Althouse | category: memory



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"The siblings had stumbled on the spoken-word idea after Mr. Tempo had failed to memorize the lyrics in time for a rehearsal."

"Ms. Stevens then fed them to him during that session. A friend loved the effect, Mr. Tempo said in a phone interview, and 'we knew we had backed into something magical.'"

I'm reading "April Stevens Dies at 93; Her ‘Deep Purple’ Became a Surprise Hit/Her unusual version of the standard, which she recorded with her brother, Nino Tempo, reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1963 and won a Grammy" (NYT). 

Here's the song — with the distinctive spoken-word section that begins at 1:11: 

“Deep Purple” was recorded in 14 minutes, with Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who told them his partners "think it’s the worst record you’ve ever made." The siblings threatened to leave Atlantic and sign with Phil Spector, so it was released. 

It hit #1 on the Billboard chart on November 16, 1963 and was #1 for only one week. The last day of that week John Kennedy was shot.

It's a song about memory — "In the mist of my memory, you wander on back to me" — and Nino Tempo couldn't remember the words. April Stevens had to remind him, her whispering vocal made the song memorable, and it is woven in our memory of the unforgettable tragedy.

In the still of the night once again I hold you tight
Though you've gone, your love lives on when moonlight beams
And as long as my heart will beat, sweet lover, we'll always meet
Here in my deep purple dreams

"Senator Dianne Feinstein... announced on Tuesday that she would not run for re-election in 2024 but would finish out her term in Congress..."

"... Ms. Feinstein, 89, has had acute short-term memory issues for years that sometimes raise concern among those who interact with her. She has never acknowledged the problems.... Ms. Feinstein... these days struggles to recall the names of colleagues, frequently has little recollection of meetings or telephone conversations, and at times walks around in a state of befuddlement...."

Hard to understand how she can serve for 2 more years, but I'm sure she's seen other cases of Senators in a similar condition, though it seems that at this point, she would not remember.

"It’s a real pain to carry a pad around, and I have found that once I have jotted something down I tend to relax and forget it."

"If I toss the bits into my mind, on the other hand, what needs to be remembered stays while the rest fades into oblivion. I like to leave things to this process of natural selection. This reminds me of an anecdote I’m fond of. When Paul Valéry was interviewing Albert Einstein, he asked the great scientist, 'Do you carry a notebook around to record your ideas?' Einstein was an unflappable man, but this question clearly unnerved him. 'No,' he answered. 'There’s no need for that. You see I rarely have new ideas.' Come to think of it, there have been very few situations when I wished I had a notepad on me. Something truly important is not that easy to forget once you’ve entrusted it to your memory.'"

Writes Haruki Murakami in "Novelist as a Vocation" (Amazon link).

Speaking of notebooks... my other favorite writer, David Sedaris, carries a small notebook everywhere and writes something in it about 10 times a day. In "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls," we see him explaining his practice to a 7-year-old boy. When he encounters a headline, "Dangerous Olives Could Be on Sale," and writes it down in his "a small Europa-brand reporter’s notebook," the boy asks why, and he says, "It’s for your diary.... You jot things down during the day, then tomorrow morning you flesh them out." Of course, the 7-year-old boy still asks "why?" The reader knows why!

Speaking of memory... I've been working on a Spotify playlist I named "Memory"):

The songs need to have something to do with memory and to be things I'd enjoy listening to in sequence... in case you're thinking of making suggestions for my list, which you can see is very small.

Alternatively, tell me what you think Einstein would have on his Spotify playlist.

As for Murakami, I'm picturing this.

ALSO: Here's the Einstein playlist I made (based on "The story of Albert Einstein and the music he loved"):
Einstein quote about music: "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music... I get most joy in life out of music."

"They’re unable to see properly, they’re confused, they’re having hallucinations. And we’re talking about scary hallucinations; it’s nothing that’s fun."

Said Darren Roberts, quoted in "How Can Tainted Spinach Cause Hallucinations? A food recall from Australia sheds light on an unusual aspect of brain chemistry" (NYT).

