Tuesday, December 2, 2008


These personal essays all deal with loss but in different ways. The Beard essay about living with too many dogs, one of which is dying, her husband leaving her, and the people she loved in her office getting killed took a little getting used to its style. It occasionally mentioned future or past events or things that just didn't happen which was odd. However, I think it perfectly depicted the way the human mind can think at times and the way it jumps around and doesn't make sense. It felt much like a chaos narrative to some degree, like the Strayed essay. It definitely has the feel of the surreality of the moment when something that bad happens. Such sudden losses are completely different than watching a loved one slowly die of disease.

The Richards essay showed a different side of loss with the person not actually dead. Instead her grandmother was pretty much mentally decaying. It really is a sad thing to see someone in that kind of position where they can't really be left alone and they can't see how bad they have gotten. In some ways it is almost better to loose someone to a disease or accident than to sit by and watch them waste away and stop being the person you've known and loved. Having the position shift and the strong person who used to take care of you fade and need you to take care of them is disheartening to say the least.

Sedaris' essay was interesting and definitely hit home reminding me of my own family to some degree. It also reminded me somewhat of the movie Two Weeks where four siblings are forced to come together at their dying mother's house and deal with the situation. Trying to ignore the elephant in the room and pretend everything is fine while having secret conversations with each other and not really understanding their mother's position. It is different but there are some interesting similarities. This was one of the few essays that had some comedic parts to it while still keeping a serious and sad tone. That is one of my favorite kinds of stories, because it is easier to be funny all the time or serious all the time but to be able to do both in the right amounts is difficult.

The end of Strayed's essay was probably the most interesting part. She talks about how the real world and fiction are different. I like how she mentions that the real world is usually worse than the sugar coated fiction but that doesn't mean that the real world can't have good endings, they just aren't as good as the fiction. I think of it like Mark Twains quote, except not only is it true with strange things but also bad. You are more likely to find unbelievably bad things more likely in the real world than fiction. Leave the unbelievably good endings to fiction.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Push by Sapphire was a rough book. It wasn't bad or took long to read or anything like that it was just rough. At every turn nothing seemed to go right for the main character Precious. Whether it is being repeatedly raped and beaten by her father, and possibly mother at some points, or not getting an education at school and no one caring she also ended up having two children from her father one with severe Downs Syndrome. Like I said kind of rough, no happy butterflies and rainbows in this book...actually ironically enough there is one passage where she does mention butterflies. The depressing story as well as the way it is written, I am blanking on the name for it but when the person writes the way they speak, is what made it rough.

It was a good book though and you really felt for Precious. You got an interesting view into the her mind and that is something that isn't too common. I am curious to see what was "wrong" with her. That sounds terrible but I mean from a strictly psychological curiosity standpoint. The way she would describe things and her perception of the world make it seem like she has something wrong, be it something with a long name from a text book or simply because she was abused, put down, and not loved(if not downright hated) for the majority of her life.

It was almost a bit frustrating too because you could see where her stream of consciousness would lead her almost to a breakthrough where she could move past things and begin to heal but something would interfere. It was good to see the improvements she did make and the part where she goes to an incest survivors meeting was sad, interesting, and amusing all at the same time. Hearing the stories of abuse was sad, seeing her actually open up even though she didn't say much was interesting because she said all she could and all she had to, and her realization that even skinny white girls had issues was pretty funny. There were enough light and good moments so that the book wasn't all depressing. After that meeting when she was being "Accepted" by the other girls there her internal monologue was also interesting about how her parents knew her for 16 years and hated her but these girls knew her for 16 minutes and liked her. She was clearly starting to muster up some self worth, if albeit not much.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It was a little surprising seeing the similarities amongst these 16 songs even though they span such a wide variety of genres. Some of those songs were in particular nostalgic and brought back memories. Some I liked and some I didn't but I could still appreciate them for what they are even if I don't like them. Nirvana songs as usual are more cryptic than most others as far as meanings go. The concept of pain as a common theme for many mediums including music goes along with what has been mentioned in class about how bad things that happen are more inspirational and make for better stories, songs tend to be stories put to music.

