Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today's Special Is...Head Case!

Head Case by Dennis Cass

Click here to order from Amazon.

Dennis Cass' blog

Hi All! Jason Evans here hosting your delicious Book Roast on this fine Wednesday.

Today, we're welcoming Dennis Cass to the hot seat!!

While he's getting situated.... (What's that Dennis? Oh, don't mind those cooking implements. They look scary, but they don't hurt. By the way, would you mind slathering on some of that olive oil?). As I was saying, while Dennis is getting situated, let me tell you about his book, Head Case. I went out and grabbed a blurb. Here's a taste:

Dennis Cass immersed himself in the world of neuroscience, subjecting himself to brain scans, psychological tests, and scientific conferences, as he attempted to gain a better understanding of ADHD, anxiety, stress, motivation and reward, and consciousness. Then things got a little weird. What began as a more clinical effort to understand himself soon became a personal and emotional journey into the fragile, mysterious workings of the mind and the self.

So, Dennis likes brains. I like brains too.

(Never eaten them though. Have you?)

We all know about the philosophical path to self-awareness. Head Case is the same journey, but through hard science and the measurable workings of the brain. Dennis explores the really uncomfortable questions, like what can we know about ourselves? How much do we even want to know? I like Coney Island hot dogs, for example, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what's in them.

Here's an excerpt:


I am not a scientist. When I was a boy, I went on field trips to the Seattle Science Center and watched the occasional nature show. I might have even enjoyed a book about dinosaurs. But by the age of twelve, whatever affinity I had for the scientific arts had turned into disinterest mixed with fear. Even though I went to a math-and-science high school, I hid in the English department, while in college I barely survived gut-level astronomy. Then science disappeared from my life for over a decade. Today the "latest findings" means an e-mail from a friend about the discovery of a 900-pound prehistoric guinea pig. Otherwise the sciences bring news that I would rather not hear -- stories about deadly rays and faltering ecosystems and genetic betrayal. If science can't provide an easy laugh, then I do my best to avoid it.

If I weren't such a stranger to science, I doubt my idea to learn about my brain would have affected me so profoundly. It was the summer of 2002 and I was at my desk in my home office in Minneapolis, suffering from the worst case of writer's block I had ever experienced. All the office toys and charms that were intended to inspire -- the picture my wife, Liz, took of my naked feet; my Greek good-luck eye; my Playmobil dragon -- instead mocked me with their empty whimsy. My mental frustration was so powerful it manifested itself physically. My vision was blurry. My jaw hurt. Instead of writing, I passed the morning torturing myself with an internal monologue of self-rebuke. I am truly astounded at how much you suck.

Then my brain offered a simple, clear thought, a question that I heard in my head as clearly as if I had said it out loud:How can you expect to live by your wits if you have no idea how your wits work?


Now for the contest! Answer the three following questions:

1) Describe Dennis' feet in an inspirational haiku.
2) Continue the internal monologue, beginning with the line, "I'm astounded by how much you suck." Limit, 100 words.
3) Are Dennis' wits automatic or manual?

It's time to feast! Let's get started!

(We'll be closing the contest in the neighborhood of 9:00 p.m., eastern time, US.)


Anonymous said...

Like last time, I think we should open the contest immediately to let the overseas folks have as much time as possible.

Welcome all!

Let's give Dennis a hot welcome.

SzélsőFa said...

Thank you Jason for opening it up really early!

1) Describe Dennis' feet in an inspirational haiku.

A-tappin', naked
machines on the floor - may it
be any season.

2) Continue the internal monologue, beginning with the line, "I'm astounded by how much you suck." Limit, 100 words. suck at describing how much you really suck. Your brain is
but a sponge. A sponge filled with mayo. Ew. A dead brick. Why? A hollow. Wait, that's my own head. Where is my brain, anyway?...

3) Are Dennis' wits automatic or manual?
...used to be automatic. Now he can switch his brain to hand-operated anytime it feels needed.

SzélsőFa said...

Was it hot enough?

Charles Gramlich said...

1) Describe Dennis' feet in an inspirational haiku.

"There once was a man named Cass
whose feet were as big as his ***"

No wait, that's a limerick. Here's a haiku:

In winter's need of heat
Cass's feet
Fuel a greenhouse warming

2) Continue the internal monologue, beginning with the line, "I'm astounded by how much you suck." Limit, 100 words.

"I'd thought I'd seen suckage back when I was a fan of the New Orleans Saints, but I realize now that I hadn't even scratched the surface of the suckage continent until you. Man, you suck."

3) Are Dennis' wits automatic or manual?

Since Dennis is a superb typist I suspect his wits are manual.

