A good part of the past week has been taken up with research for a short story about a young transgender Hibs fan (in Lowland Scots, natch) and contemplating a creative reaction to the Christopher Orr exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery. So, a few nights ago, I needed to come up with something for the blog. A spark, if you will. An idea.
[Please think about signing up for the apoplectic.me Tiny Letter here.
I think it’s increasingly complementary to the blog. But, judge for yourself.]
Did you know that, when awake, the human brain produces enough electricity to power a small light bulb? As I was thinking about this, Phonefinderoftheblogbeth was reviewing her pictures of the old year. And she stumbled across a video of me rehearsing for the live performance of Nerd Bait‘s The Treacherous Brain. Wherein I was practising hand-drilling a hole in my head to the tune of Trepination.
It’s hard to believe that was less than a year ago! Steph and Paul unlocked the door to the The Treacherous Brain by seeing that it should be a kind of buddy musical.
Brain: I’m your brain, Richard.
Ricky: I prefer Ricky, actually.
Brain: No, you don’t.
Ricky: I’m sorry, but who are you, exactly?
Brain: Your treacherous brain. Now, if you don’t mind, I was talking….
Of course, Ricky and Brain end up get along swimmingly, escaping the from the jaws of certain death, und so weiter. This is only as it should be. For all the attention that the soul and the heart get, it feels — to me, at least — that our essence sits in that thing sitting behind our eyes with (Fact!) the consistency of tofu. If I recall correctly, philosophers and scientists think that this is a natural reaction to that placing; we perceive the world from the eyes, so of course it feels like that is where the “I” is located.
Here are a couple of recent stories to cement your friendship with your brain….
Last week, The Mirror was delighted to find that an attractive Polish teenager regained consciousness during surgery while her brain was exposed. Though not so excited, you understand, as to provide any amount of information that might offset the huge accompanying photographs. (The Duke of York’s reaction to this story has not been recorded.)
Apparently, Iga Jasica regained consciousness during an operation to remove a cancerous growth and had a nice little chat with her surgeon about “cats, which I love.” According to the hard-hitting investigative report….
Experts said the operation may have triggered something that caused her to come round despite the anaesthetic, but doctors are also investigating whether the anaesthetic was properly applied.
No reports of Iga looking down at her motionless body from a position above the operating table, I’m afraid.
But to make up for that, we watched the Black Mirror Christmas special, White Christmas, this week. Good, chewy stuff. It’s on Channel 4’s 4OD for UK readers, and Netflix for Merkin pals. Therein, a young woman underwent brain surgery and did have an out-of-body experience. Sort of.
In fact, what perceived Greta’s body from above the bed was a copy of her consciousness. Time to paraphrase Ian Wiki (with minor — in the context of the whole episode — spoilers):
The copy is placed in a portable electronic device called a “Cookie”and returned to Greta’s home. This consciousness has been designed to control Greta’s smart house and ensure everything is perfect for the real Greta. She is given a virtual body and put in a simulated white room. The copy — being a representation of a wealthy and demanding woman — refuses to become a slave, so has to be broken by torture delivered by Jon Hamm’s character:
[Matt] accelerates the copy’s perception of time so three weeks pass in a matter of seconds, and she is traumatised by her solitude in the room with nothing to do. Despite this, the copy still refuses to work, so Matt repeats the process and increases the time to six months. This drives the copy mad with boredom, so when Matt reappears to her she instantly submits to her new role.
It’s grim, but clever, inquiring and searching, I think. I suppose this has been a long time coming, and that Charlie Brooker’s 2008 Screenwipe special on screenwriting — in which he conducted extended interviews with Russell T Davies, Paul Abbott, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Graham Linehan and Tony Jordan — was the first sign that something ambitious was afoot.
While we’re feeling warm and fuzzy about brains, here’s a starting point for a bit of dystopian sci-fi from an old alma mater of mine: Case of 100 missing brains in Texas takes an odd twist. Although, the University of Texas at Austin did its best to turn it into a door-slamming, brain-jar toting, version of Noises Off. UT lost track of half of 200 brains that it had received from patients at a state mental hospital in the ’80s. They were used for research, including the study of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reporters found their sexy angle by speculating that the brain cache might have included the brain of the Texas Clock Tower Sniper, Charles Whitman, who killed 16 people on campus in 1966 before being killed by police himself.
‘I sent them to the University of Texas in San Antonio,’ said Austin.
‘No you didn’t,’ replied San Antonio.
‘I sent them to University of Texas Health Science Center,’ said Austin.
‘Lemme check that,’ replied UTHSC.
‘Wait. Hold on,’ said Austin. ‘A big boy took ’em and ran away.’
Then, ‘Did I say “A big boy took ’em”? I meant,
We disposed of multiple brain specimens in approximately 2002 in accordance with protocols concerning biological waste [because they were not suitable for research]. This occurred prior to the renovation of the Animal Resources Center, where the specimens had been stored in a secure location.
We believe the workers disposed of between 40 and 60 jars, some of which contained multiple human brains, and worked with a biological waste contractor to do so safely.
Who needs a Screenwipe special? I got your dystopian sci-fi right here. You can have that one for free. Just don’t have a stroke, eh? Look after yer brain. She’s your pal.