The belief is that there's some other plant in there with the spinach and that it's "'anticholinergic syndrome,' a type of poisoning mainly caused by plants in the Solanaceae family, which includes nightshade, jimson weed and mandrake root."

Anticholinergic plants and drugs inhibit the production of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which is linked to memory, thinking and the visual system, according to Dominic ffytche, a professor of visual psychiatry at King’s College London....

Acetylcholine can also be lost naturally and is linked to Alzheimer’s.... Hallucinations caused by a suppression or loss of acetylcholine tend to be “formed,” Professor ffytche said, that is concrete and recognizable, usually taking the form of people, objects and landscapes.

This is distinct from “unformed” hallucinations, when people might see shapes, patterns and colors. Furthermore, hallucinations caused by a lack of acetylcholine are linked to the memory system, so they tend to involve people the sufferer knows or recognizes, he said. “It could be deceased relatives, or people that are vaguely familiar to them in some way.”...

 “When you lose an understanding that they are hallucinations, they tend to become distressing,” he added. “You become sucked into the story where something bad is going on and people are trying to hurt you or harm you in some way.”

Very disturbing! You assume the leaves in the bag are the leaves of the plant that is named on the label. Interesting to see the distinction between "formed" and "unformed" hallucinations. I'd known the difference, but not the words for it. Formed hallucinations with an inability to understand that they are hallucinations — quite a predicament.

Also interesting is that strange old phenomenon, British surnames that begin with "ff" — with no uppercase. Grammarphobia discussed this a few years ago. Excerpt:

We haven’t found any recent scholarship on “ff” surnames, but 19th-century paleographers (scholars of ancient handwriting) traced the usage to legal scribes in the Middle Ages. In “The Capital Letter F In Early Chirography,” a note in the April 1893 issue of the scholarly journal Notes and Queries, Sir Edward Maunde Thompson writes that “legal handwriting of the middle ages has no capital F.” Thompson, a paleographer as well as the chief librarian and first director of the British Museum, says, “A double f (ff) was used to represent the capital letter.”

A note in the January 1893 issue of Notes and Queries, by the philologist, paleographer, and Anglican canon Isaac Taylor, says the “ff” in Middle English legal writing of the 14th century evolved over two centuries from the Latin capital “F.” He writes that a vertical tick on the upper horizontal bar of the Latin “F” gradually lengthened in legal writing, making it appear that there was a double “f.” Taylor, author of The Alphabet: An Account of the Origin and Development of Letters (1883), says, “It is this elongated tick which has been mistaken for a second /f/. People who spell their names with /ff/ are merely using obsolete law hand.” ...

Much more at the link, but I'll just include this:

In the 1965 second edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Sir Ernest Gowers notes that the “ff” in surnames evolved from a scribal symbol to a symbol of distinction. He cites Cranford, an 1853 novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, in which Mr. ffoulkes is described as someone who “looked down upon capital letters and said they belonged to lately invented families.” It was feared that he would die a bachelor, Mrs. Gaskell writes, until he met a Mrs. ffaringdon and married her, “and it was all owing to her two little ffs.”

I think I've blogged this before. That sounds familiar! Ah, yes, here. Anyway, I'll persist:

We’ll end with a passage from “A Slice of Life,” a 1926 short story by P. G. Wodehouse:

“Sir Jasper Finch-Farrowmere?” said Wilfred.

“ffinch-ffarrowmere,” corrected the visitor, his sensitive ear detecting the capitals.

"When I was in a confused state with that two-minute memory, Mindy says I was the happiest I’ve ever been."

"My brain was getting on with rebooting. They’d ask what I wanted for lunch, it’d arrive and I’d be staggered and say ‘How did you know?’ and I’d read the same copy of the newspaper several times a day — Mindy took it away in the end as it was too painful for her — but it was all new to me.... A dear friend’s mother is becoming very confused and I always say, ‘Is she happy?’ You can be confused and happy."

Says Richard Hammond, about his experience right after waking up from a coma, in "Deep in a coma I dreamt I was dying. Then my wife woke me up/Unconscious after his crash, in his mind the TV star was walking in the Lake District. Now he no longer fears death" (London Times). 