The songs by Eamon and Frankee I found most interesting. Hearing them again made me laugh because I remember hearing them so long ago when they were popular. It is interesting how the gender roles are reversed. Normally you would hear a girl singing about a guy who cheated on her and tried to come back. Also it seems that the guy wouldn't do certain things sexually and that led the girl to cheat on him with someone that would which is also against expectations. The last part is that If it was a girl I am almost certain you would not have had the reply song F.U.R.B. by a guy. There is just something that seems inherently wrong about a guy cheating on a girl she writes a song about it and he tells her she's acting like a bitch, its her fault he cheated because she wouldn't go down on him so he had to get it elsewhere, and that she was terrible in bed and he's glad he didn't get her crabs. Can you imagine those songs with the gender reversed? I don't think it would have worked.

In general I love the terrible excuse or lack thereof by Frankee that it was his fault "somehow". In today's world no guy would get away with that. The Alanis Morissette song reminded me of a past relationship but I realized I would never have vocalized it the way she did. Not because I think I'm better than her or anything I just can't see myself doing it. Linkin Park's Crawling made me think of Tweak and for a second I had to laugh at that because the first time I heard that song I definitely didn't think of withdrawal or drug addiction but it makes sense. Let it rock actually surprised me the most out of all the songs because I had to listen to it a few times and read the lyrics to really appreciate it and understand it well enough. It came off at first as superficial and vaguely similar to Party like a Rock star, but it's more than that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Saw V

Forgot to post this earlier. Saw V was by no means a great movie. It is also by no means the worst movie I've ever seen. Half of the movie, the group of people being tortured, was terribly written and more forced than necessary. The part about the cop being Jigsaw's successor wasn't bad, although as someone mentioned to me the two cops in this movie looked way too similar, and was more of a throwback to the first two movies which I think were the best of the series. Saw III and Saw IV were the worst of the series and this one is right in the middle. If they put this one after Saw II and gave it a rewrite it would have made a pretty damn good trilogy. The whole series went downhill after they changed the writer and director.

As far as the concept of "Torture porn" I'm not really sure why it is so popular recently. I think in general the level of violence in movies has increased at the same rate as violence on basic cable or in the media. Once you start desensitizing people to certain levels of violence, which has been steadily happening for a while now, to make as big an impact with it you have to kick it up a notch. That is all this "torture porn" is doing. Action movies that had excessive violence used to be rated X and sometimes NC-17, a rating we don't see much anymore because the industry doesn't want to be exclusive. Some movies today are even edited to make them PG-13 when they have no business being there. I've seen too many movies recently that have been butchered and made "appropriate" just so they can make more money off of younger viewers seeing it in theaters.

I do admit the way the horror genre has shifted to the torture concept is odd. Then again no more odd than the slasher concept that came before it. In general the horror genre goes through phases and I think that torture is the current one. I personally hope it doesn't stick around as long as slasher did but who knows. The other thing that has led to this is the lack of good stories or plot in today's movies. Torture porn as they call it lends itself to this lack of good writing. I'm not saying all of these movies have no plot or story, some of them do and are well written, but it is a rare thing. I really can't say why this particular idea of torture has become so popular in cinema today, but I can say this is not the best time for the horror genre.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Tweak (growing up on methamphetamines) by Nic Sheff was a really good book. I was surprised how fast I read it and how easy it was to read. Even with all of the jumps through time with memories and hallucinations the story flowed with an unexpected ease. It reminded me of a roller coaster and a car crash, because every time things were up and looking good you knew they were going to come crashing down again and like a car crash you can't look away no matter how bad it is.

The book begins by setting the tone of constantly relapsing after getting clean. It makes reading it an interesting experience because every time he gets clean you have that sinking feeling that it won't stick and try to see what will cause him to falter. I'm not sure if it is the way he writes but I could constantly get a visual of what was going on and could see it taking place in my head almost like a movie. It was very visual and you could place yourself there with him and see what was happening. If it was done right I could see this being a great movie.

