Now they've found a way to make you smarter by magnetizing your brain. The phenomenon is apparently related to the condition of savants, who are able to perform incredible tasks but have significant social or lingustic limitations. It sounds like a step forward (especially for autism research), but I have to say the idea of magnetically enhanced painters and novelists gives me the creeps.
On a related note, Dwight Meredith at PLA is using this study as an excuse to promote bridge. It's pretty clear from the article that the study only dealt with aged subjects, so it's probably a bit rash to conclude that playing bridge now will save you from Alzheimers. On the other hand, playing when you're young may make playing when you're old more fun (ie you'll be able to beat everybody). And then there's my grandmother - she played bridge all her life and then gave it up a few years back for Scrabble, which doesn't appear in the article but seems to have kept her in good stead.
Everybody dies frustrated and sad, and that is beautiful
The new documentary about They Might Be Giants opens in Chicago today at the Music Box. The film is called Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns, and it's getting pretty good reviews so far. I'll let you know.
Speaking of documentaries, does anybody know what happened to Alexandra Pelosi's documentary Journeys with George? A Google search took me to the defunct webpage and a few smalltime reviews. I guess it appeared on HBO a couple times, but I haven't seen anything about it since. Was it swept under the rug? And if so, whose interests were served, the Bush admin's or Alexandra's mom's?
Two American ragazze
Terrific news: my sister Jackie Goyette and her friend Corrie Cook have a new weblog. Jackie's been in Italy for the past year, and the weblog is about her experiences - so far it looks like she's playing with different travel writing styles, and I'm impressed. If you're interested in travel writing, make sure to check out her online magazine, The Long Trip Home - I think I still have a piece up there myself about Ecuador.
Interestingly enough, Jackie went to a restaurant the other morning to watch them make their batch of ravioli for the day. Meanwhile here in Chicago, my friend John and I threw a little dinner party last night with ravioli as the main course, but the pasta at least was an unmitigated disaster. Maybe next time I can enlist some help from her - although I guess she'll have to come home, first!
A new kind of therapy
Someone over at Metafilter links to this odd article from Utne on the Sopranos and ecopsychology (I say odd beacuse the connection between the two is awfully tenuous/contrived, but obviously kept me reading anyway). I'm not sure how I feel about these ecopsychologists, who for one thing have some pretty strange intellectual roots, but I've always felt that modern psychology leaves something out of the equation when it comes to culture. That is, aren't our parameters for normal or healthy culturally determined, so that psychologists are looking only at the part of a patient's psyche above some preexisting cultural foundation? This is interesting because we live in a culture that pushes the envelope with increasingly abstracted pressures on the individual, yet for some reason psychologists control for this.
It seems a little strange that these ecopsychologists combine cultural and natural environmental stimuli in their study. I guess they're both outside the realm of what vanilla psychologists are doing now, but don't they come from opposing critiques? That's probably why their reading suggestions are so incoherent.
Dereliction of duty
Am I the only left-leaning blogger who isn't gaga over Paul Krugman? It's not that I don't agree with him (I almost always do); but unless he's talking about economics, he hardly ever says anything new, and he never does any research. In today's column he makes generalization after generaliztion, finally bringing us to the bizarre conclusion (or does he call it a suspicion?) that Donald Rumsfeld "just didn't feel like dealing with the problem." I'm not one to defend Mr Rumsfeld, but that's hardly a probable explanation for any policy decision in the power-hungry Pentagon. The argument is simplistic, and as always Krugman wows us with research he didn't do - "according to Fred Kaplan in Slate..." and "yesterday The Washington Post printed an interview..." - did he even double-check with these sources? His journalistic instincts seem to be about as developed as mine - and I think the comparison with bloggers is pretty apt, given his sensibilities. Maybe they should do the right thing and set him up at nytimes.com?
By the way, I don't feel the same way about his economic writing - a couple of his books are excellent for the non-economist: The Age of Diminishing Expectations is a great primer on the state of the economy in the 90s, and Pop Internationalism should be required reading for anyone who's talking about globalization.
Well the career advice isn't exactly pouring in, but PG (who btw couldn't resist that mini-melon story either) tells me I should join one of the political campaigns. But I've got a pretty bad attitude toward ths sort of thing after getting screwed by the Hart campaign - Ezra Klein (who's now blogging over at Not Geniuses, if you're interested) and Kevin Thurman had their gracious post-operative Hart eulogies, but I don't really share the sentiment. This is a guy who was working a pretty optimistic vibe to get elected, and he brought the house down in the end over this cynicism/nostalgia about the unfavorable political environment. But this was also a guy who was dead politically and was nevertheless getting pretty good press - in the same political environment.
