Wednesday, May 29, 2002

This is a disaster

Many of the patients we see have this disorder, and we have no idea what to do with it. We don't even know what it is! Neurologists take a close look, and, scratching their heads in bewilderment, send these patients off to psychiatrists, who, equally puzzled, send them right on back to the neurologists.
The head of my laboratory Mark Hallett makes an impassioned plea at this evening's dinner conference of neurologists specializing in movement disorders from NIH, Hopkins, and UMD. What group of strange disorders does Dr. Hallett speak of? He doesn't like to call them Psychogenic, and neither do other experts, but he doesn't seem to like to call them anything else. A patient comes in with the most bizarre of symptoms, precipitating often from even more mysterious and bizarre circumstances. The definitive unifying characteristic fo these disorders is one: patients' brain and nervous system show no sign of damage or degeneration
A woman walks in on her son hooking up with his girl and suddenly cannot walk properly: half of her body clenches us involuntarily whenever she takes a step making it quite difficutl for her to move about regularly. Every so often, yells "Ami" as uncontrollably as one might hiccup. Her speech patterns develop weird characteristics, like that of "baby talk." But when attention is diverted from her unsteady gait by, say, asking her to run, her uncontrollable movement disorders become subdued.
The stories and the symptoms of those who bear them are each quite unique--while some patients, especially after only having carried this illness with them for a short period, can be cured through some combination of physical therapy and psychological therapy, others that have suffered longer often cannot come out of it, cannot shed their disease.
For the elite experts in the field that had gathered to dine on white wine and rack of lamb, these patients present the huge gaping chasm between neurology and psychiatry. While most will when question acknowledge that these patients suffer from a serious illness that is often still untreatable, many remained mired in the great cartesian mind-body duality. If there is no brain damage, and the causes are "emotional" "mental" "cognitive" "psychological"
the disease loses some of its reality for these great doctor scientists
takes on a ludricrous, and even hillarious character.
these diseases are somehow not "organic"
like seth, even these neuroscientists are hesitant to let go of the idea that who we are can somehow be separated from what we are made of. That we
cannot reduce to chemicals
and that our identity resides in a separate world from the organic, the biological.
The merging of real "organic" disease and illness with psychological disorder and trauma is widely manifest and cannot be ignored simply because we know it is hiding in one of our most sensitive blind spots. Earlier in the evening, for example, a doctor presented her story of Huntingtons patients, a large portion of whom displayed obsessive compulsive behaviors beneath the more easily visible currents of physical degeneration and disease.
Despite head-scratching, incredulity, and nervous laughter, the concensus was unquestioned. Neuroscientists and psychologists must begin to learn
how to hold hands.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

skeletor222: i was really restless the first couple of days i got here
skeletor222: still sort of am
skeletor222: i could only relax by writing something
skeletor222: or running
skeletor222: or having completed some kind of physical exhurtion
skeletor222: it's odd
serendipitynow: ive been playing a lot mroe music
serendipitynow: i think it is an outlet of my sexual energy.
skeletor222: exactly
skeletor222: it's probably the same for me
skeletor222: so strange
skeletor222: fucking hormones
skeletor222: i can't wait for the day when i'm just me...chemicals aside
serendipitynow: LOL
serendipitynow: chemicals aside
serendipitynow: chemicals aside
serendipitynow: where would you be?
skeletor222: i don't know
skeletor222: it makes you wonder
skeletor222: are we our hormones?
skeletor222: is our very existence
skeletor222: out success at school
skeletor222: our skill at art
skeletor222: all for the sake of satisfying chemicals
skeletor222: it may be a hard fact to face
serendipitynow: ha! why?
serendipitynow: chemicals
serendipitynow: tie us to the paintbrush
serendipitynow: to the paint
serendipitynow: to the canvas
serendipitynow: to the air between the eye and the canvas
skeletor222: but i want a higher truth
serendipitynow: to the legs of the eisle
serendipitynow: to the ground it stands on
serendipitynow: to the ground you stand on
serendipitynow: chemicals
skeletor222: don't say it's all for hormones
serendipitynow: homrones are only a very specific kind of chemical
skeletor222: there's another argument...
serendipitynow: just one important permutatatatation
skeletor222: expressions of higher truths
serendipitynow: are we who we are if we start taking parts of us away?
serendipitynow: clipping are toenails?
serendipitynow: cutting our hair?
serendipitynow: shedding skin cells?
serendipitynow: getting hormone treatments
serendipitynow: ?
skeletor222: have you seen "that man who wasn' there"
serendipitynow: taking antibiotics?
serendipitynow: no
skeletor222: exactly...hormone treatments...that's the real issue
serendipitynow: there's an article in the economist that might interest you
skeletor222: it's a good black and white...about a barber
skeletor222: website
skeletor222: ?
skeletor222: billy bob thorton is in it
serendipitynow: magazine. i think our hormones are a weighable part of our identity just like our fingernails and our pulse
skeletor222: ah...article is not on the web?
serendipitynow: notsure
skeletor222: hmph
skeletor222: the world should be on the net
skeletor222: winds and currents should be encoded somehow
skeletor222: the migrations of birds...drifts of sand...what a doormouse thinks in the moments before the metal wire snaps over his neck with the piece of cheese it his mouth
skeletor222: all of it
serendipitynow: the net is finite
serendipitynow: the world is infinite
serendipitynow: but i think we shouldn't hesitate
serendipitynow: no
serendipitynow: we must make haste
skeletor222: it's asymptotic thing...we must try
skeletor222: always striving
skeletor222: but never reach our goal
serendipitynow: unless the goal is trying
serendipitynow: in which case we are always reaching our goal
skeletor222: well that's being optomistic...i've been steeped in cynisism
skeletor222: but it's the same thing in a kinder light
serendipitynow: i'm going to hop on my bike and head home in a moment
serendipitynow: this has been an enlightening converssation
serendipitynow: can i post some of it?
skeletor222: of course
serendipitynow: in the interest of getting another little piece of the world on the net
serendipitynow: :-)
skeletor222: ha...exactly...this is all part of my plan to document everything
skeletor222: EVERYTHING
skeletor222: HAHAHA

