Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brains... BRAINS.....!!!

More fun about brains between me and Sy Montgomery:

"Continuing to read "Birdology." 

Re studies of brain damage and music; my own childhood accident (hit myself in the head with an axe - don't ask) gave me the ability to see whatever I wanted as though it were really there.  I used to play with real dragons.  Probably why I wanted a TRex.

Over the years I've lost this ability.  Brain growing up and re-configuring?  Healing?  No idea.

For the last 30 years I've asked artists and writers if they've suffered head trauma.  The only one I'm not sure about said, "I don't remember."  The rest described what had happened.

Supposedly, some South American tribal peoples hit promising kids in the head, to further their path to becoming a Shaman.  I once wrote a short story about someone talking to a kid, describing what life was like back before everyone was hit in the head as a normal procedure for furthering brain development ("Cracked.").

I've described what happens as "Living on the glass prairie" -- we can suddenly see everything in our heads, all the time.  Many of us suffer from insomnia, and have to take valerian or soymilk just to calm our brains down so we can sleep.  The mention of one thing leads off to all the scenes and files in the head.  We have real Junkbox Brains.

When someone says something like, "Mommy can see angels now!" I always want to ask when Mommy got her head accident.

That's just some personal experience - I don't know if it will be of interest to anyone doing brain development studies.  The one thing I know about science or the arts or any other field of endeavor, we all live in our own file in society, like files in a healthy head.  Passing on odd bits of information helps hook up worlds.

(I have a strange ability to be able to translate between worlds; I once stood in the San Diego University booth at San Diego Comicon and translated between the world of drawn books and academia.  Maybe all research needs one Junkbox Brain on staff?  Not really joking.)."


"Holy God, Donna. This is very, very cool. Lately I have been researching ocotpuses, and this has heightened my interest in exploring different kinds of consciousness. (Octopuses, though neither social nor long lived, are extremely intelligent. Their intelligence evolved completely separately from ours. And about half of their neurons are not in their brains but in their ARMS, which if severed can go wandering about catching food items, which they then try to pass back toward the mouth, which of course is no longer nearby.)
I love the title of your story "Cracked." Where can I read it?
How long ago did you lose the ability to see your thoughts as if they were really there? I only once had this experience while waking and it was after taking ayahuasca with a shaman in the Amazon. In my vision, which hit long after the first two and I had gone back to bed, the star ship Enterprise (the old version) appeared under my mosquito net and slowly cruised through it.


"First of all, my apologies for sending a pdf file, but it's the easiest and most direct way of seeing the story, "Cracked Baby" (I forgot it was a pun).

Got a bit of a jump when re-reading it; the Tsunami/earthquake drill siren went off this morning.  I'm getting so many of these jumps lately - read a word, hear it on the radio, or see the situation or image in reality (or is it just September, and the black fluttery things and noises about? :)

Octopusses (Greek plural) are the embodiment of "THING" in "The Adams Family?" Authors really do have some kind of weird insight.

Does this mean that "blob of neurons" or whatever it is in the Stegosaur's hips could be extra file attachments?  How does this relate to phantom limbs?  Do our brains function more like those crab parasites that take over the whole body? ("Parasite Rex").

Is our mental capacity, that seems to make humans act like a disease instead of a mammal, the result of symbiosis with a parasite?  Like the toxoplasmosis that makes rats love cats? (And don't we catch it too?  There's internet film of a dog and a deer happily licking a cat - it's SPREADING!  Ha).

And with parasites controlling actions, did Star Trek and the XFiles have it right (and aren't those little crawly things ladybug larvae?).

(A friend works on Star Trek - and yes, the Ferengi tooth sharpener IS a nose-hair plucker with the top off.  And are most of the sets are based on these convention hotels?)

Well, you've just flipped the switch this morning."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bird Brains

I've been knocking emails back and forth with Sy Montgomery,   She's kindly allowing me to release the conversation.  I hope you have as much fun with this as we are!

Here we go, with me contacting her:

"Love your bird experiences.  They got me to thinking about bird brains - or rather, dinosaur brains.

Dinosaurs got locked into a small brain because their jaw structures surrounded the brain with hard bone, right? So, they had to go for a different quality of "thinking."

We've always said we could get along with far fewer brain cells - which dinosaurs do.  But they do it in a way that's so different from us:

To put it in art terms, we have bitmap, they have vector.  They don't think - they LEARN.  Now. First time.  Pattern upload finished, complete, and stored for future use.

When one of my 3 hens, Red, was out in the cage (many predators) making like a rooster at 7:00 am again (and coming up to it in volume), my husband Dan muttered, "The poor neighbors."

I leaned out the door, saw she was just singing to hear her head rattle and yelled, "SHUT UP!"

She gave me that Chicken Look - and has stopped yelling herself.  First time. Done.

They build a file NOW, and keep it.  Or, to try to put a little scientific rigor into this email, they SEEM to.  Now my questions:

1.  Can they change the file?

2.  Or do they wipe and rebuild within seconds?

Thank you for letting me ask, if only to hear my own head rattle."