As far as what it was like inside the coma — and approaching death — maybe you have already seen the fantastic (and viral) video he made: 

"We’re all aware of our mortality — it’s a curse and it’s terrifying," he says. "But I hope it’s helping people deal with losing loved ones, letting them think, ‘Well at that moment, they are drifting off to their happy place.’ For me, the key bit of it is that last thought resonating forever. From the moment it [death] happens, you’re no longer constrained by the passage of time, and so your last thought is eternal."

"People talk about how hard it is to make friends as an adult but all you have to do is ask someone what their favorite deep sea creature is..."

"... everyone has one and they are desperately waiting to tell you about it."

Tweeted Andrew Nadeau, last year.

Why did I remember that? Probably because it has a cool balance of generality and specificity. (Really, why do you remember things?!) 

But it sprang to mind when I saw a photograph — "A dugong, which is a notoriously elusive marine mammal, photographed in the Red Sea, near the Egyptian resort town of Marsa Alam" — submerged deep in the NYT Style magazine article "The 25 Travel Experiences You Must Have/A pair of internationally minded writers, a chef, an architect and a landscape photographer made a list of the most extraordinary adventures a person should seek out. Here are the results." 

To experience them [the dugongs], you must fly into the nearest international airport, in the town of Vilankulo, and then organize a helicopter or dhow ride to one of the archipelago’s many resorts and lodges....

No, I am not going to do that, so I don't know what will happen to me, given that you say I "must" have this experience. I'm going to bet that I need not do this. And I was out even before I read "organize a helicopter or dhow ride." I'm not organizing anything.

Found in the shallow coastal waters of as many as 40 countries, the large and placid dugong (imagine a manatee with a wider, shorter snout) is intensely shy, and its population is considered “vulnerable”....

Well, then maybe what we "must" do is leave the creatures alone. Maybe just talk about them, as we try to make friends with those other intensely shy, vulnerable animals, the human beings.

Mystic chords/mystical cord.

I'm reading "The Not-So-Secret Weapon in the Special Relationship/Queen Elizabeth offered a mystical cord to the past that held together the U.S.-UK alliance" in Politico. 

Why would you write "mystical cord," when Abraham Lincoln famously said in his first inaugural speech, "mystic chords":
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Note the "of"s: bonds of affection... chords of memory... chorus of the Union... better angels of our nature.

Hear the music: chords... chorus... angels. The angels will touch the chords and the chorus will swell. 

Given the prominence of the phrase "mystic chords of memory," you probably don't want to write "mystical cord." You've added an "-al" to "mystic" for no discernible reason, and you've changed the musical "chord" to some sort of ligature. I think of the tangle behind the computer, then of an umbilical cord. Unless you're playing with the shift from "chord" to "cord," perhaps using Lincoln's "bonds of affection" — "bonds" and "cords" are things that connect — you don't want to get that close to a famous phrase. It can't look accidental.

And this almost surely was accidental — a "tow the line" for "toe the line" type of misunderstanding. The word "cord" only appears in the headline. "Mystical," however, appears in the article:

[T]hrough no fault of his own, [Charles] simply cannot provide the semi-mystical link to the past that his mother came to represent to the whole world.

Oh! Elizabeth was only semi-mystical! (Is that anything like "semi-fascist"?)

But we see "link" and that suggests the other word of connection "cord," but the headline-writer almost surely changed "link" to "cord" because he had a feeling that "cord" sounds better after "mystical," and he had that feeling because of Lincoln's "mystic chords." Writers, please, you need to be conscious of why you have the feeling that words go together and notice when something is off.

Some chords of memory are mystic, and some are dissonant.

"[T]he person endowed with hyperphantasia can watch a movie and later watch it in their memory and the two are indistinguishable...."

"The polar opposite is hypophantasia—the much reduced ability to form mental images. These extremes of the 'mind’s eye,' as researchers refer to them, are not so much a disorder, as they are opposite ends on a continuum. Most people—including myself—fit somewhere near the middle of the continuum. But even if you fit somewhere close to hypophantasia, you can with practice improve your mental imagery. Finally sharpening that initial image will get you started on fashioning others and will provide insight into your own personal 'mind’s eye.'"

