Monday, March 7, 2011

Dutch-American Relations

It feels good to have showered. At this past weekends' festival a drunk man upended danced into my full glass of beer, which spilled all over me. Luckily, Jan had predicted that this would happen, and thus had equipped me with an old corduroy coat to wear. Mm. I'm going to have to wash these jeans though. Yes, I am wearing pants. I never expected life to be so hard.

Or easy, sometimes. I had to stay home from work today to wait for a very important package to arrive. It is a delicate electronic device known as an electroencephalograph. With it, I will be able to detect the patterns in brain waves that correspond to entertaining different mental states. Muhuhahaha! I think this might be the musical instrument of the future. Or at least the harmonica for the hand-brain coordination emphysemic (I'm speaking of course of those unfortunate aspiring musicians who have flippers for hands, metaphorically speaking). Brain oscillations can be translated by computer from electromagnetic waves into sound waves, and thus the deliberate manipulation of ones own brain waves by conscious will could be used to create a theremin-like device. I estimate it will take me only 10 hours of training, spread over two weeks, to train my brain to be able to modulate pitch and volume. Changing the timbre of the instrument would also be another useful control. Multiple simultaneous notes might be beyond the range of this technology. The real question is, once we take the stage, what do we do with our hands? Tambourine? I can see the newspaper advertisements now for the Phillips Theremin. The Encephalotron! The Brainophone! I seem to be full of get rich quick schemes these days.

So just before I got doused, I was having this conversation with a random Dutch guy, and it went like this: Him: "Statements that are generally applicable are more useful to think because they apply to more situations." Me: "Circularity is circular." I've been living in The Netherlands for five months now, and I have yet to feel fully culturally acclimated. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that almost every Dutch person speaks almost perfect English. But when I'm a crowd of people and everyone in it is speaking a language I don't yet understand I feel somewhat out of place. Many expat conversations involve complaining about Dutch culture, which I think is just poor assimilation + sour grapes. It would be interesting to do a study of the implicit attitudes of foreigners here who learn or do not learn Dutch. Uh oh, I fear I've bullshitted my way into a corner.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Status Update

Damn. I have to postpone that salami & cheese just long enough to write this introduction. There! Already partway done. But still so much more to go. And yet, I feel confident that I will finish. Progress is being made towards this goal with every passing second. I had a great weekend with Jan & Lilla in Bergen Op Zoom, The Netherlands. In the South of Holland*, Bergen Op Zoom was granted city status in 1266 and was once an important European trading port. Every year for Carnival the city's inhabitants dress up in curtains and handkerchiefs and silly hats and cram themselves into bars, get drunk on cheap beer, scarf down some greasy hamburgers with fried onions, and go back for more, all to the insistent oompah of traditional brass bands. Lilla and I lost Jan for awhile in the massive crowd, but the three of us reunited before the night was over and we danced around and acted silly.

*Holland, commonly thought to be a synonym for The Netherlands, is actually an area within The Netherlands.

Life sometimes feels like a string of constant realizations. Some take longer to develop than others. Autism research might benefit from more empirical study of the relative benefits of different types of musical therapy. The act of sharing intentions in a nonverbal context could make a crucial difference to a developing autist. Now come up with something else new. It's not always easy, but every moment is meaningful. Topic: synchronization of forehead raises in nonverbal communication, a conversational-analytic study of implicit turn-taking. Sometimes you have to wait for things to come to you. Never give up on writing. Take frequent breaks ;) Some things, people don't talk about. Never forget to love yourself. Life is a treasure hunt for beautiful ideas. Memory can be fleeting, you must fight to be awake in every moment in order to remember later. I'd rather have somebody else do the real work. Every rejection is a learning oppotunity. Every rejection sucks. Laziness is a universal. Try to win! Collect them all now!! :) :) Remember that time I ate some of your delicious food while you were out of town? It's because I missed you, all right? God. Haha or maybe I just want to steal your food ;) Girl, I just wanna get with you, and your sister, I think her name's Brabra. There's no such name as Brabra! Allow yourself to be creative. Make sense at least some of the time. Don't go into battle without your armor on. People don't all think the same. How much do you know about the arts, musics, religions and languages of the world? Animals think like we do in many respects (and we think more like them than we realize), but also have their own unique understanding of the world. Meat is murder, but aww it tastes so delicious! People do very unsympathetic things to each other, too:

"Sympathy and empathy are separate terms with some very important distinctions. Sympathy and empathy are both acts of feeling, but with sympathy you feel for the person; you’re sorry for them or pity them, but you don’t specifically understand what they’re feeling. Sometimes we’re left with little choice but to feel sympathetic because we really can’t understand the plight or predicament of someone else. It takes imagination, work, or possibly a similar experience to get to empathy.

Empathy can best be described as feeling with the person. Notice the distinction between for and with. To an extent you are placing yourself in that person’s place, have a good sense of what they feel, and understand their feelings to a degree. It may be impossible to be fully empathetic because each individual's reactions, thoughts and feelings to tragedy are going to be unique. Yet the idea of empathy implies a much more active process. Instead of feeling sorry for, you’re sorry with and have clothed yourself in the mantle of someone else’s emotional reactions." (

I can't imagine how you, the reader, must be feeling. This post has been going on for so long. I apologize.



PS: Salami & Cheese time, mmm.