The Skye Boat Song

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward, the sailors cry
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
Over the sea to Skye

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunder clouds rend the air;
Baffled our foe’s stand on the shore
Follow they will not dare

Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep
Ocean’s a royal bed
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary head

Many’s the lad fought on that day
Well the claymore could wield
When the night came, silently lay
Dead on Culloden’s field

Burned are our homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men
Yet, e’er the sword cool in the sheath,
Charlie will come again.

“The Way You Laugh” Dawes

I suppose we are born from our silence
But you seem to take yours with you
Like a child that refuses to bloom

You forced me to face all of your beauty
Then turned your beauty away from yourself
This road that we’ve taken doesn’t seem to stop here
But doesn’t seem to go anywhere else

And your heart rests in your chest
Like a charm ’round your neck
That you couldn’t find words to refuse

And this high horse you ride
It has broken its stride
As it leads us through worlds built for you

So walk with me a little bit further
So I can find the tenderness you keep inside
God made you with a taste for the madness in love
But you confuse your gift with your pride

And I can’t help you with removing that bandage
I will leave you all to yourself while you heal
As I’m learning time is a language
And it’s the best way to explain how I feel

And while the magician you meet
Sweeps you off your feet
Saying he’ll teach you tricks all for free

I’ll be in the way that you laugh
As he cuts you in half
And holds you up for the crowds all to see

So forgive me for feeling so strongly
But I feel like we can finally agree
That true lovers always end up lonely
Cause they know how good it could be

I’ve heard the men in your wake
Describe you as a snake
As you slip away when they start to wilt

But I firmly believe
You’re a lot more like Eve
As she enjoys a bit of her guilt

Hairface McPigbot Says Hello

The world is a strange place, galleons. And the MoMA, while mind-bendingly amazing, is also full of some truly bizarre crap (piles of insulation and strangely positioned mirrors on the floor is not art, dammit).

And none so bizarre as a concept toy that debuted at a MoMA show. Galleons, meet the Epidermits toy:

What is this little hellspawn, exactly?

Epidermits is a “living,” tissue engineered toy. That’s right- its skin is actual, human-like tissue, which can be tanned, tattooed, and pierced just like human skin.

Like My Little Pony for goths and guidos.

You can customize the hair (bush?), skin (for the racists), and body to make your very own freak of nature.

The creepy faux-skin covers a fuel cell powered robotic body that can be programmed to move about and be your little waking nightmare. And if you get bored of it (or too freaked out), you can put it into a state of “forced hibernation” by putting it in the refrigerator.

Which might be an effective diet aid.

And why does this demon toybot exist?

Epidermits was created by the Karten Design firm as part of their Cautionary Visions project, a reminder that there is the potential for tech design to go off-track when “the focus on real human interactions (and values) is lost.” They came up with a few designs that highlighted possible worst-case scenarios for  the future of tech design… one of which was the Epidermits toy.

According to the design firm:

In a world where the value of life decreases daily, where boundaries between real and artificial are increasingly blurred, comes the toy that will truly confuse kids and rob them of any remaining sense of the natural. Epidermits are fully functioning organisms, resulting from advance tissue engineering and the latest fuel cell and electronics technology. They don’t feel pain – or think – but follow a complex set of algorithms.

The whole thing reminds me pointedly of the short story The Robot and the Baby, in which society refuses to create child care robots because, “Surely, parents will not want their children to become emotionally dependent on robots, no matter how much labor that might save.”

***

To me, the most unsettling part of this whole thing was that bit about the “forced hibernation.” No off switch, no batteries that run down. No. “Forced hibernation” in your damn refrigerator.

It evokes images of a faceless robot death pig having to be flash frozen to finally stop its ceaseless, murderous robo-body. Like a tiny Terminator.

