Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Woman On a Metro Train

 The color, pattern and texture of a jacket  worn by a woman seated on the Metro train is similar to a garment I wore on my wedding day long ago.
I have a sudden shock of recognition and a memory still  clear about a peripatetic day in Athens when I spotted a long-sleeved top and long skirt designed with wonderful simplicity and appeal. A waffle weave, exquisitely made - possibly unique. Possibly silk.  Straight lines. Classic. Even tiny Chanel-like buttons down the front and a small shirt-style collar. No label name. It hung in a boutique on a side street in a fashionable part of town at a time when tourists were few. (The junta had just come into power.) I had no premonition of a ceremony; no groom in mind. But I knew then that having found the dress I would find the man. And so it happened..
 I wore the dress once on a hot July day. No jewelry and no veil. I carried red roses from a bush on the lawn of the very great old house where assorted guests had gathered. The dress turned yellowish with age and ended its wearable life in a collection of wedding dresses being assembled by a costume curator at Vassar College who intends one day to display them, with a history of each dress attached. Stay tuned.

Slick City Touts

An accomplished urban man of distinction,  who likes to answer to the description of 'flaneur' (which Webster's translates miserably as 'an idle man about town'), can be easily engaged in a name game about cities he has known and loved. He fancies ranking them in terms of the 'it-ness' of the moment - their individual allure based on what might in other people's minds be simply subjective impressions from a recent visit. He appears very firm in his judgments and by no means volunteers them to gain effect. He has traveled the world, lived at separate times in a number of celebrated places, and feels justified in his conclusions.
Take heed then: Paris is 'over.' The city stifles creativity chiefly because government policies and regulations discourage innovation. The talented young especially are all going to London. He says a friend reports recently that the language she heard most often in London was French. Berlin has replaced Paris as a continental city worth inhabiting. More verve and excitement. Sydney has it in spades over Melbourne, the latter being "tired" and mainly a refuge for - well, he can't exactly say but it isn't really alive. Forget Rome, Lisbon, Madrid, Moscow, Tokyo - though he might give the latter some praise.
 His own choice is New York - and the upper East Side of Manhattan, which has lost its allure for the luxe crowd  (Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue excluded). Rents are cheaper, live is easier since small service businesses still exist in the neighborhood. He can close his small apartment at any time and leave without regret for any wanderings he fancies. He is giving away most of his possessions and relying on digital devices to make his way. "Seven bus lines between New York and Washington," he exclaims - a lark for the last minute unencumbered traveler, even one on a day trip. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

BRAIN WAVES: Minding What Matters

  • Neuroscience minds talking June 5/13 at an AAAS (www.aaas.org) Capitol Hill luncheon forum titled "Mapping the Brain" provided more details on efforts to decode that  three pound complicated mass of gray matter - those 186 billions of neurons, synapses, circuitry, what have you. Projections call for a 15 year target date to understand more than the rudiments of brain behavior, thanks in large part to the developing world of nanotechnology. (A nanometer, the customary measure in the field, is 50,000th of a hair width, if you dare to imagine it.) There's much to learn, with humility the guide, since isn't the task really the mind studying itself?  The search involves the invention of new tools - even new terms - well beyond very advanced MRI now providing  impressive insights into  the organ's functioning.
  •  We need to learn about the "electrical, chemical, mechanical" elements - "what happens at every moment," in the words of Dr. Michael Lee Roukes, founding director of Caltech's Kavli Nanoscience Institute. He uses the word connectome  for understanding regional processes, spoke of connectivity gates (wiring), and said currently scientists have charted some 1000 out of a possible 50,000 channels. It's new worlds and worlds out there...
  • Curiously, on the humble front, what we might begin to learn at the outset is why anesthesia works. We know how - patients and doctors know the effects - without understanding the intricacies within the brain that allow a person to lose consciousness and withstand pain. Further studies could lead to new treatments for relieving pain and depression. One study has focused on the after effects at different ages of  propofol, according to Dr. Emery Brown, of MIT, and a member of the NIH BRAIN Working Group. In what was almost an aside, he noted work done by Dr. Terri Monk of Duke University showing that up to 13 percent of the elderly (60 and over) have some mild cognitive impairment as long as six months after receiving such drugs in non-cardiac surgery.