Friday, May 4, 2012

Top 5 Real-Life Super Powers

The Avengers comes out this weekend, another comic book come to life featuring an ensemble of superheroes. I'm not a huge comic-book nut, but it is fun to imagine being Superman, or Captain America, in this case. For some reason, though, I find the plausible far more intriguing and exciting than the fantastical; and there's the inspiration behind today’s Top Five Day...

Top 5 Real-Life Super Powers

5a. Super Strength. In the past decade, there have been two reported cases of babies born with a gene that blocks the production of myostatin, a natural protein that keeps your muscles from growing too large. The result is that, even as infants, the children were quite strong, with bulging biceps and six-pack stomachs. No one knows yet how this will affect them as they age, since the human body is such a delicate machine; tendons, organs, and other tissues may not be able to keep up. (Think about adding a 600-hp engine to your Honda Civic: sounds good, but in reality it would just blow out your transmission.)

5b. Feeling No Pain. In a similar vein, some people suffer from a very rare genetic disorder that prohibits them from sensing pain. This is a “careful what you wish for” scenario, though, because while it might sound terrific – you’d never be bothered by a stubbed toe, could play through any injury in a football game, and probably couldn’t lose in a fight – it’s actually horrific.

Think about it: As a child, it’s difficult to learn even basic lessons like, “Don’t put your hand inside of a fire.” This family’s child would mutilate himself as a baby, gnawing on his tongue during teething and not feeling a thing as he bled. Sadly, many kids with the condition don’t make it into adulthood. But it does qualify as an incredible, if tragic, superpower.

4. Bulletproof Skin. Plenty of super heroes, from Batman to Iron Man, have no actual super-human ability aside from the time, money, and necessary know-how to create powerful gadgets, weapons, and bodysuits. The real-life heroes in our military have access to some comic-book caliber technology, from bulletproof vests and helmets to night vision goggles and weapons straight out of science-fiction. And if a vest seems too bulky, now scientists are working on bulletproof skin.

3. Alcohol Tolerance. This may not seem like a super power at first blush; after all, most people can build up a healthy tolerance with lots of... um... “practice.” But if you can keep pace at a party and still keep it together while those around you slobber, slur, and go all in on a pair of fives, you’ll come off looking like a god among mortals. Or at least a decisive Jack Donneghy type.

Interestingly, an allergic reaction to alcohol is common in some cultures (Asian and Native American, in particular), while it’s believed that Europeans – who were more likely to live in cities a few hundred years ago – actually evolved with a high tolerance for the drug, because people drinking beer or wine instead of water were less susceptible to cholera and other water-borne diseases. Crazy, right? But the ability to tolerate the enzymes in beer saved a lot of lives in Dickensian London.

2. Perfect Pitch. A select few musicians, like Mozart and Mariah Carey, have the ability to recognize and replicate a musical note without any context whatsoever, which is called perfect or absolute pitch. This means they can hear any tone, and name the note – identifying a car’s horn as an A-sharp, for instance, while noting that the engine drones along in E-flat. (Schmoes like me have relative pitch, meaning I can carry a tune in relation to itself. But I can’t just start singing a song in G without actually hearing a G first.)

While only about one in 10,000 Americans possesses this gift, it may be more prevalent than once believed. For one thing, some people are born with perfect pitch but lose the ability if they don’t begin studying music formally at an early enough age. What’s more interesting, though, is that musicians who grew up speaking a tonal language like Vietnamese or Mandarin – where a word’s meaning can vary depending on the pitch – are almost nine times more likely to exhibit perfect pitch. So it may be just a matter of nurturing the ability at a young age. Whatever the case, as a musician, this is just about the ultimate super power. Except for…

1. Poison Ivy Immunity. About 15% of people out there do not react to urushiol, the chemical found in poison ivy, oak, and sumac sap. These real-life X-Men, like my dad, can just frolic through the woods in mid-July, in shorts, without a care in the world (well, except for the damned mosquitoes).

