Thurs., April 19, 42 A.B.

From Doggie Doo To Serotonin Sponge Cake

There were two stories in the April 2, 2001 issue of Newsweek which seem to have left an indelible impression upon me.

The one on page 9 revealed that the Franco-American Novelty Company was discontinuing its arrow-through-the-head gag.  Seems they were only selling a few hundred of those a year - and none to people like Jennifer Lopez (or Laura Bush) whose appearance with one at the Academy Awards (or an inauguration) might have been expected to help out with
this year's bottom line.  In fact, the old arrow-through-the-head gag is now about as popular as a rubber chicken - and when was the last time any of us was really thrilled to see a rubber chicken? Hand buzzers, on the, ahh, other hand, sell at the rate of about 30,000 a year, while fake doggie doo is Franco-American Novelty Company's real bread and butter.  They ship over 75,000 units of FDD (not to be confused with FDR or FTD) every
12 months.  That, my friends, is over 200 eagerly awaited packages of artificial canine excrement a day, every day (including Christmas) even though people could probably get as much of the real stuff as they
need for free.

This blows my mind.  Just think about it for a second.  There are actually people out there who are making a living designing, manufacturing, packaging, shipping, stocking, advertising, rapidly taking orders for and even speedily delivering faux poodle poo.  My goodness.  Why didn't they just go all the way and completely nuke their self-respect by getting a law degree??

(NOTE: I actually wrote "nuke their elf-respect" the first time I tried typing that line.  I even thought about leaving it that way.  But I didn't, as you can see.  Some things you just don't make fun of, and elf-respect is one of them.  Elves, after all, may be short, but they sure can kick you right in the ass when they organize themselves into 2-elf teams of ladder steadiers and kickers.)

The second story which left an indelible impression on me came on page 67.  Actually, the thing which left the indelible impression was just a factoid embedded in a story, but I didn't know that until I'd read the story (DOH!).  Anyway, it led to my learning that Peter Molyneux invented the video/computer god-game genre when he came up with Populous - back
in 1987.

Now, I know Populous.  Populous is a game I own.  But I cannot believe it is - as of now - 14 years old.  No no no.  Populous is cutting edge futuristic - not a relic of the Reagan years!

And yet, it is a relic of the Reagan years.  Newsweek told me, so it must be so....


This, of course, got me to thinking.

No -  the sound a gnat makes flying by the house next door while I sleep gets me to thinking.  THIS news, in contrast, got me to THINKING.

Thought #1: Why is my sense of time so mucked up?  Do I have a head
of fake doggie doo or what??

Thought #2: Why are the favorite songs of 50-year-old men so rarely anything that's been written and recorded in the last decade?

Thought #3: Why do our first 20 years loom disproportionately large
in our minds?

Thought #4: Why does time seem to speed up as we grow older?

Thought #5: Why do all my thoughts seem to take the form of a question? DO I have a head of fake doggie doo or is my sanity simply in jeopardy??

Moving hastily along as I whistle a tune that's not less than 20 years old...

Ponder this visual aid for a second or two:

                    Please don't stare longer than necessary at the naughty bits.

Recognize it?  It's been in all the better neurology books.  Yes!  It's your BRAIN!  Well, one hemisphere of it, anyway.  And it's been vertically bisected.  Or something.  Anyway, the important thing to remember is that some parts of your body get far more corresponding brain space than others.  A typical set of lips, for example, is allocated many more neurons than even the most outstanding pair of knees in the world.  And your back side - ha!  I have more neurons interested in my little finger than you have interested in your entire caboose!

But I'm not here to gloat.  I only bring this up to suggest that something analogous is going on with regard to time.  Our brain simply does not devote the same number of neurons to the 14 years between ages 28
and 42 that it does to the first (or even the second) set of 14 years we spend on this planet.

And the way my luck is going, it shall devote even less space to the next 14 years!

Why?  Did my brain somehow know that the '60s were going to be that much more interesting than the '90s or that the oh-so-fascinating JFK would one day be succeeded by, ummm, that guy who's in office now...
you know... from Texas, I think.  President Allhat N. Nocattle?

Whoever might be in the Oblong Office now, no - I do not think that my brain is clairvoyant.  On a typical day, it is not even voyant!  So, what the heck is going on here??

My guess:  The brain is distorting our subjective sense of time by physically coding later memories differently than it codes earlier ones.


Does it have various areas dedicated to various years the way it has various areas dedicated to parts of the body?  And are our early years allocated far more gray matter than subsequent years?  Naw.  I doubt
that there are parts of the brain just sitting there waiting for the right year
to arrive before they get to work.  The brain evolved, after all - it wasn't designed by my city hall's personnel department.

So:  Is the brain like a sponge?  All temporally dry and "time thirsty" at first and eager to suck up all the memories it can until it gets saturated - at which point further time just gets more or less ignored unless the
pressure of extraordinary events forces a memorable moment in?  Naw.  If that were the case, we'd be able to wring our brains out and start over.

Best Guess: The brain is like potter's clay or concrete.  At first it's all soft and impressionable, and everything which touches it leaves its mark.  As time goes by, two things happen: The clay/concrete hardens and the marks overlap and get confused in our minds.  How, exactly?  Well I don't want to reveal too many trade secrets here in a public journal, so let's just say it involves an increase in cell damage ("rust") caused by free radical-induced oxidation, a corresponding decrease in serotonin production, and a rude increase in synoptic electrical resistance.

The MOST important thing to remember is this: Massive consumption of chocolate and/or sex in public places might improve the situation temporarily if it's very good chocolate or the cop who runs you in happens to be remarkably burly.

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                (©1988 by - no, wait, I mean 1999 by DJ - DOH!!)