Here's the memory exercise (which is easy for those of us with hyperphantasia and hard if we've got hypophantasia):
On a table or desk, arrange ten items in any configuration.... For this I recommend you include several familiar or even prized objects.... Study the items carefully for three minutes. Now close your eyes and practice picturing them in their specific arrangement. Can you do that? If not, start with five objects. The key is to see them as unique, easily distinguishable from one another, and yet placed in a specific arrangement. When you can do that, study them in depth, one at a time. In this exercise I selected a pen, which I helped design with the Italian luxury company Montegrappa.... Now the pen stands out in enhanced clarity compared to the other objects.... When you perform this exercise, you will notice that you use a kind of high-power mental lens to visualize the details by zooming in and out.... The clearer you can see the object in your mind’s eye, the easier it is to remember.... [C]larity and detail in mental imagery is directly related to the quality of your memory....

Here's the Wikipedia article on hyperphantasia. It sounds enjoyable and useful, but I'm not going to feel bad about not having it, because I see that it is "correlated to several mood disorders, particularly anxiety, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder, and having hyperphantasia may exacerbate symptoms of such disorders by subserving ruminating thoughts as well as acting as an 'emotional amplifier.' For example, vivid ‘flash forwards’ to suicidal acts may increase occurrences of suicide." It may also aggravate PTSD, schizophrenia, and Parkinson's disease. 

A nice, precise 10 for today. Here it is, Althouse-curated TikTok. You can rank them, like that lady ranked the lyrics of "It's Corn."

1. The vacation on TikTok vs. Reality.

2. The price of an overnight stay — with breakfast and a beautiful view — in Kyrgystan.

3. What country is longest, north to south?

4. The lines of "It's Corn" — ranked.

5. Spend $80,000 on a truck....

6. Sometimes a m-f talks nice to your face...

7. The phrase "we love that for you."

8. She believes she is still 70.

9. Ricky Gourmet reads the letter his 12-year-old self wrote him.

10. Trying to read.

"By 1532, Giulio Camillo, a professor at Bologna, suggested a means for transforming the mind through a uniquely powerful memory system of his own creation."

"The Memory Theater of Giulo Camillo, as it came to be known throughout sixteenth-century Europe, consisted of a wooden memory palace shaped in the form of a Roman amphitheater."

Writes Richard Restak in "The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind," pointing to this visualization:

Restak continues:
In Camillo’s theatre, the spectator—representing the practitioner of the art of memory—stands on a stage facing the seats that are arranged as a seven-tiered structure with seven aisles extending from top to bottom. On each of the seven aisles are doors representing the seven planets. These doors are decorated with images of Cabalistic, Hermetic, and astral figures. 
On the underside of each of the seats in the theatre are drawers containing cards that detail everything that was known at that time or even potentially knowable. Camillo wrote of his theatre that “by means of the doctrine of loci and images, we can hold in the mind and master human concepts and all things that are in the entire world.” 
In describing his memory theatre, Camillo compares the process of achieving wisdom via the cultivation of memory to the experience of being immersed in a dense forest. At first, the desire to see the whole extent of the forest is frustrated by the surrounding trees. But if a way can be found of ascending along the slope, it becomes possible to see a large part of the forest’s form. When the top of the hill is reached, the entire forest can be seen. Camillo suggests that “the wood is our inferior world; the slope is the super celestial world.”... 
In this process, images drawn from religion are imprinted on the mind with sufficient strength, that when a person bearing this imprint returns to the everyday world, the external appearances of that world became spiritually unified through the power of memory.
"The siblings had stumbled on the spoken-word idea after Mr. Tempo had failed to memorize the lyrics in time for a rehearsal.""When I was in a confused state with that two-minute memory, Mindy says I was the happiest I’ve ever been.""By 1532, Giulio Camillo, a professor at Bologna, suggested a means for transforming the mind through a uniquely powerful memory system of his own creation."

Report "Althouse"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?