Friday, November 16, 2012

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations, Oliver Sacks.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.  e-book, 261 pps., including bibliography.

Along with my traumatic brain injury came visual disturbances.  Like the patients in Oliver Sacks latest book Hallucinations, I was hesitant to confide in my primary care doctor some things that happened in my vision during and after my motor vehicle accident.  I called them "sort of hallucinations."  I was vaguely aware that those words weren't quite right.  I knew that I hadn't become schizophrenic overnight.  I have always had hypnagogic hallucinations.  I didn't think anything of those.  I experience patterns and swirls when I tumble into sleep.  They are benign.   Some other hallucinations-- the kind that told a few of my acquaintances to do bad stuff or caused them to talk with external voices or see stuff that other folks couldn't see while wide awake-- landed them on mental hell units on heavy doses of anti-psychotics. After hearing my description of the new stuff, the doctor scribbled "visual disturbances" in his notes.  "Visual disturbances" became how I described what happened to me during my car accident and occasionally even now eight years out to subsequent neurodocs and to the shrink who understands brain injury.

How refreshing it was for me to read an entire book by a favorite author dedicated to visual disturbances and hallucinations with various neurological etiologies!  I read Oliver Sacks because his compassion for his patients comes through the pages, because he imparts his experiences and knowledge against an extensive background of other neurology books, and because his words often normalize some of my experiences with my traumatic brain injury.  Ah, I think, so that is the part of the brain that is probably responsible for this or that symptom.  The explanations in Hallucinations, like the explanations in all of Oliver Sacks' books, make sense to me as a lay person.

The brain is rather an exciting organ.  I didn't realize exactly how exciting the brain is until I started learning it after my injury.  I am not one of those people who romanticize my t.b.i.  I much would have preferred to remain as I was before my car was slammed into a house by a driver who was high on marijuana.  The reality of my brain as it is today forces me to grapple with things that I was perfectly happy not being aware of pre-accident.  When I was able to read again, instead of the science fiction and fantasy books that I used to reach for, I reached for computer books and Oliver Sacks.  It is only within the last two years that my brain has healed up enough for me to enjoy S.F. & F. once again.  Even so, I continue to read factual sorts of books now, far more than I used to.  My tastes in reading have been mitigated as a direct result of my injury.  Although I was not the sort of person that one would have described as "average" before that fateful day, I am far from average now.  Briella is the name that I have given to my post-injured brain.  Still brilliant, just a bit sideways.  Skewed.  Not my preference, but reality.  It is by choice that I have sought out other traumatic brain injury survivors.  By necessity I have to make accommodations for Briella.  My fractured brain now has a veritable host of perceptual problems and sensations.  At times, my eyes act like they are on their own acid trip.

Besides the stuff in Hallucinations that I related to brain insults and brain injuries in general, there was more that captivated me.  I had not known about Charles Bonnet Syndrome before reading this book.  And had not even suspected its' existence.  The neurological explanations for states of bliss or what I and others have called "the zone" are practical and useful in understanding why some folks like to jog or run and folks like me take to the woods on an almost daily basis.  I understand a bit more about the natural reasons behind states of religious fervor and also trances.  Oliver Sacks continues to be number one on my list of who I would most like to have a cup of tea or coffee with sometime.

Waves, by sapphoq, 11/16/2012.  The waves are three-D objects that I made using (R)Google sketch-up against a background of a photograph that I took of the rainstorm during Hurricane Sandy and altered.
All rights reserved. 

sapphoq reviews says:  Hallucinations is a most excellent book.  Anyone who has had visual disturbances and who is looking for a practical explanation would do well to pick up this book.  Those who are not familiar with the architecture of the brain would be able to follow along with Hallucinations with no difficulty.  Readers who have some rudimentary knowledge of brain structure and function will find that their knowledge will enhance enjoyment of Hallucinations.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I'm not quite done with Oliver Sachs new book "Hallucinations" but I think I will be by tomorrow.  Til then.

sapphoq reviews

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Home, Novogratz

Home, Novogratz.  New York: Artisan Books, 2012.  e-book, 320 pps., including index and sources.

