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This is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain on Crap. Any Questions? August 8, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Music, Pop Culture Rants.
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I am not a doctor. Nor have I ever played one on TV. I did dabble in the medical field in my younger years with a girl named Meghan that blossomed, if you will, in 5th grade and who lived up the street, but chose never to pursue it. Nowadays, my moniker of “the Doctor” is purely ornamental, like costume jewelry or a degree from an Ivy League school. But being so inclined to have taken on such a pretentious handle, I do feel it is my duty now and then to research the ailments I find myself having. And while most of my diagnoses are done by watching ER marathons and occasionally convincing myself the stomach pains I have are the mysterious deadly cancer I saw on House this week and not the Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme I downed at warp speed, every once in a while I actually get things right. Or so I’d like to think.

Look at the human brain. I don’t know much about it other than I read somewhere we use only 10 percent of it. Which ten percent I don’t know? That stem thing in the back looks pretty important, so I’m assuming that’s a percent or two. The little grooves look like highways, so something must be going on there. And in every picture I’ve ever seen in movies or television, there’s a whole lot of blue, red and green things going on during a cat scan. Again, this diagnosis is strictly a result of observation and is in no way to be accepted as fact. Unless this turns out to be true, as to which point, I expect my check from the New England Journal of Medicine to be delivered immediately. Preferably in time to make September’s rent.

We’ve all had it happen. We’ve been walking down the street, reading a newspaper, ogling a member of the Opposite Sex, contemplating Kierkegaard when BOOM, it strikes unaware. It starts small, with maybe a beat or two behind the eyeball and it grows. You try to stop it, by shifting your thought pattern or distracting yourself with this week’s Jumble, but it is of no use. It grows to such a crescendo that you must unleash it. You have contracted Abbatitis, or the more common name ‘Song Stuck in Your Head.”

Many of us who deal with this trauma have no idea where it comes from. Theories have included background music that permeates your subconscious at a store or an elevator, repetitive humming from the annoying homeless person on the bus or even a Volkswagen commercial. Science (or me, for the sake of argument, but Science just sounds cooler) pinpoints several actual factors, however. But first let’s examine just how the song actually permeates the brain.

The song is processed by your auditory system. Ears cannot distinguish the so called “goodness” of a song. To them, Christopher Cross’ Sailing is just the same bunch of waves and frequencies as a Beethoven Sonata, just with different lengths. The auditory demons go to work and relay the messages to your brain and the music often ends up in the “Hypojukoboxis” where it is cataloged and compared to other songs stored in the recesses of your mind. This is where the judgment of a song’s worth actually occurs. Yet even though your brain processes the song and either releases pleasant feelings upon hearing it (anything by Pearl Jam) or negative ones (Every song released by Culture Club after Boy George stopped doing blow), the song is still there, hiding in the recesses of your mind. Right next to your 9th grade prom or that night out with the boys you can’t seem to remember.

This is where your brain gets, well, downright mean. Like any good machine, the brain has to clean itself up every once in a while. It deletes the memories and facts it doesn’t exactly deem worthy. This explains why many of us don’t remember our infant years, or in my case most of my freshman year of college. But like most mp3 files, songs take up a majority of the room on our mental hard drive. So when a song pops free from the Hypojukoboxis, in an attempt for deletion, it rattles around for a while. The waves and frequencies that it is represented by are picked up and again distributed to the ear. The ear relays the message back to the brain and the song again becomes processed, starting a vicious cycle that results in a song being stuck in your head. Because as the file is reprocessed again, the brain again sets it free trying to delete it, resulting in said circle. (if none of this makes any sense, I suggest sparking a fatty. Go ahead. I’ll wait…..Finished…we march on.)

But why do certain songs, usually the ones that make us all cringe in fear having the knowledge that we know all the words, often become prime Abbatitis candidates? Why, for example, do you hum the Macarena the day of the big meeting and not Pachelbel’s Canon? This is where Science (me) comes in. Several factors have been determined in making a song a greater candidate for repetition.

First off is the technical term I call “Crapatosity.” A song’s worth can be measured in crappiness on a pretty general scale. Annoying sample from a song nobody like the first time around? Crap. Any song that involves the words “always” and “love”? Mega crap.
Any song where the title has absolutely nothing to do with the song, the lyrics in the song and the general theme and feel of the band? Building a ladder to Crappytown. Crapatosity, however, is detected by the brain. The higher a level of crap detected in a song, the more likely it is to fight permanent deletion, resulting in the Abbatitis cycle. Why? Crap magnetes, the tiny imperfections that combine to make up a bad song, have the same consistency as actual crap. And we all know how hard it is to get that stuff off your shoes, no matter how much Timberlake style shaking you do.

Next is familiarity. The more you hear a song, the more chances you have for the song to come up for constant deletion. I consider this the “Proximity equals Possibility” argument. Sure, when a song you actually enjoy comes out, you play it so much you begin to mumble the words in your sleep. But your brain is pleased, knowing that it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful, it’s true. Yet as the brain continually releases these good feeling, the tiny crap magnetes (present in every song released since 1952) begin to erode at the pheromones released by the good vibes. Soon, the magnetes latch on the feelings and replace them with a general ickiness, comparable to kissing your sister or watching the new CW. The song you once loved has been broken down by oversaturation, making it a new entry to the land of Abbatitis.

The final major factor is Subconscious Filling. Songs are eventually deleted from your brain as the crap magnetes do break down over time. But the shells of these songs have been found to live over twenty years or more. While you may not remember the lyrics or even where you first heard them, they can immediately be replenished by hearing them again, resulting in a bigger and even stronger evil virus. A song you had deleted now has a protective coating, making it almost impossible to remove it from your brain. This often results in the transfer of Abbatitis from one carrier to another, since our brains can catalog millions of former songs. All it takes is one radio station to have an 80’s Throwback Weekend to release hundreds of long dormant songs inside our brain. And the brains of countless others.

Is there a cure for this? As of right now, no. The only salve has been to try and replace the Abbatitis song with one of more ferocity. This has been shown to work short term, but more often than not, you still find yourself singing along with the Maude theme long after YMCA has left your system. Since every song has a degree of crapiness to it, the disease shows no sign of ever being fully eradicated.

Which is scary. The Swedish Ministry of Music has passed a resolution that all music they release needs to have obscene amounts of magnetes per sound wavelength. This is why every band over the last twenty years (Ace of Base, Roxette and the disease’s namesake) to come out of Sweden are the prime purveyors of the disease. Abbatitis, if unchecked, can result in hours upon hours of lost focus and pointless web surfing as you try to pinpoint the exact words to the second verse of Bonanza. It is because of this, the disease is a weapon of mass distraction that can ruin an army.

(It is because of this that I implore the UN to never piss off Sweden. Because how hard would it be to fight a war when you can’t aim your weapon because you’re too busy wondering if they saw the sign…and it really did open up their eyes…)

Abbatitis is a disease and one we all must face in order to tackle it head on. Otherwise, we as a planet may be unable to move forward. Until the day a cure arrives, science will wait and continue searching for the answers it needs.

Well, it’ll wait…and get some work done in between the third and fourth verses of Ice Ice Baby…

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Comments»

1. Ratboy - August 9, 2006

Best remedy- Several whacks to noggin’ with claw side of hammer… “Hammer Time!”…Shit- ‘Cuse whilest I Apply directly to the forehead. Apply directly to the forehead. Apply directly to the forehead.


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