Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review: Numb by Sean Ferrell

For a book not classified as horror, Numb by Sean Ferrell has a lot of blood in it. The main character is unable to perceive pain, so every couple of pages he casually bleeds over something, someone or both. Sometimes this is accidental. Often it's intentional. I cannot tell you his name, because his other affliction is amnesia. Therefore he doesn't know who he is either. Professionally and personally, he goes by the moniker of Numb.

In most types of books where amnesia is used as a device, the pursuit of idnetity usually drives the plot. In this case, however, Ferrell plays another game entirely. He uses this blank canvas status and lack of personal history to turn his character into a metaphor, exposing society's voracious appetite for fame. Numb's unique relationship to pain becomes his brand and a mirror which reflects some of the hidden twists and kinks of celibrity - particularly how it impacts on friendship and relationships.

I'm not sure I liked any of the characters. Mal, perhaps. There is a very authentic feel to him, although it would have sucked to be his friend. Yet the book makes a compelling read. Recommended, if you can stomach all that random bloodletting.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Exactly HOW are we dumbing ourselves down?

That's the question I posed this morning to my IF (Imaginary Friend) and he immediately returned with counter question. It was a good one. He asked On what level does this dumbing down take place?

So, we narrowed it down to comprehension (although perhaps you could also say understanding or awareness) and expression. In other words, the one happens internally, in the privacy of your own mind, while the other is about communicating that awareness to others. An interesting and helpful distinction.

That means we can create questions for further clarity:

1. Am I still having the same level of awakenings as I did a couple of years? And if not, why not?

I had one this morning (which is what I'm writing about), but I have over the past year or so felt a type of 'thinning'. I would be asking myself, if something is interfering, what is it. I've been looking at a number of possible suspects. Last year September (2016), I got my first real smartphone (I still have only the one) and yes it is a distracting and absorbing device. So many of its features are designed to trigger some form of neural addiction and there were definitely times when getting prompted into compulsive consumption of digital content and services served to disable some of the super features inherent in my consciousness. In connecting to infinity and my inner awareness. In many ways, paying more attention to social media compels you more and more to take linear timelines for granted, and that has the unfortunate side effect of lessening your awareness of less linear ways of perceiving.

On that subject, I should add that I think I have been reading more this past year. Now my relationship with reading is a very interesting one. For nearly all my life, reading has acted as my passport to wonder. Growing up in a locale where I felt very little connection to the society around me, I have always looked to books to discover new worlds and imagine new versions of myself. You could say, the librarian is my dealer. One of the side effects of my awakening, though, was reading less and also reading in different ways. I would absorb a book randomly, rather than going page by page. Around this time, I also discovered the most ironic of books - The Goddess vs The Alphabet by Leonard Shlain - which argues that learning to read has profoundly influenced our ways of perceiving our world and the infinity that surrounds us. It suggests that reading has rewired our brain and since it functions by a linear process of revelation, has forced our minds to act in more linear ways. Reading typically follows a marked path. Wandering off in your thoughts still happens but is it really possible to imagine how revelation might take place to the non-reading mind?

Remember, clickbait articles also function on the very linear process of hook/reward, often delaying that reward over several installments. It guides your perception and your thinking and the question should be asked: Is it a good guide? Or does it have its own agendas? But I digress.

Another change this year, has been doing new kind of work. From 2012-2016, I worked ghostwriting on travel destinations. This year, I began doing transcription work and faced different kinds of deadlines. That change could well have contributed to more distracted and less aware me. I also began to work on an ongoing new writing project (more about this at a much later stage) which has also turned out to be quite absorbing.

2. How has the process of communicating awareness to others changed in the past year or so?

Wow. Lots of ways. What I've noticed is that nearly everybody seems to be so much angrier of late, no doubt a sign of how polarizing the news media has become. One sign of this is that the truth depends very much on who's telling it. But we all know that already and while I may philosophically approve of variable realities, I must admit to being somewhat disappointed by some of the dominant ones that are surfacing. There is NO respect at all for opposing viewpoints. There is an ongoing chase to join the coolest SJW lynch mob. The majority of contemporary output is reactionary to something.

