Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Brooklyn accents can be deceiving

Back when I was an experimental neuroscientist, my adviser was a friendly enough guy, but he never seemed to think about anything other than science. Even when I was working almost eighty hours a week, he would often be in the lab before me, and would usually still be working when I left for the night. (which itself was perfectly normal behavior compared to our post-doc, who would work for days at a time, literally, until sleep-deprivation-induced visual distortions prevented him from continuing. He would bring sunglasses when he came into lab because he knew that, by the time he left, the sun would definitely hurt his eyes. After one of these mammoth work sessions, he would go home and enter a semi-comatose state for almost 24 hours before repeating the entire cycle.) He was always available whenever I had a question (Literally. 2am? No problem. Of course he's still in his office), but as soon as the technical matters were addressed, he'd go back to writing grants or papers or whatever else he was working on (can you undangle this preposition?). While it was pretty easy to set him on a rant about how great it will be to get "kick-ass data," or how some other lab overlooks important questions or uses inferior methodologies, there was a clear limit to his conversational range. I suppose his quirkiest feature was his penchant for gansta rap. It was always a little disconcerting to walk into the lab and find Snoop Dogg playing while he was preparing electrodes.

My current adviser is amongst the more awesome people I've ever met. The other day we were chatting in his office about technical-type matters. I made some claim which (so far as I can tell) was correct, but which made my adviser feel intuitively uncomfortable. So he spends a couple minutes looking at it from various angles, at each turn surprised that everything remains self-consistent. This puts him in mind of the word "consistent," which apparently has its own theme song. Within a minute, King Crimson's Indiscipline is blaring from the surprisingly large speakers on his desk:

The more I look at it,
the more I like it.
I do think it's good.
The fact is
no matter how closely I study it,
no matter how I take it apart,
no matter how I break it down,
It remains consistent.
I wish you were here to see it.

I wish all professors listened to psychedelic 70's prog rock. Later in the evening, some other line of conversation prompted him to put on a recording of Richard Feynman telling stories of his life. Feynman, as you surely know, was one of the most brilliant people to walk the face of this planet. But when my adviser turns on the recording, my immediate reaction is: this can't be Feynman. This sounds just like the senile old man at the beginning of Sleep, on Godspeed You Black Emperor's Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. Little did I realize that Feynman had a Brooklyn accent (Wikipedia, Apostle of Al Gore, informs me that Feynman was from Queens, but all other accounts refer to his "Brooklyn accent"), and after listening to GYBE one too many times, I've come to associate all Brooklyn accents with this one dementia-addled rant about Coney Island in the early 20th century. Frightening...


Evan said...

on which he was working.

Mean 3Monkey said...

Hmmm.... Now that you mention it, yes.