“As You Are” Garfunkel and Oates

Sit back, you don’t have to work so hard
It makes me tired to watch you try
Relax, you already played your cards
And I know which ones are a lie

It makes me really sad to see
The things you think you have to be
Just to be enough for me
When you already are

Why can’t you just look at you
In the same way that I do?
Through all that’s false and all that’s true
I like you, as you are

I know that you can get sad sometimes
I see it mostly when you smile
Let go of all of your supposed crimes
Just be with me for a while

I know this may be hard to hear
But all your tricks are really clear
I see right through your slick veneer
To the secret life you hide

Why can’t you just look at you
In the same way that I do?
Through all that’s false and all that’s true
I like you as you are

Take me in
Believe me when I say
You’re more than just okay
You’re perfect as you are

5 Outside the ‘Box’ Uses For Semen

My dear galleons, a few months back we chatted briefly about semen and the benefits of oral sex. We laughed, we learned- a good time was had by all.

But if you really thought that was my last foray into the realm of semen, you don’t know me very well at all.

Today, we’re going to look at the stranger side of spunk.

***

1. Hair Products

There are some truly strange ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products (i.e. ambergris, fish scales, chicken bone marrow, crushed beetles, and my personal favorite, cells from the foreskins of newborns… oh, excuse me, human fibroblast conditioned media). So it probably shouldn’t come as a great surprise that someone decided slathering spooge on one’s head could be a great conditioner.

In Knightsbridge, London, Hari Salem has created an intensive, 45-minute conditioning system revolving around the use of bull semen. Salem combines the bull semen with the root of the Iranian katera plant to neutralize the odor. The hairdresser massages the mixture into the client’s hair after a shampooing, then the client is placed under a steamer (to allow the treatment to better penetrate the hair), and finally, the hair is blow-dried.

Supposedly, “it leaves your hair looking wonderfully soft and thick.”

Salem settled on bull semen after trying a multitude of other things (like wild New Zealand avocados and truffle oil). He gravitated toward semen and katera root because of the high protein content of both.

“I have been searching for an organic product with a lot of protein because that is what hair is made of and lacks when it is dry,” Salem said. “All the best treatments are protein based. Synthetic treatments are good but they are heavy if you have fine hair and can make it look greasy.”

Apparently, bull semen is the non-greasy answer to your hair conditioning problems. As someone with fine hair, I’ll have to remember that.

***

2. Facial Cream

You had to know this was coming. After all, how long have frat boys and Cosmo been touting that semen is good for the skin?

And while the jury’s still out on that, cosmetics companies have decided to just roll with it. The Norwegian company Skinscience, as well as the Townhouse Spa in NYC, have started using spermine in their products.

What exactly is spermine? Spermine is a growth factor formed from spermidine, another growth factor that uses autophagy to reduce aging in a variety of cell types. Essentially, spermidine breaks down non-vital cell components, releasing their nutrients and reappropriating said nutrients to the more vital cell regions.

Which does sound useful for companies creating anti-aging creams, though it’s not the autophagy that’s being lauded in spermine, but its antioxidant powers. Naturally. After all, slap “antioxidant” on a product and the public eats it right up, despite the fact that supplementing your natural antioxidant intake often has little impact on your overall health (and can, in some instances, actually be damaging).

However, when it comes to skin care, there is some truth to their claims. Vitamin E’s antioxidant powers prevent perioxidation of the lipid membrane (the oxidative degradation of the molecules that serve as key structural components of cell membranes). Keeping the cell membranes taut and strong helps fight wrinkling and sagging skin. So, in this instance, maybe not everything they’re saying is gross exaggeration.

Maybe.

Spermine is claimed to be 30 times stronger than vitamin E and able to repair sunburned skin (according to information Skinscience gathered after testing their products on 3,000 women… can you say information bias, anyone?).

Regardless of the veracity of their claims, the fact remains that spermine has become an essential ingredient for Skinscience and the Townhouse Spa. Skinscience’s products are said to delay aging by a whopping 20%. And Townhouse Spa actually offers spermine treatments, where clients are slathered in a spermine cream, after which ultrasound and infrared light are used to help the product penetrate the lipid barrier.

You know, really work that in there.

***

3. Invisible Ink

Count on British intelligence to come up with something like this.

