dreamer_easy: (*books 3)
Fiction
Isaac Asimov. Eight Stories from The Rest of the Robots.
-- The Naked Sun
.
Bandi. The Accusation: Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea.
William S. Burroughs. The Cat Inside.
Alexander Dumas. The Black Tulip. I can't believe I read an entire book on my phone.
Buchi Emecheta. The Joys of Motherhood.
Franz Kafka. The Castle.
Han Kang. The Vegetarian.
Natsume Sōseki 夏目 漱石 Kokoro (translated by Ineko Kondo). I had trouble grasping this classic Japanese novel. This review was helpful.
Frederik Pohl. Man Plus.
Daniel H. Wilson. Robopocalypse.
Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams (eds). Robot Uprisings.

Running fiction tally: white guys: 5 everyone else: 5

Non-Fiction
Alison Bechdel. Are You My Mother?
Eugénie Crawford. A Bunyip Close Behind Me and Ladies Didn't.
Lauren Marks. A stitch of time: the year a brain injury changed my language and life.
Illah Reza Nourbakhsh. Robot Futures.
Candace Savage. Bird brains: the intelligence of crows, ravens, magpies, and jays.
Patrick Smith. Cockpit Confidential. A friendly flying companion which explained, amongst other things, all the weird noises. :)
Ruth Snowden. Understanding Jung. You gotta start somewhere.

Notable short stories: Daniel H. Wilson, "Small Things"

Books bought and borrowed )
dreamer_easy: (Default)
"The polls also indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states.

"Well... maybe so. This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it-- that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable."

— Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72

(According to Wikipedia, Nixon carried 49 states and did indeed get the majority of votes from 18-20 year olds.)


dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
Despite all the evils they wished to crush me with / I remain as steady as the three legged cauldron.
— Monique Wittig, Les Guérillères

(My gods, if it were only so!)
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
GetUp! petition to #bringthemhere.

This point scoring and deal making with refugee's lives is absurd (The Age, 8 August 2017). Journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani writes from the camp: "Peter Dutton has reiterated that the Manus detention centre will close by October 31. This does not reflect any concern for the 800 or so refugees still housed here. Instead, it means a kind of ruthlessness has been formed in the government and the minister is utterly determined to shut down the facility despite us having nowhere safe to go."

UNHCR warns of escalating crisis on Manus Island (UNHCR media release, 10 August 2017)

Driven to death on Manus Island (The Saturday Paper, 12 August 2017)

'Trash left in limbo': Fears for refugees on Manus after detention centre closes (SMH, 13 August 2017) "'We are harassed on the road and robbed on the road... Police say they can't do anything. They say "we don't want you to come to our community".'"

Border force doctor knew of Manus asylum seeker's deteriorating health before death (GA, 9 August 2017) | These Emails Show The Government Was Repeatedly Warned Before Hamed Shamshiripour’s Death (Junkee, 12 August 2017) | Angry Labor MPs confront shadow minister in secret meeting over 'silence' on refugee death (SMH, 11 August 2017) |
Manus Island asylum seeker death: family want inquest in Australia (GA, 9 August 2017)

As others see us:

Australia’s Desperate Refugee Obstinacy (New York Times, 8 August 2017)

Trump said the Australians were 'worse than I am' on immigration. A tragedy may prove his point. (Washington Post, 9 August 2017)

'They don't care': Refugees shocked by leaked Trump-Turnbull call (CNN, 7 August 2017)

You Probably Missed the Big Story Buried in the Latest Trump Leaks (Time, 10 August 2017). "While the last Administration strongly pressed the Australian government to change its policy toward asylum seekers, we also sought to immediately relieve the suffering of these refugees and agreed to resettle up to 1,200 after they went through the U.S. government’s rigorous refugee screening processes."


dreamer_easy: (Default)


This movie wasn't at all what I was expecting. After watching too many South Korean movies about war, police, gangsters, and/or serial killers, I anticipated a bleak film laden with violence and gore. Well, there was enough of that to get the point across (a scene involving skeletons will be hard to forget)  but this wasn't another story of hard-bitten professionals; rather, the heroes are a hapless and frequently ridiculous family (a scene of their hysterical grief tips over into comedy). They are desperate to save a little girl from the monster.

