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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Welcome, Indeed.

A book that we’ve recently acquired is Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang’s Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life (whew, what a subtitle!). I’m a sucker for dumbed-down medical facts (this is why I watch a lot of Discovery Health, much to my husband’s chagrin), so naturally I found this book to be a goldmine. It’s also filled with funny turns of phrase. I’m pretty much in love with this book.

Here are some of my favorite nuggets from the first chapter, which is about how brain function is perceived, especially in the movies:

According to Aamodt and Wang, the memory loss in the movie Memento is extremely accurate; Leonard, the main character, has severe antero-grade amnesia: “The symptoms suffered by Leonard are similar to those experienced by people with damage to the hippocampus and related structures. The hippocampus is a horn-shaped structure that in humans is about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger” (14).

However, the authors take umbrage regarding the memory loss in 50 First Dates: “Drew Barrymore plays a character who collects new memories each day and then discards them all overnight, clearing the way for a brand-new beginning the next day. In this way she is able to tolerate more than one date with Adam Sandler. This pattern—the ability to store memories but subsequently lose them on a selective, timed basis—exists only in the imaginations of scriptwriters who get their knowledge of the brain from other scriptwriters” (10).

You will be pleased to know that the brain-eating scene in Hannibal is pretty accurate, though: “In a more realistic (but totally revolting) depiction of brain injury, we have the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001), in which gradual invasion (oh, let’s not mince words—the cutting up and cooking of a person’s brain) causes progressive loss of function. Putting aside the difficulty of carrying out such brain surgery without killing the patient, here at least we have a situation in which damage to the brain leads to proportional loss of function” (14).

If I got this much out of the first 14 pages, I can’t wait to read the rest of it. Welcome to Your Brain is available here at MLC if you want to check it out!

Aamodt, Sandra, and Sam Wang. Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life. Bloomsbury, 2008.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Golden Globes

The Golden Globe nominees were announced Thursday. Being a huge movie fanatic, in addition to a book lover, I was intrigued by the fact that all but one of the nominees for Best Drama were based on a book.
I decided to do a little more research. Are there more great books out there that I may have missed?
In 2008, three out of the seven nominations for Best Drama were originally novels.
The only 2007 nomination that was based on a book was Tom Perrotta's Little Children.
Have you seen these movies or read the books? (Or both?) Why don't you share your thoughts! Also, if you're like me and haven't read some of these, be sure to make a trip to your local library and check them out!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Book Blogs.

Two book-related blogs that I read regularly are the New Yorker’s Book Bench blog and the New York Times Paper Cuts blog.

Both are excellent for various reasons. The Book Bench has a regular feature called Bookspotting in which they describe the people they see out in public and the books those folks are reading. I find this particularly fascinating because outside of the library, I don’t see a lot of people reading in public (yet another advantage of New Yorkers relying on public transportation). I always bring a book or magazine when I eat lunch alone, but I hardly ever see anyone else do the same.

Yesterday Paper Cuts had an interesting nugget about people who lie about books in order to impress the opposite sex. I can’t recall if I’ve ever lied about a book in order to impress someone, but I can recall being very disappointed that the guy I had just started to date only had one book. ONE BOOK! It could’ve been my favorite book (it was not; it was Slaughterhouse-Five) and it still would’ve been totally pathetic.

What about you? Have you ever lied about books? Claimed that you were Chaucer's #1 fan in order to impress that medieval lit student?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

We've been carefully monitoring the weather situation all day from our excellent vantage point here at the Information Desk. Our assessment of today's weather? Abominably, disgustingly icky! However, it could be worse. Did you know that on January 30, 1966, the temperature plummeted to -19 F in Corinth, MS? That fateful day set the record for the lowest temperature ever documented in Mississippi. Living in Mississippi, we all soon learn that snow days, or even "winter" days, are somewhat of a rare occurrence. As a child, I remember being awakened in the middle of the night just to see snow. Do you remember any of these memorable snowstorms?
  • In January of 1982, 6.3 inches of snow fell in Jackson.
  • In March of 1968, 5.3 inches fell in Jackson.
  • In December of 1997, 4.8 inches fell in Jackson.
  • In August of 2001, a trace amount of snow fell in Jackson.
Here's one more chilly fact: The greatest amount of snow to fall in one day in Mississippi happened in February of 1895. Batesville saw 15 inches within one 24 hour period!
I remember adding water to snow in order to build a snowman back in the mid-80's. The snow just wasn't wet enough to pack otherwise. That snowman lasted forever! What are your favorite (or least favorite) Mississippi snow memories?
Wood, Richard, ed. The Weather Almanac, 11th ed. Gale, 2004.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Update on Roscoe Pitts!

