Monday, May 08, 2006

Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me--Greenday

Some days my head is like a word association game, some days it's Trivial Pursuit.

This poor post has a history of it's own. First I posted it instead of saving it as a draft. Then I wrote it all and lost it when I tried to spell check. Hmmm.

A few weeks ago I walked into the family room where my husband was channel surfing and looking at one frame said, "Sabrina?" (original, of course, not the remake). And it wasn't Audrey Hepburn or Bogart or even William Holden. It wasn't one of the famous scenes--the cooking school, the tennis court, just an old character actor in the boardroom. My husband said, "How do you know that?" Me: "I knew it from the boardroom." I haven't seen Sabrina since I was a teenager. The designer in me, I guess.

I got a piece of spam with a chunk of text in the body and I knew from the first few lines it was from The Hobbit. A book I haven't read since my teens. Let me also mention it said nothing about elves or orcs or hobbits. It was about a sluice gate.

We were listening to a radio show from 1985 and the theme music sounded so familiar to both of us, but it never used the vocal. In the middle of the night it came to me after working through it in my head--it was from the time when all the British bands decided they needed a brass section, easy listening ska, somewhere after Madness but before Living Color. I also thought we owned it. I thought it might be "Love is the 7th Wave", but N (my husband) hates 'String' so we thought it must not be that. Finally, "Right By Your Side," The Eurythmics--from the only Eurythmics album I don't have on disc. (Had on cassette but never found a CD replacement). I had to get up and check downloads to make sure I was right.

Sometimes I have to work through the random associations--this can be frustrating to people talking to me. In the animated show "Pinky and the Brain" the Brain would say, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" and Pinky would inevitably come out with some impossible non-sequitur like, "Yes, but lederhosen chaffes me so." One great episode took place in Pinky's brain and we saw how some random word of the Brains would run through random associations in Pinky's so that, "But what if the hippo doesn't want to wear the bikini?" made perfect sense. My head is like that. I was playing a game online where you find hidden objects in a picture (harder than it sounds) and I found myself humming "Everybody's doing the Michigan Rag." If you don't know it, it's the song that gave Michigan J. Frog his name. My husband and many of our friends would know the name of the cartoon, but I don't seem to be able to hold things like that in my head. Anyway, I couldn't think why until I realized that in the picture there was a little frog sculpture next to the sheet music for "Maple Leaf Rag." There you go.

Isn't it funny how the mind works? I would say I have good visual memory, and yet I have trouble with people's faces. Maybe I'm so self-centered I don't see other people, but I don't actually believe that. My father worked very hard on remembering people's names and faces--he felt it was a courtesy to the other person and he was right, a kindness that we would want for ourselves. Maybe it's because so few people manage to remember how to pronounce my name. My mother used to say that I shouldn't worry about people mispronouncing my name, but it always hurt.

I would say I have a good memory for words too, but sometimes I go aphasic--when I'm designing for instance. It's like I turn off one part of my mind for awhile. I was painting a set and some friends were helping me. I couldn't remember the words "Paint." I ended up making a gesture of painting. I was checking a reference at my HR job. I was supposed to say, "I'd like to ask you a few questions about X." What came out was "I'd like to question X a few," or something like it, and for a moment I had to really concentrate to put the words in the right order. When I get really tired I start to lose words and say something that starts with the same letter or rhymes, like church or hair for chair. It scares me.

I don't think I have a good memory for music, which is why I was so excited that I figured out the theme song. One of my bosses can sing or play any song he's ever heard that he likes. He knows it's a gift, but I don't know if he realizes how extraordinary it is.

I was thinking that I have very little physical memory--kinesthetic but I type and sometimes I can do things on the computer or in sewing without thinking about it, in fact start to screw up if I think about it too much--like parallel parking.

There's much study going on these days to try and identify the ways we learn and what kinds of memory we have in the belief that it will help to teach children better. But how do you teach math kinesthetically? If you teach them how to tap a calculator in a certain way, they may be stumped when they have to go beyond what they've entered before.

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