This is a very political movie. The very first scene, in which the Korean assistant of a scientist from the US obediently pours a ton of mutagenic chemicals into the Han River, is repeated in different ways through the movie, as Korean authorities meekly go along with brute force American tactics. Their Kafkaesque refusal to listen forces the family to go it alone with whatever meagre resources they can muster. The director, Bong Joon-ho, played down the anti-American angle in an online interview, but the movie's climax repeats that first scene of careless poisoning.

The monster is incredible. It's fast and agile. Its integration into the live footage is seamless. Its design is simultaneously like and unlike real-life animals - you don't have to browse through too many pictures of marine worms online to see some truly unpleasant and overcomplicated mouths. The scenes in which the heroic little girl tries to outsmart it are frequently heart-stopping.

This is one of those movies where, with setback after setback, you cannot fathom how the protagonists can possibly prevail. And yet, somehow, in the face of an actual monster and metaphorical monsters of bureaucratic indifference and political expediency, they muddle through on sheer determination and love.
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
The illegal camp is being closed. The refugees are being forced out to the transit centre in Lorengau. Power, phones, water, and medical treatment have been withdrawn. Outside the camp, they are subject to constant violent attacks by the locals. The refugees continue to protest. An Iranian refugee, Hamed Shamshiripour, has been found dead near the transit centre; it's not clear yet whether he was murdered or took his own life.

A transcript has been leaked of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's phone conversation with US President Donald Trump, in which they discussed the Australia-US refugee swap deal. First Dog On The Moon comments on this more effectively than I could.

dreamer_easy: (*gender)
"This is, in fact, one of the very interesting things about biological investigators. They use the infrequent to illustrate the common. The former they call abnormal, the latter normal. Often, as is the case for [psychologist John] Money and others in the medical world, the abnormal requires management. In the examples I will discuss, management means conversion to the normal. Thus, we have a profound irony. Biologists and physicians use natural biological variation to define normality. Armed with this description, they set out to eliminate the natural variation that gave them their definitions in the first place."
— Fausto-Sterling, Anne. "How to Build a Man". in Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo (eds). The Gender/Sexuality Reader. New York, Routledge, 1997. (This essay blew my freakin' mind.)

This quote is topical given the call by the US Surgeons General to end "corrective" surgery on Intersex infants. The tragic results of John Money's theories about gender are notorious.


dreamer_easy: (*books 3)
     

"Bandi" is the pen-name of a North Korean writer, whose collection of stories was smuggled out of that country and published this year. I assumed there was a story in the collection with the title "The Accusation"; it wasn't until halfway through the last story, "The Red Mushroom", that I took a look at the contents page and realised there wasn't. So where did the anthology's overall title came from? There was certainly an accusation, a denunciation, in "The Red Mushroom", but it wasn't the centre of that story. Finally it dawned on me: these stories are Bandi's accusation against the North Korean regime, and against Communism, the "red mushroom".

My knowledge of history and politics is pretty weak, so don't ask me whether Communism could work in theory. I only know that, in practice, it's been a catastrophe. In North Korea especially it seems to have become a machine for destroying citizens for the stupidest of reasons, from guilt "inherited" from family members to denunciations over hysterical trivia ("City of Spectres") or for personal gain ("The Red Mushroom").

More than once I thought of the dystopia of Orwell's 1984 - but there is a difference: as Kim Seong-dong's Afterword remarks, the fact that there are prose writers and poets whose writing criticises the regime suggests the possibility and hope of the regime's end. Some of Bandi's characters come to realise that the system they're living under is unfair and corrupt, and recognise their collusion, voluntary or involuntary. Although they can never say it aloud, just the fact that they understand this, as resistance writers like Bandi do, suggests that, as Kim Seong-dong remarks, "cracks" are appearing what seemed like "an impregnable fortress".

