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Archive for January, 2011

On Writing

A while back I started writing phrase, cliché and tradition origins as my “status” in Facebook.  Slowly, they started generating comments and “likes” by my “friends,” people I’ve never met.  Oddly, I received more responses from strangers than people I actually know.   At first, I was very nervous about making any kind of statement where everyone could see, anxious about making mistakes, punctuation, typos.  But, the more I received these comments, some responding that they loved my posts and one person “friending” me because she’d seen them from another person and wanted to get them “from the horse’s mouth,” the more comfortable I got in writing them.  Now, I get a kick out of the comments and the numerous “likes” and I look forward to writing more every day.  And it takes a bit of time and work to uncover these trivia tidbits – I don’t just happen to know all these things.  Most recently, it’s occurred to me that being nervous about posting in Facebook is so minor in comparison with publishing a book.  I’m soon going to put my work out there for everyone to see, read, like, dislike – most importantly, judge.  People are going to buy my book (I certainly hope), spend their hard-earned money on something I created and hope for a good time.  What if they don’t like it?  What if nobody gets it?  What if nobody even reads it?  It’s kind of like my blog.  I write something new every week, hoping that more people might visit my site and make comments on my posts.  Most every blog post generates a comment from one of my friends and my mother.  I think there might be a couple more people reading it, but I’m not even convinced of that.  I have learned to be happy writing for myself, my thoughts of naught, meaningless to the world.  I do it because I’m compelled to write, even if no one reads it.  I do it because not doing it makes my brain hurt.  I do it because the words come regardless.

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Manic Memory

Would you want to remember all the details of your life, including the worst of times?  More so than eidetic or photographic memory, “hyperthymestic syndrome” (academic Greek for exceptional memory), is how the memory of one’s own history can be precise.  According to a 60 Minutes segment, only six people in the world are known to have this total recall.  Name a date and any one of them can tell you what day of the week it was and exactly what they did on that day, what the weather was and what large events (or events of interest to them) happened in the news.  Of course, it all depends on if they experienced the news that day, or if there were events so extreme that it would have been unusual for them to have missed it.  While the memories of personal history are retained in totality, the memory of ordinary things is not.  When asked to repeat a list of words spoken to her in a predetermined order, a test subject missed many and substituted words that hadn’t been mentioned.  Amazingly though, this person can recall everything she’s ever done on a day-to-day basis.  Of the six known people with hyperthymestic syndrome, all show serious signs of OCD.  This test subject has 50,000 pages of diary entries, which it’s thought must have assisted with the memory retention.  Psychologists call it “elaborative encoding,” when every time we think of something and especially how it relates to something else, we get better at remembering it.  Apparently, this test subject spent the majority of her life reflecting on the past, constructing timelines and lists and making connections from one date to the same date of the previous year.  According to Gary Marcus, Cognitive Psychologist at NYU, this is the OCD of memories.  “The truth is, most people could remember their lives in considerable detail if they contemplated them with the same manic intensity.”  I find hyperthymestic syndrome fascinating; however, I lean more toward wanting to forget than remember.  I like that my memories are softened with time, seemingly happier than reality would suggest.  I like remembering the best of times and forgetting the worst.  I see no reason to develop super-memory; however, I would like to remember everyone’s names and what I was told yesterday.  I’m sure there’s a happy balance in there somewhere.

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What could possibly make Dexter a hit?  The protagonist is a socially inept serial killer.  Okay, he only murders those who take lives themselves, never the innocent.  He was taught this by his adopted father, who saw the signs of a serial killer when Dexter was just a young boy.  He taught the young boy into a young man how to kill effectively, how to minimize mess and how to clean up after himself.  If that’s all Dexter was, though, it probably wouldn’t be the hit that it is.  Dexter definitely has his dark side, but there’s also the bumbling, childlike, person who attempts to cross into the sane side without letting on that he’s socially unacceptable.  He has an adopted sister who, although often perplexed by his antics, helps him retain what remains of his sanity and allows him to interact socially through her own network.  He also has a professional occupation.  He works as a “blood splatter pattern expert.”  He’s the guy who goes in after a shooting or knifing or any other crime that splatters blood and reads the evidence.  It’s a perfect job for the man who kills those he deems undesirable.  His profession has taught him the best ways to keep blood splatter to a minimum and he uses reams of plastic and cellophane to reduce the mess.  This job does come with its trials though; he works hand-in-hand with the Miami homicide detectives.  It’s often interesting to see just how close he gets to showing his hand.  So far though, he’s gotten away cleanly from his attacks, albeit sometimes just barely. If there was just one thing, though, that makes Dexter sympathetic, it’s his attempts to fit in.  With a voiceover in his head, Dexter narrates his feelings, such as they are, and tries to explain the inexplicable.  A hit it is, and some of the kudos go to Michael C. Hall, the actor who portrays Dexter.  Somehow, he makes us hate the killer, but feel actual empathy for the man.

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Muddy Waters

I started out wondering how Muddy Waters got his name.  I learned so much more than that.  Here are a few of the highlights.  Muddy Waters was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on 4/4/15, although some reports state it was in 1913.  His real name was McKinley Morganfield.  His fondness for playing in mud as a boy earned him the name “Mud,” which he later changed to Muddy Water, followed by Muddy Waters.  He was considered the father of Chicago blues and was ranked number 17 in Rolling Stones list of 100 greatest artists of all time.  In 1935, while married to Mabel Berry, Muddy’s first child was born – to a 16 year old girl, Leola Spain (nee Brown).  Mabel left Muddy.  He struggled first as a performer.  Then, in 1948, Muddy’s signature song, Rollin’ Stone, became a smash hit.  Muddy, along with Little Walter Jacobs and Howlin’ Wolf reigned over the early 1950’s Chicago Blues scene.  Muddy was quoted as saying, “My blues look so simple, so easy to do, but it’s not.  They say my blues is the hardest blues in the world to play.”  In 1973, at age 58, Muddy’s long time wife, Geneva, died.  Later in that year, he met his future wife, 19 year old Marva Jean Brooks.  In 1982, declining health derailed Muddy’s on the road performance schedule.  Muddy’s last public performance was with Eric Clapton at a Clapton concert in Florida in the fall of 1982.  Muddy Waters won six grammys and numerous other awards.  He died in his sleep at age 68 on 4/30/83.  Muddy’s classic tunes influenced many major artists and the Rolling Stones named themselves after his 1950 song Rollin’ Stone, also known as Catfish Blues, which was covered by Jimi Hendrix, as well.

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