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Entries in #thenewyorker (2)


Someone Develop This Already

This piece in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert is making the rounds, and her description of a night at a sleep research facility has me wondering: in an age of data proliferation, not least in the realm of our private lives and bodily functions, is home-sleep monitoring next? Because when the sleep researcher told her that she got a crappy night's sleep after this:

At around 10 p.m., a technician came to fetch me. She measured my head from various directions—front to back, side to side—and began attaching electrodes: three on the back of my scalp, two on each temple, three more on my chin, two on each leg, and two on my chest. Each electrode trailed a color-coded wire, which got plugged into what looked like a backgammon board. Some rubber tubes were stuck into my nose and mouth, belts were wrapped around my chest and waist, and an oxygen monitor that emitted an eerie red glow was taped to my index finger. I and the wires and the backgammon board got into bed. The technician plugged the board into a data logger and attached two more wires to each of the belts. Then she wished me good night

my only question was how sleep researchers ever manage to track and study someone getting a GOOD night sleep. I'm one of the apparent few Americans getting enough these days (between eight and nine hours, like clockwork, and I fall asleep just fine), but I doubt a stint in a lab would show that.

So iphone app, anyone? Cheap or disposable sensors you can hook to yourself and your phone in the comfort of your own bed to track your REM cycles and compare it with other biometric data that you are undoubtedly already collecting? It seems like the next logical thing...


New Blog to Follow in Light of "Cinderfella"

Somewhere in my virtual wanderings, I stumbled across Maria Tatar's blog, Breezes from Wonderland. Tatar is a professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Folklore and Mythology at Harvard, and is the author of huge amounts of approchable scholarship on fairytales and folklore. 

Needless to say, I think she's pretty great. 

Recently, she's been behind the translation of some of the newly rediscovered Bavarian folktales (as I mention below), collected by a scholar back when the Grimms were active, and it's worth a read. We don't often see a prince in distress around these parts, for starters. (Or "Cinderfellas," as she terms them.) The language is also still very close to a direct oral transcription--that and several story elements indicate pretty clearly that this piece hasn't been put through the literary filter that colors most of the stories we think of as fairy tales today. Don't let the awkwardness of reading (vs. listening to) an oral piece keep you from checking this one out.

What I really love about this whole 'rediscovery' thing, despite some of the strange elements to the story (apparently a copy of them, in German, had been in Harvard's Widener Library, among other places, the entire time), is that lack of literary and cultural filter. I'm not yet proficient enough in Swedish to check out their chidren's lit, but I definitely know that male characters in the Anglo-American fairytale canon are almost always female. Tatar theorizes in The New Yorker that this might be due, in part, to the storytellers themselves being female and therefore favoring the stories with female protagonists. I can't help but see another layer on top of that--namely, Disney's particular cultural (and gendered) take on the particular stories that were around for the taking.

All that said, check out Tatar's blog!