Everyone wants to leave their mark on history, and there’s no better way to do that than having something important named after you. A bridge? Awesome. A new invention? Great! An obscure scientific theory? Well … everyone who understands it will appreciate it. It’s no different when it comes to the world of medicine and psychology, where long and unique names like Alzheimer, Klinefelter, Münchausen, and Tourette now fly off any nurse’s tongue as easily as a kid spouting Latin dinosaur names. While critics oppose the practice of naming medical conditions after people, it’s definitely easier for non-medical folks to remember a unique name than a string of letters.
This raises a question, though: What does an ambitious person have to do if they want a medical condition named after them? The answer isn’t so clear. Sometimes doctors get the credit, sometimes it goes to a well-known patient, and sometimes, telling a few exaggerated stories will do the trick.
Greetings, everybody! As longtime readers know, one of my regular assignments is writing for Grunge.com, where I explore topics from the sociological to the bizarre and otherworldly, depending on the day. It’s been a while since I’ve linked you all to some of my more recent pieces, so here are a few favorites:
We all remember our elementary school days, but those memories aren’t always so happy. In this article, I examine some of the most inane and problematic policies guiding elementary schools in the United States, including the emphasis on competition (spoiler alert: competition actually inhibits learning), forcing kids to ask for a bathroom pass (who came up with that nonsense?) and why taking away recess actually makes unruly kids more unruly. Read on!
Is there really a hairy, humanoid creature wandering through the woodlands of the United States? Probably not, but you never know, and the world would be a lot more fun if there was. Regardless, the legend of sasquatch goes back surprisingly far: various versions of a bigfoot-like figure played key roles in the spiritual belief systems of multiple North American indigenous peoples. Here’s the story!
Ever wondered who lives in Antartica, how long they stay there, or what they do? Ever wondered what kind of job applications those Antarctic stations might be taking? Wonder no more, because here are (some) answers. Learn the ropes, seek out the iciest continent, and who knows: maybe one day soon, you’ll join the ranks of the 300 Club, the esteemed group who do naked races from a 200 °F sauna out into a -100 °F Antarctic night. Yes, really.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the audio file that’s tearing up the internet. Take a listen, and tell us what you hear:
So, is it “yanny” or “laurel?”
Yes, there is a technical explanation for this, which has to do with frequency (read that here, on Vox). However, what’s so interesting about this whole shebang—and what was also interesting about the infamous “dress”—is how it tests the limits of perception: we experience reality in a certain way which we often think of as being somewhat objective, which is why it’s so alarming when others perceive the same things in totally different ways. This then calls into question the very method (I.E., our senses) which we use to define the universe around us. Sure, reality exists. But do our eyes, ears, nose, or hands actually understand it? Not so much. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that this interests me, considering it’s one of the big themes in Intraterrestrial.
Anyway, when you folks play the clip, what do you hear?
(For what it’s worth, I’m definitely hearing yanny.)
From the author of Pale Highway comes a radio play that aired live on WSCA 106.1 FM in New Hampshire, on August 23rd, 2016. Set in a nursing home, Nicholas Conley’s Something in the Nothing tells the simple story of a conversation between an Alzheimer’s patient and his caregiver — a conversation that will have a dramatic impact upon both of their lives, forever.
Something in the Nothing stars the voices of John Pearson, Erika Wilson, Jessica Rainville, Jessie Duthrie, David Phreaner, and Suzy Manzi. The play was directed by John Lovering from an original script by Nicholas Conley.
Listen to Something in the Nothing below:
Over the past few centuries, it’s been said many times, in many ways, how the cornerstone of democracy is a free press. For the sake of having a more free and just society, we also want an informed society. Newspapers, news websites, news stations, and so on must have the freedom to write about anyone, or anything, at any time, in order to hold the world’s most powerful institutions in check. In the same way that news institutions need to sharply critique the policies of other institutions, though, it’s equally important for citizens to be able to carefully scrutinize the news they read: to ensure that all news sources, from the New York Times to JoeBillysNews.com (not a real site!), use proper citations, follow journalistic standards, correctly present information, don’t misrepresent facts, and so on, in order to make sure that the public isn’t just informed, but accurately informed.
So, in that spirit, I have a critique: what’s the deal with paywalls?
For those who might not be familiar with the term, “paywalls” are what we call those screens which flash up when you’ve read a couple articles on a specific news site, displaying a message along the lines of, “You’ve read 2 of 3 free articles this month. Please subscribe.” Once you read all 3 (or however many) articles, the news site will then cease to display “free” articles until the following month. Basically, you get walled out. Kinda like this:
Now, I understand the principle behind this. New sources are a business. Understandably, that business needs to support itself, a task which has become more challenging in this era of digital revolution. The problem? Getting people to actively read the news can already be a challenge, and that number is only going to dwindle further if doing so requires coughing up a weekly or monthly subscription.
The truth is, we live in the age of free information. If a news site puts up a paywall, it doesn’t encourage people to subscribe: it turns them away. This results in lower readership, which in the long run, damages the business. Paywalls are an attempt to impose old standards upon new formats, and they don’t work. The bigger problem, though, is one of ethics. The “must pay if you want to read the news” model isn’t just out of date, it’s dangerous for democracy.
As a writer myself, I strongly believe that clear, informative, well-sourced news should be freely available to every single person, of any class, of any demographic, in order to promote a more educated society. Paywalls are a form of classism: they create a fiscal barrier between lower-income individuals and proper news sources. There are countless individuals and families out there who simply can’t afford a monthly subscription, because if it comes to choosing between food, medication, or a newspaper, basic needs are going to win the wallet battle. As a result, paywalls run the risk of sending potentially informed individuals into badly-sourced, less-refined news sites, thereby resulting in a less educated populace. Kind of goes against the spirit of the free press, doesn’t it?
We should want a strong free press, but we also need a press that provides free information, as well. While news sources need to find new ways to support themselves, the immense disadvantages of paywalls (both for moral and business reasons) prove that they are an ineffective method, as well as being problematic for society at large.
What do you all think?
This past weekend, I had a great time sharing a few passages from Intraterrestrial with a fun crowd at Flight Coffee in Dover, a local third wave coffee shop which has become one of the top community hot spots on the NH seacoast. It’s an awesome location, with equally awesome coffee—which, for a self-proclaimed “coffee vigilante” like myself, is a key factor in any great book reading.
Big thanks to everyone who came, and hope the rest of you had an equally cosmic Earth Day weekend!