(Uhm, do remember, Dennis, I don't know you well enough to be this mean to you. But it is a roast after all.)

JES said...

(1) Feet / haiku:

Ivory-pale pals
always come in pairs. Thank God,
so do unwashed socks.

(2) I'm astounded by how much you suck...

Everything you do says suckage, every tiniest little experience of the day becomes grist for your mill, everything taken in and turned to... what? dust? No matter. How I love you, o my Oreck.

(3) Automatic or manual wits:

Without a doubt, automatic.

Sam said...

I get haiku and limerick confused too, Charles, lol.
Let's see - I don't know Dennis, but I'll give it a shot -

Feet, impatiently
tapping on the floor.
What was that word?

I'm astounded by how much you suck seeing as you have no mouth, no straw, and no iced-coffee inside my skull to suck on, but honestly, brain, sometimes you really suck.

I don't know if Dennis's wits are automatic or manuel - I'll guess manuel?

ChrisEldin said...

It's kind of scary, you know, letting other writers loose on the authors....

fairyhedgehog said...

1) Describe Dennis' feet in an inspirational haiku.

Dew on rose blossom
Shines, reflecting clear light on
Spider-hairy toes.

2) Continue the internal monologue, beginning with the line, "I'm astounded by how much you suck." Limit, 100 words.

"But hang on, who is this 'I' that is talking to this 'me'? If I'm thinking, who am I thinking to? And if I'm thinking then I must exist. Cogito ergo sum. Who said that? It was Descartes. Hey guys, I've just discovered that I'm Descartes."

3) Are Dennis' wits automatic or manual?


laughingwolf said...

sssssizzzzzzzzlin, dennis!

1. too late to learn haiku, so:
dennis' feet are incomplete,
one's in a shoe, other's in the street :O

2. much you suck, freud'd have a field day trying to make any sense of you, whatever!

3. dennis' wits: not hard and fast, so must be self-controlled = manual

Dennis Cass said...

[Stumbles onto Web] I'm here, everybody.

Will respond to comments so far in a minute, but I have this to say to the rest of you:

Hit me with your best shot.

No apologies. No mercy.

This is a roast, people!

So start roasting.

Dennis Cass said...

I meant to add the word "wink" at the end of that last post. You know, so you don't get all bound up trying to roast me.


Anonymous said...

I was about to say that Dennis will be joining us a bit later, but I see that it would be a lie.

Welcome Dennis!

And folks, he's callin' us out.

I do have a question for the floor.

What is the single most disturbing thing you've learned about the human brain?

Demon Hunter said...

Sounds like a really cool read, Dennis. I'll be reading it. Welcome. :-)

Jennifer said...

I don't want to know disturbing facts (hypochondria - Ill just adopt all the symptoms, lol)
So give us something uplifting you've learned too!


Sarah Hina said...


Ten little piggies
ate Coney Island hot dogs
"Hey, what's in these things?"

2) You suck so hard that your Mama calls you a Hoover, and all you can think is, "At least I ain't Harding."

Cause that guy was a dick.

3) Manual.

But who's working the clutch?

Dennis Cass said...

@szelsofa: "naked machines" I like

@charles: you internet know me d00d! isn't that good enough?

@fairhedgehog: they might be hairy, but spider-hairy? that's just cruel.

@sara hina: harding was totally a dick.

JES said...

What is the single most disturbing thing you've learned about the human brain?

That the old saw along the lines of "we only use 10% of our brains" is, in fact, a myth. There's so much evidence that it's a FACT... well, you see where I'm going with this.

Whirlochre said...


Sniff out info about socks.
Test for holes or quicksand.
Must wash them more.


"I'm astounded by how much you suck. Dammit, if you're this stupid and I got to find out about it, what the hell must everyone else think? We need a foolproof plan for preventing this mutual suction, but somehow to manage it between us without continuing to suck. Are you game? Yeah, OK, I'm game. OK, get out of the car and go apologise to the guy and I'll tell you what to say...


Manually configured to optimise automatic.

Anonymous said...

Jes, I agree. It was much more optimistic to think about all that potential in there. If we could just tap it...tomorrow. ;)

Sarah Hina said...

What is the single most disturbing thing you've learned about the human brain?

It can't comprehend its own demise...

And, to my surprise, grey matter tastes like hot dogs.

Dennis Cass said...

re: 10% myth

I'm with all of you on this one. In the book I write about how this is single most demoralizing fact (of many) that I learned about my brain. You mean there isn't more?

re: feet

So far we have pale, hairy, stinky, jittery, penis-size indicating.

Not that I'm keeping track.

ChrisEldin said...