While Bandi's stories deal with the concrete day-to-day struggles of North Koreans, Han Kang's anthology The Vegetarian, set in South Korea, seems much more internal and psychological. However, Kang is also making an accusation. The eponymous story is, I think, the strongest, telling the story of a woman who suddenly refuses to eat meat. "The Vegetarian" is told by the woman's exasperated husband, who is baffled and enraged by his wife's inconveniently odd behaviour, as are her family and his business associates. We get glimpses of the nightmare that haunts her, with hints that she feels complicit in her father's abuse. She swallowed that abuse for years; suddenly she can't swallow any more. It's a terrible indictment of some of the worst aspects of South Korean society, its patriarchy, its enforced conformity. To me, the first story was so impactful that the other two stories in the collection, which follow on from it, feel like unnecessary extensions. (I have Han Kang's novel Human Acts and look forward to reading it.)


dreamer_easy: (*gender)
Domestic Violence: Aboriginal women ask Australians to pay attention to assaults and murders (ABC, 11 July 2017)

A third of assault patients in Australia female: study (SMH, 19 April 2017). "More than half of all women and girls who end up in hospital being treated after an assault have been attacked by their partners."

Bid for paid domestic violence leave rejected (SMH, 3 July 2017) "A full bench of the Fair Work Commission said it has taken the "preliminary view" that while it is necessary to make provisions for family and domestic violence leave, it had rejected an application for 10 days of leave to be covered under all modern awards for all employees."

'Once a girl is married, there is no going back' (ABC, 29 July 2017). "It's a type of domestic violence you probably haven't heard of: dowry abuse. Some Indian-Australian men are using their desirable status as residents to extort thousands of dollars from the women they're marrying, with threats and violence if their escalating demands aren't met."

'Submit to your husbands': Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God (ABC, 18 July 2017) | How to navigate the research on domestic violence and Christian churches: A few frequently asked questions (ABC, 24 July 2017)

Exposing the darkness within: Domestic violence and Islam (ABC, 24 April 2017) | Muslim women unite to encourage daughters to have healthy relationships (ABC, 26 April 2017) NB: "There's no evidence that suggests domestic violence rates are higher among Muslim women than the broader Australian community."

Domestic Violence: Family Law Act plan could see end to alleged perpetrators cross-examining accusers (ABC, 17 July 2017)

Abortion laws making it harder for women to escape domestic violence, expert warns (ABC, 21 June 2017)

Domestic violence: Report finds 'clear link' between media reporting and understanding of issue
(ABC, 30 June 2017). "Our Watch CEO Mary Barry said the way journalists frame individual stories can have a major impact on public understanding. 'Blaming victims for the violence inflicted upon them, for instance, still happens in one in six articles about violence against women,' she said."

BOSCAR data showing rise of domestic violence by women 'not giving the full picture' (ABC, 22 June 2017)

Domestic violence survivors should get early access to super, HESTA says
(ABC, 20 June 2017)

Universities spend millions preparing for wave of sexual assault reports (SMH, 22 July 2017). "Australian universities will spend millions of dollars on counselling services as 'a wave of victims' are expected to come forward following the release of the world's largest report into sexual assault on campus." The AHRC survey of tertiary students will be released on 1 August.

Texas slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and ended up with more teen abortions (ThinkProgress, 17 July 2017)

Rural women 'bullied' into caesareans amid doctor shortage (ABC, 16 July 2017)

Introducing use-it-or-lose-it leave for fathers would make life fairer for mothers (ABC, 20 July 2017). "Under [Australia's paid parental leave system], the primary carer is eligible for up to 18 weeks' pay at minimum wage, nine times more than Dad and Partner Pay, which is two weeks at minimum wage."

CWA members hope washable sanitary pads will give isolated women freedom to learn (ABC, 13 July 2017)

Islamophobia: Women wearing head coverings most at risk of attacks, study finds (ABC, 10 July 2017)

Explainer: Why do Muslim women wear a burka, niqab or hijab? (ABC, 23 September 2014). Explains the difference between different kinds of coverings.

How can Muslim feminists reclaim their religion from men? (ABC, 1 May 2017)

Catcalling and street harassment is happening more often than you might think (ABC, 22 June 2017)

The woman who was charged with murdering her wife (ABC, 5 September 2012). The historical story of transman Harry Crawford.