But because of this, I suspect everybody secretly fears themselves to be under attack in their most holiest place. Notice, even my phrasing in the last sentence could serve as a trigger to the militantly atheistic, even though I meant it as a figure of speech. Language has become both weaponized and monetized and sometimes it's difficult to find words and phrases that aren't inherently offensive in some way. In an ideal world, communication is a bridge between souls. But in reality, we are becoming so fearful of honestly expressing our thoughts that we introduced the checkpoints, with our internalized memes as border controls to keep undesirable thoughts from settling.

Now, first a word or two about the benefits of exposing yourself to so-called undesirable thought. If I look back on journals and past stories and story ideas, some of the best have resulted from some very abrasive undesirable thoughts. Remember the oyster and the pearl. It creates some awesomeness, but it's not a happy relationship. So I have always appreciated and welcomed thoughts that anger me and hurt me, because many times, they have acted as my muses. But that's me and I'm still trying to figure out why other people don't work that way.

But with the increased saturation of weaponized and monetized content, some of those internalized memes are sneaking across the borders of my consciousness. Because everything we take in, changes us in subtle ways. It's very difficult to de-activate those memes that interfere with our thinking. Outrage is also addictive, and on top of that, it often disables compassion and imagination.









Thursday, February 4, 2016

Doors

There's a door of starlight and a door of woven pain. There's a door of rot and a door of rain. One door works only for geckos and rats, and, boy, does that annoy the cats! Beware the door of fear and feign and don't be fooled by the door of tain. Tread quickly through the door of fire and lightly towards your heart's desire. Don't trust the door of love and lies, blink not at the door of a thousand eyes, for doors can harm and doors can heal. Door can betray and doors can steal. Doors give, but demand a toll, if not in coin, then from your soul.
(the image was sourced from Pixabay)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Forgiveness

Forgiving someone doesn't mean you have to agree with them. You don't have to give them your mind. You don't have to be hijacked by their opinions...



Something from my personal journal... my ongoing conversation with my friend from the other side. The photograph was sourced from pixabay.com, which is a great resource for royalty free images.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The moment you try to define infinity you lose it in essence

This morning I came across a scrap piece of paper on which I had written We somehow come to believe that we will understand the infinite by expanding the finite. Instead, expanding the finite adds more filters.

So. You are warned. We are back to that one topic which can only be answered with a question.

On the same piece of paper, I had also written There is no easy way to talk about personal mystical experiences. It's not (just) that people question them or go sceptical on them. It goes beyond (that, in that) language (itself) is the language of the sceptic.

Infinity. When I was a kid, when I was taught to count, the impression was left that infinity is somehow just 1 digit beyond the last number known to man. But, it's not that at all. If you write down LARGEST NUMBER KNOWN TO MAN PLUS ONE, you are still firmly in the realm of the finite and you can continue to push back the boundary with LARGEST NUMBER KNOWN TO MAN PLUS TWO and so on, all the way to LARGEST NUMBER KNOWN TO MAN PLUS LARGEST NUMBER KNOWN TO MAN and so on .... Infinity only happens when you finally get tired and stop the count ....

Oops... did you see that happening? I've just sneaked in a definition of the infinite, which is, sigh, as helpful as it is problematic.

The moment you try to define infinity, is the moment where you lose it in essence.

Friday, December 4, 2015

You'll see corporate zombies in a whole different light....

... once you're about 50 pages or so into Walking Stiff, the first of Rachel Caine's Revivalist novels. The first thing you'll learn about Brynn Davis, the leading lady is that her career choices are... shall we say unusual? Following a four year spell in the military in Iraq, we meet her as she is about to begin Day One as a funeral director at Fairview Mortuary. It is expected that her job will involve a dead body or two, but no one warned her how easy it is to land up on a cold slab herself. It seems that someone accidentally invented a drug that brings back the dead and Brynn's new boss has cornered a lucrative black market trade in resurrection.

But that's not the end of it. Once Brynn gets involved with the mysterious (but handsome) Patrick McAllister of Pharmadene, the company responsible for the wonder drug, she is way out of her league, and it's not going to get better any time soon.

Walking Stiff combines a fairly fast page-turning pace with a wonderful cast of characters that you actually want to get to know.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tales from an African Vet by Roy Aronson - a review (and a perspective)

I finished reading this book a few weeks ago and had I written my review then, it might have been just that. A review. Unfortunately, the book has in my consciousness become entangled in my response to a number of recent news stories, so I will now introduce it to you as a looking glass that exerts a considerable influence on my views on several other issues. I suppose I don't need to tell anyone who Cecil the Lion was, but I doubt whether too many of you are familiar with "King Gamka", the subject and target of the Great Karoo Lion Hunt, but more about him later....

