A Thousand Shades of Green: Spring in NH

Those of us who have been living under winter’s cold, white thumb for the past month sometimes lose all sense of perspective. Harsh winters somehow manage to lock down our feeling for the passage time. We feel trapped in the timeless Now, a place of never-ending ice and snow and cold. Gee, sounds a bit like the plot for a fairy tale, no? But faith in the flow of the seasons evaporates like the sublimation of ice at 20 below. O my god, we will be here forever. But no, friends in cold lands, do not lose faith. Spring will come, as it always has. And lest you’ve forgotten what it looks like, I offer you this memory. A little movie made from the footage I shot at D Acres, a small farm in northern NH.

Drink in the green.

Bidding for Attention: Share it with me

Joan with tires
Joan asked for her portrait as two-tired. Is it a bid, or a turn-down to a bid? (click pic to enlarge)
I’m standing by my computer with an old hard drive in my hand. It’s the size of a small paperback book, and it’s warm because it’s been running. But it won’t boot. I pull the power connector, let the drive spin down, then plug the power back in and thump the drive on the table while it spins up. The data is in there, but the search head is stuck and can’t read the disk.

If I were writing about dementia this would be an easy analogy, but I’m writing about love.

The reason I need this drive to boot is that it may hold the only copy of the layout files I created ten years ago to publish my father-in-law’s 275-page memoir. The printing company can’t find their copy of the files. Two printings of the book are sold out, and the historical museum in his home town has just placed an order for more.

Joan is in the kitchen inventing tasty puréed food recipes for her 94-year-old father who has trouble swallowing. I’m increasingly frustrated, thumping the hard drive on the table, when I suddenly realize Joan is standing next to me holding a big spoon up to my mouth brimming with some sort of lurid green goo. Continue reading Bidding for Attention: Share it with me

Do What You’re Told: Why the Milgram experiment still haunts me

 George on the street
I have no question that I know myself better now than I did at age 19. But it’s what you don’t know about yourself that gets you in trouble. (click to enlarge)
If you know what the Milgram experiment was, odds are that you are middle-aged or older, with a BA in the liberal arts, or even, god forbid, psychology. Less likely is that the experiment remains in your memory among your collection of cautionary tales—and you may haul it out in conversations where the topic gets round to questions of obedience, authority and moral compasses. (Why don’t we ever hear about ethical compasses? Because ethics are rules and roadmaps created by authorities purportedly to help us find our way if we lose our moral compasses. For the difference see either diffen.com or wisegeek.org.

In the early 1960s, Stanley Milgram, a Yale psych professor, recruited subjects to take part in a learning experiment. The volunteer was to read strings of words to a person he thought was another volunteer, but who was, in fact, a member of the team. Each time the learner got the words wrong, the volunteer was supposed to push a button that would deliver an electric shock. The lab-coated director told the volunteer to keep raising the voltage if the learner couldn’t get the words right. And a majority of volunteers, even as they protested, followed the instructions of the director, raising the electric shocks often past the point where the learner was apparently crying out with pain. (The learner’s screams were actually tape recordings, to provide continuity from one session to another.)

“…His face was red. His eyes were bloodshot and staring straight into mine. “Don’t you ever ever to that to me again,” he shouted.”

Late last year the Journal of Social Issues published an edition reexamining Milgram’s work, what it may or may not have proved, and the controversy and questions about human nature left still unanswered in its wake. For more detail see Cari Romm’s recent article in the Atlantic.

I came across the Milgram experiment in 1968 in a psychology course in the fall of my sophmore year at Purdue University. I had flunked out as a freshman physics major, and had decided to try my luck as a psych major; a.k.a. in those days as Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The My Lai massacre had happened half a year earlier. My professor was an earnest radical stuck in an egregiously conservative midwestern university Continue reading Do What You’re Told: Why the Milgram experiment still haunts me