Can you imagine? Nearly every summer of my childhood, I spent weeks caked in calamine lotion, trying futilely to ignore that ferocious, gnawing itch of a poison ivy outbreak. It was pure torture. Even as an adult, the rash invariably brings me to the brink of tears after about a week. And yet some of you will never know that fate. What an amazing gift!

Do beware though: repeated exposure can eventually cause you to have a reaction, even if you’ve never been allergic to it before. And if you do come into contact with poison ivy, wash the area with lots of soap as soon as you can – it works.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lucky Guy

Hello, everybody, and happy Spring!

First things first: I'm playing a St. Paddy's Day show this Friday at Lucky's Lounge in South Boston. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Southie" + "St. Patrick's Day" = @$%!-fest. But I assure you, Lucky's is a classy joint with terrific food. So come say slainte! 

Friday, March 16
Lucky's Lounge
355 Congress St. (corner of A Street, no sign)
Boston, MA 02210
4:30pm-8pm / No cover

Also, if you missed it amid the holiday hubbub, I released a new full-band EP in December called "The Things You Keep." You can buy it on iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon, or Bandcamp, or stream it free on Spotify and Bandcamp. It's my first CD in six years; I hope it was worth the wait!

And the biggest news of all is actually pretty small, weighing in at just over eight pounds. Please welcome to the world our daughter Genevieve Gorey, who has been melting my heart for just over a week. 

Enjoy the beautiful day,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Top 5 Most Depressing Lunch Spots in Downtown Boston

It's been a while since we had a good old-fashioned Top Five Day. As you may know, I work smack in the heart of downtown Boston. It's awesome. After working for years at the fringe of civilization on the outskirts of Brighton, it's been an invigorating and exciting change of scenery.

Steps from my office you'll find any meal you can imagine (and probably some that you can't, a few blocks south in Chinatown); the world is my oyster. I mean that literally: there are like four places that serve fresh oysters nearby, including $1 oysters deals at Marliave (from 4pm-6pm) and the Green Dragon (all day).

What's more, the competition keeps prices in check. There are so many competing delis and restaurants and take-out spots that no one is able to extort the legions of working stiffs looking for a good bite to eat.

Still, it's not all a foodie's dream around here; there are some real duds, too. Allow me to take you on a tour of the Top 5 Most Depressing Lunch Spots in Downtown Boston:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Words and Music: On and On

Our first dance.
Photo by Kate Rose.
When Gina first moved in with us on Commonwealth Ave. in 2003, I was working on a bunch of new songs (most of which appeared on Indeed!). But one in particular was very important to me: I was trying to write a song that I would play for my future wife, whoever she may be, on our wedding day, whenever that may be.

It was a daunting endeavor, and I struggled with it for a couple of years. But it got much easier once I realized whom I was writing about.

And so, on Sept. 1, 2007, I serenaded my new bride (Gina, if you haven't figured that out by now) with "On and On," a song I'd written especially for the occasion. (I somehow managed to get through it without crying like a sap in front of all of our friends and family.) While it would have been a perfect first dance song for us, we couldn't exactly pull that off, of course -- what with the microphone and guitar in the way! But now that it's recorded, maybe someone else out there could use it to celebrate their new life together.

On and On
© 2006 by Jon Gorey

Chords: G / Em / Am7 / D

I'll tell you something you might as well know
I wrote this song about you a long time ago
And if you're hearing it now, then I've said "I do"
So help me God I avow to be faithful to you

On and on and on, wherever we go
On and on and on, forever I know
On and on and on...

You are all I had in mind
All that I'd hoped for, all of this time
And I will give you all my life
All that I have, all that is mine

There's summertime in your smile and a spark in your eyes
As you walked down the aisle in your dreamer's disguise
All the love in my heart, it burst in my soul
Swear we'll ne'er be apart as we grow to be old

On and on and on, wherever we go
On and on and on, forever I know
On and on and on...

You are all I had in mind
All that I'd hoped for, all of this time
And I will give you all my life
All that I have, all that is mine
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