I was not exactly surprised by the end but more impressed by the actions of people. I admit that in general I can be a cynic at times and the interaction between Nic and his parents at the end was very moving. I think it is interesting how the two of them show how they know his emotional problems that led to his drug use were partially their fault and even though Nic put them through so much they still have the ability to apologize for their part in everything. That is impressive in and of itself. I'm sure in other situations the family would have disowned him long ago and left him to die and even if they did help they probably wouldn't admit their responsibility. It makes you think are Nic's parents the exception or the rule?

The arc of the story is interesting because of the level of involvement of his dad. It starts off with little to none and how, as he downward spirals and then comes back only to drop again, it fluctuates. I am curious to read the father's book now. Nic goes through so many emotions when mentioning his father and talks about him in so many different ways you're not really sure what to make of him. When you finally see him, in a manner of speaking, there is an interesting similarity to Nic and a common understanding that to me explains why as much as he has said he's given up on Nic he never really will.

As far as connecting this book to "The Wounded Storyteller" I can't really pinpoint any particular body type or narrative type because he shifts around between them so much. Some of the most interesting parts are chaos narrative when he isn't sure what is a hallucination and what isn't or what is going on. There are other parts that are quest and some that are restitution. I think the idea of "Testimony" also works very well with this story. I am actually really interested in the father and son's reaction to each other's books, if they have even read them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Wounded Storyteller

To be blunt I hated this book. I guess that's technically not fair because I thought the ideas and concepts were interesting I just hated their delivery. I'm not 100% sure why his particular style or writing annoyed me as much as it did but it did. More times than I can remember I had to stop reading, reread a small portion, and exclaim (occasionally out loud) "What the hell is he talking about". This was mainly for two different reasons either I completely disagreed with what he said or I had no idea what the hell he meant.

Overall it reminded me of someone in high school writing a paper with a thesaurus on hand to use as many big words as they could. I'm not trying to be as overtly critical I just think if it wasn't written by a doctor and by a lay person who had gone through these experiences it would have been more enjoyable and less unnecessarily complicated. The other thing that made it hard to read was almost once a chapter, at least, I completely disagreed with him or thought there were other things or possibilities he didn't mention. I don't want to say narrow minded but that was the apparent tone, "this is the truth not only what I think and anything else is wrong". He didn't actually say that of course but it is the way it came across to me. Most of these criticisms aren't completely accurate I admit, it is just the way the book came across to me.

The way he mentions people's reactions to medical terminology being put to things they know by another name explains my dislike of the book in a way. Being practically a constant part of the hospital environment for the majority of my life I have seen the types of things he mentions. Especially a few years ago I volunteered in the pediatrics part of a hospital and saw various patients and their families and in different ways. Some were there for a day or two after something routine. One kid was there for poison ivy, and one was there constantly because his condition required constant care and medication. Experiencing all of these people and their stories made hearing his medical "jargon" explanations annoying.

As far as what I completely disagreed with or didn't get weren't as numerous as things I let slide or tried to ignore and just push on. The entire chapter on Chaos narrative was one I had a lot of trouble with. It honestly didn't make sense to me and annoyed me with his rigid classification of "chaos narrative". Just before the chaos narrative chapter he says something that I didn't get or agree with. "The tragedy is not death, but having the self-story end before the life is over". To me it seems like he is saying that once you know you are going to die you no longer have a story because you know how it is going to end. He says it is a tragedy because you have nothing left to say, no voice, and have no use for yourself. Not only do I not agree I don't think the logic makes sense.

The first thing I partially had to laugh with disagreement. I feel bad laughing about it but I found it slightly amusing that he was so surprised by something I have come to expect from the medical world. He mentioned how a Surgeon had published an article about a case he worked on, as well as a man, and the man was surprised that this article was about the surgeon and not himself. The author then says how the man was systematically ignored and removed from the article to become just a body. I don't think that is fair because the article was never intended to be about the man at all except for being the nameless patient. The article was about the exceptional skill and triumph of the surgeon to perform this task not about the bravery or strength of the man undergoing it. The way the article is described is as just that and I find it odd that he would assume it was about him.

