Quote of the day
His eye would not perceive colour, his ear sounds, his body would be unaware of contact with neighbouring bodies, he would not even know he had a body. All his sensations would be united in one place, they would exist only in the common “sensorium.”
~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author of Emile.
It makes letters colourised and numbers pulsate with cosmic time: a rare gift, or are we all on the synaesthetic spectrum? Vladimir Nabokov once called his famed fictional creation Lolita ‘a little ghost in natural colours’. The natural colours he used to paint his ‘little ghost’ were especially vivid in part because of a neurological quirk that generated internal flashes of colour whenever letters of the alphabet appeared within his mind. In his memoir Speak, Memory (1951), he described a few of them: ‘b has the tone called burnt sienna by painters, m is a fold of pink flannel, and today I have at last perfectly matched v with “Rose Quartz” in Maerz and Paul’s Dictionary of Color’. The condition he had was synaesthesia, a neurological oddity that mixes up the senses, making those who possess it see as well as hear music, or taste the shapes they set their eyes upon.
A doctor’s recommendations for mental health evoke more philosophy than biology.
The special tool-wielding power of human hands may go back further in evolutionary history than scientists have thought. That’s according to a new study of hand bones from an early relative of humans called Australopithecus africanus. Researchers used a powerful X-ray technique to scan the interior of the bones, and they detected a telltale structure that’s associated with a forceful precision grip.
Whether you’re deliberating between breakfast cereals, TV shows, career paths, pension plans, or lifetime partners, the amount of options out there can be overwhelming. In modern America, however, the freedom to decide who you are and who you’re going to be is mandatory.
On Wednesday, the American thriller author James Patterson’s new book Private Vegaswas made available as an e-book to 1,000 lucky participants. The book’s website released a series of codes which could then be used to download an app on the iPad to read it. The catch, of course, was that you had 24 hours to finish it before the book would self-destruct.
Philosophers and scientists have been at war for decades over the question of what makes human beings more than complex robots.
As much as we love out digital devices, many of us have an uneasy sense they sense that they are destroying our attention spans. We skitter from app to app, seldom alighting for long. Our ability to concentrate is shot, right?
Every once in a while, I am asked what I “make.” A hack day might require it, or a conference might ask me to describe “what I make” so it can go on my name tag. I’m always uncomfortable with it. I’m uncomfortable with any culture that encourages you take on an entire identity, rather than to express a facet of your own identity (“maker,” rather than “someone who makes things”). But I have much deeper concerns.
Last week I taught an all day seminar at Grub Street — “Writing Tools for Beginning a Novel”— where I learned how difficult it is to condense the process into six hours . . . and how exhilarating it is to step back and look at the entire process. At day’s end it seemed as though I’d climbed a mountain where (for a day) I could look down at the forest and also take note of the trees. For those who appreciate concise road maps, my aerial view of writing a novel is below. Note the word “my.” There are as many methods and belief systems are there are writers—this one’s mine.