Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

It would be more memorable if I *hadn't* spoke in class today

The other day, I find a book of my old CDs in my folks house, mostly consisting of show tunes. 'Cause I ruled. If you knew me back in high school, I'm really, really sorry for all the show tune-singing, and all the histrionics that with it. Earlier in the week, I bust out Les Mis. If you knew me in high school, you probably remember me tearfully singing On My Own and insisting I'm a modern-day Eponine. I had an unrequited crush on a boy, and this made me exactly the same as a starving French peasant from an appallingly abusive family. Right?
I had a similar bout of nostalgia some months ago when listening to Bon Jovi's Bed Roses. What on earth I thought I had in common with a rock star engaging in the time-honored tradition of cheating on, while simultaneously yearning for, their significant other, I have no idea.
But I kind of have an idea. Bear with me.
So back in the day, BF Skinner does this experiment with pigeons. He took some pigeons and started feeding them at seemingly random intervals. The pigeons, who were apparently hungry, started engaging in these complex rituals. If they were nodding their head the last time food came out of the dispenser, they'd nod their head when they got hungry. If the next time the food came out they happened to be doing a soft shoe shuffle, they'd nod their head and do a soft shoe shuffle next time they got hungry.
Okay, stick with me another paragraph or two. Couple years ago, Jennifer Whitson at the University of Texas at Austin does a study in which she sticks some people into a situation under which they had no control and sticks a control group in a situation in which they do. Then she shows them some random static, and the outta control folks were a bunch more likely to perceive pictures in the images that weren't there.
Okay, so you're a teenager. You can't drive, school's hard, parents are always foiling your plans with their totalitarian rules, your hormones are exploding out your ears, and you're in constant danger of someone's folks walking in while you're getting to third base. 
Is it any wonder, then, that you listen to Smells Like Teen Spirit, Under the Bridge, or, you know, Leader of the Pack, and are sure it was written just for you? It's kind of a wonder, I suppose, but it's not an unexpected wonder.
So there. And if you're not aware, Pearl Jam's Jeremy actually WAS written about me. "Gnashed his teeth and bit the recess lady's breast" is code for "Cried a lot and wrote bad poetry."

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