Brains, more people should use them

I’ve been pretty busy lately.  Just one of those months where there’s a million things to do and only so many hours in the day to do it.  Summer’s here so it’s busy season at the campground where I work as a security guard/campground host/complaints department/bouncer.

For my fellow MTstars frequenters, I see the politics board is once again up in flames.  I was tempted to write something, but it seemed pointless given the caliber of the idiocy we’re dealing with over there this week.  A long time ago, when I was still in training, a patient told his doctor “Talking to you is like throwing sandbags at the ocean.”  I’m fresh out of sandbags this week.  A huge debate about whether voting Obama increases the likelihood of the voter to commit an act of terror.  It also turns out that Hitler was a Democrat because he belonged to the National Socialist Democrat Party.  See, the word is right in the middle there.  The more you know.  Also, the argument that because some media outlets in the 70’s ran a story about a coming ice age, the modern global warming argument is invalid.  The news also told me that Dungeons & Dragons causes Satanism and people are putting razor blades in your candy on Halloween.  The news is always reporting on things that aren’t happening.

I’m always torn as regards the mainstream media.  I often criticize the big news outlets and their slanted, incompetent views.  If you saw it on MSNBC it was good news for Democrats, if you saw it on CNN you probably aren’t sure what you saw and if you saw it on Fox News you’ve probably contracted some kind of illness from the mere viewing.  Newspapers seem safer and then the Post frames innocent kids.  Imagine getting a copy of the newspaper and seeing that you’re a fugitive terrorist and you didn’t even know it.  So I don’t trust the mainstream news as far as I can throw it and it’s gotten pretty bloated.

The problem is the other side of that coin.  The “You have to find it on the internet or it’s not true” crowd.  I’ve officially heard the words “lame stream media” 10 million times too many.  The desire for better journalism and fears about what the media is feeding us are legitimate and justified.  However, we can’t go running into the hands of journalistic charlatans in response.  I’m not saying blogs don’t have a place in journalism, but what makes so many people see them as foolproof?  Except this blog.  Everything said here is trustworthy.  Unless it’s opinion.  Or opinionated news.  Or a newsy opinion.  Which one is this?  Like most media outlets I’ve lost track.

My policy is that everything I hear is plain old information.  I assign varying degrees of probability depending on how likely it sounded and how trustworthy I think the source is.  It only becomes reality when I see it with my own two eyes.  And I take that with a grain of salt, because the human perspective is questionable in the best of times.  We tend to like to see our memories as indelible.  We only become unreliable if we have a disease like dementia.  The truth is scarier.

They did a study years ago (and many like it since then with similar results) where they asked people to bring in photos of themselves when they were kids.  They would then sneak in a fake picture and ask people about the pictures.  Most people remembered the fake picture the first time.  Some people saw that it was a fake, but then when assured by the researchers that it was real, they all remembered it as real.  Even funnier is that they would then justify the memory to their own brains my making up a story.  Like a fake picture of yourself as a kid at a carnival and you remember how on that day that never happened your mom wouldn’t let you get cotton candy and you cried all the way home.  A fake picture and an interview later and you now have a fake memory in your head.

Recently they performed another test where they took photos of famous protests like the anti-Iraq War protest in Rome in 2003 or Tiananmen Square in 1989.  They showed the normal photos to one group and doctored photos to another where angry and violent looking people were added to the foreground.  The people shown the doctored photos remembered far greater violence breaking out and more general destruction than what the control group remembered.

Unless this too was a fake memory, I read an article on… Huffpo was it?  Ah, who knows.  Anyway, researchers were doing brain scans on people while they were driving.  Turns out the reason you might drive past a new stop sign on a road you’ve driven before is because you’re driving from memory.  Your visual field is being partially filled in by your memory center to save processing power so you can concentrate on more important thoughts (sex, commercial jingles, things people said that ticked you off and potential come backs, useless trivia, etc.)  The exception is moving objects.  So, if a dog runs out in front of you, your brain will know to not paint over it with memory because of your potential predator override switch, but if it’s stationary like a car or a stop sign or a downed tree, you might not see it.  This doesn’t explain why people going somewhere for the first time will blindly follow their GPS into the ocean, but neither bodes well for humankind.

