28 Sep 2010

I’m Pretty Sure I Know What That Smells Like.

Written by sally @ 3:39 pm — Section: sally

“Schneider, the father of rhinology, mentions a woman in whom the odor of orange-flowers produced syncope. Odier has known a woman who was affected with aphonia whenever exposed to the odor of musk, but who immediately recovered after taking a cold bath. Dejean has mentioned a man who could not tolerate an atmosphere of cherries. Highmore knew a man in whom the slightest smell of musk caused headache followed by epistaxis. There is an instance on record in which the odor coming from a walnut tree excited epilepsy. It is said that one of the secretaries of Francis I was forced to stop his nostrils with bread if apples were on the table. He would faint if one was held near his nose…. There is reported the case of a young woman, rather robust, otherwise normal, who always experienced a desire to go to stool after being subjected to any nasal irritation sufficient to excite sneezing” (483).

Helpful: syncope = fainting; aphonia = the inability to speak; epistaxis = nosebleed.

That’s from Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle (1896). Besides this section on idiosyncrasies regarding the sense of smell, there are also sections on the following (wording taken from the table of contents):

Worms in the pregnant uterus
Monstrosities
“Elastic-Skin Man”
Congenital absence of the nose
Absence of the vagina
Fat children
Bloody sweat
The odor of insanity
Injury to the eyeball by birds
Spontaneous retraction of the penis
Elephantitis of the [all body parts listed]

There are photos or drawings of almost everything, which makes this not just a great book, but the best book of all time. Well, gotta go. I have to read about the odor of insanity now. (Update: it’s the smell of field mice. But I also learned about one lucky duck whose perspiration smelled like pineapples.)

23 Sep 2010

Hey, I’m Posting Again.

Written by sally @ 1:55 pm — Section: sally

Two things:

1. Don’t you feel sorry for all those millions of people throughout time who never thought of putting wheels on their suitcases?

2. I was reading about online games in the mid-90s (you know, as you do), and learned about Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs): “In the early 1970s, the face-to-face role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons swept the game culture. The term ‘dungeon’ persisted in the high-tech culture to connote a virtual place.”

Therefore, you are reading my dungeon. You’re welcome.

I’ve Forgotten How to Write One of These, Apparently.

Written by sally @ 8:28 am — Section: sally

Oh, hello!

It’s very strange outside these days. Around 6, the sky darkens like it’s going to rain, only it never rains. Last night Spike and I went outside to play after dinner (the super organic, healthy combo of canned peaches, frozen corny dog) and I realized that even though it was still hot, this is our version of the beginning of fall. Leaves are falling (they are green leaves) and the wind is blowing and it is getting darker. Only it’s 93 degrees outside at 6 pm.

Yesterday would’ve been my ninth wedding anniversary with my ex-husband, and do you know that he didn’t even email me? In fact, I discovered that he blocked me on Facebook! THE NERVE. In related anniversary news, if my mother had never broken up with my college boyfriend semi-against my will but because I was really passive I just let it go, we would’ve been together 17 years as of Tuesday.

Man, I should update more often. I’ve forgotten how to do this.

A few months ago this weirdo I made out with once in 2002 kept popping up on Facebook chat. I was fine with talking to him, but he never understands anything I say, never gets that I’m kidding 98% of the time, etc. He asked if I was doing anything creative lately (I think he had me confused with someone else, actually) and I told him I was writing a book about all the weirdos I made out with once in 2002. He took this seriously and told me that his ex-girlfriend had written an essay about him that really hurt his feelings because he felt she stole his life from him. I pestered him until he sent it to me, and man. I can see where he would feel that — she recounts some of the stories he told her about his childhood, which do belong to him — but it is so full of obvious love I can’t see how he doesn’t see it. I was delighted that in my extremely brief interlude with him — one make out, a few phone calls, a couple of times hanging out at a bar — I got a representative slice of who he is. The ex-girlfriend’s experience, obviously, was longer and deeper (heh), but it was still the same.

It got me thinking about how we’re all represented in other people’s minds. I always find it excrutiating when someone says, “Hey, remember when you did that thing and said those words?” and I don’t remember. Oh god, and then they tell me about it, and it’s like I’ve been talking about myself behind my own back or something.

I think I need some crackers.

9 Sep 2010

Instead of an Actual Book Review.

Written by sally @ 3:52 pm — Section: sally

I tend to read a lot of memoirs, and about halfway through I find myself saying, Now why should I care about your life again? I knew what I was getting into when I read Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook (I thought I did, anyway, but I now know way more about his anus than I thought possible), but apparently anyone who has ever done anything writes memoirs now. Remember Me? I Did That Thing That One Time. That could be title of 95% of memoirs.

I have discovered that you can have an ordinary life and if you write about it well, the result will be insanely good and a bazillion times more interesting than a famous person’s anus. This afternoon I finished reading Diana Athill’s Instead of a Letter, and it should be required reading before anyone gets to write a memoir. Hey, Snooki! Here is a million dollars to write your memoir, with one catch: you gotta read this book first.

Here is a checklist to see if you’ll like this book.

Are you interested in…
1. British people?
2. British people who grow up on lush estates with servants?
3. British people who grow up on lush estates with servants but who then get knocked down a couple of notches?
4. British people in the 30s who go to Oxford?
5. British people who exist during World War II?
6. British people who end up in publishing?
7. British people who write the following passages?

7a. During that time my soul shrank to the size of a pea. It had never been very large or succulent, or capable of sending out sprouts beyond the limits of self, but now it had almost shrivelled away. (158)

7b. I expected to step out of the train into the gold, red, and blue of a painting by Fra Angelico, and shall never forget the shock of surprised recognition, the delicious anticipation-reality complex as I experienced it again on seeing that Florence was a crumbling biscuit baked pale by the sun, with a kind of beauty quite different from but much more disturbing than the beauty its name had held for me. (200)

7c. I have been intelligent only in comparison with dull people. (231)

I’m doing it a disservice by not using actual words to describe anything, but I think I might be getting the flu so this is the best I can do.

(Athill, Diana. Instead of a Letter. Norton, 2010. (Originally published in 1962 by Doubleday.)