[NB] Circling

Tonight is one of those nights where my attention spins like a vulture over the city of my mind, its broad arcs carrying it past disparate neighborhoods. This isn’t the sort of night for deep thinking, so I’ll share some snapshots of this slow gyre.

Stephen Jay Gould got some mileage out of the panda’s thumb, but I’m thinking a but more about its stomach.

There is this article on narrowing down what animates the placebo effect, suggesting a better term for it as the ‘contextual effect’ to remove it from the fetish of a magical object, the placebo. There is, too, some research suggesting that there is a genetic basis for how strongly someone responds to this contextual effect. Makes me think about Seligman and her study of trance mediums.

In the pope is catholic sort of news, Peter Carroll is Peter Carroll. It’s sort of a return of the magi to the necromancer strikes back dominating a lot of the occult bandwidth these days. It is another data point on the magi-goes diasporas, though. I find Carroll’s scientism a little dry for my tastes (especially since it feels like the scientism of the previous century), but I’m not entirely unsympathetic (not exactly sympathetic, either). One or two tangents might be worth addressing at some point. Oh, yeah, and of course there is his focus on the stars.

While these fraught exchanges over the role of beauty under empire are very timely, very contemporary, they also flash more deeply into the human condition. Like the color line, they aren’t something we can just ignore as of the world and beneath us.

Have a good night.

Mercurial Matters

My final, somewhat off-the-cuff, post on the thoughts stirred up by Gordon’s review, this time regarding Mercury. More from the-book-I-haven’t-read here used as writing prompt, Epoch:

Mercury’s patronage of doctors…may seem a little odd, but until recently most medicine consisted almost entirely of charlatanism, quackery, placebos, convoluted explanations and excuses, huge bills and rapid exits. A fair bit of it stil does, both in its conventional and alternative modes.

The connections between Mercury and opportunism of all sorts is real enough, but this way of connecting them to medicine over-emphasizes them. There is a lot more than opportunism and trickery to Mercury. Digging into the quote just a little, there are two points I want to address: one is a matter of tone, the other of substance.

Continue reading “Mercurial Matters”