As far as other campaigns, I don't know... I'm pretty depressed about the other options - I think my interest in the Democratic primary was pretty localized around Hart. Most of the diaspora seems to have ended up in the Dean camp, but I can't convince myself he has anything substantive to say about foreign policy, which in my view is where the election will be won or lost in 04 (Hart's sophistication on this point was the main reason I supported him). I have been thinking of throwing some of my time into Illinois politics, where Barack Obama may have a chance to take Fitzgerald's senate seat. We'll see.
Truth in advertising
I'm thinking of getting broadband soon... I'm sick of waiting for this phoneline to connect all the time, and the university's connection speed isn't exactly convenient. I'll have to wait to see if I'm even going to be in town for the summer, but I'll probably go for this SBC/Yahoo! broadband unless anybody writes to put me off of it. I saw the commercial today where Yahoo! reveals to the old fella (not sure what this has to do with broadband) that he likes salsa, when even his wife didn't know he liked salsa, and I used his case as a plea (!) with my girlfriend, who doesn't need to be convinced really since I'll be paying for it. But it occurs to me that it's awfully strange to be pleading the case on the basis of a totally fictional story, one which I knew full well was fictional but which was clearly recreated via advertisment to echo a real-life testimonial. How did I know it was fictional when it didn't say so? How long have we been able to decipher this kind of code? Aesthetically, I find it absolutely thrilling that neither we nor the advertisers realy care whether the story is true or not, although I guess it's kind of shocking if you're concerned about consumers' rights and all that.
The world of children's opera
The Chicago Opera Theatre's production of Brundibar was good, although I have to say that the Indianapolis Children's Choir was able to muster just as much talent and heart from within their own ranks. Also, I think it was a little strange to double bill it with Martinu's Comedy on the Bridge, which isn't really a children's story at all. Sendak's sets for Brundibar were very characteristic, and they fit much better than those for Comedy, which seemed very out of place to me.
It turns out this was the last production to take place at the Atheneum here in Chicago - it turns out the COT will be moving downtown to the new Music and Dance Theatre in Millenium Park. The Atheneum is a nice little space though... I have to wonder who will be taking up there next year.
By the way, I didn't mean to suggest that Brundibar was the only Children's opera out there, just that it was the only one with which I was familiar before we set out to do Trio. And even that was untrue - I forgot about Mr Marimba, the Polish opera by Marta Ptazinska, who gave us a lot of wonderful advice about our project.
The other interesting production running now - which unfortunately I'll be unable to make - is Rachel Portman's version of The Little Prince at the Houston Grand Opera. They've actually imported a star treble/boy soprano from Milwalukee to play the part, and the reviews I've read made the music sound very accessible. Personally I was amused to hear about the production because originally, when we set out to do Trio, we wanted to write an opera on The Little Prince. My friend is very attached to the story, and he was devastated when our quest to get the copyrights dead-ended with some washed-up American composer who had always wanted to do a version but just never got around to it. In any case, Rachel Portman's version was apparently written before the rights were obtained, for performace in London (which I guess is a different set of rights than you need for the US), but when the producers in London declined to produce it, the opera ended up over here. I suppose the composer who had the American rights was paid off, but it probably wasn't civil - after all, Rachel Portman is big stuff, and there are big guns behind this production (opera houses across the country are already lined up). My friend was pretty crestfallen to read this, but I don't really care - even then I thought The Little Prince would make a lousy opera, and building our own story from the ground up was a lot of fun.
So it's been 2 wks since I've written an entry here, amazingly enough I survived all my finals, even the group work, but I still haven't figured out what I'm doing with my summer. Possibilities at the moment range from obscure language study to a couple of rather dry sounding Washington policy internships. If anybody has any ideas, I'm all ears. I fully expect to be posting on a daily basis now, so I'll keep you updated.
In the meantime, it looks like I've missed some of the biggest news weeks of the year, besides maybe the buildup and the Iraq conflict. I'll just point out one bit that particularly interested me - the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire has gone and elected an openly homosexual bishop, although I understand the House of Bishops still has to agree if it's actually going to happen. I'm excited about the prospect of a serious debate hitting the upper reaches of a major denomination (plus I have a special interest because the Episocpal Church is my alma mater, so to speak). I don't know anything about the fellow in question - reading the article leads me to suspect their main reason for selecting him was his homosexuality, but I suppose that's not such a bad thing. I'll be posting more on this story as the debate comes to a boil...