On June 15, 1915, the deputy head of military intelligence at GHQ France, Walter Kirke, wrote in his diary (Do men call it a diary, or do they prefer the more masculine ‘journal’?) that Mansfield Cumming (called ‘C’ in the diary), the first chief of the SIS, was “making enquiries for invisible inks at the London University”.

A few months later, he wrote that C had passed along the information that “the best invisible ink is semen.”

Seriously?

Apparently, what made semen such an attractive method of passing secret messages about was not just its ease of acquisition, but that it did not react to the main methods of detection (like iodine vapor).

Frank Stagg, a member of staff who knew C, said that “we thought we had solved a great problem.”

Of course, I’m not the only person in the world with a puerile sense of humor, and the agent who had discovered this novel use of semen actually had to be moved from his department after becoming the butt of jokes.

And the semen encryption method wasn’t without its own obstacles. Agents had to be reminded to use only fresh supplies of the ‘ink’ when correspondents began noticing an unusual smell coming from the missives.

I’m sure gathering a fresh supply was very difficult for them…

***

4. Shots!

And now to New Zealand for their version of a Jägerbomb.

Featuring horse semen.

Created by racehorse breeder Lindsay Kerslake, the horse semen shot was supposed to be added to the menu of the annual Wildfoods Festival in the town of Hokitika.

It was advised that the ‘milkshake-tasting’ shot be chased with an energy drink.

According to Kerslake, anyone who pounded this particular shot would be granted “as much zizz as a stallion for a week.”

Let’s hope the folks who created Four Loko don’t get any ideas…

***

5. Cooking

As per usual, I’ve saved my favorite for last. So now I present to you the thing that started this whole post:

The semen cookbook.

This is no joke. For $24.95, you too can own Natural Harvest: A Collection of Semen-based Recipes.

Recipes include the Almost White Russian:

2 oz Vodka
1 oz Coffee liqueur
1/2 oz semen
cream or milk
ice cubes

Pour vodka, semen and coffee liqueur over ice cubes and top up the glass with milk or cream.

Irish Coffee With Extra Cream, the High Protein Smoothie (which is, apparently, a ‘great drink to experiment with’), Slightly Saltier Caviar, Man Made Oysters:

Cleaned oyster shells
Chilled fresh semen, the more the better
Ice
Lemon and pepper garnish

First clean the oyster shells in cold water. Do not use soap since the shell easily absorbs the nasty taste of soap. Spoon the chilled, fresh semen into each shell. Serve simply on ice with just a squeeze of fresh lemon and maybe a grind of black pepper.

Chef’s note: A true semen connoisseur might forego the lemon and pepper in favor of the non-adulterated semen flavor.

Roasted Lamb with Good Gravy, Hollandaise Sauce, Cream Eclair, and Tiramisu Surprise.

According to the book’s introduction,

Semen is not only nutritious, but it also has a wonderful texture and amazing cooking properties. Like fine wine and cheeses, the taste of semen is complex and dynamic. Semen is inexpensive to produce and is commonly available in many, if not most, homes and restaurants. Despite all of these positive qualities, semen remains neglected as a food. This book hopes to change that.

Once you overcome any initial hesitation, you will be surprised to learn how wonderful semen is in the kitchen. Semen is an exciting ingredient that can give every dish you make an interesting twist.

Honestly, I can’t tell if the book itself or the comments on it tickle me more:

  • The satisfaction I get out of seeing my Sweet Semen Relish dribble down my mother’s chin at a backyard BBQ after shes munched a hot foot long is itself worth the price.
  • The triple chocolate semen cheesecake really is an orgasm in my mouth!
  • For a richer flavor try semen from geriatrics.
  • The inclusion of semen into these foods is that secret ingredient that turns a good meal into a great meal; it adds that tangy zip of pecker spit.
  • Who doesn’t want to eat more natural foods?
  • This should make a good gift for Easter, which happens to be right around the corner. Nothing says “rebirth” like a book full of semen recipes.
  • think of it like a victory garden… in your pants!!

If I were the entertaining type (which I’m not), I would buy this book and leave it on my coffee table… just to watch the horrified reactions of my guests as they flipped through the pages while delicately nibbling hors d’oeuvres.

