Articles that follow cover such topics as recording dreams, the most famous musical no one knows, my mother's private journal, Merv Griffin's agenda, George Plimpton's liquor cabinet, Romeo's doctor, a mad Irving Berlin, and many others. At the bottom right of every page there's a place to click for Older Posts. I hope you feel compelled to do so.
Not much beyond oxygenation and blood flow can be measured by an fMRI, rendering the technology’s further usefulness for something like a dream machine dubious at best.
Ian Wallace, an acclaimed Edinburg-based psychologist who specializes in dreams, presents the same reasoning for his skepticism of a Dream Machine: the sheer number of neural connections involved in dreaming. His doubt stems not exclusively from a technological perspective, but also on the way he believes that dreams are generated by the brain in the first place. “The brain is almost more active during dreaming than it is in waking life,” he notes. The parts of the brain most likely involved in the formation of dreams, he reasons, have an incalculable number of places to look and search for signals. “I think there are more neural connections in the brain than there are stars in the known universe. Literally trillions of them. Trillions of combinations.” Right now, even IBM’s Watson would have a hard time dealing with that in any endeavor to find, record and play back dreams.
Shinji Nishimoto, who worked with Jack Gallant and now studies visual and cognitive processing of the brain at the Center for Information and Neural Networks (CiNET) in Osaka, offers further evidence of the infeasibility of tapping into dreams. “Given that we sometimes experience the same dream multiple times, there might be some neural mechanisms that induce the same (or similar) dreaming brain states,” he says. “Controlling such states, however, is beyond current technology.”
In some ways dreams are like movies: they are not real, but are based on elements of reality and possibly have a little internal direction, production design and editing thrown into the mix. It will likely surprise no one that movies come up often in any serious discussion of a Dream Machine. “All science fiction movies are inspiration for my research,” states Marvin Chun. James Fallon adds, “When I was a teenager I was into marine biology and other things, but then I saw ‘Charly.’ When I saw that, that put the hook in me. Watching that movie changed me.” That 1968 film, starring Cliff Robertson in an Academy Award-winning performance, was about an intellectually challenged man who undergoes experimental brain surgery that transforms him into a genius.
If it wasn’t a movie that attracted a researcher to this topic, chances are it was one of those beautiful landscapes.
And that’s probably a good thing.
|Mom as a young woman|
|Mom and her first great-granddaughter, Veronica|
|Mom & dad on their wedding day|
|Mom and her five grandchildren|
|One of her journal doodles. A peek into her mind?|
|Doris Day even made an appearance in mom's journal!|
|Mom and dad at my daughter Celia's wedding|
A Christmas Song Scrooge is Coming to Town
The holiday season will soon be here. Forget about asking when the United States became a union of the insult tweets, unchecked narcissism, and conflicted national interests. Once the radio stations start getting into the holiday season it will occur to me yet again that an equally important question might be: When did Rod Stewart become the standard-bearer for great American Christmas songs?
Last December I heard Rod on the radio singing “My Favorite Things,” "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and with Dolly Parton, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”.
“Do You Think I’m Sexy?” is one thing. But pretty Christmas songs? Come on now. Rod's gravelly, meandering voice may have been perfect for “Maggie May” because it fit his personality and style. But you can’t say that about every song he puts on vinyl. (I know, I know, it’s not vinyl anymore; it’s bits and bytes. But I love saying the word vinyl. If you don’t like it, byte me.) If Rod wants to sing merry little Christmas songs, let him do it at home, in the shower, in bed with a big-bosom'd lady with a Dutch accent, if he'd like. But that doesn't mean the rest of us need to be subjected to it!
I guess you can just call me a Christmas Song Scrooge.
Which brings me to my second Scrooge-like question: when did “My Favorite Things,” from the Rogers & Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music,” become a Christmas song? Yes, I get it—it sounds like it's all about opening presents. But it's not! First of all, the show does not take place during Christmas. Secondly, in the original Broadway production, Maria sings the song in the church office of Mother Abbess, just before Maria is sent off to take care of the seven Von Trapp children. Maria and her boss are discussing things to think about to avoid trepidation and sadness; they are not discussing the joy of opening Christmas presents.
Certainly that takes nothing away from the beauty of the song itself, at Christmastime or any other time of the year, for that matter. It’s just that when I hear it sung in a voice like Rod's (which sounds more like a lonely goatherd than a sophisticated crooner), I go a little nuts. After all, there are plenty of other versions to choose from. At last count there were about 40 recorded versions of “My Favorite Things,” including ones by Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Vanessa Williams, Barry Manilow, Mary J. Blige, Luther Vandross and many others. Even the Carpenters recorded it—though their version never makes it onto the radio.
Speaking of the Carpenters, that relates to my final bah humbug of the day: When radio stations do their Christmas song marathons, as they are doing now, we hear the same songs over and over and over again. Some of the most stimulating cuts are left out. When stations play the Carpenters, for example, we hear the same two or three songs that we hear every year--usually "Merry Christmas, Darling" and "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays." But the Carpenters recorded a few songs that are unique and intriguing that very few people know about. Like their ballad version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Stunning—but hardly ever heard on the air!
I’d love to be a Christmas song consultant for a radio station.
Then again, what the hell do I know? I would never have thought to put Bing Crosby and David Bowie together to sing a Christmas song. Yet, here's a YouTube clip with the two of them doing a duet on “Little Drummer Boy,” and as of this writing it has more than 4.6 million views! I might as well just sit in my car, shut up, and listen to one of the marathons. Because even Rod Stewart and "Merry Christmas, Darling" are better than the news and drive-time talk.