Monthly Archives: May 2010


Eliot and I before the race

Eliot and I crushed the 1/2 marathon yesterday, finishing in under two and a half hours. This bettered my time from last year’s race by five to ten minutes. Roly Poly did his best to upstage me. This morning he spat out the “hairball to remember,” approximately the size of a chipmunk.

Körperwelten / L’Homme, cet inconnu

Professor Skevos Zervos (1875-1966) performed the first successful testicle transplantation from an ape to a man in 1910… Two years later, Alexis Carrel won the Nobel Prize for similar work…

90 years later, Body Worlds by anatomist Gunther von Hagens

DR. CARREL FINDS ANOTHER WONDER – Keeps Vital Organs Of One Dog Alive After Separating Them from the Body – CUT FROM NERVOUS SYSTEM – A Living “Visceral Being” Now in His Laboratory – Astonishes Assembly of Physicians.

October 26, 1912, the NYT reports… “The world of experimental medicine was humming yesterday with the announcement of the latest discovery of Dr. Alexis Carrel… He had succeeded in separating from the body and brain and nervous system of a warm-body animal that animal’s heart, stomach, liver, intestines, kidney and bladder, and of having those organs live and functionate under his eyes for ten hours. As the culmination of many weary months of progressive experimentation, Dr. Carrel had before him in his laboratory a living “visceral being” living though totally severed and apart from the brain that was supposed to be the essential stimulus of life. There, under the very eyes of the eager wonder-worker, was a dog’s heart beating its 120 beat a minute, just as though nothing had happened, a dog’s stomach digesting food as though the brain were in its seat directing the whole operation, a dog’s intestines and kidneys functionating as though the surgeon’s knife had never been near. This was the achievement – an entire system of organs alive outside the body, an animal killed and its viscera living.”

Veins of the hand

Just a few months later, dateline January 8, 1913, an eminent professor and scientist, Dr. Pozzi, described the latest discoveries made by Dr. Alexis Carrel to the French Academy…

“All the thoracic and abdominal organs were removed from a cat and placed in a box containing a solution of artifical serum maintained at a heat of 38 degrees centigrade (100.4 Fahrenheit.) On account of the low-blood pressure the beating of the heart became very weak, and the organ assumed an anemic appearance, but after a few minutes the blood pressure increased and became sometimes almost normal.

By transfusing through the viscera a quantity of blood from another cat the lungs became pink, the blood pressure increased, and the heart-beat was regular at about 120 to 125. The pulsations of the abdominal aorta became violent, and one could see and feel the pulsations of the stomach and kidneys. In short, the viscera, which had been removed, became quite normal. The viscera were then placed in a box filled with Ringer solution A tracheal tube was placed at a hole in the box and food and water were injected into the stomach, which continued to do the work of digestion in a normal fashion.

When the cat experimented upon had eaten meat before death the stomach continued digesting for several hours after the removal of the viscera.”

Two Minnows

Thomas and Alexander Huber

“We function so perfectly as a team that we can walk up 1000 vertical metres of rock in the shortest possible time. We two minnows want to try it. And yet if we function perfectly, if the wave’s right and the rope’s right, you get into this speed rush. You don’t know why you’re so fast, but you are. And the fear we have of the whole thing is switched off the instant we speed up. And then we don’t think anymore. The only question then is: Do we want to make it or not? From a purely rational point of view I must say it’d be better to stay on the ground.

The Nose on El Capitan

“I’ve often felt like someone who is driven, who can’t help putting his life at risk again and again, who is compelled to continually get into life-threatening situations, who returns again and again to places, somewhere in a strange world where he doesn’t belong. Man doesn’t belong in the mountains. And then we wander about in search of something that is not really tangible.” -Thomas and Alexander Huber, from the documentary Am Limit

Riverside Press Park

Hustle like Rondo

Last week I cleaned out my aunt’s attic. To save space I packed her linens into air-tight packages and sucked out the extra air with the vacuum hose. This was very satisfying, but I worry about what will happen when my aunt goes looking for a specific item. All the vacuum sealed bags with the pillows and blankets open and rapidly expand to form a new corner of the universe.

Reflection off the moon roof of my car

The new camera is all here. The battery has to be charged for the lights to come on.

