Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Snippets of life past and present

1. Some glimpses of the 20th century. First, some fantastic Communist buildings.  Second, some facts prompted by the anniversary of VE Day. I did not know this: "Hitler killed himself on the afternoon of 17 Iyar, according to the Jewish calendar, a few hours before the onset of Lag b'omer - when mourning is traditionally abandoned for celebration. Such symbolism was understood by all Jews ...". There are hundreds of stories like this: "By chance, King George, his wife, Queen Elizabeth and the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret visited the East End of London the day after VE Day. They stopped at Hughes Mansions in Vallance Road in Stepney where the penultimate V-2 rocket of the war had struck at the end of March 1945. ... Of the 134 people killed in Hughes Mansions, 120 were Jews. The eleven-year-old cousin of the writer, Anthony Rudolf, was killed and the journalist Jonathan Freedland lost the grandmother he never knew."

2. And here are some glimpses into relationships between the sexes in the 21st century. First, Shagaluf is alive and well. (Is it just me, or is it odd that in these times of austerity taxpayers' money is being spent on sending a woman to stay in Magaluf despite the fact she didn't really enjoy being there: "I was often subjected to attention I didn’t want and regularly invited to hotel rooms with men I didn’t know.") While in New York, wives can earn bonuses from their husbands: "New York, unlike London, has a very flexible and mobile class system, so it makes sense that these women deserve a ‘bonus’ or an infusion of cash, because they’re tirelessly working on the social rank of the couple." Meritocracy in action.

3. You remember the Broken Windows Theory? Perhaps it is true. Here is a report on a whole series of tests including this one: "A person on the sidewalk accidentally drops some oranges just before meeting another pedestrian. Normally, 40% of passersby help the stranger pick up their oranges. If approximately 20 yards earlier, the passersby had witnessed someone drop an aluminum can and pick it up back up, 64% will help the stranger. If 20 yards earlier, the passerby had witnessed someone (a private citizen) sweeping the sidewalk, 82% helped the stranger."

4. Say you have multiple personalities inside one body. Is that actually a disorder? Lots of people (it's hard to count them, for a variety of reasons) would say no. And this is interesting: "Studies about dissociative identity disorder have shown the following: First, a body diagnosed with DID can react differently to medicine depending on which person is fronting. Second, one body examined by doctors could see when certain people were fronting, but was blind when others fronted. And third, there are distinct differences between the brain patterns of those with DID and the brain patterns of actors who are simply taking on different personas." I clicked on the link about blindness and got this abstract: "We present a patient with dissociative identity disorder (DID) who after 15 years of diagnosed cortical blindness gradually regained sight during psychotherapeutic treatment. At first only a few personality states regained vision, whereas others remained blind. This was confirmed by electrophysiological measurement, in which visual evoked potentials (VEP) were absent in the blind personality states but normal and stable in the seeing states. The switch between these states could happen momentarily. As a neural basis of such psychogenic blindness, we assume a top-down modulation of activity in the primary visual pathway, possibly at the level of the thalamus or the primary visual cortex. Therefore VEPs do not allow distinction of psychogenic blindness from organic disruption of the visual pathway. In summary, psychogenic blindness seems to suppress visual information at an early neural stage."

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