Thursday, November 18, 2010
November 16, 2010, 2:09 pm
Post Nasalism Evolves
A New York photographer, working with the Nasalism Institute at the University of Florida will have cameras surgically implanted in each of his nostrils and each of his forefingers as part of an art project commissioned by the Kleenex Tissue company in order to study the habit formerly known as “nosepicking,” The project, called “Nasal Freedom or Bad Habit?”will involve the cameras taking pictures whenever a forefinger enters a nostril at one-second intervals with the images being streamed to a computer database and then appearing in different sequences, some in real time, on monitors in an exhibition space in Sarasota, Florida.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
This is a true story. Despite the fact that CRUST almost certainly began with it, it never found its way into the book. Indeed, for reasons that will be obvious, I’ve rarely spoken of it with anyone.
Perhaps it was because learning to drive is a sort of initiation into adulthood and autonomy, or perhaps it had something to do with the hypnotic power of locomotion and independent mobility, but nothing liberated my nosepicking habit like getting my driver’s license. To sit behind the wheel of a car was to enter that state of deep solitude and indifference to public opinion that translates as absolute permission. At the same time (like many other drivers, I think, perhaps because of something as simple and obvious as the circulation of air in a moving automobile), I found my nose both extremely sensitive and given to great quantities of secretion, in other words, the collaboration which, as anyone with this addictive habit will tell you, greatly enhances the possibility of large, irritating crusts which so insist on extraction that the brain is emptied of any other consideration and ultimately, since concentration and happiness are neurologically indistinguishable, liberated from the neurons in which discriminatr between irritation and euphoria. Needless to say, long drives and especially road trips, encouraging as they do a tendency to lose oneself in thought while engaged in the automatic behavior that permits both experienced drivers and nosepickers to exercise their skills unconsciously, put me especially in this wondrous state of body and mind.
One day, after a six hour journey, I found myself, while approaching a light at a four-cornered intersection on the upper East Side of New York City, so deeply descended into this condition that, even as my left forefinger – while my right hand steered the car -- explored it, I’d barely noticed the arrival, a few blocks back, of an elusive crust in my left nostril. I don’t know why but great crusts always seem to arrive unannounced. Furthermore, as I now discovered, they often, like this one, seem to be so devoid of adhesion that there is not and indeed will never be any possibility of extraction. In this case, however, my initial fear proved unjustified. Just as the light turned yellow, causing me to slow and brake, I found adhesion with my forefinger. Not mastery, by any means, but a window on intransigence that made me feel a surge of hope and -- how else to say it? -- self-confidence. As the car came to a stop, I pushed higher in my nostril, turning my finger left and right in search of leverage. In my rear-view mirror, I saw a car pull up behind me and, from the corner of my eye, another on my left. Every instant, my chances seemed to improve. More than confidence, I had begun to feel the kind of singleminded positive conviction and determination I rarely knew outside the drama and suspense in which I was now engaged. How can we know the true value of optimism until we see it emerge from the depths of pessimism? For a few seconds, it seemed as if I were absolutely poised between victory and defeat, but all at once, at the peak of my nostril, I felt the wondrous twinge of separation and relief which is the ultimate goal of this sort of mission, especially when it happens in a car, at the end of a road trip, at a stoplight, when cars all around you are filled with people who, as far as you know, are no less oblivious than you are.
It was just as I withdrew, catching sight of the liquid, voluminous crust dangling from my forefinger, that I heard my name called. Turning, I saw Melissa Hodge in the passenger window of the car on my left. Melissa! My first French kiss, my first bare breast, my first dry hump and, alas, since I’d just, at 16, earned my driver’s license, and most of our relationship happened in my parents’ car, my first witness – outside family members, who practiced it no less than I did -- to my nosepicking habit.
“What are you doing?”
“C’mon, stop it. It’s disgusting.”