?: About Fakes

The great director playing the actor playing the part of a magician

Orson Welles: For my next experiment ladies and gentleman, I would appreciate the loan of any small personal object form your pocket. A key, box of matches, a coin – ah, key it is, good sir. Hold it up 10 feet over your head and watch out for the slightest hint of hanky panky… and behold before our very eyes a transformation! We’ve changed your key into… a coin. What happened to the key? It’s been returned to you. Look closely, sir, you’ll find the key back in your pocket. May we see it please? What’s that, sir? Did I used to be a magician, sir? I’m still working on it. As for the key, it was not symbolic of anything… this isn’t that kind of movie. You’ll find the coin in your pocket now, sir. Keep your eyes on that coin sir, while it’s returned to you… as your key. Should we return you to your mother? Is this your mother? No, of course not. Open your mouth wide… and we’ll return you your money. And by the way, have you ever heard of Robert Houdin, speaking of magicians, I mean. Oh no, of course not. But of course, you do know my partner Francois Reichenbach. Houdin was the greatest magician who ever lived. And do you know what he said? “A magician, he said, is just an actor. Just an actor playing the part of a magician.”

Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth

Orson Welles: Our works in stone, in paint, in print, are spared, some of them, for a few decades or a millennium or two, but everything must finally fall in war, or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash – the triumphs, the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life: we’re going to die. “Be of good heart,” cry the dead artists out of the living past. “Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.” Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much.

Dog Cat on the Waddenzee

Roly Poly is a dog

Sober reflection causes me to regret, or at least feel remiss, not going out for a mud walk in the Netherlands. Its that time of year for it; right about now I would be visiting my sister in Amsterdam. Kate went for her first wadlopen four years ago. She was sick, but nevertheless headed out into the low tide. Acoustic guitars, this NYT article about trudging through the mud, a late night granola binge, anxiety about a website meeting with my boss tomorrow, excitement about the pieces of the camera arriving, stomach ache from too much organic Cascadian Farm maple brown sugar granola, melancholy from old photos of my family, melancholy from tonight’s episode of Deadliest Catch, melancholy possibly related to the copious amount of granola binged upon, granola gas worry, maple brown sugar taste lingering on, gas from the granola. The bottom line is, its late. I have a meeting tomorrow. Deadliest Catch is sad because Captain Phil died. Family photos are sad because people I love die. Stomach ache. Cat biting hand. Acoustic guitars. Cat tearing at skin on arm.

“The old folks wake up for the day
Seeing the monsters have lingered from the past
And a great bird is flying away
From our family tree; something wrong with me” -Band of Horses

I want to wake up to a fading dream of Roly Poly dog’s paw prints in the dawn mud, his tail bobbing towards the sunrise.

Bluff Head

Bluff flyers

The grocery store was sold out of lightly salted rice cakes, so I purchased unsalted rice cakes and a large cylinder of kosher salt instead. At night, watching the internet, I managed to eat all fourteen, covered in kosher salt and Crystal hot sauce. The next morning I woke up on the couch. My computer was still turned on, and my white teeshirt looked like I’d killed someone in it. And then heavily salted the body. My mouth was very dry, and the skin of my lips turned white, and split in the corners. It was a bad scene.

Bluff climber

I went for a solo hike at Bluff Head, the highest point of Guilford. The map at the trail head was faded and illegible, but I wasn’t worried. Clueless, I shrugged my shoulders and headed into the wild. Two hours later I met two fellow hikers, around my age, with large backpacks and very worried expressions. After a few words of greeting, it was clear that we all started from the same parking lot. Keep going, I told them, sure that the end of the trail was twenty or thirty minutes away. The guy showed me his compass. I’m pushing on, I said, and my best advice is you do the same.

An hour later Aunt Judy picked me up by the side of the road. Google Maps showed that I was one full town over from where I started, on the other side of a vast swath of wilderness, by Interstate 91. Aunt Judy bailed me out, and graciously drove me back to my car. The two hikers, with fatigued expressions, were at the parking lot when I rolled up. You made it! I rolled down the window and hollered to them, from my aunt’s car. We all shared a laugh, and then I placed a phone call for Chinese food. The fortune in my aunt’s fortune cookie read, “Attend to Business today–Leave that street-side flower alone.” My fortune was, “When you are comfortable, you can do anything.”

