In a haze of cigarette smoke and laughter, a full spectrum of my Parisian neighbors filled the crowded tables: a vivacious fashionista in huge red eyeglasses chatting with a Franco-African woman in a motorcycle jacket; a male couple in Ray-Bans cuddling at the next table. Behind me, two older women clinked wineglasses and leaned forward to hear each other amid the funk-music groove.
Twilight was falling. A Parisian night was about to flare into fullness.
On a bitter, soul-shivering, damp, biting gray February day in Cleveland—that is to say, on a February day in Cleveland—a handless man is handling a nonexistent ball. Igor Spetic lost his right hand when his forearm was pulped in an industrial accident six years ago and had to be amputated. In an operation four years ago, a team of surgeons implanted a set of small translucent “interfaces” into the neural circuits of his upper arm. This afternoon, in a basement lab at a Veterans Administration hospital, the wires are hooked up directly to a prosthetic hand—plastic, flesh-colored, five-fingered, and articulated—that is affixed to what remains of his arm. The hand has more than a dozen pressure sensors within it, and their signals can be transformed by a computer into electric waves like those natural to the nervous system. The sensors in the prosthetic hand feed information from the world into the wires in Spetic’s arm. Since, from the brain’s point of view, his hand is still there, it needs only to be recalled to life.
“To rebel is justified,” the Great Helmsman intoned. He named his teenage followers Red Guards, and it was they who packed Tiananmen Square, waving copies of the Little Red Book filled with his sayings as they stood in their millions for a brief sight of him. Like their western contemporaries who encountered the Beatles, they told each other that their lives were changed. But Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution also had a darker side. It was necessary to destroy the bourgeois past, and this involved the wholesale looting of shrines, the destruction of books and parchment, the smashing of ornaments and the pillaging of homes belonging to the wealthy.
You’ve probably heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
What you may not know is the origin of this ode to breakfast: a 1944 marketing campaign launched by Grape Nuts manufacturer General Foods to sell more cereal.