Long before I was born and my mom was still riding a motorcycle, she was on the highway zipping along.  A cat ran out in front of her.  She realized afterward that she should have assumed from the speed that the cat was being chased.  A dog side swiped her and she went down (rarely hear about people run over by dogs on the freeway).  Of course, she did what any true rider knows to do when their taking a spill:  Use your body to provide a fleshy cushion for the bike.

So, she goes to the laundromat to wash her clothes.  After putting her clothes in, she finds that she’s having trouble figuring out how to use the washer.  A bystander comes by and asks if she’s alright.  She asks why he’s asking.  He points out that her and her clothes are covered in blood.  She notices for the first time that he’s right.  She decides that she must have been in some kind of accident and needs to call someone.  She goes to a neighboring store to get change for the phone.  She gives the guy a five and when he hands back the money, she throws most of it back at him and says all she wanted was a quarter.

She goes to the pay phone, but she can only remember her cousin’s number from years before.  She doesn’t know what year it is.  She can’t remember where she lived.  She finally finds her cousin’s number in her wallet and calls her (she also finds her driver’s license and can’t remember where her address is actually located.)  She tells her that she might have been in an accident because there’s blood everywhere.  Her cousin freaks out as one would in that situation and promises to come get her.  Half a minute later, my mom decides she’s been in an accident and needs to call her cousin.  Who is now really, really worried.  Half a minute later she calls her a third time as she’s getting out the door.

Her cousin turns out to be the worst possible friend you could ever have in this circumstance.  My mom convinces her (yes, she was tricked and outsmarted by a severely concussed, wounded and anemic person) that she just needs to get home and sleep and she won’t leave the bike, which luckily is undamaged.  She rides it home and her cousin leads the way because she still doesn’t know where she lives now.  They drink a six pack together and go to sleep.

That morning she wakes up in unbelievable pain and finds out that she’s missing half her upper teeth on one side, though she did find them in her helmet embedded into the visor.  She’s bleeding from her head, she has hamburger for arms and her right leg is broken.  The same leg she walked around on with no pain.  She gets out to her bike and finds that it’s trashed.  When she saw it on the way home, she saw it as it had been before the accident.

If you think this stopped her from riding, you would be wrong.  As she told the irate doctor she saw “If you fell in the shower, would you stop bathing?”  In fact, she didn’t stop riding until the day she found out she was pregnant with me.  She came home that day, put the bike out on the lawn and put a for sale sign on it.  You’ve never seen a father so happy to hear their unmarried single daughter is pregnant.

So, the moral of the story is that if you have a concussion you should drive home and drink yourself to sleep… wait… that’s the worse lesson ever.

No, the real lesson is three part:

1.  Don’t trust what people tell you.

2.  Don’t trust what you tell yourself.

3.  Don’t be one of those people that never trusts anything.

Oh, and…

4.  Considering the choices my mom made before I was conceived, I am extremely lucky to exist.


About fanaticalhypocrite

I'm your average agnostic Irish Catholic Welsh Jew born in rural West Virginia as the mildly autistic son of a motorcycle riding nurse and an unemployed, ex-military, atheist theology major (likes there's any other kind.) Just another tragically disconnected member of the bitter American proletariat living in the twilight of U.S. world dominance. I'm a medical transcriptionist by day ("They're going to fire me tomorrow" has been my motto for 11 years), a security guard/campground host/lost & found department/problem solver/bouncer/bookkeeper understudy 24/7/365, and a nerdy wannabe writer by night. And also day. My life is basically a non-linear blender full of random activities. And now I run a blog because... why not? It's not like I was using my precious time to cure disease or end world hunger. Might as well tell a bunch of strangers about why [insert anything here] really pisses me off.
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11 Responses to Brains, more people should use them

  1. Sabura says:

    Truly, regarding the “caliber of the idiocy ” going on there, what the heck is happening? I haven’t been around long enough to notice if it’s cyclic, but one other regular assures me it is. I’m skipping actually reading about half the posts as I can feel my brain cells dying when doing so.

    What a terrifying but great story about your mom, and what an excellent mother to give up biking like that. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I quit smoking as soon as I had a positive home pregnancy test, with absolutely no cravings whatsoever, the only quit I can say that about. Now smoke-free for over 2 years and without getting pregnant (which I used to joke I’d need to become again in order to be successfully cig-free for good). Your mom’s tale does seem aptly evocative of what’s going on at the starry place, yikes. I do often wonder about many of those posters’ level of consciousness in general.