The last thing I disagreed with was originated by Nancy Mairs about charity. She says that charity is never nice because the people who give don't see themselves as needy; the needy are others. He says that the "nice" need the needy to be the other to their niceness and by not acknowledging their need for the needy their charity turns into domination. At first I had trouble understanding this seemingly cynical stand point and then I just had trouble agreeing with it.

Overall it is a good book, I didn't enjoy it but I can still recognize it as a better book than most. It had interesting ideas and concepts, I didn't particularly like or agree with everything but that is what makes life interesting disagreement. If we all agreed the world would be boring as hell.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

This documentary was interesting to say the least. After watching it I couldn't help but think, "What is worse the fact that none of it surprises me or the fact that I'm not at all disturbed that it doesn't surprise me?" I find it funny, not in the humorous sense, that people were shocked by the photos that were leaked of the nudity and leash and such when they were by no means the worst things done there, and by far not the worst things our military has done. I guess I'm a cynic sometimes but one part of the film sticks out to back up my ideas in a way. When they pass the pine building the man pleads not to take him in there, anywhere but there. Think about it, if what was being done to them and photographed was so bad can you imagine what they were doing behind closed doors where they definitely didn't allow cameras?

I admit I am a bit desensitized and can imagine worse than what was shown the only thing that truly offended me on that deep level was the 50+ days of forced sleep deprivation. I've gone through periods of insomnia before and I can tell you after just a few days you can begin to hallucinate and go a little crazy. I can only imagine what 50 or more days could do. Some people in class mentioned that after 5 days or so you can be doing irreparable damage and literally making someone insane. I guess in general I am less shocked and disgusted by what they did and more so by who they did it to. From what the video says about no one being charged we can assume that nearly all of them were innocent. I am not phased by our government doing these types of things but the fact that they did it to that many innocent civilians is what affects me the most. Hopefully someday no one decides to invade us and start picking up folk at random and subjecting them to torture with no rhyme, reason, explanation, or due process.

When it comes to the guards saying that it wasn't really them doing these things, I have to disagree with a lot of people. It was said in class that this was a B.S. statement essentially and I'm not going to say that it is or isn't but I can understand it if they were being truthful when they said it. I can't even begin to imagine the psychological toll taken on those people. Being bombed and shelled constantly, being told the thousand or so inmates amongst maybe 8 guards are the worst of the worst, murderers and rapists, not to mention the fact that you are in a prison where Saddam tortured and killed who knows how many people. Some of them mentioned ghosts in the beginning and certain corridors you didn't go down alone at night. To top it off you are being dropped off at a prison told to leave all your gear and weapons behind and do a job you are by no means qualified or prepared for. Add on to that the added responsibility of preparing prisoners for torture and "intelligence gathering" with psychological warfare. It is a common reaction to say I can't believe these people would do this and I would never. Try imagining going through all this and put yourself in that position, not as easy to condemn is it?

Some of them even mentioned that they weren't comfortable with what they were being told to do and even brought it up to their higher ups, lot of good that did. Imagine the thought process going on when you realize how uncomfortable you are with what you are doing and the ease at which you began doing it. Then think of what the "actual" torture and "interrogation" is like and how easy those people are doing it, would you really want to question the actions and orders of those people.

I have what one teacher told me is a "detached view" on things. I don't know if I agree with that I tend to think I have an overly logical and hopefully equal view of things. I try to see all sides of things without giving more credence or leeway to one side. That teacher was in my Native American Cultures class. When we talked about Columbus and I tried to show the miscommunication and ignorant mindset of the time period as explanations, not excuses, of his actions she was not exactly happy with my creative thinking.