8 hours after I woke up this morning, I regained consciousness. Some portion of me woke up at 7:15. This fraction of Ari managed to perceive, to move, to think in relatively complex manners--but the whole time was only partially aware of itself--gazing up at itself at its world through very muddy glasses.
Wait, wait wait
My glasses are muddy!
But no, this is an insufficient explanation for the state I've been in. I've been....trudging. Brainfatigued, sleepneedingnow.I'm going to bike home, library, call the girl, eat, visit politics and prose, sleep, play music, dream of skin softer than water and smoother than silk. Order to be determined.

One day Mr. C (C for Christian his first name for Citerella his last, and most of all for Calculus) took our class to watch a video of an applied mathematician. The unevenly dressed and heavily bearded man demonstrated an algorhythme of his design that would produce the branching patterns of various trees. I witnessed these algorhythmic trees branch, and was sure, yes, I saw it, there was a tree in this pattern, there was a tree--almost. There was something FUNDAMENTALLY not a tree about this algorhythmetree... this algorhythme somehow described the tree, produced some compelling resemblence, yet I looked at it and knew that a tree would never branch quite like that. We could fit prose and verse, and code and equations, together and together, and come closer and closer to the tree, but we'll never make it.
Yet trees pull constantly at my eyes, compelling and compelling me to trace their branches with my eyes. One branch, up and down until my gets lost and sent down another branch up again and back out to a group of branches down to the trunk and back up again and out, and I can see the algorhythme and know it's not there. I can tell the patterns upon patterns upon patterns and layer into each other, and try as I might I still know it's not there, but I somehow have reached my arm out farther into the infinite distance between me and the tree.
Euclid could know the perfect circle
and Euclid could know "nature" never produced a perfect circle
So where did Euclid's perfect circle" come from? How did Euclid conjure it?
Euclid's perfect circle and the circles in nature are the two prongs of Hume's fork
the tree
and the algorhythme
matters of fact--all our truths of the natural world, impossible to prove or disprove with any certainty
and relations of ideas--what Hume considers the child of thought making love to itself, provable with certainty, but not applicable to the natural world
But Hume does not construct a working utensil--he fails to provide a handle
where these two prongs meet.
Where do they meet?
Where do they meet?
Where do they meet?

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Monday I sat
in the largest all-brick building men and women have ever built
listening to story tellers.
For many hours stories told and retold
Of tragic pain and
dramatic sorrow and
humble heroism told through filters
that gradually removed layers of life's drama,
distilling from life's crude emotional mixture
strange and exotic creatures
unlike any we had ever seen before.
Each telling rendered these creatures more distinct and terrible
born from human life and distilled out of it
the story tellers called this species of creature disease
and drove them out of lives with their stories
like hunters
chasing rabits out of a thicket
the creatures they hunted were among the strangest and most obscure
of their species
so baffling that other tellers had long given up,
and left these creatures constricted tightly around suffering lives
but sitting around a large oak table
in a small room of the largest all-brick building in the world
these story-tellers told and told and retold
distilled and separated these creatures
held them up for us to gaze curiously at
focused our views of their strange figures and their alien names
and in the final telling of the day
cut each open
to be dissected still further
cures? these doctors found none. but possibilities, possibilities yes.
just tell the story again.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