Sy Montgomery:

"Dear Donna,
What an interesting email! I've discussed this briefly with Irene Pepperberg and my paleontologist friend Gary Galbreath. They can't answer you questions either! But are thinking about it. If either get back to me with further thoughts I'll pass them on to you. 
What you describe sounds exactly like what my falconry instructor says about her hawks. They don't seem to think (as in to ponder or consider), but they learn incredibly fast and never forget.
I would expect--just from my own experience with my own, non-avian brain!-- that while it would be easy to add to a file, it might be very difficult to wipe it clean or replace it. I have a lot of trouble with this. Birds are credited with being greatly instinctual (as if instinct is stupidity instead of wisdom). Their kind of instant learning is similar to how we learn phobias, for instance--which are extremely difficult to unlearn.
I love it that Red figured out what you wanted right away. If only children learned so quickly."

And me again, after she gave me kind permission to post this on the blog, and asked for the address:

"Yeah, that's a blog -- it's how I pay about $15.00 bucks a year for a website.  You know us artists....

And THANK you.  I was thinking I was being a bit presumptuous, but knowing my gang, they'll enjoy seeing this develop.

Oh -- another note:  In "Birdology," a comparison was made between birds as PCs and mammals as Macs.

As a author and artist who uses both, may I differ and propose the reverse?  A Mac is hard-wired to use, with very fast, ready functions - a PC lets us get our sticky little fingers into the pathways.

It's like the difference between the ships of the two villains in "Despicable Me" -- Gru is PC, Vector is Mac.  One is clunky and obvious, with big blobs of sloppy parts to play with, like us.  One is incredibly sleek, hard and fast, and gets around the lack of "thought" by being open to instant learning and wiping, as with a Mac program and dinosaurs.

This is probably just more of my head rattling, but this has me wondering.

(I love saying "dinosaurs" instead of birds.  I wanted my own pet TRex when I was little -- mostly without thinking about the logistics of feeding the thing.  Or being swallowed by it ("No!  It will love only me!").  Now I have THREE - chickens)."

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Whole Film Crew Speaks Up

SR Bissette says what I've never had time to say in his blog posting, Looking for Magic Carpets.

I commented: "To all you writers: us drawn book authors are like the whole film crew. You’re just the guy with the script. And find THAT in the credits, if you can."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Baby-sitting Contract

"Don't use your children like that -- it's shameful."  It's a paraphrase of a quote from "Dead Like Me," when a woman attempts to use her kid being in the car to cut into line at the post office.

I'm Child Free.  Does that mean I hate kids?  No, it means being a parent is something I would never do to a child.  I'm obsessive, judgmental, hot-tempered and can be downright mean.  So nobody who should be raising a kid (and I could COUNT when I was seven, and saw the future population numbers.  I later realized that being a parent doesn't guarantee permanent effect -- atheists usually come from religious households, after all).

However, I'm a GREAT aunt.  I'll take your kid horseback riding and to cookout parties and down to the swimming hole.  Of course, I'll also let your kid get into the Triple-sec-soaked marshmallows and take turns body-surfing the rapids until somebody's bleeding.  Just sayin.'

However, I never volunteered to baby-sit your kid.

The following is a legal contract, that will be applied in the cases described, and you are required to have knowledge of it:

"The next person who dares to get between me and adult events, books, movies or whatever, because their 14-year-old daughter (for example) happened to walk into the bondage panels at Norwescon (for example), and causes me any loss of time and enjoyment or money for the sake of their kid - he or she is getting a bill for my art rates, and those start at $80.00 an hour.

And if s/he has the gall to squawk, "Are you a parent?" then it will be $120 an hour, as a nuisance fee, under Arrogant Cluelessness.

I will assume you, as the parent, gave the kid permission to be involved in my activities in the first place.

If you miss your payment, you will be billed monthly, and 5% accruing interest will start at the 1st of each non-paid month.

This is a legal contract.

If you claim you've never read it after getting the bill, ignorance is no excuse.  So do your job and explain to your kid that, while THOSE people are doing it -- it's for grownups, and the kid doesn't get to do it until s/he is an adult, too.

Oh - and if you find alcohol on the premises at Comicons run by me, remember that a lot of these secure spaces are in Lion's Clubs, or Elk's Clubs, etc. - and those old farts have booze in the cupboards. Watch your kids' fingers, and remind them that most things are for grownups - they just have to wait a few years.

Signed this day -- September 7, 2011 (further additions, August 9, 2012) -- by Donna Barr

Additional Corollary, 27 July, 2014: This contract applies to people who decide their imaginary gods or other fandoms can intrude on the fun of consenting adults and reasonable parents. Come in here and start spouting how Jesus hates gay people or Allah hates women, and making people feel all sad and guilty, and you'll be billed for the same time, because you're using our space to abuse other people. Amen."

Me and Padawan Learner in the Chehalis River.  So there.