Monday, December 27, 2010

The Mind's Eye

Thoughts on the latest book by Oliver Sacks

I have felt an affinity with Oliver Sacks ever since seeing the movie Awakenings (several times) and becoming absorbed in the young doctor's attempts to bring life back to the patients in limbo.  The unfortunate side of seeing the movie is that I "see" Robin Williams whenever I read "Oliver Sacks".  Perhaps not so bad, because it was Robin Williams in a less than usually manic role.  I have taken Sacks' refusal to put limits on expectations into my work life - trying to see beyond the obvious in the children I teach, seeing more than meets the eye when what DOES meet the eye can be confronting, the disabilities seeming to outweigh the abilities.

Oliver Sacks is fascinated by the human brain and its curiosities: its ability to survive trauma, overcome obstacles, re-invent itself, provide the answer to one mystery while simultaneously creating another....  This latest book is no different and includes case histories and personal observations and includes torment and panic as the author's own eyesight is increasingly compromised by an ocular melanoma and he is drawn into what the mind does really see.  I appreciate his ability to write mostly in terms the non-medical readers can follow without too much recourse to the dictionary, only getting a little lost when Sacks compares recent research with various theories surrounding everything from how plastic the brain remains, to the accuracy of visual perception in someone without sight.  I will read some of those chapters again.

As always, I need to return to his previous books and follow the cross-referencing myself, doubtless getting lost in each book once again but rekindling my own wonder at the agility of the litttle grey cells. 

some free associations...... (week 413)

  1. Detective :: Montalbano
  2. Bra :: wire
  3. Prove it :: why?
  4. The end :: is nigh
  5. Messy :: washing
  6. Immovable :: object
  7. Jingle :: bells
  8. False :: teeth
  9. Comprehend :: read
  10. Scream :: psycho

Didn't make even CLOSE!! I'll have to try again in 2011

Spin the bottle by Monica McInerney
Absent in the spring by Mary Westmacott (aka Agatha Christie)
Giants bread by Mary Westmacott
The rose and the yew tree by Mary Westmacott
The bone woman by Clea Koff
The end of the alphabet by CS Richardson
Paper Moon by Andrea Camileri
Rounding the mark by Andrea Camileri
The cat who wasn't there by Lilian Jackson Braun
Marley & me by John Grogan
The chocolate lovers club by Carole Matthews
The snack thief by Andrea Camileri
What Alice forgot by Liane Moriaty
How to Hepburn by Karen Karbo
Dear Fatty by Dawn French
The housekeeper and the professor by Yoko Ogawa
Deep sleep by Frances Fyfield
Garden spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The harper's quine by Pat McIntosh
Shadow play by Frances Fyfield
The diving bell and the butterfly by Jean Dominique Bauby
A clear conscience by Frances Fyfield
The patience of the spider by Andrea Camileri
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Willful behaviour by Donne Leon
The nightwatch by Sarah Waters 
The lizard's bite by David Hewson
The girl who kicked a hornets nest by Steig Larsson
A child's book of true crime by Chloe Hooper 
The second-last woman in England by Maggie Joel 
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
The Sunday philosophy club by Alexander McCall Smith 
The Believers by Zoe Heller 
The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell 
The Book of Lost Threads by Tess Evans
Cents and Sensibility by Maggie Alderson
The Mystic Masseur by VS Naipaul
Morgan's passing by Anne Tyler
Let me sing you gentle songs by Linda Olsson
The smell of an oily rag by Ouang Yu
The piano teacher by Janice Y K Lee
Mr Rosenblum's list by Natasha Solomons
Singing in the shrouds by Ngaio Marsh

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Time for books......

The very best way to begin my Christmas holidays was to spend a day in Carlton with my friend Lorraine who likes coffee and books too (who cares in which order??).  The worst part of the day was the grotty carpark, but apart from that it was another sublime day spent browsing in book stores and refuelling here and there.

We began at Readings which is just about my very favourite bookstore because there's every latest release, but also some titles I never see anywhere else.  I love to browse, no-one bothers you but advice is freely given if you ask.  There's music, movies, quirky ephemera around the registers, and shelves and shelves and tables and tables of lovely books.  Then across the road to Borders and lunch at the coffee shop outside the Nova ticket box.

And if I see that lady with the fabulous red shoes again, I'm going to have to ask her where she shops (and hope its somewhere vaguely local).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holidays at last

Its the first morning of my Christmas holidays and the grumbles of life at work are already perhaps being washed away by the steady rain.  Remind me again...this IS Melbourne, and it IS summer...isn't it?  Someone last week pointed out that, based on some research into meteorological records of Wangaratta (or was it Warrnambool?), we should expect alternating decades of drought and rain, so I'm giving up complaining right now.  All I need to do is keep an umbrella by each door, a shower proof coat in the car, and my sense of humour intact.  It was Billy Connelly who said that there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes, and I'm living by that if I can.  Pragmatics over pique.

