19 March 2006

You'll Drink It And Like It

You can't quit the Schmidt. You jes' cain't.


There has been a disturbing-yet-amusing development with this whole "people are reading your mail" thing. You'd think that folks would be content to sit back and watch the conversation unfold naturally with the same bemused detachment reserved for Christmas pageants and dog fights. I mean, this is after all a correspondence between you and me (save for the fact that you never ever write me back, so it's actually more like the one-way conversations people have with Baby Jesus - wait; correction: all people except psychotics). You'd think they'd be content to listen in on the party line without interrupting the conversation with a "wait - which one of you guys is Greg?" You'd think we could just serve 'em free Schmidtties right outta the Sport Pak and they'd like it. Oh mais non. That is where you'd be tres wrong.

DG reader-slash-viewer-slash-voyeur-with-an-opinion Dale Zeretzke has made it clear that he wants to hear more discourse on the topic of cognitive science. Jesus H. Gall Bladder of Christ. How do I respond to that? Considering the current forum (viz., a "private" correspondence between you and me), it's akin to having the mailman hand deliver a letter and then tell you, "Just skip to the last paragraph - the one where he confesses." Or like getting dressed and hearing a disembodied voice say, "I like the underwear you had on yesterday a lot better." Dale has gone and busted down the fourth wall on this whole thing.

But here's the unpossibly ironical part about all this. What did you say when you called yesterday? You said, "Hey - I have a cognitive science question for you" did you not? And that's exactly what I was going to talk about in this letter. So at least for know I can continue my original course without believing that I have given in to audience pressure - not just yet, anyway - and this is not the equivalent of playing "Free Bird" for the fried-to-the-hat gentleman in the second row. That said:

Your question about catatonia and whether it is a response that allows time to process information. From what I know about it, catatonia can cycle with states of extreme excitement like some sort of psychotic mania, so - yeah I know that doesn't answer your question, but I think that catatonia can be a response to acute sensitivity to both internal and external stimulus. To wit: when I was a stone cold coke freak, sometimes my thoughts were whizzing by so fast that trying to grab one and make it come out of my mouth was like trying to steal a hubcap off a moving car. I was so high and my thoughts were so frenetic, I simply could not speak. I imagine that from the outside, I appeared very calm. Likewise, I've read case studies where a person who was just on the catatonic horizon would respond to questions as though they were trying to sort out the conversation from myriad distractions, like trying to carry on a conversation in a very loud barroom. So in that case, I'd say sure - catatonia probably allows the person to limit the only stimulus that they can actually control, which is the sensations created by their own movement. Can a great deal of stimulus cause a person to shut down? Sure, take a look at a baby. Sometimes the only way to get 'em to sleep is to overstimulate 'em by putting them in the swingy-chair or the stroller...or at the controls of a loaded-for-bear P41 Mustang.

That's my free cents - or fuppence as I like to say. Take this as you will as I'm just a layperson who reads the MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science for fun.

Speaking of which, it becons me even now. I'm up to h - as in homunculus.

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.


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