    • It is sort of cyclical. It’s hard to predict though. Sometimes the board will be monopolized by idiots for a day. Sometimes it’s a week or two. During those times it’s not uncommon to not see many of the liberal regulars. I think a lot of us let it burn out on its own. I wonder what causes it though. Did some Tea Partier lose their job or get a divorce and now they’re bitter and bored? Either way, they need a hobby.

      Addiction is a strange thing. Mom did just about everything repeatedly in the 60’s-70’s and never got addicted to anything. She gave each up without a craving. She was a serious alcoholic too. Quit drinking without a second thought when it got in the way of her life. Meanwhile, I have a friend who smokes two cigarettes a week, but whenever he tries to quit he only goes a week and then feels like he’s going to die from panic attacks and has to start up again. He’s looking into hypnotism and medication. I warned him that Chantix, despite it’s popularity, is scary. Very few medications carry the warning of possible “homicidal tendencies” in the PDR. It seemed easier for my grandfather to quit and he smoked 2-3 packs a day for… let me think… 73 years. He quit at 85 and started at 12.

  2. Sabura says:

    Your warnings about medication for smoking cessation are well heeded. I had a weird side effect from Zyban where I seized up nearly paralyzed several times, particularly after standing still when waiting for the lights to change to cross a street, and even though the physical side effects are long past, now I’ve got a neural pathway created that’s led to a very uncomfortable and disabling street-crossing phobia.

    Nicotine replacement therapy does work for some, but for me it just led to my being addicted to Nicorette gum for a year and getting a rash from the patch. Tried hypnotism twice, which didn’t hold longer than a couple of days either time (the same as with any cold-turkey attempt). I managed this final, forever quit by doing roll-your-own with non-nicotinic herbs such as mullein, damiana, and marshmallow (bought on eBay) for a couple of months, not even really intending to quit, just wanting to smoke “healthier,” but as the nicotine gradually decreased in my system, my cravings became naturally less and less until I had no desire for smoking at all anymore.

    As the variously attributed saying goes: “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” Yep, and practice makes perfect.

    • Fellow Traveler, aka a dem says:

      Hi, guys. Mom was a 2+-pack-a-dayer, so smoking was anything but cool. Since I never started, daughter did very early but just quit cold turkey a few years later. Told me, “I just decided not to be weak.” Neither her dad or I knew where she got THAT, but the first time I got pregnant, at 18, I made up my mind to start eating eggs for the baby–and just refuse to gag on them. Not quite the same thing (!), but looking back I’m as proud of my adolescent “heroism” as I am of my daughter’s changeling-type discipline. Thank Mom I never started. I’ve never been able to even kick guacamole.

      BTW, I came here to reassure myself that you’re well and active after dropping in at Stars and searching in some bemusement for a note of edgy good sense in the reactionary feeding frenzy. They seem to be able to sense out cognitive reasoning and must have attention, so take care. Simply agreeing with each other on how proud they were to be American under President Bush II and and speculating about Janet Napolitano’s true sexual identity will not satisfy for long.

      • I still live. Just insanely busy. And lazy. The two should be mutually exclusive, but I’ve discovered to my sorrow they are not.

        I consider myself very, very lucky to have never picked up the major bad habits (drinking, smoking, drugs). I have a million little ones to make up for it. The one I’m trying to conquer now is throwing trash away in the kitchen, rather than putting it next to the garbage can. Why do I not go the extra half a foot to the trash can? I don’t know. I do it with food and stuff that’ll rot, but wrappers and what not, nope. A big part of my house being messy is simply I get distracted. I basically live inside my own brain so much, I rarely notice what’s going on around me or even what I’m doing.

        I do find it funny on the boards how the conservatives don’t understand the Bush analogies. They claim people are bringing up the past to avoid the present. So many things they hate about Obama are things Bush did. Bail-outs, suspension or infringement of legal rights, dents in the constitution, presidentially approved murder and torture, etc. I didn’t hear many protests from the right back then. It’s like when Michael Steele referred to Afghanistan Obama’s war. There’s a logical disconnect with a lot of the ultra-conservatives on the board.