El Espíritu de la colmena

Don Jose

“Two and two is four. Four and two is six. Six and two is eight. Plus eight is 16. Plus eight is 24. Plus eight is 32… Holy souls, we kneel before you. All right. Put away your things. Quiet! Quiet! Or else Don José will get angry. Good morning, Don José. Poor Don José! Who left him like that? You did, teacher. Let’s see, Paulita. What is Don José missing? His heart. Good. Put it on him. Mari Carmen, what’s the heart for? For breathing. All you smarty-pants laughing so hard, what do we breathe with? The lungs. Show them to us. Put his lungs on. Put them on him. Very good. What is the stomach for? To put food in. Put it on him. Very good. Sit down. Now pay attention. Don José can walk. He can breathe. He can eat. But… there’s still something very, very important that’s missing. His bones. His ears. Ana. You’re very quiet. What is Don José still missing? His eyes. Quiet, Isabel. Answer when I ask you. His eyes. Very good. Come and put them on him. Now Don José can see.”

Don Jose can see

“Someone to whom I recently showed my glass beehive, with its movement like the main gear of a clock– Someone who saw the constant agitation of the honeycomb, the mysterious, maddened commotion of the nurse bees over the nests, the teeming bridges and stairways of wax, the invading spirals of the queen, the endlessly varied and repetitive labors of the swarm, the relentless yet ineffectual toil, the fevered comings and goings, the call to sleep always ignored, undermining the next day’s work, the final repose of death, far from a place that tolerates neither sickness nor tombs– Someone who observed these things, after the initial astonishment had passed, quickly looked away, with an expression of indescribable sadness and horror.”

The Mouth of the Sea Gradually Closed

Retrait des glaces

A family of four was found dead, buried at home in Ottawa this week. Their bodies were discovered huddled around the television. They had been watching hockey. The only survivor was their pet golden retriever, tied up to a tree in the yard. Their home slipped into a hole 100 feet deep and a third of a mile long. The giant sinkhole was caused by a layer of porous clay in the ground, what had once been a seabed, thirteen thousand to ten thousand years ago. The tremendous weight of the glaciers depressed the land to below sea level; as they retreated sea water combined with melt water and the surrounding land rebounded, trapping all that water in an inland sea. The trapped saline water lasted for about three thousand years and contained whales, fish, seals, clams and other ocean species. The Champlain Sea, cut off from the ocean, gradually changed to freshwater, and most of these animals died.


Some landlocked sea creatures were able to adapt to freshwater. A marine-type stickleback in Pink Lake, and ‘red’ trout, a form of salmon, survived. The ice age passed, the earth rebounded, the mouth to the ocean gradually closed. Though presumed to be ancient history, every so often the ephemeral sea will reappear to swallow a home, or belch out a whale carcass.

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Twenty years old

I went to the Red Sox game with Chef Walker last night. It was the first baseball game that I paid attention to all year. We ate at the Lower Depths beforehand. The Chef had three plain Jane Fenway franks with tater tots and I had a black bean burger with a salad. He taught me how to keep score manually. When we arrived at his seats in the Friendly Fenway bleachers (three drunken fistfights near us) I took out my pen and scored the game. My aunt, the Yankees fan, says the game of baseball is like watching paint dry. She means to say it is a slow game. The pitcher’s mound is similar to a lava dome rising inside the crater of an active stratovolcano. Stratovolcanos rebuild their own summits. Scientists are watching, and they say the next catastrophic eruption, or home run, is not a question of if but of when. But everybody knows its more likely to happen in a hundred years than it is today.

All his demons

The game moves fast enough that keeping score is a challenge. You’d think five Diet Cokes would be enough caffeine to maintain an accurate strike/ball count. You’d be wrong. I struggled to learn the system and mark down each play. When I messed up, Chef Walker would grab the scorecard and pen, fix it, and call me stupid. This helped motivate me to do better. Every player on the field is assigned a number; when the ball is ripped up the middle to the shortstop, who throws it to first base, that out is recorded as 6-3. A double play, or fielder’s choice, or error, can complicate matters quickly. If a player strikes out swinging it’s a K, looking is a backwards K. In the middle of the fifth, I went to buy the chef a beer and urinate. In line for the men’s room, I had a realization about love. No matter how special I think a woman is / how right she seems to be for me, there will always be hundreds of other men pushing to get at her. Like half-drunk sperms. At least I know how to keep score.