better and with a price tag. Going bid-crazy on eBay.
More importantly, it raises serious questions about the use of placebos and the ethics of keeping patients in the dark about their use. About doctors doing things like prescribing anti-biotics for viral infections, or the medical establishment as a whole being unwilling to really find out if so many of the surgeries performed on patients are necessary, when so many show improvement just from thinking they've been operated on.
So, not only are most people susceptible to practical jokes of all sorts, but they're sometimes better for being deceived. (I'd mention how it reminds me exactly of what Ozymandias says near the end of Watchmen, but I think I've established my geek-cred beyond question, as it is.)
I suppose that this power of positive placebo is hardly surprising or mystifying. If psychosomatic symptoms can make people feel pain--if men can experience "sympathetic pregnancies"--then the reverse certainly ought to hold water. Which naturally makes one wonder (and if one doesn't wonder naturally, the book will helpfully prompt you to forward) if human so-called reasoning is even less reasonable than the pessimists among us imagine.
How marvelous and frightening is it that not only is the human brain immensely powerful and subtle, but that at the reins of this complex difference engine is a frightened, stupid, occasionally gibbering madman, prone to mood swings and susceptible to a mish-mash of hormones?
How humbling and steadying it is that we don't yet truly understand the feats our brains are capable of, let alone have the ability to use its resources fully.
Also finished David Sedaris's When You Are Engulfed In Flames. Touching, amusing, and insightful, as always. He makes me think that, if my life was more interesting, I could try my hand at being an essayist. And at learning to speak French and Japanese.
About to start Tom Paine, by John Keane, and I'm sooper siked (also wanna get his Vaclav Havel), and will likely reread The Stranger and The End of Faith.
Got a hair cut. I literally told the barber I wanted an "Obama", something short, neat and presidential. Bye-bye kooky, spiral-curly afro, hello blessed androgyny. The hair cut's caused so many double-takes, it's amazing. This one guy nearly broke his neck doing an unprecedented quadruple-take, trying to figure out if I was a dude or a chick. At least I assume that's what caused the look, as opposed to my ICP t-shirt or the armload of massively overdue library books.
Downside of the hair cut--I re-found that grey hair I first encountered back in August, and it almost totally resisted the clipper. It was still long and now way visible. Except to the barber who missed it. So I cut it myself. I'm now thirty percent more able pretend I'm not one step closer to my own personal underground sabbatical.
My Rorschach collectible figurine? Still in the unopened, original packaging. My will to power is heretofore unparalleled in human history. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.
And now, I present Indian Thriller, and what it sounds like in English . . . just because I feel like it (by now, it hopefully goes without saying that nothing with a youtube logo is 'mine' in any sense of the word):
"No horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace." --HP Lovecraft