Is it true that the more coils your brain has, the smarter you are?
Cause my husband and I fight over who has more coils....

Aine said...

1. Five agile pink toes
And sensitive nerve endings
Support his body

2. I'm astounded by how much you suck. Let's find evidence that I can blame it on my parents.

3. automatic of course, isn't that what our brain is-- a bundle of automatic reactions?

Can't wait to read your book!

Aine said...

Jason, the most disturbing thing I have learned is how easily a mother could affect the physical development of brain tissue. Not holding or touching a baby leaves holes, actual empty spaces, in the child's brain. And the missing function is primarily emotional response and social understanding.

pacatrue said...

Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the brain's plasticity. If you rewire a young enough cat's brain so that the optical nerve runs towards the brain's auditory cortex, that part of the brain will rewire so that it can handle vision. Well, perhaps a brain rewiring itself isn't as disturbing as the fact that some scientists took a cat's optic nerve and moved it to connect to its auditory nerves.

Grinagain said...

1) Strong toes grasp the ground,
supporting the skeleton
while giving mind flight.

2) I am truly astounded at how much you suck. You suck you suck you suck you suck! Oh, Greek eye, quit staring at me already - I can see for myself that the page is still blank! Stop it, Playmobil dragon - do you really think I’m able to work with you breathing down my neck like that?! C'mon, naked feet, don’t just stand there twiddling your toes – help me escape this torture that binds my thoughts!

3) I heard the grinding of gears before the Web page even finished loading, so I'd have to say manual (and I think some DW-40 might help.)

Merry Monteleone said...


The book sounds fabulous, and I feel a little odd roasting someone I've never even met in the blog-o-sphere before... but here goes:

1) Describe Dennis' feet in an inspirational haiku.

Dennis has two feet
What sit bare on his desktop
No writing today

2) Continue the internal monologue, beginning with the line, "I'm astounded by how much you suck." Limit, 100 words.

I’m astounded by how much you suck... the height of your failure simply boggles the mind. Shakes head to clear the cobwebs and then proceeds to bang head on the keyboard in frustration.... hmmm... Looking at the pretty compilation of words in the blank document, he wonders if it’s plagiarism to steal the ramblings made by haphazardly banging on the keyboard....

3) Are Dennis' wits automatic or manual?

Judging by the whimsical paraphernalia used to prod his thinking... I’m going to say manual.

Shoshana said...

Is this book related to that TV show called Head Case?

I'll have to learn what haiku is so I can joine the contest.

Dennis Cass said...

@aine: thanks for "agile" as it helps mitigate the stink (if they are indeed stinky)

@pacatrue: plasticity, like life, is a bitch

@grinagain: leave my dragon out of this!

@merry m: you're right that there's no writing today. unless blogging is writing. which it's not. (it's blogging.)

@shoshana: this book is in no way affiliated with the TV show Head Case. or at least I don't think it is.

Arlyle said...

1) Fetid moldy and dirty
Smell like old Turdy
Haikus are we tar did e

2)I'm astounded by how much you suck- sometimes its better just to phone home and beg for cash. With all the money you spend on mouthwash, you barely break even.

3)Automatic: He has one every morning around
nine, just after his first cup of coffee, and while he's reading yesterday's funny pages.

Okay- there's my one submission for the day. I'm confused, are we trying to have similar answers to the author, or are we trying to show them how retarded they really are?

Did Dennis have some sort of special on cable?

Denny, if you really want to sell this book, then you should have a Neuro Surgeon remove your skull cap, and then stimulate various parts of your brain. Maybe they could get the one that makes you orgasm. That'd be hilarious.

"Hi everybody. This is Dennis case and today . . .Holy Mother of God! I just shot my load!"

"Sorry, Dennis. I'll try not to do that again."

"Fuck you! Do it, now! Again and again and again! This is he-e-e-a-a-ven!"

Arlyle said...

We use more than 10% of our brains, but we can't verify that because 90% of neurologists are really, really stupid.

Lisa said...

No contest entry here, but I wanted to stop in and say hello. I'm a wuss and can't bring myself to roast anyone!

Having read the book, I give it two thumbs up and can recommend it highly to writers, who are all inclined to obsessive navel-gazing anyway. You will see yourself in Dennis and his acute challenges in separating science and self.

If you wanted to really hone in on Dennis's soft white Minnesota-dwelling underbelly, you'd have attacked his wrists ;)

Buy the book. You'll all love it. And if you haven't watched his book promotion video gone viral yet, you are truly missing out on the enigma that is Dennis Cass!

Roast on!

Anonymous said...

Oooo, can you (or someone) post the link to the video, Lisa? I'd love to see it!

