Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, July 17, 2020

Four Things

1. "Finally Getting Somewhere," is the title of Jonathan Lynn's enjoyable and humorous essay about Oliver Sacks, my favorite writer about science. Sacks made the quip that is the title to his psychoanalyst after a half-century of sessions and just before he died.

Here's a sample, about the man behind Awakenings and several other favorite books of mine:

It seems that Oliver always wanted to combine medicine, science and literature and he found a way when he wrote Awakenings (1973), his next book. It was unusual in many ways. It is a selection of twenty case histories but in the first and last chapters Oliver outlined a then revolutionary view of medicine: that it is not enough to repair the parts of the body that go wrong. Illness, he proposed, changes us, whatever the outcome. We are different afterwards, and therefore the whole person must be understood and treated. He was in the vanguard of what became known as holistic medicine, but Awakenings, which Auden proclaimed a masterpiece, was not well received by the medical profession. Maybe it was because, almost uniquely, Oliver was writing about how his idea and his treatment ultimately failed. That wasn't done. It took real humility. Doctors wrote about their successes.

His extraordinary empathy shone out of Awakenings, and became a beacon for others...
There is much more about the man's "shy, eccentric brilliance" within, but in case you're on the fence, know that the biographer co-wrote the comedy series Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.

2. Part of a song on the radio sounded like it could be a sample from something I vaguely remembered a college roommate playing ages ago. So I looked it up at the gas station and discovered a very pun-ny song by comedian Kip Addotta that I'll list here by its alternate title, "Let's Get Tanked."

Similar, but a little catchier, is his "Life in the Slaw Lane."

So if I remember the song, why am I saying I "discovered" it now? It was mainly because that roommate over-played it, and I'd gotten into the habit of mostly ignoring music I'd hear over and over again. (That was one of my keys to sanity in the age of Top 40 radio and songs that were just six words long.) Otherwise, I would have learned sooner of this man who was weird before Weird Al.

3. A common complaint in our modern age is, "Where are the flying cars?"

I don't know either, but I now know that there once were flying Winnebagos:
In addition to the standard landing gear, the Heli-Home could be obtained with optional floats. That meant you could forget the trouble of having to find a narrow clearing in the woods to land. You could just set right down on a lake and drop anchor. I'm not sure how much time I would want to spend with five other people inside a cramped helicopter that's anchored in the middle of a lake, but then again I've never tried it. Perhaps 115 square feet feels bigger when there's no property tax.
The homes were ex-military transport helicopters outfitted with all kinds of amenities. Predictably, they were very expensive -- a million dollars give or take a few hundred thousand in today's currency. Only eight were sold, and none survive.

4. I like hats, and often wear them for walks. But I'm glad they're not regarded as obligatory. Interestingly, one author argues that it was cars and improved hygiene that "killed" the hat, and not JFK, as so many think:
A hat could protect a person from the rain, the wind, or the soot from local smokestacks. Long before SPF 55 was readily available, hats were also the single biggest protector from the sun. The sweatband could catch beads of perspiration before they got into your eyes. And at a time when showering regularly wasn't especially feasible, hats could also keep environmental dirt and grime away from the hair.

The advents of standing showers, shampoo, and an interest in more stylish hairstyles were very much a part of the hat's demise. Every time a man removed his cover, he'd need to recomb his hair, which was often slicked back or parted to the side. As longer, more styled hair became the style in the 1950s -- think Elvis's close cut and James Dean's artful mess -- coifs and covers were at odds. [link removed]
As for cars, their enclosed space meant that commuting involved less exposure to the elements -- and thus need for a hat -- than it had in the past.

-- CAV


: Removed a non-working Medium link.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

Your link to 'showering regularly' goes here:

Unfortunately, that brings up the message that "that page on this blog does not exist".

Is it just me or does that error code sound just a little bit 'Yodaesque'?

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for pointing that out. I first tried fixing the link, which goes was to here:

But testing the link got me the same error. (Medium showed the page, but demanded a log-in when I pasted that into a browser.) Weird.


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, here's an interesting half-hour video on "The Girl from Ipanema" with both a lot of interesting social context and a quite interesting harmonic analysis. It does a good job showing why the song is so much better when played by Brazilian musicians. The one complaint I have is that the fellow doing it has really sad Portuguese pronunciation, but at least he has a good Brazilian singer singing it and he sticks to instruments. (Note that the last three minutes or so are an ad for a new video service, so it's really only 30 minutes.)

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, I actually remember Kip Addotta from Dr. Demento, where he was played regularly, so he not only predated Weird Al, he was a fixture on the platform that launched Weird Al. Haven't thought of that song in decades, probably since it was more sedate than the songs I especially liked there.

Snedcat said...

Oh, by the way, Gus, Rice has plans for classes next year: Circus tents. In fact, I remember a few times the teachers gave us outdoor classes at our request, which was a treat...during the perhaps one month of the entire YEAR that Houston is livable outdoors. The rest of the time you'd do better to hold classes in a steam room. Not only would it be cooler, drier, and offer less exposure to noxious pollens, you wouldn't have to constantly smell that odd petrochemical, drained swamp, and wood rot stench that defines Houston.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the links and the context of Dr. Demento. I suspect that that was where my old rommate had learned of Kip Addotta.

I do not envy the prospect that Rice students face of outdoor classes! Unless, of course, there are spot coolers within the tents.