She was lean and beautiful, with small breasts and short, dark hair, dark, serious and unflinching eyes and a mouth so mobile that it seemed to follow every movement of her mind. The sight of her alone could give me an erection. Daughter of a psychologist, she was anything but reticent on the subject of my habit. Even if she hadn’t -- as she did, more often than I like to remember -- seen me indulge again, she was interested in my “problem”. How often, really, did I do it? Was this what Daddy meant when he talked about obsessive-compulsive disorder? If so, future psychologist herself, she wanted to help me with it. Was it not a kind of masturbation? “A sort of symptom, I don’t mean to be critical, of what Dad calls narcissism?” Certainly, she said one night, after talking about it with her mother, a Yoga teacher, and after a kiss, in the front seat, that lasted almost ten minutes, it indicated an “alienation” from my body which was “regressive” and – no surprise for boy of my age but close to retardation from the sound of her voice – “immature.”
Throughout my junior and senior years of highschool, Melissa and I lived in the front seat of the car. On the street in front of her house, we twisted back and forth to avoid the steering wheel, necked and groped and, by every trick of digital manipulation, brought each other to orgasm. She liked to unzip my pants and hold my penis but she did not want – wasn’t ready, she said -- to look at it. Very often, even if I’d ejaculated, I had a stomach ache after we said goodnight. How could I be surprised, embarrassed or ashamed that, as I drove home from such encounters, I turned to my nose for consolation?
I can’t say it was my habit that broke us up but in at least two of the long letters she wrote after confessing to me that – at a tennis camp in Connecticut -- she’d “met someone else,” she mentioned my “immaturity.” It was five years since we’d seen each other, two years since, in a sweet note, she’d told me of her engagement to her tennis camp boyfriend, a future orthopedic surgeon, soon to undertake his residency at a hospital in Philadelphia. I assumed it was the surgeon, now (I assumed) her husband, who sat to her left, in the driver’s seat of her car. We were almost exactly an arm’s length apart. Needless to say, the sight of her evoked great waves of emotion in me. Framed by the window, she looked older of course but if anything more beautiful. I saw her lips curl and spread as her mouth processed the sight of me. Only an instant passed before our arms, as if magnetized by affection and nostalgia, reached from our respective windows and our hands squeezed and gripped and intertwined until they formed a single fist together.
“How are you?”
“Great! How are you!”
So much to say but alas, as we were now informed by the honking cars behind us, the light had changed.
“See you!” she cried as the driver of her car turned left.
“Yeah!” I replied, turning right.
Driving with my right hand, left elbow on the window, I was nearly a block away before I thought to check my hand. My hard-earned crust was not to be seen. Thus did Melissa Hodge, a few blocks away, discover, on her right hand, concrete proof that my symptoms persisted. Thus did I learn to keep both hands on the wheel. I never saw her again.
Monday, December 8, 2008
"In these years I am feeling the woeful emotions of an old carriage-maker as he watched the disappearance of his trade bfore the onrush of the automobile. The serious novel may soon be in danger of being adored with the same poignant concern we feel for endangered species, endangered before the devastations of television with the clusters of commercials as well as by way of the critics of the mass media. There is an all but unspoken shame in the literary world today. The passion readers used to feel for venturing into a serious novel has withered. Indeed how many of you, even in this audience, do not obtain more pleasure from a review of a good novel in THE NEW YORK TIMES than from the ardors invlved in reading that good, but serious book?"
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
I was fortunate to have state of the art equipment in my bathroom, not just high speed Internet access and a laptop computer with a 17-inch flat screen built into the wall and a keyboard/cpu which fit comfortably on the desk that straddled my knees, but a new mouse which, through an ingenious combination of wireless and optical technology, allowed me to move my cursor with my head. Nod up, cursor up. Nod right, cursor advanced one letter. Delete a quick shake to either side. Etc, etc. Used in conjunction with a foot switch, it also offered left and right click options as well as scrolling. I’d never known such seamless union with my computer, never been able so completely to forget myself while working at it.