Anonymous said...

Arlyle made me think of those awake brain surgeries where they stimulate parts of you brain to see what they do before destroying the tissue. That has to be seriously weird.

Do you sense this?

*suddenly seeing a rhino pirouette on top of a hand grenada*

No. Go ahead. I can do without that.

Lisa said...

Actually, Dennis has it up at his place today. This made the rounds and I think it was up at Gawker and Media Bistro and a whole slew of other places right after he posted it a few weeks ago. It is THE BEST.

Dennis Cass said...

@Lisa: thanks for the kind words. And yes, the vid is up at the Dennis Cass blog today. If you scroll down, you will also find other bits of nonsense.

Miss Savannah Spitfire: said...

Well, hi there, Dennis darlin'.

You're book looks very, very interesting to me - but I do have one little question for you, please.

When you were studying head cases, did you by any chance study any Southern men? Because, well, because I was thinkin' my ex-husband might have been a good, you know, subject for you and all.

Carolie said...

1) Knobby bones and joints
Perfect for All Hallows Eve
Autumnal spookfest

2) "I'm astounded by how much you suck. There were at least seventy-two virgin lollipops and fourty-four untouched jawbreakers in my secret stash, and you've managed to slurp and gum them ALL? Sugar's your heroin...but I know better than to say that aloud, Gramma."

3) I'd have to say manual, considering the smell of grinding clutch in the room...

Phoenix said...

Hi Dennis:

Can you leave us with a bit of a brain tease, please? Perhaps something along the lines of which bit of research revealed the most about the workings of the brain? Personality tests, a particular study or treatise, maybe simply your own life examined?

And see, we only left you a little singed :o)

Anonymous said...

Get those last entries in! The closes soon.

ChrisEldin said...

There seems to be a great interest on brain experiments. Ordered your book yesterday, and am hoping for a step-by-step example or two....

Dennis Cass said...

@miss spitfire: men are Southern, brains are universal. sadly, you can't blame the body on this one.

@carolie: of all the entries, yours stings the most. the smell of grinding gears? how could i not take that personally?!?

@phoenix: here is your brain teaser: how do you understand something that refused to be understand . . . -ded?

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone!! The contest is now closed. Dennis will chose a winner as soon as he can decide among these fine entries.

Thanks for being a wonderful guest and roastee, Dennis!

If the winner could contact Dennis directly for the prize, that would be wonderful.

Thanks again!

Shona Snowden said...

Oooh, a roast that challenges the brain. How appropriate.

Love Dennis's attitude to roasting. Wish I'd got here on time to impale him on my toasting fork.

I'll just spike Arlyle instead:

I'm confused, are we trying to have similar answers to the author, or are we trying to show them how retarded they really are?

As ever, you put this so sweetly. It's up to the author to pick the winner. Some authors may pick the person who actually gets the answer right, or almost right. Others may pick the one that makes them laugh the most. That's what makes this spicy. You never know what the 'right' answer may be.

*takes Arlyle off the fork and pops Miss Savannah on*

Which husband?

Dennis Cass said...

Thanks for playing everyone. Being funny about brains is extremely difficult. (Feet less so.)

In any case, I appreciate the roasting, but the roaster who roasted me most roastly (don't think; just keep going) was fairyhedgehog.

"Spider-hairy toes" is both evocative and accurate.

"I've just discovered that I'm Descartes" pretty much sums up the book, in which I spend a lot of time uncovering "truths" that make me look like an idiot for thinking I discovered them.

"Tiptronic" (if Wikipedia is correct) is an automatic transmission system that the driver can override, thereby enjoying some (but, as I understand it, not all) of the benefits of a manual.

Which is pretty much what a brain is.

Next time I write a book I'm going to do this FIRST and have the winner WRITE MY BOOK FOR ME.



Phoenix said...

Jason will be back along later at a decent hour to clean up, I'm sure.

I'm just here picking up the tips.

Dennis, I'm so not touching your feet, but I bet you have a huge right frontal lobe. I've enjoyed your humor immensely! Thank you! *Adding Head Case to the TBR list*

Yay, FH! Wicked funny, girlfriend.

fairyhedgehog said...

Oh my word! I did enjoy doing this but I can't believe you picked me. Wow! I can't think of anything I would rather win.

Thank you, Dennis.

Carolie said...

Congratulations to fairyhedgehog! (I have a fondness already for hedgehogs, with a brother named Hedgie!)

And Dennis, please forgive the grinding gears DID say "roast!" Hee hee!

Your book sounds fascinating, and I hope to order a copy soon!

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks to Phoenix and Carolie for your congratulations!

sexy said...