Let's begin with the book, shall we? Tales of an African Vet is a charming collection of writings collected by Dr Roy Aronson over several years chronicling his personal experience in the practice of veterinary science. Dr Aronson is himself the founder of group of veterinary clinics in the Cape Town area. Although I have been taking my cats to the same group for a number of years, it is to a different branch. I do not know him personally. To those unfamiliar with South Africa, I had better add that whole country has only one veterinary training facility, the one at Onderstepoort which is affiliated to the University of Pretoria. Thus, through contacts, colleagues and alma mater, the good doctor had access to a number of veterinary doctors practicing their craft in more exotic fields, allowing him to sit in and participate in the treatment of animals ranging from crocodiles, lions, snakes, cheetahs, elephants, parrots and even the odd dog or two. The book is embellished with a collection of beautiful line drawings as well as photographs. For anyone interested in the management of wildlife or conservation, the book is a fascinating eye opener. We are introduced to vets who treat patients that could seriously injure or even kill them, without meaning to. A mere drop of the drug used to anaesthesize an elephant is toxic enough to kill the person administering it. A baby elephant can affectionately put his handler in hospital. In two instances, venomous snakes are treated. In another case, vets and trackers come face to face with a pride of lions. But the treatments are life changing. A lioness facing potential blindness through a congenital eye condition is successfully treated and a delinquent young elephant is given a lesson in manners. In several cases, the lives of young wild animals are saved through the intervention of veterinary science. I'm sure I already mentioned already that these brave doctors, handlers and doctors often risk personal injury in the performance of their duties, but the overriding objective remains to first do no harm.

And that is the overriding theme of my response to the events currently in the news now. The individuals who went to Hwange National Park, did so with the specific intent to do harm.

In my opening paragraph I referred to an event dubbed the Great Karoo Hunt. Here are the details. Early in June 2015, a three-year-old lion managed to escape from the Karoo National Park. This is an area where lions have only recently been reintroduced after the last wild lion in the area was shot and killed in 1842. Park officials stated that the escapee must have used the opportunity presented by a piece of fence damaged by heavy rain, but, as Dr Aronson mentions in his book, lions are members of the cat family and cats have no problem jumping. For almost three weeks, the Karoo lion evaded skilled trackers and lived on the sheep of nearby farmers. Even so, the overriding objective of this hunt for a lion that the Afrikaans speaking locals began to call Koning Gamka (or "King Gamka") remained to bring him back alive. And this they did. You can go to this link to read more about how they finally found their quarry on a mountain side and had to dart the lion without endangering him and without damaging the rotor blades of the helicopter used to track him in that confined space. Hair-raising stuff. Again, this news story has also increased my respect for Dr Aronson and his colleagues.

Above all, Dr Aronson's Tales of an African Vet providing fascinating insight into some of the valuable work being done at Hoedspruit's Endangered Species Center. I began to take an interest in this facility about a little more than a year ago, as this was the home of Gertjie (and now also Mathimba) a duo of orphaned rhinos who were being cared for at this facility. Dr Aronson's book, however, singles out a breeding program also at Hoedspruit, that is slowly helping the cheetah, the world's fastest land mammal charge back from the threat of extinction.

A general misconception is that, if we simply give wild animals enough space and leave them alone, it will be good enough. Unfortunately, I don't think we can afford the luxury of letting nature take its course anymore. We've left it too late for that. Thousands of miles to the north, in Kenya, 42 year old Sudan is the very last male Northern While Rhino alive. He is a returning emigree from a zoo in Czechoslovakia and if the Northern White Rhino survives at all, there is a high likelihood that it will be through artificial insemination and through the use of surrogacy with another species of rhino. Speaking of Czechoslovakia, it is thanks to a breeding program initiated at Prague Zoo that Przewalski's Horse, the last wild horses of Central Asia were brought back from the brink of extinction and re-introduced to the Steppes.

Letting an animal die of natural causes may have been acceptable, back in the day when most humans faced similar odds when sick or injured, but today, with all of the available technology, doing so now only comes across as cruel and voyeuristic. As Dr Aronson argues, if we can record and document an animal's suffering, then why not intervene...?