Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Cinch Review

84-year-old patient in “vegetative” state responds to stimuli

After performing a series of recently-developed tests, doctors and scientists report that an 84-year-old man, presumed to be in a vegetative state since 2006, showed “significant” brain activity when shown family pictures and offered other stimuli. A statement from Ben Gurion University in Israel, whose scientists participated in the tests, is quoted here:

“[The patient], presumed to be in a vegetative state since 2006 due to brain haemorrhage, was scanned to assess the extent and quality of his brain processing using methods recently developed by Professor Monti and collaborators,” it said.

“Scientists showed [the patient] pictures of his family, made him listen to his son’s voice, and used tactile stimulation to assess to what extent his brain responded to external stimuli,” it said in a statement.

“To their surprise, significant brain activity was observed in each test in specific brain regions, indicating appropriate processing of these (stimuli).”

Although this sounds dramatic—and rightly so—it is not unprecedented. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 (and noted then in this space) found similar results in a number of patients who were also diagnosed as “vegetative.”

Ariel SharonWhy then are the results for this particular patient in the news today? It is because the patient’s name is Ariel Sharon, and he is a former prime minister of Israel. In 2010, several years after his medical crisis, a hospital manager involved with the care of Sharon was quoted as saying that “The part of the brain that keeps his body functioning, his vital organs, is intact, but beyond that there is nothing, just fluid.”

Yet, although he remains incapable of speaking or of making substantial communicative gestures, the results of these tests will make his family feel vindicated in believing that Ariel Sharon is in fact still “there,” despite what various medical professionals have maintained, and despite the voices of all those who have advocated disconnecting the feeding tube and “allowing” him to die (of starvation). Will he ever recover something like normal consciousness and the ability to communicate? No one can say. Continue reading 84-year-old patient in “vegetative” state responds to stimuli

The Cinch Review

Eware (Wind Chaser) 1.4L Ultrasonic Humidifier

Review of E-Ware 1.4L Ultrasonic HumidifierIt’s just possible that I have recently stumbled upon the explanation for the age-old mystery of “spontaneous combustion.” That’s the alleged phenomenon whereby a living thing—including most notably a human being—suddenly bursts into flames for no apparent reason. I was in bed, and our small dog was lying near the bottom of the bed, atop the bedspread, as is her wont. Her precise position was less than ideal in relation to my feet and she needed to be shifted a little bit. I have become adept at sliding her over a few inches without unduly disturbing her; or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that she has become adept at ignoring the fact that she is being slid over, thus allowing me to do it. It was completely dark in the room. I placed my hands on either side of her curled up body and gently began shifting her over. It was then that I noticed distinct if small flashes of light emanating from her body. It took me a few moments to take in what I was witnessing and to arrive at a conclusion as to what was taking place. I realized that these flashes of light could only be sparks, caused by static electricity. The heat had been on steadily in our apartment for some weeks, and I had already noticed that everything seemed pretty dried out. I’d gotten some static electric shocks myself, and the dry air was affecting my nasal passages and such. Still, this was another level of seriousness, surely; that is, the possibility that my dog might burst into flames upon my bed.

I took it as a signal that perhaps it was time to get a humidifier. Continue reading Eware (Wind Chaser) 1.4L Ultrasonic Humidifier

The Cinch Review

The Mini Ice Age Cometh

The mini ice age comethThe mayor of London, England, Boris Johnson, wrote a widely referenced column the other day on the possibility that a “mini ice age” is upon us, due to a diminution in the activity of that yellow thing you see sometimes in the sky, known as the sun. He cited the theories of an astrophysicist named Piers Corbyn. And he cited his own personal experience of the last five winters in his locale. Reading his colorful descriptions of the unusual snowiness these past few years, I was reminded (naturally) of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” by the great Welsh writer and poet Dylan Thomas.

Near the beginning of that classic and wonderful work of modern literature, the older narrator is speaking of how it used to snow in Wales, and a small boy interjects with a comment about a recent snowfall he had experienced. The narrator is quick to correct the boy’s idea that there is any valid comparison to be made.

“But that was not the same snow,” I say. “Our snow was not only shaken from whitewash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely white-ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunderstorm of white, torn Christmas cards.”

(If you’ve never read the whole thing, you really should treat yourself and pick up a copy someplace.)

What Dylan Thomas is doing is perfectly evoking the magical powers of human memory; in particular, he is illustrating its wondrous power to distort the “truth” by magnifying that which we remember fondly. If you grew up anywhere where it snowed at all, the odds are that you recall the snowstorms of your childhood in some similar manner, as great and overwhelming blizzards, every day a perfectly frozen Christmas card image of a winter wonderland. Winters these days just don’t compare. (Must be something up with the climate.)

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, is deliberately doing the precise opposite, of-course, in his column. He is perceiving the recent winters in England as being much more severe and snowier than those that are traditional. Somewhere there are numbers to be compared and verified, naturally, but that’s not what I’m about here today.

There is another kind of distortion of memory, typical of humans, whereby we attach greater weight to recent perceptions, and discount knowledge of the past. So it is that we might experience a few hot summers and think: “It’s never been this bad —the world must be about to boil over.” Likewise we might imagine there have never been so many hurricanes as there have been in recent years, without checking the actual stats. Some will argue that Boris Johnson is overreacting to a few recent cold winters in the same way. Continue reading The Mini Ice Age Cometh

The Cinch Review

Bob Dylan to play Wales in honor of Dylan Thomas?

Bob Dylan to play Wales in honor of Dylan ThomasWell, no sooner do I announce that I have become a Welshman than everybody wants in on the act. Now it is being reported that Bob Dylan is considering playing a gig in the city of Swansea, Wales, during 2014, to honor the centenary of the birth of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

This is a little bit of a turnaround for Bob, as he used to push back aggressively at the idea that he took his name from Dylan Thomas. However, he seems to have relaxed about that whole thing, even reading some Dylan Thomas poetry on his “Theme Time Radio Hour” show a few years back. Yet, Dylan Thomas might stand as one of the few poets Bob has never actually “borrowed” from (unless I’ve missed it along the way). Their work doesn’t share much in the style department. I take as accurate Bob’s account (I think in Chronicles) that he was set to name himself “Bob Dillon,” but then it occurred to him that spelling it as “Dylan” just plain looked better. And I think we’d have to acknowledge that he was right about that.

Bob may not have been a particular fan of Dylan Thomas’s poetry back then, but that has little to do with whether he is one now. Another intersection of their lives was the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, where Bob Dylan spent a fair amount of time in the 1960s, and where Dylan Thomas, sadly, spent his final days in 1953.

I like them both, both Dylans, and, for that matter, almost anyone named Dylan, because I am, after all, a Welshman now.

If Bob does play Wales for the Dylan Thomas centenary, the odds are very good that he’ll just do the same gig he always does and leave without any special acknowledgement of the occasion. At least half of those attending will walk away going, “What the hell was that?” and some displeased reviews will be written. Should Bob wish to avoid this—although I don’t think he cares to avoid it at all—let me give him some advice, as I have been Welsh now for several weeks and I know a little about these things. Continue reading Bob Dylan to play Wales in honor of Dylan Thomas?