This is topical, given the Tweeter-in-Chief's latest announcement: Witch-hunts and surveillance: The hidden lives of LGBTI people in the Australian military (ABC, 24 May 2017)

Intersex and proud: model Hanne Gaby Odiele on finally celebrating her body (GA, 23 April 2017)

A Queer Gods Ritual: An Introduction to the Queer Ones. I was pleased to find this again, so I'm leaving it here.

Good grief, there's so much more. It'll have to wait for another posting.

dreamer_easy: (Default)
"There are some other, often overlooked ways that many of us can do more to confront our inner Trump—something, anything, that’s just a little bit Trumpish in our habits... Maybe it’s the part whose attention span is fracturing into 140 characters, and that is prone to confusing “followers” with friends... Or maybe it’s the part that can’t resist joining a mob to shame and attack people with whom we disagree—sometimes using cruel personal slurs, and with an intensity set to nuclear. At the very real risk of bringing on the kinds of attacks I’m describing, is it possible that this habit too is uncomfortably close to the tweeter in chief’s?"

(There's a lot more to Naomi Klein's essay Daring to Dream in the Age of Trump, which I commend to progressives (and SF writers), but inevitably this caught my eye. The online "social justice" bullying I often decry is just one subset of the Left's terrible habit of attacking itself instead of its enemies.)

dreamer_easy: (Default)
Reading the March 2016 issue of Australian Book Review on the treadmill and hit the same theme in two unrelated reviews: the intrinsic worth of things.

"[Stanley] Fish feels little need to justify scholarly work by utilitarian standards... Criticism of obscure scholarship and arcane language, he observes, aims at the humanities; similar approaches in economics or engineering get a free pass, because these subjects are presumed to possess instrumental value." (Glyn Davis reviewing Think Again)

"[Nicholas Birns] suggests that it [neo-liberalism] is a synonym for what Australians call economic rationalism - simply put, the valuing of all human effort in terms of money and profit, success and failure... Birns argues that writing - particularly contemporary Australian writing - is one of the last bulwarks against neo-liberal dominance. Imaginative writing... offers ways to 'conceive life differently than merely valuing one another by our financial conditions'." (Susan Lever reviewing Contemporary Australian Literature)

To a list consisting of scholarship in the humanities and imaginative writing, I'd add environmentalism, religion, and human rights as loci for valuing human beings and human work for something other than their dollar value. In the imaginative writing department, science fiction has important work to do, particularly in portraying alternatives to a present and a future we're being sold as inescapable.
dreamer_easy: (*books 3)
"The science of automation has surely reached the point where your company could design a machine... that would correct galleys."

"... such a machine would require that the galleys be translated into special symbols or, at the least, transcribed on tapes. Any corrections would emerge in symbols. You would need to keep men employed translating words to symbols, symbols to words. Furthermore, such a computer could do no other job. It couldn't prepare the graph you hold in your hand, for instance."

— Issac Asimov, "Galley Slave", 1941. irl ASCII was two decades away. In the future of US Robots and Mechnical Men it was apparently still a distant dream. :)
dreamer_easy: (Default)
Movie Poster

What goes up must come down. I'm feeling pretty awful right now. Nothing to do but get on the sofa, fire up Stan (which we have at the mo for Twin Peaks), and see if they have any Korean movies. Not many, but there's something called "Age of Shadows". Oh, and Lee Byunghun's in it - one of my favourite Korean actors (and a honey to boot). And - a particular shot through a car's windshield gave this away - it's directed by Kim Jee-woon, whose work I admire, if perhaps not exactly like.

The movie (its Korean title is 밀정 "Spy") is set during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The main character is a Korean working for the Japanese police. From the start, he's played as unexpectedly sympathetic; the plot hinges on whether this double agent will eventually choose one side over the other.

The direction is elegant and sometimes beautiful. It's a visually striking period (compare The Mystic Nine), with so much Western influence alongside traditional Korean and Japanese dress (spot the gat in the courtroom scene). I wonder if the handful of white faces in the movie are there for exotic colour! (I wondered this about Mystic Nine, too.) The action extravaganza that opens the film typifies this, with dozens of Japanese police in Western-style uniforms swarming through the streets and over the tiled roofs of Seoul like black ants. The use of Ravel's Bolero later in the film was hair-raising! There's a far bit of blood and a severed toe, but nothing like the rivers of gore in "A Bittersweet Life" by the same director.

