Originally created 12/15/00

Memories of melodies play with us



Your theory is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true.

- Bertold Brecht

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer keeps playing with my head.

The lyrics to this popular song of my childhood, teenhood, adulthood and parenthood have comfortably set up residence between my ears and won't leave.

Last week it was Frosty the Snowman.

Before that it was Gordon Lightfoot's Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a moody, 25-year-old song about a shipwreck that buzzed around in my brain over Thanksgiving.

Why does this happen?

Why do Christmas songs - or any songs for that matter - "stick?"

Unfortunately, scientists aren't sure, although Suzanne Hanser, a college music therapist, has an idea.

First, she says, it should come as no surprise that music sticks with us and creates strong mental and emotional associations.

"When we hear that piece that affects us in some way, we want to keep it with us," she told the Boston Globe.

Hearing the song again triggers this strong memory, and the song begins to "play" again, she said.

OK, but what about songs we don't like?

Again, she thinks the song has made a strong mental association - whether good or bad - and the brain remembers that it distracts us.

So (and this is the complicated part) the next time your brain thinks you need to be distracted, it begins to "play" it.

This seems like a stretch to me, but other people who should know ... don't.

The Globe also asked Mark Tramo, who is not only a songwriter but an assistant neurology professor at Harvard University. "Happens to me, too," was all he said.

* * *

FLORIDA SLOGANS: Someone passed along these suggestions for new state slogans for Florida:

"If you think we can't vote, wait 'til you see us drive."

Florida: We count more than you do.

Florida: If you don't like the way we count, then visit one of the other 56 states.

Florida: Where your vote counts and counts and counts.

Palm Beach County: We put the `duh' in Florida.

* * *

TODAY'S JOKE: Back in the 1930s, a middle-aged man drove his wife to the train station each Friday night so she could travel to visit her sister, who lived in a neighboring state and was ill.

Ten minutes later, his own sister arrived by train to spend her weekend managing his household and looking after the children.

On Sundays this procedure worked in reverse, with the sister departing by train 10 minutes before the man's wife arrived.

One evening after the sister left and the man awaited his wife's arrival, a porter sauntered over with this comment, "Mister," he said, "I've got to hand it to you - you're something else. But don't you know that one these days you are goin' to get caught!"

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 107.