1641: Nikolaas Tulp, Dutch Anatomist

Self is going back and forth between Caliban’s War (which is all action, which is perfect because reading action is a nice balance to her current state of total inactivity) and Mama’s Last Hug.

Trigger Warning: If the mere notion of dissection makes you ill, do not read. It’s not graphic, but it did make self a tad queasy.

Mama’s Last Hug, p. 66:

  • When a team of behavioral scientists and anthropologists finally tested the idea by carefully dissecting the faces of two dead chimpanzees, they found the exact same number of mimetic muscles as in the human face — and surprisingly few differences. We could have predicted this, of course, because Nikolaas Tulp, the Dutch anatomist immortalized in Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson, had long ago reached a similar conclusion. In 1641, Tulp was the first to dissect an ape cadaver and found that it resembled the human body so closely in its structural details, musculature, organs, and so on, that the species looked like two drops of water.

Also, did you know that there is a type of human smile called the Duchenne smile? The Duchenne smile is “a sincere expression of joy and positive feeling,” and involves a crinkling/narrowing of the eyes.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Emotions: Language Descriptors For

Mama’s Last Hug is fascinating, how well it points out the limits of human understanding (i.e., Man is always front and center and human emotional behavior is always the benchmark for analyzing other species)

Self can’t help continuously drawing comparisons with . . . never mind.

p. 54:

  • If it is true that the environment shapes facial expressions, then children who are born blind and deaf should show no expressions at all, or only strange ones, because they’ve never seen the faces of people around them. Yet in studies of these children, they laugh, smile, and cry in the same way and under the same circumstances as any typical child. Since their situation excludes learning from models, how could anyone doubt that emotional expressions are part of biology?

Stay tuned.

Melancholy

Perhaps it’s this damn covid-19, but self is feeling mighty melancholy today.

To match her mood, today’s excerpt from Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves is from a section called Finality and Grief:

  • It remains unknown how widespread the sense of finality is and how much it relies on a mental projection into the future. But members of at least some species, after assuring themselves by smell, touch, and revival attempts that a loved one is gone, seem to realize that their relationship has permanently moved from present to past . . . It also reminds us that all emotions are mixed with knowledge — they wouldn’t exist otherwise . . . Life goes on, as it should, but individuals are unique.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Current Reading, First Friday in May 2020

The things self learns! Her house is a mess. Stacks of books piled everywhere.

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Mama’s Last Hug, p. 41:

  • People who have just fallen in love have more oxytocin in their blood than do singles, and their high concentration lasts if their relationship lasts. But oxytocin also shields pair-bonds from sexual adventures with outsiders. When married men are given this hormone in a nasal spray, they feel uncomfortable around attractive women and prefer to keep their distance.

 

 

Starting MAMA’S LAST HUG: ANIMAL EMOTIONS AND WHAT THEY TELL US ABOUT OURSELVES

Self never thought she’d be as engrossed as she is. She’s just emerged from the fantastic space opera that is Leviathan Wakes, she didn’t think that her mind would be able to adjust easily to a subject like primates and their emotions. That would be quite a shwitcheroo. Surprisingly, however, self found it very easy to get ‘into’ this book.

From the Prologue:

Emotions may be slippery, but they are also by far the most salient aspect of our lives. They give meaning to everything. In experiments, people remember emotionally charged pictures and stories far better than neutral ones. We like to describe almost everything we have done or are about to do in emotional terms . . . That’s another thing about emotions: they make us take sides.

Back when Beto was still running for Presient, he gave an interview in which he said that Trump was a “master of emotional language.” That, said Beto, was how he won in 2016.

In light of the book self is currently reading, in light of the fact that the emotions, according to Frans de Waal, “make us take sides,” no wonder America is polarized to such a degree.

Everything Trump says is pitched to target his listeners’ emotions. He never uses reason or logic, but he sure can manipulate this one thing. Just to show you how well this strategy works: Americans actually called into poison control centers last weekend, wondering whether ordinary household bleach could kill the corona virus.

Self thinks it’s dangerous for a politician to appeal to the emotions. That makes the politician a demagogue. Or a fascist. Someone like Hitler.

A mob is ruled by emotions, not by rationality.

We’re not a mob country, are we? ARE WE?

But we’re all so much more emotional now, as a result of this pandemic. Does that make us ripe pickings for the Grifter?

Stay tuned.

#amreading: National Geographic’s Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

p. 95: The Story of Gods and Planets

The five planets visible to the unaided eye were named after figures from Roman mythology, a tradition followed when Uranus and Neptune were discovered. Mercury, visible only for short periods of time, was named after the fleet messenger God. Venus was named for the goddess of love, no doubt for its shining brilliance in the sky. Mars was named after the god of war. Jupiter was named after the Roman uber-deity who ruled the heavens. Sluggish Saturn was named for the god of agriculture. Mesopotamian astronomers merely referred to it as “the old sheep.”

Stay tuned.

LANDFILL, by Tim Dee: Henry Mayhew and the Anthropology of Dust

Landfill: Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene is a great book. Lord how self parses every paragraph.

Late last night, self got to Essay # 7: “The Birds,” about the iconic Daphne du Maurier short story and Hitchcock’s film adaptation of it. This morning she began the next piece: “London Labour and London Poor,” the title of a “work of epic taxonomical ethnography” by Henry Mayhew.

p. 82:

Dust is everywhere in Mayhew’s city . . . He knows there is no such thing as dirt. It exists — just as Mary Douglas spelled out a hundred years later — only in the eye of a beholder. “No single item,” she said, “is dirty apart from a particular system of classification in which it does not fit.” But, for Mayhew, dirt is the one thing he most wants to define.

Yet he can never fix it. How do you count dust? How do you hold it? What is it? The powdered world? The fundamental raw material? Sediment or suspension? A cast of everything that has lived? That which we tread on — or breathe? That which we are? Hamlet’s quintessence?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Now Reading: 2nd Tuesday of July 2019

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Rising, p. 160 (in which #metoo meets #climatechange)

On p. 160 is — big surprise — not some genuinely hair-rising fact about how we’re all going to be wiped off the face of the planet by rapidly rising ocean levels, but an account of how Rush was sexually harassed by a senior colleague.

This is really brave of Rush. Because her whole message about climate change comes dangerously close to never seeing the light of day — not that the harasser was necessarily *that* powerful, but she was assailed with self-doubt (Did I invite his advances? Is this all my fault?)

Eventually I tell Samuel that I cannot continue our professional relationship and I tell him why. First he says, “Oh my god.” Then he says, “I had no idea.” Followed by, “I don’t remember.” And then, “I had no further intentions.” He says, “I love my family.” And, “let me know when you get over it.” The words spill out of him fast like floodwater.

Nice parallel, words with floodwater.

Samuel and the author are about to take a swim somewhere near Pensacola, Florida when he stops her by putting both hands on his shoulders, turns her around, and presses his lips to a tattoo on her back (The tattoo is a quote by e. e. cummings)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

RISING, p. 50

It used to be that we thought earth’s climate and its underlying geology changed slowly and steadily over time, like the tortoise who beat the hare. But now we know the opposite to be mostly true. The earth’s geophysical make-up doesn’t tend to incrementally evolve; it jerks back and forth between different equilibriums. Ice age, then greenhouse. Glaciers covering the island of Manhattan in a thousand-foot-thick sheet of ice, then a city of eight million people in that same spot.

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