Dr. Lippman was impressed and even envious of my set-up, even more so after I referred her to NoShit.com, which offered not only a compendious bibliography, an overview of educational and therapeutic videos, and a history of constipation -- political, philosophical, literary and theological –but linked to Clarence Topalminck’s web site, which offered daily, sometimes even hourly, updates of his ground-breaking research at the Gates Institute of Neuroscience. As anyone knows who reads SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN or, for that matter, THE NEW YORKER, VANITY FAIR, Gastroenterology.com or the science blogs of THE NEW YORK TIMES and the WASHINGTON POST, Topalminck was using the remarkable new bifocal functional MRI technology (so-called because, by simultaneous scanning of the brain and the organs it regulated, it permitted the most precise measure we’d ever had of neurophysiological processes) to investigate the effect of self consciousness on digestion, bowel function and (thanks to Topalminck’s work as a graduate assistant in the lab of the great researcher who gave the specialty its name, UCLA’s Dorothy Saperstein) “sphincterology.” As a source of distraction and therefore, to use Topalminck’s phrase, “interruption” of self consciousness, both television and the Internet figured prominently in his work. The bowel-media interaction was still a long way from understood but of all his work, none was more frequently mentioned on NoShit.com or the blogs to which it linked.
Excited by his website, Lippman sent Topalminck my chart as well as the Iphone images of my bathroom-office which I’d emailed to her. Not ten minutes later, both of us had invitations to visit his lab and, in my case, volunteer as a subject of his research. He was kind enough to say that he’d have invited me even if my bathroom had been less interesting because he was a devoted reader of my constipation blog. Forgive my immodesty, but I have to note that he was not unusual in this regard. At this point in time, the blog was receiving an average of 7000 hits a day, plus frequent mention in NEW YORK MAGAZINE’S blog review column as well as Blogworld.com, Huffington Post and Salon. After (by return email, of course) I accepted Topalminck’s invitation, he asked and was granted permission to send me – UPS, next-day delivery – a Panasonic Bio-fax machine so that I could send him images of “product” evacuated while engaged with TV and/or the Internet. He also offered a micro-webcam for similar purposes but since my Iphone had a microscopic zoom, I assured him that the images I’d email would be more than sufficient for him, even if he wanted to publish them, especially because I often did so myself on the blog. The fax arrived one day later and two days before the fist bump. Indeed, it was sitting just to the left of Barack and Michelle when they touched knuckles on my screen.
Topalminck’s work of course was profoundly indebted to Eduardo Javier’s at Ohio State’s Institute of Self Consciousness. Since his first neurosurgical breakthroughs, Javier had more or less owned his specialty. Once his labels, or “tickets,” as he called them, were affixed in conscious brains, the amygdala’s role in self-identity was no longer questioned. This is not the place to elaborate on his research but anyone who wishes to study it can look at his web site, ohiostateselfconsciousness.edu/amygdala or for that matter any of the sites (more than 20 million, as of this writing) brought up by entering “self consciousness” on Google. Javier’s initial discovery was the pair of neurons in the Dorsal Amygdala that light up, one after the other, with a time delay of approximately .0056 attoseconds, at moments of self consciousness which, on an ascending scale of one to ten, his patients rated above five. In the absence of such excitations and the time-delay between them, he had never observed, in any brain, a state so-described. From brain to brain, the location of these neurons was consistent and predictable, so much so that Javier called the first-to-fire the “I-cell,” the second the “me-cell.” Patient after patient showed that damage to one or both cells left them without consciousness of themselves or, conversely, when Javier activated his micro-electrode, so hyper-conscious that Vital Signs like respiration, heart rate and pulmonary function were compromised. What’s more, the equation seemed to be reversable. “Deactivation of the Amygdala,” marveled Javier, “eliminates not only self-satisfaction but self-loathing!”
If Javier’s work had ended here, he’d still be, as rumored, a leading candidate for next year’s Nobel Prize, but his next step made his first look almost rudimentary. With state-of-the-art Pet Scans, MRI’s and microsurgical equipment, he set up adjoining tables in his Operating Room so that two patients could be investigated simultaneously. Thus did he find that the I- and me-cells are Mirror Neurons! They induce firing not only in each other but in brains proximal to them! Not one of the patients in his dual procedures remained deactivated if the other was not! The conclusion he stated on NEUROSCIENCE.COM was challenged by many but refuted by none: “Self consciousness moves from brain to brain like yawning, hiccups or infectious disease.”
