Thursday, April 20, 2017

The man who mistook his wife for a hat.

Image result for the man who mistook his wife for a hat.
It’s always exciting to open a new RA Favorite Book not sure what to expect, especially with a title like: The man who mistook his wife for a hat.  When I saw the author’s name, Oliver Sacks, a British neuroscientist, I was confused as I had read his books and thought it a strange name for a scientific book.  It doesn’t take long to understand the book’s title, as Sacks shares his early life through case studies his patients.  The man who mistook his wife for a hat, really did.  He was a well-known musician and teacher but had an inability to judge items and objects as he got older.  He provided a series of twenty-four cases ranging from “cognitive-loses” to “excesses of cognition,” such as people with Tourette’s syndrome.  There were very few people who recovered from their illnesses for full recovery, but many were able to live with the problem to some level in their life.  Each story was a first for Sacks and he worked on each case with the same level of curiosity to try and answer the symptoms with something that would help the person, whom most times were ‘normal’ and changed over a short period of time.  For neuroscience and future-physicians it is a good approach to medical inquiry, seeing symptoms, but not being tricked that they are the same for each person, as he shows they never are for two people.  I enjoyed reading the cases and have even a greater sense of appreciation for those who study the brain.  Good read.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

God, NO!

Try reading a book attempting to convince you that the Ten Commandments are ridiculous as you fly to Abu Dhabi on Easter Day.  I guess, wrong book to have in one’s bag for a trip lasting twelve hours.  Enter the world of Penn Jillette’s God, NO!  Jillette uses arguments of how the Bible actually doesn’t preach the commandment, “treat others as you would treat yourself”, for example, “If God told you to kill your child, would you do it.  If your answer is no, in my booklet you’re an atheist.  There is no doubt in your mind.  Love and morality are more important to you than faith.  If your answer is yes, please reconsider”.  Jillette goes through each commandment and attempts to demonstrate that each one is flawed in their own way.  He actually makes solid points on how ‘humanism’ is the way to go.  He weaves in stories of his trajectory as a magician and reality star throughout the book, providing his followers a view of how he developed his own thinking and strength as a man.  He also has no problem in “tempting” religious people to come to a new belief.  For instance, he shares the story of a devout orthodox man who decided to contact Jillette and ask him to be there when he breaks being kosher for the first time.  Jillette revels in the experience of watching he man eat his first bacon burger, among other foods against the religion.  Besides living a rather hedonistic life, Jillette is a dedicated son, husband, and father.  He illustrates the traits of being a good human being to others whom he loves.  For fans of Jillette, you are introduced to a serious and thought-provoking guy who wants to convert and overthrow religious followers…. Of all God following people, he doesn’t discriminate.  While the stories and arguments are palatable, his inconsistent action makes me wonder is he serving his truth, or trying to make a buck selling a book that demonizes those who use faith as a way to live a better life.  A quick read, so isn’t a hug investment in time should you not enjoy the argument.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pale View of Hills

It’s that time of year again. Today marks my first finished RA Favorite book for 2017. It has been over ten years since I started this project and I continue to enjoy hearing about the new RAs and their journey to NYU. I continue to ask about their favorite books as well. This year there are 186 new RAs to meet, so I should receive about 75 new books to read this year. The first book is kazoo Ishiguro’s book Pale View of Hills. It is a curious read from my standpoint. The story is placed in Britain (at first), but focuses on the main character Etsuko, who has left Japan, the bombed town of Nagasaki, and reflects on her life there, especially her interactions with Sachiko, who is the epitome of a horrible mother. Etsuko and Sachiko become ‘friends’, rather they seem to be co-dependent on one another, though it’s hard to tell why. Sachiko is an absent mother for her daughter Mariko, who walks around the village at all hours of the night. As I re-read parts of the short novel, I realized maybe the Sachiko/Mariko relationship mirrors Etsuko’s own relationships with her daughters, one which commits suicide. Or maybe it is a bitter dream (the Sachiko/Mariko parts) to haunt Etsuko of how she too was an absent mother. As the novel ends, if is clear that there’s a certain depth of pain that is within Etsuko, of her own inability to mother the dead Keiko. There is also a shroud of mystery about her husband and her second daughter, feeling like more is missing from the story. There are very deeply disturbing moments where Etsuko stands by and witnesses her ‘friend’ Sachiko drown her daughters prized pet cat in the river and allowing her daughter to disappear in the muddy riverbanks at midnight alone and hungry. So the whole narrative strategy of the book was about how someone ends up talking about things they cannot face directly through other people's stories. I find within some people a dark side of regret and utter sadness about something they failed to do, or wished they had done better. Ishiguro presents these similar characters who long to better understand the journey they have lived, but never actually get there. In many ways it is a sad and incomplete story for me as I tend to like some level of conclusion. I’m afraid Etsuko will never get that, or learn the lesson that she was supposed to gain from the lives of those around her.