Tell me, have I gone crazy? You can be honest

As you all know, I’m devoted to several sections in Harper’s Magazine — the e-mailed Weekly Review and the hard-copy Findings.

Even if Harper’s did not cite sources for their often mind-boggling info, I’d accept what they tell me as factual, because I have to believe in some things and Harper’s is one of those things.

I’m a bit behind in my hard copy reading so it was not until a few nights ago when I encountered the Findings for March 2022. I read it, pen in hand, to mark the items I wanted to post here, on the theory if something fascinates and/or entertains me, I want you to be equally fascinated and/or entertained. I’m generous like that.

More in Findings than in Weekly Review, there are some egregiously weird items. I’d call them “bat-shit crazy” except Harper’s occasionally reports on some actual bat-shit stuff and I don’t want to confuse exaggerated expressions with expressions of actual fact. (A bat item will appear below.)

I was sitting in My Chair as I began to read the Findings. Immediately, the first Finding, a report on either fish or video game fish (not sure) made me blink several times and go back to the beginning for a re-read.

“Well,” I said to myself, “I’m a bit short of sleep so…” That was true. I was a bit short of sleep. And I’ve never played a video game. So I re-read the item. Here it is:

Transcranial stimulation of the temporoparietal junction was found to make subjects fish more sustainably in a video game, leading researchers to suggest that feelings of sympathy could be boosted in people visualizing future victims of climate change. “Applying brain stimulation to the general public,” said the study’s lead author, “is out of the question, of course.”

This reminds me of an incident a number of years ago, when a cousin, a scientist, had a research paper published in a noted scientific journal. He hadn’t mentioned it, i.e., bragged (he’s not given to bragging), but I saw the journal and saw his name and said, “Oh, I want to read it!”

“You won’t understand it,” he said blandly.

That pricked my ego. I can read, I can read English, I can understand things. So I picked up the journal, opened it to his article, read the first phrase…and put the magazine down. I didn’t understand it.

That’s how I’m feeling about the Harper’s Finding I copied above. No matter how slowly I read it, no matter how my comprehension embraces the words, which it does, I don’t understand it.

Although I recognize the final quote as an example of wit. At least I think it is.

Stymied but uncowed in the overall (I was actually wearing my pjs), I left the video game fish and continued with the Findings. The next one was…

Doctors in Varanasi reported a case of criminally motivated home mummification using air-conditioning, clarified butter, and turmeric.

What???? Let’s calm down and ask a key question: where is Varanasi?

India, all right, but it’s a place known for this (thanks, Wikipedia): “Hindus believe that dying here and being cremated along the Ganges river banks allows the cycle of rebirth to be broken and salvation to become possible.” Then why is anyone doing mummification, at home or elsewhere? Doesn’t that kill the salvation thing?

BTW, I have all the ingredients necessary in case I get a request. But please, do not ask.

I promised you a bat item. Here it is:

Shark proteins can defeat bat coronaviruses.

Great, but how do you deliver those shark proteins to the bats?


Uh, I’m taking a short break to recover the illusion that I’m a model of sanity.


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