More than ever after watching this documentary I agree with that t-shirt I have "I love my country but fear my government". Back in "the day" before media was everywhere and it became harder to cover things up or hide things I wouldn't be surprised if that guy that gave his higher ups the disc with the pictures on it was simply killed and the pictures destroyed. This may be simply conspiracy theorist paranoia, but I'm not saying it would have happened just saying I wouldn't be surprised if it did. I'm still not sure what is worse, that lack of surprise or my apathy towards it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

9/11 Commission Report

When I first looked at this book I wasn't really sure what to make of it. I understand why they are putting it in a graphic novel form, but I'm not sure they went about it the right way. I have two main criticisms of this book. First off is the way it is illustrated. I admit with something like this that everyone has seen actual pictures and footage of it is hard to capture it in a drawing. That aside many of the images seem almost comical, not that I find them funny but that seems to be the way they are drawn. Prime example is the fireman on the cover. I have seen similar photographs of actual firemen and I get why they wanted that image it is a powerful one, but the illustration seems too fake or at least not real enough to convey that same emotion. I'm not sure if it is simply impossible to get the same effect out of a drawing as out of an actual image or if they simply didn't do a good enough job. On the other side there were a few images that portrayed emotional images better, although they were generally images I had not seen actual pictures of, such as inside the towers.

The other criticism I had was the inability or simply disregard for either telling a one sided story or a more moderate and truth based one. I'm not saying there was any lying or untruths in this book perse, but more that they simply decided to put two contradicting views together and hoped they meshed. I mean this from a textual and graphical standpoint. Some of the pictures of Bush and Clinton seemed serious and made them look strong, stern, and like the kind of leaders we could only wish for. While others made them look comical, goofy, and more like the reasons for everything that happened. There are parts where they say that no one is to blame then at the end the pretty much say everyone is to blame. I tend to think that it sways more to the left because of the fact that with all the background about the CIA and chasing Bin Laden for years they neglect to mention that at least once, that I am aware of, a CIA operative had him in his cross hairs and was ordered not to take the shot(I think it was in 97-98). Also the way they don't mention Clinton's downsizing the military which also hurt the possibility of preventing 9/11. It seemed like I was reading two different accounts and they couldn't just try and find some middle ground. Another instance is when Bush took office. Clinton's people said they told Bush's people about how dangerous Al Qaeda and Bin Laden were. Bush's people say they didn't, even though the book almost made it seem like they simply weren't even paying attention.

Because of the content and a random occurrence at the grocery store this book has reminded me of such "documentaries" as Loose Change and others that are relentless in saying the government created 9/11 and actually blew up the towers with explosives. If anyone has seen this and thought it to be all true, don't worry you're not alone. My cousin once told me and my family about this at a gathering and honestly he scared me a little with his immediate acceptance of everything they said as truth without a question. I was curious and watched it myself a couple years back and it was pretty convincing. I was a little uneasy about it so I did some digging and research. I found numerous articles and a few videos that shed some more light on it. The best was by far this article that outlined everything stated in Loose Change and showed where it made some good points and also where it was full of it. One part in Loose Change they say that a missile hit the Pentagon and there were no metal parts to suggest a plane hit it. This is accompanied by a photo that looks like a single circular hole penetrated the Pentagon. The article I found has a picture that is pulled back more and shows that they zoomed in and cropped off the top part where the tail of the plane went as well as the various metal debris, the trail in the dirt, and even part of a turbine. The fact that a lot of people don't question what is put in front of them kind of scares me.

Overall the book was interesting to read, even with the issues I have with it. I do understand why they think everyone should read it because from my experience most people either thought there was nothing we could have done to stop it or that the government helped plan it, a little hyperbole here. The truth seems to be that simply the way our government is run does not bode well with cooperation. Each part does its thing and you don't need to know what they're doing. The combination of how screwed up our system is and the upcoming election makes me agree more and more with a shirt I have that says, "I love my country but I fear my government."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Regarding the Pain of Others

Susan Sontag's "Regarding the Pain of Others" was an interesting book if not a bit repetitive. Her particular writing style threw me a bit. It's not that it was hard to comprehend exactly just more that it seemed like a stream of consciousness and is hard to understand her position, the fact that she talks about not being sure herself doesn't help. I felt more inclined to come to my own conclusions, something sadly a lot of books don't do. A problem in the literary and academic world in general is the writing style of "this is my opinion and anything else is wrong".