In most but not all of the Korean movies I've seen, women have been marginal (this may partly be because I've seen so many gangster movies!) - the story revolves around relationships and questions of loyalty between men. Given the content of "I Saw The Devil", in which naked women are literally cut into pieces and consumed, on the whole I'd rather Kim Jee-woon left female characters out as much as possible. In that film, as in "Age of Shadows", women suffer in order to motivate the men; the fiance of the hero of "I Saw The Devil" (Lee Byunghyun again) is literally fridged so that he can pursue the cannibalistic baddie for private vengeance, getting two women sexually assaulted in the process (there's an unforgiveable shot of a schoolgirl's body as the cannibal molests her); in Kim's movie "A Bittersweet Life", the female character is caught between a gangster boss and his underappreciated lackey (Lee Byunghyun again - are you seeing a pattern here?). To come back to "Age of Shadows", Yeon (Han Jimin) is given a badass moment before being tortured and dying to feed the guilt and grief of our heroes. At least the director didn't get her waps out.

I've seen enough Korean movies now that I'm starting to recognise actors from other things. The lead, Song Kang-ho, was also in Shiri, Joint Security Area, and The Good, the Bad, the Weird. (Yoo Gong, on the other hand, is in things I haven't seen yet, like Train to Busan and the Kdrama Goblin.)

Well, my mood can't have completely collapsed if I have the energy to write this. The movie took me out of myself, for which I am duly grateful. Now perhaps an episode of 파수꾼 ("Lookout" / "Guardian").
dreamer_easy: (*writing 7)
I've read a chapter and a short story recently with Japanese settings (one modern, one mediaeval), both written by Westerners, both of which struck me having a stiff and artificial style which I want to avoid in my own fiction. I don't know Japanese culture well enough to nitpick the research, but in the case of the modern one in particular the details seemed intrusive and anachronistic. I've just realised now, typing this, the possible problem with both narratives: they're told by non-Japanese writers from the POV of Japanese characters. I have read enough to know that an actual mediaeval story in translation, or a chapter written by a modern Japanese writer, would sound quite different. It's another reason to stick to (for example) non-Korean characters' POVs in stories where I use Korean characters or setting: as a monoglot with a very limited experience of the world, I cannot write authentically from inside another living culture. (I may eventually be able to get across the flavour of a historical Korean narrative, but I have an awful lot of reading to do first.)

(I've just been reading a dirty manga to which I decline to link you, but it comes with wonderful notes by a fan translator, who explains the extra meanings conveyed by the author's choice of kanji. It made me think of sign language, which can pack in so much more information in the same amount of time it takes to speak the equivalent sentence in English. I suppose the only way English can compete at all is with its gargantuan vocabulary.)
dreamer_easy: (*feminism)
(Wow these have backed up. I'm adding relevant ones to my posting on my recent experience of the "social justice" dogpile.)


Explainer: what is Safe Schools Coalition? (The Conversation, 19 February 2016)

Bullying can have long-term damage, but can be overcome (SMH, 1 February 2015) The "what to do if you're being bullied" section of this advises not showing anger, but I have to say displaying my rage has been a very useful tool, both for my own psychology and in stopping further bullying. Perhaps this because, online, there's often no authority to whom to turn, so you're left with deterring bullies by metaphorically punching them in the balls. (In a similar environment, Neil Gaiman found a punch in the face effective.)

Cyber bullying long-term impacts include self-harm, depression and binge drinking, research finds (ABC, 19 March 2017)

Why it's so hard for women to get justice for online abuse
(ABC, 1 March 2016) | Sydney labourer Zane Alchin sentenced for harassing women on Facebook (SMH, 30 June 2016). Alchin received a twelve-month good behaviour bond because, according to the magistrate "There was a vast overreaction... [which has] caused you to experience a great deal of pain which you didn't deserve."

Studies consider the styles of bullying used by girls and boys - social aggression vs physical aggression.

Bullying in Australian schools is falling, but remains 'unacceptably high' (SMH, 1 July 2016)

Parents say schools blame victims rather than punish bullies
(SMH, 31 July 2016)

Cyberworld: Keeping bullying at bay (SMH, 27 October 2014). "There are some elements of cyberbullying that can make it worse than face-to-face bullying – that it is there permanently, and the fact that it reaches an enormously wide audience in a very, very quick time."