  3. Fellow Traveler, aka a dem says:

    Oh, my. Living too much inside one’s own brain.Same here. When driving down the road I see what I need to to avoid hitting someone. DH sees the makes of the vehicles, checks out the people inside, is aware of all their various movements, notes road kill, etc. Courtesy of his running commentary, I could be too , but this would put me to sleep. I just don’t CARE if someone sped up and slowed down twice, but he is aware of the world around to a degree I never am.

    Sabura, I hope the trauma that scary paralysis caused wears off over time. Peculiarly, you made me realize for the first time that since we live in the country and drive most places I very, very seldom “cross” a street now. I used to live in city centers and cross one every few minutes. If only we could trade phobias, but then maybe you wouldn’t like one that kept you from clmbing a pyramid for fear of falling.

    Our zombie comrades back at Stars – I dropped in there just now and dropped right back out. Just as busy posting phony stories and projecting conservative sins and mistakes on liberals as usual. What would happen to their heads if for just a few minutes they could see the world the way even thoughtful, knowledgeable conservatives do? Talk about trauma.

    It does seem, indirectly, as if some reality and awareness of their hypocrisy has gotten through to the far right, though, if not exactly in the form of awareness. For all their insistence on how all problems are caused by others, I’ve thought often of how they used to speak of how patriotic they were–but no more. They spoke often of their pride and concern for “our boys over there,” but no more. Constantly of their morality and values, but no more. Their morally superior country as the world’s policeman, but no more. The need to get off the backs of business, but no more (major conservative betrayal too profound to look at there). How guided by true religion they were, but doubts even about their performance there may have soiled that for them too. Certainly, pride in living according to the word of God has transmuted dangerously into a need to attack Islam and Muslims wherever they’re found.

    They’ve held onto the cry for smaller government–or to put it more accurately, their leaders have managed to get that mantra to stick at least–but the collapse of their self image seems to have left them foundering in a slough of vitriol, with a need to attack everyone else for messing up their once-fine nation and, of course, everything else that dissatisfies them.

    • Sabura says:

      Unfortunately, Fellow Traveler, I’d be stuck right there with you at the first step of that pyramid. My phobias include fear of heights (as well as of public speaking and spiders), in addition to fear of crossing streets. In my youth, I used to have on my bucket list riding the country’s tallest roller coaster (then in Sandusky, Ohio) and sky diving and as a kid used to easily slide down a wide outside bannister that started on the second story of our house at the top of 11 tall stairs (heart in my throat thinking about any of those now). I don’t exactly know how my fear of heights developed, but it’s getting progressively worse as I age, so it might be related to inner ear issues (tinnitus, occasional vertigo).

      Again back to the indeed vitriolic contigent on the PB: I believe that a conservative worldview is mainly developed by nurture, via one’s parents and environment, but obviously many break from their youthful indoctrination and pursue a more progressive direction later on, so there’s apparently a strong argument to be made for the nature explanation too.

      It may partly be like being born with an inherent disability then, which fact is cold comfort, though, and doesn’t make me any more inclined to be empathetic towards any of them. As the author of the above blog article states, there does appear to be “a social learning component … suggesting that exposure to people from diverse backgrounds, grappling with foreign ideas, and being encouraged to think critically tends to reduce conformism and increase social, religious and ideological tolerance toward others … which in turn correlates with liberal ideologies.” So what’s obviously needed is more education and social engagement worldwide. With all its pitfalls, I believe the phenomenon of the Internet is helping to facilitate just that and I think may also be part of the explanation for the increasing acceptance of gay rights even faster than I expected to see it happening in my lifetime, especially considering the years and years of continuing Reagan Era-induced social stagnation. So there’s still room for hope, I do believe (I gotta).

      • Very interesting article. The ultra-cons in this country are bizarre. I mean I’ve got friends who are conservative, but they aren’t like these nuts on the board or the hillbillies I live around. A friend of mine whose a conservative doesn’t like Obama for the same reasons he didn’t like Bush. He saw how much Bush spent and on nothing of worth. And he doesn’t think Obama’s a bad guy. We just argue about how much Obama is a victim of the times versus and active participant in the downward spiral. He’s a member of the NRA and supports background checks and doesn’t even own a single AR (as he put it: “Only using a rifle, I’ve still never come across a deer with superior firepower.”) He thinks the EPA makes some bizarre decisions, but wouldn’t burn the place to the ground like every Republican candidate wanted. When the Tea Party was starting, he was briefly hopeful he might get an alternative to the GOP and was quickly horrified by what grew out of it.