Two particular things in this book stood out to me. The first one was at the beginning of chapter five when she says, "Peace is the norm, if an unattainable one. This, of course, is not the way war has been regarded throughout history. War has been the norm and peace the exception." This brought back memories of discussions I have had about such ideas, war in ancient times versus now. It is a concept that fascinates me, how can society as a whole (there are always exceptions) completely change its attitudes about war over time to the extent that they are opposite. I'm not saying either way is right, because in general when there are two opposite sides of an issue or argument the middle ground tends to be right.

Think if you will solely on the concept of fighting and violence. Today we are raised from birth that it is a bad thing and we are discouraged against it in all it's forms. The first time we naturally lash out in violence it is reprimanded, even in the verbal form of questioning one's parents for the first time. I think arguing is simply fighting with words. As we get older we are only more conflicted when we see examples of commendation for bad things if they are in the right context, it is acceptable to fight if you are in a ring. Or it is acceptable to kill or steal if it is for your country. It becomes no wonder we are so psychologically messed up as people in this age. Constantly being told not to do things but seeing others rewarded for doing them in the right setting. You can't fight but if you are in a ring with an audience you can get money and a shiny belt. This leads to my own little theory on what is fundamentally wrong with people today.

We tend to actively forget if not outright deny the simple fact that we are animals. That is all we are, animals with a god complex. In ancient times people were brought up learning to fight, being taught to wield a sword before the age of ten. The Spartans, an extreme example I admit, would take young boys and throw them into the wild and if they were strong enough and in a sense animal enough they would survive and be welcomed back as a true Spartan. While it is true modern science and engineering have made it unnecessary to have these abilities it has denied us a central part of our nature. We are violent creatures with a pack mentality occasionally taking precedent over our instinct to survive. This is a cynical point of view but I'm saying this is what we naturally are, the way we are raised sways our natural instincts to ridiculous amounts.

This leads me to the next part that stood out. She talks about our desensitization to violent images because of films, T.V., comics, games, etc. I don't agree with this. Many people have blamed violent films and games as causes for people doing violent things. This is the biggest load of B.S. I have seen in a while and the biggest cop out ever. A comedian put it best when he asked these people, "What violent video game was Hitler playing exactly?" There has always been violence and there always will be. These kinds of films and games allow people to quell these natural violent urges so that they don't take them out on real people. The only ones who aren't are the ones who were already mentally or emotional disturbed to the point they just as likely would have done it anyway. Relating to and getting into the characters, even more so with games, allows us to vicariously live out and do things we would never do in real life to satisfy that deep buried urge. She mentions a woman living a town over from one that was being bombed and she saw it one the news and the flipped the channel. People tend to ignore that which doesn't directly affect us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I had heard a lot about this film for a while and had never gotten around to seeing it. The first thing I noticed was that it was directed by Michel Gondry, which surprised me because until then I had only heard of him making music videos. This was apparently his second film. I think one of the things that stuck out was that it was twisted. That is the best word I can think of to describe it. I mean Patrick uses personal effects and memories of Clementine about Joel to get her to go out with him, Howard erases Mary's memory and keeps her working for him after their affair, and Mary and Stan are getting drunk, high, and having sex practically on top of Joel, and above all the idea of removing and entire person's existence from your mind is pretty twisted all by itself. Most movies today don't have the courage to go away from happy and mainstream and show how truly screwed up people can be.