If Javier wins next year, he’ll owe no small debt to Topalminck. What greater honor for a neuroscientist than to see his work applied to the most intimate of human functions? Thanks to Topalminck, no one in the field of neuroscience or intestinal pathology questions the effect of self consciousness on defecation. Search “conscious stool” on Google and “Topalminck” will come up almost as often as “Javier.” Of 1134 constipated patients he studied, 991 showed overactive Amygdalas, and he’d not found a single case of sphincter tension in those with a deactivated I- and me-cells.
Please believe that the reasons for this blog are not entirely private. It’s true that Topalminck has helped me, but I’d not be writing at all if his data had not been discovered by Fist Bump and Obama pundits like Hermine Pleasant on CNN and Nicholas Ranger on FOX. Like everyone else, both were impressed with what Pleasant called “the authenticity” of the gesture but Ranger called it “self conscious – another piece of Obama’s carefully constructed Mr. Natural strategy.” This was the beginning of a controversy which, in the view of many, may well affect the coming election. According to Googlecomp.com, more than nine million of the 14.5 million hits which “Fist Bump” produced on Google the following day were on one or the other side of what THE NEW YORKER called “the authenticity issue.” If Obama had been, as NEW YORK MAGAZINE put it, “sincere,” he had confirmed what most of his supporters felt about him, but if his act had been, as THE WASHINGTON TIMES said, “calculated” or, as THE NEW YORK POST wrote, “studied,” he was, as William Kristol wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES “a shameless imposter.” Like most such brouhas, the controversy would have burned itself out with such name-calling but when Pleasant and Ranger, debating on WNET’s NIGHTLY NEWS three days later, cited Topalminck and Javier respectively, the argument became both sophisticated and concrete, subject to proof not speculation. Indeed, one day after Herbert Greenhaven’s piece in THE NEW YORK TIMES SCIENCE SECTION on constipation and the amygdala, a NEW YORK TIMES/CBS poll reported that 71.6% of Americans called Obama “authentic.”
In all modesty, I cannot doubt that my blog, which, according to Google’s calculations, was visited by more than a million readers the day after the Pleasant-Ranger debate, had some influence on this poll. Within moments of the Fist Bump, I experienced, as I reported, a complete evacuation which, according to both my Bio-faxed message and the Iphone image I emailed him, Topalminck called “a perfect example of Amygdalic deactivation.” It’s true I’d long been an Obama supporter and, as a former athlete, had often fist bumped with teammates and even an occasional opponent, but unless you deny Javier’s Mirror Neuron work or ignore his oft-stated view that “self consciousness and authenticity are neurologically antithetical,” you cant discount the possibility that Obama’s spontaneity led to my own. I’m writing now to say that both of us were unself conscious at that moment in time. I know I’d not have evacuated if I’d been consciously attempting to do so, and even without Javier’s data, I can’t believe I’d have free of such effort if Barack and Michelle had not been so as well.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Photograph by Ellen Bernstein, exhibited here at Mary Boone Gallery.
Jeffrey McClendon, writing in Art Forum (November 2012) said of this show that
“it puts to rest, once and for all, the idea that art and religion are separate tracks in the human mind.”
Monday, September 15, 2008
Many believe that this painting is autobiographical, an affirmation of Kruger's Nasalism (see "Kruger Picks" by Jason Karmody, New York Magazine, April 10, 2009, and "Kruger's Nose," Art in America, January 2010), but while taking no position for or against the practice (see "Kruger Laughs," New York Times, April 16, 2009), Kruger denies that she picks and resents the suggestion that there is literal connection between her life and her work. A careful study of the Kruger literature supports her in this regard. See Kruger (New York: Abrams, 2009) 61-63, and the catalog of her recent show at New York's Museum of Modern Art, page 102. All doubt, surely, was removed when the Mary Boone Gallery, despite the fact that it represents Kruger, did not include her in "Nasalism - A Group Show," in June 2013.
