Archive for the ‘Books & Movies’ Category

Another Book That I Liked. Epileptic.

June 19th, 2014

Epileptic Cover

Epileptic is a beautifully rich graphic novel that probably everyone has already heard about, except me. I didn’t know anything about it until my boyfriend pointed it out on a shelf at the bookstore. It seemed right up my alley, theme and content wise. So, in a caffeinated bout of spending mania, I grabbed it.

Let’s just say, it was so much more than I expected. After I finished, I wanted to sit there holding it. Feeling its weight like an obvious metaphor.  The book that this man (and his family) created is dark, heady, and self-aware in the most engaging ways. It follows the family by way of the narrator/author/artist, through a life of dealing with his brother’s severe epilepsy.  It was so intimate and lovely, without being overly sweet or precious. Dare I say, it was just so, French.

The emotional pace of the storytelling was even, not manipulative or even cathartic really, but always tumbling along with the images. Every once and a while a panel would be so right that I would actually have to stop and stay on it. Like holding my breath. I can’t help but think they were intended for exactly that purpose, but that also other people might have stopped at different panels. You know that super art feeling of like, that is exactly right! That is EXACTLY RIGHT! But then you have your friend look at it and they are like “That’s nice. Oooh, look over there!”

A few seemingly random themes are only random at first because they are so specific to the family in the book. They all go together because it is a real life. Even if I wasn’t sure how exactly one would subject would relate to the other, I knew it would. And it was nice to be led deeply down one path to discover another.

The drawings, to the non art student eye, were an almost wood block or etching style, black and white, clean lines, folk art yet still in the cartoon realm. The perfectly placed monsters of disease, death and life’s nagging truths are embraced as friends, beautiful scary friends. There is so much to look at but I never felt like I lost the story. I would love to see a puppet theatre production of this book.

Epileptic is full of facts although not brain science, or epilepsy research, which is sort of what I wanted. If I had done a bit more research before I started, the French title may have changed my original preconceived notions “L’Ascension du haut mal (“The Rise of the High Evil”). But, I did not miss the hard science because everything was so well done. So what if it wasn’t what I expected? It was something profoundly moving. It was something really fucking great.

I will give it a Benedict Cumberbatch rating. It was prettier than me, smarter than me, and I’d like to look at it over and over again.

I Read Neurocomic and I Liked It

April 28th, 2014

Neurocomic by Dr Hana Ros and Dr Matteo Farinella

This afternoon I was finally able to sit-down with Neurocomic. Here are some of my thoughts.

They had me at Neurocomic and kept me by releasing the giant squid kraken. This book was super fun. Wish I could’ve had it during my Human Brain class. It certainly would have helped to sink in some of the beginner concepts by visualizing facts in a different way. Coming at a topic from different angles really makes the connections stronger for me. Sometimes I need concepts drilled into my thick skull from a few different drills, and I’m ok with that. I dunno. Maybe I just like pretty pictures.

Speaking of pretty, the cover is beautiful. It is sturdy, intelligent, textured… feels classy and silly at the same time. I really couldn’t wait to open it. The art is clear enough to get facts across but also kind of trashy and bulbous. It puts me in a headspace of seeing Crumb or Gilliam. Like, something is a little off and I’m totally into it. I loved all the monsters and trippy creatures. Some visual wordplay was very satisfying to see in pictures. The hippocampus archivist Seahorse was one of my faves. Possible tattoo material.

The read was like a short trip with a river otter. My mind was doing flips and swimming along with the book. Gurgling along with facts and the layers of POV. The whole story felt like tumbling folds, continually morphing sulcri and gyri. This allowed me to feel ungrounded and I appreciated that. Lots of room for open questions yet, all was explained in a way that didn’t ruin those questions. The book itself was a reflection of what I was thinking and also making those thinks happen. WOAH. Perspective was playfully and cleverly layered, better so than I might be explaining. Just read it.

When I thought I had a complaint there seemed to be a great reason as to why the thing causing argument was there. Like some part of my brain was saying “that’s the whole point, man.” For example, I wanted the woman to be the main character you follow, but in the end it is savvier that she isn’t. Although, the traveller could’ve been a lady, that is some severe nitpicking though.  The statement “I’m afraid you won’t find many girls around here, boy” was hard to swallow. But again, an honest interpretation of the facts she presents and science histories in general. Maybe it was even a call for women to get into it. It being neuroscience.

Overall hooray for the art science hybrid! Brain and eye candy. But also like, healthy science snack. Delicious and satisfying with tons of layers to chew on. I would like more please. A series with The Neurotransmitters seems so doable!

Go here for more info:
Or here to just go ahead and buy it:



Is it really “Smarter”?

March 21st, 2014

Ok I’m going to bring this up again but I just read the NYT review for “Smarter”. All this brain training merchandising feels too surface, like a trick around deep thinking. Maybe brain training quick-fixes work? Maybe even as a simple kickstart for your brain, to get you prepared to think deeply? I don’t want to be a naysayer of progress but the games feel part and parcel to a “bigger, better, keep-up-with-the-joneses” approach than with truly richer thinking. It feels like tricks on how to train yourself to be a really fast typist or a great executive assistant. My brain changes with whatever I do repetitively. For example, I started closing my eyes and seeing candy after playing candy crush for the first few days (by the way, this side-effect was hilariously mentioned in Brooklyn Nine Nine not this clip but this episode). The app/game maybe made me faster at certain things, like crushing fake candy, but did it make me a better thinker? I don’t know. I had to take it off my phone because it was ruining my focus for anything BUT candy crush. I’m sure the games that “Smarter” mentions and that “Lumosity” uses are highly vetted and different than candy crush but my question remains the same. Are these games leading to deep cognitive thought or just some sort of built-in, knee jerk, surface change that optimizes game brain? I guess I should read the book and do the exercises. But they seem so boring. Can’t I take, like, a physics class instead?