Someone in class had mentioned how horrible it was for Howard to keep Mary working for him after their affair and erasing her memory. I'm not saying it isn't I just think that from what the movie says we can't be sure why he did it. I think that his motives for keeping her employed were bad but there are different levels of bad. I don't for a second think he didn't want to ruin this nice young woman's career; I don't have that much faith in him. Instead of the power trip it is quite possible he did it as a form of test or reminder. I could see him keeping her as a show that he can control himself and he doesn't want it to happen again so he will test himself and keep her around to show his fidelity. I didn't say it was smart, but neither is cheating in the first place. The other is slightly more complicated that everyone might not get, guilt. Some people, when they do something bad they tend to overreact and decide to punish themselves, i.e. self flagellation. Sometimes they will keep something around or on their person as a constant reminder of their guilt and past transgressions. It's not that they take pleasure in it exactly but because they feel they deserve it, to never be able to forget or live down the things they have done. Regardless of the reason what he's done is wrong and even depending on the reason slightly obsessive and psychotic.

After watching the whole movie it really made me think. I curiously tried to put myself in that position of erasing my recent ex from my memory and then meeting them again and getting that tape of all the bad things about the relationship I had said. It frightened me a bit to be honest. To put it simply the end of the relationship was long drawn out and bad, it led to my insight into the self flagellation guilt tendency that some people have (take that as you will). Looking back on it I see that if it didn't end badly it wouldn't have ended because we were both too comfortable, imaging if Clementine wasn't outgoing, she and Joel would have stayed the "dining dead" as he called them. The thing that frightened me was that I could imagine myself in that situation not really remembering that it was bad but for the best and purposefully making the relationship last by avoiding the causes of it's collapse. I simply reminded myself that's not possible and it wouldn't happen even if it was.

Mental and emotional scars and pain are what makes you who you are, in my opinion, more so than most other memories and experiences. Marriages and children are a few of the exceptions, but even then losing them can change you more than they did in the first place. I had mentioned it in class but the adage "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" seems to me to apply very aptly to mental and emotional pain. At first I thought that since you can't really die form that kind of pain there are certain exceptions to that adage but then again after certain traumas emotionally and mentally you might as well be dead. It is a scary thing to look at someone who is essentially dead inside, to see that nothingness. Since in those situations it essentially does kill you they aren't much of exceptions. The most basic way I have seen this in action was when people who in general haven't had too many problems growing up, whether it be deaths or abuse, tend to over react to minor problems or issues compared to those who have had problems. To quote the comedian Chris Titus, "Once you've driven a drunk dad to mom's parole hearing what else is there." I tend to put people into one of two groups, fucked up, and fucked up and functional. With exceptions most people are fucked up and not all of them are functional. Ironically enough the ones that pretend to be normal and have no problems are usually the ones with the more disturbing and deep seeded issues that they keep hidden. Not everyone will understand this theory but it really is too hard to explain, some people will get it immediately and others won't.

In general I liked the movie and while it seemed depressing at the end that they were destined to repeat the same mistakes I think it is not a lost cause. Just by the fact that they have what went wrong the first time they can seek to change. If Joel was less Stoic and Clementine less impulsive is putting it lightly they could be a happy couple. A little counseling might not hurt either.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


...I said people never cease to amaze or amuse me and I stand here living proof. Only now did I realize I misspelled my blog title "Brain Droppings" as "Brian Droppings". I'd like to pretend that's the first time I've misspelled my name and Brain but it's not.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pain: The Science of Suffering