My first visit to a hair stylist. price tag: $50 dollars. Reason for visit: shalom bait. My parents insisted that I do something to make myself look "less like a bum" for my first day at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, so I shaved, and allowed my mother to take em to her hairdresser.
Anna-Maria, an all-business Trinidad native with a sharp enough cut to have passed into the cast of the Fifth element, proceeded to meticulously
comb out,
pour dark gel gunk into,
and twist ever so tightly
my curls until she had transformed them into chesnut-colored chords descending backwards from my forehead, holding the consistency of a soft chrome.
Feeling thoroughly like my elderly-lady neighbors beside me, I sat beneath one of those crazy hair dryers for a while and talked to my mom. What a trip.
I don't know if my mother got what she was looking for out of the deal, but Anna-Maria seemed pretty satisfied.
All tied back now, my hair still feels her grip.

I am home. Exhausted. Send me some love

God bless that anonymous Toll Booth Operator. Without him, who knows where I would be right now?

Packing with Morgan was intense, and enhanced my sense of distraction. Consequences of my distraction expressed themselves even before I departed. I managed to pack all my clothes and forget to leave a shirt out for myself, leaving my barechested for my Providence-Manhattan commute. As I was backing out of the parking lot in front of my dorm, waving goodbye to Morgan, I almost took out the side of somebody's Lexus. So distracted I was that I failed to notice Morgan running down the street behind my car, trying to get my attention because I had accidently put her Brown ID card in my back pocket and taken it with me. Although you might not think that interstate highway driving is advisable for a distracted boy, the ride was quite enjoyable and suitable for my state of mind. 4 hours. 2 cities. 1 road. 95 south all the way. Nothing but time to mellow in my own distraction.
All's well for the first two and a half hours as I begin to feel the gravity of the city, and I am due to arrive at my brother's apartment an hour ahead of myself. Once more I allow my mind to roam in broad pastures, and when I turn my attention to the signs once more something seems to have changed. The signs seem sort of shaped differently, and none of the exit names look familiar. A highway marking tells me I am now on 695.
Now I am pretty confident I've stayed in the same lane, so I conclude that one of two things could have happened: 1. 95 could have turned into 695 in the proximity of Manhattan. Maybe I was still on 95 and it was just called something else. 2. There was a split furhter back, and although I stayed in the same lane, I had gotten off 95 and onto another highway.
Although I considered the latter scenario more likely, I had no idea what to do if scenario 2 was in fact true. I had no idea where such a supposed split might have been, how long I had taken it, or how I might get back on the right track if I had departed from it. So I decided to continue along the 695 and see where it took me.
After a couple of miles I see the sign "Last exit before toll." As I approach the toll and cars start slowing down, I roll down my window and shout over to drivers in adjacent lanes, asking them how I might get to the Upper West Side. The universal response to this question: uproarious laughter. Eventually, I get someone to explain to me that I was going the wrong way, and headed into the heart of Queens, and, if I played my cards right, maybe even into Long Island. Now I was still moving as I approached the toll, and so were the other cars, so I could not hold any one car in conversation long enough to get useful directions of any sort.
As I approach the toll booth, I realize I have only one chance. I was heading from one highway to another highway that lay on the other side of the toll, both equally unknown to me, surrounded by completely unknown exits, with no opportunity to stop securely, get my bearings, and ask directions. The one person who could save me in this desperate situation was, sitting in the booth ahead of me, and I knew with him my chances were slim at best.
For among the worst jobs in the world must be operating a toll booth. Such a terrible combination of monotany, vulnerability, vertigo and danger I would not wish upon my worst enemy. So who knows what kind of people end up working in toll booths: What have they been through? What kind of anger do they harbor to the world that put them in their booth? What reason do they have to help an overpriviledged and terribly lost boy?
As all this runs through my head, I am approaching the toll booth an realize I am still barechested--which, from a view outside of the car would basically look like I was driving around naked. Now as small asI considered my chances with whatever lunatic might be awaiting me in the toll booth, I knew my chances must be infinitely smaller if he thought I was a lunatic driving down an interstate highway naked.

