Posts Tagged ‘books’

Broken heart syndrome

Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

This is interesting. Emotional trauma can result in cardiomyopathy, aka broken-heart syndrome, and is physiologically similar to a heart attack.

It’s especially interesting to me right now because I’m reading Emotional Intelligence and Goleman writes at length about the various physiological effects of peoples’ negative emotions. He cites study after study on such topics as the effects of anger on the heart, optimism and pessimism and how one’s tendency to be one or the other is a better prognosticator of recovey (for example from cancer or a major medical procedure) than a person’s physical condition, and hope and its affects on recovey as well. And it seems like this should be common knowledge, but you can’t base medical or scientific treatments on ‘common knowledge’.

I picked this book up after reading The Gift of Fear in which Gavin de Becker recommends we listen to our intuitions. Because our brains and our bodies are primed to survive — whether we are cognitive or not of what our impulses are or how our intuition makes us feel, there’s probably a good reason for it. He also cites example after example, sometimes chilling and sometimes simply creepy, of cases he’s worked on in which peoples’ intuitions accurately warned them of impending danger.

De Becker cites Emotional Intelligence several times and the first section of EI is the most interesting to me because it essentially explains the mechanics of the brain and how it generates an intuitive sense (or a ‘gut feeling’ if you prefer). The most interesting tidbit from that section is this: signals from our sensory organs get sent to the thalamus which then sends them on to the neocortex of our brains which processes those signals into something we understand. But, there is a shorter, single synaptic neuronal pathway between the thalamus and the amygdala, a primitive center of emotions, which allows the amygdala to receive a smaller subset of the signals sent to the neocortex and allows it to immediately process and generate an emotional response (when significant) *before* we fully understand what it is we’re experiencing or seeing, or why we feel the way we do. A telling example cited in the book is about a young man who sees a woman standing at the edge of the water looking down with a distressed look on her face, and before he knew what he was doing, he’d jumped into the water to save a child who’d fallen in.

Our brains are endlessly interesting little things. So are our hearts. Today’s Nature, along with the article about cardiomyopathy, also has an article about the regenerative ability of certain heart cells and how this could potentially help patients with heart attacks.

Joining the circus

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

That phrase has such romantic appeal, doesn’t it? A girl I knew used to live in a huge community warehouse in Oakland. At one of her parties, I got to meet a friend of hers who was going to the SF Circus Center. He was graceful and limber, and gave me an itch for the circus. Geek Love, read years ago, gave me an itch for the circus. So did Nights at the Circus beautifully give me an itch for the circus. Oh, and of course, HBO’s Carnivàle makes me yearn for the circus. Now, apparently, it’s fashionable to be into the circus. Trapeze for fitness is recently trendy. And apparently a good place to pick up on hot men with buff arms. I just want to fly through the air.

Writing for myself

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

I’ve been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s a beautiful book. Latin American writers that I’ve read and enjoyed have this uncanny ability to create these dreamy, magical worlds where even the supernatural doesn’t seem out of place or unrealistic.

And I got to ruminating about how sometimes we like to catalog the events in our lives like we expect them to have some significance for someone other than ourselves. One Hundred Years is a work of fiction, but it’s about the lives of all the members of one family. Strong, emotional women capable of amazing feats of self deprivation. Hedonistic men with a penchant for political battles. And these short sentences don’t do the characters the justice they deserve because they’re all so rich and interesting in a way far greater than we imagine ourselves to be.

His writing is so imaginative and beautiful. And reading beautiful writing always makes me feel a little like I’m missing something. I was putting away all my binders this weekend for the housewarming party (pictures here), and I keep a lot of my own fiction writing in binders. But I haven’t written fiction in at least a year. My online journals have been my writing outlet for a long time now. I don’t know how I got out of the habit of writing things completely made up in my own head except that I started to realize I didn’t have any skill or talent at it and gave up. But in doing that, I gave up a great pleasure, too.

And I wonder how much of what I write means anything to anyone. Like this blog. I read other people’s blogs and I enjoy it, and sometimes they make me think. And sometimes they are just chatter sifted through with the rest of the chatter in the world — the emails, the news, the links, the pictures. And sometimes the things I write are just chatter even to myself. What is it about making that noise that makes me feel so good?

The current dearth (or death) of reading in my life

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004

I was looking at my Orkut profile the other night thinking, can I list “reading” as my only activity if I haven’t read anything in about three months? Three months is a veritable famine. I don’t know why I haven’t been reading — this is probably the longest I’ve ever gone as far as I can remember without having read a single book. I’ve been doing lots of magazine/online news reading, but my big passion for books has always been for fictional literature and I haven’t cracked open a book since I gave up on Middlesex a few months back. Actually, I haven’t really read anything since I started spending more time with the boy though I don’t know if I can really blame him for that, though I wish I could because I certainly don’t want to take responsibility for it.

I skipped my workout and left work early today because I’m really tired, and I’ve been itching for a book since last night. So crazy me, I think — hey, I’ll stop at Target and buy a book. I figured they might have the two books I wanted — one for myself and one for someone else. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what a silly and ridiculous supposition that was. They don’t really carry any books that I might possibly want to read. I was looking for Quicksilver for myself (not everything I read is fine literature :) because it’s out in paperback now (and the 2nd one is out — forget the name) and I thought, well, Stephenson is a pretty popular author, I’m sure they’ll have him. And the other book is relatively new so I thought they might have new books in stock. Anyway, Target carries mostly mass market books — though I did notice they had a couple of the Ender’s Game books which impressed me.

Looking at the rows with all the same sized mass market books was sort of eerie. I worked briefly in a book store right after college and the mass market books — you know them by their size — the airport books, the drugstore books, the romance novels — they all have that same creepy size that almost fits in your back pocket. I learned to discriminate against books based on their size. The “literary” ones were usually the taller ones, and they weren’t all the same size so some were taller, some were wider. I never shelved the mass market ones if I could in any way avoid it. Yes, I freely admit I am a book snob. But it’s what I studied — I think I’ve earned it.

PS: I started House of Sand and Fog tonight.

Lolita

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

Thirty-year-old SF teacher caught undressed with 14-year-old boy. I saw this and all I could think was, Why? I’m 30. I can’t imagine making out in a car with a 14-year-old boy. That’s just three years older than my son. Even without my son as a reference point, it’s unfathomable for me.

But stories heard from that distance stir up immediate disdain, prejudice, moral outrage. Personal stories…they have the power to morph that outrage into pity, disdain into sadness . A case of Lolita. Except here Lolita is a young boy, and our Humbert Humbert is a female schoolteacher. Everyone knows Lolita’s story, whether they’ve read Nabokov’s novel or not. The first time I read Lolita I was deeply moved – his obsession with young girls made perfect sense. It is not to excuse or justify what he did, only to admit that I could appreciate the emotional chokehold a brief childhood encounter had on the rest of his life. And who knows what this was for Ms. Arreola, but you can’t help but immediately hear the echo of Lolita.