February 2004

Treppenwitz [Snopes]

by Limbic on February 26, 2004

“Treppenwitz, defined as “the wit of the stairway” – a perfect comeback dreamed up only after the moment for uttering it has passed. The frustration of coming up with a brilliant rejoinder too late to deliver it is a phenomenon most of us have experienced, hence the coining of terms such as treppenwitz or l’espirit de l’escalier to describe it.” from Snopes


Teen brains show low motivation [New Scientist]

by Limbic on February 25, 2004

“Teen brains show less activity in the regions associated with motivation, reveals a brain imaging study.

And adolescents may be more willing to engage in dangerous activities such as drink driving because this crucial part of their brain is under-developed, the US researchers suggest.” MORE


Bush has lost it [BBC]

by Limbic on February 25, 2004

Possibly in an effort to expose his Democratic rivals, US President George Bush has called for a ban on gay marriage to be anacted in the Constitution no less.

This is an extraordinarily unfair proposition but I think Bush knows that its does not stand a chance and that is why he chose this radical Constitutional route rather than speedier and more easily enacted legislation.

This way he can expose the Democrats like Kerry as being pro-gay (which is a political liability in the USA), appease the religious right who are his mainstay and gays still get to marry.

Crude but effective.


Novelist Elmore Leonard sets out his simple but superb rules for good fiction writing.


'Mourning sickness is a religion'

by Limbic on February 23, 2004

Civitas have delivered a classic. It is fundamentally a restatement of what is obvious: Those people at the back of the church wailing and weeping, the ones who did not know the deceased (his daughters acquaintances or colleagues he never knew), they are wailing for sport. A friend labelled it “emotional masturbation” and whilst it is something I have railed against it, it was Mick Hume who was the first person to identify the pox and systematically analyse its workings. From the BBC:

Britons are feeding their own egos by indulging in “recreational grief” for murdered children and dead celebrities they have never met, claims a report.Think-tank Civitas said wearing charity ribbons, holding silences and joining protest marches all indicated the country was in emotional crisis.

The author said “mourning sickness” was a substitute for religion.

Rather than “piling up damp teddies and rotting flowers” people should go out and do some real good, he urged.

In his report, Conspicuous Compassion, author Patrick West said people were trying to feel better about themselves by taking part in “manufactured emotion”.

Describing extravagant public displays of grief for strangers as ‘grief-lite’ Mr West said these activities were, “undertaken as an enjoyable event, much like going to a football match or the last night of the proms”.

“Mourning sickness is a religion for the lonely crowd that no longer subscribes to orthodox churches. Its flowers and teddies are its rites, its collective minutes’ silences its liturgy and mass.

Was pop band Hear’Say jumping on the bandwagon or lending support?

“But these new bonds are phoney, ephemeral and cynical,” he said.

For the sake of completeness, here is a quotation frpm Mike Hume’s 1998 pamphlet. Mick Hume, former editor of LM Magazine (before it was shut down after losing the libel case brought against it) wrote two particularly good essays called ‘Televictims – emotional correctness in the media’ and the ‘Whose war is it anyway? – The dangers of he Journalism of Attachment’. The theme is loosely ‘Stop the weeping and sober up’.

When Hume broached this topic back in 1998 this sort hysterical hand wringing, flower mountains, weepy politicians and media sorrow mongering
were just starting. The media reaction if by now a formula deployed over a long series of events starting with Diana, and continuing though Dunblane, Omagh, Josie and Damiola.

“The media preachers of emotional correctness issued two commandments in the aftermath of Diana’s death. First, thou shalt weep and wail. The word from the editorial offices was that everybody from the Queen downwards had to soften that stiff upper lip and show their emotions in public; as Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair put it, the obligation was to ‘hug strangers, wear a ribbon, light a candle or do something, for heaven’s sake’,” so turning the world into one big Oprah studio where audience participation was obligatory.Second, thou shalt weep together to keep together. Only one kind of emotion was to be allowed, in order for the nation to be seen to be united on its
collective knees. For all the talk of the media reflecting the People’s ‘real feelings’ about Princess Diana, the clear message was that if you were
not grieving the way the editorial-writers said we all were, then you should put on a front of ersatz emotion and play the part anyway. The end result
was described by Christopher Hitchens’ brother Peter, of the Express, as a ‘tyranny of grief’.

This coercive side of emotional correctness was never far behind the flowers and the touchy-feely stuff. In the week between the crash and the funeral,
much of the media gave up hard news reporting in favour of hardline sermons. The tabloid newspapers were only the bluntest instruments beating us over
the head……

In seeking to impose their code of emotional correctness from the top of society downwards, much of the media abandoned reporting in favour of
preaching, replacing any notion of public debate with a demand for national unity. You do not have to be a fan of the House of Windsor to worry at the
implications of the assumption of such moral authority by the media. After all, if newspapers and broadcasters can successfully intervene in this
authoritarian fashion in the affairs of Britain’s most prestigious family, what chance do those whom the Sun calls ‘ordinary people’ stand? On the
morning of Diana’s funeral, at least one man was reportedly beaten up outside his home for showing disrespect by daring to wash his car. Don’t
they read the papers these people?” [From pages 10,11 and 12 of ‘Televictims – emotional correctness in the media’ by Mick Hume]


Food tastes stronger when you're hungry [Eureka]

by Limbic on February 23, 2004

“People on diets should be forgiven for moaning that chocolate tastes better when you’re hungry. Just missing breakfast makes you more sensitive to sweet and salty tastes, according to research to be published next week in BMC Neuroscience.

Hunger could increase your ability to taste, by increasing the sensitivity of the taste receptors on your tongue, or by changing the way you perceive the same taste stimuli, the author suggests.” MORE


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“Fecal matter gets onto toothbrushes through the act of our flushing toilets we have just defecated into. Small particles of what is being flushed away are aerosolized into tiny invisible droplets which are sprayed through the air at distances up to 20 feet away. Our toothbrushes, lying helplessly on the bathroom counter, are routinely spritzed with stuff we would not care to give thought to.

By performing one simple act, we can greatly lessen the occurrence of this: Put the lid down before flushing. ” MORE


Humans are hardwired to feel empathy, suggests a new imaging study showing that certain pain-processing regions of the brain light up when a loved-one is hurt.

But no one actually “feels” the physical pain of the ones they love. The UK researchers suggest that empathy is the result of our brain running a virtual simulation that represents only part of the other person’s experience.

“That’ s probably why empathy doesn’t feel like pain in your hand,” says Tania Singer, a neuroscientist at the University College London, who led the study. “It feels like when you anticipate your own pain. Your heart races, your emotions are engaged. It’s like a smaller copy of the overall experience.”

Previous imaging studies have measured the effect of viewing movies or still pictures portraying emotional actors. But Singer’s team was interested in empathy at its most abstract level.

“It’s like when you read a book and you cry about a character without ever seeing them,” she told New Scientist. “This is a symbolic empathy that as far as we know only humans are capable of.”

See also: I Feel Your Pain – New Scientist

The ability to appreciate other people’s agony is achieved by the same parts of the brain that we use to experience pain for ourselves.

When we encounter a painful stimulus, such as an electric shock, signals travel from the site of the stimulus up to the brain. This is then translated into both a physical and an emotional response.


The addictive nature of love [The Economist]

by Limbic on February 18, 2004

Hormones oxytocin and vasopressin fingered in great love addition fraud!

The Economist has a close look at the opiates in our brains that make us addicted to each other through what we call “love”.