        These new conservatives though. They are entirely reactionary. You’re definitely right, FT. They have no platform or solid ideals from what I’ve seen. It’s just a mile long list of things they don’t like. No alternatives. No plans to replace the systems they see as broken with new ones. They’re throwing around slogans and ideas created by their leaders with no real clue about what they’re saying. All regulations are bad. The government should watch every potential terrorist (Muslim) 24/7 while the same government should have absolutely no clue what anyone else is saying or doing, if they own weapons, if they have a criminal record, where they live, anything. 100% real life anonymity for every white American. The environment is wasted space. Pollution doesn’t exist. All the jobs should come home from overseas, but we should remove all the safety, civil rights, wage and labor protections so we can compete with China in all ways.

        Sometimes I try to think about what America would look like if they got all their collective wishes granted. It would make a good premise for a post apocalyptic horror movie.

        Still, it does give our side a major advantage in convincing moderates and sane conservatives to work together. There’s nothing better to convince people you’re not so bad than the opposition being completely, incomprehensibly insane.

  4. I haven’t poked a toe back onto the political forum since the Boston Marathon bombing. My nerves have been far too bad.

    • I tend to stay away from the board after any national tragedy. The ordeal that follows is always plain sickening.

      Regarding your other post on the other page, I know what you mean about the project you’re not doing being the most appealing. I also have a similar problem in my writing. I always build the world and create the outline for the novel, then I write a little and end up with an idea for another novel I’d rather be doing. I’m writing four books right now and I can’t seem to build up steam on any single one.

      Then add in work, cleaning, lots of high upkeep neuroses, my dog, recreation, sleeping and keeping my mom alive, and my writing time dwindles. My mom is like a lemming with physical labor. Someone has to be there to convince her to drink, eat and rest. Work ethic apparently skipped a generation with me:)

      Music is a major obsession with me too. I get stuck on listening to a song or an album and have to keep going back to it throughout the day, sometimes for a week or two. Sometimes it’s a new song(s), but a lot of times it’s an old favorite that I go back to. Honestly, I think for me music fills the same space in the brain religion does on the average person. In the right mindset with the right song, it’s just like what I hear people talking about in evangelical churches. And with music as opposed to evangelism, I didn’t even need some creepy Benny Hinn type swinging an ether soaked rag in my face to experience it.

  5. Fellow Traveler says:

    Well, if the Base’s fear and insecurity (and what may well be buried awareness come back to haunt) had only lead them to hide behind locked doors instead of grabbing pitchforks and torches, I’d wish I could come hold their hands to help them through, watch old Leave It to Beavers with them. But those are other people. (SlightlyIrritated, you’re doing good. This is no time to poke anything at that board.)

    Is all this projection of their mistakes onto everyone else simply zombie behavior, just picking up whatever handy, already formed accusations are around to throw back, or does their projection have a deeper, guiltier genesis in all those facts they hid so promptly back in those dark compartments? That study I once posted described how we tend to fight harder for positions we hold passionately, not less, when we learn we’re wrong.

    With the state of our incomes these days, MTs all have something to be unhappy and insecure about, but at least when people who started out with a curious wonder about the world and read even a little about it over the years can imagine the past, present and future from the perspective they’ve developed.

    Fan, M.M. Kaye took 16 years to write her novel The Far Pavilions, putting it away sometimes for years, toward the end publishing a little over half, and only later adding the rest. Worked for her, and the rest of us. 🙂

    Hmm. Wonder what some of the worst on the board would make of Pavilions, with its characters from a variety of cultures? Would they pick what they liked from it and ignore the rest or toss it away as just more liberal propaganda?

    Sabura, I like erinjenne’s blog. Thanks. She actually did a piece about how come this laissez faire era hasn’t given rise to its own progressive reaction, something I occasionally wonder at (where IS it!) but hardly anyone seems to talk about. The speculation isn’t heartening but may be at least part of it, that we’re too spaced out on media to pull our pants on and go take care of ourselves. Well, maybe we’re just slow to get started…

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