Was it a lifetime ago, or was it a dream? I remember it being a long drive to a cold shore. And I sat alone on that shore, and I sought a shark -- not out in the waters, but within myself. Finding nothing, I felt the thing to do was to rattle in rhythm with the twisted hustle of pounding waves, and I awoke, shivering under piercing points of light that somehow felt cold, & made me feel cold - deep inside.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This eight-issue graphic novel blends sci-fi and mythology to tell a story of the double-edged nature of memory – bringer of both bliss and trauma. At the story’s core is a father-son relationship in which both the father, Benton, and son, Perry, must come to grips with the fact that contained within the former is the greatest possible range of virtue and vice, a nearly irreconcilable mix of good and bad.
I enjoyed that the author instilled an intriguing strangeness to the book’s world using a mix of futurism, mythology, and creativity while at the same time dealing with primal human concerns. The book asks whether being free of memories can contribute to our being worse versions of ourselves (being able to forget misdeeds,) and whether healing (forgiveness of both self and others) can happen without memory.
I found this book to be provocative and well-composed. There were points at which it felt like the scale of deviation between the good and the bad Benton were unfathomably great. In other words, it felt like the motivation for his actions strained credulity. However, that encourages one to think about how a person might behave if he knew he could be freed of the memory of ill deeds.
I loved the story, the art, the world, and the characters. I’d highly recommend the book.
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book provides a brief overview of cognitive neuroscience, a discipline that has really only been around for the past few decades, one that uses technologies allowing scientists to see what parts of the brain are active during a given mental activity. The reader learns what parts of the brain are involved in the various activities of being human from perception through action, and what can go wrong with these processes. While that sounds simple and straightforward, the immense complexity of the brain makes it anything but, and there is a lot of medical jargon and qualifying statements to explain how a given relationship between brain location and activity isn’t as simple or well understood as we are frequently led to believe. [Any plain and direct explanation of the brain workings is likely to be at best partial truth, and more likely outright deceptive.]
I found the organization of this book to be logical and conducive to learning about this complex and technical topic. The first chapter, “A Recent Field,” describes what cognitive neuroscience is and where it fits in among the various sciences that deal with mental activity including, psychology, psychiatry, etc. This gives one an idea of both how cognitive neuroscience can contribute to our understanding of mental activity, but also where its limitations lie and why it has not displaced all the other disciplines.
Chapters two through eight make up the core of the book and present an exploration of the various aspects of mental activity and what has been learned about them through studies in this field. The progression is logical and elementary: perception (Ch. 2,) attention (Ch. 3,) memory (Ch. 4,) reasoning (Ch. 5,) decision (Ch. 6,) confirmation / checking (Ch. 7,) and finally action (Ch. 8.) In each chapter practical questions are discussed, questions that will be of interest to readers whose goal is not vocabular expansion, in addition to the discussion of what brain region is involved with what activity. What kinds of questions? How amputees “feel” pain from the missing part of the body? Why humans suck at multitasking, and under what circumstances they can do better at it? How come people who have amnesia remember how to talk and engage in physical activities? Is there free will, and – if so – in what sense? Do we think in language? Etc.
The last chapter reflects upon the future of the discipline. Over the course of the book, the reader learns the limitations of what functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans can tell one about what is happening with the brain, and in this chapter one is introduced to the next generation of technologies that may take our level of understanding to another level.
This book has an excellent feature that I don’t recall seeing in other AVSI books. (That is probably, in part, because many of them don’t need it like this one because their subject matter is more readily grasped.) Said feature is a text box at the beginning of the chapter that asks some relatively rudimentary and practical questions, and then – at the end of the chapter – those questions are answered in another box. I think the author recognized that there was a high degree of risk of losing readers if the entire book was, “and when you do decide how many minutes to microwave your Hot Pocket, the temporo-parietal junction works in conjunction with the …” [not an actual quote fragment] he would produce book of limited benefit. [i.e. it would be too technical for the neophyte reader who just wants some practical insight (the AVSI target demographic,) but not technical enough for students of brain anatomy.] These text boxes help keep the reader focused on what is being conveyed while not getting too caught up in arcane terminology.
Other ancillary matter includes graphics (photographs of technology and readouts and diagrams showing where brain areas are located,) references, and a further reading section.
I found this book to have some intriguing discussions on interesting topics. That said, those discussions are interlaced with some necessarily complicated and dense subject matter (that’s the nature of the discipline.) That said, I think the author recognized his challenge and the question boxes and answer boxes that bookended the core chapters were very useful in offering focus for a non-expert reader. It you want a bare-bones overview of cognitive neuroscience, it’s worth reading this slim volume.
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My memories of autumn are clearest —
the harvest time, when fields had turned amber,
with desiccated stalks – devoid of spirits.
And in the grain, we children would clamber,
’cause cleaning out wagons was time cherished.
Those short days are now brighter and grander.
It was an age of colossal machines,
and kernels of corn and tiny soybeans.
I remember the feel of places past
better than I do the sights.
I remember more azure skies
than I do those dark nights.
Of colored lights and germicide
my neurons take their cues;
bringing back a hospital scene,
or long forgotten shoes.
I have a madness of memory
for faults, but not for stars.
But I can’t claim to remember
each time I crashed a car.
I know my memories are lies —
of omission and of fact.
And little can I make the claim
they’re filed neatly in stacks.
That castle had a dark passage.
Winding minefields lined the passage.
Each step called for a memory —
an ancient memory scored deeply
in the DNA of man.
But those who rose to temple tops
lacked the instinct and the courage.
So, they chanted each line loudly,
but it didn’t save them from the fall.
I’ve heard it speculated that all times exist at once, and that our consciousness merely shines a light on a sequence of nows. But it sure feels like the past frays; that it’s dissolving from the edges. Worm-eaten in a way that works its way to the heart. The center reads clear for now, but one day… poof, it’ll be lost.
You’ll awake to find whole tracks of life are lost — like slides that were water damaged in the flood.
What happened in 1997? I’d need some sort of prompt to even make a guess.
I barely have post-cognition —
which is to say, memory.
I have memories of memories of a world that never was.
Cobbled together hopes, dreams, and fears made into a montage of me.
One could chip away at what never was, but I’m not sure reality could support it’s own weight.
What was might end up a toxic rubble, steaming away into nothingness.
I see my twenties in sepia tone — grainy
— not to mention flat.
Should it surprise me that my memories are cast in the hue of old photos?
I never remember owning the pants that I see myself wearing.
It seems to me that if I really remembered that time I should remember the pants.
A kid born today will probably have holographic selfies,
and thus a chance to look back on youth in 3-D,
but it’ll never be quite right, will it?
sitting in a Thai food joint,
couched in the atrium of a Bavarian-themed mall
in Bangalore, India
I smelt a scent —
obviously not fish sauce or coconut curry —
rather some kind of plastic, maybe in the menu lamination,
that transported me back to elementary school,
a parochial school in the Midwest in the 1970’s,
it was a plastic I’d have guessed had long ago ceased being made,
given the lack of such spontaneous dislocation,
I squeezed my eyes shut because travel is expensive,
but olfactory teleportation is free.