This is a response to Pain: The Science of Suffering by Patrick Wall. Overall I like the book, it had more interesting concepts and new approaches to others than boring rehashing of common concepts and occasional medical blather. There were a few instances where he mentioned a few things and didn't mention them again, such as physical pain versus mental or emotional pain.I was curious to see how he would tackle such an issue with a medical background but he didn't really. He mentioned the mental and emotional outcomes of pain but not the type of pain caused by strictly mental or emotional means.
The medical side of pain is something I know all too well. Two of my siblings were born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta or O.I. and I was shuffled in and out of hospitals along with them, be it simply because my mother couldn't do anything else with me and my other siblings or because they were debating a bone marrow transplant and I was to be the donor. My sister was born with it and died at the age of two while my brother just recently turned thirteen. She was unlucky enough to be born at a time when it was still new and not well understood while he has benefited from the vast improvements in treatment and general knowledge about it.
It is usually summarized as "brittle bones disease" and depending of the type the person can break bones, generally arms and legs, constantly from birth unto adulthood. being around that type of medical environment as well as recently volunteering at hospitals I consider myself fairly well versed in that aspect of pain but this book shed more light on the actual biology of it. The way he talks about pain and the different parts, i.e. the whole mechanical concept with stimulus and response, was fascinating. Certain chapters such as "your pain", "other people's pain", "pain with obvious causes", "a 'normal' pain response", and "private pain and public display" were familiar to me while still offering some interesting insight. The most interesting chapters were probably "The philosophy of pain", "the body detects, the brain reacts", "pain without a cause, and "the placebo response".
The philosophy of pain reminded me of some things I've have read on philosophers such as Descartes, dualism, and the differing opinions on how the mind works especially with the body. It really makes you think how we have changed our opinions about so many things throughout history and then always claim we have the right idea but to this day no one can say for certain how the brain really works in total. The body detects and the brain reacts did away with what he calls the common myth of how pain works that I had originally held. The thing that stuck out the most (I'm not completely sure if it was in this chapter but I think it was) was the distinct types of stimulus cold, heat, pressure, and chemical. It was interesting to think that all stimuli fall into those categories.
Pain without a cause was enlightening because it showed that not only do lesser known ailments such as Trigeminal Neuralgia, Fibromyalgia, or myofascial pain syndrome have no known cause but also common things such as headaches, backaches, and repetitive stress injury. I was also surprised to learn the origin of the word migraine from the French demi-craine, meaning "half the head". I always like to learn origins of commonplace words or sayings. The Placebo response was something I had heard of and knew the gist of but I had no idea how powerful the mind really was in terms of controlling the body. I knew that the idea of getting better and the assumption that something will make you better can in and of itself make you better but I didn't realize the extent to which it can. I think Marcus Aurelius said it very well if not best, "You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."


I am not much of the blogging type. I generally keep my thoughts and ramblings to myself or the people I know that still care to listen to them. I created this blog for HON 389, a class I am taking that is a seminar on pain. The title of the blog I took from George Carlin's book Brain Droppings, it is an interesting term for random thoughts. The name I chose to use "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" is the first in a series of books written by Jeff Lindsay and the base for the Showtime series Dexter. Dexter is a mild-mannered blood spatter expert for the Miami PD and also happens to be a sociopath serial killer who kills serial killers. Like Dexter I find people fascinating and they never cease to amuse/amaze me, my own self included.
Before you get worries unlike Dexter I am not a sociopath or a serial killer and I certainly don't work for Miami PD. I am an average college student who can be a slacker on occasion but I am an intellectual at heart. I love reading, T.V., movies, plays, pretty much anything that has an interesting story or new information. I pride myself on having the second most trivial and obscure encyclopedic mind I know of, the first going to my Dad. Best example of this is watching a T.V. pop culture trivia show where the question asked is who is Oscar the Grouch's girlfriend. My dad answered without hesitation Grungetta. We all look at him in disbelief and assure ourselves he must be joking when the host of the show confirms he is right (like I said "trivial"). Right now the most random obscure thing that comes to mind is that the youngest female recorded to have given birth is a 5 year old Peruvian girl.
As far as generic information goes I am a junior at the University of Hartford. I am a film major and my main focus is screen writing. I have always loved writing and making stories ever since I was a kid. It got to the point I came to an understanding, I want to be a writer but I can't write. By this I mean my grammar is nothing short of atrocious and while I consider myself a great storyteller, by means of creating characters and their interactions, I can't write the out that well. I've gotten better and am a decent writer now, not great but decent.
I'm from Boston born and raised and yet up until two years ago never had any trace of the accent. From spending so much time in Hartford away from it and then being immersed in it again I go back and forth. If I'm watching a movie set in Boston, with a lot of people talking in the accent, or talking to some friends or family from home I will start to slip into it unconsciously (which I've been told is quite amusing to watch). While I'm not much of a blogger I get into certain writing moods and tend to ramble, this introduction is proof, and go off on long diatribes.