Anyone interested in attending a dinner party? *wicked grin*

Don’t Wake Me, I Plan On Sleeping In

Behold the wreckage
of night, one heck
of a mess: covers…
cast off in vast
deserts of insomnia
where trepidations bomb
tranquility to rubble. ~Stephen Cushman

The cure for insomnia? Get plenty of sleep. ~W.C. Fields

Potentially good news in the realm of sleep studies, dear galleons, particularly if you (like me) suffer from chronic insomnia:

Scientists have located a “sleep switch” in fruit flies.

A group at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered a group of a mere 20 cells in the brains of fruit flies that control when and how long the flies sleep. These 20 cells were found in a part of the fly brain known as the dorsal fan-shaped body:

Paul Shaw, associate professor of neurobiology, led the group as they genetically modified these cells, increasing their activity. This modification led to the flies sleeping an additional seven hours a day. Tweaking this, the group added a gene that made the cells active only at certain temperatures- allowing them to control when/how long the flies slept just by adjusting the temperature in the flies’ environment.

“This is exciting because this induced sleep state so far appears to be very similar to spontaneous sleep,” said Shaw. “That means we can manipulate these cells to explore a whole new realm of questions about the purposes of sleep. Such studies might one day lead us to more natural ways of inducing sleep in humans.”

More on this in a minute.

I suppose you are all wondering the same thing…

Why fruit flies?

Well, a few years ago, a group out of the University of Missouri-Kansas City found that the circadian rhythms of fruit flies are regulated by similar cellular machinery to that of humans. As such, they have become some of the most viable animals models for sleep research.

Strange but true.

Now, while some of the machinery of sleep have strong correlates between flies and humans, fly brains and human brains have very different overall structures. We have yet to find a human counterpart to the dorsal fan-shaped body, but Shaw’s team is looking  to match human brain cell types to the fly brain cells they singled out based on the chemical messengers the cells produce.

So, fellow insomniacs, while this isn’t a quick-fix cure, if Shaw’s group can locate a similar set of cells in the human brain, we might finally have a solution to our sleep problems.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

***

There’s actually more to Shaw’s research than just hope for insomniacs. An even more interesting bit of information to come out of this study revolves around sleep and memory.

For many years, scientists have believed there is a deep connection between sleep and long-term memory formation. Students are frequently made aware of studies that have found studying and then sleeping the night before an exam proves more beneficial than pulling an all-nighter to cram. This has been attributed to the help sleep seems to give to memory formation- by “sleeping on the information,” the brain is actually able to synthesize and store more of it.

Except… while there have been plenty of studies hinting at and dancing around the idea of sleep contributing to memory formation, there’s been surprisingly little real proof of it (there was a pretty solid study in 2009 out of MIT using mice, but if there’s one thing we know about science it’s that a single study does not a theory prove).

Which is why the second part of this study is so important- it directly proves this link.

The reason the memory portion of the study cropped up was as a test of whether the induced sleep was the same as spontaneous sleep. If the induced sleep also proved essential to the formation of long-term memories, the two types of sleep could be considered the same.

To do this, male flies were exposed to other males genetically modified to make female sex pheromones in a process known as ‘courtship conditioning.’

“The subject fly will initiate courtship because of the female pheromones, but the modified male making those pheromones inevitably rejects him,” said Jeff Donlea, a postdoctoral research assistant at Oxford University.

Our researchers used a training protocol that creates a memory that normally only lasts a few hours in flies- after being rejected multiple times by the modified males, the fly learns not to make advances when he approaches the modified males at a later time. Again, this memory normally only lasts a few hours. However, when researchers used that ‘sleep switch’ to induce sleep in the flies, the fly managed to form a long-term memory of the experience which lasted for several days.

Worried that this could be attributed to the fact that they had overly excited those cells, our group activated those sleep cells after training but prevented the flies from actually sleeping. The long-term memories were not formed, proving that it was the sleep that proved essential to memory formation.

Simple though it may seem, it’s one of the few times we’ve made this kind of direct, verifiable connection between sleep and memory formation.