There is still a week 'til Christmas, and while most of my shopping is done, there are presents to wrap and cooking to start.  I'm looking forward to the freedom of baking at any time of the day, dusting the benches with flour and probably crunching almonds or something equally slippery under my feet.  The old cat will be sitting patiently on the chair with the best view of the kitchen, waiting to see if I leave the room and forget something tasty is still sitting on the bench; the younger cat will be patrolling the doorway and occasionally complaining that I dont sit down often enough.  In other parts of the house a pile of books grows every week (after my conversations with Martin at South Melbourne market's book shop) and the work bench in my busy room is stacked with presents to finish.  

Best go and make a start..........

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Fill-ins 203

1. What in the world will I do first, now that holidays ARE HERE???

2. After the breakfast we all shared at work this morning, the one thing I can say for certain is that we are very well fed.

3. Go out to the car and bring in the shopping please ..... I can't move another inch.

4. One day when I least expected it, heaven sent me Ali who challenged me to write a blog, and NOW look what's happened......

5. I keep all the friends I've made close to my heart.

6. I could get up tomorrow really early and wrap all my Christmas presents and make a start on the pudding which I should have made last month at least and write all the Christmas cards I promised myself I would send this year.......... or not.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to our traditional end-of-year dinner with Dene and John, tomorrow my plans include celebrating my friend John's big 'O' birthday and Sunday, I want to sleep in 'til its dark again!

AND then there's another list of songs I'm struggling to decipher.........

19. IDOAWCJLTOIUTK: (Uh-huh!  I get it now...)I'm dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know
20. CROAOFJFNAYN: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose
21. IBTLALLC: Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
22. OLTOBHSWSTL: O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
24. IBHFC: I'll be home for Christmas
25. WWYAMCWWYAMC: We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas
26. IHTBOCD: I heard the bells on Christmas Day
27. FTSIAJHS:Frosty the snowman is a jolly happy soul

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Fill-ins 202

1. I wish it was holiday time RIGHT NOW.

2. Its better to try and see the other point of view (you can always agree to disagree) than stay dispassionate about everything because that's what you think defines leadership ...that's what I'm thinking (its been a bad week).

3. Please bring dinner with you, I'm too tired to cook!

4. Going to the letter box and finding a surprise from the other side of the world  is so amazing, not to mention unexpected and appreciated.

5. One of my fondest hopes is to find lots of chocolate under the tree.

6. It was the most thoughtful thing you could possibly have done for me, and I just wanted to say thank you.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting out the box of Christmas decorations (after someone else brings dinner!!), tomorrow my plans include getting to the shops and back without incident and Sunday, I want to find something REALLY different for my Mum for Christmas!

...and then there are these which are not so easy as last week...

10. YKDADAPAVCACADAB:You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen...
11. ISMKSCUTMLN:I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night
13. HTHASGTTNK: Hark, the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King
14. GGROBAR:Gandma got run over by a reindeer
15. OHNTSASB: Oh holy night, the stars are shining brightly
16. AIWFCIMTFT:All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.
18. WTKOOA: We three kings of Orient are (which is my favourite carol ever since I was a king in a kindergarten pagent)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Unconscious Mutterings (week 410)

I say ... and you think ... ?
  1. Twitter :: what?
  2. Facebook :: so boring.  Who cares what you had for dinner?
  3. MySpace :: never been there
  4. Friend :: ah....I like these people and I have lots in my life.  They make me smile.
  5. Subscribe :: commit
  6. Conflict :: please don't
  7. Ignore :: what my boss does when its something she doesn't like
  8. Drama :: theatre
  9. Hide :: and seek
  10. List :: the things you love
Unconscious Mutterings might intrigue you...........

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Friday Fill-ins and Christmas songs too!!

1. The best thing about a birthday celebration is catching up with friends and sharing stories about the last time we were together..

2. The one thing I wish I could stop, but realise I cant, is the passage of time.

3. I went shopping recently and the most interesting thing I bought was a hand crafted timber brooch for my Mum.

4. Somebody please take away this new iPad and give me an old-fashioned child's game instead, technology is addictive .

5. The reason is.... I just want some time to myself with NO-ONE INTERRUPTING (but I'm sorry I shouted).

6. Considering summer is on its way to Melbourne, the last thing I'm likely to see is snow and I definitely wont be cold.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to going to  see "Madame Butterfly" and look for my friend the opera singer on stage (not many parts, should be easy to spot), tomorrow my plans include maybe washing the last few months dirt off the car and Sunday, I want to catch up with Jo over a coffee in Mornington!

AND just for fun

1. HYAMLC: Have yourself a merry little Christmas.........
2. TFNTADS: The first Noel, the angels did say.......
3. GRYMGLNYD: God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.....
4. ICUAMC: It came upon a midnight clear................
5. SNHNAICAIB: SIlent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright........
6. OTFDOCMTLGTM:  On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me.......
7. DTHWBOHFLLLLLLLL:  Deck the halls with bows of holly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.
8. YBWOYBNC:You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry......
9. JTTWTLHC:Joy to the world, the Lord is come