Parents and teachers don't notice bullied children (SMH, 23 July 2014) Australian Institute of Family Studies research showed that more than half of parents of bullied children either didn't know about it or didn't recognise it for what it was; and four out of five teachers didn't report it.

This posting is about emotional abuse, not bullying, but it contains relevant wisdom: "If somebody is investing time, resources, and energy into convincing you of your own worthlessness, that same somebody has revealed to you that they have a lot to lose if you don’t believe them. They’re protecting their own loss of power. Which means they perceive you as somebody who can take that power away. If somebody is putting in the work to knock you down, it’s because they’ve got something to fear about you if you’re standing up."

This article isn't about bullying either - rather, it's about the complicated issue of social media, privacy, surveillance, and behaviour.



dreamer_easy: (refugees)
Vigils will be held nationwide on Wednesday 19 July 2017 to demand the detainees on Manus and Nauru be safely evacuated to Australia. The United Nations has called for the immediate evacuation of both camps.

The illegal detention centre on Manus Island will close on 31 October. Services are being closed down in an effort to force refugees out, including food and the gym, which is critical to detainees' mental health. The refugees are being told to go to the Lorengau Transit Centre, where they fear attack from Papua New Guinean locals - with plenty of good reason, given four violent robberies of refugees in the last month. Some refugees are in danger of refoulement. Essentially, the men are being punished for having been illegally imprisoned.

Doctors for Refugees tell the story of a maintenance worker at the Manus Island detention centre who saved a refugee's life by defying the government's gag order.

"The Australian Border Force admitted internally that it failed to respond appropriately to allegations of sexual assault and abuse on Nauru but did not disclose these findings to a parliamentary inquiry."

Despite being recognised as a refugee, Pari, the partner of Omid Masoumali, has been indefinitely detained in isolation in Australia since Omid's terrible death in April 2016. "He was ambitious, intelligent, invincible. But after three years, even Omid was broken." As many as fifty similar suicide attempts and threats of suicide followed his death.

In an excerpt from a compilation of Nauru detainees' stories, They Cannot Take the Sky, Benjamin describes the three years since his arrival with his family at age eighteen. "I wasted all of the best time in my entire life, the time that I was about to make my future happen, the time that I promised myself I would study hard and become the best." He also describes Omid's suicide attempt, which he witnessed.

A severe outbreak of dengue fever on Nauru affected at least one in ten refugees.

The savage damage done to the mind of a five year old refugee girl imprisoned with her family on Nauru has resulted in an out of court settlement. Her family is currently in community detention in Brisbane. Another five year old girl was compensated for similar damage done on Christmas Island.

Meanwhile, a refugee family have been split by detention for three years, with father and son left on Nauru while mother and daughter receive medical treatment in Australia

dreamer_easy: (Default)
You know that thing where evolutionary psychologists come up with explanations for the way things are - "just so stories" which can't be tested, and which make cultural phenomena, usually to do with sex and gender, sound like the innocent products of nature? Well, this isn't an example of that, but I did smile and thought of the evo psych boys when reading a 1998 article on the hemispheres of the brain. The author, Michael S. Gazzaniga, describes the way the brain (specifically the left hemisphere*) will come up with explanations, even when they're nonsense, because one of its jobs is to create narratives.

This is shown with picture-matching tests on epilepsy patients whose hemispheres have been "split", so that they operate independently. Show the left eye (the right brain) one set of pictures, and the right eye (left brain) a different set of pictures: the left hand points to a shovel, which matches a picture of snow, and the right hand points to a chicken, matching a picture of a chicken foot. Now ask the patient why they chose the shovel; the left brain has no idea why the right brain picked what it did, so invents the explanation, plausible but false, that the shovel could be used to clean out the chicken shed. I've read about similar stuff in Oliver Sacks' writing, where, for example, a stroke patient who lacks insight into their condition - a side effect of the stroke damage - will explain they didn't raise their arm when asked because they didn't feel like it: again, plausible, but false.