Novogratz the author refer to Robert and Cortney Novogratz who are a pair of designers that help clients solve their decorating problems for a living.  The Novogratz have traveled extensively in their profession.  Home offers glimpses into thirty very different homes that they had worked on.  

sapphoq reviews says: Home is a hefty e-book.  I had a few problems reading the print, even with my special settings.  The photographs however were beautifully done.  For once, I did not prefer the "befores" to the "afters.  Each home had photographs, a description of what was done and costs for the project, and a how-to for things that we the readers could do ourselves without much difficulty.  I liked this book.  

That's Not Logic! The eBook! by Eric Hedman

That's Not Logic! The eBook!: Critical Thinking in Cartoon Form, Eric Hedman.  El Segundo California: self published, 2011.   1 pg., ebook.

Eric Hedman does quite well with his second subtitle-- which is "Rudimentary Fallacies Illustrated"-- with this e-book.  That's Not Logic! The eBook! uses cartoons of a stick man named Jerry (who is wearing a bow tie), other stick people called collectively Dudes, Leonard the Lizardman, and a Disk to illustrate forty two common fallacies that people use to argue their points.  The cartoons are enjoyable, the captions are witty, and I understood each of the forty two fallacies.  The Lizardman was adorable.  The "1 pg." is misleading.  I've noticed that all comics and cartoons on my e-book are greatly reduced in pages in comparison to the same books in print.  No material is left out as far as I can tell and I have no explanation for why that is.  At any rate, the "1 pg." should not stop you from buying this e-book.  Not only is it cute and easy to understand, but it is a good way to teach logic to teens.  And it does not insult any particular group or organization in illustrating each fallacy.

sapphoq review says:  Leonard the Lizardman rocks and so does the Disk.  A definite winner.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan.  New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.  ebook, approx 237 pps.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a geek's fairytale.  As such, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  There is a geek without a job.  He gets one at Mr. Penumbra's bookstore in San Francisco.  It happens to be open 24 hours.  Clay works the night shift.  There are few regular customers but there are also some mysterious customers, some mysterious books, a mysterious log to write in, and of course Mr. Penumbra who is in his own way rather mysterious.

Besides Clay, the cast of characters include his geek friend Neel, a beautiful young woman named Kat who works for Google© in love with the idea of The Singularity, a hacker named Grumble, the strange irregular customers who are looking for tomes to borrow from the back of the store, and an almost luddite organization of folks in a mysterious library in New York City.

sapphoq reviews says: I was hooked immediately.  Anyone who is a geek or a techie and who likes fantasy plus a good mystery will enjoy Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  There are no talking animals or wicked witches to be found here.  But this book is definitely a fairytale for geeks.  I am looking forward to more from Robin Sloan.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.  e-book, approx 426 pps.

J. K. Rowling has done it again!  I thoroughly enjoyed her latest offering.  A bit too dark to be classified as chick lit, The Casual Vacancy is a wondrous  book about life in the suburbs.  It is full of strongly fleshed out characters who resembled people that I know.
The Casual Vacancy was falsely characterized as adult porn when I first heard it discussed in certain circles.  I can tell you definitively, this book is not pornographic.  To be sure, some of the situations dealt with in the book are of an adult nature. 
But J.K Rowling also takes on classism and racism, and she does it with style. 

There is a vacancy on the local governing council due to an unexpected death.  The implications of this death are far-reaching, much more complex than having to select another public servant. Throughout The Casual Vacancy, I was treated to a study of how various individuals in the town reacted to the news of the death as well as their actions and repercussions.  I especially enjoyed the teens in the book.  They thought and acted like teens do.  
The final chapters were suspenseful.  The ending was not what I was expecting at all.  I suspect that the ending will stay with me for a very long time.

sapphoq reviews says: The situations described in the book are ones that perhaps some religious folk would not care to read about, (and perhaps some percentage of parents would not want their teens to read about).  If you object to fictitious adults sleeping about and to teens engaging in premarital sex even within a well-crafted story, a rape or the presence of a methadone clinic, then you should not read this book.
If you are wanting a book which illustrates classism and racism in a direct manner along with a well-written story, then definitely pick up The Casual Vacancy.  It will get you thinking and will give you something to discuss with your more mature teens.