The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

We Guarantee It

April 19, 2016 | by

From a vintage Sealy mattress ad.

“Oh my God,” I said, turning to my husband with tears in my eyes.

“What is it?” he asked, understandably alarmed. The train had stopped at a Connecticut station—Rowayton, maybe—and it smelled like sun-warmed Naugahyde and Metro-North and commuter. “What is it?”

Blinded by tears—and the fact that I’d removed my glasses to dash them away—I pointed to an advertisement on the platform. Read More »

One-upmanship in the Morning

November 4, 2015 | by

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The Awakening, 1900.

Back in the bad old days, wags used to say the streets of Alphabet City stood, from west to east, for Adventurous, Bold, Crazy, and Dead. I’ve long thought that we need a similar system for categorizing the different hours at which one wakes up. I suggest:

Nine – Nonchalant

Eight – Effortless

Seven – Sensible

Six – Self-motivated

Five – Fantastical

Four – Fast-living

These are, obviously, encumbered by their alliteration. Of course I’d rather have substituted a slatternly here or a debauched there, but that would defeat the purpose, and this gets the idea across. Unless your job or lifestyle demands unorthodox hours, this seems to me a rough guide to such things. Read More »

Nap Time

August 31, 2015 | by

Stanisław Wyspiański, Śpiący Staś, 1904.

 

What hath night to do with sleep? ―John Milton, Paradise Lost

One of the cruelest and most arbitrary displays of grown-up power has always seemed to me our approach to jet lag. Post red-eye, a child is diminished and cranky and disoriented. Almost sick with fatigue, she falls gratefully into deep slumber on the first bed offered, maybe after killing several unpleasant hours until that bed is ready, perhaps fully understanding the privilege of sleep for the first time. And then, a scant hour later, she is shaken briskly awake by some grown-up. Can’t sleep too long! They tell you. Have to fight the jet lag! Must get on local time! And the day—you’re wasting the day! 

At least, that’s how it always was in my family. Even then I knew—knew!—that I could have slept five, six hours and still, come evening, have gone to bed whenever they wished me to. How cruel to be deprived of this newly discovered treat, sleep! And I knew that whatever we saw would be through a haze of sleeplessness, and that as a result all my first experiences with new places were exhausted, resentful, and aggressive. My heart twists for the miserable little children I see disembarking from a long-haul night flight, and the drawn, exhausted faces of their parents. Read More »

Naptime with Mrs. Melville

July 30, 2015 | by

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A portrait of Maria Gansevoort Melville by Ezra Ames, ca. 1815.

Yesterday we posted Rick Moody’s introduction to Genoa: A Telling of Wonders, a searching 1965 novel by Paul Metcalf in which he grapples with the influence of his great-grandfather, who so happened to be Herman Melville.

Metcalf makes liberal use of Melville throughout the novel, often quoting his work for paragraphs or pages at a stretch. He also inserts his own asides, and one of these in particular I’ve found striking. “I think, for a moment,” he writes,

of Maria Melville, Herman Melville’s mother, who, it is reliably reported, would require her eight children to sit on little stools around her bed, motionless, while she took her daily nap, that she might keep track of them.

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Fast Asleep and Wide Awake

January 27, 2015 | by

But shouldn’t that be the other way around?

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A. Rötting, In the Morning, 1840.

Like Thomas Wyatt, who can’t quite let go, I can’t quite let go of that Wyatt poem about what she hath deserved. He says in it that love was not just a dream: “It was no dream, I lay broad waking.” The last two words are an obvious yet pleasantly unfamiliar double-synonym for wide awake.

But what’s so wide about it?

To see the link between alertness and vast side-to-side extent—and why we’re also said to be speedy asleep—the place to start is with awake. The “a-” is a weakened form of the preposition on or in, by the same verbal laziness that turned one into the article an, and then before consonants into a, pronounced “uh.” To go on board or on shore, to be in bed or on a slant, is to be aboard, ashore, abed, aslant, not to mention astern, abreast, ahead (originally nautical as well), afoot, aloof (on the luff side, to windward, steering clear), far afield, run aground. We don’t think of them as contractions of preposition + noun anymore, but many of our location and direction words have this form: afar, amid, atop, athwart, askew, awry, gone astray, and less obviously across, away, apart, around, aside, taken aback.
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Medical Expert Evidence

April 25, 2014 | by

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific prose available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “Medical Expert Evidence,” a treatise first published in Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science in April 1873.

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Albert Anker, Zwei schlafende Mädchen auf der Ofenbank Date, 1895

There is scarcely any position of more responsibility than that of the medical expert in cases of alleged poisoning. Often he stands with practically absolute power between society and the accused—the former looking to him for the proof of the crime and for the protection which discovery brings; the latter relying upon him for the vindication of his innocence. How profound and complete, then, should be his knowledge! how thorough his skill! how pure and spotless his integrity! how unimpeachable his results! Yet recently the humiliating spectacle has been repeatedly presented of expert swearing against expert, until the question at issue was apparently degraded into one of personal feeling or of professional reputation. So far has this gone that both judicial and public opinion seems to be demanding the abolition of expert testimony. The medical expert must, however, remain an essential feature in our criminal procedures, partaking as he does of the functions of the lawyer, inasmuch as he has, to some extent, the right to argue before the jury, partaking also of the judicial character in that it is his duty to express an opinion upon evidence, but differing from both judge and advocate in that as a witness he testifies to facts. Were the attempt made to do away with his functions, there would be an end to just convictions in the class of cases spoken of, because no one would be qualified to say whether any given death had been produced by poison or by a natural cause.

In many matters that come under the notice of medical experts there is room for honest differences of opinion. Of such nature are questions of sanity and insanity. It must be remembered that these are, after all, relative terms. Reason leaves its seat by almost imperceptible steps. Who can determine with exactness the line that separates eccentricity from madness—responsibility from irresponsibility? Moreover, the phenomena upon which opinion is based are, in such cases, so hidden, so complex, so obscure, that in the half-lights of a few short interviews they will often be seen differently by different observers.

In scarcely any of its parts does toxicology belong to this class of subjects—certainly not at all in so far as it deals with mineral poisons. To a great extent it is a fixed science—a science whose boundaries may be widened, whose processes may be rendered more delicate, but whose principles are in great measure settled for ever. Not in the imperfections of the science, but in the habits of the American medical profession and in the methods of our criminal procedures, lies the origin of the evils complained of.Read More »

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