Here’s an additional link about the related topic of Candy Crush addiction. You can stop. I believe in you.


slow medicine, is what i need woahOHoh!

May 7th, 2012

Bon Jovi meant to say “slow” instead of “bad” I’m pretty sure. I know I’m on board. At least for checking out this book, God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine. Look at this gorgeous paragraph from just an interview with the author on The Huffington Post

But Hildegard had a completely different idea than our mechanical model of the body. The idea was that the body is like a plant and that the doctor is a gardener of the plant — this, as opposed to the idea of the body as a machine and the doctor as a mechanic. The fundamental difference is that someone has to fix the broken machine, but a plant can heal itself. And that healing power of the plant is what Hildegard called it its ‘greening power.’ She thought that human beings had the same kind of innate healing power and that, therefore, the doctor was more of a gardener whose purpose is to cultivate that healing power — to nurture it, remove obstructions to it and fortify it.

I was brought back to the story from The Brain That Changes Itself and how Paul Bach-y-Rita stayed with his father after his father’s stroke. He helped him to rehabilitate and learn well, basically everything again. How to walk from crawling. Have you ever met a doctor who seemed like they had that time? Let alone to follow up on that weird thing on your back? I believe that they exist and this interview (and sounds like, book!) supports that theory.

Anyway, that paragraph echoed the beauty I felt when I first read about Neuroplasticity. Bodies knowing how to heal themselves, but needing time, space, and help to do it. We are awesome! Brains are awesome!!! Onward!

Watch this! “You’re Looking At Me …”

April 13th, 2012

You’re Looking at me Like I Live Here and I Don’t “Lee Gorewitz lives in a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients, but she is not simply waiting to die. She is full of curiosity and frustration, struggling to remember herself and make sense of a world that is falling away from her.”

This movie will punch you in the face, in the very best of ways. As Mary Louise Parker from Weeds told me in the PBS intro, there are no doctors, no experts, and it is basically from the perspective of patient. Yes, that point can be argued a million ways from Tuesday, but it feels right. So, onward. You’re Looking At Me… films the day-to-day life of Lee, a patient living in an Alzheimer’s home. Read more here.

Someone likened the film to a Beckett play, which may have filtered how I watched it but damn, the language feels like it. Lee’s language is focused meaning inside of seeming gibberish. Word salads strung together with intention and clear emotion. If you just pay attention the meaning is there. The connections are slant to a neurotypical mind but communication is there. It makes sense. It was beautiful.

“Did you take care of daddy or is your face so small?”

“Any truth you wanna take, but its truth.”

Shot by shot of empty rooms and no movement might seem sad or heavy handed but the place exists that way. It is clean and repetitive. So that may feel uneasy, but doesn’t feel manipulative and sets a great contrast to Lee’s liveliness and personality. Within the hospital environment, I found myself trying not to judge the employees in Lee’s life. It’s hard to listen to people who are, hmm… used to an environment? Is that an ok way to put it? It’s a tone that seems condescending even if it’s not meant to be. That tone mixed with group activities that make me squirm and want to rip my face off. There has to be better theatre and performance for people in homes and/or with disabilities, right? Specific and tailored is important for any audience. But why in these circumstances does it always sound so condescending?

It makes me think of my grandmother who is 102 yrs old and in a home now. She is cognitively and physically together (incredible actually for 102) and I still hear people talk to her like a child or without the prosody of truthful concern. It is infuriating and I hope people don’t talk to me like that when I’m old or that I don’t talk like that to anyone. This was not across the board in the movie AT ALL, just occasionally stuck out at me. One of my buttons I guess.

“I don’t know why, I don’t know what I do”

Of course there is a moment of bawling my eyes out, I knew it was coming; we all know it was coming. But I was surprised at how it did happen. And I think that speaks well to the art of the film. I was paying such close attention throughout the movie to Lee, because that’s where the focus was.  All of a sudden I realized I was breathing in the same pattern as she was. I noticed this at a point in the movie where she started to cry and I could not help but join. I was sobbing in the same breathing pattern as the character. A goddamn textbook Greek catharsis. Maybe more correctly, visceral empathy for another human. This wasn’t a crybaby moment for the poor old forgotten/forgetting woman. It felt so present. It was a shared moment with someone I’ll never meet. That’s like pretty good art and stuff.

“I wouldn’t call it sad, I would call it get outta my way.”

My grandmother does not have Alzheimer’s but she is 102 and can’t remember some stories or dates. She doesn’t fully answer when I ask her about Woman’s Suffrage or electricity or cell phones. That used to make me sad, I wanted to get her perspective on change, pass down an anecdote or two. But maybe this time in her life isn’t about remembering stories from the past. It is not about me taking it in. It should be about her in the present. How can her life be full, now? And at the very least, how can we keep clear communication with an aging mind.

For an op-ed from the director about making the film go here:

For more info on the movie go here:

You can get it right now at itunes or amazon!