Whether the weather

Julius Caesar, and the Roman Empire
Couldn’t conquer the blue sky…
Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you
Neil & Tim Finn (Crowded House)

Not sure how it’s been in your corner of the world, but I can state with absolute certainty that the weather over the past four months has been causing a significant amount of grief to inhabitants of southeastern Canada.  We Canadians have developed the capacity to tolerate imprisonment in our igloos for eight months of the year, in large part because we expect to be paroled between May and August (and, assuming good behavior, maybe even...

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On Mona Lisa, Leo Kottke and Van Morrison

When I dabble with paint, my mind’s eye envisages an accurate reproduction of the Mona Lisa. When I pick up my guitar, I imagine myself being able to caress it the way that Leo Kottke can (if you have never heard of Leo Kottke, get yourself one of his CDs, and relish in his authority over the instrument).  And when I try to sing, that little voice inside my head (not the one that comes out of my mouth) sounds just like Van Morrison during his classic performance of Caravan in The Last Waltz.

Now I must confess that I don’t paint much, because my Mona Lisas end up looking like stick women...

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The Big Wet One versus the Horizontal Mambo

How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.
- Victor Hugo -

(more…)

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The Enigma of Santa Claus or The Puzzle of Altruism

Those of you non-scientific types out there probably don’t know this (and maybe you don’t care, either), but Santa Claus is an enigma to the scientific community interested in determining the causes of behavior. Actually, to borrow a more eloquent quote from Churchill, Santa is a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” I mean, think of it: How do you explain the behavior of someone who spends the entire year running the ultimate toy and gift factory, coordinating the efforts of a group of eccentric elves, and taking care of a group of whimsical reindeer?

All this so that on one...

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Trick or Treat: The Psychology of Superstition

I’m a big fan of this time of year. No, not fall, Halloween. I like Halloween because it’s got something for everyone. Kids, of course, get to dress up however they want, perform low-level acts of mischief, and get rewarded for it. Adults who want to relive their childhoods can also don silly get-ups if they so choose, if not, they can be bemused by answering the doorbell and rewarding those tiny ghosts, goblins and other sundry spirits that go bump in the October 31 night. And finally, adults who don’t want to be bothered by it all can turn off all the lights in the house, heads down the...

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6

Pills, Parlance and Plasticity

I have a love-hate relationship with my friend, and fellow Douglas blogger, Cam Zacchia. I hate Cam because he writes infinitely more interesting blogs then I do. I love him because he doesn’t brag about it.I also appreciate Cam because he stimulates my cerebral cortex. Cam loves to pose interesting questions. I wish I had a dollar for every time he has challenged me with the following: “Joe, are most mental illnesses brain disorders, or are they just “problems in living?”

I hate Cam because I could never phrase a good answer to this question. But I’ve been thinking a lot about this...

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It depends: The difference between stigma and wisdom

As an academic, I cherish debate and reflection. Of course, it is one thing to be challenged by someone who may have some reservations about my views about the mind-body debate or my thoughts about when and where the Habs will bring home cup number 25. To be questioned on your personal beliefs takes us to a whole new level.When the woman who currently occupies a large portion of my heart read my last entry, she posed the following hypothetical: “If, when we first met, I told you that I was suffering from bipolar disorder, would we still be together now?” (Just to set the record straight,...

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4

Stigma and mental illness: The Joy of Cooking

For those of you who may have become accustomed to a more light-hearted treatment of issues related to mental health: You may want to skip this entry. Why? Because I’m mad as hell and I don’t want to take it anymore.

The source of my disaffection? The results of a survey commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) addressing Canadian attitudes towards the mentally ill. I’d like to comment on two of the more prominent highlights:

Highlight #1: 25% of Canadians claim they are afraid of being around the mentally ill

That’s interesting. I can sort of understand this reaction; after...

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Narrow minds and broad waists

When I was a graduate student I was on a bus boarded by a middle aged gentleman wearing a baseball cap that boldly announced: Middle age is when your broad mind and narrow waist begin to change places. Now that my waist (but hopefully not my mind) has grown to approximate this description, I thought I would invest the time to investigate where the quote originated. After a quick Google search, I learned that the quote was the inspiration of one E. Joseph Cossman. Turns out Mr. Cossman was “an American salesman and self-made millionaire, best known for selling shrunken heads and ant farms...

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Hockey Night in Cranium: This is your Brain on Hockey

Let me take you back to Monday, April 21st, game 7 Boston vs. Montreal. I want to try and describe your cerebral activity through the day. Two caveats before proceeding: My doctoral supervisor always told me that I should speak about the things that I know, and not the things I am ignorant of. As I have never been a Bruins fans (sorry, Nick!) I won’t comment from a Bruin’s perspective. Also, as I have never been a female (despite what Nick thinks of me for refusing to become a Bruins fan), what follows is a description of a brain possessing an XY genotype.

You arrive at work at the normal...

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