Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Compass of Pleasure - Why Some Things Feel So Good

New York Times bestseller The Compass of Pleasure (written by neuroscientist David Linden) explores the neurology, biology and primacy of one of the most clandestine spaces of the human anatomy - the brain. More specifically, the way in which we feel pleasure and why. After all, pleasure-seeking seems to be a vice as well as virtue in the human experience. Our desire and lust for the feel-good factor takes us on great journeys, often dark.

For Linden, it all started in Bangkok, one fragrant evening in 1989.


Bangkok, 1989. The afternoon rains have ended, leaving the early evening air briefly free of smog and allowing that dis­tinctive Thai perfume, frangipani with a faint note of sewage, to waft over the shiny streets. I hail a tuk-tuk, a three-wheel motor­cycle taxi, and hop aboard. My young driver has an entrepreneur­ial smile as he turns around and begins the usual interrogation of male travelers.
"So . . . you want girl?"
"I see." Long pause, eyebrows slowly raised. "You want boy!"
"Uh, no."
Longer pause. Sound of engine sputtering at idle. "You want ladyboy?"
"No," I answer, a bit more emphatically, nonplussed at the idea that I give the impression of desiring this particular commodity.
"I got cheap cigarettes . . . Johnnie Walker . . ."
"No thanks."
Undaunted, he moves on to the next category of his wares, now with lowered voice.
"You want ganja?"
"Ya baa [methamphetamine tablets]?"
A whisper now. "Heroin?"
Voice raised back to normal. "I can take you to cockfight. You can gamble!"
"I'll pass."
Just a little bit irritated now. "So, farang, what you want?"
"Prik kee noo," I respond. "Those little 'mouse shit' peppers. I want some good, spicy dinner."


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