Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gross Stuff

A couple of interesting stories that caught my attention this week... and also made me throw up a little in my mouth:

First, a book review of Raymond Tallis' The Kingdom of Infinite Space: An Encounter With Your Head. Tallis-- a poet, philosopher and professor of geriatric medicine-- considers the relationship between the various operations and secretions of the human head and what it means to be a human being. What is interesting, and unique, about Tallis' approach is that he avoids focusing on the brain (which he claims is "absurdly overrated") and instead replaces questions concerning neurology with questions concerning... well... tears, snot, vomit, sweat and earwax. Did you know that your tears are richer in manganese when you're crying out of grief than when you're crying out of (physical) pain? According to Tallis, the story told by our head's gross stuff is far more interesting, revealing, and ultimately more "human" than the story told by mapping the activity of neural centers. In fact, Tallis argues that "neuromythology – which claims that neuroscience can explain far more than it can – seems halfway plausible only if it is predicated upon a desperately impoverished account of [human beings]." As someone who is also increasingly bored with the brain, I'm fascinated with Tallis' project. His is a book I plan to pick up very soon.

Second, the new body spray by Burger King, "Flame." Yes, you read that right. According to the promotional material: "The WHOPPER© sandwhich is America's favorite burger. FLAME© by BK© captures the essence of that love and gives it to you. Behold the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat." Meghan Daum at The Los Angeles Times summed it up best, I think, when she wrote that "as unconventional as Flame may sound at first, the fact remains that it's tapping into one of our most primal relationships: the relationship between man and meat." Unlike Tallis' book, I'm not going to pick up BK's Flame anytime soon... though I could be persuaded to reconsider the wisdom of such a project if it were taken up by someone like Charles Vergos or Gus.