So I reach back to try to find a back with a shirt in it, and realize that all my bags of clothing were packed in the trunk. In desperation I opened the duffle bag wedged behind me, spilling a couple of toiletry bags and several pairs of shoes into the front seat. Still searching, I find a towel, and something that feels like a towel, but -- AHA! --is actually my bathrobe. Just seconds from the toll booth, I throw on the blue terry cloth and brace myself.
Pulling into the booth, I take out a $20, hand it to the toll booth operator, look up at him in the eyes, and say in a semi-frantic voice:
"Sir, I am in a desperate situation and I really need your help!"
Now the toll booth operator takes the bill deliberately,
looks at it,
puts it in the cash register
takes out my change
looks at my change
hands it to me
looks me in the eye (me, now frantically sweating, now convinced that the man is a mute, or does not speak English, or is just going to tell me to move along)
and says to me in a clear, calm, almost serene voice
"I'm listening."
Breathing a huge sigh of relief, I explain to him as quickly and coherently as I can that I am terribly terribly lost, and trying to get to 93rd and Broadway.
The man pauses a gain, and once more for that saturated second I am convinced that he has no answer for me, no directions to pass on to me, that I will be condemned to drive aimlessly around the tri-state area for the remainder of the evenning.
But after that pregnant moment the toll booth operator delivered. With precision and deliberate care. Directions from the booth to my brother's apartment. Step by step.
Much love extends from me to the man who, despite being spit upon by fortune, chose to save me, knowing full well that he owed me less than nothing, and that I would never have an opportunity to repay him.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

This journal entry I dedicate to the girl from the University of Michigan music school, studying Chopin, who IMed me to tell me that she was a faithful visitor of my distant planet...a prospect so ludicrous to me, shouting into the void out here, that I did not believe her...I still don't know if I do. I was convinced that the girl, SN "Ubermensch," was Morgan, my girlfriend (who spent a year in Austria, reads lots of Neitzche (thus my suspicsion of the overman german screename) and enjoys telling stories about grand practical jokes. When I saw Morgan later, I was so convinced it had been her I immediately proclaimed "You're ridiculous!" It quickly became improbably that Morgan was a suspect: she had been studying manically for two finals she had the next day. I found her utterly drained from her day of calculus and ion channels--unlikely that she had the time or the energy to pull this off.
Magnificent, magnificent internet, that lets us taylor our own identity clothes! How easily I could myself sign up for an alternate IM screen name, become a girl studying Chopin at the UM school of music, and find myself IMing a silly boy about how much I enjoy reading his journal.

Only the weak, inflexible and unpracticed muscles of my imagination limit my ability to create myself anew online.
Online, the only thing that strangers have to judge you by are your words--messages carefully constructed. Perhaps, soon even more, videos and images, and sounds, but those can just as easily be borrowed, shaped, or newly crafted.
This all bothers Morgan quite a bit...she takes with heavy skepticism my trust that no one in this world actively desires to harm me--my belief that I have nothing to fear from people.
I may not be naive, but hopefully I tread well the fine line between adventure and stupidity...I send my love all those who visit my journal, be they music students or "random weirdos" (as Morgan might call them) who just want to stalk me...but I of course agree that I should maintain a ceratin amount of distance from those strangers whom I encounter private rendez-vouz in darkened alleys etc.

It isn't quite right to call people I meet online strangers. Because I don't really meet people online. A character I create meets a character they create, like two beautiful puppets descending on a common stage, their puppetteers hidden from each other's view behind the velvety glow of LCD.

Monday, May 06, 2002

Seth (former neighbor, now friend, future roomate) and I got into an intense run today during which he started talking about non-linear narratives and digital technology, which is one of those Ari-hot-spots that if all people that know me well enough find out that I get really excited about...Of course this time was no exception. Between gasps for air I got really riled up about all the possibilities that computer science technology provides for new kinds of writing and text, and of course decided I needed to do somethign about this soon, or something close to immediately.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

An urgent request to any visitors of this distant planet: I search for coherent explanations of mongoamy. Why does the vast majority of humanity choose to engage in exclusive physical but open social and emotional relationships? I do not reject the merits of monogamy--I am as we sit rolling in the poppy-gardens of monogamous bliss--I just don't understand it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

I'm not quite sure how things could get better than this semester. This doesn't particularly make sense--it was supposed to be my shit semester. Honestly. I'm taking the biology of ion channels (which I couldn't have been less interested in, but which turned out to be pretty cool. The people who teach it LOVE ion channels. LOVE'em. With a passion. the people are beautiful. their love is beautiful, ergo, the ion channels are beautiful.) and organic chemistry (feared pre-med land of stress, melodrama, and penultimate irrelevence, ended up stretching my mind and exposing me to one of the best teachers I've ever encountered.) I could continue listing my blessings (morgan! friends! first professional publication! indy! blah blah blah huzzah!) into all oblivion. I'm working on my metaphysical flexibility so that I can rap my arms around all of them.