Friday, September 12, 2008
"I appreciate what Lawrence Shainberg is trying to do but in my opinion, and that of, I’m sure, most of my friends on Twitter and FaceBook, he does nosepicking a great disservice by focusing too much on dramatic crusts and ignoring the ordinary, unexciting ones which, let’s face it, are what most of us extract, most of the time, when our fingers explore our noses. If you look at our blogs and private email correspondence, you will see this sort of crust celebrated again and again precisely because it doesn’t attract a lot of attention, generate intense sensation or, God forbid, evoke anything like the insight Walker Linchuk comes to as a result of his “breakthrough crust.” Wake up, Mr. Shainberg. Our daily habit begins and ends at zero! If it didn’t, how would it help us forget ourselves and drift away from the daily grind? If Lawrence Shainberg could understand this, he might be able to do a book worthy of our practice."
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
If you saw the recent PBS documentary - History of Nasalism - much of this will be familiar to you, but if your knowledge of Nasalism comes only from that film, you are sorely misinformed. It's not easy to criticize a film that includes Denis Haggerty's remarkable footage on the Coribundi Indians and their now-famous picking ritual, not to mention Richard Boynton's fiber-optic studies of crust metabolism and trigeminal excitation, but its repeated reference to me as the "Founder" of our practice seems to me a sacrilege. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Nasalism knows how little I deserve this title.
No mention is made of Klondyke or his extraordinary book, which was published more than a year before my first nasal blog appeared; of Robert Fawck, whom so many have called our spiritual conscience; of the brilliant Kenyan rhinologist, Maggie Ettingoff, who in my view has done more than anyone else to translate Klondyke's basic research into accessible language and form. Nowhere within this supposedly faithful history was there reference to Peggy Ann Taylor's then-scandalous music video, which, when it appeared on MTV, four months before my breakthrough crust arrived, was - according to Viola Brussel's Nasalism and Media - the first time serious Nasalism was seen on television.
 PBS, Sherman, M.J. Director, History of Nasalism, September 5, 2017. Now available on YouTube.com, PBS Home Video, my own website: Walkerlinchak.com, and Rhinotillexis.com.
 Shown throughout the month of November 2011 on Showtime, currently available on YouTube.com as well as Haggerty's website: Haggerty.com, and of course, the website he helped the Coribundi themselves establish, Coribundi.org.
 Boynton, Richard, Crusts in Process, 2010. First shown on National Geographic Cable channel, August 19, 2008. It should be noted that, for all his scientific, technological, and cinematic brilliance, Boynton has been criticized for what Marlin Gilgooley (reviewing the PBS documentary for The Annals of Neurorhinology, in June of 2011 after its theatrical release two months earlier) calls "rhinology so naive that it sends one back to AntiNasalism."
"Perhaps because his background is in rhinology," writes Gilgooley, "the great drama of Boynton's footage occurs in the frontal sinus. No one could argue with his images of crust origination there or with the succeeding images of crust expansion and descent through the superior turbinate and eventual coagulation in the maxilla, but how is it possible that, at this point in time, educated as we've been by Linchak, Fawck, and Klondyke, work financed by the National Institute of Health should ignore the neurophysiology that catalyzes such rhinology? Is Boynton unaware of Nelson Plaque's recent survey of rhinologists which showed that 78.9% thought it more likely that crust formation is initiated in the enteroventral striatum in the midbrain?"
 It's true that Sherman is not alone in his misunderstanding. See Janet Hanratty's unauthorized biography of me [Walker Linchak, Authorized (New York: Disney, 2010)] and Ornette Max's profile in Vanity Fair, ("Linchak Reflects," August 2012: 72-74), and, most shocking of all, Yael Kakutani's unfortunate review of my own The Complete Book of Nasalism (New York: Murgate, 2013) in The New York Review of Books (December 16, 2013).
 Ettingoff, Margaret. Klondyke and his People (New York: Basic Books, 2008).
 Taylor, Peggy Ann. MTV, August 15, 2010.
 Brussel, Viola. Nasalism and Media (Los Angeles: UCLA, 2009) 12-24.
 Freud, Sigmund. Papers of Sigmund Freud, Library of Congress (Washington, D.C., 2004) 1246-1298. Figure 3.
 Akmen, Ari. "Nasal Fossils in the Nile Delta," United Archeology Vol. 78 (Spring 2013) 217-298.