Gazzaniga writes that even though the brain is "a collection of devices that assists the mind's information-processing demands", "a collection of highly specialized modules", that's not how we feel - our conscious experience is "integrated and unified". He suggests that's because "the left hemisphere seeks explanations for why events occur" (unlike the right brain, which "does not try to interpret its experience"). Pleasingly, that's exactly what Gazzaniga is doing when he puts forward an evolutionary story about the brain - albeit one that could be tested, I think, unlike many of the "just so stories" of evo psych.

* In right-handed people, like me. For simplicity I've stayed with this anatomical set-up through this posting.

__
Gazzaniga, Michael S. The Split Brain Revisited. Scientific American [no] July 1998 35-39.
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
Remember what I was just saying about how this episode of hypomania, and indeed the recent years of my life, have lacked religious feelings? After a badly disrupted night's sleep (I have a cold), and the first in a week without Saphris, I just glanced at a page, saw this Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph, and felt my generator sparking:


It's a sundisc, with rays of light coming down. I know the image from complex diagrams like this one:



The sun god, travelling in his sky-ship, sends down rays of energy that revivify the dead.

I feel like I want to nurture that image. Which would mean nurturing not just positive and sacred feeling, but potentially an elevated mood. Uh oh. How do I stay happy and busy, up but not too far up?

(For those of you who are curious: the black disc in the ship is the sun, with the goddess Maat, representing cosmic order, sitting in the front. Beneath that is the hieroglyph for "sky", with the sun-god's falcon head poking down, emanating what look (to me) like hours of the day and night and general beams of light onto a mummy, which is protected at head and foot by the goddesses Isis (left) and Nephthys. The sun and his rays are also protected by goddesses, in this case Nekhbet (the vulture) and Wadjet (the cobra). This is an image of the dead person safely tucked away in the netherworld, given eternal life by the creator god, and participating in the creator's activities. All is as it should be. The picture comes from the book Egyptian Religious Texts and Representations by Alexandre Piankoff and was redrawn from a funerary papyrus in the Louvre.)

ETA: Aw yiss, this is what I'm talking about. (The rays are turning into multicoloured flowers.)



(The stela of Lady Taperet, also at the Louvre.)

dreamer_easy: (*health)
To counter my jetlag-induced hypomania, my psychiatrist asked me to take Saphris for one week. The goal is to prevent a bout of depression - what goes up must come down. This is the most intense episode I've had since I was diagnosed. Last night was the last dose. The only real side-effects, once they settled down, are that it's intensely sedating - not really a problem when you take it at bedtime - and seriously increased appetite, which is a problem when you're overweight and diabetic.

The symptoms have been the mixed bag you expect with hypomania - agitation, irritability, feeling "crazy" or "out of control", racing thoughts, rumination, increased creativity, somewhat reduced need for sleep, a general sense of well-being. (Nothing in the way of religious feelings, though, which is unusual for me, and distressing. I've missed those for a long time.) The effect of the medication has been to reduce the agitation and "out of control" feeling.

In some ways, right now, I'm in an ideal state - a bit too irritable, but very energetic and busy, bursting with ideas, getting lots done, able to focus pretty well. In fact, except for the missing religious feelings, I'm more or less where I've been trying to get back to for years.

The question is, what next? Will my mood becoming elevated again as a result of stopping the Saphris? As Bipolar Owl reminds us, "elevated mood does not necessarily mean happy". Will the depressive crash hit, or will I gently drift back to earth? Or will I keep sailing along at this ideal level, and if so, for how long?

For the first time, I've been having those dangerous "I feel fine, I don't need these stupid meds" thoughts that I've heard so many mentally ill people talk about. Luckily, precisely because being too far "up" is so unpleasant, I think I'll have the insight to restart the Saphris if I still need it (and contact my shrink to figure out our next step).

The voice am I using in posting this, btw, is one I've invented specifically for communicating online while I'm like this. When I'm hypomanic I tend to be gnomic, as though nothing I say needs to be unpacked or footnoted. (Although I'm not going to explain the title. You can figure that out for yourselves. :)

As I type these words, Jon changed channels on Internet Radio and we caught the last moments of "A Day In The Life". Hmmm.

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