R.I.P. Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933 – August 20, 2015) (and Open Menu)


the flower that mistook itself for a galaxy

British neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a book published in 1985 entitled: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’, which featured prose narratives of twenty-four patient case histories.  The title case was from a study of a man with visual agnosia.  Wikipedia’s brief entry says:

“There are two types of visual agnosia: apperceptive agnosia and associative agnosia.

Recognition of visual objects occurs at two primary levels. At an apperceptive level, the features of the visual information from the retina are put together to form a perceptual representation of an object. At an associative level, the meaning of an object is attached to the perceptual representation and the object is identified. If a person is unable to recognize objects because they cannot perceive correct forms of the objects, although their knowledge of the objects is intact, it is apperceptive agnosia. If a person correctly perceives the forms and has knowledge of the objects, but cannot identify the objects, it is associative agnosia.”

And yes, the condition has spawned some great social satire, as you might guess. To borrow from my Swiss friend Obey’s grim satire:  “The world watches with concern in hope that America stops mistaking itself for a hat.”

wild hats 2

Da Wiki also says:

“Sacks was the author of numerous best-selling books, including collections of case studies of people with neurological disorders. His writings have been featured in a wider range of media than any other contemporary medical author, with The New York Times referring to him as a “poet laureate of contemporary medicine”. His books describe cases with a wealth of narrative detail about the experiences of patients and how they coped, often illuminating how the normal brain deals with perception, memory and individuality.

Awakenings (1973), an autobiographical account of his efforts to help people with encephalitis lethargica regain proper neurological function, was adapted into the Academy Award-nominated film of the same name in 1990 starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. He and his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain were the subject of “Musical Minds”, an episode of the PBS series Nova. In 2008 Sacks was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to literature.

(Note: the last open menu is here.)

10 responses to “R.I.P. Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933 – August 20, 2015) (and Open Menu)

  1. Did you catch yesterday’s DN where Greg Grandin spoke of Henry Kissinger’s career as realpolitik-ician as a fraud? That he comes from a line of German idealist “reality-makers”?

    When will the US stop mistaking that war criminal for an interlecturer?

  2. why does the empire mistake the saudis for ‘our partners in peace’?

    will NATO ever recover from mistaking itself for a weapon of defense?

    mr. obama seems to mistake himself for someone who gives a shite about the polar icecap melting while approving drilling in the arctic circle.

    but at least by executive order he renamed mt. mckinley its old name ‘to honor alaska natives’. (the putz)

  3. Can’t help seeing the anagram for ‘Denali’ as I am sure most people do.

    “. . .at the end of the ride
    the lady was inside
    and the smile was on the croc-a-dile.”

    By the way, this being an open menu, yesterday I wandered through the ‘toys’ section at Walmart. Yes, there I sometimes shop, having at times no alternative, but never have needed to peruse these particular aisles – I thought I’d seek something cheap to dangle my keys that I could easily grab from within my bag. You will be relieved to hear I didn’t find nuthing but my total impression of these two or three long corridors was that they’d make a great Little House of Horrors on Halloween – and this wasn’t the place already devoted to such – this was kiddie toys!

    Talk about a conscious effort to instill visual agnostia in children – this was most certainly IT.

    • whoosh, yes. mr. wd has to shop a wally world, too, as they killed out all the family businesses in town. he reports that almost all of the toys and birthday cards for the grandchirren are weapons of mass destruction themselves.

      but wot? chistmas wasn’t up yet? guess that must be in october now.

      i missed the anagram, but your comment caused me to look up its meaning. turns out, it’s: the great one. see, mr. prez was honoring himself, not first americans. the putz.

      ah, well, we need some inspirational music.

  4. how could we fail to celebrate with her? ‘A Watershed Moment for Guatemala: Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Celebrates Jailing of Ex-President’ (the transcript)

  5. this is a hopeful development, save for the word ‘possibly’:

    California EPA mulls labeling Monsanto’s Roundup as being ‘known to cause cancer’’’ (as well as several other carcinogenic ag agents)

    “In the US the herbicide has been considered safe since 2013, when Monsanto received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate. In its original assessment the US watchdog said glyphosate could be “used without unreasonable risks to people or the environment.”

    But a study released last week by an international group of scientists revealed that the long-term intake of Monsanto’s herbicide, even in very small amounts, lower than hat which is permissible in US water, may lead to kidney and liver damage.

    In a recent report by the Center for Food Safety, the heavy proliferation of Roundup was also linked to a drastic 90-percent drop in the population of monarch butterflies in the US.

    The news of California’s EPA decision was welcomed by environmental activists. In addition to glyphosate, tetrachlorvinphos, parathion and malathion, were listed along Monsanto’s product as having carcinogenic effects. The public now have an opportunity to comment or dispute the new proposed classification through October 5.

    greece ad latvia said No to gmo foods recently. one major caveat to any consumer safety gmo labeling, herbicide/pesticide labeling, etc. is that if and when enacted, both the TTP and TAFTA investor state rules can either moot nation’s laws, and/or allow corporations to sue for imagined lost profits.


  6. Here’s a diversion from Down Under:


    With my ongoing peripatetic peregrinations, (yes, I did have to look those two up for spelling corrections) the demise of many features in the Whakarewarewa valley due to overexuberant bore hole explorations has been an ongoing distress for the region – never mind that in the 1880’s Mount Tarawera blew its top and buried a maori village along with the famous pink and white terraces, so let’s not hope we go there again. Lots of dormant volcanoage down there, particularly in the North Island where I grew up. The largest city, Auckland is dotted with hillish, green mounds facetiously called ‘Mount’ this or that, not to mention the big island, Rangitoto, that blocks the mouth of the Waitemata harbor.

    Thirty years is a long time, but at least some manmade environmental depletions are reversible. That’s my good thought for the day.

  7. Wow and then wow again – maybe it’s me but this crosstalk on the Ukraine situation seems to me to be dynamite. I’d love some discussion on this – I know, I’m always going off course, but I was reading, am reading about what happened in Ukraine in the 16th century – opened my mind to lots of weirdness currently going on – and this crosstalk is full of it.

    So, can we maybe take a trip thataway sometime? Michael Hudson’s there, and they do discuss that refugee situation, the IMF and all sorts of what I would loosely call skulduggery.


    I haven’t looked at the comments but Saker’s link came in loud and clear for me (which rt sometimes doesn’t.)

  8. And on the subject of “where (or why) did everybody go?” I’ll add a recommend for the following:


    I’m only partway through the comments but lots of names if not faces there, am only as far as comments 15, 16 but thought I’d provide the link before continuing – might answer that query about refugees – maybe they were encouraged to temporarily depart by their own government – most of them don’t seem to have much in the way of belongings, precious stuff. . .

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