My apologies if you find the removal of fingerprints boring, but the reference department has been positively aflutter over the additional details regarding Roscoe Pitts and the kooky removal of his fingerprints.

First off, a super-creepy photo of Mr. Pitts (real name: Robert Philipps) and his icky chest incisions:

Ewwww. Kudos to Elisabeth for scouring nearly every reference book in our collection on crime, criminals, and the like!

The descriptions of how the chest skin was grafted onto his fingertips after the prints were sliced off just weren't cutting it (haha, get it? CUTTING IT); I needed to know in detail how this happened. I won't tell you how much time Elisabeth and I devoted to talking about this over the past few days.

I came across a website writte by Jim Fisher, a professor in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, that explains it better:

Using a knife, the doctor peeled the skin from Philipps’ right fingers then taped his hand to skin that had been pulled away from his chest. Three weeks later, when the chest skin had grown onto his fingers, the hand was separated from his chest. The technique worked, on the tips of Philipps’ fingers were patches of smooth, pink skin. The doctor repeated the process on his patient’s left hand. Philipps endured six weeks of boredom and pain but when it was over he was delighted with the results.

Follow the link for more info on Roscoe/Robert.

Nash, Jay Robert. Encyclopedia of World Crime: Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Law Enforcement. Volume III: K-R. CrimeBooks, Inc, 1990. 2457.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pull My Fingerprint

I spent part of yesterday trying to determine whether or not John Dillinger had actually had his fingerprints removed. Are you as disgusted and enthralled as I am by the fact that he did?! He paid a doctor to cut off the fingerprints, and then to treat the fingers with first an acid and then an alkaline solution. Dillinger was "unable to use his fingers for several days." (This is a candidate for the understatement of the year.) Roscoe Pitts, a lesser known crime maven, went to even more extraordinary means to rid himself of his tell-tale prints. I will let you follow the link to read the gruesome details for yourself. The less adventuresome reader can learn more about fingerprints below!
  • Did you know that it is virtually impossible to tell a koala fingerprint from a human one? We are the only two animals with fingerprints that are specific to individuals.
  • There is method to the madness of fingerprints. Loops comprise 70% of a fingerprint's makeup, whorls 25%, and arches 5%.
  • A human fetus begins to form fingerprints 13 weeks after conception.
  • Fingerprints do not change throughout a person's lifetime.
  • Argentina was the first country to establish an official Police Fingerprint Bureau. It was started there in the early 1890's by Juan Vucetich, a native Croatian.
  • Anomalies in fingerprint patterns can be a tip-off to the presence of inherited disorders.
  • Dermatoglyphics is defined as "the science or study of skin markings or patterns, especially those of the fingers, hands, and feet." It also refers to the markings themselves.
  • The New York Civil Service Commission began the first systematic use of fingerprinting in the United States in 1902. They started fingerprinting candidates in order to deter those who used substitutes to take entrance exams.
Now that you've let your fingers do the walking through these printed nuggets (heh, heh), why don't you go treat yourself to something nice? How about a manicure? Or, better yet, why not get your palm read and have your whorls and arches deciphered? (Anyone know a good one?)
Black's Medical Dictionary. A&C Black Publishers Limited , 2006.
Blakemore, Colin and Jennett, Sheila, eds. The Oxford Companion to the Body. Oxford University Press, 2001.
Girardin, G. Russell. Dillinger The Untold Story. Indiana University Press, 1994.
The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide. Abington: Helicon, 2008.
Kennedy, Michael. The Oxford Dictionary of Law Enforcement. Oxford University Press, 2007.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
The New York Public Library Desk Reference. MacMillan, 1998.
World Encyclopedia. Philip's, 2008.
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